“This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle”—
Thus, Ulysses (from Tennyson). No wuss
Was this princeling, but full of care and wile;
A stern-browed Ithacan (not treasonous),
Who recognized that stringency and guile
(Not dodgy courtiers from hostile nations)
Work best in furthering one’s aspirations.
Together U & T hosed down the place
Of loutish, lazy, good-for-nothing sons.
The ineffectual suitors, lacking grace,
Had hung out there for years, consuming tons
Of food and wine and time. These wastes of space
Were quickly flushed away to everyone’s
Relief. Sometimes you’ll find the worthless scion
Is tempered best when tickled with hot iron.
Indulgence is the father to this man,
His family, he pouts, is “quality.”
What each day is revealing is his clan
Has no more dignity or decency
Than père. The only difference I can
Discern is that they don’t appear to be
As desperate as father for attention,
Perhaps because he pays them a subvention.
When I hear of a family of grifters,
I think of card-sharks or someone’s ex-spouse;
Of welfare slackers, inbred white-trash drifters,
Or Mr. Skimpole sponging in Bleak House.
Of course, all families contain shoplifters,
Dropouts, perverts, and mandatory souse,
That said, it’s rare to find a group this cozy
Or dozy emulating Mafiosi.
At least the bloody Medicis had taste;
The English monarchs patronized the Poet.
The Julio-Claudians weren’t all debased,
And while John Adams’ progeny did blow it,
And Billy, Neil, Roger, et al. disgraced
Their brothers, they at least had sense to show it
Mattered that bad behavior’s repercussions
Should not mean selling us out to the Russians.
Lo, what is this we find? The first-born, Don,
Thought it would be a wizard plan to meet
With Putin flacks to set his paws upon
Some dish on Hillary. And to complete
The party? Jared Kushner, Putin’s spawn
Paul Manafort, and a lengthening sheet
Of scuzzballs. Now we see claims of collusion
Aren’t just a liberal nighttime effusion.
This Don is the same dude who loves to shoot
Whatever threatened or endangered beast
Wanders into his sights. The big galoot
Runs his pa’s business, which means at the least
Should he and Eric prove less than astute
(A fair bet at the moment), then the greased
Duo will be themselves under the gun—
Something, for once, they won’t find so much fun!
For evidently Mueller’s closing in
On where the filthy lucre in this affair
Is found. Even ten rinse cycles of spin
Won’t launder all the cash the Russian bear
Has dumped into his real estate. No “win”
Or even drummed-up international “scare”
Will cover up the fact from the word “Go”
He’s been bought and propped up by Russian dough.
That’s why he has withheld his tax releases,
That’s why he fluffs up his bromance with Vlad;
That’s why he’ll let the US fall to pieces
Rather than stiff these clients. His comrade
And cronies have unloaded piles of feces
Upon their greatest fan. Our Stalingrad
Will happen when, at the appropriate minute,
Vlad flips the switch and we are buried in it.
To stop this shit storm, what did Don propose
To stink-proof some of the executive suite?
Did Junior even feign to hold his nose
As he ceded Ukraine, said they’d defeat
The sanctions, or adopt the quid pro quos
That Russia wanted? And what coded tweet
Or speech did Pops give to let his Vlad know
That it was clear who really ran the show?
What’s so unusual in this concern
Is that it isn’t sleuths or great reporting
That’s lending us these insights. What we learn
Does not emerge from haggard journos sorting
Through trashcans, or a much-abused intern.
No DC madam or sting with coke-snorting
Is causing forty-five to come a cropper:
It’s coming from within the White House proper.
Are junior staffers huddling in nooks
Lowering their tones as the boss walks by?
Are they scribbling down notes so that their books
Will capture the dysfunction? Do they lie
To please him or avoid the dirty looks
Of other liars? When the FBI
Hauls them to court will they stick to their brief,
Or tell you they were mimicking the chief?
Of this we can be sure: this nest of vipers
Has poisoned government for a decade.
You huddle by your desk for fear that snipers
Will pick you off, that any random aide
Will throw you to the wolves: being one-stripers
Is thankless when you’re regularly betrayed.
Who’d work in that place even for a week,
When all you hold dear is undone by pique?
You think about it: what tiny action
For good could be achieved when day by day
You’re undermined? Each project has no traction
Because you can’t plan out a play-by-play
Without him wrecking it. Meanwhile, each faction
Pits you against your colleagues—what they say
About you ends up in the press. Each morning
Should be prefaced with a government warning.
Sean Spicer (RIP) detests “The Mooch,”
Who really wants to be the Chief of Staff.
Reince Priebus thinks the old man’s latest pooch
Is a mere showboat and good for a laugh.
Jared-Ivanka love his coif and smooch—
And pater’s happy. Plus, on their behalf,
If they can piss off Bannon, then it’s more
Likely that Daddy will show him the door.
There’s old Jeff Sessions with the dunce’s hat,
Because he did not do what he desired.
