The Mad King of Versailles
When Louis XIV turned his father’s hunting lodge into what would become the grandest palace ever built, he was doing much more than expressing his hideously-inflated self image in the form of a residence. Louis was traumatized by the uprising of the French nobility in the Fronde, a rebellion that drove him from Paris when his mother was ruling in his stead during his childhood, and once Louis reached the age of majority, he decided to stop any such competing power centers from forming during his rule. He built the Chateau Versailles so that his home would be large enough for the entire French Aristocracy to move in with him, thus reorienting their entire lives around his own.
From the lever ceremony when he got up in the morning to the coucher when he went to bed, Louis expected his courtiers to make every effort to be around him as much as possible. Nobles would pay huge amounts of money just to be present during the more exclusive portions of the ceremony, and if you couldn’t even make the daily Mass after the lever, you were dead to Louis. When any courtier who wasn’t putting enough face time in would ask M. Bourbon for a favor, or for any other kind of royal patronage, they would get the same inconceivably passive-aggressive response from their absolute monarch: “We never see him anymore.”
Yes, for about six decades, the entire French political system revolved entirely around one man’s daily routine. His closest advisers could never be far from his side, since anyone who was not present would have their influence supplanted by another of his ambitious hangers-on. Thousands of people would file by to watch him eat in silence when he dined au public. Noblemen of great means and high status were reduced to hustling for the honor of watching the king take a shit. He spent almost all of his time hunting, and the whole court had to hunt with him, the business of government be damned. Anyone who wanted a real stake in France had no option but to play Louis’s game, because, as he is rumored to have said, “l’état c’est moi” — in English, “I am the state.” He was not wrong about that.
Three centuries hence from the death of the aforementioned monarch, Donald Trump is making a considerable-but-inadvertent attempt to bring the Sun King’s court to the West Wing. As our policy is now made according to the last opinion stated out loud in his presence (or TV show that he watches), none of Trump’s senior aides can ever leave his side for fear of losing influence to the others, to say nothing of a stray TV. Everyone on the White House staff dare not tell the royal presence how He should act, relying instead on mere suggestion: presenting positive stories about him in order to maintain his good mood, leaking palace intrigues to the press to discredit their rivals, and above all, making excuses for every nonsensical word to emanate from the king’s mouth. They pray that he might hear of their vigorous defense of the crown, as they live their lives according to his whims and proclamations, working desperately to earn his favor and confidence, that they might advance their positions. Also, he spends almost all of his time golfing, so his whole court has to go to Florida or Jersey with him every weekend.
We’re all part of it, really. We can never leave his side, because he just keeps freaking us all out, over and over again. It’s been four months now, and it already seems almost quaint that we worried so much about the dismantling of government agencies that merely protects us from drinking straight hexavalent chromium in a thin fog of coal smoke, now that a heavily-armed law enforcement bureau is very much under threat. We can’t turn away from the stories of administrative catastrophe or the inherently-newsworthy Tweets, because they contain so many tantalizing morsels of public corruption. We are all in attendance to the every moment of the reign of Donald le Roi. At this point, the media is basically jockeying for the honor of watching him take a shit.
However, in light of the past week’s repeated acts of political and diplomatic suicide which have, on a lighter side note, probably gotten some deep-cover intelligence contacts in the IS killed, I’ve been forced to reconsider the inner workings of the Trump cabal. I’ve been inflicting preconceived notions on the situation, namely that so-called “cognitive processes” or “thought” are the engine of this administration. That theory is no longer compatible with the facts.
I was convinced of the “palace factions” narrative for a long time. Bannon went in with an extremist, Mercer-backed agenda that clashed with the moderate, Manhattanish, liberalish amorality of the Dauphin and Ivanka, let alone the Priebus faction and their belief in their divine right to institute the Conservative policies that Trump explicitly ran against. They had fundamentally incompatible ideologies, so a contest of ideology was inevitable. It was also believable that the man running the show would continue his practice of baiting his subordinates against each other, a method proven beyond any doubt in his chickenshit third-rate property shop when they went bankrupt six times and then had to turn to shady Russian financing, leading us to our current predicament.
I’ve come to a revised theory of what the hell is going on, courtesy of astrophysics. The Trump Administration is most accurately described, in scientific terms, as a supermassive black hole of competence. Trump’s virtually absolute ignorance is the event horizon from which no thought can escape, outside of which every molecule of his staff is churned and ripped apart in their desperate effort to keep pace with their messaging, as their credibility passes through the event horizon and is shattered by the combined gravity of bullshit, ignorance, and the Jovian scope of Trump’s ass. It’s a natural engine of total annihilation, that is beautiful in its terrible anti-purpose.
For obvious reasons, this “style” is deeply incompatible with the Versailles model. Louis had a photographic memory to record attendance of his subjects, and used his position as the focal point of France itself to control the country. Trump draws as much attention to himself as the media can manage, and then uses his goldfish-esque memory to fuck up in the most spectacular and public fashion possible, and finds time to sew chaos by spouting off on topics he does not begin to understand. In Louis’ time, absolute monarchy was not only fashionable, it wasn’t restricted solely to Saudi Arabia and North Korea either. In Trump’s case, we just survived a century of these nightmares, and Trump’s working for a real tyrant who wants to give us a century more — which brings me again to the freshest outrage, and the reason I decided to compare the two kings.
He actually said that he had the “absolute right” to give away high-level Israeli intelligence, which he did not have permission to share with Putin’s lackeys in the oval office. In a Tweet.
People are probably dead, and the sane human beings in the White House, who are actually aware of the impending doom on their doorstep, are desperately fighting to stay ahead of the president’s mouth right now. McMasters is dropping narrowly-defined refutations like he knows this is really going to hurt him. He’s in it now, and he’s playing the game. They even trotted out Kellyanne again, because she’s the only one who isn’t keeping her mouth shut under advice of counsel. They’re in hell, and I feel sorry for them while genuinely relishing the thought at the same time.
He won’t stop making it worse, because a black hole is a pure entity of destruction, and Trump’s mind is pure. Pure of knowledge, pure of restraint, pure of context, pure of decency — his is a tortured mind without a soul, and I suspect increasingly devoid of firing synapses. In that purity of thought, he can destroy traditions and institutions without remorse, and blurt petty acts of treason to impress journalist-murdering kleptocratic goons. In that purity of conscience, he can actually claim that his extraordinary powers grant him the “absolute right” to legalize his personal sabotage of our national security, because if he can legally get away with it, nothing else matters to him. In that purity of decency, he can keep lying about it, and about how he’s betrayed his homeland. All that matters to him is that he can keep his court, and keep getting paid off it.
Unfortunately, Mr. President, you ain’t the king, and as Alexis de Tocqueville could have told you if you knew anything whatsoever about anything, we sure as hell ain’t in France. Unlike them, we’ve only had one republic for over two centuries now, one that survived the Confederacy, and the Nazis, and the first round with the Russians. That sacred union will not be taken down by a guy who can’t complete a sentence in his native language. Not while he’s pointlessly sabotaging himself at literally every opportunity… and, Comey just said that Trump asked him to end the Flynn investigation just as I posted this. No one has ever had less of a clue than this person, and he’s the most powerful man on Earth.
Seriously, at this point, I feel like he couldn’t answer a basic question about construction. Like maybe he’d rattle off some random bullshit about concrete, but you could tell he didn’t really get what he was saying.