The playwright Robert Lepage has told La Presse that he finds President Donald Trump supremely Shakespearean. Very true. There are strong affinities. Often drawing from nature, the great William would depict numerous cursed kings fallen from their thrones, betrayed by their troops, or killed by their enemies after having accomplished a thousand misdeeds, being blinded by vanity, or haunted by the ghosts of their victims.
It’s the cruel Macbeth and his wife, besieged at the castle, one dying by her own hand, the other by the sword of a vigilante. It’s the bloodthirsty Richard III who cried on the battlefield: “My kingdom for a horse” before succumbing to a rival’s sword. It’s the old King Lear, led astray by poor paternal judgment, who at the end of the day has only his own eyes left for crying. It’s the too-triumphant Caesar, falling under the blows of conspirators. Along with so many other Richards and Henrys, all elevated and brought down.
The Shakespearean universe is chock-full of crimes, perfidies and megalomania encouraged by courtiers who turn on the weakened tyrant. Kings sometimes behave like clowns, and clowns like sensible kings. It’s the same in Trump’s universe.
Last Saturday, I watched and listened to the U.S. president’s speech in front of his admirers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in this stadium where the camera refused to capture the deserted upper seats. And I thought I saw on his face the shadow of Elizabethan monarchs caught up in their faults, still showing off but knowing that their destiny had changed.
And at a time when so many rats are jumping the Trump ship, where Twitter covers up some of his snarling tweets, where U.S. Supreme Court justices suddenly stand up to him, where his management of the virus and racial crises comes back to haunt him like a boomerang, he expresses the same fears as those defeated kings did when they walked the plank.
Trump is not defeated yet, many will protest. Wait until the Nov. 3 election. True, but the play seems to be written. This plunge in the polls, those missed opportunities to act like a leader during a crisis — everything seems to lead to the final act of noise and fury, pitting pro-Trump and anti-Trump against each other on the pavement after the election.
I bought “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” by John Bolton, his former national security advisor. Bolton is no Shakespeare, that’s for sure. But he does have the sharpened dagger of a conspirator. “Immature, pursuing the sole goal of reelection, strengthening his bonds with several dictators against the interests of his country,”* the author claims about his former boss. Make way for the chaos in the White House and its backstage games, for the president’s little arrangements with China, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia to serve his personal goals, for his crass ignorance and for his vanity, which makes him manipulable.
Neither Bolton nor the U.S. president gets away with the spoils of war here. The author explains the extent to which he worked to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s legacy during his 17 months of service. He attacks Trump, but covers for him when it suits him. As Bolton reviews the spurious details of the president’s meetings with his Chinese, Russian, North Korean, Japanese, French and other counterparts, it becomes a chore to read these 500 poorly crafted pages to the end. His explanations about the slap Trump gave Justin Trudeau after the Charlevoix Group of Seven leading industrial nations summit were not convincing in the least. Classified information or not, he reveals what he wants to reveal.
The White House tried to stop publication of this brick, alleging it contained classified information and lies. It did so in vain. This is neither the first nor the last work to come at the billionaire politician, but the timing could not be worse for him, coming a few months before the elections, when the country is under the assault of a pandemic. We are never so well betrayed as by our own. If everyone who worked in political office could bear witness to this, there would be no more politics. Bolton is not a hero, even if his work is timely and assures its author of a golden retirement (he got $2 million to write it).
The raging statesman will fight to the end. Other conspirators, like Trump’s niece, who will publish her story in August, will stab him again. He deserves his fate and full defeat. Let’s hope that a modern-day Shakespeare will rise to the challenge of describing, from the first act to the last, the rise and fall of the most improbable president of the most powerful country in the world in the 21st century. A spectacle not to be missed!
*Editor’s Note: This quote, although accurately translated, could not be verified.
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