I’m constantly amazed by Donald Trump’s ability to caricature himself beyond the bounds of satire. It’s becoming impossible to tell if we are watching a heavy-handed cartoon parody or a piece of officially authorized Trump Campaign media. Take this song, which opened Trump’s Florida rally earlier this month. Of course, this is not the first time kids have been forced to literally sing the praises of a political savior, but I would be less surprised to see this song in a Trump-mocking internet skit than an actual rally.
When I first heard this, I assumed that the girls on stage were a random selection of Trump staffer children. I was also pretty sure that its clunky lyrics had sprung from the pen (or stream of consciousness) of The Donald himself, so keenly representative of his flashing wit and deftly woven wordplay as it was.
After doing a little more research, it seems that the song was performed by the local girl group USA Freedom Kids, and written by their manager. I’m still convinced he swiped most of those rhymes from Trump’s Twitter feed, though (just like he swiped the melody and chorus from George Cohen), and that song made me realize who Trump has been reminding me of all these years: The Wind in the Willows’ highly self-celebrated Mr. Toad of Toad Hall.
While the charming Disney version of the story makes Toad into a mere adrenaline junkie, constantly distracted by the faster and faster inventions of the late 1800s, Kenneth Grahame’s original Toad is full-blown megalomaniacal narcissist. He constantly insults and endangers those around him through his insane self-centeredness, believes himself to be the superior of anyone he meets, and manages to escape the consequences of his ridiculous actions through pure delusion and immense wealth.
After his friends bail him out of yet another scrape at the end of the book, he invites all the commoners to his palatial home to “thank” them with a grand ceremony in his own honor. The program is as follows:
SPEECH . . . . BY TOAD.
(There will be other speeches by TOAD during the evening.)
ADDRESS . . . BY TOAD
SYNOPSIS— Our Prison System— the Waterways of Old England— Horse-dealing, and how to deal— Property, its rights and its duties— Back to the Land— A Typical English Squire.
SONG . . . . BY TOAD. (Composed by himself.)
OTHER COMPOSITIONS BY TOAD
will be sung in the course of the evening by the . . . COMPOSER.
As soon as I heard that USA Freedom Kids song, I immediately pictured a frazzled stage manager in the wings, trying to follow a hastily handwritten program of the rally event:
Catchy Song . . . . . by TRUMP
Phenomenal Speech . . . . by TRUMP
Estimated Synopsis – The brilliance of Trump – The popularity of Trump – Polls and losers of the GOP – The Greatness of Trump and America too of course – The crushing of my enemies – Assorted Thoughts on Trump – etc.
(There will be other speeches by TRUMP as the ego moves him)
Adoring Questions . . . by the loving fans of TRUMP
(brilliant answers to be provided by the beneficent wisdom of TRUMP)
Fawning Praise . . . by the media, pawns of TRUMP
(non-fawning journalists to be ejected and mocked by TRUMP)
And so forth. Of course, there are some major differences between the much-lamented Toad and the lamentable Trump. The first is that Toad’s blustery songs are actually extremely clever. The second is that Toad has friends who take him in hand, and try to keep him from becoming a total laughingstock. “It’s no good, Toady,” says Rat, “you know well that your songs are all conceit and boasting and vanity; and your speeches are all self-praise and—and—well, and gross exaggeration and—” and so forth.
The third difference is that Toad listens to reason. After pleading for “one more evening, to let myself go and hear the tumultuous applause that always seems to me—somehow—to bring out my best qualities,” he does turn over a new leaf. He even limits the singing of self-aggrandizing songs about crushing his enemies to his own private bathroom.
The fourth difference is that Toad’s pride, immaturity, and selfishness lampooned Britain’s idle rich, and he has served as a cautionary tale for generations of young readers. Donald Trump’s similar faults are being touted (by Trump) as his greatest strengths, and they don’t seem to have had this “cautionary tale” effect on young Americans. At least, not yet.