Trump Tales Follow Us to Emerald Isle

Although we’re nearly 4,000 miles from home, we can’t escape the specter of Donald Trump. He’s seemingly everywhere, whether he’s pooping out Armageddon on his throne at the Ulster Museum or acting eerily like Santa Claus in the Lyric Theatre production of “What the Reindeer Saw.”

While Marilynn was in Dublin giving another public “Hopdance” lecture, Declan and I had the day to ourselves. After a somewhat lazy morning, we headed to the Ulster Museum to see art from our friends Marcus Patton and Joanna Mules. They are part of a Royal Ulster Academy (RUA) 136th annual exhibition at the museum. The Ulster Museum is free to visit and always fun.

Get yours in the gift shop

Marcus and Joanna were friends with Stewart Parker when he studied at Queens University Belfast in the ‘60s and were invaluable to Marilynn’s biography of the playwright. They live a few blocks from the museum (and Queens), and no visit to Belfast would be complete without stopping by their imposing Victorian duplex (not kidding) for a gin-and-tonic, a warm fire and good craic.

Marcus is a talented illustrator who is showing an architectural watercolor in this year’s exhibition. Joanna submitted two bronze sculptures, a medium she took up recently. Joanna is a skilled painter and portrait artist who did a rough sketch of Marilynn this summer for a series of portraits of writers reading from their work. There is a future column on that experience coming up.

While perusing this year’s artwork, we came across this multimedia work of Trump pictured at top. Whether you think Trump will make America great again or drive us all off a cliff, you must agree that Kyle Alexander Lundy’s representation certainly is provocative. According to the description, photo prints are available, if you’re interested in adding to your art collection.

Santa Trump?

A Trump-like character in the guise of Kris Kringle made an appearance later that night in the Lyric Theatre’s original production of “What the Reindeer Saw.” It’s no coincidence that the ascendant Santa happens to be the 45th incarnation of Claus who wants to break all the rules before understanding why the rules exist in the first place. Maybe it’s to make the North Pole great again, but it didn’t work any better in the play than the US president has managed thus far in real life.

Instead of learning how to drive the sleigh and making his list (not to mention checking it twice), Santa prefers to spend his time at his own Mar-a-Lago, the reindeer shed. There he plays reindeer games with Prancer and his pals, although games are difficult to play among those lacking opposable thumbs.

Much PG-14 hilarity ensues, including liberal use of the “f” word at one point, a succession of fart jokes and a randy Santa wanting to make merry on his desk with Mrs. Claus, who was played by a dude. For good measure, throw in fractured Christmas tunes, local references (many of which flew right over my head) and a lot of snow at the end.

While not a panto, I guess every Irish Christmas play must have its own version of a dame (who is always a dude in drag). And like a panto, the play had a happy ending. I sure hope we can say the same thing about a Trump presidency.

Trump Not Going Anywhere, Says The Hill Correspondent

“Barring some cataclysm,” there’s little chance of Donald Trump leaving office before his four-year term is up, says Niall Stanage, White House correspondent for The Hill.

The Belfast native addressed a packed crowd of nearly 200 last week at The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. The public event occurred during the university’s spring break, making the turnout even more impressive. Stanage has been in America for 17 years, covering four presidents.

Numerous missteps from the nascent politician have left Trump with the lowest approval ratings of any modern president. However, nothing so far has risen to the level of impeachment, an unlikely event given the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives, Stanage said. Removal from office is even less likely because it requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate, a body that is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

Americans in the audience (maybe just Marilynn and me) wanted more insight into Trump’s first 100 days and his relationship with the media. Unfortunately, that sort of dirt was lacking for the most part, partly because of The Hill’s decidedly non-partisan stance.

However, Stanage did air some cringeworthy clips of Trump, including the famous interview where he describes the circumstances under which he told Chinese President Xi Jinping about the bombing of Syria (which he mistakenly called Iraq in the clip) while the president was enjoying “the most beautiful chocolate cake you’ve ever seen.” (See Stephen Colbert’s take on the clip here.)

He also described tense situations during press conferences with Press Secretary Sean Spicer. “It’s politically useful sometimes to be annoyed, but Sean Spicer gets personally annoyed.”

Reason for the win

Although Hillary Clinton won the popular contest for president by nearly three million votes, the crucial difference boiled down to 77,000 votes in three pivotal states, according to Stanage.

Stanage explained the concept of the so-called Blue Wall—Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—and how the Electoral College turned on those three states. “He won by the rules of the Electoral College,” Stanage said. “The whole thing came down to states in the Blue Wall.”

Trump won Wisconsin by 22,000 votes, a state that last went Republican in 1984; Michigan by 11,000 votes and Pennsylvania by 44,000. Between 1993 and 2017, one-third of US manufacturing jobs disappeared, including many in those three states. Trump’s election success can be pinned on “the loss of jobs (in these areas), and they’re being ignored by Washington politicians,” Stanage said.

Stanage cautioned those who hope Trump is removed for some reason that Vice President Mike Pence is a more orthodox conservative on such issues as gay and women’s rights. Trump’s volatility continues to ignite liberals, which should make the 2020 presidential race very interesting, he noted.