This Sunday four years ago — June 16, 2015 — the T-Rump took that infamous, caricature-like, narcissistic escalator ride in Trump Tower, down he glided/slithered into shameful history.
The artwork, ‘Basic Shapes,‘ by caricaturist/illustrator Chong Jit Leong (found here), so-represents the orange turd, the petulant, peevish-bloat of defiant arrogance.
Same basic shapes, from off that moving stairway down to this very day — he celebrated his 73rd birthday by hitting speed-dial for “Fox and Friends.”
In retrospect: What. The. Fuck.
What tipped me to the escalator moment was a most-interesting piece at the Guardian this afternoon on the thoughts of a few of the reporters who covered the event, which now seems like taking place a lifetime ago — although that anxious, ugly sense of batshit-crazy was well apparent in the air, most journalists on scene never, ever fully realized the danger:
“There were a few dozen people lining the area leading down to the escalator, and then there were a couple dozen downstairs where the event actually took place,” said Alana Wise, who covered the campaign launch for Reuters news agency.
“That kind of frenetic energy that we got later on,” Wise said, “it just wasn’t there.”
Trump’s misinterpretation of the number of attendees kicked off what would be a surreal afternoon, as the businessman set off on an offensive, angry speech, the nadir of which saw Trump accuse Mexico of sending “rapists” to the US.
In the days following Trump’s announcement, it emerged that the Trump campaign had paid people $50 to attend the event.
“We are looking to cast people for the event to wear T-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement,” read the casting call.
Wise, now a reporting fellow for WAMU radio’s Guns and America project, remembers it being an unusual audience.
“There were some people who lived in the building who had come down, and then there were just a lot of people just kind of from off the street who had come in to see it,” she said.
“There was a lot of just random curiosity happening.”
Charlotte Alter was far from a veteran political correspondent when she covered Trump’s launch.
In 2015 she was a junior reporter for Time magazine, keen to get involved in coverage of the presidential election.
“I, at the time, was a very junior reporter and I was based in New York. So in some ways sending me was … they were kind of throwing me a bone, I think.”
Before the speech, Trump’s fledgling campaign staff had circulated planned remarks, Alter said, but Trump quickly went off script.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said, as he claimed the country was dispatching immigrants to the US.
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us [sic]. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said, as he claimed the country was dispatching immigrants to the US. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us [sic]. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
The speech set a precedent for the freewheeling addresses Trump made throughout his campaign, and has continued to make in the White House.
“I think everyone just left there shocked,” Haddon said.
And a scene behind the scenes actually previewed the nasty, fucked-up reality of the T-Rump twilight zone:
Alter, now a national correspondent for Time, has written extensively about US politics in the past four years, but said she often thinks of that June afternoon in 2015.
“At the time — I don’t know if it’s still there — there was a Trump ice-cream parlor,” she said.
Behind the counter was a man who told Alter he was from Mexico.
Alter didn’t use him in the story, she said, uncomfortable about whether it could affect his job or immigration status, but she had “thought a lot” about him since.
“This was the speech where Trump said the thing about Mexicans as rapists. And 40ft in front of him, behind all the cameras there is a guy from Mexico, almost certainly an undocumented immigrant, scooping ice cream for Trump banana splits, wearing a hat that says Trump ice cream on it,” Alter said.
“It was just so interesting to me that literally, you know, Trump is speaking to this crowd and there are all these cameras, and then behind the cameras, behind the crowd, in his line of vision, there’s this guy standing directly in front of him, who is a perfect example of all of the sort of contradictions at work in this campaign.”
Alter’s being too nice — ‘contradictions‘ — shit, it’s the grifting, hypocritical-lying and phony-as-a-three-dollar-bill, racist-asshole bullshit he’s always spewed, only now 48 months later, the malignant influence is way-bigger, and across a much-wider playing field.
Four years ago, no one with half-a-brain would have given the T-Rump an asshole’s chance of becoming the most-powerful person on earth less than a year-and-a-half later.
I figured the escalator ride/hate speech and presidential campaign was a publicity stunt by that weird-ass TV clown from ‘The Apprentice.‘ He appeared a douche, for sure, but in the early stages I hadn’t really known those basic shapes of the T-Rump, and way-underestimated the vile.
On the escalator event, Politico also has a long read on it, with perspectives from a shitload of people, not only journalists, including this pitiful reflection from Jack O’Donnell, a former casino executive for the T-Rump:
“What was going through my mind? … I knew that I was one of a few people who knew just how profoundly unfit he was for the job.
“And I didn’t think that a lot of people really knew that.
“I had a really detailed [understanding] of this guy’s personality flaws, so to speak, his impulsive nature and all that, the lack of focus, the preparation stuff.
“He doesn’t listen to people. All qualities that I thought are really critical to anybody … I just—I knew how profoundly unfit he was.”
And here we are…