The Naked Truth About Trump

Posted May 5, 2018 11:26 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — Before I get to America’s Mayor and America’s Nightmare, I would like to say this:

Michelle Wolf was right when she turned a gimlet eye on the media.

“You guys are obsessed with Trump,” the comedian said at the White House Correspondents Dinner. “Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him.

“I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. If you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money, because he doesn’t have any.”

You know President Donald Trump also believes that he is the best thing to ever happen to the media — and that he should be getting a cut of the action. There’s nothing he hates more than feeling that someone has profited off him, while he gets nothing. Remember when he proposed a $5 million ransom to show up at the CNN debate?

Trump is damaging the country and civic discourse, and undermining the First Amendment. But this Batman cartoon villain with an uncanny gift for cliffhangers and lurid story lines is buoying journalism, giving us a reprieve while we figure out how to save ourselves in the digital age.

And he’s making journalists stars in a way they haven’t been since Watergate, inspiring documentaries and movies and helping them secure lucrative book and TV deals.

The most intense, toxic cat-and-mouse game in Trump’s life is not with Robert Mueller. It’s with the press. (Besides, it’s not a cat-and-mouse game with Mueller; it’s just cat.)

Trump is an attention addict, and now he’s in a position to get all the attention in the world, as long as he keeps those sirens blaring. CNN has been on a constant Breaking News Alert for months. And we are Trump addicts, hooked on the hyperventilating rush of wild stories and all the great things that accrue from playing Beowulf to Trump’s Grendel.

As we pat ourselves on the back, though, for the grueling hours and Pulitzer-quality scoops, we should remember one thing: Even if we vanished tomorrow, Trump would probably end up in the same place.

You could put a nanny cam on the guy and leave the room, and he would crash out of his high chair. He incriminates himself faster than we can incriminate him. And he surrounds himself, in the Trumpland of Misfit Toys, with playmates who have that same perverse gift for self-incrimination and immolation.

You know you’re in trouble when Trump has to correct you on the facts. And Rudy Giuliani is in trouble. He and the Donald, the lawyer who was a mob buster and the president who acts like a mob boss, cooked up a harebrained plan to get Trump past the Stormy Daniels problem.

The gruesome twosome, whose reputations have grown darker since the days when they swanned around New York as larger-than-life figuras, didn’t consult any top White House officials, even the counsel. When Ashley Parker, a Washington Post White House reporter, texted a West Wing adviser, the adviser texted back a string of emojis, including a popcorn box, as in they were just watching this horror movie from the audience.

Even on a great day, things are always unraveling with Trump. Chaos is always getting unleashed. Turbulence is always brewing.

So Giuliani’s scheme quickly unraveled.

He admitted in TV interviews this past week that Trump had reimbursed Michael Cohen — also a Sean Hannity lawyer — for the $130,000 payoff to keep the porn star mum about her Lake Tahoe liaison with Trump, while claiming that the president didn’t know specifically what the payment was for. “Oh my goodness, I guess that’s what it was for,” Trump said, according to Giuliani, incredibly making the First Vulgarian sound more like Mike Pence or James Comey.

Instead of getting Trump out of a jam, it jammed him into a deeper hole, giving Mueller’s team new areas of legal inquiry and material to add to its mountain of damaging records, and possibly helping the special counsel fill in the blanks on the 70 blank subpoena forms he just requested from a courthouse in Virginia.

Trump distanced himself from his good friend, as he is wont to do, promising that Giuliani will “get his facts straight.” This prompted Vanity Fair to write the headline: “Trump Assures Reporters He’ll Make Giuliani a Better Liar.”

Trump’s game is keeping everyone, especially the press, riveted.

“He needs the excitement,” says Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio. “Without the drama and the crisis and the powerful opponent, he’d be just another guy.”

D’Antonio compares Trump, who has compared himself to Babe Ruth and who once wrote a poem when he was 12 about being a baseball player — “I like to hear the crowd give cheers, so loud and noisy to my ears” — to Jimmy Piersall. Piersall, a charismatic and talented baseball player, described his emotional spiral in his memoir, “The Truth Hurts”: “Probably the best thing that happened to me was going nuts. It brought people out to the ballpark to get a look at me.”

The center fielder engaged in brawls, scuffles and pranks, once bringing a water pistol to home plate. Then one day he lost his grip; in a movie based on his life, that was depicted as him climbing up the backstop at Fenway Park.

“That may wind up happening with Trump,” D’Antonio says. “One day he might walk to Marine One stark naked and we’ll all just say: ‘This is the end. It has finally happened.'”

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