If Elvis Presley had been elected President of the United States, what kind of president would he have been? We now know: Trumpian. If Michael Jackson had been elected President of the United States, what kind of president would he have been? We now know: Trumpian. As far as I know these two musicians never had political aspirations – though a pill-addicted Presley once tried to cajole Richard Nixon into appointing him as anti-drug ambassador to the nation’s youth – but, like Trump, they lived in the public eye and they lived within an entourage of associates and ‘minders’ who kept the world at bay.
Secure in this circle, the star could do whatever he wanted, as long as the money kept coming in. For Presley and Jackson the money was driven by record sales and ticket sales. THAT was the connection with the world at large. They gift the world with music and the world gifts them with money. As long as those things are roughly in balance, the beat went on, more or less. Sure, there’s also the personal quirks, indulgences, and localized craziness that fueled the gossip rags of all media. But as long as the money train stayed on the rails the rest was just noise. The entourage could handle it. Until the drugs got out of control and the entourage was useless.
Pre-Presidential Trump is a more complicated case. Initially, and with the help of Daddy’s money and contacts – little Donald was born to an entourage – he made his money in real estate development. He did deals, face-to-face. Then, over time, he transitioned to a franchise operation and a TV star. Showbiz! But, as with Elvis and Michael, as long as the money came in, nothing else mattered. A little scandal here and there – and as far as we know, The Donald has never been into anything comparable to Elvis’s pill habit or Michael’s cosmetic adventurism and child fetishism – but it’s just noise.
Now that he’s President, things have changed. Drastically. Money is no longer his connection to the world. To be sure, he’s still holding on to his vast business empire – Yuge, I tell you, Yuge! The best! – though he’s distanced himself from it by the length of a pinky. But, and here’s the crucial point, that business empire is no longer his lever on reality. That’s not how he judges his personal efficacy any more. Let me repeat that, with emphasis: That’s NOT how he judges his PERSONAL sense of efficacy.
Now that he’s president his personal sense of efficacy is linked to his acts as president. And that’s not working out so well. He’s finding out that, at every level and in every way, the world is not willing to jump at his command. In particular, the media isn’t presenting a picture of his actions and efficacy that is consonant with his intentions. All of a sudden we have a comedian (John Oliver) placing educational ads on his favorite TV shows – fake commercials full of true facts! Trump’s image in the media was one thing when his world centered on his ability to generate a money stream; in that context it played a secondary and subsidiary role – all PR is good PR. Now that that income stream has been shifted into a secondary role, all he’s got left is the media flow.
He signs executive orders and he expects the media to show him how dynamic, forceful, and all-around-wonderful he is. And, remember, this is now the main event. When the media doesn’t comply. What does he do? He goes on TV and delivers a 77 minute rant against media.
How long can he keep this up?