If Chauncey Gardiner were a malicious, hate-filled bigot…

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.


  1. stroppy says

    Well, Sheldon Adelson is dead. Can’t say I’m sorry. Another ding in the Trumplican war chest.

  2. hemidactylus says

    Uggh I hate the comparison. There are many characters who ironically take cues about reality from media saturation: Chauncey Gardiner, the guy from Dream On, Abed from Community, but none malicious like Trump. Abed did have a bearded alter though…

    Chance was so innocent and naive yet pseudo-profound based on his practical real world experiences:

    “In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.”

    In response: “I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.”


    I do wonder how many Trumpkins were taken in by his own media representation on The Apprentice.

  3. Bruce Fuentes says

    PZ I think you hit the nail on the head. donnie is the real world, destructive version of Chance the Gardener.

  4. robro says

    It’s all about money. Along with corporations dropping political funding, and Sheldon Adelson’s death (he bankrolled Trump in 2016), Washington Post reports that New York City is considering ending contracts with Trump worth $17 million. In addition, weeks ago Deutsche Bank said they are cutting ties with Trump, and the PGA is pulling the championship from Trump’s Bedminster club. Hopefully others will follow because financial repercussions are the one thing that will get the attention of those responsible for the mess.

    While we’re holding Republican lawmakers like Cruz and Hawley responsible for enabling Trump, let’s not forget Kevin McCarthy. There are voices calling for him to resign. I don’t expect him to have the integrity to do that. Not sure what I can do about it, except donate to an opponent.

    And as for Being There, you might say that Trump is the anti-Chance.

  5. remyporter says

    I watched Being There for the first time sometime around 2015/2016, and thought about how Chance was basically the perfect antidote to Trump. No smarter, certainly, no more self-aware, but at least kind, or at least as kind as he knew how to be.

  6. hemidactylus says

    Chance passively stumbled into the events that transpired in the movie. Trump is an actively engaged opportunist and manipulator. Big difference.

    Trump does get his interface with simulated reality through Fox News and other sympathetic outlets, creating a bubble of epistemic invulnerability around himself. Chance’s limited worldview was created by available media pethaps not of his choosing.

    We are all to a point shaped by media representations and ensconced in a protective bubble I suppose, but few turn out like Trump. There’s some serious other stuff going on with him.

  7. raven says

    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.


    I’d be surprised though. Trump is old at 72 and lazy. As PZ points out, for the last 4 years he hasn’t done much.
    It’s hard to say if he will be able to get much in the way of audiences, after he is out of office. His one claim to fame right now is his automatic authority from being president.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    I remember the film. Two hours (seemed like much more) of utterly predictable nonsense. The unbearable heaviness of ham-handed satire. But yeah, Trump is even more annoying.

  9. raven says

    Reports are that Trump also refused to call up the National Guard after the US Capitol was attacked and overrun.

    Pence, Not Trump, Gave Order to Activate National Guard: Report

    After an hours-long delay, 150 D.C. National Guard troops were sent to the U.S. Capitol to help law-enforcement efforts to remove Trump supporters who had violently seized the building in an act of insurrection. Such an order would usually be given by the president and commander-in-chief, but according to Pentagon officials who spoke with the New York Times, it was approved by Vice-President Mike Pence.

    Pence’s order came hours after the president condemned him for not having “the courage” to stop the certification of the election in Congress on Wednesday — a power that the vice-president does not possess.

    Reports are that the National Guard was called up after VP Pence, the House head Nancy Pelosi, and Senate head Grassley all asked the Pentagon to send National Guard troops.

    The National Guard arrived too late to do much.
    The US Capitol was reinforced and cleared by the Washington DC police.

  10. stroppy says

    yeah “Being There”. I don’t get the comparison, but then about all I remember of it is the scene with Shirley MacLaine under the blanket, if I’m thinking of the right movie

  11. PaulBC says

    Who could forget Being There? (Except maybe those no good punks who weren’t even born yet when it came out!)

    There was something about Trump that made me think of Chauncey Gardiner and I had to search for it. It was his pronouncement about COVID-19

    … that goes away in April with the heat, as the heat comes in.

    Sadly mistaken about that.

  12. PaulBC says

    Rob Grigjanis@9 Oh gimme a break. Peter Sellers’s charm alone is enough to carry a much worse film.

    (Clearly you can like or dislike any movie you want, but I’m starting to get why we apparently rub each other the wrong way even on the most trivial interactions here.)

  13. stroppy says

    raven @ 8

    “Trump is old at 72 and lazy”

    True but all he needs to do is shoot off his mouth and his cult followers will make messes for him. It’s hard to predict what kind of seed has been planted and how events could continue to spin out of control. I think we’re beginning to see with greater exactitude just how rotted the belly of this country really is.

    OTOH, Trump is old at 72 and stuffed to the gills with saturated fats. Sooner or later doctors will no longer be able to keep his corpse animated.

  14. PaulBC says

    raven@10 I think there’s little doubt that Trump went out of his way to leave the Capitol vulnerable. I’m not exactly sure what he expected to happen, but his intentions could not be any clearer if he had said “Will no one will rid me of this insolent Congress?”

