Like Many Americans, I watched Donald Trump’s speech at CIA headquarters on Saturday with fear and trepidation. Then I went and printed out a transcript and that is when the true horror of his remarks began to sink in.
Mike Pence got things off to a good start by characterizing himself and his family as humbled to be in the office of vice-president. I am definitely no supporter of Pence’s views on women and reproductive rights as well as a host of other positions, but at least he was gracious and humble in front of the people his boss has been denigrating and insulting for the last several weeks. Pence used the word humbled again when speaking of himself standing in front of that “hallowed wall” at Langley where those 117 people are commemorated who gave their lives in service to the country. His remarks seemed scripted, and he remained on script. He kept the evil under wraps. Then Trump took over.
He began almost immediately berating the media, although he said “They treated me nicely on that speech yesterday.” I could not follow this. Was the press disrespectful up to that point in the ceremonies? How exactly did they treat him nicely on the speech? The words simply seemed like a way to give himself a complement: they treated him nicely, so he must have made a great speech.
Back to the people in front of him, he pulled a classic Julius Caesar note: he spoke of himself in third person. Freud would call this an over-abundance of ego. Non-sequitur again back to the wall of CIA martyrs, which he said was “very, very special.” His favorite descriptor of anything is “very.” “Very great, very bad, very sad.” In the next sentence, he said “We’ve been touring for quite a while, and I’ll tell you what—29? I can’t believe it.” At that point, someone in the audience corrected him: “28.” What were they talking about? “We’ve been touring for quite a while…” Is he part of a rock band? “Oh, 28. We got to reduce it. That’s amazing. And we really appreciate what you’ve done in terms of showing us something very special.” What was special? Who did the showing?
Trump specializes in the sweeping generalization, often inaccurate, exaggerated, or just an outright lie. He claimed the military and law enforcement gave him “tremendous percentages of votes.” That may be true, but why is that important now that he is president. He leaped to the conclusion that everyone in the audience probably voted for him, but he would not ask them to raise their hands. Of that, I am surprised.
There was language throughout this speech, when it was not nonsensical, that was scary. When speaking of “wars” that have gone on “for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought,” which I took to mean Iraq and Afghanistan, he said “We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained.” Putting that together with reports that he asked about the possibility of using nuclear weapons in his security briefings before he was president, I have to wonder what those “real abilities” and restraints are. Does he plan to use nuclear weapons to attack ISIS? He then talked about understanding “the other side.” What “other side?” “There can be wars…You can understand what happened.” Was he trying to draw a line between conventional wars with another country, such as Germany in the Second World War as opposed to ISIS now? I would argue it is still difficult to understand the evil of Hitler and the Nazis. It is also difficult to comprehend the level of murder and mayhem when it comes to 13 million men, women and children.
Trump swerved away from that topic and discussed his hiring process since the election. “We had a great transition.” Evidently, there is a rubric for this? Reince Priebus put these people in front of Trump and the president argued that “they don’t care about Reince.” Who is they? However, Trump immediately went back to his line: “we had such a tremendous, tremendous success.” Trump’s vocabulary needs some new words. He also needs help with grammar. “So when I’m interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly…” Simple subject-verb agreement. I know George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush never met a sentence they couldn’t mangle, but is it too much to ask that the President of the United States be articulate?
Trump finally landed on Mike Pompeo, the guy he’s nominated to head the CIA, who was, of course, another great guy. But someone, it seems, is playing “political games” with Trump. Pompeo was supposed to be confirmed already. Trump singled out the generals as passing muster, but “All my political people, they’re not doing so well.” What or whom he was specifically speaking of here was not clear. But the mention of generals got him started on another tangent.
It seems Trump does not get enough credit for being an academic genius even though he had some uncle who was a “great professor” at MIT for 35 years. “Trust me,” he said, “I’m like a smart person.” Of course, he is a person “that very strongly believes in academics.” Zigzagging back to Pompeo, Trump said of him that he was “essentially number one at Harvard Law School.” One is either number one in the class or not. What would “essentially” being number one mean? But Trump, in all his vast experience with the military, something he dodged all his life, claimed that these generals “are wonderful, and the fighting is wonderful.” The fighting, when directed properly, is “easier. And, boy, do we lose so fewer lives, and win so quickly.” I am sure the ease of a well-directed war came as a shock to those military and CIA veterans present in that hallowed space.
Trump segued into feeling young. He only feels “30, 35, 39.” He gave speeches in front of tens of thousands of people, he says, so he must be young. But not only is he young; “I think we’re all sort of young,” he told the audience. Then we got the tired campaign line about how America never wins anymore. And this brought us again to more dangerous verbiage. “The old expression, ‘to the victor belongs the spoils’—you remember,” he asked the crowd. “I always used to say, keep the oil.” Trump did not support the war in Iraq, but once we were in, he thought we should keep the oil. “So we should have kept the oil,” he said. “Maybe you’ll have another chance…” Another chance, like another invasion? Again, is he talking about military action in the Middle East?
Of course, Trump has been building to a final song and dance and it is a familiar one: the dishonesty of the media. He complained his crowd size was underestimated. The press had played down his viewers, his acolytes, his throngs of people waiting for him to take the reins of the country and, wait for it: “Make America great again!” But rest assured, before America can be great, the media must be vanquished. He claimed “we” caught them in a lie, and “they’re going to pay a big price.” Threatening the press for doing its job? So much for democracy at its finest.
With North Korea announcing that they are in the “final stage” of perfecting a nuclear weapon that can reach the west coast of America, doesn’t he have more important things to worry about than crowd size? Seriously, with a weapon of that reach, North Korea could hit all the major cities on the west coast, including San Diego where the Pacific fleet is based and Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country. He could hit Hawaii and Pearl Harbor, yet again.
As I sat and watched the Inauguration and the marches across the country the day after, I could not help thinking that we need someone with focus and brains to navigate this world right now, not some amateur anti-intellectual misogynist. God help us.