A World Without Trumps

Undaunted by his embarrassing “Let’s do Lunch” column, which was so offensively dumb that it drew a rare rebuke from his NYT colleague Paul Krugman, David Brooks wrote another unintentional howler today:

Very few people have the luxury of being freely obnoxious. Most people have to watch what they say for fear of offending their bosses and colleagues. Others resist saying anything that might make them unpopular.

Tellingly, he fails to mention that he gets paid to be obnoxious and offensive, and he doesn’t realize, cosseted as he is in the beltway bubble, that he’s as popular as crabs in a whorehouse.  Feel the luxury….

But, in every society, there are a few rare souls who rise above subservience, insecurity and concern. Each morning they take their own abrasive urges out for parade. They are so impressed by their achievements, so often reminded of their own obvious rightness, that every stray thought and synaptic ripple comes bursting out of their mouth fortified by impregnable certitude. When they have achieved this status they have entered the realm of Upper Blowhardia.

How’s the air up there, David?

These supremely accomplished blowhards offend some but also arouse intense loyalty in others. Their followers enjoy the brassiness of it all. They live vicariously through their hero’s assertiveness. They delight in hearing those obnoxious things that others are only permitted to think.

Thus, there has always been a fan base for the abrasive rich man. There has always been a market for books by people like George Steinbrenner, Ross Perot, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Bobby Knight, Howard Stern and George Soros. There has always been a large clump of voters who believe that America could reverse its decline if only a straight-talking, obnoxious blowhard would take control.

This is where Brooks’ snotty faux-omniscience always fails him; the facts don’t fit his little story, wherein Goerge Soros is JUST LIKE Bill O’Reilly, but he didn’t have time, nor inclination, to come up with better examples that could have possibly made a stronger argument.

And today, apparently, Donald Trump is that man. Trump, currently most famous for telling people that they are fired, has surged toward the top of the presidential primary polls. In one poll, he was in (remote) striking distance in a head-to-head against President Obama. Many people regard Trump as a joke and his popularity a disgrace. But he is actually riding a deep public fantasy: The hunger for the ultimate blowhard who can lead us through dark times.

Are people hungering for this?  Maybe Fox News watchers, but no normal people; check out the approval ratings for, say, Chris Christie or Paul LePage.

He is riding something else: The strongest and most subversive ideology in America today. Donald Trump is the living, walking personification of the Gospel of Success.

Bankrupt four times, functionally illiterate, multiple failed marriages, and the stupidest hairdo on the face of the earth.  I call that success.

It is obligatory these days in a polite society to have a complicated attitude toward success. If you attend a prestigious college or professional school, you are supposed to struggle tirelessly for success while denying that you have much interest in it. If you do achieve it, you are expected to shroud your wealth in locally grown produce, understated luxury cars and nubby fabrics.

Ah, the poor oppressed rich, who got their money the way Trump did, by inheriting it.  Cry me a river, David.

Trump, on the other hand, is utterly oblivious to such conventions. When it comes to success, as in so many other things, he is the perpetual boy. He is the enthusiastic adventurer thrilled to have acquired a gleaming new bike, and doubly thrilled to be showing it off.

He labors under the belief — unacceptable in polite society — that two is better than one and that four is better than two. If he can afford a car, a flashy one is better than a boring one. In private jets, lavish is better than dull. In skyscrapers, brass is better than brick, and gold is better than brass.

Tacky is better than tasteful, and a wife thirty years younger is better than one fifteen years younger.  Values to live by.

This boyish enthusiasm for glory has propelled him to enormous accomplishment. He has literally changed the landscape of New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and many places in between. He has survived a ruinous crash and come back stronger than ever.

No mention of the bankruptcies, offensively crummy buildings, and ripped-off business associates, natch, which would kind of spoil Bobo’s Randian narrative. And those “many” places in between? Which? Can’t Pinch Sulzburger afford fact-checkers anymore?

