Socratic Wonder, Surrounded, The GOAT, Of Destiny and Men, Houses & Titles, Mr. Market, Objective Reality, Showtime
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
White House, Washington DC
March 23, 2020
Donald J. Trump –45th President of the United States and the greatest, smartest man who ever lived– was confused. He had called on the young brunette reporter (whom he’d always assigned to sit up front) in the press room because she had high cheekbones, flawless skin, and appeared Eastern European. But now she was asking him a question, one he was having trouble wrapping his tremendous and immense intellect around.
“Mr. President,” Ellen Pool of MSNBC repeated, “has your administration been only dispensing the national stockpile of ventilators to governors of Republican states? How do you respond to these allegations?”
Trump stared, his incredibly intelligent face befuddled. “Is that a problem?” he asked, incredulous he was being asked such a moronic question.
A flurry of photographer bulbs flashed. The White House correspondents exchanged glances, weary.
“Well,” Pool continued, resigned, “some would say such discriminatory distribution is unamerican and maybe even… illegal? Amidst a national crisis with thousands of Americans dying every day…”
Trump waved his hands dismissively. “Look, Ellen. There’s only so many to go around. And some of those states have been honestly very mean to me. Like, very mean. I mean, they never even voted for me, see? Of course, I love all my citizens– they’re all my children. And like any parent will tell you with children– some are first among equals, right? Those who like me, who vote for me– they get help first. Those that don’t, well, they get help… eventually. Next question. Bill from Fake News CNN? What you got?”
Bill Wall of CNN grimaced. Are we living in a tragedy? No. Surely, this must be a comedy.
“Uh, Mr. President, Sir,” said Wall, “there are reports that you’ll block the next stimulus bill that Congress is currently working to pass, if there’s a provision to allow Americans to vote by mail. Is this true?”
Trump stared at Bill Wall of Fake News CNN like the idiot Bill was. God, it was exhausting having to explain to these morons all the time.
“Bill, you’re a smart guy, right? Or at least of average smartness? So, here, I’ll draw it in crayon, just for you– if it’s too easy to vote, then all the poor people –most of whom, democrats (not on my team in case you somehow missed that)– well, they would vote! It would be the end of Republican rule in this country! Jesus, why are you so thick?” Trump shook his head. “Imbeciles, the whole lot of you.”
After the presser, Trump was relieved to finally extricate himself from the briefing mess. The reporters were all savages. Out to discredit him at every turn! Couldn’t those simpletons see that he was trying to calm the country? So what if facts were a tad varnished? Facts, smacts. You think 70-year-old Aunt Dolores holed up in her attic in Palm Springs with the front door barricaded is looking for facts? Good lord. People want to be comforted in times of crisis! People were already dropping dead all over with hospitals filling past capacity. There was no point in further sowing fear among the masses. Trump grimaced to himself; Lord knew they needed the sheeple now more than ever– who else would be working the gas pumps and drive-through windows?
From the Press Briefing room, he made his way to the Roosevelt Room where Steve, JP, Tony, and Larry would already be waiting for him. As he walked the hallowed halls of the White House, Trump couldn’t help but feel his own chest swell with pride. From his expert knowledge of history, he knew that exactly 220 years ago, Thomas Jefferson walked through this very same hall*–* Thomas Jefferson! Even now, three years in, there was a part of him that still couldn’t believe he’d pulled it off. Vanquished senators, governors, and, hell, even a Secretary of State. Though he certainly took a certain smug satisfaction at having defeated Hilary, she was most definitely, unequivocally, the most arrogant and transparently condescending sob (dob?) he’d ever met. Well, he’d certainly showed all the nonbelievers and naysayers! Ha! Because his mind was a steel trap with photographic memory, the words of Gandhi (a genuine GOAT if there ever were one, Trump had to admit) floated through his brain:
It was as undeniable as it was indisputable: Man doesn’t choose his destiny. Destiny chooses the man. Donald J. Trump, Mensa-level septuagenarian, was destined for this singular moment in American history.
Only he, and he alone, could deliver the nation to salvation in its darkest hour.
Trump threw open the French doors of the Roosevelt Room like Columbus stepping off the Santa Maria.
“Alright, people. Answers. What do you got for me?”
In his 79th year, and being the only person in the room older than the President, Anthony Fauci turned his chair. He’d meticulously prepared a series of color-coded binders and a comprehensive 17-point plan for America’s recovery from COVID-19. Having served for over 50 years in public health, and every president since Ronald Reagan, Fauci was largely considered to be the foremost authority in the world on infectious diseases.
“Sir,” Fauci began, “we’ve been reviewing hospital cases from New York, Seattle, and Chicago. And we believe that the infection rate–“
“Yeah, fuck that,” interrupted Trump, waving his hand. “What I really care about is the stock market. Steve? You’re up.”
“Right,” Steve Mnuchin stood from behind the mahogany conference table to address the room. A former 17-year veteran of Goldman Sachs and its one-time CIO, Mnuchin held the sole distinction in the room to be the only man who’d been married as many times as Trump (thrice).
