We were wrong, it turns out. Anyone cannot be president. Anyone can be elected president (any man, that is), but not anyone can be president.
After the careless, boastful revelations of his great intelligence to Russia, the firing of the FBI director, the new allegations that he asked James B. Comey to just “let this [Michael Flynn investigation] go” and the months of conducting himself without any curiosity, reverence for history, or ability to avoid mistakes, many columnists lately have been calling President Donald Trump a child, or a bull in a china shop.
This is, I think, unfair to children, and to bulls. Bulls have done a good job running Wall Street. Sometimes children are not cruel on purpose. Children can sit still, and they are often unable to stick their feet into their mouths, and sometimes will let you get more ice cream than they get.
He is something more terrifying than a child. Children can learn.
The Trump presidency is the discovery that what you thought was a man in a bear suit is just a bear. Suddenly the fact that he wouldn’t play by the rules makes total sense. It wasn’t that he refused to, that he was playing a long game. It was that he was a wild animal who eats fish and climbs trees, and English words were totally unintelligible to him. In retrospect, you should have suspected that after he just straight-up ate a guy. But at the time everyone cheered. It was good TV. Also, he was your bear.
OK. So you have spent 200 years building a fragile snow globe, and now you have given it to a bear. The animal doesn’t care. You cannot even explain to him what the thing is. To him, all your words are just sounds. He looks at you when you are making them and he looks away when you are finished. You can only hope the bear becomes bored and sets the snow globe down and wanders off looking for food.
(Again, this is an insult to bears, who have fewer places to live than Trump and do not do so at the taxpayer’s expense.)
Who can help? The people in there with him are the people who did not realize that what they had on their hands was an animal. Now they are trying to whisper him, like a horse. Do horses understand whispering? Horses probably think that people are just conspiring against them all the time. Horses are probably quite paranoid and delusional. But at least a horse would not fire the FBI director.
Merely watching this, you are now 600 years old. (Have you written this before? Hundreds of years have passed since Tuesday. You have no memory of the Time Before.) It is as though all of your involuntary muscle functions now require conscious effort. Everything you assumed would take care of itself so that you could go about your life now requires you to watch it and hold your breath. You are holding your breath all the time.
It is bringing your drunk relative to a party where you need to impress people for work, but 24 hours a day, and your co-workers are the entire world, and some of them have nukes.
It is like expecting a cardboard cutout of a pro wrestler to perform open-heart surgery.
It is like watching a golden retriever try to disable a bomb. The dog can’t determine which is the red button and which is the green button. It can’t see color. It’s a dog, for Pete’s sake. What did you expect?
It is like leaving a horse unsupervised in a room with cake, only the cake is also your child.
It is the vague worry I feel in the back of my mind all the time about the Yellowstone Caldera, but it is running the country.
The president is not a child. Children can improve. Children speak with inside voices. Children ask for help when there are things they cannot reach.
He’s a human Failure to Read the User’s Manual.
He’s a cartoon character. He only looks real on TV. When real things are put into his hands he drops them, and people get hurt.
Confidence is good, up to a point. Now here is someone who thinks juggling hand-painted Faberge eggs will impress you. Not because he is so supremely confident in his ability to juggle, but because he literally doesn’t know what they are. That they’re breakable. Only your house is in the egg. You are in the egg. Everything you care about is in the egg.
Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist.