Toward the end of the January 6 Committee’s not-so-final hearing Thursday night, the nation was shown an extended cut of Donald Trump’s Rose Garden go home you’re daddy’s favorite brownshirts performance that day. It was genuinely disgusting, particularly in light of the new revelation that some of those who’d enabled Trump up to the point of fully trying to overthrow the government—but not quite!—had written into the script, “I am asking you to leave the Capitol Hill region NOW and go home in a peaceful way.” But Trump insisted on going off the cuff. He told the rioters they were special and he loved them. A man who lost the popular election by 7 million votes, and the Electoral College 306 to 232, told his fanatics that he’d won in a landslide and it had been stolen away. “But you have to go home now,” he added.
Somehow, though, the true depths of depravity were to be found in Trump’s Oval Office address on January 7, of which the committee also showed an extended cut. At the time of recording, the full scale of Trump’s capacity for destruction in rapacious pursuit of his own ends had been laid bare over the preceding 24 hours. Even after everything, even after he had watched on TV as his people sacked the United States Capitol to try to keep him in power and people lay dead as a result, he just could not stop himself. He read some of the prepared text and blanched at it: “I don’t want to say the election is over.”
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But what has always seemed like defiance—of shame, of the haters, of the concept of observable reality itself—suddenly appeared as the petulant whining that’s always lurked underneath. He complained about the script, struggled to read it and to pronounce words, slammed the podium in frustration when he botched lines. “See, I can’t see it very well,” he said with a hand shading his eyes, peering blindly into the camera, unable to draw out of it what he always had. He had run out of card tricks and snake oil. The fireworks had all popped. For the first time, he did not seem comfortable in the circle of the camera’s lens, conscious of being on all those screens. He looked trapped inside the machine that made him. After years in which the world was a bizarro Truman Show, where all of us were stuck in a program with him that he both produced and starred in, suddenly he’d lost control. He seemed to feel all the eyes burning into him, even the sympathetic ones, all knowing that he’d lost, that he was a loser.
He may still Houdini himself out of handcuffs, but all told, The Show has never quite been the same since January ’21. Far be it for me to guarantee the political demise of Ol’ Donny Trump, and it looks as if he will run again. His election myth has now become dogma in Republican politics, required of anyone with eyes on a lofty perch. After all, what they’re really saying is that the country is being stolen from them, its rightful heirs, by Those People.
The question is whether the faithful are ready to move on to a new high priest. That would make this pathetic exhibition of narcissism the beginning of the end, and it all takes time: according to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, what the committee showed was just a fraction of this mess. What ended up as a three-minute video reportedly took about an hour to record. Maybe someday we’ll be treated to the other 57-or-so minutes and see it as something like the last will and testament of a genuine monster of the television, a man made by and trapped in the magic video box.
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