Try playing this game with your friends at your next after-work happy hour: Would you rather have Donald Trump as president or person X (pick a name)?
It could be a celebrity or someone you know personally.
You’ll find that it’s nearly impossible to come up with people who would do a worse job — primarily because very few 21st century humans are mentally deranged Nazi sympathizers who make inappropriate sexual comments about their daughters.
Even while George W. Bush was president, you could have compiled long lists of people who would have been more horrifying — his vice president, for starters. With Trump, you really have to rack your brain, because you need to find someone who would be more inept at reading off a teleprompter during national crises, more likely to enact hateful and pernicious policies, more likely to exploit his or her office for personal profit, and less embarrassing to the country as a whole.
Given those criteria, the names drop off the list faster than anthrax spores from Steve Bannon’s face.
Andy Dick or Trump? Andy Dick wins. Easily.
Gary Busey or Trump? Busey.
Bernie Madoff or Trump? It’s close, but Madoff. Not a Nazi.
Charlie Sheen, Martin Shkreli, Ted Kaczynski? Now we're talking, but are any of them really a slam dunk?
Hitler or Stalin would be worse, but they’re dead.
Charles Manson? Load him up with thorazine and you’re probably good to go.
Vladimir Putin? We already have Putin’s puppet. If we had Putin directly calling the shots, at least we’d know where we stand.
It’s tough. Trump’s unique blend of racism, stupidity, ignorance, impulsiveness, narcissism, greed, sexual impropriety, and incompetence is hard to replicate in real humans. We may very well have made the worst person in the world our president. And that is the slightest of exaggerations.
So why, why, why does anyone — in the media or anywhere else — even entertain giving this racist sack of skin tags the benefit of the doubt, just because we’ve had a couple of hurricanes to take people’s mind off the fact that their president is a fascist loony bear?
We all want him to pivot into presidential mode, but any hope for such a transfiguration dissolved with his initial response to Charlottesville — and with his obstinate refusal ever since to acknowledge that there was anything wrong with that response.
As Bob Cesca noted a week ago in Salon, some Americans are still desperately trying to turn Trump into a real boy by, for example, giving him props for his response to Hurricane Harvey — a horrific national tragedy that Trump saw as an opportunity to sell hats and pick petty fights with the media. But somehow he managed to resist making fun of any disabled people while American citizens were literally drowning, so he somehow gets credit for being a fourth-generation Xerox copy of a human being:
Last time we were here it was following Trump’s mysterious “surge” of an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, without any sort of plan or exit strategy. Following the president’s remarks about the deployment, there was yet another roundelay of cable news talkers who scrambled to the next nearest camera in order to praise Trump for his presidential-ness — in this case, his momentary engagement with the bare minimum requirements of being chief executive.
Naturally, it happened again during Trump’s second attempt at an official visit to flood-ravaged Houston on Saturday. It’s important to re-emphasize that there was exactly nothing special about Trump’s visits. Clearly, his first Texas trip didn’t even rise to the level of “bare minimum,” so Trump returned to the Lone Star State for another stab at getting away with barely mimicking what a normal president might do in the aftermath of a major natural disaster.
Now another hurricane has devastated the American South — and Trump has managed to give a 9/11 speech in which he didn’t spend 15 minutes riffing about his Electoral College victory — so people will once again marvel at the fact that he read off a teleprompter for minutes at a time without saying anything horrible. But make no mistake about it, this is the ordinary-human equivalent of not making underarm fart noises during your grandmother’s funeral. He should not get credit for doing what 99.9999 percent of the literate public could do, especially when less than a month ago he spent five days defending the honor of literal Nazis.
How soon we forget.
So let’s all agree on this: Until Trump apologizes — abjectly and sincerely — for his inept, morally squalid response to Charlottesville, he can never be considered “presidential.”
Why isn’t that obvious?
Why do the media allow worms like Trump to morph back into butterflies at the conclusion of every news cycle?
Let’s just be clear. Nothing can ever wash away the moral rot of this presidency.
Not even two hurricanes.