Trump = Nero? Or Captain Queeg?

If you saw the video of Sean Spicer’s first presser, you might remember that he spoke of CIA employees enthusiastically cheering and applauding Trump.

Well, it turns out that the ones cheering weren’t CIA employees. According to CBS News, they were staffers from Trump’s campaign. Sean Spicer has denied this, but ABC News is standing by its reporting.

This leads me to a brilliant post by Richard Byrne at Crooked Timber, who reminds us who else used to hire people to cheer him.

Nero’s public appearances as a poet, actor and lyre-player scandalized Rome’s upper-and-middle classes. One imagines they sat in horrified silence or gave polite applause. Indeed, the gates were shut behind the audiences who assembled to hear Nero perform, with no one allowed to leave on pain of death. (Suetonius records that women actually gave birth at Nero concerts.)

Tepid applause wouldn’t do for an emperor so vainglorious. So claques were recruited and deployed to make sure that Nero received sufficient applause. Ancient historians who write about Nero revel in the details of these paid supporters. They were called the “Augustiani,” and offered up a continuous din of praise as the emperor performed. Their leaders were provided with 400,000 sesterces a performance to divvy up among the claque.

Nero is, um, not remembered as a great emperor, you might recall. He was also known for multiple marriages, although he murdered his wives rather than divorce them.

The Washington Post reports that Spicer’s much-derided press conference did indeed come about because Trump flew into a rage over coverage of his inauguration and would not be appeased. Yesterday he declared his inauguration day “a national day of patriotic devotion.” How Kim Jong-un of him.

Even the Weekly Standard thinks Trump is being ridiculous.

What’s worrisome is that Spicer wouldn’t have blown his credibility with the national press on Day 2 of the administration unless it was vitally important to Trump.

And if media reports about crowd size are so important to Trump that he’d push Spicer out there to lie for him, then it means that all the tinpot-dictator, authoritarian, characterological tics that people worried about during the campaign are still very much active.

You know who obsessed about crowd size? Fidel Castro. You know who did not? George Washington, John Adams, Andrew Jackson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, and every other man to ever serve as president of these United States of America.

Obviously, but again, what’s significant about this is that the old neocon “George W. Bush can do no wrong” crowd, the people who were a major source of “intellectual” cover for the Iraq War, can’t stand Trump. Trump’s plan to destroy press freedom doesn’t have a prayer without the entire right-wing media infrastructure behind him.

And today poor Sean Spicer was sent out to speak to the press again about Trump’s absurd and factually unsupported insistence that he only lost the popular vote because of illegal aliens.

This doesn’t remind me of Nero as much as it reminds me of Captain Queeg and his missing strawberries from The Caine Mutiny.

There also are reports that he is addicted to media reports of himself, and his aides are worried because they can’t get him to break away from the television to do his job.

This is not to say the Trump Maladministration has not been doing some pretty alarming stuff, like ordering communications blackouts in several federal departments, for no apparent reason except to be sure nobody says anything Trump doesn’t like. Again, how Kim Jong-un of him. See also Nancy LeTourneau on “gaslighting.”

31 thoughts on “Trump = Nero? Or Captain Queeg?

  1. At some point I am beginning to suspect he will simply become irrelevant to the “Republicans” in the House and Senate, and they will proceed to do as they will with minimal communication with the White House. There will be some desperate papering over of the divide with Trump making speeches that tie legislation to his notions.
    If the Democrats cannot make a win out of this I do not know what use they are.

  2. After they dump ACA, privatize our roads and bridges, slash FICA and gut Medicare, then cut cut cut taxes, then they’ll be through with him. Oh, and after they destroy the unions and the right to choose, but I guess president Pence can mop up the little stuff…

  3. He’s a wannabe Julius or Augustus.
    But right now, he’s Nero-like – soon, maybe, to wind up like Caligula.
    FSM knows the US Senate is full of horses(ASSES!!!) already.

    And if he’s Queeg, he’s Queeg with not just supply ship, butba nuclear arsenal!

