In the Trump movie now playing in the American theater, connecting all the dots requires the artistry of a mapmaker and the insight of a psychic.
Or, perhaps, the critical eye of a movie reviewer.
The leading man, President-elect Donald Trump, is gradually revealing himself to be a hybrid of Daniel Plainview (“There Will Be Blood”), Keyser Soze (“The Usual Suspects”) or Gordon Gekko (“Wall Street”) — each a Machiavellian, sociopathic narcissist bent on reshaping the world in his own image.
Not to put too fine a point on it.
Whomever people thought they were voting for, sayonara to all that. The Trump of Fifth Avenue has returned to his palace. He’s the star of his own movie, and everyone else, especially the Republican base he so skillfully seduced, is mere crowd scenery. Sorry.
It is probably time to concede that, notwithstanding his apparent lack of complex articulation skills, Trump is smarter than he pretended. From the beginning, everything he has done has been calculated toward a reordering of the universe. A better actor than orator, he performed as circumstances required — the everyman, the comedian, the boaster, the flirter, the winker and, finally, the world champ — and plundered the imaginations of the wanting.
It must have been a supreme test of will to keep his true intentions to himself and his gaze steady upon the prize until, by some miracle (or however you say that in Russian), he won.
As the transition unfolds, new stars cascading into a constellation of superpower, the moviegoer willingly suspends disbelief in passive acceptance of whatever’s to come. Trump instinctively understands that he must feed the suspense, both to hold his audience’s attention and to keep them distracted while he’s busy masterminding his biggest deal ever — to Russia with love.
Whether it was his false courtship of Mitt Romney or Tuesday’s bizarre meeting with Kanye West, everything seems designed to distract and entertain the masses. His Romneyvous in a public dining display apparently was a setup for his ultimate rejection of one of his fiercest critics.
His selection of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run the Energy Department was a masterful prank, with lots of laughs to come. Energy, of course, was the very department Perry couldn’t recall when, unforgettably, his brain froze during a 2011 Republican debate. Secretary Oops?
All the while, Trump was focused on his future with Russia and Vladimir Putin, whose leadership the president-elect has publicly admired. In July, during the last news conference Trump has held, he openly requested Russia’s help in defeating Hillary Clinton.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” referring to messages deleted from Clinton’s personal server.
Trump later dismissed the comment as a joke, but you know what they say about truths cloaked in jest. Recently, the CIA affirmed that Russia did interfere with the election by hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and releasing damaging information via WikiLeaks.
True to character, Trump called the report “ridiculous” and said the whole thing was a fabrication by Democrats. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, reportedly in line to be named deputy secretary of state, called the CIA’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the election to help Trump a “false flag.” He then added that the Obama administration has spent the past eight years politicizing intelligence.
Meanwhile, Trump’s pal Roger Stone, a Republican operative, claims to have had “back-channel” communication with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. How are those dots coming along?
Trump has always said that building a relationship with Russia is essential to defeating the Islamic State. But Russia has been assisting Syrian President Bashar Assad in bombing the city of Aleppo, which is occupied by insurgents not terrorists.
Into this fracas enters Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state, whose business relationships with Russia have raised concerns. In a fresh twist, Tillerson is a globalist who supports open trade and has praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump campaigned against. Might the president-elect be open to negotiating another of his promises?
To the critic’s eye, a Trump-Putin-Exxon alliance — the autocrat and plutocrats assisted by generals — does not suggest a triumph of altruism. But, relax, it’s just a movie. And centralized casting is watching you.