By Andrew Sullivan
The scene that struck me most in the Woodward/Costa tome, “Peril,” occurs on a plane. On a trip from DC to Seattle on January 7, Adam Smith, a 55-year-old centrist Democrat, finds himself surrounded by participants in the previous day’s violent assault on the Capitol. His ears prick up.
They’re despondent that their attempt to overthrow the election result failed; some are even planning on emigrating. One young revolutionary ponders out loud about going to South Korea, because he believed the place was 90 percent Christian (it isn’t).
“You should move to Idaho,” suggested one woman.
“I just don’t think they have decent seafood in Idaho,” the young man replied.
Smith thought that this young man wanted a fascist takeover of the United States, but at the end of the day, if he couldn’t get decent sushi, it just might not be worth it.
And that has long been the challenge in grappling with the meaning of Trump, hasn’t it? Peril or farce? The more I’ve struggled with this, the more it seems to me that that’s a false choice.
Trump is both. He is both farcical and deeply dangerous, as Ezra has noted, a mark of all fascists in history. Hitler — a failed artist in a silly costume and a ridiculous mustache — comes to mind, as Charlie Chaplin so brilliantly exposed. Mussolini, with his cockerel struts on balconies, is another example, jutting his chin up, as Trump does, when he wants to absorb the crowd as well as signal his authority over them.
But unlike the real fascists, Trump had and has no coherent agenda, no attention span, no managerial skill, no self-control, no discipline, no competence, and was hemmed in by a constitutional system that had lasted over two centuries. That deepens the sense of phoniness and farce. It helps writers such as Ross dismiss our ongoing constitutional crisis as a pile of overwrought panic.