We will view the presidents remake of Gladiator, the Oscar-winning tale of a debauched and self-venerating Roman emperor
Donald Trump won the presidency but never scored an Emmy for the Apprentice despite 15 seasons and 192 episodes. Come this Independence Day, however, the president will star in a movie of his own making.
On the Fourth of July, the president will produce and take center stage in his own remake of Gladiator, Ridley Scotts Academy Award-winning tale of a debauched and self-venerating Roman emperor. Broadcast and filmed before a live audience from the Lincoln Memorial, Trumps extravaganza looms as a cinematic production befitting his politics and persona.
Complete with tanks, accompanied by military flyovers, and flanked by the service branches brass, Trump will seek to honor himself as he ostensibly pays tribute to the American republic and the anniversary of our cord-cutting from England. Commodus, the affection-deprived despot of Scotts 2000 epic, would most certainly be envious.
Its not every day that Americans get to see mothballed Sherman tanks sitting under the 16th presidents marble gaze or Americas military forced to act as props for the commander-in-chief. Kim Jong-un, will you be watching?
For the record, James Mattis, Trumps last non-acting defense secretary, and John Kelly, his last non-acting chief of staff, both retired generals, had their fill of their bone-spur afflicted and draft-dodging former boss. Or as a now former White House official told me at the time, Mattis was not grateful.
To be sure, the US honors its soldiers and their victories. In the aftermath of the civil war, the first world war, the second world war, and the Gulf war, the country threw deserved celebrations, our soldiers rightly marched in our streets. As for a show of force for its own sake, however, that is a different story.
Dwight Eisenhower, the general who led the way in the second world war and served as our 34th president, took a dim view of military parades for their own sake. As the historian Michael Beschloss observed, Eisenhower saw America as the worlds pre-eminent power and believed that imitating the Soviets would make us look weak.
Not according to this president or his political allies. As in the movie Gladiator, proximity to power can be warping. Take Newt Gingrich, the disgraced former speaker of the House, for example.
With Callista, his third wife, ensconced in Rome as ambassador to the Vatican, Gingrich called opponents of Trumps planned extravaganza idiots. In Gingrichs own words, Other than the fact they have to pay to fix the streets, who cares? But back in the day, Gingrich sounded nothing like that.
During the Clinton presidency Gingrich fancied himself as the second coming of William Pitt, the 18th-century British prime minister, and backed impeaching Clinton for obstruction of justice. When Barack Obama lived in the White House, Gingrich intimated that Obama was King John reborn, the monarch brought to heel at Runnymede.
Still, for Trump himself, pomp, circumstance and self-worship should come as no surprise. To quote an early Trump backer and a major player in New York real estate shortly after Trumps inauguration: We dont have a president, we have a king.
Not exactly. The kings of yore were subject to few checks from the bench, and Trumps record with the judiciary has been mixed. Although he jammed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh through Senate confirmation, the courts still vigorously push back. Still, after the G20 summit, it is clear that Trump hankers for a dynasty and sees himself as sitting atop a royal household.
Last week, the supreme court blocked Trumps census question and a federal court ruled that Trumps bypassing Congress to pay for his big and beautiful border wall was unconstitutional. This spring, another federal court held that a congressional subpoena reached documents held by Trumps personal accountants. As the appellate brief filed in the ongoing appeal by the House framed things: The fact that Mr. Trump dislikes the Oversight Committees investigations is no basis for this Court to reverse the district courts well-reasoned judgment.
Perhaps not. But this is the same President Trump who also threatened a Time magazine photographer with prison when Trump feared that he was about to snap a shot of the Korean dictators letter to the president: You can go to prison instead, because, if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you confidentially, I didnt give it to you to take photographs of it, so dont play that game with me. Prison!
Commodus would have definitely gotten into watching Trump shear the head of the WWEs Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania; nothing like bread and circuses. And by the same measure, he would have approved Trumps forthcoming national celebration. Gladiator is a movie for our times.
Happy birthday, America.