war on the rocks

Ghosts of Statesmen Past

December 23, 2017

On a cold wintry afternoon — of all the good days of the year, on Christmas Eve — Mr. Trump sat busy with his phone in the Oval Office. A howling blizzard raged, and the president could hear the Secret Service agents stationed outside the window, with ruddy faces and steaming breath, grumbling about the weather and stamping their boots upon the densely packed snow. The grandfather clock in the corner of the room had just struck four, but it was already getting dark. Lost amidst the swirling snow flurries, the trees on the White House grounds had become mere phantoms, dark smudges amidst a sea of white.

The door of the Oval Office was kept open, so that its denizen might keep an eye on a large television blaring in the corridor. The snowstorm, it seemed, showed no sign of abating. He would not be able to make it to Mar a Lago that evening after all. “Merry Christmas Mr. President! God bless you!” suddenly cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Kellyanne Conway, who had entered the office with such speed and enthusiasm that he was caught off guard.

“Bah!” said Trump, muttering angrily to himself, and trying not to fixate on Jake Tapper’s interview of Jim Clapper on CNN, “Sad!”

“Come Mr. President,” answered the jovial advisor. “No need to be so depressed. Nobody will be paying much attention to the Mueller Investigation anyway — it’s Christmas.”

“What else can I be,” snapped the billionaire, “when I live in a world of idiots and fake news? Merry Christmas? In this dump rather than in Mar a Lago with Melania? Believe me — that’s not my idea of a Merry Christmas.” Kellyanne Conway, quietened and chastised, discreetly left the room, stopping at the exit to quietly mouth season’s greetings to an exhausted looking John Kelly.

The hours went by, and the wind became more intense, even as the snow continued to fall. Slowly but surely, White House employees began to file out of the building. With an ill-will, Donald Trump left his chair and made his way toward the executive residence. He took his melancholy dinner of steak and ketchup. Having hate-watched all the usual cable news shows — as well as a pre-recorded episode of Hannity to cheer himself up — walked down the corridor into the master bedroom. The lights were dimmed, with the sepulchral gloom only faintly lit by the gleam of the frost that had begun to circle the windowpanes in thin crusts. The doorway was so dark that the president was forced to grope for the doorknob with his hands. It was then, that all of a sudden, without its undergoing any visible transformation, he saw not a doorknob — but Fred Trump’s face.

His father Fred Trump’s face. It was not draped in darkness like other objects in the room, but had a dismal light to it, like a piece of fried chicken under a neon light. The moustache was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless.  Donald Trump stared, his blood cold, at this apparition, until — all of a sudden — it was a doorknob again. Rubbing his eyes, his heart thudding in his chest, he paused, before putting his hand upon the door and swinging it shut behind him. “It’s nothing,” he murmured, padding up and down the soft carpet, and loosening the collar of his shirt. All of a sudden, the door flew upon with a booming sound. The same face: the very same! Fred Trump with his three-piece suit, neat moustache, and carnivorous smile. Clanking chains hung around his middle, and a long, white hood, hung off his belt like a tail. His body was strangely transparent, so that Donald Trump, observing him, and looking through his suit, could see a portrait of Andrew Jackson behind him. Despite the clamor of the spirit’s entry, no Secret Service agents had materialized. If only Keith Schiller were still in his employ, he pondered. He would have intercepted this ghoulish apparition.

“Who are you?” he blurted out.

“Ask me who I was.”

“Who were you then?” said Donald Trump, raising his voice.

“In life I was your father, Fred Trump. I wear the chain I forged in life — along with the garments I wore on that fateful day back in 1927 in the Bronx. My spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of financial gain and real estate, even when I was sued for discrimination against African-Americans. Now I am condemned to wander this plane. No rest, no peace, and no release from the torment of remorse.”

