With staggering self-confidence, president Donald Trump has claimed that he does not drink. Becoming needlessly specific, he said that he had never had a beer in his life. “It is one of my only good traits,” he joked, inviting the press to imagine what a “mess” he would be if he did drink. A sobering question that calls for deep deliberation, at the end of which the reasonable mind might conclude that if Trump drank, he would be normal, perhaps even statesmanlike. This is the quick answer.
But this was a question of presidential depth and strategic scope, swaddled in layers of meaning, surmise and even threat. And, like all good creative artists, Trump was mixing his genres, blending humour with wild fiction. Minutes after he addressed the press, photographs of him toasting and drinking — and even cracking a beer — erupted on social media. They are too numerous to ignore, and this could be his “I did not inhale” moment. But don’t hold your breath, because Trump has weathered scandals that would have felled the indefatigable Bill Clinton in seconds.
In the early days of his presidency, stand-up comics had voiced serious concerns that Trump was muscling in on their act. Because the imitation of reality can never be as compelling as reality itself. If the life of the world’s most powerful man is a never-ending gig, who would pay money to watch their shows, which are but shadows of the real thing? So far, Trump was creating mirth by being himself. Now, he has graduated to laughing at himself. He poses an existential threat to the editorial writers of the world, who have enjoyed making fun of him in print. It’s enough to drive us all to drink.