President Trump responds to the allegation that he demanded personal loyalty from then FBI Director James Comey:
I hardly know the man. I’m not going to say, ‘I want you to pledge allegiance.’ Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean, think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn’t make sense. No, I didn’t say that.
– President Donald Trump, June 9, 2017
Some boorishness might be expected in a well known figure thrust suddenly, unexpectedly, into a position of national leadership. Some might have expected that the disrespectful liberties taken with unwilling women would provoke lasting damage. History will show none of that. Such incidents instead have served as a portend, a quest for complete dominance characterizing every relationship.
Even taking control of ongoing investigations, manipulating them to his own purposes would never serve as a warning to the most slavishly loyal of his followers.
When a national leader, one who insists on personal loyalty above all else, even loyalty to country, meets with officials of his administration, we might expect some bowing and scraping. After all, those whose future depends on the good will of the one they serve are to be expected to heap praise upon him, to seek his blessing, to assume an attitude of worship.
There is no actual transcript of the meeting. If there ever was, it was lost to history. But there are occasional reenactments. The entire nation witnessed one theatrical performance the other day.
There were expressions of humble gratitude, humble thanks for unexpected honor:
thank you for the opportunity
For the privilege
can’t thank you enough for the privileges
an incredible privilege
great privilege you’ve given me
privileged to be here
It’s a privilege to serve
greatest privilege of my life
what an incredible honor
an honor to serve
It was a great honor
it’s an honor
an even greater honor
honor to serve
a great honor
the leadership that you’ve shown
with your direction
leading across the board
I want to congratulate you
You’re absolutely right
my hat’s off to you
Messages from the people, his people,
of their love and adoration:
The response is fabulous around the country.
excited and enthusiastic folks are
Hundreds and hundreds of people
were just so thrilled
The enthusiasm was uncontainable,
soaring into worship
It’s a joy
an honor to be your steward
It’s a new day
Finally blossoming into a climactic benediction of worshipful praise and gratitude:
We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us
A sort of deification of national leaders can be expected after they are gone: a part of traditional reverence to the past, a respectful bow toward those who once led the most powerful nation on earth.
Still, we might expect a bit of shock when an emperor proclaims himself to be a god while he is still living.
As we learn that those same leaders were then ordered to wait on him and run beside his chariot as if they were hounds, we can begin to get the full measure of the obeisance he needed, and demanded, and got.
The dominance, the demand for personal loyalty, the need for worshipful adoration, were part of his eventual downfall.
Nearly two thousand years later, Caligula is still remembered.
He will never be remembered fondly.
Note: We thank the participants in this week’s re‑enactment:
- Rex W. Tillerson
- Steven Mnuchin
- James N. Mattis
- Jeff Sessions
- Ryan Zinke
- Sonny Perdue
- Wilbur Ross
- R. Alexander Acosta
- Tom Price
- Ben Carson
- Elaine L. Chao
- Rick Perry
- Betsy DeVos
- Mike Pompeo
- Nikki R. Haley
- Mick Mulvaney
- Dan Coats
- Reince Priebus
- Mike Pence
to get episodes automatically downloaded.