As this epic adventure of Donald J. Trump’s presidency winds to a spectacular close, I am reminded as I have been so many times over the past five years just how inadequate we sad scribes in the political press have been at capturing it all — this, the Greatest Political Show Earth has ever seen.
It was once said of newspaperman H.L. Mencken — the so-called “Sage of Baltimore” — that in his political reporting, he “never giggled, seldom even chuckled; he roared with laughter.”
The rotund and orotund A.J. Liebling wrote about boxing, eating, war and the zany scam artists of Times Square during the 1930s. Perhaps his greatest work, however, was his political tome, “The Earl of Louisiana,” about that state’s “half crazy and half intelligent” Gov. Earl Long.
Though Liebling certainly would not have sympathized much with the current MAGA political forces, his love for the dramatic, his eye for characters and his devotion to scalding honesty burned away any underbrush of pique, personal animus or political bias.
A.J. Liebling would have feasted on Donald John Trump.
H.L. Mencken would have lighted a cigar and wept tears of joy over the endless supply of material to fuel the trenchant wit that clacked through his overheated typewriter.
Yet even such titans as Liebling and Mencken would not have been able to fully capture the enormity of this political epic through which we are now living. Only the greatest reporter in the history of the English language — William Shakespeare himself — might have been equipped to fully appreciate and record the tragedy, the comedy, the history of Mr. Trump’s brief foray into politics.
Truly, Shakespeare would have been in love. He might have penned another 154 sonnets to convey his infatuation and fascination.
An original character of Mr. Trump’s size would have starred in everything from “The Merchant of Venice” to “King Lear.”
Mr. Trump would have eclipsed the role of wealthy bastard Don John in “Much Ado About Nothing,” who describes himself as a “plain-dealing villain.”
Try as they did, Mr. Trump’s most unhinged critics failed to capture Shakespeare’s descriptions of Richard III as “rudely stamped,” “deformed” and “unfinish’d, sent before my time into this breathing world” — so hideous that dogs stop to snarl at him.
This, of course, is not a remotely accurate description of Mr. Trump, but it’s what his critics were going for — even if they are too stupid and dull to realize it.
In Venice, Mr. Trump could have taught Shylock a thing or two about a righteous victim’s unquenchable bitterness. Channelling Mr. Trump in Elizabethan language, you can almost hear him seethe: “If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge.”
Yet no Falstaff ever on the Globe stage played to more roars of laughter from the unruly crowd gathered on the lawn below. Nobody peddles the vulgar and ribald better than Don from Queens.
“He referred to my hands. If they’re small, something else must be small.”
Mr. Trump punctures the air with his fingers and gives a sideways glance to the crowd. They are heaving with laughter. He looks back at the little, sweating robot on stage beside him.
“I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee you.”
Though there is plenty that is rotten in Washington, Shakespeare might have struggled to cast the great Don John in “Hamlet.” Dithering and obsessive self-reflection are not exactly his forte.
But King Lear. Oh, King Lear.
He gave away his fortune and his kingdom to his two daughters who, on command, sang his highest praises most enthusiastically.
Yet it was Cordelia who was true to him. “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth,” she says, frankly.
She got nothing.
In the cruel end, the king’s daughters turn on one another with poison and suicide. Cordelia is executed in prison. Lear dies alone, in dark grief and resentment.
He exuents, leaving his kingdom in the hands of the Earl of Kent, a very old man.
• Charles Hurt is opinion editor of The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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