The news that Joe Biden’s presidential transition has now officially begun seems to have pushed Donald Trump over whatever cliff-edge he hadn’t yet fallen off.
This morning, in amongst the usual volley of retweets from angry friends and sympathizers, the president shared a year-old video from actor and trenchant right-winger Randy Quaid – specifically, a two-minute reading of a bizarre poem titled “Trump Trumpets Reveille!”
It is unhinged, grim, and, even at a mere two minutes, grueling. It is a year out of date. It is the perfect elegy for the Trump presidency.
For his performance of “Trump Trumpets Reveille!”, Quaid straddles a back-to-front wooden chair, simultaneously evoking the battle pose of a dive-bar drunk and the brittle sexuality of Christine Keeler. In front of a painted landscape backdrop resembling the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night, he glowers at the viewer. “Is this how America ends?” he asks.
Like much of the verbal folk art churned out by the far right over the last five years, “Trump Trumpets Reveille” is less a manifesto than a furiously scrawled hit-list of hypermasculine nationalist grievances. The imagery is baroque even by Trumpian standards, taking in Jonathan Swift’s Lilliput and “icebergs melting into dinosaurs”.
Within a few lines, Quaid name-checks George Soros, socialism, “anarchist” school curricula, the “war on Christmas”. The effect is surreal, combining the declamatory zeal of Howard Beale in Network with the free-associative word jazz of Sarah Palin.
“Ring out you bells of freedom!” Quaid shouts. “Sound the alarm across the land! Old glory is being ripped to shreds by fakers and phonies and bullies and liars who want to destroy our president and redefine the sovereignty of the Supreme Court — rewrite the rules! A day of reckoning is nigh! Wake up!”
Then there’s the delivery. Aggressively manly and startlingly staccato, Quaid’s vocal method matches the style chosen by Kimberly Guilfoyle for her show-stopping Republican National Convention speech this summer. “THE BEST! IS YET! TO COME!” she bellowed to an empty room, sparking the launch of a thousand tweets.
Neither Quaid nor Guilfoyle sounds like the slurring, rambling president himself, but their style gives better voice than his to the true id of the Trump phenomenon. “They are out to destroy us,” it declares, “and we will crush them! BLOW! BY! BLOW!”
This sort of sledgehammer delivery is what gives jelly-like Trump rhetoric the semblance of a spine. At every event since summer 2015: “MAKE! AMERICA! GREAT! AGAIN!” Of Hillary Clinton and other “nasty” women: “LOCK! HER! UP!” Latterly, from now-disowned Trump lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell: “RELEASE! THE! KRAKEN!”
Quite how the president found the Randy Quaid video more than 12 months after Quaid posted it will probably remain a mystery. Why on earth would the president be rifling through an actor’s Twitter feed in the early hours of the morning? But then again, why wouldn’t he? Aside from the video, Trump quote-tweeted three of the actor’s messages from Friday and Saturday, thanking Quaid for “working hard to clean up the stench of the 2020 Election Hoax!” and advising Republicans to listen to his call for an in-person nationwide re-run of the election. It seems he did a deep dive into Quaid’s account and eventually happened upon the poem, which made his heart sing so fondly that he decided he had to re-share it with the world. That, or he was sent it by someone he trusts via direct message.
One might ask, justifiably: Does the president not have anything better to do? Declining to do much actual governing after the events of 3 November, the president’s main exercise of executive power since then has been to fire officeholders he doesn’t like or fears might be useful to the incoming Biden administration. Continuing his relationship with his base via Twitter has also clearly been high up on his list of priorities.
Trump shared another Quaid video a little later in the morning, a week-old clip in which the actor reads one of the president’s tweets gloating over the decline in Fox News’s daytime ratings. Like the poem, the video is powerful, but not necessarily in the way it’s intended.
Leering into the camera at terrifyingly close range as multicoloured lights strobe over his beard, Quaid delivers Trump’s message with a purr. “They forgot what made them successful,” he declares, fluttering his tongue madly. “What got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose.”
Forgot? If only that were true.