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Childish, vain and spiteful, Trump was such great copy

Art of the deal: with Kim Jong-un in Panmunjom, North Korea
(AFP via Getty)

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve not felt this elated since Leicester City won the Premier League four years ago: 2016 was a year of surprises. If it wasn’t so nippy, I’d have been dancing in the street when I saw on CNN that Philly had ejected Trump from the White House. I drank a toast, though.

Yet for a journalist there are mixed feelings. And I’m already starting to miss President Donald J Trump. Donald, you see, made for great copy. I very much doubt President-elect Biden will keep us hacks quite as exhaustingly occupied. In the Trump era, newsrooms would eye their clocks anxiously, if needs be postponing news conferences, until the president of the United States of America waddled to the bathroom to squeeze out his first angry tweet of another busy hate-fuelled day messing up the free world.

The CAPITALISED ONES! were the most warmly, gratefully received on an otherwise quiet news day. SO BEAUTIFUL!! SO BIGLY!! LOSERS!! We still wonder what “covfefe” meant. With his incessant tweeting, interviews, press conferences and random phoning in to radio stations, he was the most communicative president in history.

Twitter was the medium of choice, used for petty feuds and geopolitics just the same. Especially cherished were the escalating Twitter exchanges with Kim Jong-un, Mentally Deranged Dotard vs Little Rocket Man, the semi-comic, semi-tragic equivalent of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis for a previous generation of journalists. The president went to the UN to tell them North Korea was going to be vaporised, but he also launched his historic peace initiatives and the summit with Kim. Great pictures.

There were shameful scenes, sackings and resignations – remember the eight day wonder that was Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci?

With Trump, there was never a dull moment. From the very first day, back in January 2017, when the president’s spokesman, the hapless Sean Spicer, claimed that both the crowd and global audience for Trump’s inauguration were the biggest in history – “period” – the war with the media was on. We were asked to believe in many more “alternative facts”.

There were shameful scenes: bombast, bluster, conspiracy theories, fake news, hoaxes, scams and what we might even call lies. Plus sackings and resignations – remember the eight day wonder that was Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci? – Stormy Daniels, impeachment, and thinly disguised racism (“good people on both sides”, as Trump put it).

Maybe the time when he thought aloud about getting disinfectant or sunlight inside the human body to kill coronavirus was my personal favourite pronouncement. But his reported wish to swear the oath of office on a copy of The Art of the Deal rather than the Bible remains to me the most stunning anecdote of the Trump era.

He supposedly despised the media, and hated journalists, but Trump really was great for business. The dirty secret of my trade, if you like, was that Trump’s erratic, mad, illogical, selfish, grandiose, childish, dangerous, spiteful, vain – that hair! – and obscene behaviour boosted audiences, sales and clicks like no-one else on earth could. Period. That was one boast Donald Trump could truthfully make.