A Thousand Nights of Trump

Feature: Matthew Walther’s last inauguration diary; Plus: the mean young pope; a wizard; the real purpose of ‘p—y hats’; mimosas; Clefairy and Jigglypuff; violence; and the beauty of sisterhood

January 22, 2017

Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, evening

Chuck Todd introducing 3 Doors Down on MSNBC must qualify as the single whitest act in the history of creation. It is difficult to imagine how Nature herself did not revolt by raising up the ghost of Percy Sledge. As much as I would like to turn away from the television, I find that I am engrossed, much as I have been by Jude Law as Pius XIII in The Young Pope. How it is that not a single recapper or whatever you call the people who dash off summaries for Slate has mentioned the obvious influence of Frederick Rolfe’s Hadrian VII on this bizarre program I cannot say. The show is very amusing, but the pope himself is a cruel monster who thinks he’s broken the seal of the confessional—though in fact Cardinal Whatever His Name Is was not confessing—and thinks nothing of being cruel to pious old ladies. And did we really need to see his butt? I mean, as clerical hindquarters go I am sure it was a very fine specimen, but really. Anyway, it is a shame that the telecast of the concert ended too late for me to buy socks for the PETA inaugural ball, to which I was just given provisional permission to attend as a member of the press. But no one can cover everything.

Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, afternoon


Trump’s speech was decent. When this is published people will be horrified that I have said this, but it really was better than anything of the kind I can remember hearing in my lifetime: Bush’s inaugurals were daft and saccharine, Obama’s bloodless and smug and pseudo-highbrow. Have to call them as I see them. Whether this call for solidarity turns into something real is another question entirely. I trust Trump a million times more on things like health care than I do the Freedom Caucus Bros, but that isn’t saying much. If I were Trump I would confound the amoral centrist liberals in the opposition by making common cause with the left on single-payer—we all know Schumer doesn’t want it any more than Rand Paul does.

It wasn’t difficult at all getting in this morning. After making a pitcher of mimosa at home I went up to Rosslyn where the Orange Line at the metro was deserted. I rode in an almost empty car and got past most of the line at 12th and E by flashing my credential. For years now I have admired the industry and ingenuity of the guys who hawk unlicensed merchandise at political events. They are more objective than anyone else in politics. "Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss" etc. This morning one of them kept chanting "Don’t be a Democrat / Buy yourself a Trump hat." If I had any cash I just might have. He reminded me of the guy at the old Tiger Stadium who used to shout, "A hot dog a day / Will make you feel OKAY." I loathe hot dogs, but he always made me want one. I have not seen a single protester so far, but probably they are saving all their energy now for the Women’s March thing tomorrow.

The spread at this bar rented out by Another Publication is halfway decent. That there is meat everywhere on a Friday goes without saying, but there is also French toast and shrimp. The mimosas are flowing too. I hear that a lot of the bars in the city have not been busy lately. Perhaps people are in mourning. "The thirsty heifers shun the gliding flood," as Pope says.

Outside a few hours ago I talked to a guy who looked a bit like a wizard. He was accompanied by two nice old ladies. They were standing just outside the patio of this place, all of them wearing those awful "p—y hats." I asked them why. "They’re really warm," one woman said. That at least is a good reason. The wizard told me he didn’t like Trump because the latter is "against human rights" but that he might support him if "he ends every single one of the wars." Seems to me a very tall order.

Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, evening

Someone stole my laptop charger at the bar earlier—or rather tried to. I walked back to the coatroom where all the computers were and noticed that mine was plugged into someone else’s. I unplugged it and was ready to get going before I realized that my phone charger was missing. What a nest of thieves! Anyway, after that I decamped with colleagues to another bar for dinner and a few more drinks before heading home. I fell asleep on the Blue Line train and woke up in Springfield, which is what happens when you wake up at six, have a Beatles danceathon with your toddler, drink 10 mimosas and Miller Lite, do journalism, fight tooth and nail to keep your possessions, etc.

Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, afternoon


Today has been a nightmare. Stopping at Rosslyn station around 9:00 a.m. I tried and failed to get on three successive westbound trains, all of which seemed to be at capacity. Eventually I gave up and joined a group of Women’s March protesters who were planning on walking to the Mall from Rosslyn. There was something sublime and horrifying about the whole exercise. Hundreds, thousands of women with me going down M Street looking like demented Clefairys or Jiggylypuffs in those absurd hats. Something about the withered beauty of a snowless Washington winter and the eerie silence—there was very little talking on the way to the Mall—makes me think of Browning: all of us "quiet as despair" on a purposeless quest. Perhaps they all needed a drink.

I don’t think anything quite horrified me as much today as seeing all the children decked out in "p—y hats" and t-shirts with obscene slogans, asked to carry signs and have their pictures taken. This is child abuse. I must also confess that I was a little worried about security today. At lunch I sat with a man who said he had recently dined with Mayor Bowser, who wanted (he said) to keep all the inauguration security measures in place throughout the weekend. I think this would have been wise. All it would have taken for us to have ended up with a tragedy on our hands was a lunatic with an assault rifle. Thank goodness the centaur remained cowered in his den.

The whole affair was, as I say, spectacular and grotesque—spectacular because you cannot happen upon more than a quarter of a million of people all in one place without being awestruck; grotesque because not a single one of them is here to do anything except be self-important. A white woman in a pink North Face fleece and a ridiculous pink hat with ears walking past a homeless man in Georgetown without so much as looking at him—this is the face of the Women’s March.

I am also tired of hearing that Trump’s crowds were small. He didn’t win the youth vote, and everyone else—normal people with jobs and children and lives—has better things to do with their time than fawn over the latest idiot we have installed as the nominal head of our republic of dollars. I am not what you would think of as a small-government guy, but I long with all my heart for a polis in which no one has to pay attention to, like, or even think about our ridiculous leaders. Call me a liberal if you want, but I think politics is a disgusting calling and that wanting to hold elected office is a sign of mental degeneracy and moral corruption. I am sick of protests altogether and of rallies, press conferences, debates, ceremonies, speeches, galas, parties, happy hours, panels, "availabilities," huddles, gaggles, spin rooms, Q&As, conferences, and anything else that could be described as an "event." What I long for, I think, is Arcadia. How does one become a shepherd?

Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, afternoon


I have never seen Washington as empty as it was this morning for Low Mass at Old St. Mary’s. Down the street from the parish dozens of steel barricades were lined up as if they were about to be discarded. There was hardly even any litter. It’s as if the whole thing had never happened.

After Mass I spoke with Mary Kortright, who came down from Syracuse to protest against abortion at the March. This was after all a rally dedicated to, among a thousand other causes and pseudo-causes, violence against women. I remain grateful that despite the lack of security no one seems to have been hurt the other day, though Mary was very nearly burned by a protester who stuck a cigarette near her face and tried to light up her sign. "I hope one day you get raped," another charming individual told her. A friend of hers was spat upon; another, Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, was pushed into the street. There is nothing I hate more than the "If the shoe was on the other foot" game that conservatives play, but it really is the case that if this poor woman had been carrying a "Trump is Putin’s P—" sign and assaulted or shouted at by a louse in a MAGA cap, we would hear about nothing else on NPR and CNN for days and weeks on end.

Still, there was some good news. Mary told me that on another occasion yesterday a few of the Marchers protected her from would-be assailants. "People from the Women’s March locked arms and barricaded around us so no one could harm us. Although they didn’t agree with us—they were chanting ‘My body, my choice!’ the whole time—it was really nice to see the sisterhood." Indeed. In wicked times every small kindness makes one happy.