It was a great relief to have Mr. Twitter out of the country for nine whole days, and the entire country felt it, like when your neighbor with the busted muffler goes away for a while and takes his yappy dog with him, and you realize what a beautiful thing common civility can be. We were able to turn to the joys of life and forget the absurdities for a while.
And the guy loved being away. Honestly, he doesn’t seem to feel at home in America. He was to the penthouse born and ordinary life makes him uneasy. (Has he ever sat in the grandstand or stood in line for a bratwurst? When did he last mow a lawn?) Riyadh was his Camelot. He was feted by Saudi princes and put up in a magnificent palace and feasted and medallioned and not once did anybody shout unpleasantries. It was like a big Shriners convention and he and his brethren did the sword dance together and he felt truly appreciated at last.
Then to Jerusalem and more good times. Great photo ops. He stood at the Western Wall and looked reverent, an unusual mode for him. And then off to Rome to chum with the Pope — “He is something,” Trump said. “We had a fantastic meeting.” He came out of the meeting saying he intends to work very very hard for peace, not something he was saying last year.
While he was in Rome, I was standing in the stairwell of a jam-packed ferryboat heading to Martha’s Vineyard in a heavy squall. I stood in line in the rain for a taxi and got to the hotel, dripping wet, and my room wasn’t ready so I hauled my suitcases over to a cafe and sat at the counter, next to a blind man who was in a jolly mood. He was 85 and had a mane of wild white hair. He ordered oatmeal for lunch, with raisins, brown sugar and cream. “I don’t get this at home,” he said. He savored his oatmeal as other men might enjoy prime rib. He said that what he missed most since losing his eyesight was hiking in the woods. That, and reading poetry. He has a gizmo he could set a page of print on and an electronic voice would read it, but he hasn’t figured out how to work it. He told me he once had worked in the circus and was sad about the forced retirement of the Ringling Brothers elephants. “Circus elephants have much more interesting lives than zoo elephants,” he said. “They get to go all over the country and walk from the train siding to the venue and enjoy the smells and snack on the vegetation along the way.” Then he asked me to help him home so I did. We walked along the street, like two elephants, his hand on my shoulder. It was very companionable.
We approached a gaggle of girls who stood aside and he perked up when he smelled them. We passed a coffee bar, a candy store, a yard full of lilacs, an Episcopal church where the choir was singing, “Sanctus, sanctus, hosanna in excelsis.” He took it all in with pleasure. I felt like Virgil guiding Dante through the departments of paradise. All my earlier misfortunes had been perfectly aligned to allow me to meet this blind man and absorb some of his happiness. He who was in Rome was never mentioned nor did he even cross my mind until much later.
I felt safer with him gone, frankly. When he is surrounded by admiration, we don’t have to worry that he’ll get in a snit and call for the B52s. Reverence relaxes him. If you removed the media from the White House and let the man and his loved ones make occasional appearances on the balcony, waving to the cheering crowd on the street, it might be better for us all.
Nothing in the Constitution requires the president to reside in the United States. He could cruise the world in a royal yacht, driving golf balls off the fantail, stopping at major ports for artillery salutes and royal processions. No naysaying would be allowed in the vicinity of him.
Other countries have lived with leaders who are ignorant, poorly tutored, self-obsessed and corrupt, and why can’t we? Let Congress hash things out, with the courts as safeguard, and Him of the Golden Hair and Mighty Eyebrows, go bear his Torch of Greatness to Benighted Peoples in Distant Lands and don’t hurry back.
Garrison Keillor is an author and radio personality.