A twitter user had a devastating literary putdown of the president when he journeyed to California to assess the wildfires, which have claimed the lives of scores if not hundreds. Rather than empathize, Donald Trump once again chose to cast blame:
You gotta take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important… I was with the President of Finland… he called it a forest nation and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don’t have any problem.
To which David Rothkpf responded,
Chance the Gardener
Chance, of course, is the protagonist of Jerzy Kosinski’s political satire Being There. I’ve compared Trump to Chance in the past (here’s the link), but Trump’s recent response cements the parallel.
Suddenly thrust into the real world when his employer and guardian dies, low IQ Chance can only apply gardening metaphors to the situations he encounters. Although there is no there there, people regard his gardening observations as profound analogies for the state of the economy and the country. These perceived analogies seem brilliant because they confirm them in their own opinions:
“In a garden,” he said, “growth has its season. There are spring and summer, but there are also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again. As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well.” He raised his eyes. Rand [his host] was looking at him, nodding. The President seemed quite pleased.
“I must admit, Mr. Gardiner,” the President said, “that what you’ve just said is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.”
In other words, they see in Chance what they want to see and reward him for it. Which is pretty much how Trump got elected.
Chance has one other ability that helps him negotiate the world: he has spent so much time watching television (his only other activity) that he can channel the most effective response to questions:
Thinking that he ought to show a keen interest in what EE was saying, Chance resorted to repeating to her parts of her own sentences, a practice he had observed on TV. In this fashion he encouraged her to continue and elaborate. Each time Chance repeated EE’s words, she brightened and looked more confident. In fact, she became so at ease that she began to punctuate her speech by touching, now his shoulder, now his arm. Her words seemed to float inside his head; he observed her as if she were on television.
By the end of the novel, he’s on his way to becoming vice president.
Unlike Americans in the book, however, most Americans in real life—certainly most Californians—see Trump as an idiot playing at forest ranger. Then again, he didn’t go to California to address Californians.
For the record, Finland’s president said he didn’t tell Trump that Finland rakes its forest floors. In point of fact, Finland’s forest management is aided by something California lacks: plenty of rain.