President Trump has come unstuck in time.
Years pass, and his hair grows blonder and the women around him grow younger and younger. He is a paradox.
Or maybe he is cursed. Everything he says is true, just not necessarily at the moment he says it.
Past and future bend around him. In 2018, he sees a system of health insurance that is in terrible shape, collapsing, in need of help — and Friday, if Trump is lucky, that very system will pass.
He sees a president golfing every weekend and spending too much money on travel. He criticizes him, but it has not happened yet.
Trump is a creature of non-linear time. (If I had seen “Arrival,” I might understand this better.)
It is not certain when Trump came unglued from the timeline. But now the future and the past are as one to him. Have the events he sees already happened, or are they to come? Even he cannot say. Always in motion is the future. He said something had happened in Sweden, and then it happened the next day.
He was wiretapped, or maybe not wiretapped in those words, or maybe he will be? Eventually, what he sees will be true. JFK was not the first mutant president; Trump is. He warps reality, daily. All moments are inextricably linked. He will win the election. He has won the election. He is winning the electoral college again, right now, this very instant. He did not start birtherism; he ended it. It is not a lie. Our understanding of time is the problem.
Now he is at Mar-a-Lago. Now he is in the White House. Now he is at Mar-a-Lago again. Time runs and blurs. Is he president, or is he running his company? There is a man in the Oval Office we know nothing about, and he is tearing the country apart. Is it true yet? It will be. What year is it?
Trump is like the boy who cried wolf: ultimately proved right by subsequent events. As he promised, a wolf did, in fact, arrive. Or something vaguely wolf-like. Or Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) with some sort of information that might be tangentially relevant to wolves.
Trump sees only the truth. If Trump ceases to believe in us, we first become fake, then disappear altogether. Paul Manafort will soon turn out never to have worked for his campaign at all, just as Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak is beginning to vanish from every picture. News ceases to be real when Trump stops reading it. As I typed this, my hands flickered. Already I am not showing up in certain Facebook feeds. Tomorrow my whole torso may vanish.
This is not something Trump takes pride in. He has tried to warn us: All he has to do is say a thing and sooner or later the facts will come around. He is Donald with the purple crayon, scrawling his own cartoonish vision on reality. And we all get to live there. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” he tweeted after the Orlando night-club shooting. He made Brexit happen by merely thinking he’d said something about it.
America is broken. No? Well, now it is.
“I talked about Brussels,” he told Time magazine. “I was on the front page of the New York Times for my quote. I said Brussels is not what it used to be, very sad what has happened to Brussels. I was absolutely lambasted. A short time later they had the major attack in Brussels.”
“What am I going to tell you?” Trump says. “I tend to be right.” He is like Cassandra, except that Cassandra was a woman and therefore not to be trusted. The crowds at his inauguration will grow larger in time, once the facts catch up. The other crowds he spotted cheering after 9/11 have yet to materialize, but — just wait. Trump is patient. Time is meaningless to him.
But everything he touches will eventually turn to fact. When he praised Putin: “He’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.” When he warned, “Our country doesn’t win anymore. We don’t win on trade. We don’t win on the military. We can’t defeat [the Islamic State].” All of these things are becoming facts before our eyes.
“Our country is a laughingstock,” he said. “All over the world, they’re laughing.” His timing is always just a little off. Trump has come unstuck in time.
Everything Trump says is true, just not necessarily at the moment when he says it. But it is coming truer and truer.