Peril – the bloated body politic

Peter Conrad in The Guardian:

Except for Donald Trump, who believes only in himself, American politicians are inveterate God-botherers, sure that they were elected by their creator, not just by their constituents. While re-traversing the transfer of power between Trump and Joe Biden, Bob Woodward and his Washington Post colleague Robert Costa often pause as the wheelers and dealers they are tracking pray, text scriptural citations or glance sanctimoniously skywards. Biden fingers his rosary beads before debating Trump, and when Mike Pence performs his constitutional duty by ratifying the outcome of the presidential election, an aide congratulates him for fighting the good fight and keeping the faith. Later, Nancy Pelosi summarises her scheme for raising the minimum wage as “the gospel of Matthew”.

Yet despite such homages to the soul, what truly matters in the showdowns and face-offs that Peril documents is the chunky body and its thuggish heft. Among Trump’s enforcers, only the anti-immigrant ideologue Stephen Miller, whose skinny frame and slick fitted suits are noted by Woodward and Costa, has a lean and hungry look. Otherwise, power is exhibited by a swollen paunch. Bill Barr becomes attorney general because Melania thinks his “extraordinarily large belly” is a guarantee of gravitas. Mike Pompeo is “heavy and gregarious”, which implies that he has “little tolerance for liberals”. Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager, qualifies for his job because “at six foot eight and bearded, he looked like a professional wrestler”. Given this huddle of heavyweights, it amused me to learn that Biden’s entourage includes a “gut check” – no, not a dietician but a crony who offers a second opinion when the new president wants to act on instinct.

More here.