We’re Running Out of Names for Trump. At Least Polite Ones.

Everywhere I turn, people are rightly laboring to sound the alarm about Donald Trump’s spectacularly reckless, deeply evil expectorations — like his remark that if a NATO ally weren’t pulling its financial weight, he might encourage Russia to invade it.

The problem is that we’ve run out of sirens.

And that’s not principally because we used them too often in the past — though we’re somewhat guilty of that. It’s because the examples of Trump’s moral perversity are pretty much infinite. How can we not exhaust our storehouse of warnings and our vocabulary of censure when someone suggests suspending the Constitution, muses about executing a military general who’s not lap-dog enough, mocks Paul Pelosi’s head injuries from a hammer-wielding assailant, exhorts and then idolizes insurrectionists, weaves ludicrous lies to reject election results and undermine democracy, and sends political Valentines to despots the world over?

We do our best, but finding words for worse than worst, a marker that Trump passed long ago, stumps us. And there’s no adequate showcase for them. Our society needs front pages beyond the usual front pages, superlatives beyond our superlatives, a thesaurus to supplement our thesaurus. Trump tests more than our sanity and surviving optimism. He tests the very limits of language.

Demagogue, autocrat, dictator, tyrant — so many of us have used and reused those terms, with good reason, to describe what he is or wants to be. So when his malevolence metastasizes (see how hard a writer must strain), what’s left to say? That hasn’t been said before? When you’ve been dwelling at Defcon 1, there’s no new emergency declaration for Americans deaf to Trump’s con.

The usual pejoratives don’t cut it. Take “hypocrite.” It shortchanges the magnitude of Trump’s double standards and disingenuousness. He hectored those NATO countries about not paying their bills, but he’s infamous for not paying his own. He chided Nikki Haley for casting her defeat in the New Hampshire primary as a kind of victory, but he cast his defeat in the presidential election as both a victory and a conspiracy.

He faulted Haley’s husband, who’s doing military service, for his absence on the campaign trail, but his own spouse, who’s doing nothing of the kind, is scarcer than the yeti. Michael Haley is in fatigues; Melania Trump is merely fatigued. Doesn’t deter Donald. Can a hypocrite attain frequent-flier status, like Diamond on Delta? Trump earned it long ago.

We are having trouble retrieving the article content.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Want all of The Times? Subscribe.

Related Articles

Back to top button