At this, the phantom let out a terrible moan, shaking and clanking its chain. “All I can do is warn you my son — that you have yet a chance to become a good man and a decent president. You will be haunted, Donald, by three spirits of statesmen past. Without their visits — you cannot hope to escape my fate. Expect the first tomorrow, at the end of Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

And with that, the ghost let out one final, plaintive wail, before evaporating in a wisp of mist. Exhausted and troubled by what he had just seen, Donald Trump wondered whether he should relate what had occurred to the Secret Service. Recalling the warnings some had given him about its enemies’ potential invocation of the 25th Amendment, he decided against it. Muttering that it must all have been a hallucination brought on by an excess of caffeinated sodas, he crawled under his gold-embroidered sheets and fell into a deep slumber.

The First of the Three Spirits: Seneca

When he awoke, it was so dark that, looking out of bed, he could barely perceive the outline of his bag of golf clubs at the other end of the room. Fumbling around for his reading glasses, he took a look at his phone. To his great astonishment, it read 10:00 pm, even though it had been past 2:00 am when he went to bed. Something must have gone wrong with it. He would have to ask for a new phone. He switched on the television, and there was Tucker Carlson, scowling in his Brooks Brothers blazer, complaining about Hillary’s emails. Surely he couldn’t have slept through an entire day? The more he mulled this over, the more confused he was, until suddenly he remembered what the ghost had warned him of. Trembling a little bit in his robe, he resolved to lie awake until Tucker Carlson Tonight was over. After what seemed like an eternity, the program drew to a close, and cut to commercials. “It is over!” he proclaimed triumphantly, and “yet nothing!”

Before the words had even left his mouth, an ominous bell chimed. Light flashed up in the room, and the TV’s LED screen was flooded with static. Lying propped up on a mound of pillows, Donald Trump found himself face to face with an unearthly visitor. It was a strange figure — a plump, balding middle-aged man with a passing resemblance to Gary Cohn — yet wearing what appeared to be a Roman toga. The man’s figure fluctuated in its distinctness, and what was light one instant, was dark in another. “Are you the spirit, whose visit I’ve been expecting?” Trump asked, in a wavering voice.

“I am!” The apparition spoke in a softly accented English, and his voice had a rather sad, world-weary quality to it.

“Who and what are you?” Trump asked.

“I am the ghost of Lucius Annaeus Seneca.”

“Are you some kind of Latino? Or a friend of Steve Mnuchin?” Trump inquired, thinking that the apparition’s garb resembled something he had seen guests wearing that summer at one of the treasury secretary’s parties in the Hamptons.

“I was indeed born in Spain,” responded the spirit, “but amongst all your cabinet members only one knows me — Secretary of Defense Mattis.”

“Mad Dog knows you?” Trump answered, somewhat baffled.

“He knows of me, and of one of my later pupils, yes.”

“Why are you here?”

“I am here for your education as a statesman, and for the welfare of the American people.” The visitor put out his hand as it spoke, and clasped him by the shoulder. “Rise! And walk with me!”

It would have been in vain for Trump to plead that the weather and hour were not adapted to pedestrian purposes: that the bed was warm, the temperature below freezing; that he was but lightly clad in a bathrobe, and that he would much rather be on Twitter. With a sudden jolt of air, they passed through the walls of the White House and found themselves standing upon a cobbled road, with cypress trees and splendid pillared structures on either side.

Washington DC had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it was to be seen. The snow and howling winds had vanished with it, for it was a clear, sunny day, with a crisp blue sky. “Damn!” said Trump, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. “Where is this place?”

“We are outside the Caesar’s palace,” Seneca responded.

“This sure doesn’t look like Vegas to me.”

“Emperor Nero’s Palace in Rome, Mr. Trump. Not Vegas.”

They walked along the road, cluttered with roaming beggars, groaning livestock, and ox-drawn carts. As they slowly forged a pathway toward the main entrance of the palace, a group of fierce looking soldiers began to walk towards them, muttering in a language resembling German. “Fear not,” said Seneca, “These Praetorians are but shadows of the things that have been. They have no consciousness of us.”