  15. asclepias says

    My first thought when he used the word ‘special’ was, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  16. bcw bcw says

    @10, yes the WaPo article is strange in that it never says that Trump did or did not ever place an order about the national guard and neither confirms or contradicts the NY Times article saying Pence ordered the guard – which is also a strange question in that Pence does not have the authority to command the National Guard. It sounds like the decision was made to do it anyway.

  17. davidc1 says

    @2 I remember watching Dream On ,only bit that sticks in my memory is when he gets mugged ,he goes into a gun shop ,spreads his hands about 18 inches apart ,and says “I Want a Gun This Fukcing Big”
    As for Being There, Peter S seemed to be obsessed with making a film based on the book.
    And David Lodge ,an actor friend of Sellars said he based the Gardiner bloke on Stan Laurel ,and a gardener he used to have .
    As for the snatch snatcher ,with a big of luck he will soon be wearing clothes that match his make up and hair .
    That leaves the 70million deluded twats who voted for him .Saw a clip of one dickhead bragging about his 375 Magnum ,don’t know how that will stand up to a Abrams Tank ,or one of those UAV’s that killed a lot of innocent people in Iraq .

    I think the future of America depends on education ,but that would cost money ,and might result in the voters thinking for themselves ,and no- one wants that .

    PS ,and what has Nancy P done that has gotten those 70 million dickheads so riled up ?

  18. robro says

    Heather Cox Richardson, a professor of history at Boston College and contributor to Bill Moyer’s website, has a daily newsletter. In this morning’s she notes the growing problems for McCarthy, Rick Scott (Fl) and other congressional Republican leaders because of their support of Trump, his “stolen election” narrative, the insurrection, etc. Their grifting ways may be coming to roost.

    Here’s an interesting excerpt from today’s newsletter:

    It is no wonder that both McCarthy and Scott are madly backpedaling from their former pro-Trump stances and now calling for an end to partisan rancor. According to Jonathan Swan of Axios, in a phone call this morning, Trump tried to tell McCarthy it was “Antifa people” who stormed the Capitol. But McCarthy was having none of it: “It’s not Antifa, it’s MAGA. I know. I was there.” When Trump tried to rant about election fraud, McCarthy interrupted: “Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.”

    If McCarthy et al had talked this way to Trump all along…like a parent to a child…we would be in a much better place today. But no. They played the partisan game, accepted the big bucks from bad actors like Sheldon Adelson, swung in behind Trump and supported every bit of his bullshit until after the riot and Electoral College certification. Now they want to call on “our better angels” (McCarthy’s words borrowing from Pinker, I believe) to heal the country. Meanwhile they and Trump continue to undermine the stability of the country to give Biden an even bigger mess to deal with. To hell with them and their grifting.

  19. says

    @#19, davidc1:

    PS ,and what has Nancy P done that has gotten those 70 million dickheads so riled up ?

    Not much — she sheltered their hero from impeachment for far longer than most of her party wanted her to, refused to do it a second time, made a show of opposing Trump but was perfectly happy to sign off on his increasing military budgets, and has spent years helping to safeguard the (Republican) status quo from actual reform.

    In point of fact, none of the Democratic Big Names have done very much to stop the right wing. Obama promised he’d fight for reform in his 2008 campaign, and then immediately demanded that the Democrats push for bipartisan consensus on all the big items instead of taking a stand. It didn’t save him from Republican hatred and intransigence any more than cooperating with Republicans to talk Democrats in Congress into supporting their bullshit like NAFTA (which had been signed by Bush but did not take effect because Congress refused to vote for it — until Clinton talked Democrats into supporting it) saved Bill Clinton.

    The excuse that Democrats have to avoid doing anything significant in order to keep the right wing from hating them is clearly nonsense — the right wing hates Democrats because they resent having even in-name-only opposition, and every time they are catered to, they simply decide that they want more than they had demanded in the first place, and then announce that the Democrats are evil for not pushing to the newly-moved goalposts.

    This has been obvious to anybody with a brain since at least the late 1990s. Therefore either Democrats who continue to work with Republicans are fools, or else they have some other, more sinister motive for helping move the country ever-further to the right. Either way, they deserve as much contempt as the Republicans they enable.

    A better question is why Democratic voters continue to support these people. Polls show that Democrats overwhelmingly don’t want what Democratic politicians keep doing… but here we are with right-winger Joe Biden in office, after right-winger Hillary Clinton failed four years earlier.

    (And don’t say “they’re not right-wingers”. If you vote for GWB’s war in Iraq — still, even after Trump’s coronavirus fiasco, the most deadly decision of a 21st-century US President, and predictably so by the time of the vote — and the PATRIOT Act, and the foundation of DHS and ICE, and austerity measures for the poor at the same time as an ever-increasing military budget, you’re a right-winger. It doesn’t matter if you try to stick a smiley face on it by pretending you’re feminist or LGBT-friendly or spouting empty rhetoric about gun control.)

  20. birgerjohansson says

    Headline for the link above:
    “Shameless tories profiting from child hunger “

  21. robro says

    birgerjohansson — That’s “robro” (a portmanteau of my name) not “robot” but I may change to that. :-) Although, I suppose might be confused as a troll-bot like another poster here.

