When the large room in the clubhouse at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, was filled with friends and relatives and members last night just before Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump entered to speak, I thought, "If the Ebola virus showed up and went through this place, making everyone shit themselves dry while they bleed out of their nipples and eyes until dead, the world would be a better place by several degrees."
I was there as a credentialed member of the press, along with my co-conspirator in these things, Jeff Kreisler, and while watching Trump on television is enough to make you have a stroke, being there in person gave me the feeling that acid was going to bore a hole in my stomach. It wasn't so much his speech, which was on a teleprompter and he riffed on it like a dissonant jazz musician. It was the atmosphere of the event.
For instance, one thing you don't get a sense of from the TV screens is just how disturbingly robotic his family is. They entered with him, Melania, the grown-up kids, their grown-up wives, and lined up behind him. And they just stood there for the entire time. It was goddamned creepy, like they were just waiting for an Eyes Wide Shut orgy to start later on and the Klonopin had taken the edge off.
All the Stepford Wives up there have the same hair style. All the men have resting asshole face.
Trump himself was, as you've read or heard, a great deal more subdued than usual. That didn't mean he wasn't batshit insane. But he has learned to lie and exaggerate with such aplomb that he could be up there saying that he pisses high-quality Chardonnay and you'd think he actually believes it because someone told him it's true and then he'd bottle his piss and sell it as Trump Vintage.
Multiple times in the short evening, Jeff had to talk me out of leaping up and yelling, "Bullshit" or "Blow me" or "You lie." I wanted to ask the reporters why they didn't do it all the time. (Jeff said that if I was going to get thrown out of an event, this would probably be where I would be hurt least.) Multiple times, Trump expressed how great he was and how grateful we should be for him and what sacrifices he is making for us. "I didn't need to do this," he said. "It's not easy, believe me, I didn't need to do it, but I felt I had to give back to our wonderful country which has been so good to me and to my family... Better hope I'm president."
Trump was Trump was Trump, the eternal asshole, Barnum without the charm, the grifter in his greatest con. He promised to attack Hillary Clinton, whose name was booed multiple times, and he promised things that, if a Democrat promised them, she'd be called a crazy socialist: "Every American worker of every background is entitled to the same benefits, protections and rights and privileges." Well, sure, but, like so many things Trump said, like about infrastructure spending and schools "failing," someone needed to say, "Who the fuck made that happen? The Democrats who tried to pass spending bills or the Republicans who blocked them?"
What was disturbing, though, was the whole zeitgeist in the room. You just see reporters and Trump. There is so very much more. Before the event began, we were treated to a parade of sycophants. Apprentice contestant Omarosa was there and, as pretty much the only African American in the room other than some of the people on cameras, she was instantly everyone's "I have a black friend" friend, posing for tons of photos. Fox "news" was on all the large TVs, forcing us to see Bill O'Reilly. Then, just before Trump spoke, a parade of wealthy people entered to take their seats; a bunch of them were older men with slicked-back hair, looking like stereotypes of mobbed-up goombahs, all with spray-tanned, multi-bejeweled trophy wives. There were old money couples, walking around like they owned the joint because, you know, they kind of did.
And they became Trump's slavering fan club, cheering like deranged teenagers at a One Direction show, chanting his name every chance they had. It was so insidious. What you didn't get was that when Trump said, "[W]e are all suffering and we're suffering big league and it's getting worse," a roomful of extremely rich fucks cheered in agreement. Yeah, they were suffering, these pampered pricks and pussies who probably made more money under the Obama administration than in the rest of their luxurious lives.
One thought stuck with me. It didn't matter one rat's fart who became president to these people. It wouldn't change anything. They would still be privileged and powerful, so all they really gave a goddamn about was seeing their friend Donald get elected because wouldn't it be a gas to go to parties he would throw at the White House.
Jesus, how they yelled and clapped in approval when Trump said, "We're going to rebuild our inner cities, which are absolutely a shame and so sad. We're going to take care of our African-American people that have been mistreated for so long." Forget the phrase "our African America people," as if he's sharing them with us. Who the fuck says these things in a country club with a $200,000 membership fee? And how is that not mentioned in every fucking report about the event? No Democrat would make a victory speech at a country club. They might have fundraisers there, which sucks, but Hillary Clinton was at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a big space with a working class history. Even if it's become another gentrified area now, at least it made some sense.
After the speech, I just wanted to get the fuck out of there. Jeff wanted to talk to people. After a brief, douchey conversation with some younger guys, we talked to an older couple. Jeff took the woman; I took the dapper-dressed man who indicated that he knows Trump personally. I asked him what surprised him about the evening. "The teleprompter," he said. "It's the first time I've seen Donald use one, and I thought it worked." Was it because it kept him from going off on tangents? He explained, "People don't understand Donald. He is just a brilliant guy, and he has so many innovative ideas going through his head at all times that he just can't express what he's really trying to say." Trying not to look at him like he just grew a horn out of his head, I asked for an example. "Like the things he said about the judge. Why can't he say that? Why can't he say that the judge is biased because he's Mexican? Donald wasn't being racist. He was just stating the truth." I pointed out that perhaps people were uncomfortable because if we were president, he'd get to choose judges. That brought the conversation to a quick end.
I left Briarcliff Manor despairing about the nation. Millions of people had voted for this charlatan. And the next five months are going to be just awful. I told Jeff on the drive back that I think that Trump is going to lose, but he's going to do real harm to the country. He doesn't give a shit how much hate and violence he causes. He can just helicopter away from it, off to his next playground for the ludicrously rich, floating above us, pretending he knows us.
(I was disappointed that it wasn't a press conference, as had originally been promised. I had a question in mind, a little test for Trump. I was going to ask, "Can you tell us about one regular person you met on the campaign trail?" Just to see if he could.)