• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Applause and Adulation

June 2017


Like King Lear, the deranged old dotard and master of the Brits, President Trump needs flattery. Perhaps it's the symptom of men who dream of monarchy and achieve something quite near it. It's something Trump hungers for daily, if not hourly, and his appetite is ravenous. Morsels won't do, only quaffs of compliments will fill his belly. As for Lear, he didn’t need to look beyond his daughters to sate the need. Save for dearest Cordelia, whose stubborn morals cost her a kingdom, Lear bathed in praise from the wily Regan and the treacherous Goneril. It was all a ruse, but a wise one, and for a while, it secured them an empire.


Trump has to look elsewhere for compliments, for filial piety isn’t always on demand (Ivanka’s at work and Tiffany has made herself sparse). But this doesn’t mean that he has to look far. He has an obsequious staff playing the part of Lear’s little girls. During an introductory event this week, meant above all to offer a "who's who" look at the president's cabinet, staff members fed their boss with a steady diet of overdone flattery. The fawning-fest descended nearly into satire, as each attendee tried to one-up the other and nuzzle closer to Trump's heart.


The plaudits began with Vice President Pence, who said that it was “the greatest pleasure” of his life to “serve as vice president to a president who’s keeping his word to the American people”. Really…the greatest pleasure, you say? I’m sure his lovely wife and children won’t bat an eye or furrow a brow to know they’re second best—at best. A wedding day with one and birthdays with the others are nothing compared to working one second for his capricious boss.


The paean gained steam, as Pence stepped aside to let Attorney General Jeff Sessions say a word or two. Sessions lauded the president by telling him that he’s “set the exact right message” and that “the response is fabulous around the country”. Perhaps the meaning of the word “fabulous” has been re-defined since I last checked. A fabulous response mightn’t entail massive protests in the streets by women and scientists and Muslims and LGBT activists and environmentalists—need I go on? Nor would it include a reported 36% approval rating, the lowest any president has suffered in nearly as many years. In keeping with the definition I know best, I have to ask, is this fabulous? I should think not. But is it tempestuous? Quite a bit.


Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was next. He took hold of the baton and gave the golden godhead that is President Trump his due. With an anointing flare, he thanked the president for the “opportunity and blessing” bestowed upon him to “serve his agenda”. Writing these words is almost as painful as having heard them the first time around; like mites the sycophancy crawls under my skin. But no one else scratched an itch or seemed to care. They were all too busy worshipping as a cabinet, nay, a congregation before the divine. One next to other, they surrounded President Trump with genuflected knees, groveling hands, and pursed and puckered lips kissing at his patent leather feet. It was a paean fit for a king. Lear, if you're listening, don't be jealous. You know best of all. No one so exalted meets a happy end.

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