Politics & Policy

Trump Snubs D.C. as Millions Cheer

NYPD counter-terrorism officers outside Trump Tower, November 7, 2016. (Reuters photo: Andrew Kelly)
Downgrading Washington’s importance is one of the few good ideas Trump has had.

I do not agree with Donald Trump about much of anything. Early in the primary season, I wrote a little book titled “The Case against Trump.” I believe him to be morally unfit and intellectually unprepared for the office to which he has been elected. Which is why one of the most annoying of my tasks for the next four (one assumes!) years is going to be pointing out that while Trump may not be right about very much, his critics often are wrong.

Example A: Trump apparently does not want to live in Washington, and this has inspired a chorus of discord and dissonance to rival the oeuvre of Yoko Ono.

There is no particular reason for Trump to live full-time in Washington. Washington is a dump, one of the least attractive and least inspiring American cities. Trump Tower is a dump, too, a big vertical void in the middle of one of the least interesting parts of Manhattan, but Trump apparently likes it, and he has gone to the trouble of gold-plating his toilets, which you do not do unless you are really planning to plant yourself in place.

Trump’s hesitation to set up housekeeping in our nation’s hideous capital is not causing klaxons of alarum because people are concerned about good government. A nation genuinely concerned about good government would not have entrusted its chief administrative post to Donald J. Trump, a frequently bankrupt casino operator and game-show host. Rather, this is about Trump’s implicit declaration — one shared by his enthusiasts — that Washington is not the most important American city, much less the center of the world, which is where Washingtonians often mistakenly believe themselves to be.

RELATED: Splendid Washington: Our Nation’s Capital Is Too Rich

About that much we can agree. National Review has kept its headquarters in New York for much the same reason: Politics should not be the central activity in our lives, or even in our shared public life, and consequently the political capital should be subordinate to the financial and cultural capitals. (Also, I suspect that while William F. Buckley Jr. was one of the most persuasive men of his generation, he’d have had an impossible time convincing his wife to live in Washington, even if he had thought it necessary.) Washington may desire to dominate our lives, but that desire can and should be resisted.

Trump, with his airplanes and helicopters, probably would inconvenience the general public a good deal less with whatever commute he comes up with than does Joe Biden’s risible regular-guy act on Amtrak. When Regular Guy Joe takes the train from Wilmington to Washington, they clear out half a car for his use — Biden himself sits stock still, looking frail and terrified — while teams of Secret Service agents are dispatched to each and every stop along the way to swarm the vice-presidential car and prevent any incursions from the plebs. At the end of the journey, the Amtrak riders are kept on the train — at gunpoint — until Regular Guy Joe has cleared the platform, which can take a while. Do they have places to be and schedules to keep? Of course they do, but the Cult of the Imperial Presidency extends to the Semi-Divine Vice Presidency and its odd, pseudo-democratic rituals.

Politics should not be the central activity in our lives, or even in our shared public life, and consequently the political capital should be subordinate to the financial and cultural capitals.

If Trump prefers to conduct his business via technological means rather than face-to-face, I am confident that the gentlemen over at the NSA can configure his Twitter account in a secure fashion, or at least one that is more secure than the e-mail system used by our beloved former secretary of state.

He will have to be in Washington from time to time, and there is some question about how best to get him there. A thought: There is a great deal of hideous, horrifying, dispiriting, un-American, and un-republican architecture in the central part of Washington. If we need to build a little landing strip to accommodate Trump’s airplane, there are plenty of buildings that could be knocked down to accommodate it. That’s one way to head off those god-awful presidential motorcades — one part Barnum & Bailey Circus, one part Roman triumph — that shut down the nation’s capital and any other place the president visits. Or he could simply helicopter point-to-point, though that would rob us of the excuse to tear down a lot of ugly buildings in Washington.

#related#If Donald Trump’s choice of domicile is an insult to Washington, that isn’t an accident: Donald Trump’s election as president of these United States was an insult to Washington, intended as such by the disaffected Republicans and gobsmacked rage-monkeys who lined up behind him. And that’s all to the good: God knows Washington deserves the insult.

Whether Trump can manage to be anything more than an insult remains to be seen. But his slighting of the capital city and its self-important residents is an excellent gesture in the right direction.


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