A beautiful marble building is nestled at the center of Mount Vernon Square in Washington, D.C. In front, the words “A University for the People” are carved into its grand stone benches. Its entablature is emblazoned with “Science—Poetry—History.” And though several other engravings would suggest that this remarkable edifice is the Washington Public Library—a gift of Andrew Carnegie, and dedicated to the diffusion of knowledge—two backlit Apple logos carved on either side of the entrance quickly correct this misconception.
The first time I walked into the renovated Carnegie library-turned Apple Store, I nearly vomited.
When Apple opened the store, a company press release claimed the library would “once again be a center for learning, discovery, and creativity for the community, keeping with Carnegie’s vision of a public and free space for all.” It is unlikely that Carnegie envisioned a multinational corporation turning his grand public library into a retail store with a glorified patina of “creative” events meant to sell their products, but it is cute that Apple tried to play off their calculated appropriation as an homage to Carnegie’s legacy.
A few blocks away from this unfortunate merger between ruthless capitalism and public mismanagement, the Qataris built their own remarkable edifice to gaudy consumerism, with the caveat that tenants would have to abide by certain tenets of sharia law. There are no liquor stores, interest-charging banks, or strip clubs.
Perhaps we should be thankful that the Qataris are looking out for our moral well-being as they revitalize the center of our capital and give the spoiled liberal daughters of our elite a new place to take Instagram photos and buy Gucci purses.
I met a friend at a coffee shop in this extravagant complex. After we ordered coffee and finally took off our masks, the conversation turned to politics. He told me that he was planning on leaving the city to escape the madness. This has become a fairly common sentiment. One can only stand being accosted by an increasingly prevalent cadre of deranged and drug-addled homeless people for so long before he starts looking at property in Montana or West Virginia. And it is increasingly clear that the current D.C. city government has no desire to deal with the problems that actually afflict the city—they’re too busy “dealing” with “systemic racism” to care if rioters desecrate the World War II memorial.
“At least if Biden wins, you know COVID is going to be over the next day.” Everyone seems to have come up with a silver lining for Joe Biden winning. I remembered being at a party in a swanky apartment a few floors up from the coffee shop where a Republican establishment type spoke optimistically about how four years of Biden would ensure the victory of someone like Tom Cotton or Nikki Haley. Those people are deluded if they think that a Cotton or a Haley will do anything but maintain the rapidly sinking status quo—but they probably understand this and are just fine with it.
Practical Leadership Needed
As the caffeine started to kick in, I asked my friend if there was any way that we could reclaim the cities. It seems a shame to have such a beautiful city go to ruin—to have rampant homeless tent cities continue to grow mere blocks away from the nearly 9-million-pound ironwork dome of the United States Capitol. “Maybe,” he replied. But it was unclear how one would actually go about doing it. And besides, it would require a lot of work and most people just want to live their lives. I could hear the tired and embittered lethargy in his voice.
After coffee, I walked my friend to his car. “We’d need a practical leader.” He complained about how most people on the Right were too intellectual and caught up in ideology. How they spent too much time thinking and not enough time doing. And those were the intellectuals—the people who wanted to do something. He wasn’t even talking about the pseudointellectuals at think tanks like the Heritage Foundation who exist to take money from wealthy donors. “But someone might emerge. You never know.” After all, few expected Donald Trump to jump into the presidential race and win.
It was strange to hear him speak in those terms—as though the era of Trump were already over. But it is understandable why one might think so.
Every few days or so, I receive a letter—supposedly from President Donald Trump or the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee or one of Trump’s family members. These letters, which read like the putrid Boomer drivel that someone who watches too much Ben Shapiro and Sean Hannity would spew, invariably end by asking me for money.
These letters sometimes come with colorful plastic cards declaring me an “executive member” or a “2020 charter member” or a “sustaining member” of the Trump Make American Great Again Committee or the Republican National Committee. One time, a letter ostensibly from Ronna McDaniel herself even included an actual dollar bill.
She informed me that she needed a way to get my attention quickly and, knowing my generous record of commitment to the president, she did not expect me to keep the dollar bill. In fact, she was counting on me to return the dollar along with an “urgent 2020 campaign gift of at least $115.”