The soldiers passed right through them like a chill breeze. Trump turned to admire their finely polished breastplates, gleaming spears, and long, swishing, purple cloaks. “Now that’s a bodyguard! Straight out of central casting,” he commented approvingly.

The shadow of a knowing smile crept across Seneca’s fleshy face. “Like you, Mr. President I was a great admirer of all things military — albeit from far. In my case, it was a series of respiratory ailments — rather than bone spurs — that prevented me from serving.”

His cheeks lightly flushed, Trump remained silent at this. Admiring the verdant expanses of the garden that they had just entered, it occurred to him that it would make a terrific 18-hole golf course one day.  After they had crossed a well-tended lemon grove, and made their way across a marbled courtyard, Trump began to grow restless. “Where are you taking me?” he asked.

“To the Emperor’s private quarters,” the ghost answered. “You will see me and my dear colleague, the Prefect Sextus Burrus, attempt to reason with his imperial majesty.”

Holding the president by his hand, the phantom drifted up a set of stone steps until they reached a large well-appointed chamber. In the center of the room, near a sparkling fountain, three men were locked in intense conversation. One of them, Trump noted, appeared to be a slightly younger version of Seneca. Another was a grizzled looking soldier. They were both addressing a chubby, petulant looking youth with a neckbeard. He was reclining on a day bed, picking at a plate of mushrooms roasted in butter and appeared thoroughly bored. In the corner of the room stood a cluster of nervous looking slaves strumming away at various musical instruments.

“Caesar,” said the younger Seneca in a plaintive tone, “We must implore you not to sing publicly at the theater this evening.”

“Yes,” added the soldier, “such a performance, would only damage the dignitas of the Imperial Office.”

“What are you suggesting?” snapped the Emperor. “That my performance would not be worthy? That the citizens of Rome won’t love it?”

“Why, your majesty,” quickly interjected the soldier, “we have no doubt you would rival Orpheus himself! Why not, however, play in private, to those truly capable of comprehending the harmony of your song and the complexity of your poetry?”

The emperor pursed his lips, and flicked a greasy mushroom at a cringing lyre player. “My Augustiani are the best arbiters — and enforcers — of taste. I will play, and the people of Rome will love me for it.” Before his two advisors could respond, he rose from his mound of cushions and swept out of the room, slaves in tow. Burrus and the younger Seneca exchanged a troubled glance. Burrus quietly swore under his breath before exiting. The younger Seneca sunk onto the couch in silence, and despondently picked at the remaining mushrooms.

“Is he ready for prime time?” asked Donald Trump.

“What?” queried a puzzled Seneca

“The kid? Is he any good at singing?”

“No,” sighed the ghost, “Not really.”

“And who are the Augustiani?” asked the president.

“You’ll see.”

With that, the apparition clapped his hands, and once again they found themselves outside. Night had fallen and they were seated in an outdoor theater under a starry sky. Hundreds of men and women were gathered around them, intently watching the stage, which was illuminated by guttering torches. A series of discordant notes, accompanied by what could best be described as a form of unmelodious wailing, drifted across the cool evening air.

“This is terrible,” noted Trump.

Seneca simply nodded, before pointing to the sides of the aisles where a group of loutish looking men had gathered. “Those are the Augustiani,” he added. The emperor ended his song, and the audience stood and burst into energetic applause. Just beside them, however, an elderly, stony faced gentleman in a broad-striped tunic chose to remain seated, his hands on his lap. Almost immediately, two of the thugs that had been standing to the side of the aisles grabbed the old man by the wrist, dragged him from his seat, and began to lay into him.

“What are they doing?” cried Trump, almost moving to intercede.

“Let it be!” answered his spectral companion, “there is nothing you can do.” The president watched in dismay as the brutes continued their assault on the old man. As the blows rained down on the senior citizen, visions from the recent past began to flash through Trump’s mind.

