The fictive phenomenon of the mercurial Donald Trump, a plausible candidate for removal from the presidency through the 25th Amendment, is best captured by works of fiction than by jounalism.
Two novels increasingly mentioned in this regard are Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Herman Wouk’s 1951 novel tells of a group of Navy officers who remove from command of the minesweeper Caine its volatile, erratic Captain Queeg. Played in the subsequent movie by Humphrey Bogart, Queeg nervously spins a pair of ball bearings in his hand while obsessing about his stolen strawberries.
A little known fact is that the 25th Amendment was itself fashioned after the book. John Sutherland, a Harvard adviser to the US House Judiciary Committee drafting the Amendment in 1956, stayed up all the night before reading ‘The Caine Mutiny.” Emmanuel Celler, the chairman of the committee, who eventually drafted the 25th Amendment with Sen. Birch Bayh, agreed that the book provided “an excellent analogy”.
Lately, Trump’s narcissistic obsession with his wall on the southern border is best exemplified by another fictional captain, Ahab, in Melville’s Moby Dick. The book’s narrator Ishmael, in the very first chapter, refers to “the deeper meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting … image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned.” Captain Ahab, similarly, sacrifices all and everyone in his vengeful quest for the white whale, projecting his own malice on this dumb beast.
His self-delusion, notes Ishmael, “is the key to it all”: … “the image of the ungraspable phantom of life,” through which Narcissus, and also Ahab, constructs an ideal self-image and an alternative reality, a redemption from from impotence and insignificance.
How to explain Trump’s wall and its overpowering, malicious meaninglessness? Later in the book, Ahab asks, “How can the prisoner [himself] reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall … Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it… Talk not to me of blasphemy …; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me … Who’s over me? [Trump’s] Truth hath no confines.”