Of the many head-benders of the Trump era, the dialectic between absurdity and extreme gravity has been one of the hardest to manage. We have been obliged to take an unserious person very seriously indeed. It has hurt our brains. It has reminded us, again and again, that the 45th president of the United States is simultaneously a reality-television star and an aspiring despot.
Is it possible to separate his hammy entertainer’s chops from his raw political efficacy? Or his charisma from his incoherence? No, it is not. But we can begin an analysis. And we can start by classifying some of his major modes as an orator and a performer: the masks of Trump.
He’s got the whole world in his hands. Why not just drop it and let it bounce a couple of times?
In Trump’s speeches, the horrible little prose-y bits that Stephen Miller wrote were always just padding. The rambling, the ad-libs, the lurching sensation of his mind in motion: That’s what the people were there for.
Clownish dismay at the nastiness of all the nasty, nasty people. With perhaps an obscenity building behind it.
Basking in the regard of the world: I am adored, I am despised, I am the nucleus.
I shouldn’t say this but ... that’s exactly why I’m saying it.
Pretending to consult notes. This is what “presidential” looks like: bored.
The glower of the autocrat, the strongman scowl. Off camera, you can hear the tap-tap of the sculptor’s chisel.
A curiously zestless, heavy-bodied gesture, this slouchingly raised fist nonetheless gets the point across.
He never laughs, Trump. Too risky. The joke he is perpetrating is so enormous that if he allowed himself to laugh he might burst.