Moreover, he shares this unambivalent attitude toward success with millions around the country. Though he cannot possibly need the money, he spends his days proselytizing the Gospel of Success through Trump University, his motivational speeches, his TV shows and relentlessly flowing books.

Take that, Andrew Carnegie, with your stupid libraries; to Brooks, I guess even Amway is a charitable outfit.

A child of wealth, he is more at home with the immigrants and the lower-middle-class strivers, who share his straightforward belief in the Gospel of Success, than he is among members of the haute bourgeoisie, who are above it. Like many swashbuckler capitalists, he is essentially anti-elitist.

Which is easy to be in your private jets; no doubt Trump HATES uber-elitists like David Brooks, despite the abject fawning.

Now, I don’t mean to say that Donald Trump is going to be president or get close. There is, for example, his hyper-hyperbolism and opportunism standing in the way.

That, and the fact that he’s so widely loathed.  Brooks doesn’t get out much, for good reason.

In 2009, Trump published a book with a very Trumpian title: “Think Like a Champion.” In that book, he praised Obama’s “amazing” and “phenomenal” accomplishments. “Barack Obama proved that determination combined with opportunity and intelligence can make things happen — and in an exceptional way,” Trump gushed.

Consistency, evidently, is the hobgoblin of elitists.  Here Brooks helpfully feigns unawareness that Trump doesn’t, well, “write” what’s in his “books.”  Or, more likely, he doesn’t think his audience does.

Now he spouts birther nonsense and calls Obama the worst president in American history. Now he leads rallies that make Michele Bachmann events look like the League of Women Voters. Even angry American voters want some level of seriousness, prudence and self-control.

Imaginary awareness of what voters “want” is the hallmark of every Brooks column, and it always happens to be exactly what Brooks himself wants. What a coincidence.

But I do insist that Trump is no joke. He emerges from deep currents in our culture, and he is tapping into powerful sections of the national fantasy life. I would never vote for him, but I would never want to live in a country without people like him.

I know how he feels. Whenever I’m feeling blue, all I do is imagine that Donald Trump exists to grace my humdrum life, and I feel better. Just like Bobo. The flip side of thinking ordinary voters want what you want is the risible delusion that voters care what you think.  They don’t.  The only thing better than a world without Trump would be a world without David Brooks.  And that’s no joke.

(The video above appeared just hours after Brooks got done typing, but nonetheless was online the same day. After seeing that, you’d think even a shameless toady like Brooks must be wishing he hadn’t thought that last paragraph was Fit To Print… Maybe there is a God)


  1. dirigo says:

    Trump’s “opinion” on abortion, detached as it is from the legal basis of the Roe ruling, means merely that he’s going to have to hire a phalanx of personal injury lawyers to help him navigate his way to Iowa and New Hampshire.

    What may lie beyond that, no one can say.

    Then again, the “insult” to the intelligence of the American people, along the Trumpian trail of tears and gaffes, may destroy his candidacy well before the end of this year.

    Back to “The Apprentice” and your Monopoly game, Donald!

    • dirigo says:

      Here’s a possible running mate for Trump: good regional balance; same wavelength, maybe even same luxuriant mane (sorry, no picture at press time).


    • cocktailhag says:

      Did you watch that video? Sadly for David, it came out after he’d typed his missive (and I saw it after I typed mine), but it was a work of art. Trump bellows and yells, and repeats things like he’s got Tourette’s. To say he’s an asshole would be like saying Ann Coulter is “outgoing.”
      The world better off with Trump? Let’s watch that clip and take a vote.

      • dirigo says:

        I have a couple of longtime friends who fit the CEO profile. They are successful and they provide for their families, etc. They loathe Trump.

        • cocktailhag says:

          That’s what’s so disgusting about Brooks’ man-crush. He’s saying that people with money have somehow earned the right to lord it over everyone in the most vulgar way possible, and that deserved opprobrium for proven assholes is somehow stifling their inner child. Boo fucking hoo.