    If the sycophantic loons around him can’t get him under control (the proper meds), pretty soon he’s going to ‘stroke-out’ when he doesn’t get a “HARUMPH!!!” outta some guy!

    A POTUS who has to bring his own cheering section.
    Now, I think we’ve seen everythin…
    Never mind that thought!
    He’ll top that one very soon.
    I don’t want to even think about it……

  4. What’s the big deal? I usually employ the strategy of proclaiming the media to be so full of shit that I’m going to go to war with it, before I start putting unequivocal bullshit out there. Works like a charm.

  5. LeTorneau writes, ” the next four years of non-stop gaslighting could erode the basic standards of discourse in a healthy civil society.” Yes that’s true, but the basic standards of discourse in this society have been eroding for a long time, since at least the Clinton administration (Republican echo chamber, Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute, “embedded” media, stuff like that — all calculated and deliberate— it is not healthy and hasn’t been healthy for quite a while. A Trump presidency wouldn’t have been possible without it.

    if anything, response of the more respectable news agencies is encouraging, at least so far. They seem to be making an extra effort to call him out at every opportunity. That’s smart, their professional integrity is at stake. Wish they’d started doing that 25 years ago.

  6. Remember America’s previous clown princes? Nixon, Reagan, W? Remember how they all had serious mental problems? Nixon had paranoia, Reagan had Alzheimer’s, W was a dry drunk and ‘incurious’ (i.e. not very bright). And remember how poorly people thought of them at the end?

    Well, this guy’s both crazy and stupid; and he’s starting out with the low polling that they ended up with.

    So we’ve already seen Part 1. Now we get to witness Part 2.

  7. I suspect we all agree, at least to some degree, with “Priscianus.” I’d say “welcome to the house of mirrors,” but, we’ve been here for quite a while already.

    As I wrote the other day, I am looking at posts by my right wing extremist friends, (the PC term is “conservative.”) They follow a a set of patterns, formulae. Their minds have been prepared. The level of anger doesn’t continually indicate the level to which someone accepts a set of lies, but there seems to be a tipping point. When it becomes rage, that usually indicates they have exceeded their ability to resist the conditioning and indoctrination. I can’t remember the source, but, one student of fascism wrote about the stages of fascism. In the last stage, the raw military power was put on full display along with other mechanisms of oppression.

    What we have is a revelation that the image world has been purposively altered. That has to mean something.

    I had a ray of hope the other day. Down the road is one of the people in my town that erected a costly flag pole in order to display an American flag, with a Dominionist or Confederate Battle Flag beneath it. Yesterday, only the American flag was there, at half mast.

    I will take this as a ray of hope, if it continues. I am afraid that yesterday was the day Hitler bought the farm, or something like that, and I don’t think I want to know.

  8. Diane – Not yet, but we’re just getting started.

    As a matter of opinion, I think Trump is a showman – bringing a crowd to supply an ‘applause track’ to create the impression that the CIA or the press loves Trump is calculated for the TV audience, not for Trump. But I suspect he is driven by a desire for approval, fealty and even adoration. So, he’s constantly watching the mirror of the media to see if the audience is cheering. The flip side of that narcissism is a truly vindictive nature and an obsession to bring pain on those who have defied him. This may manifest in purely hateful presidential edicts to despoil National Parks not so much for the profits of oil, mining or logging companies, but to enrage environmentalists. Gouging the eyes of nature lovers will play well to much of his base but many others who voted for him will not approve of their parks being despoiled.

    The objective needs to be to chip away at his approval. Nothing may erode Trump’s support as well as repeal without replace. ACA was unpopular with conservatives because the middle-class conservative was convinced that HE was paying more for health care because we were giving access to the unworthy. The reality is that without the mandate, and the subsidies a lot less insurance will soon cost a lot more money. The expectation that the pain would be limited to the unworthy won’t play out the way Trump voters were promised.

    In terms of characters, Trump reminds me of the wicked witch in ‘Snow White’ who continually asked “Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who’s the fairest of them all?” – and responded with the poisoned apple.

