“Kneel before Zod”, Maggie Haberman, the New York Times’ chief Trumpslainer, tweeted on Tuesday, quoting Terence Stamp’s immortal line in the first Superman movie. She was reacting to that morning’s presidential tweetstorm at her colleague, columnist Paul Krugman.
Under the headline “The Great Republican Abdication — a party that no longer believes in American values”, Krugman summarised the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, released the previous Thursday, in three crisply accurate sentences: “A hostile power intervened in the presidential election, hoping to install Donald Trump in the White House. The Trump campaign was aware of the intervention and welcomed it. And once in power, Trump tried to block any inquiry into what happened.”
Trump, evidently feeling his majesté deeply lèse by this, demanded an apology. “They (the Times) will have to get down on their knees & beg for forgiveness — they are truly the Enemy of the People”.
Democrats are now debating whether to impeach Zod. We must, says Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a top tier contender for her party’s presidential nomination. “To ignore a President’s repeated disloyalty would inflict great and lasting damage on this country.” Not so fast, says Congressman Steny Hoyer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s number two: better to leave it to the voters 18 months hence. Pelosi herself has said “he’s just not worth it.”
Before reading the Mueller report I agreed with Pelosi. Then, gorge rising, I thought Warren was right. Now, Zod has brought me back to the Speaker’s view. This president deserves to be mocked, not impeached; treated as a source of hilarity, not taken seriously. That will be easier on our blood pressure and harder on his.
He hates to be laughed at as we saw when President Obama roasted him at the 2011 White House correspondents’ dinner, perhaps precipitating his run for the White House as an act of revenge. But to be laughed at is what he deserves — and what he invites. The absurd hair, the painted-on orange glow, the attempt to hide his gut behind crotch-length ties, the tackiness of his taste in home decor and porn actresses, the shamelessness of his cheating on the golf course, his buffoonish bombast with its limited vocabulary, his cataract of preposterous mendacity. Trevor Noah and his fellow late night comedians never lack for material. All they have to do for a laugh is read out his tweets.
Trump’s defenders themselves tell us not to take him seriously. They try to explain away his more egregious utterances by insisting he just joking, as in he really didn’t mean it when he asked the Russians to find Hillary Clinton’s emails for him (a request with which they promptly tried to comply). Alternatively he may only be “venting”, as he was, we are assured, when the other day he told his acting secretary of homeland security to break the law and not to worry because there’d be a presidential pardon waiting if it got him into trouble.
The biggest joke of all is that Trump tried to shut down Mueller’s enquiry into Russia’s meddling not because he was guilty of anything — collusion really was a delusion — but because he could not stand the idea of anyone attributing his victory to anything other than his own genius. As Andrew Sullivan wrote in New York magazine, “in the contest between (Trump’s) own diseased ego and the rule of law, there has never been any contest.”
The pricking of insufferable egos has always been a staple of great comedy, and there shall surely be much more merriment to be had at Trump’s expense before he is ushered into history as a bizarre sideshow. We must just hope that there are still enough good people around him to stop Zod from doing anything actually dangerous in the interim that might wipe the smile from our faces.