Another Perspective on Trump

During the presidential campaign The Curmudgeon wrote one of his looong pieces about a work of fiction that reminded him of the presidential campaign then underway.  The book was The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth, about a fictional twist in American history in which a totalitarian-leaning politician is elected president.  Roth’s dangerous president was Charles Lindbergh, and in his piece, The Curmudgeon wrote about the many parallels between Roth’s Lindbergh-as-president and the real-life Agent Orange.

Roth has always been interested in politics.  His fifth novel, The Gang, is a not-so-thinly-veiled satire of the Nixon years in which the fictitious president’s name was Trick E. Dixon.

Subtle, right?

Knowing of his interest in politics and his prescience about the possibility of an aspiring strongman ascending to the presidency, the New Yorker asked Roth what he thought about our new president.

Roth didn’t hold back.

“It is easier to comprehend the election of an imaginary President like Charles Lindbergh than an actual President like Donald Trump. Lindbergh, despite his Nazi sympathies and racist proclivities, was a great aviation hero who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius in crossing the Atlantic in 1927. He had character and he had substance and, along with Henry Ford, was, worldwide, the most famous American of his day. Trump is just a con artist. The relevant book about Trump’s American forebear is Herman Melville’s ‘The Confidence-Man,’ the darkly pessimistic, daringly inventive novel—Melville’s last—that could just as well have been called ‘The Art of the Scam.’ ”

And that was the kindest thing Roth had to say about Trump.

 “I was born in 1933,” he continued, “the year that F.D.R. was inaugurated. He was President until I was twelve years old. I’ve been a Roosevelt Democrat ever since. I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

At eighty-one, Roth is now retired from writing, but clearly, he still has a way with words.

*             *             *

(Speaking of which:  The Curmudgeon just finished rereading Roth’s novel Portnoy’s Complaint.  It’s a breathtaking work:  a book of astonishing creativity with an energetic, unique, outrageous voice and perspective.  Unless you’re easily offended by four-letter words, he enthusiastically recommends it.)

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