Sympathy for the Devil

Will Trump leave a note for President Biden?

1. WWTD?

Reader M.W. wrote in asking a fascinating question: Will Donald Trump follow tradition and leave a note on the Oval Office desk for Joe Biden? And if he did, what would it say?

Here’s M.W. gaming out the possibilities:

I’m 50-50 about whether he’ll continue the tradition, but if I had to choose, I’d bet that he does leave a note because his Nixonian aspect craves the acceptance of being part of an elite club that writing such private lines would signify. I’d also bet that he finds a way to taint the tradition with something sordid or stupid and probably incorrectly punctuated.

Here are some possibilities:

1) “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”—I count this as the most likely.

2) “RIGGED”—if driven by vindictiveness and bile.

3) “May you be treated, more Fairly than they treated their last PRESIDENT”—if driven by a begrudging feeling of generosity brought on by the end of his term, but is overwhelmed by a mixture of self-pity and self-aggrandizement.

4) “See you in 2024!”—I count this as the second most likely.

5) “The toughest job you’ll ever love,” "don't let them see you sweat," "keep the Faith!" or some similar lame and inapposite phrase that would reveal his shallowness.

6) A trivial piece of advice about decorating the office with BIGNESS and an eye toward branding.

7) "Trust in Nobody but, Yourself." 

8) "When you're famous, it's not just women who will let you do anything—the GOP will too!"—totally, absolutely not going to happen, but worth imagining for fun. 

9) "I have forgotten my umbrella"—haha: an inside joke for people who know about Derrida's reading of Nietzsche. 

10) “Good luck, Joe. You're a tough competitor!”—this would be the most chilling of all, because it would reveal, yet again, that Trump never grasped the principles at stake or the destruction he wrought and that for him much of it was a big LOL game, just like the rule of law. This is the third most likely, God help us.

11) "Nothing is true; everything is permitted."—again, not going to happen, but it might be the most appropriate of all. 

If this is all a Hollywood movie, that’s the note Trump slips into the Resolute desk before ambling alone down the hall to a waiting helicopter whistling to himself "pleased to meet you . . . hope you guessed my name."


On Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. we’re doing a livestream for Bulwark+ members with special guest David Frum talking about the 2020 Election Truthers. Come hang out with us.

It’s going to be lit.

2. Christian Americanism or American Christianity?

Eric Metaxas used to be what passed for an intellectual in evangelical circles. Thanks to Donald Trump he’s now known for sucker-punching people on the street and going two-fists in on Jesus Wants Trump to win:

Here’s the transcript of Metaxas’ keen political and theological insight. Keep in mind, that he’s talking about the outcome of the 2020 election:

We are going to win. Jesus is with us in this fight for liberty. There was a prayer call last night you cannot believe the prayers that are going up. This is God’s battle even more than it is our battle. God is going to do things—we’re all going to be shocked. . . .

I’d be happy to die in this fight. This is a fight for everything. God is with us.

Some questions:

In the world according to Metaxas, what will it mean if Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20?

  • Will it mean that Jesus was actually on #TeamBiden all along?

  • Or could it be that there just weren’t enough prayers going up?

  • Or that God is just waiting a little bit longer to do the shocking things?

  • Or that this particular fight isn’t actually about “everything”?

I ask because this is one of those moments where a guy is so far out on a limb that if he’s wrong, it has to cause him to reevaluate some really fundamental things in his life.

And if he doesn’t? If January 20 comes and goes and Eric Metaxas just moves on to the next thing, then it should tell you something.

It should tell you that there is no reason for anyone to ever take anything he says seriously, ever again.

We should be keeping a list of these guys.

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3. Wood Work

Typically amazing New Yorker piece about a carpenter:

Mark Ellison stood on the raw plywood floor, staring up into the gutted nineteenth-century town house. Above him, joists, beams, and electrical conduits crisscrossed in the half-light like a demented spider’s web. He still wasn’t sure how to build this thing. According to the architect’s plans, this room was to be the master bath—a cocoon of curving plaster shimmering with pinprick lights. But the ceiling made no sense. One half of it was a barrel vault, like the inside of a Roman basilica; the other half was a groin vault, like the nave of a cathedral. On paper, the rounded curves of one vault flowed smoothly into the elliptical curves of the other. But getting them to do so in three dimensions was a nightmare. “I showed the drawings to the bass player in my band,” Ellison said. “He’s a physicist, so I asked him, ‘Could you do the calculus for this?’ He said, ‘No.’ ”

Straight lines are easy, curves are hard. Most houses are just collections of boxes, Ellison says. We stack them side by side or on top of one another, like toddlers playing with blocks. Add a triangular roof and it’s done. When buildings were still made by hand, the process would yield the occasional curve—igloos, mud huts, wigwams, yurts—and master builders earned their keep with arches and domes. But flat shapes are cheaper to mass-produce, and every sawmill and factory spits them out in uniform sizes: bricks, boards, drywall, tile. It’s the tyranny of the orthogonal, Ellison says.

“I can’t do the calculus on this, either,” he added, shrugging. “But I can build it.” Ellison is a carpenter—the best carpenter in New York, by some accounts, though that hardly covers it. Depending on the job, Ellison is also a welder, a sculptor, a contractor, a cabinetmaker, an inventor, and an industrial designer. He’s a carpenter the way Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect of the great dome of the Florence Cathedral, was an engineer. He’s a man who gets hired to build impossible things.

Read the whole thing.