It was the poet T S Elliot who remarked on man’s propensity for self-deception: “Humankind cannot bear too much reality.”
Could he have had Donald Trump in mind as its poster boy?
There was a giant statue of the Donald tweeting on a toilet accompanied by loud excerpts of his less than stellar comments. Among others: “I am a stable genius.”
There was a sign flashing on the Tower of London that whispered volumes about his predecessor. It reminded everyone that while Mr. Obama had a 71% approval rating among Brits, President Trump’s approval rating stood at a forlorn 21%.
There was an enormous, 20-foot blimp of Baby Trump in diapers looking indignant.
And lest anyone miss the point, 75,000 people marched in the streets of London to protest President Donald Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom early this week.
But Mr. Trump was living in an alternative reality.
“What protest?” the President parried the reporter who asked how he felt about his welcome to London.
“I saw a small one,” Mr. Trump deadpanned cheerfully. “But it’s fake news, I’m sorry to say.”
It paid to be foolish. That was young Donald’s homespun philosophy as very early on, he realised that fools rush in…. and got the best seats.
Almost three centuries ago, his countryman Benjamin Franklin recognised the species. “Any fool can criticise, condemn or complain,” noted old Ben sardonically. “And most fools do.”
But what might be dismissed as laughable, even endearing, as a quality in a lesser mortal can take on sinister overtones when vested in a President of the United States. This is, after all, the Leader of the Free World, the guy with the finger on the nuclear trigger.
This gets doubly chilling when we reflect on the words of Bertrand Russell. “Only the fool or the fanatic is absolutely certain of himself; the wise man is generally full of doubt.”
In addition to possessing the certainty of a zealot, Potus had the adaptability of an amoeba. That is to say if at first he did not succeed, he apportioned blame.
That was why the President generally wore a smile when things began to go wrong: he’d already found someone to blame for it.
So when Prince Charles lectured him on the US’ rollback on climate change initiatives, he blamed “China, India and Russia” for worsening the problem. The US, meanwhile, had one of the “cleanest climates” around.
When the stock market rallied late last year, he took credit: when it dropped he blamed the Federal Reserve and its Governor.
And when his Republican party fared poorly in the mid-term elections, he blamed the candidates themselves. If they had done well, he would have been the first to blow his trumpet because that was exactly what he did in the Senate race.
It’s called selective accountability.
And it isn’t clear if he listens to what he actually says.
Consider this diatribe against the American Meghan Markle, now the princess of Sussex.
He said he would be a “much better princess” than Meghan Markle whom he dislikes as she’d called him a misogynist during the presidential campaign.
Calling her “a nasty woman,” Trump said, “If I were a princess, I would not be nasty. People would say, ‘Donald Trump is the nicest princess.’ Potus added that, “all a princess has to do is sit on a throne, and I would be very good at that also.”
“I sit between ten and twelve hours a day, minimum,” he said.
Finally, Trump said that, as Princess, he would do “a way better job at waving at people than Nasty Meghan does.”
“Meghan Markle’s waving is a disgrace,” he said. “I have the best waves.” You bet he has. If you don’t believe me, just ask him.