All of a sudden, he remembered a campaign rally in Vegas, when he had told a baying mob that in the “good old days” protesters would be “carried out on stretchers,” then another time when he had offered to pay the legal bills of his most violent supporters. As Nero completed his pathetic performance, soaking in the adulation of his Augustiani, Trump was reminded of that speech he had made in front of the wall of stars at the CIA, in a room packed with cheering, sycophantic supporters. A swell of shame arose within him. “I wish,” he muttered, wringing his hands and looking about him, before drying his eyes with the edge of his bathrobe, “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the spirit.”

“Nothing,” said Trump. “Nothing. I should have liked to occasionally act more presidential: that is all.”

The ghost gave a rueful smile and clapped his hands once more. They were now in another scene and place: a luxurious villa somewhere in the countryside. The sun was setting, the air smelt of pine and rosemary, and — barring the gentle song of the cicadas — all was silent. They entered a steamy room in the corner of which stood a small wooden table, stacked with piles of parchment. In the center of the chamber, sprawled out in a bathub, lay the dead “real” version of Seneca, blood dripping from his gashed forearms, his hand reaching out to an empty chalice.

“As you can see, my attempts to educate young Nero were rather unsuccessful. Maybe you will prove a more willing student.” He continued, “These two texts are for you. One, De Clementia, is on the nature of mercy, that noblest of qualities for the powerful ruler. May you find it in yourself to read it and reconsider your decision to ban Republican critics from serving in your administration. The second, De Ira, is on anger. You must learn to master your anger, and prevent it from your corroding your soul. Think of yourself as a diver who trains to hold his breath for longer and longer intervals of time. Every night, before falling asleep, do not tweet or watch Don Lemon. Instead, take the time to reflect on your day, on what may have aggravated you, and engage in an inner examination. Your anger will cease, and become more gentle, if it knows that every day it will have to appear before the judgment seat.”

And with that, the Roman vanished in an explosion of light. Dazzled and confused, Trump instantly felt a wave of exhaustion. Overcome by an irresistible drowsiness, he collapsed onto the blood-splattered tiles, and sank into a heavy sleep.

 

The Second of the Three Spirits: Benjamin Franklin

Awaking in a start, drenched in a cold sweat, Trump sat up in his bed. He was back in the White House. Nervously peering into the gloom, he awaited his next guest from the underworld. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, and no visitors appeared. Maybe it had all been a dream, he pondered. His stomach began to rumble, and he thought about calling for a Big Mac. It was then that he noticed, in a shaft of moonlight, Seneca’s treatises lying in two neat stacks of parchment on the floor. It had all been real after all! At that very moment of realization, a warm light began to shine from under the door. Beginning to think that the source and secret of this ghostly luminescence might be in the living room of the White House residence, he got up softly and shuffled to the door. The moment his hand was on the doorknob, a cheerful voice called him by his name, commanding him to enter.

The residence’s living quarters had undergone an astonishing metamorphosis. The air was thick with tobacco smoke, a fire was roaring in the hearth, and the coffee table was heaped with great slabs of meat, steaming pies, and fragrant hunks of cheese. Barrels of ale were stacked against a wall, and from some invisible realm arose the sound of joyous fiddle music, women’s laughter, and wine corks popping.

In easy state upon a couch sat a bespectacled man quaffing a bowl of mulled wine. He had long flowing greasy white hair, and wore a shabby brown coat. Contemplating his disheveled demeanor, Trump wondered whether this was one of Stephen Bannon’s friends from Breitbart.

“Come in!” exclaimed the figure, “Come in and know me better, Mr. President!” Trump advanced timidly, and lowered his face before the spirit. Though the visitor’s expression was most pleasant, he hesitated to look him in the eye. “I am the ghost of Benjamin Franklin,” said the visitor, “and I am here to show you the virtues of America’s alliances.”

“Ben,” said Trump with nary a pause, “take me wherever. I traveled last night with that Roman fella, and — believe me — I learnt a helluva lot … A helluva lot.”

