A sincere apology to Donald J. Trump
WASHINGTON -- I have written critically about Donald Trump for years. My descriptors have been unsparing and, I thought, comprehensive. I have called him adolescent, amoral, autocratic, blustering, buffoonish, bullying, corrupt, cruel, delusional, egomaniacal, fat, funny(!), grandiose, hypocritical, ignorant, inflammatory, insecure, mendacious, misogynistic, narcissistic, nepotistic, petty, racist, reckless, semiliterate, shallow, thin-skinned, unbalanced, vainglorious, volatile, vulgar and xenophobic. But until this very day, I have for some reason not yet written in my columns, specifically, that he is "embarrassing." This embarrasses me because, in a sense, that quality is the sum and substance of all the rest. The word occurred to me after our president canceled a state visit to Denmark not because the Danish prime minister rejected his absurd proposal to buy Greenland, but because she called it "absurd." He appears to be holding his breath, eyes squinted and ruddy cheeks all puffed out, until she apologizes.
In short ... the man is globally embarrassing. But am I judging him too harshly? Have there not been even more bloated and infantile heads of state?
A little research confirms there have, and I am guilty of Fake News for having previously ignored these people.
Caligula: Sure, we'll start here! Like Trump, the sexually adventurous Roman leader from the time of Jesus thought very, very highly of himself. He ordered the heads removed from public statues of the Roman gods, replacing them with his own likeness.
Ashurbanipal: The leader of Assyria in the 7th century B.C., Ashurbanipal was a man perhaps unprecedentedly persuaded of his own greatness. He defined himself publicly as "the one longed for and destined by his great divinity" and "a very stable genius." Oh, wait. Scratch that last thing. But he did make his defeated enemies live like dogs in a kennel that he kept in a stable.
Gustavus Adolphus: Gus was a generally well-regarded king of Sweden in the 17th century. He was Trumpian in two key respects: He surrounded himself with bootlickers and was unwilling to admit error. In 1628 he launched the immense royal battleship Vasa despite some whispered but never articulated staff misgivings. The ship was a magnificent object that nourished the king's egomania: It featured sculptures of lions, which represented the king, before whom cowered sculptures of the enemy -- Polish noblemen all atremble at their impending deaths. Alas, like Trump, Gustavus didn't believe in gun control. He ordered the ship overfilled with cannons, which proved waaay too heavy. Heading out grandly on its maiden voyage, the vessel sank grandly, within 20 minutes, just 390 feet from shore. The King blamed the disaster on "imprudence and negligence," never specifying who had been imprudent and negligent.
Jimmy Carter: If you're gonna penalize Gus for a single, but publicly humongous, embarrassment, you can't go easy on Jimmy, who chose a bad interpreter for his speech to the Polish people in 1977. What he said in his speech was that he desired to hear about Poles' hopes for the future ... but what the Polish people heard, from the interpreter, was that Carter desired the Polish people carnally, and that he wanted to grab them by the genitals. Sounds vaguely familiar!
Pope Julius III: President Trump has made many embarrassing political appointments, including naming a celebrity handbag designer ambassador to South Africa. But, in fairness, none has been quite as startling as this 16th-century pope's appointment of an ignorant teenage street urchin as a cardinal. The young feller's only professional qualification was said to be that he capably babysat for the pope's pet monkey.
Turkmenbashi the Great: The leader of Turkmenistan in the late 20th century ordered that his face appear on every clock and watch sold and/or visible in the country. He also renamed the month of April after his mom, and for some reason suggested that his subjects strengthen their teeth by chewing on bones, like dogs. He defended this with unassailable Trumpian logic: "Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not gnaw on bones."
Idi Amin:The famously mercurial and dictatorial leader of Uganda in the 1970s grandiloquently offered to accept a job that had not been offered to him: King of Greenland. Oh, wait, no. Scotland. Same difference. We have to declare that one a draw.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group