Maybe nobody else remembers the movie Being There, but I thought of it when I read this account of the president’s day last week. While the Republic was falling into chaos after he had incited a mob to march on the capitol, while his aides and cabinet and senators were desperately trying to get him to respond, what do you think he was doing? He was watching TV.
But as senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their cries for help.
“He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”
Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him — that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost — was one to which he was not initially receptive.
This is what he does and has been doing for the last 4 years: TV, golf, rallies to feed his ego, and appointing incompetent sycophants to high office. Oh, and tweet. That’s it. That’s all he has done. If only we’d known we could distract him into total paralysis just by running video of him talking 24 hours a day.
They couldn’t get him to mobilize the national guard. They couldn’t get him to do anything, other than send out a reluctant tweet. He didn’t even want to do that!
Shortly after 2:30 p.m., the group finally persuaded Trump to send a tweet: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” he wrote. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
But the Twitter missive was insufficient, and the president had not wanted to include the final instruction to “stay peaceful,” according to one person familiar with the discussions.
He was persuaded to make a short video, which he poisoned with his own views.
“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” Trump said in the video, released shortly after 4 p.m. “We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home, and go home in peace.”
You can tell his sympathies were entirely with the insurrectionists. He wanted a democratic election overthrown, he is openly pandering to a violent mob.
He mustered the energy for another tweet (how pathetic), and this one was even worse, declaring once again that he was the rightful winner of the presidential election, in a landslide no less, and declaring that he was the victim of an injustice. This was not going to quell the violence.
At 6:01 p.m., Trump blasted out yet another tweet, which Twitter quickly deleted and which many in his orbit were particularly furious about, fearing he was further inflaming the still-tense situation.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump wrote. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
This is all so revealing, and it tells you what he is going to do after the 20th: he’s going to go on tour, making more false claims and inciting more violence and rage. He fired up the QAnons and Trumpkins and right-wing militias and religious fanatics, and he’s going to keep on doing the same thing, and because he doesn’t have the authority of the office of the president to prop him up, he’s going to have to make increasingly extreme and inflammatory comments…to get back on TV. Because that’s what he really wants.
All this recent talk of healing and reconciliation is going to accomplish nothing as long as they let this walking talking bomb stroll about in public, and as long as enablers like Cruz and Hawley and Graham are allowed in congress.