A few thoughts on Trump's pre-presidency Twitter feuds
First, a programming note. I mentioned last entry that my brother wrote a friggin movie, and that it was releasing exclusively on Hulu in January. Well friends, opening day is here! Take some time this weekend to stream The Ultimate Playlist of Noise, courtesy of one Mitchell Winkie. It’s an absolute triumph. I have watched this kid eat shit in Los Angeles for like seven years trying to get traction as a screenwriter, and the fact that he finally has something to celebrate brings a tear to my eye. So pop some damn popcorn and have yourself a night with the greatest teen romance of our time. Well done, Mitchell!
Now, as always, onto the posts.
So Donald Trump got banned from Twitter last week. The reasons for this are obvious and well-reasoned. Despite the unending war of attrition the sitting president waged on the platform’s supposed code of conduct, it was his post-insurrection riposte — offering his tacit blessing to those who breached their way onto the Capitol floor — that made @Jack throw up his hands and say no mas. The ontology isn’t perfect — it's weird to leave far-reaching First Amendment judgements up to sickos like Mark Zuckerberg — but I firmly belong in the camp of those who think that Trump's banishment should've happened ages ago. We are all bracing for further havoc in the days leading up to the 20th, and there is no doubt in my mind that Trump’s unmuzzled, extremely online Caligula period would kindle that unrest. It’s also true, however, that Trump’s chronic posting was putting people's lives in danger long before the DC riots. I mean, there was the incident where he encouraged the ingestion of hydroxychloroquine, or when he threatened to crush BLM protests with the full brunt of the police state. After the hellish year we just endured, a less precarious timeline is a welcome respite.
So that's how we’re sending off the 45th President of the United States. Twice-impeached and permabanned, which really sounds like a Talking Heads song. Who knows what that means for the National Archive — will future Gen Alpha teens be able to discover this strange blip in time when the Commander-in-Chief was prone to fire off wild shit at 4 in the morning? — I pity the lonely clerk who’s been tasked to dive into the Wayback Machine, ensuring that every one of those 140-word dispatches are frozen in carbonite.
Personally, the only tweets I think are worth saving are those that Trump made before he was fully absorbed in our politics. All of them, from 2012 to 2014, are bite-sized chryons that reveal his unfettered nature; this amalgamation of old-money luxury, chintzy shallowness, and cowardly zest that add up into the man we came to know as Donald Trump. So, to commemorate the incoming Biden administration, we're going to take a trip down memory lane. Here are the three most notable pre-presidency Trump Twitter feuds, ranked in order by how much they revealed about the man's spider-infested brain.
3. Kristen Stewart
To me, this was the sliding doors moment for Donald Trump's entire political career. He spent his four years in office roiling in a quiet rage — embittered in every orientation — locked in an eternal search to identify more Americans who were currently treating him unfairly. That was one of the strangest attributes of this administration; Trump seamlessly translated his fey Hollywood pettiness into a brutal authoritarian doctrine, and yet he never seemed to find any joy in his rule. Sure, there were a few fragments of bliss along the way; he definitely savored the horn in the big truck, and he was offered carte blanche to hand out medals to, like, Toby Keith or whoever. But for the most part, he stalked the West Wing with a pickled scowl pasted across his face, burning off his last few summers of conscious life as sourly and paranoid as possible.
What I'm trying to say is, Donald Trump was only ever meant to make tweets about Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. David Roth once concluded that the president, at his core, is a messy gossip; animated solely by a need to pass along nasty hearsay to anyone and everyone. The American people elevated that fatal instinct to the highest office in the land, and suddenly we were forced to watch that same gauche, Page Six salaciousness embedded at the G20 Summit or on NAFTA negotiation conference calls. It was completely dysfunctional from the start — a square peg in a round hole. Trump applied the same rhetorical apparatus to global diplomacy that he used when he was blaspheming Lindsay Lohan at a Belmond bar in 2003. He spent the first six decades of his life cocooned in the warm comfort that nothing he ever said will ever matter, and now he was sitting across from Angela Merkel, dropping a few Starburst on the table.
To think there is some other timeline out there where Trump continued to forage his legacy in the exact way it started; hosting increasingly transient seasons of The Apprentice, weighing in every so often on the Cutler/Cavallari divorce proceedings, never forced to locate Mosul on a map. News of his death would be the C-peg on the nightly news — nothing more than ticker material — immediately forgotten minutes later. It's hard to remember now, but that is how Americans once regarded Donald Trump. He came to mind about once every 18 months or so, in the same way that ancillary celebrities pass listlessly through our rolodex of loose thoughts when we're in line at the bank or something; a cog in that slideshow of images our brain fires up to stave off boredom. To think he robbed all of us — and himself! — of that peace. I'll never understand it.
2. Diet Coke
"The Coca-Cola company is not happy with me," tweeted Donald Trump, on October 16, 2012, shortly after a series of other Diet Coke-themed posts alleging that the soft drink increases weight gain. "That's okay, I'll still keep drinking that garbage."
Trump possesses a world-class lack of interiority, but this tweet is perhaps his closest brush with self-actualization. It's impossible to fully conceptualize the galactic volume of garbage the man has ingested over the course of his life. There are ancient, circa-2016 stories of him replacing the almond packets in the Obama White House's pantry with mini bags of Lay's Potato Chips. He squeezed out one of the most devilish smiles of the campaign onboard his private jet while tearing into a KFC bucket with a knife and a fork. His standard McDonald's order is reportedly two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fishes, and a chocolate milkshake, and he routinely asks caterers to swamp his salads with lava tubes of Thousand Island dressing. Of course, there was also that time he commanded some poor attendant to order approximately one billion Chick-Fil-A sandwiches for the Clemson football team, in one of the greatest incidents of Guys Being Dudes ever documented.
