There are many compelling reasons why a reasonable person might not want to be President of the United States. The hours and stress and travel are crushing, because the broader responsibility of the job is so crushing. What a president can or cannot actually do to alter the broader course of things is a bigger and bleaker question, but a president must generally at least be present for the various functions and ceremonial duties that comprise the job’s public-facing aspects, and that in itself is a lot.
The actual work that the job requires is, for better and worse, mostly invisible in the moment, or anyway most clearly visible only much further downstream. The rest of us are always guessing about stuff like this, but it seems likely that the fact that none of the work a president does ever stays secret is another thing that ages the office’s inhabitants. A decision that seems dry and legalistic will be made without fanfare and pass without notice until it shows up in the water table, first in trace amounts and then toxic ones. Another decision that seems abstract because the numbers and problems involved are so large, and which is spun as pragmatic and commonsensical in the moment, reveals itself as something very different and much more dangerous years down the line, in the streets.
Even bearing in mind the monomania and tremendous personal grandiosity required of people that pursue the office, and leaving aside the non-negotiable logistical drain of the traveling and waving and meeting-taking and speech-making that adds up to the public performance of the job, this is all a lot to think about. For all the reasons a reasonable person might not want to sit atop a wobbling and unlovable empire, making decisions that send sweeping waves of suffering outward through the entire world, a really good one is that it just seems really fucking stressful. I can again only guess that this is part of why reasonable people tend not to seek the office. Overseeing and intermittently or accidentally authoring all that suffering is not something that a normal person would want to do.
And so, to guess again, we can only imagine how heavily this heaviest of jobs has weighed on Donald Trump, who is surely the most normal man ever to occupy the office. It’s true that outwardly Trump appears to do virtually no work at all beyond Monitoring News Coverage and dribbling out a thin stream of vinegary tweets recapping what he sees there in demented germanic capitalization. It’s also true that the man himself, from his days as the most neediest lordling in New York City real estate to his later incarnation as a professional Twitter grouch, has never evinced caring at all about the suffering of any other living person or even appeared concerned about any question beyond would this impress Paula Abdul. All of this is true and has been true for a long time, but none of it really insulates him the way that it used to. There are whole television channels dedicated to talking about how handsome and kind he is, but somewhere and somehow a troublesome notion has penetrated his defenses—he knows he is failing, has no ideas on how he might stop, and has to at least suspect that Paula Abdul has noticed.
Trump is transparently not up to the actual work of the job, which has paradoxically or not been the closest thing his presidency has to a saving grace; the man himself is a teetering, sopping-wet stack of stupendously cheesy vices and past-due debts, but his forgetfulness and best-in-class distractibility have at least kept him from focusing on making things worse. The best-case scenario is still awful: he watches TV and tweets and that’s it, and it’s all terribly distasteful but at the very least silo’ed by the marble in which he’s encased itself. He can be left there indefinitely, if also sometimes rolled out for those ceremonial duties. Those he will fuck up in hilarious ways, because the man has no idea how to do even simple things. He has never done those simple things and is too stubborn and checked-out and incurious to learn them; all he has done is golf and gossip and complain and sometimes shake rich people’s hands for decades now, and so these things are not simple at all to him.
For instance, here’s our guy doing what is easily one of the easiest things a president is asked to do: flip a coin before the kickoff of the annual Army-Navy football game. Good luck, buddy!
If you looked at the picture atop this post, you already know that our big boy did not do a good job. You have seen that he served the coin up into the air like a dang pizza pie—that he did not flip the coin so much as he tossed it. The video reveals that he added some Trumpier moves to the equation, beginning with a surprise cameo from his signature Unbelievable Can You Believe This shrug and concluding with the Trump classic Mystery Boop, a sort of soft version of a point.
It does not seem too bold to observe that no one, no president and probably no civilian, has ever fucked up a coin toss like this. Here, for instance, is a befuddled Joe Namath botching a coin toss before the Super Bowl a few years ago. Namath is too early in his flip, clearly confused about at least a few things to do with the process, and appears also to be in the process of being eaten by something like two dozen beavers. He literally gets his coin-flip intercepted.
And yet he still at least flipped the coin! Broadway Joe did an awful job, but he did not just throw it up in the air and then helpfully point at it once it returned to earth. Here, for comparison’s sake, is what it looks like when you don’t even do that right.
All of this is honestly kind of hard to parse until you remember that this dude has almost certainly never flipped a coin before, and that he has always been both rich enough and loutish enough that no one around him would ever have pointed out that he didn’t know how to do it. A small and silly failure like this one is the work of a lifetime, both literally and figuratively; every stupid thing in Trump’s life led to this.
This is the thing that ties Trump to his more ostensibly qualified and overtly “presidential” forebears—he is brave enough to fail in horrible new ways, if only because he can’t imagine and could never believe that he might fail, let alone see that he has. He knows what no one else knows. It’s another triumph, and the proof is right there on the ground.