Head Fake: The Myth of Trump’s Crafty Competence

In an Oval Office meeting on Mon., Feb. 13, President Trump invites Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to touch his miniature imaginary friend and chief strategist, “Tiny Ivan.” AP Photo by Evan Vucci.

In an Oval Office meeting on Mon., Feb. 13, President Trump invites Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to touch his miniature imaginary friend and chief strategist, “Tiny Ivan.” AP Photo by Evan Vucci.

BY MAX BURBANK | “My fear is that [insert insignificant outrage Trump committed that you are paying too much attention to] is a deliberate distraction from [insert much larger outrage Trump committed that I, the much smarter person, am focused on].”—Your Facebook feed, every other post.

A diversion. A distraction. A smokescreen.

Trump is “The Master of the Head Fake!” You’re staring at the flash paper fireball so you don’t notice he’s pulled the Jack of Diamonds out of the deck of cards he’s had stuffed up his ass the whole time. When Trump 4 a.m. tweets “Failing SNL so bad. Cancelled soon. Alec Baldwin not funny. Sad!” you think it’s because he’s a desperately insecure toddler-man with the attention span of a concussed goldfish, but that’s because he PLAYED you like a DAMN VIOLIN! You took your eye of the ball and Bannon is on the National Security Council! Except — hold your head so I don’t explode your mind here — if you focused your rage on a dedicated White Supremacist edging the Joint Chiefs out of the Situation Room, PSYCH! You got punk’d again; Bondian villain Ernst Stavro Trump just launched a weather control satellite that targets Muslims and Mexicans through their DNA, which he designed BY HIMSELF!

That’s the paradigm: Trump’s a supervillain, surrounded by master tacticians of evil; always one step ahead, churning out chaos on purpose so you and the media won’t know what’s hit you until you’re waiting in line at a re-education camp, daydreaming of Katniss Everdeen saving your ass while you wait for the guard to ladle your daily half cup of potato gruel.

Bear with me for a moment, though, as I propose an alternate theory that explains the administrations behavior equally well, and more succinctly: They are stupid. Their monumental arrogance is matched only by their bottomless ignorance. They are very, very bad at this. They would never stoop to ask anyone how you make a United States go. And not to body shame, but as a group? Kind of hard to look at.

When Kellyanne Conway said soon-to-be-unemployed Goblin Mike Flynn had Trump’s “full confidence” mere hours before he got shitcanned, that was not not a smokescreen to provide cover for the Ingenious Trump Cabal to engage in covert skullduggery. Occam’s Razor says the pooch got screwed. Look, either Kellyanne lied, or was lied to. The only other possibility is she had no damn idea and literally couldn’t care less. None of those options equal “crack team of disciplined fascist dystopians.” Hell, I feel bad for Flynn! Nobody told him you couldn’t lie to Mike Pence! They probably told him to lie to Mike Pence. Vice Presidents are the designated patsy, you’re supposed to lie to them — especially Pence who, let’s be honest, is a complete buzzkill.

Even supposing (and I don’t) that some members of Trump’s inner circle are closet geniuses capable of crafting elaborate shell games, how do you account for their “Keystone Cops”-meets-“Dr. Strangelove” level of daily boobery? On Sunday, North Korea test fired an intermediate range ballistic missile. They claim to have used solid fuel, which, if true, is a first that would enable them to launch missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads from mobile platforms. Kind of serious stuff. Like, push back your Iceberg Wedge Salad, exit the PUBLIC DINING AREA of Mar-a-Largo for a secure location and get down to presidenting-type stuff.

Image by Max Burbank

Image by Max Burbank

One can forgive Trump for not knowing; he’s new to the game and also, on his best day, something of an idiot. But Flynn was there. Boy genius and cirrhosis poster boy Steve Bannon was there. None of the dozen highly placed ex-military aides there had the balls to say “Mr. President, maybe don’t discuss classified matters of state in earshot of guests, or at least ask them not to take pictures. Or barring that? Prevent them from posting on Facebook — and under the circumstances? You might want to ditch your unsecured Android phone, since it’s almost certainly been a RUSSIAN MICROPHONE FOR MONTHS NOW!” 

No. Trump continued eating. Waiters, who one presumes had the security clearance generally required of all food service personnel, brought the main course and then desert. Helpful aides used their flashlight apps to augment candlelight, so the president could more clearly see the complicated documents he was pretending to read. At some point a guest took a selfie with the military aide-de-camp who carries the nuclear football, because future textbooks on the fall of western civilization are going to need an iconic visual image.

Mar-a-Lago memberships, which just doubled in price, have never been in higher demand. Come on, what kind of spy wouldn’t want tickets to that dinner theater? Sure, the personal safety of our country has been compromised, but Trump just made an ass-load of money!

Look. Suppose you spent a great deal of effort training a troop of baboons how to use a blowtorch. Then you gave each baboon its own blowtorch, making sure that the dominant male had the largest, most shiny blowtorch. Then you locked the entire blowtorch-wielding bunch of baboons in a fireworks factory with very little food, no water and several cases of hard liquor. Would they have an intricate master plan for world domination? They would not. But you wouldn’t want to be within several miles of that factory — which is sad, because we are all, every one of us, locked inside with them.

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