Assertive Women Drive Lear, Trump Mad

William Holmes Sullivan, “King Lear”


Last week I wrote about Shakespeare’s use of the insult that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un hurled at Donald Trump. Today I turn once again to King Lear for another loaded term, this one hurled by Trump himself. The word is “ingrate.”

In his continuing battle with San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who refused to tell him what a great job he is doing, Trump tweeted,

We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates, people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great Military. All buildings now inspected for safety.

This was a follow-up to a previous tweet storm, where he made clear who this “politically motivated ingrate” was:

The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.

Puerto Rico’s buildings have not, in fact, been inspected, and while FEMA and the U.S. military are indeed working hard, the rescue effort is still a mess, in large part because of the White House’s delayed response. But forget about the facts on the ground. As revealed again in his Puerto Rico remarks yesterday, Trump really wants everyone to tell him what a good job he is doing. The Washington Post had the story:

President Trump arrived in Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the territory struggled to recover from Hurricane Maria, which has left nearly all the island without power and most residents without water nearly two weeks later.

But Trump’s focus was on the “unbelievable” and “incredible” job that his administration has done so far. He repeatedly played down the destruction to the island, telling local officials they should feel “very proud” they ­haven’t lost hundreds of lives like in “a real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in 2005. But he also complained that the small territory’s disaster threw the nation’s budget “a little out of whack.”


Soon after arriving, he turned what was supposed to be a private briefing on relief efforts into a televised pep talk, praising members of his administration and the military for their long hours responding to several hurricanes over the past 43 days. He uttered “great” 10 times and used “incredible” and “amazing” seven times each.

At one point, Trump asked the island’s representative to Congress, Jenniffer González-Colón, to repeat some of the “nice things” she had said in televised interviews.

Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, commenting on “ingrate,” observed:

Next Trump will be quoting King Lear: “All the stor’d vengeances of heaven fall On her ingrateful top!” –Act 2, Scene 4, 134

Responding to another tweet, Kristol pointed out Trump’s image of himself as a ruler bestowing favors. Here’s Trump’s original tweet:

Because of #FakeNews my people are not getting the credit they deserve for doing a great job. As seen here, they are ALL doing a GREAT JOB!

Of course, Trump is really saying, “I am not getting the credit I deserve.” Kristol replied,

“My people?” They are not your people. This is not a third-world personal dictatorship.

Kristol is smart to invoke King Lear, who is guilty of similar narcissism. Lear gives away his kingdom, not because he is generous, but because he wants his daughters to make extravagant avowals of love. Like Trump, he is desperate for their words, insincere though they are. He is a small, insecure man.

After the power transfer, he is horrified that they no longer suck up to him. His anger knows no bounds, and he accuses Goneril of ingratitude in the speech Kristol references:

She hath abated me of half my train;
Look’d black upon me; struck me with her tongue,
Most serpent-like, upon the very heart:
All the stored vengeances of heaven fall
On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
You taking airs, with lameness!

The attack sounds a lot like that directed against Cruz and against other women who have stood up to him, like Hillary Clinton, Megan Kelly, and Elizabeth Warren. Have they, like Goneril and Regan, sent him into genuine madness? The Lear parallels grow stronger every day.

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