“Touch my coat!” ordered Franklin, with a twinkle in his eye. Trump did as he was told, holding it fast, and closing his eyes.

When he reopened them, they were standing at the edge of a forest, looking out onto a fort ringed by a series of earthwork trenches. They were surrounded by clouds of acrid smoke and the stench of gunpowder, and a group of men in muddied white uniforms and tricorn hats were busy attaching bayonets to their rifles.

“Where are we? And what is this?” asked Trump, flinching as a musket ball whizzed through their incorporeal forms.

“We are at the beginning of your journey here in Virginia,” answered the spirit, who had donned a fur cap in an effort to ward off the autumn chill. “You will witness the sacrifices of three men who fought for the alliance I, and the American republic, fought so hard to build and preserve.” Franklin pointed to one of the younger soldiers in front of them, and all of a sudden — as if in a rush of cold air — Trump found himself able to skim the surface of the man’s thoughts.

A young artillery officer from Grenoble, he was focusing on keeping his hand steady as he fixed his bayonet, and on mustering his courage for the final charge. Trying not to think of his family back home, lest it test his resolve, he gently tapped his breast pocket. In its interior it contained the dried remains of an alpine flower, and the rumpled remains of a letter from his wife. A fervent Catholic, she had trouble understanding why he had crossed the great ocean to fight alongside a group of English Protestant rebels. After all, weren’t they commanded by the same officer who only a few years ago had murdered French prisoners? He had written to her of liberty and of the philosophes support for the colonists, of the joys of fighting alongside a “new Roman” army of citizen-soldiers, and of the awe-inspiring vastness of this new land, but his letters had gone unanswered for almost a year now. His comrades had suggested that he had been gone for so long, it was likely she had remarried. Banishing these thoughts from his mind, he called out to his men, exhorting them to show bravery in the struggle against their ancestral foe. As his image, and that of his surroundings began to fade, his last thoughts were of how much he missed the snow-capped Alps.

“Ben,” said Trump, with an interest he had never felt before when it came to foreigners, “tell me if the Frenchman will live.”

“I see a vacant seat in a mountain home,” replied Franklin, “and a folded white uniform in a chest, carefully preserved.”

“No, no,” replied Trump, “No Ben, say that the Frenchie will live.”

A wistful expression flitted across the ghost’s face, and after a brief pause, he snapped his fingers, and the air cracked and bent around them.

Both men now found themselves lying on the wet sand, peering over an anti-tank trap at a bunker overlooking the beach. The din of battle was deafening, and Trump curled into a fetal position as machine gun fire scythed down from the fortified promontory. This was all so different from his favorite action movies. Franklin, on the other hand, appeared relatively nonplussed, munching contentedly on a leg of lamb. Juices flowing down his chin onto his bulging waistcoat, he patted the quaking commander-in-chief.

“Come, come now, Mr. President. We are but visitors here. We have nothing to fear. Unlike poor Jack over there,” he added, before pointing to a teenager making his way across the beach, clasping a rifle in one hand, and a grenade in the other.

Once again, Trump found himself privy to the young man’s thoughts as the latter inched his way toward the bunker. A rancher from New Mexico, the boy was far from the scrubby desert and wide open skies he called home. A round had clipped his shoulder, and his uniform was slick with blood, but the adrenaline kept him going. Gritting his teeth in pain, he staggered on, determined to make it to the end of the beach. Even before Pearl Harbor, he had wanted to sign up. After a hard day of work on the ranch, FDR’s fireside chats on the European war had instilled in him a desire to fight against the forces of tyranny. Arriving below the grim, lumpen mass of concrete, Jack ran into a sprint, arched his back, and tossed his grenade.

There was an explosion, a rush of hot air, and all of a sudden, without a word of warning, they were no longer in Normandy, but standing in a rocky valley. It was peaceful, and for a while all Trump could hear was the warbling of birds darting around the mountain brush. After a few minutes, had passed, however, he began to hear a distant rumbling sound. Squinting into the distance, he saw a convoy of vehicles tearing across the valley in a plume of dust. As they grew closer, he distinguished what appeared to be French flags fluttering on the sides of armored personnel carriers.