“So Jay and I have been pouring over the books all night,” said Mnuchin, “and we think we’ve figured it out.”
“That’s good,” said Trump. “Because you’re essentially fired if you haven’t.” Trump held up a copy of that morning’s USA Today: “All Dow Gains Since Trump’s Inaugural Wiped Out.“ blared the headline.
Mnuchin wiped his brow. “Right, Sir. Well, we’re pretty sure Jay and I here can essentially just print infinite money to solve the problem.”
Trump raised an eyebrow. “Unless you know something that I don’t, money cures the disease?”
“Well, no, of course not,” interjected Powell. “But you asked about the markets. And the virus isn’t what’s causing the Dow to tank. Frankly, tens of thousands of people die a day from car accidents, the flu, gun violence, and that never stirs the pot. Markets don’t care about people dying. We could be seeing Pol Pot death march numbers right now and markets wouldn’t bat an eyelash.”
Trump furrowed his brow in deep contemplation, his cognitive genius-level gears spinning away. The room waited.
“Okay, yeah,” he finally said. “That makes total sense. So what next then?” Trump held up again the USA Today— “How do we fix this?”
Jerome Powell, the man who would go down in history as the face who launched a thousand memes, pushed his black-framed glassed up from his nose. “Certainty, Sir. Certainty is what will save these markets. If you give a firm roadmap of what’ll happen in the next three quarters, it won’t matter what unemployment, death tolls, or business closures are. The Dow’s already lost nearly 40% of its value— everyone’s essentially already priced in economic Armageddon because, they rightfully so, didn’t know what was coming. So all we need to do now is meet or exceed expectations every week, and you’ll get your rocket ride.”
Mnuchin chimed in. “President, Sir, with all due respect, you’ve gotta listen to me on this. In my storied career, I’ve worked with Nobel Laureates, rocket scientists, and world-renown economists. My father worked on Wall Street and his father before that, for the House of Mnuchin hails from a long lineage of Lords of High Finance. So let me save you time and simply summarize how modern markets work:
- Phase 1: A game of musical chairs where stocks go ever higher.
- Phase 2: Some kinda catalyst brings everything crashing down. Sometimes, not even that serious. But something needs to conveniently appear plausible that can be retconned into the timeline. Then repeat phase 1.
Trump frowned. “So musical chairs, music stops, crash, and then musical chairs again?”
“Essentially, yes,” said Powell. “That’s what they taught us at Georgetown too.”
Mnuchin continued, “Mr. Market basically craves a narrative; it needs a story. And the story needs to be just plausible enough to make it seem like it’s based in some modicum of reality. But really, the price action’s already all written beforehand. It’s just a matter of weaving some Michael Bay-level storytelling to lacquer on veneer. If we find a way to give some Potemkin semblance of reality, we’ve got this in the bag.”
Trump nodded slowly, “Yes, yes, I see… continue…”
Fauci, who’d been listening to the entire conversation with ever-increasing disbelief, appeared completely baffled. There was now enough suspension of disbelief in his mighty medical brain to hold up the Brooklyn Bridge. The sheer utter insanity overwhelmed his poor 79-year old brain and a synaptic circuit breaker jumped somewhere. Fauci exploded to his feet, able to contain himself no longer.
“But what about data?” implored Fauci, clasping his hands, his eyes wide and pleading. “What about science? How can you make a roadmap when we don’t even know anything yet?”
Mnuchin glanced over at the 79-year old doctor with a look that almost approached the outer limits of some mix between empathy and pity. Since he’d been immersed in finance and politics his entire life, Mnuchin sometimes forgot that he –Steven Terner Mnuchin, Second of his Name, Savior of Capitalism for the Poor and Socialism for the Rich– was indeed privileged and so very fortunate. There were endless other hardworking folk, like Dr. Fauci, out in the world who simply never knew, and would never know, the objective reality of how the world worked. It was sad, but necessary, or course. The one-percent was, by definition, the one-percent for good reason. If everyone knew what the one-percent knew, then there would be no one-percent.
“My good doctor,” said Mnuchin gently, “you should most certainly proceed with your fact findings. But put simply– whatever inconvenient information you may discover, we will simply shrug off as ‘priced in’– and then whatever other catalysts we require to dictate price action, we shall cherry-pick to advantage our agenda. We shall shape the perception to create the reality.”
“So our challenge now,” said Powell, “is to provide that roadmap. We need to give ankle-height expectations that we can then meet or slightly exceed. This is the way.”
“So, it’s all just one big show?” said Trump, looking thoughtful. “One big farce?”
“Just one giant circus searching for a Ringmaster, Sir,” said Mnuchin solemnly.
And at that very moment, the dark grey clouds which had hung over DC the entire morning and afternoon parted— a great white light shone down from the heavens, flooding the Roosevelt Room with brightness and warmth. It was right then and there that Trump suddenly knew with absolute clarity his purpose in life; why he of all people, was put on this little blue planet at this exact, precise moment in time.
For the first time in weeks, Trump grinned ear to ear. It was showtime.