Everything about Donald Trump's administration has been less "steady hand at the tiller of a great country" and more "newly formed garage band." From the non-stop bombastic declarations of unique and immortal greatness to the ever-changing lineup, it's all very White-House-as-epic-rehearsal-space in those parts – though actual output suggests they mostly just smoke weed in there and rehearse their acceptance speeches for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame until everyone gets superparanoid that Jeff Sessions is narcing on them and then they make themselves look busy justifying voter suppression.
Each new member is announced with assurances that this guy brings the talents that will launch the band into the big time. "Okay, so we've been in a bit of a slump, but Spicey is out and we have a new bass player, we'll land that record deal and resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict any day now!"
"Just show up for practice. We might have been booed off the stage the last time we played Repeal and Replace (Don't Need No Coverage), but they just weren't ready for our sound," it's all but said, and always there are the grandiose pronouncements about crowd size that make you wonder why you still see the lead singer of this administration out postering all the time.
There's the constant rebranding: "No, hear me out, guys, put on these hard hats, we're 'Infrastructure Week!'" It's getting to the point where you wouldn't be too surprised if a hot mic picked up the president excitedly informing his cabinet, "Oh, man, Rex Tillerson has a van which, frankly, has seating capacity like the world has never seen and he totally said he'd drive us to the NAFTA gig! We are going to make the best deals! Hey, did you hear the song I wrote for the Boy Scouts? I sent it to you. I blew Obamarama off the stage! We can play it again in Rex's van!"
It's at the point where just about no one – for the most part, not even his fans – believe that anything U.S. President Trump says is true. There are only those who believe that his talents, or at least his loud, angry, voting fan base, justify his level of bombast and even those people wish he'd stop improvising long, potentially civilization-ending solos such as the one he indulged in over North Korea this week.
"My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before…" President Trump tweeted on Wednesday. Although his first order was in fact the "Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal," and this fact was remarked upon, but people have mostly just come to accept this reckless, bad-boy, disregard for being caught-out in obvious lies from the Trump Experience.
At this point in history, "Uh, my revolutionary new nuclear defence policy lives in Canada, no, you can't meet her and she doesn't have Facebook, she's, um … Amish. Yeah, I have a really hot Amish nuclear arsenal" is something we half-expect to read off White House letterhead and if we did, we'd just roll with it.
We've learned, alarmingly quickly – far more quickly than it would be possible to modernize a nuclear arsenal, something that can't be done in seven months – to accept this endless stream of lies, bluster and hotel-hype hyperbole as pretty much normal. After this week, it looks as if we might have to learn to survive in an irradiated wasteland overrun by cannibal mutants, but I'm going to draw a line: Look, is it too much to ask that the Third World War not begin with "Okay, we have to let the drummer write one of our songs" tier lyrics?
That was very much the tone Mr. Trump used this week, speaking at one of his golf courses, from which he assures Americans their country is now run. Threats from North Korea to the United States will, he announced, "be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." He said it pretty deadpan, as if he was trying very hard to sound serious.
If you missed it, picture Winston Churchill, but scripted by Jim Morrison and played by an older Keanu Reeves.
I think we can only be grateful that the President was, apparently, unable to find a rhyme for "seen" or global tensions would have escalated still further. His wording was, it has been reported, not vetted by anyone on his staff; inspiration just struck him and he went with it.
Then, so happy was he with his alliterative declaration, that he offered up an extended mix, saying "As I said they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."
Someone needs to tell the President that, for the most part, only Star Wars villains talk about their "power" like that. I feel as though we are an episode away from Mr. Trump rasping out "Come on, Xi Jinping, just deal with with the North Korea thing for me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Please say yes, because, to be honest, my actual sons are kinda letting me down right now!"
Mr. Trump's arms were folded as he addressed the journalists, assembled as they must these days, like so many itinerant caddies. He displayed the kind of tough-guy stance that gets practised in front of mirrors by 10-year-olds who've just got their yellow belt at Sensei Dan's Dojo.
One of the oddest things about Mr. Trump is that he spent so many years on television and yet he never managed to learn any of the rote skills of showmanship that you can hardly avoid picking up on set, like so much cat hair. All that time on camera and he still can't hit his mark. Nothing sticks; truly, stagecraft-wise, he is the Teflon Don. It is a rare thing that I watch a man and think, "He should really take some improv classes," but that's the feeling that I get when I see Mr. Trump perform.
It would be pitiable but for the fact that being the centre of attention always leaves the man looking so very pleased with himself.
Whatever ever possessed you, Americans, to elect the Dunning-Kruger Effect personified?
Mr. Trump's bandmates fell all over themselves to throw water on the fire their frontman merrily started. Perhaps those Boy Scouts could have taught them that you should never throw water on an international-relations fire.
It's understandable that they'd want to defuse the literally explosive situation. After all, "Our country is headed by a nuclear loose cannon, obsessed with the power at his disposal" is not a good look. However, if there is one thing we learned last week, it is that "Our President is not a serious person and nothing he says one way or the other should be taken seriously. Now, how about those nuclear negotiations?" might manage to be worse – and as it turns out, that too was a lost cause.
Late Thursday afternoon, Mr. Trump told reporters that his "fire and fury" riff may not have been "tough enough." After all, a statement attributed to General Kim Rak Gyom, the head of North Korea's strategic forces, detailed a plan to launch the missiles they currently have aimed at the waters off the coast of the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, basically calling Mr. Trump's bluff. The President's words, the statement said, were a "load of nonsense," adding that "sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason."
Even a stopped tin-pot dictatorship is right twice a news cycle.
In essence, no sooner had his various beleaguered roadies and once-respected session musicians exhausted themselves with explanations of "Don't take him seriously, it's just tough talk, he's not crazy!" than Mr. Trump jumped up and called out "Nuh-uh, I am so, so insane, incredibly insane, believe me, folks. I have insanity the likes of which the world has never seen before.
"I know you think you don't hear a single, but stick with me and we'll top the crazy charts."