And Sarah Sanders will hear that she’s fat:
His way of telling women that they’re fired.
The whole crew will soon end up a doormat
On which he wipes his feet when he grows tired
Of them obeying rules, laws, inner compasses,
Instead of diving into endless rumpuses.
You wouldn’t know this White House has got “weeks”
To focus on issues and policies.
The reason is outbursts and frequent leaks
Consume the media’s analyses
And renders them quite pointless. Such bespeaks
His weird impairment, a tic or disease
That lets you sabotage all you hold dear
As if success is that which you most fear.
I never glimpse a genuine concession
To joy or pleasure, just obnoxious gloating.
I never get an inkling or impression
That he likes something for its sake—like floating
On air or oceanic bliss. Aggression,
Derision, shtick, and bunkum before doting
Admirers seem to be all that he needs:
Sucking the lifeblood out of which he feeds.
All that remains is but a hollow shell,
A fractured carapace for president.
He doesn’t make you trust all will be well
If we believed in him. Instead, ferment
And hatred, twenty-seven kinds of hell
Ensue from each obnoxious tweet he’s sent.
He’s not struggling against another foe.
It’s simple: He’s the fons et origo.
Consider that last month he spoke before
Thousands of boy scouts at their jamboree.
He could have eulogized esprit de corps,
Steadfastness, discipline, fidelity;
Hailed sacrifice and usefulness—the lore
That boy scouts live by. No, his repartee
Was like an adult roast without restraint,
Full not of motivation but complaint.
Still harping on crowds at the Inauguration,
Lamenting how the health-care bill is stalled,
Threatening folks in his administration,
Railing again at “fake news,” he recalled
How he won (state by state) throughout the nation.
Then he held all the teenagers enthralled
As he recounted how a billionaire
Bought a big boat to hold his “parties” there.
Perhaps he thought the lads would find the swingers
And moneybaggers figures to admire.
Or had in mind that such ribald humdingers
Would light under these lusty youths a fire
And turn them into debt-laden right-wingers:
Rich wise guys with a babe whom they can hire
To decorate the prow and mix the drinks,
Or guard the rugrats while they hit the links.
He thanked the children for their votes, and told them
They could sing “Merry Christmas,” once again.
He criticized Obama, and then sold them
His tax repatriation plan; made plain
He thought DC a “sewer,” and cajoled them
To promise they’d not let their mojo wane.
In sum, the only point of his address
Was to convince himself of his success.
Maybe he thought teen boys would understand
The fear of flagging powers, need to win.
Or that he hoped the scouts would lend a hand
And help this pensioner through thick and thin.
Perhaps, like all he does, nothing was planned
And his neuroses bled through his bronzed skin
Onto the tens of thousands ranked below
Who knew that, at the least, they’d catch a show.
And, in the end, are we not entertained?
The drama, hissy fits, unchecked compulsion,
Potemkin signings, morning rants, harebrained
Ideas, and veneering and emulsion
From mandarins and pundits, have retrained
Our sense of wrong, relaxing our revulsion
By turning abnormality quotidian
And painting self-reflection deep obsidian.
It feels like things are coming to a head.
(I am aware that the much-yearned-for end
Has been deferred and many tears been shed
At thoughts this presidency may extend
To a full term, and further.) So, I tread
With caution when my thesis I defend:
I cannot think this can go on much more
Without him simply blowing up the store.
He clearly wants Jeff Sessions to resign.
He urgently hopes Bob Mueller will cease.
You sense he’s itching to can Rosenstein
If only to acquire a moment’s peace.
“I s’pose,” he thinks, “it would be asinine
To do any of these, lest they release
A crisis that I simply won’t survive.”
These are some of the thoughts of forty-five.
“Now hold on,” he replies, “if Sessions goes
I’ll employ Giuliani—he’s my chum.
Instead of weak-willed Price and his bozos
I could get Newt. He’d love to stick his thumb
In Ryan’s eyes, McConnell’s face. Just shows:
Go with the bruisers who can ruck and scrum.
They love me and they’ll never let me down,
Not like the GOP in this dumb town.”
Can you imagine? How would this enhance
The GOP among the younger set?
What image would it mold or cause advance
Except to make millennials regret
That they’d survived to see this day. Fat chance
That either nominee would pass. And yet,
He’d name Ted Cruz for AG, as a wheeze,
To have him beg for favors on his knees.
Given this crisis, Democrats’ chief tenet
Should in the midterms in twenty-eighteen
Be to win back the House and/or the Senate
And not take anything as read. We’ve seen
What haughty smugness does for parties—when it
Demands a sharp and principled machine
To send as many people to the polls
And wrest back at least one of the controls.
Let’s not be coy about this. Self-protection
Is all he cares about. If he must drag
Congress along the floor as misdirection
Then he won’t hesitate. If a false flag
Is needed, he will raise it. No abjection
Is too much; each supporter’s body bag
Is waiting to be zipped if they assent
To this ask: “Will you serve the president?”