I spent that dollar bill at the coffee shop.
It’s unclear whether these letters—and the emails supposedly from Eric Trump telling supporters that “they can do better” and asking them “where they have been?”—are effective at turning out more financial support for the president. But either way, we know that money does not necessarily correlate with victory. We learned that from Michael Bloomberg’s spectacular failure earlier this year and Donald Trump’s cheap primary win in 2016.
Many supporters now mock the campaign, the aggressive fundraising letters, and emails with increasing tones of derision. Who thought it would be a good idea to antagonize stalwart supporters by sending them garbage letters that sound like they were written by a naggy 23-year-old George Washington University alumna with a degree in communications? They’re probably the same kids who had that internship at the Heritage Foundation. The type who can’t wait for Tom Cotton or Nikki Haley to make the party “normal” again. They probably even have Gucci purses and Qatari-enabled Instagram photos.
“Eighty million dollars.” I was sitting with another friend at a restaurant across the street from the Heritage Foundation building. We had just taken our masks off after ordering food. I had asked him if he knew how much money the foundation spent each year. Eighty million dollars a year apparently is not enough money to save Western Civilization, but it is enough to throw a lot of receptions with free beer and wine, with enough left over to push policies beneficial to big businesses. They’d be the first to tell you that “a solid commitment to advancing trade liberalization is the best approach to ensure that America continues to reap the benefits of international commerce.” You know, the benefits that cleaned out our manufacturing base. But hey, at least now they’re wearing MAGA hats.
Before COVID-19 hit, the Trump International Hotel would be packed every night with groups of these pundits, journalists, and lobbyists. It was the place to be for the State of the Union or for networking happy hours. The atrium was filled with prostitutes, and occasionally there were women you could pay for sex.
The number of grifters who have worked their way into or around this administration is astounding and disgusting, but it is understandable. Trump was not part of the establishment. He did not have legions of well-credentialed, loyal, party men who were already in D.C. and could easily seize the levers of power. At various times he opted to rely on people like Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci. They’re probably the same guys who think sending me letters offering a “Gold Level Membership Card” for $2,020 is a good idea. Their daughters probably have Gucci purses and Doha-funded Instagram photos.
It took years for the administration to get a Presidential Personnel Office that tried to hire people who actually supported the president and even with that new office, they still have difficulty getting the Trump supporters in positions. Many agencies actually discriminated against people who had voted for Trump in the primaries. Swamp creatures infiltrated the executive branch with the rationale that they could correct and reform Trump. That’s the Heritage model.
That’s how we ended up with Mark Esper—a former chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation—as a secretary of defense who openly stymied the president’s efforts to put down riots in the city. Esper openly contradicted the commander-in-chief and excused his insubordination as an effort to remain apolitical and independent, as though whatever authority he has does not flow directly from the elected authority of the president of the United States. That’s how we saw the test balloons flown up for a military coup with an unprecedented denunciation from General James Mattis.
And the most infuriating part is that Mark Esper still has a job.
And because he is surrounded by cowardly chameleons, President Trump did not shut down the riots in Washington, D.C. decisively. The riots that vandalized and looted the Carnegie Library-turned Apple Store. The violence that shattered the windows at the coffee shop I went to in the Qatari-funded City Center. At least now the rioters have some more Gucci purses that they can put in their Instagram photos.
And now, now, after months of economic turmoil due to a virus that is dangerous enough to justify destroying our middle class but not dangerous enough to stop widespread “peaceful” protests, after months of humoring a feckless CDC that has made mistake after mistake, after months of letting China off the hook for maliciously hiding information about the virus from the world, after months of allowing dangerous open insubordination within the administration, now is when the Trump campaign thinks I’ll really want to give more money to their coffers which already hold more than a billion fucking dollars?
President Trump has done many amazing things for the country and I hope and pray that he wins reelection. But the first priority after his reelection must be clearing out all of the snakes in his administration—even those who may happen to be close to the family—and replacing them with competent and humble public servants who want to make the country a better place.