Tweetin’ Trump’s Thoroughly Modern Maelstrom

BY MAX BURBANK | Shortly after I turned in this column, Donald Trump Jr. took the still-smoking gun he’d fired a little over a year ago and laid it on his Twitter account. That’s the big story now, another “only story there is.” Yet again. Others will cover it ad nauseam, and I’ll get to it myself, I promise. But for now, let’s take a second to tuck it into the context of history.

Richard Nixon once said, “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” Remember that watershed moment in the proud history of presidential circular logic? Maybe not. It was a long time ago. Here’s another moment that’s probably more familiar. And quotable. And ominous.

“My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!”

Illustration by Max Burbank

That’s a tweet from our own (by which I mean our own fault) President Donald J. Trump. I know it feels like a long time ago, but his stubby little digits pounded that out on the first day of the month you’re living in right now.

Hey! Here’s a fun question: What the hell does that mean? I know I’ve argued in previous columns that attributing “meaning” to anything coming from Trump is a wasted tumble down a sociopathic rabbit hole; that he doesn’t “mean” anything in the way that word is generally used — but humor me for a moment. Let’s try to unpack the statement, as an experiment.

He can’t mean just the fact that he’s on Twitter. Barack Obama was the first president to tweet, so you know Agent Orange means his tweets are longer, harder, better, and whiter than his predecessor’s. It’s the way he tweets, the manly, shoot-from-the-hip, surly, mean-spirited, coarse, vulgar, inconsequential, infantile, barely literate content of his tweets that makes them MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL, right?

Maybe not so much. That explanation is a little… complicated. It’s a tad too much nuance for our Donald. See, Trump is the president. He’ll remind you of that every chance he gets. He’s the president right now. In the modern day. So anything, anything he does is MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL! Get it?

So when Trump tweeted “Big Win in Montana for Republicans!” to praise the special election win of a House seat the day after candidate Greg Gianforte brutally body-slammed reporter Ben Jacobs, that was MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL!

And when the Commander-in-Tweet retweeted a vintage video of himself delivering a fake beating to Vince McMahon, the real CEO of a fake sports competition whose head had been replaced by the real logo of CNN, a real news channel he calls #FraudNewsCNN, or just #FNN for short, that’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL, or just MDP for short!

Slamming the free press and our own intelligence organizations during a speech in Poland? That’s MDP! Letting Ivanka take his seat at the leader’s table like it’s “Take Our Daughters to Work Day” at the G20 summit? The MDP-iest!

When Trump tweeted from the G-20 that “Everyone” was talking about “why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA” … wait, WHAT?! That just literally CANNOT be true, because NO, no they WEREN’T, that’s beyond ABSURD. Is he hallucinating? Or just telling a lie he knows you know is a lie, as a sort of Twitter-ized, word-form middle finger? Neither. You’re looking at it all wrong. It’s not WTF, it’s MDP!

It’s so beautifully, perfectly, simply stupid! MDP is whatever Trump does, precisely because he’s doing it! If you did crap like that it would be awful, but you’re not president, Trump is! Hasn’t he come to your house and shown you a color-coded electoral map yet? No? Be patient. He will, eventually. 

And it’s not just whatever he does that’s MDP. It’s anything he might do in the future! If he dons a colorful jester suit and juggles balls of his own excrement on “Fox & Friends?” MDP! If, at his next press conference, he unleashes a Super Soaker full of ammonia on White House correspondent Glenn Thrush? MDP, baby. If, during the next State of the Union, instead of giving a speech, he crams a partially sedated mongoose down his pants and spends 45 minutes smiling and humming to himself while doing what you fervently hope and pray is a Hula dance? MD-frikkin’-P!

But you know what’s really peak MDP just now? A little G-20 summit side-meeting meeting attended by just six people: Two translators sworn to secrecy; our own easily fatigued POTUS, a former Reality TV star and surname salesman who has never before held elected office, whose chief activities are tweeting and golf; seasoned creep and longtime Bashar al-Assad booster Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia since 2004; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, a man utterly devoid of diplomatic experience, proud recipient of the coveted Russian Order of Friendship, a medal literally pinned to his chest by Vladimir Putin; and, of course, Putin himself — 16-year veteran of the KGB, former Prime Minister and now Russia’s only president this century, complicit in the murder of multiple journalists, and invader of Crimea. You have to admit, it’s an impressive resume, especially when stacked up next to Trump Steaks and a failed casino business.

By design, no one knows what happened at that meeting. We do know it was scheduled for half an hour and it ran for two. I’m gonna go way out on a limb and guess that the bulk of those two hours was not spent on Trump dressing down Putin for messing with our electoral process. According to New York Times Moscow bureau chief Neil MacFarquhar, Lavrov said Trump accepted statements from Putin that Russia had not hacked the US election. As of press time, Trump had not denied that claim. ‘Cause when you have to decide whom to believe, 17 of your nation’s own intelligence agencies or a brutal dictator who’s just kuh-RAZY for shirtless trail rides? Going with Putin is as MDP as it gets.

So the only question now is, just how far does MDP extend? Is it MDP for your namesake son to not only collude with Russia, but also publish the proof himself? Or will Jr. get shoved under the (presumably “Access Hollywood”) bus? And what of Manafort and Kushner and everybody else this eventually extends to? ’Cause if MDP isn’t large enough? They’re gonna need a bigger bus.

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