A very special man, an amazing occasion
BY GARRISON KEILLOR
The Constitution does not allow 13-year-olds to become president and after last week we can see why.
The Boy President proudly holding his latest executive order up for the cameras, to show that he knows right-side-up from upside-down. Bringing his Supreme Court nominee onstage (“So was that a surprise? Was it?”) Hanging up on the prime minister of Australia. His homage to Frederick Douglass (“someone who’s done an amazing job”) for Black History Month. Twittering about the “so-called judge” who stopped the Muslim travel ban. Pictured in full smirk at the National Prayer Breakfast, preening, bloviating (“In towns all across our land, it’s plain to see what we easily forget — so easily we forget this, that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success”) on a scale of bloviation equal to Warren G. Harding and the great gasbags of the 19th century. You think, let the man be president but please don’t put him in charge of the Weather Service or Amtrak or the TSA.
His homage to the Navy SEAL killed in the botched raid in Yemen showed off his style. He has only one, the Jerry Lewis Telethon style: “Very, very sad, but very, very beautiful. Very, very beautiful. His family was there. Incredible family, loved him so much. So devastated — he was so devastated. But the ceremony was amazing.” Bill Murray destroyed this style, so did Ray of Bob & Ray, Ring Lardner, H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, Mark Twain and every satirist who ever lived, and here it is, still walking around, and it will be the voice of our government for years to come.
Senate Republicans have been blessing his Cabinet appointees. They might have balked at Ben Dover for secretary of defense or Hedda Hair for secretary of state, but the nominees were fairly respectable, compared with the man who nominated them. They showed dignity. They didn’t sit before a Senate committee and talk about their great TV ratings. They tried to address the subject at hand. They didn’t say, “What an honor. So many great senators here this morning. So very very important to all of us. Beautiful people. You do incredible things. So very special.”
The National Prayer Breakfast is one of those deadly official pieties, like sand burrs that you can’t get rid of. Every elected official must now wear a flag pin; more and more public meetings now begin with the Pledge of Allegiance, grown people whose allegiance used to be assumed now required to stand and salute the flag, like obedient grade-school pupils. Why not recite the multiplication tables and the parts of speech? And then there is the official Prayer Breakfast, which shows the reason for separation of Church and State: because politicians corrupt the Church. Jesus was rough on those who pray for show, but there was the Boy President complimenting the Senate chaplain for his fine prayer, as if it were a performance.
He went on to gas about his agent and his TV show and to say that as long as we have God, we are never alone and to say that he grew up in a “churched home” and that it is faith that keeps us strong. He also announced that we are not only flesh and blood: We each have a soul.
I’d like to believe that he does have one and that we just haven’t seen it yet. I would’ve been moved if he had said a prayer at the Prayer Breakfast. A classic Christian prayer, such as “Lord God, You know that I am unworthy to be here as president. You know that I have lied and worked hard to incite fear and intolerance and to capitalize on it politically. I have seduced your believers and made myself their Great White Hope, even though I am not one of them and never was. You know that I am not capable of executing my duties as the American people deserve. Lord, I come to You in my unworthiness and shame and I ask You to take this cup from me. I wish to go to Iowa and join the Trappist monastery there and take vows of silence and poverty and learn carpentry or some other useful trade and draw nearer to You in poverty and prayer. This I pray in Your Name. Amen and Amen.”
Had he been in the Spirit, he would’ve said that. But there will be more opportunities to come.
Keillor is former host of public radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”