“Where are we now?” Trump asked. “And what happened to Jack?”

“We are in Afghanistan in 2008. And Jack met the same fate as the young officer from Grenoble.” Trump felt a wave of sadness, and cast his eyes upon the hard ground. He raised them speedily, however, when one of the vehicles screeched to a halt. Its windowpanes were shattered, sparks were flying off its hood, and the driver was wounded.

Like with Jack, and the French artillery officer, the businessman from Queens found that he knew the soldier’s thoughts and fears. The father of two small children from the south of France had felt such pride after having been accepted into an elite regiment of paratroopers. He had promised to his fiancée that he would be back in time to help prepare their wedding. As RPG and AK-47 fire continued to thud into the vehicles, Trump turned back to Franklin, now frantic, “Quick, we have to do something!” he urged.

Franklin, no longer as jovial and now harboring a grave expression, shook his head. “No. Our journey is coming to an end. It is time.” Reaching out, he clasped Trump’s hand and they were gone.

They were now in Brussels, at the inauguration of NATO’s gleaming new headquarters. Donald Trump could see himself standing at a lectern, in front of the new 9/11 and Article 5 memorial, berating America’s closest allies over their defense expenditure. As the other heads of states exchanged pained glances, he inwardly cringed at such a boorish and embarrassing display.

“Please, Mr. Franklin, let me fix this. Let me reaffirm Article 5 as I should have done.”

“You mean you should have maintained that pledge in the speech, rather than claim that NATO members owe America massive amounts of money from past years, as if our republic was running a vulgar protection racket?”

Trump’s shoulders slouched to hear his own words quoted by the phantom. He was overcome with shame and remorse.

“Now, perhaps you will understand the true value of America’s transatlantic alliances. Those French soldiers, and their European allies, joined the war in Afghanistan after NATO invoked Article 5 following the attacks on 9/11,” added Franklin. “These alliances are more than transactional arrangements. They are grounded in history, and in shared blood and sacrifice. And more importantly, they are defined by common values.”

The founding father’s silhouette began to slowly flicker with an eerie light. “It is time now, for me to leave — and to get back to my wenches. Your next visitor will show you the importance of standing up to authoritarian leaders, and of preserving a stable balance of power. Never forget,” he added, his voice fading to a whisper as he dissolved out of existence, “A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at its edges.”

The Third of the Three Spirits: Richelieu

With Franklin’s disappearance, Donald Trump found himself standing alone in the darkened White House garden. Gusts of wind sent the snow billowing in eddies, and the biting cold of the ice-rimed walkway had already begun to seep through his monogrammed slippers. Clasping his bathrobe around his shivering bulk, he carefully rearranged his hair and peered into the shadows. A solemn looking figure floated towards him. Draped and hooded in robes of dark crimson, he almost glided across the grounds — like a bleak winter fog drifting over a lonely moorland. The spirit slowly, gravely, silently approached. Shrouded in its clerical robes, only a neatly trimmed goatee was visible under its hood.

“Did Pope Francis send you?” queried Trump, recalling his somewhat tense interactions with the Holy See during his presidential campaign. “Nobody’s done more for the Christians in this country,” he anxiously added. “I’ve told you we’d be saying Merry Christmas again right?”

The spirit answered not, merely extending a bejeweled hand — although, were it not for the velvety darkness under its cowl, the real estate magnate could have sworn that it had rolled its eyes.

The cardinal’s mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread, and Trump knew that he was about to be shown not the shadows of things that had happened, but what would happen in the future. Although well accustomed to ghostly company by now, Trump feared this dour, silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him. Usually, he thought, this is when he would ask his staff to put him in a golf cart.

