An Unwitting Asset

In 2006, comedian Robert Wuhl co-wrote and starred in a two-part HBO special “Assume the Position.”  Wuhl plays a professor in a history class at New York University (the students are actually film majors).  At the outset, he prepares his students (and the HBO audience) for what is to come with the following:

  • Tolstoy said, “History is a wonderful thing, if only it were true.”
  • The key to history is who tells the story.
  • When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

The first example Wuhl provides is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ode to Paul Revere.  Revere was neither the first or the most rigorous messenger when it came to informing the colonies, “The British are coming!” The more deserving hero was Israel Bissell, a postal rider who on April 19, 1775 carried word of the battle of Lexington and Concord from Massachusetts to New York to New Jersey and eventually arriving in Philadelphia on April 24, a distance totaling more than 300 miles.  In contrast, Revere’s gallop from Lexington to Boston was approximately 15 miles.  Unfortunately,  the rhyme scheme “Listen my children and you shall HEAR of the midnight ride of Paul REVERE” rolls off the tongue more easily that whatever rhymes with Bissell. 

“The key to history is who tells the story.”  The same is true of other media. Not only should Wadsworth’s poem been titled, “The Five-Day Ride of Israel Bissell,”  Grant Wood’s painting of the same name as Longfellow’s poem would include an image of the postal worker and one of the two horses he rode over the five-day journey.  And Walt Disney’s movie “Johnny Tremain” would have featured Tremain as a postal service apprentice rather than a protege of silversmith Revere. 

[Cinematic Note:  The “Johnny Tremain” cast included character actor Whit Bissell (1909-96), better known for his roles in “The Time Machine,” “Hud,” and “The Manchurian Candidate.”  I could not find any documentation whether Whit Bissell was related to Israel Bissell.  Even if it is not true, it should be.  Just remember, you heard it here first.]

This week, I found myself hoping Wuhl would revive “Assume the Position” to cover Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. As he debunked popular myths about Revere, Christopher Columbus and other historical figures, Wuhl could start by debunking the myth Trump is the leader of the MAGA movement.  At best he gave it a catchy name and bumper sticker.  Instead he is the unwitting asset of a cabal of more than 100 right-wing organizations who needed a media savvy racist, misogynistic, homophobic isolationist supply-sider to be the public face of its agenda.

This was never more apparent than last weekend when the liar-in-chief claimed he knew nothing about about Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s plan for the first 180 days of a second Trump administration. It’s not that Trump disagrees with the policy recommendations, his enmity is due more likely to the fact the Project 2025 team did the one thing he will not tolerate, taking credit rather than attributing it to him.  From “About Project 2025” on their website:

The project is the effort of a broad coalition of conservative organizations that have come together to ensure a successful administration begins in January 2025. With the right conservative policy recommendations and properly vetted and trained personnel to implement them, WE (my emphasis) will take back our government.

There is no “we” in Trump.  And the very thought that Kevin Roberts did not give Trump the opportunity to claim he coined the phrase, ” a second American revolutionary, bloodless if the radical left lets us,” shifted Trump’s Truth Social thumbs into overdrive.

If Trump thinks civil service employees were running the show during his first administration, just wait until he encounters the 50,000-strong army of Schedule F hires (based on loyalty rather than expertise) vetted by his Office of Personnel Management.  Again, from “About Project 2025”:

Paul Dans, former chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) during the Trump administration, serves as the director of the 2025 Presidential Transition Project. Spencer Chretien, former special assistant to the president and associate director of Presidential Personnel, serves as associate director of the project.

Dans and Chretien understand who will be driving the agenda for a Trump transition and beyond.  That is why they are now part of the Heritage Foundation and not the Trump campaign.  And there will be loyalists throughout every federal federal agency.  However, their allegiance will not be to someone who theoretically should be in office for just four years.  Roberts’ “revolution,” which began during the Reagan years could be there long after Trump is gone.  Schedule C civil service offers only a lifetime of service to one’s country without political pressure or interference.  In contrast, Schedule F provides longer tenure and a career path to become more than just a foot solder in an ideological movement based on your allegiance to the cause.

Donald Trump is not the master of his domain.  He is a wholly owned subsidiary of a conglomerate that was created 64 years ago.  Which explains why you never hear the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society or any other architects of this revolutionary transformation of the American experience complain about the time Trump spends at his golf courses.  That is exactly where they want him to be. 

The only remaining question?  Who will tell the story of this battle for the soul of America?

For what it’s worth.

One thought on “An Unwitting Asset

  1. Trump’s job description in Putin’s GRU files is “a narcissistic, low information fool that creates chaos by constant provocation and setting a high bar for avoiding accountability and prison time.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *