The wannabe Don

This is why there is something lacking in the analogies from antiquity to explain the state of American politics, even if some of them could potentially offer a constitutional sweep absent from offhand references to Casino. Julius and Octavian were complicated men with principles of a kind and even honor. There is nothing of the hard spirit of the first Caesars in Trump’s thoroughly postmodern character.

He is exactly what he has always appeared to be: a televisual parody of a loud-mouthed New York businessman, whose accomplishments in real estate and gambling were the result of marketing savvy more than genuine acumen and who later put these skills to better use as the host of a television program about fake businessmen running fake businesses. His personal obsession with the argot of outer-borough mafiosi circa 1960, filtered through past and present cronies such as Roy Cohn and Roger Stone, is a performance. The president has no interest in loyalty and even calls it is a meaningless principle, but he very much likes to imagine himself as the kind of TV character who might rant about it. “Rats” such as Cohen are necessary to the whole enterprise because without them there would be no occasion for theatrical denunciation of their conduct.