  9. This doesn’t remind me of Nero as much as it reminds me of Captain Queeg and his missing strawberries from The Caine Mutiny.

    It’s interesting that you mention Capt. Queeg in a post that also includes snips from American Spectator. Back on September 10, 2013, that very same American Spectator compared President Obama to – Capt. Queeg! – saying Obama:

    “…has produced a record of bungling and bad judgment not even approached by any previous President of modern times and perhaps ever. …Sending the U.S. into Syria, …a crossing from Queeg-like inadequacy and ineptitude into actual madness.”

    These people are adorable. And should be in prison.

  10. Then you are missing the whole obscene, pussy-hound side of things, as well as his endless cringe-making lies, pretenses, and impostures, his bullying, his blowhard side.

    Lee J. Cobb caught it all perfectly in 1958.

    Even the extraordinarily petty vanities.

  11. Reagan is to Trump as Star Wars is to the prequels.

    By Star Wars I mean Episodes 4-6, the Oridge Tridge. The connection is that in the prequels, nobody ever told Lucas “no”; nor will anyone tell Trump “no”; both with predictable results.

  12. Trying that stunt at the CIA, where they wrote the book on psy ops, was an additional insult to their intelligence. Can’t believe they liked it much.

  13. Bill, one of my mad wag FB friends posted that yesterday, it is great. We all need cheering up.

  14. I’m not familiar with the character Fyodor Karamazov, but when I read his wikipedia entry I gotta say….the similarities to Trump’s character are amazing.

  15. It’s been about twenty five years since I read “D&F RE,” I remember the baddies, but, I am foggy on their particularities. Nonetheless, my money is on Nero, if only for the reason that among Trump’s first acts are things like scrubbing environmental research information from GOV websites and moving to restrict information that might prove troublesome or contradictory to his own views and actions. He is attacking the very base of resistance, which is information. This is an imperial mindset. (I hate to think it, but, the empire might come later.) He wants to make the state an extension of himself. It must conform to his beliefs, irrespective of whether they are well founded or not.

    At this point Trump has a Protean character, he is a shapeshifter who, gorges himself on power and he will follow his food source wherever it leads. But, because his real allegiance is to the “deep state,” his fellows like the Kochs, for example, the food source will lead ever to the right.

    I expect that there might well be a period of rapid economic growth, as there was for the fascist V 1.0 regimes. The corporatists are all on board, as evidenced by the stock market, and first impressions are important. But, if he is successful in bringing back jobs, they will either be remunerative to a third world degree, or they will make American business less competitive internationally. So, American business will step up progress on the big job killer, robotics and automation, and the benefits will diminish.

    Regarding the Wall, given the evident talent that Mexican for tunneling as in the case of “El Chapo’s” escape a while back, many of us thought a simple wall, built from the surface, wouldn’t accomplish much. But, more worrisome, of course, is the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. I hear that is a mere shadow of its former self these days, but, it seems impossible to build a wall over a river. So, is his planning to annex the river, and build the wall on the Mexican side? What am I missing here?

  16. Joseph,
    A lot of us have been commenting on this (at least my, favorite) site for well over 10 years now, so we can tell when someone’s new.
    No insult intended.

  17. Maha, no idea what you refer to.

    I was addressing c u n d gulag about his (her?) 1/25, 3:07 pm identification of Trump as Myshkin.

    My recollection could easily be wrong, but I don’t recall the odd Prince being the profane, obscene, repugnant moral toad and coarse imposter that Fyodor is.

    And c u n d gulag, thank you for the welcome.

  18. Joseph,
    Myshikin was written as the ultimate “Chirsitian” – if I recall correctly.
    That’s why I wrote t-RUMP’s the anti-Myshikin.

    Please stick around. We don’t bite. 😉

  19. c u n d gulag, ah, now I see your point. Sorry to be thick.

    Also, goatherd, thanks for the welcome.

  20. Pingback: The Free World Is Not Following It’s So-Called Leader | The Mahablog

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