WASHINGTON ― First, a little Greek mythology:
Titans were gargantuan, all-powerful descendants of Chaos. They bestrode the earth before the demigods and humans and lesser mortals. Among the later-arriving, ever-failing mere people were politicians, bureaucrats and politically correct wusses who made America weak and uncertain in our day.
Then, in 2015 in Midtown Manhattan, a new titan ― stout of frame, loud of voice, crowned with a hair-pinned mane of flaming tangerine ― descended to earth on a golden escalator and said he would do America a YUGE solid and become its president.
And so Donald Trump has. And now he’s shaping from the Chaos a new Age of Titans in America and around the world.
You could see it in chrysalis this week ― its promise and its hubristic danger ― as President Barack Obama left the stage and Trump barged onto it.
A huge rebranding effort got underway, as the outgoing president portrayed himself as the soul of rational discourse and community, and Trump declared that raw power, money and driving, can-do salesmanship alone would be set things right in the country.
Americans prefer the old brand. Obama’s approval rating stands at 55 percent in a new Quinnipiac Poll; Trump’s is 37 percent, a very weak number for a new president. Voters think Trump is smart and strong, but also dishonest, oblivious to them, of questionable temperament and, by the way, should stop tweeting.
None of which fazes Trump or his inner circle. He isn’t just operating on the “great man theory” ― that’s so 20th century, so Churchill, FDR and Stalin. He’s operating on the superhero theory, in which virile (viral) figures defy not only history, but gravity.
Because of their very nature ― they are gods, after all ― the new titans aren’t bound by normal rules. And Trump, in concert with them and with them alone, will accomplish the great feats.
He will continue to throw tweets like thunderbolts.
He will use his own jawboning skills to jawbone even greedier jawboners, such as those robbers at Big Pharma and the Defense Contractors.
He will use his sales skills to make more deals with companies to keep jobs in America, and keep them especially in the blue states that were smart enough to earn his favor by voting for him.
He will consort with only the most powerful and terrific billionaires and buccaneers of business and tech, and only the brassiest and most nationalistic leaders of countries big and small.
He won’t so much “drop” big-shot names at press conferences, as hurl them bodily: the great Silicon Valley folks who came to Trump Tower; Jack Ma of China, Harold Hamm his good buddy, and above all the Russian president and fellow titan Vladimir Putin.
Trump will wave off regulations that apply to mere mortals; his lawyer arguing, in effect, that he was simply too big and too rich for pedestrian conflicts-of-interest rules to even make sense. He can’t separate himself from a world that he runs, can he?
Unlike mere politicians, who tend to move sub rosa against enemies, Trump will publicly call them out and will vow to crush them beneath his loafers. And unlike mortal politicians, he will punch down, just to remind people he can, even if that means raising the profile of the relative no-names who attack him.
The media that play ball ― that glorify this man of great achievement ― will get some grudging praise; those who defy him will be set upon in an unprecedented vicious fashion, called “garbage” or worse, and threatened with retribution that would make Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” look like a birthday party.
Cabinet members will be the subaltern members of the superhero team, picked largely because of their wealth, their military bearing and whether they look the part in the movie, as Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil did and the diminutive Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee did not. Press secretary Sean Spicer is short, too, but he is Navy Reserve, has a lantern jaw and has no compunction about telling the press corps to stuff it.
The intelligence community will be brought to heel ― or at least Trump will try to do so by replacing nearly everyone in charge and perhaps even going after FBI Director James Comey. Titans control their territory, and Trump will try to do so.
One prominent member of that community told me that he expected Trump to try to establish a “muscular détente” with Russia. As for the other main titan on the scene, China’s Xi Jinping, no one is sure.
Most important, the gods, when they feel like it, can give themselves to us. And so it is with Trump. As he told us at his press conference, he turned down a $2 billion deal in Dubai (with his good friend Hussein Sajwani) because he wanted to devote all of his time to being our president. He could have taken the cash, he said; alone in government, he has that freedom. (Okay, so does Mike Pence, but he’s too poor to matter.) But no, Trump would walk away, because he cares about us.
And who knows, he may succeed. He has been underestimated time and time again. Then again, there was a famous ship named for superhero first gods of Greek myth.
It was called the Titanic.