    On the “my Kevin” McCarthy front re impeachment: He now says he will “personally” vote against it but he’s not going to lean on other Republicans to oppose it. It’s a very small and meaningless thing, probably just CYA, but if so at least he’s worried about his ass.

  22. davidc1 says

    @24 Paul wrote .
    “davidc1 says the right incantation, and the summoning is complete!”
    Don’t know what the above means ,am I being gotted at ?

    So ,if the party of the Donkey ,and the party of the Elephant are the same ,why do you amuricans go through all this bollox every four years ?
    Why not take it in turn ,or decide it with a toss of a coin .Or better still the Super duper Bowl is staged around this time of the year why not let the parties each pick a team in the final ?

  23. PaulBC says

    davidc1@27 Just that you called The Vicar from the vasty deep (and he came). It’s not a difficult task, but the sheer contrast in length between your aside and his response caught my eye. I am not sure what any of it had to do with Being There.

  24. robro says

    The Washington rumor mill is now saying Mitch McConnell believes that Trump committed an impeachable offense…unlike the other time…and is “pleased” the Dems are impeaching him. He wants to purge Trump from the GOP. Do I smell a cover-your-ass move? Too little, too late, Mitch.

    The article also says that McCarthy is polling his colleagues on whether he should call on Trump to resign.

  25. birgerjohansson says

    robro @ 26 -My spell check keeps messing with my spelling
    Pompeo claims Iran (staunchly shiite) is the home for al-Qaida (who hates shiites as much as Christians and jews). He is a very Trumpean guy.

  26. says

    If we’re talking Peter Sellers characters, then the GOP is Lionel Mandrake to Trump’s General Ripper. Where Ripper is unhinged yet purposely malicious the GOP is alternately appeasing and enabling while weakly reasoning with something it can’t control.

    Trump is more like Heath Ledgers Joker – Someone the GOP used when they thought they could control them and now will burn them all.

  27. Tethys says

    The latest update by the FBI on the hundreds of charges already brought was quite informative. They are still seeking the person who parked trailer with an explosive device. The is a 50,000 dollar reward for info.

    Sedition charges are absolutely being pursued against those whose crimes warrant that charge. For any maga who simply stormed congress and chanted, criminal trespass is the basic charge, which leaves open the possibility of more serious felony charges if there is evidence to support them.

    The security failures are also being investigated, with multiple officers implicated so far. Mr selfie is currently under suspension pending a full investigation. Few details were given, ostensibly because it is an ongoing investigation.

  28. Rob Grigjanis says

    Susan Montgomery @33: You got Mandrake completely wrong. He played along for the sole purpose of getting the recall codes from Ripper. Then he had to deal with Colonel Bat Guano. Kubrick was spot on about clueless/insane Americans, IMO.

  29. whheydt says

    What Pelosi did to rile up the trumpen proletariat is to be a woman with actual power.

    As for the guy pictured with his boot on her desk… A weapons charge has been added for him. It carries up to 10 years and $250K.

  30. Who Cares says

    @Susan Montgomery(#33):


    blockquote>Trump is more like Heath Ledgers Joker – Someone the GOP used when they thought they could control them and now will burn them all.


    A more apt comparison would be with Hitler (albeit as a two bit knockoff of every ones favorite fascist to hate). The guy got his job because the parties giving him it thought they could control him. Even better he was on the verge of losing the job until the miraculously timed torching of the Reichstag (the German version of the Capitol). At least that is where the paths diverge, one found a willing patsie to start him on the path to being a dictator, the other being incompetent (and arrogant about it) found like minded incompetent arrogant people to try the same and fail.

  31. Ridana says

    20) @robro:

    According to Jonathan Swan of Axios, in a phone call this morning, Trump tried to tell McCarthy it was “Antifa people” who stormed the Capitol. But McCarthy was having none of it: “It’s not Antifa, it’s MAGA. I know. I was there.” When Trump tried to rant about election fraud, McCarthy interrupted: “Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.”

    If McCarthy et al had talked this way to Trump all along…like a parent to a child…we would be in a much better place today.

    If you believe that conversation took place like that. It sounds to me like McCanker leaking it to make himself look strong, instead of the toady he is. Like one of Bunko’s “big, strong man with tears in his eyes, said, “Sir, Sir, you’ve saved us all!” stories.

  32. davidc1 says

    ~28 To be fair to him ,it was a PS at the end of my post about Peter Sellers and Being There .
    @36 Good that will learn him ,was he the guy who nicked her laptop?

  33. KG says

    Rob Grigjanis@35,
    And if it hadn’t been for the Doomsday Machine, and an infernal piece of bad luck (the radio on Major Kong’s plane being destroyed by a glancing blow from a missile), Mandrake would have saved the world! Due to him, the recall codes were sent, and all but Kong’s plane returned to base.

  34. davidc1 says

    @40 A Brit saving the world from a bonkers amurican General ,can’t have that.
    On the whole American Generals don’t get shown in a good light in the movies ,why that?