          • dirigo says:

            Trump is the “uber” example of the collision between what used to be the more traditional demeanor of the CEO: low key, self-effacing, family-oriented (usually one wife), early bird gets the worm, and all that, and the freak show he now heads.

            Jack Welch, and all the Trumped up honchos over the last generation or so, with their publicists, inspirational stories, self-help books, and bipolar itch to tell everyone what to do and how to live, broke with tradition and created a leadership class of freaks.

            Donald is the prince of freaks.

            Is he “preachy”? Good God-a-mighty!

          • cocktailhag says:

            It’s like George Bush as President; playing the boss on TV, with really bad writing and lots of special effects. No there there.

  2. Annice says:

    I can’t get past his hairdo!

  3. daphne says:

    well, hurrah. I won’t read Brooks unfiltered and even done expertly by you he was tough to swallow. Sounds like Brooks is jealous of Trump’s obnoxiousness and decided to best him.

    • cocktailhag says:

      It’s my journalistic duty here at CHNN to read all kinds of tripe, but I don’t like it either. With the NYT, I now evade the paywall and have even been known to pilfer a copy from Starbuck’s now and then, but basically I’ve been buying that fishwrap my whole adult life, so I’m used to it by now.
      Like the other NYT deadwood, I rarely find Brooks interesting enough to pillory, but I tagged this one early.
      Thanks, Bobo!

      • nancy says:

        And just how do you leap that paywall? My husband is giving me fits because he wants to pay for it. Je refuse. We’re at a standoff.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Sadly, by just buying the paper most days, so I seldom have to click there. Still, you get 20 free articles per month; I wouldn’t pay unless you regularly exceed that. Perhaps you and you husband can trade computers when one of you runs out…. I’d at least give that a try.

  4. nswfm says:

    I liked the “Upper Blowhardia” line, I have to admit, because I could see two Trump buildings when I lived on the Upper East in NYC. I’m glad I’m back to my home state now, though. We put the “fun” in dysfunctional.

    Good writing and analysis, as usual, on your part, Cocktail Hag.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Trump Tower’s bad enough, with its pink marble gardens of babylon and brass-my-ass, but some of the later crap was so cheesy (The GM Building) that he ought to have been on the Gong Show.
      Now we have to look at this charlatan as a potential Commander in Chief?
      He’s nothing more than stinging proof of P. T. Barnum’s maxim, sadly.

      • nswfm says:

        Trump Plaza and Trump Palace were bad enough. I knew people that lived in each.

        • cocktailhag says:

          I did see an apartment in Trump Tower in Architectural Digest years ago that was undeniably beautiful; but owing more to its sumptuous but understated design than the building itself. (That, and the Sherry-Netherland roof at eye level framing the view of the park…. Hard to go wrong.)
          I’ve heard good things about his building in Chicago, but if true, that would be the first.

  5. avelna says:

    Doonesbury has been “doing” Trump for the last few days. I appreciate his approach.

  6. nancy says:

    Certainly hope you didn’t miss this .

    We know several caddies at Pebble Beach who have had the “honor” of going rounds working for this gasbag. He of course takes no instruction, advice, is a terrible hack, and is a crappy tipper. The caddies make their living from their tips. One guy had to track him down at the airport in order to get paid. So classy is the Donald. We’ve taken to calling him the Marmaduke.

    And your post…..well forwarding to said caddies. Wicked work above. A two-cocktail piece?

    • cocktailhag says:

      What a handsome devil…. He’s hardly changed a bit! No surprise about the tipping et al; those types are always cheap assholes. (I’m sure it’s the same in restaurants, etc….)

  7. Henry says:

    I was wondering what your take on Mr. Trump would be? Another well written analysis of this Looser!!! Well Done Mr. Hag

    • cocktailhag says:

      Well, it was intended to be more about Mr. Brooks than Mr. Trump, but Trump is pretty inescapable these days, to my considerable chagrin. Nonetheless, a huge part of this blog has always been, well, “Assholes in the News,” so CHNN had to cover him. It’s my beat. Glad you liked it.