Instead, as the phantom moved away, Trump followed in its wake, which caught him like a piece of flotsam, and carried him away, up the stream of time. They did not seem to fly into the clouds; for the clouds rather seemed to materialize around them. But there they were, flying at a high altitude, and overlooking the South China Sea. From his vantage point, Trump could see a flurry of activity around a series of small islands. Fleets of dredgers were piling on sand, Chinese fighter jets were taking off runways, and international air traffic was being redirected. They shot through the heavens like arrows from a bow and were soon looking over a tropical bay, where Vietnamese fishermen were being rounded up and detained on a large Chinese coast guard vessel. Then, in a whoosh of air, they were overlooking a devastated, war-torn Korean peninsula. Seoul was aflame, and millions of North Korean refugees were spilling into Northeastern China. The phantom paused in his flight to put a clammy hand over Trump’s eyes, just as a blinding flash tore through the clouds. When he removed his spidery fingers, it was to reveal a giant mushroom cloud rising up over the horizon.

Yet another sudden turn and swish of the ghost’s crimson robes, and they were flying over a dense, dank pine forest somewhere in Latvia. Looking down, the president could see a column of Russian-speaking men, in unmarked uniforms and balaclavas, slowly threading their way through the trees. Then, the spirit simply pointed one lone, crooked finger at him, and Trump found himself as if caught in the throes of a whirlwind. Visions of human suffering under authoritarian regimes flashed in front of his eyes like a kaleidoscopic projection from Dante’s Inferno. Human rights activists in China, political dissidents in Russia and Belarus, young demonstrators in Egypt — all cried out from their squalid cells, and ghastly jails — where was America? Where was the shining city on the hill, with its historic focus on human rights, and its storied struggle against tyranny?

Plummeting out of the sky, his mind reeling under the horror of what he just saw, Trump landed in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Sinking to his knees, he crawled toward the somber specter, and clutched its robes. “Hear me, ghost! I am not the man I was! I will be presidential! I’m gonna be so presidential, people will be bored. I will control my anger. I will not keep grudges. I won’t listen to nutjobs like Alex Jones or Jeanine Pirro. I will value our democratic allies, and uphold American values overseas. I will stand up to authoritarian thugs and protect the rights of small nations!”

In his shame and agony, he stared up at the statue of noble Lincoln, and prayed to have his fate and character reversed. With a guttural sigh, his third and final visitor, shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

Christmas Morning

Yes! The bedpost was his own! The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the time before him was his own, and he could begin to finally make amends!

“I will live in the past, the present, and the future!” Trump repeated as he eased his body out of bed. “I shall be a good president, and — more importantly — a decent man!”

He was so animated and so glowing with his good intentions, that his voice broke with emotion, his face wet with tears. He was as light as a feather, as merry as a boy scout. He would respect his country’s constitution, its citizens, institutions, and its allies. He would actually read the National Security Strategy — or at least parts of it — and maybe even some of the stuff the fat Italian guy had given him. Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No snowstorm, no howling winds: clear, bright blue skies and streams of golden sunlight! Oh, glorious! And he didn’t even feel the need to golf!

“What’s going on today?” cried Trump, calling out to a gaunt, balding figure clad in 1950s-era clothing.

“Mr. President?” returned Stephen Miller, startled at his boss’s good cheer on this fine Christmas morning. “On TV you mean? Well there is a Christmas special on The View with Rosie O’Donnell if you want me to Tivo it for you.”

Rosie O’Donnell. At the mention of that name, the president felt his blood pressure levels rising. His nostrils flared, his fists clenched, and he began to sniffle almost uncontrollably. Rosie O’Donnell. He should have sued that fat slob a long time ago. His fingers twitching, he picked up his Android phone. It was then, logging onto Twitter, that he realized that he would never change. The American people, and the rest of the world, were stuck with him.

 

Iskander Rehman is a Senior Fellow at the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University. Prior to joining the Pell Center, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He can be followed on twitter @IskanderRehman

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