Now at this point, you would think nothing, absolutely nothing Donald Trump could say could be surprising. No lie too bald. No exaggeration too extreme. He could claim to be the Lord God Almighty and really, who could say it was out of character, for him?
But reading transcripts of his late January calls to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, one phrase just leapt out:
“I am the world’s greatest person."
Now I know he thinks that. Obviously. Grandiosity and insecurity taking turns slamming him, and us, to the mat like tag-team wrestlers. I know everything he touches is great, if not the greatest.
So yes, of course he said it.
Maybe it could be mitigated. In the context, the full statement is, "“I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country."
So maybe he means among those who do not want to let people into the country, he's the greatest. The best of a smaller subset.
Though that's being charitable, and Trump really is not worthy of charity. What he means is, "I'm the greatest person in the world, and this person of greatness who is me does not want to let people in the country."
That's kind of the opposite of greatness, don't you think? Which is another characteristic: take things you are being criticized for failing to do and claim to be the best at them. He's like R. Kelly claiming to be the best baby-sitter.
No questions about that "does-not-want-to-let-people-in-the-country" part. Wednesday he came out swinging for legislation that would cut legal immigration to the United States in half over the next decade—putting the lie to all those who claim their only qualm with immigration is its illegality. He spoke in the loathsome, cowardly codes of identity politics, though at least Trump did not use the word "cosmopolitan," a buzz word for Jews, which his hater lackey Stephen Miller tossed out at a press conference Wednesday (despite the fact that Miller is from both Jewish and immigrant lineage, a reminder that anyone can go off the rails).
There is a wonderful James Thurber story called "The Greatest Man in the World" that is basically a satire based on Charles Lindbergh, who flew the Atlantic in 1927 and became an enormous celebrity. That he was a hero's image, modest, handsome, self-effacing, was a lucky coincidence. But what if he hadn't been? In the 1931 story, Thurber imagines Jacky "Pal" Smurch, whose non-stop round-the-world flight thrusts him int the spotlight, before a timely defenestration sets up his solemn state funeral.
I'm not the first to relate Trump to the Thurber story; looking for the tale online, I came upon Patt Morrison at the LA Times thoroughly exploring the Trump/Smurch connection two years ago.
Alas, the sense of civic responsibility that led officials, in the presence of the president, to push Smurch out a window has left us entirely. Now Jacky Smurch is the president, and there is nobody to save us from the greatest man in the world.