Analysis & Comment

Opinion | Swamps R Us

I don’t know how Donald Trump was imagining his inauguration morning departure from Washington. Sure, he managed to fly out of town on Air Force One — still president! — but it was a pretty pathetic send-off for a guy who spent his whole political career bragging about the size of his crowds.

Close to depressing, actually. Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell weren’t there to wave goodbye — too busy preparing to hang out with Joe Biden on Capitol Hill. A very modest cluster of supporters arrived and cheered when he promised, “We will be back in some form.”

Feel free to imagine the new Trump form. None of the ones that come to mind would be very pleasant, although some are fun to think about. He’s facing a ton of debt, and at the very minimum, we ought to see him back promoting a new line of Trump vodka or water or table lamps.

And maybe running one of those rent-a-celebrity operations where a mom planning her daughter’s sweet 16 party can bid to bring in Don Jr. as a featured guest. Or Melania for the in-laws’ anniversary. If you move to a new neighborhood, your 6-year-old could probably get to know the other kids faster if he had Eric on the front porch, playing dominoes with all comers.

Trump is not the politician most people have at the top of their lists for conversation right now. Naturally, you’re going to want to talk a lot about Joe Biden and his terrific speech.

Still, sooner or later, you’ll run through current events. People will stare at each other across the dinner table and then somebody will blurt out, “God, did you hear about Trump?”

It’s OK. Absolutely possible to be both a terrible president and a font of anecdotes. We obviously don’t want anyone in the White House who’d try to win an argument with the speaker of the House by claiming “her teeth were falling out.” But if it happens, it’s very possible people will mention it.

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And think about the pardons. We naturally suspected Trump would have some unusual choices for his batch of last-minute reprieves. This year he also had an interesting theme.

Remember Barack Obama promoting the idea that the punishment should fit the crime, and springing some people sent to jail with monster sentences for fairly minor-league offenses? Well, this year Trump’s message, although he didn’t exactly broadcast it, was that Political Corruption Is Piffle.

You remember the political swamp he was going to dedicate his presidency to draining? Well, it’s not a problem anymore, and you’re in the clear, Steve Bannon! (Charged with collecting money for the fabled border wall and then diverting over $1 million of those funds for his own … stuff. When he was arrested last year, authorities picked Bannon up aboard a yacht owned by a fugitive Chinese billionaire.)

As the administration went on, White House concerns about swamps seemed to dwindle, and it became easier to imagine Trump standing next to one, tossing the political equivalent of cottonmouths and yellow-bellied sliders into the water while Stephen Miller draped Spanish moss over everything.

And the guys who stayed out of the clink were still going to have to find a way to make money when the Trump White House closed down. As he left office, just to keep the water turbid for his old pals’ comfort, the about-to-be-ex-president revoked his own executive order aimed at prohibiting departing executive branch appointees from coming back as lobbyists for five years after leaving the administration.

We’re all hoping Biden doesn’t create any topics for discussion nearly as, um, swampy. He is, as you may have noticed, a very different kind of guy. On Inauguration Day the soon-to-be president tweeted at his wife, “I love you, Jilly, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have you with me on the journey ahead.” Trump’s chances of competing on the marital message front are a little dim now that he’s banned from most social media. Maybe he just puts little love notes written in Sharpie under Melania’s pillow. Hehehe.

Wondering about whether people will miss Trump gossip presumes that he’ll ever stay out of the headlines. Hard to imagine. We’re cruising toward one last Senate trial on his impeachment, and if that’s ever over, there’s the matter of his financial problems. He’s leaving the White House with a ton of debt, none of which he seems to have much capacity to pay. He knows lots of rich and powerful people, of course, but many of his real friends seem closer to the Rudy Giuliani mode of unemployable idiots.

We’re stuck giving him a pension of $221,000 or so plus a bunch of other stuff, like lifetime Secret Service protection and funding for some private staffers.

We the taxpayers will be also paying for some office space, as we do with all the ex-presidents. But one of the questions we instantly want to ask — one that will take the political discussion at parties instantly away from the Biden agenda — is whether he’ll try to use our money to rent space in his own properties. He charged the government a reported $2.5 million while he was in office.

Time to let somebody else do the shopping.

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