If Trump had found it necessary to justify himself, he could have claimed he was only telling the truth, taking the position first expressed by IF Stone that “funerals are always the occasion to lie pious.” But neither staying consistent nor fine-tuning the convention was Trump’s primary goal. After all, no one needed Trump to remind anyone that Iraq was Powell’s big failure; it was the one he himself had recognized. This corrective sentiment is found in most of the obituaries and reviews that have spread. The PA even moved a story that dealt exclusively with the particular hatred Iraqis still harbor for Powell for his role in pushing the invasion.
So the post-mortem smear didn’t illuminate Powell. But it did help explain something true about Trump. Without Twitter, without Fox News’ chyron-to-chyron coverage, and without a thrilling presidential campaign to bolster his posts, Trump depends on his shock skills to make his way into the public sphere and onto the front page. An assault like this might sound smart and calculating, but it’s a safe bet that for Trump to swing wildly when no one is paying attention has become his first instinct. Shouting into a megaphone to reach cheap seats is also a technique he also uses in court, filing ridiculous lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to overturn election results or to punish his niece Mary Trump. His demagoguery shouldn’t work after all this time, but it still does.
The Powell incident isn’t the first time Trump has unearthed a corpse and made it dance to gain the limelight and score some political points. Trump continued to verbally attack his political rival, Republican Arizona Senator John McCain, for months after his death in 2018. In 2019, Trump suggested that former Michigan Democratic Representative John Dingell, then dead for only 10 months, “looked up” from hell. (Trump was angry with Dingell’s wife Rep. Debbie Dingell, also a Michigan Democrat supporting Trump’s impeachment even though he had approved the lowering of the flags for the late congressman.) And he did. never been sentimental about the American war dead. In 2020, the AtlanticJeffrey Goldberg reported that behind the scenes Trump called them “losers” and “draws.”
Trump seems to intuitively understand that those low blows don’t cost him with his base, which applauds his corrosive moxie. Given his history of explosive commentary, he has set a basic expectation of rude conduct that he must exceed to entertain his fans and to keep his critics dismayed enough that his “statements” make the news. Truth be told, he probably didn’t care much about Colin Powell, but seeing the general’s death forming a wave of news, he decided to paddle and drive him to shore in the hopes of being noticed. . But the downside to Trump – if there are downsides to Trumpworld – is that as he descends ever lower to make his way into the news, he will end up sending the equivalent of a audition tape to social media who only suspended him (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitch), that they should never let him come back.
This leaves Trump standing, smoking, running out of enough rhetorical fuel to reach political takeoff and waiting for his next countdown.
Trump’s obituaries will be fantastic. Imagine a lede and send it to [email protected]. My email alerts read Irish sports pages early in the morning. My The Twitter thread imagines that few flags will be lowered when Trump expires. My RSS feed is just trying to survive it.