And that brings us to Diet Coke. The President allegedly drinks 12 cans a day, conjuring an image of him white-knuckling the Oval Office desk til dawn, pupils dilated, drenched in a smelly cold sweat, deep into his third consecutive Hannity rerun. Trump is avaricious in all avenues — far more concerned with the appearance of being rich over good taste — but somehow, despite every conceivable privilege and resource, he's still a total rube in regards to his diet. Trump's original election bid was credited on that unique pedigree; a billionaire with a gold-plated toilet who can't crack his Diet Coke habit no matter how many times he publicly subtweets the company. It's a shred of mortality piercing through the flagrant simulacrum of the Trump brand — an accidentally perfect articulation of the depraved state of affairs in the 21st century. That's Right Sir, I Also Will Keep Drinking That Garbage.
1. Graydon Carter
Number one with a bullet. It couldn't be anyone else. An ideal nemesis should be an ersatz reflection of a main character, someone who understands their counterpart's innate weakness: Batman has the Joker, Sherlock Holmes has James Moriarty, Billy Corgan has Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and so on. In that sense, Trump's eons-length feud with Graydon Carter — editor emeritus of Vanity Fair — was written in the stars.
Both are septuagenarians with bizarre plumes of hair that render them unmistakably identifiable at overripe Awards Show afterparties around the country. Both garnered their stardom by dominating bizarre, unnecessary, antiquated cultural lanes, (celebrity magazine editor? celebrity fake billionaire?) allowing them access to a very specific mid-level suite of fame. Both had a few run-ins with Jeffrey Epstein. Both conjure up images of a warm, amniotic, extremely 1990s era of wealth; of gaudy crystal chandeliers in stuffy Hilton ballrooms, of watery, pale-pink hams steaming in their juices under orange heat lamps, of a beleaguered waitstaff delivering the umpteenth round of sickly-syrupy negronis to a gaggle of sauced tuxedo goblins exchanging catty comments about Vanna White. The primary difference, of course, is that Carter is a man of some talent, while Donald Trump has spent his entire life plainly insecure about his startling lack of gifts. Vain and jealous as he is, Trump correctly ascertained that the flock of New York luxury chuds he ran with snickered about his oafishness behind his back; while Carter commanded a gravitas that he simply could not, and could never, muster. The two were destined to hate each other. Or perhaps more accurately, Trump was destined to hate Carter.
"Wow, Vanity Fair was totally shut out at the National Magazine Awards," reads the quintessential Trump/Carter tweet. "Graydon Carter is a loser with bad food restaurants!"
There are a million more exactly like this; Donald latching onto any infinitesimal slight levied against the reputation of his Conde Nast archenemy — shit that no normal person cares about, like whatever the fuck the "National Magazine Awards" are — punctuating them, always, with a dig at Carter's side hustle as a gilded restaurateur. Yes, it is always "Bad Food Restaurants." Never "Bad Restaurants," or even the grammatically sound "Bad-Food Restaurants," which would add a slight dash of writerly flair to his grievance. It brings to mind an image of Donald Trump sitting in some festooned West Village lounge, chowing on an $80 ribeye seared to a disgusting, brick-like density at his behest, believing that he had finally achieved leverage over a magazine editor who once said he had small hands. More likely is that Trump never dined at one of Carter's eateries, but Gary Player told him once that they suck.
"Sissy Graydon Carter of failing Vanity Fair Magazine and owner of bad food restaurants has a problem. His Oscar party is no longer 'hot.'"
I think I speak for many Americans when I say that tweets like this were my only source of faith that Donald Trump would not completely unleash armageddon during these last four years. Despite his naked fascistic leanings, tepid imperiousness, and obvious contempt for every living thing — especially those who voted for him — it remained clear that Trump came from a different stock than a true reactionary ideologue. It takes a very specific type of clueless, prosaic affluence to still be tweeting about Vanity Fair in 2014; a magazine that crested in relevance at the very moment Trump reached the apotheosis of his celebrity career. (Back when he was still married to Marla Maples, roughly 1995.) Trump's cultural sentience never escaped that moment: Society turned over, empires collapsed to ruin, and the man still considered the grim Flatiron receptions he attended with Brooke Shields and Linda McMahon to be the most pressing events in human history.
To me, that was proof that no matter what was happening in the world — no matter what fringe GOP psychopath currently had his ear — Trump's cottage cheese-like mind would inevitably retreat deep into its trite inner recesses. Mike Pompeo could be advocating for a preemptive nuclear strike on Pyongyang, and Donald would be lost in a psychedelic geriatric haze, reenacting all of all of those old beefs; of Rosie O'Donnell, of Robert De Niro, of Graydon Carter and his bad food restaurants. I imagine him derailing countless situation-room briefings with a 20 minute diatribe about a testy encounter with Bobby Vinton, until he forgot where he was, or what everyone is talking about. Someday, when the tell-all books drop, we will have a clearer idea of how many times Trump's lazy banality saved us from genuine extinction-level events; how often his crude, small-minded Hollywood feuds diverted from the darker inclinations simmering in the cabinet. I suppose we owe Carter our gratitude.