It seems that Aretha Franklin and Donald Trump were pals, were tight, were practically besties. How do I know? Well, he said so. She was “a person I knew well,” he said, shortly after the singer’s death on Aug. 16.
But then the president added, “She worked for me on numerous occasions,” and that’s when I realized he was just talking about the help. Was she one of the maids who polished the faux-gold furnishings of his gaudy apartment at Trump Tower? No. Was she a Keno girl at one of his now-bankrupt casinos? No way.
But the Queen of Soul did perform at a Trump entertainment venue on one or more occasions, so that still must make her one of the help — even though we can be sure that Ms. Franklin never said to herself, “I think I’ll go to Atlantic City today because I’d like to work for Donald Trump.”
Don’t get me wrong, I believe Mr. Trump was genuinely trying to say nice, appropriate things after the passing of a great American artist — someone revered by millions and universally acclaimed as the brightest light and greatest practitioner of her craft. That’s one of the jobs of a president, after all: to say the right words whenever an American icon of exceptional political or historical or cultural importance passes on.
And he did say several nice things about Ms. Franklin, including this: “She’s brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come.” And this: “People loved Aretha. She was a special woman.” And this: “She was terrific.”
But he just couldn’t help himself. What makes me sad here is that he wasn’t able to praise her without first and foremost making it all about himself. Because, to Mr. Trump, everything is about himself. I’ll even bet that it wasn’t on his written notes: “She worked for me on numerous occasions.” Translation: “She was big, but I’m bigger. I’m YUGE.”
I’m no shrink, of course, so I wouldn’t dream of diagnosing a personality disorder here. But I am a citizen, and with my unimpeachable credentials as just another bozo on the bus, I do hereby diagnose a character disorder. Sad to say, a president who’s supposed to do all he can, every day, to protect, uphold and defend the United States, its interests and its people — but who instead starts every day with a snit-fit of Twitter insults aimed at his personal enemies — certainly has one.
Omarosa Newman is “a lowlife” and “a dog.” NBA star LeBron James and CNN’s Don Lemon are “dumb.” Actor Robert DeNiro and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters are “low IQ.” MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski is “crazy.” Other Trump critics are “clowns” and “losers.” Hillary Clinton is “crooked.” (Never mind that several top Trump aides are headed for jail, while Ms. Clinton is not.) The New York Times is “failing.” (Never mind that both readership and revenue are up substantially at The Times.)
This is not “important,” per se, and it isn’t really about Aretha Franklin. Like everything else that emerges from his Twitter feed, it’s all about Donald Trump.
All Aretha was asking for was a little respect. From Donald Trump, she didn’t get it.
Reach Glenn Richter at firstname.lastname@example.org.