President-elect Donald Trump was selected as Time magazine's Person of the Year.
And there, as Fox News put it, "the honor basically ended."
Of course, since Trump pulled off the unexpected political feat of the decade (if not century), the editors probably knew they had no choice but to hold their noses and give him the title.
But the accompanying article by Michael Scherer (a correspondent for Salon and Mother Jones before joining Time) is unintentionally hilarious.
Let's start with the president-elect's gaudy digs (not exactly virgin territory for outraged scribes, but Scherer really outdoes himself):
This is, in short, not a natural place to refine the common touch. It’s gilded and gaudy, a dreamscape of faded tapestry, antique clocks and fresco-style ceiling murals of gym-rat Greek gods. The throw pillows carry the Trump shield, and the paper napkins are monogrammed with the family name. His closest neighbors, at least at this altitude, are an international set of billionaire moguls who have decided to stash their money at One57 and 432 Park, the two newest skyscrapers to remake midtown Manhattan. There is no tight-knit community in the sky, no paperboy or postman, no bowling over brews after work.
And yet here Trump resides, under dripping crystal, with diamond cuff links, as the President-elect of the United States of America. . . .
I have a sneaking suspicion that Barack Obama's gaudy faux Greek columns were not such an affront to Mr. Scherer's cultivated tastes. Scherer continues:
For all of Trump’s public life, tastemakers and intellectuals have dismissed him as a vulgarian and carnival barker, a showman with big flash and little substance. But what those critics never understood was that their disdain gave him strength.
Scherer is right about this because this disdain gave the billionaire something in common with the millions Americans who are also disdained: for their views, their churchgoing, their jobs (some work in unapproved industries!), and their all-round lack of the kind of sophistication Mr. Scherer obviously possesses.
Scherer finds that Trump is eager to discuss the sorts of people who have catapulted him into the nation's highest office:
It’s a topic Trump wants to discuss as he settles down in his dining room, with its two-story ceiling and marble table the length of a horseshoe pitch: the winning margins he achieved in West Virginia coal country, the rally crowds that swelled on Election Day, what he calls that “interesting thing,” the contradiction at the core of his appeal. “What amazes a lot of people is that I’m sitting in an apartment the likes of which nobody’s ever seen,” the next President says, smiling. “And yet I represent the workers of the world.”
The late Fidel Castro would probably spit out his cigar if he heard that one—a billionaire who branded excess claiming the slogans of the proletariat. But Trump doesn’t care. “I’m representing them, and they love me and I love them,” he continues, talking about the people of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the struggling Rust Belt necklace around the Great Lakes that delivered his victory. “And here we sit, in very different circumstances.”
How gauche of those Americans to have elected a president who would give Fidel heartburn. And how revealing that Mr. Scherer regards Castro, who lived in luxury while Cubans lived in penury for lo these five decades since the Revolution, as representing the "workers of the world," as the late Karl was won to call them. It puts me in mind of Bret Stephens bon mot, when the New York Times reverently observed that Fidel and Queen Elizabeth had held to power longer than any other world "leaders:" "one of those leaders shot pheasants, while the other shot peasants."
There are a number of interesting questions about Trump's astonishing win (why did religious men who would never in a million years step out on their wives adopt Trump as their champion, for example?) but the frenzied Mr. Scherer doesn't explore any of them.
This is really a new literary genre: the magazine article as emetic.