Baby Boomers Are Responsible for Unleashing MadMan Trump on the World
Just look at what we’ve done to this poor country. Bill Clinton, the first Baby Boom president, is ours, complete with the cigar and stained blue dress and denial that he “had sex with that woman.” On his heels came Baby Boomer president number two, George Bush, who along with Baby Boomer Vice President Dick Cheney, lied us into the most disastrous war since Vietnam and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Barack Obama was a reprieve, but look who’s in there now, flapping his tiny hands and tweeting his tiny tweets and disassembling everything from our federal government to the Western Alliance, but Donald J. Trump, Baby Boomer president number three.
Trump is 72. I’m 71, and I’m ashamed. Every morning I wake up and realize that me and my generation unleashed this flaming madman on the world, and I want to crawl back under the covers and hide. WTF were we thinking?
I lived in New York during the years Trump was surfing the tabloid wave to fame and invented fortune, and we just sat there and lapped it up. Oh, look! Another photo of Trump boogieing at Le Club, the private watering hole in the 70’s on the Upper East Side where boomers went to show off and misbehave. I wasn’t a member, but I went to Le Club with friends who were. I saw Trump making a fool of himself in there, his arm slung over the shoulders of this hot babe or that one, tie flying as he pretended to do The Hustle, or whatever it was we were doing back then. I’d be sitting across the room at a table, sucking up bottles of champagne charged them to someone’s membership account, laughing at the big buffoon with the weird hair (even then!) acting like he owned the world.
That was the problem, see? We all acted like we owned the world. On any given night, me and my boomer pals and our boomer girlfriends and wives were swinging at Le Club, or bouncing from table to table at Elaine’s, chumming it up with Carl Bernstein and Nora Ephron and Gay Talese, or this week’s hot literary agent or last week’s hot movie star. I wrote a story once called “Felker’s Fall,” about how Clay Felker, who owned New York Magazine and the Village Voice, lost his empire to Rupert Murdoch. The first paragraph was set in Elaine’s, describing the minions hovering around Felker at his premier table up front on The Row where the A-listers sat. They “pecked at him like ducks,” I wrote, because Clay was On Top, and he was at Elaine’s, and so was I, and Elaine’s was The Place to Be, and we Ran the World, or thought we did.
We weren’t princes of the city. We were princes of the fucking universe. We were forever ascendant. There was no place to go but up. Nothing was going to stop us. Our friends were running movie studios out in L.A. They were Senior Editors at the top publishing houses. They edited the big-time magazines. They signed pay checks to us, and initialed our expense accounts, and put us in First Class on planes to The Coast. We chowed down at The Palm. We lunched in the Grill Room at The Four Seasons, alongside the swells we were moving in on and taking over their fiefdoms in advertising and journalism and film and politics and finance.
Over there across the room too many times to count was Trump. My name was on The List at the Door at Studio 54. One night I went to Elizabeth Taylor’s birthday party there, the night she rode into the room on a white stallion, and you could practically hear the hoovering sucking noise of coke going up a hundred nostrils at once. There was Trump, standing with Roy Cohn and Halston and Calvin Klein, and it was all one big happy family. Shirtless waiters in short-shorts were passing by with trays of the bubbly. Trump was waving to this starlet, groping that one. Roy Cohn was watching it all with his lizard eyes, scanning the room for somebody who was an easy touch, somebody who would be impressed with meeting Donald Trump, somebody the two of them could take on a ride for tens of thousands or maybe a cool mil the next day.
And everywhere was our generation. We ran the list at the door. We got you into the VIP area. We dealt the coke. We owned the night.
Look at what we were doing! Trump was surfing the tabloid wave? Hell, the day after the Elizabeth Taylor party, Robin Leach, a tabloid hack who would go on to become the host of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” called me up and said if I didn’t mind, he was going to put me in his column as the date of some starlet a flack friend of his was pushing. I had a novel on the bestseller list. I was “hot.” What did I do? I said, go ahead! All grist for the mill. Long as you spell my name right.
There I was later that day, in a tabloid column, dating some starlet I’d never heard of. I didn’t grope her — hell, I didn’t even know her — but I was no better than Trump.
Just over the horizon: Clinton. We ran him, we elected him, and we stood by as he and his whiz-kid meritocratic oligarchs started running the SS United States aground. Years later, I realized that the apotheosis of the baby boom buffoonery was the so-called “Renaissance Weekends,” an invention of boomers, by boomers, for boomers. Do you remember those clubby clusterfucks? They were weekend “retreats” held at cushy resorts down on Hilton Head Island for “leaders” in finance, government, the media, religion, business, medicine, technology and the arts.
Even before Clinton took office as president, he and Hillary were regulars, and once he was president, the damn Renaissance Weekends turned into a Domestic Davos. In 1993, his first year in office, the retreat’s founder, Philip Lader (by then, deputy White House Chief of Staff) and President Clinton hosted a New Year’s Eve panel on “What I’ve Learned,” while Hillary and Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun led a discussion on “Choices.”
“What I’ve Learned?” “Choices?” Jesus. They may as well have had a bunch of boomer geniuses on a panel called “Whither Peace?” and probably did.
You know who else attended those intellectual circle jerks? Boomer luminaries like the journalists Wolf Blitzer, Howard Fineman, Joe Klein, and Andrea Mitchell; Senators Chuck Robb, Ernest Hollings, and Barbara Mikulski; Governor Evan Bayh of Indiana; and singer Mary Chapin Carpenter.
You get the picture. The goddamned things cost $1,500 a couple to attend, and that was a lot of money back then. Do you think any of the regular Joes and Janes who ended up voting Trump into office were invited, or could afford to attend? If they showed up, do you think Andrea, or Wolf, or Howard or any of the rest of them would have given them the time of day?
Boomers patched together this teetering edifice with “merit” and “achievement” and “elite education” and “expertise,” and it was such a gigantic fake that all it took to bring it down was a half-assed push by a certifiable goofball like Donald Trump. I’ve wasted literally thousands of words in these pages cataloging Trump’s lies, but the biggest lie of all was the ersatz boomer machine that begat him.
He didn’t come from nowhere. He came from our loins. We birthed him. We sat by and laughed while he piggy-backed on the baby boomer scam that what really mattered was graduating from The Right School, having your name on The List at the Door, getting The Best Table at the Hottest Restaurant, living at The Right Address, and finally, having the Coolest Guy as our president. For boomers, life has been high school forever.
The thing about Donald Trump is that he was never one of the Cool Guys. He was the schmuck over there across the room who was feeling up women and picking our pockets while we looked the other way. He ran a campaign that said, you know the club they would never invite you into? I’ve been there, and it’s all bullshit, and I’m going to tear it down, the whole stinking meaningless system run by these people who have looked down on you from their suites in Davos and the Renaissance Weekends, the places they kept you out of while they were making decisions about your lives and not listening to anything you had to say.
He sold it to the people we left out like a condo with marble bathrooms in one of his buildings, the kind of gaudy show places we laughed at while our pals at the elite levels of boomerdom pontificated on panels like “Whither Peace?”
I laughed at him while he was running back in 2016. I pointed at the TV screen and held my sides as he howled his gibberish at rally after rally after rally. He was the same buffoon he had been in New York when he ruled the tabloids with his marital exploits and buildings with stories he never built that we never bothered to count.
That was the problem. With the exception of a few intrepid reporters like Wayne Barrett, we never bothered to count the fake floors in his buildings he never built, or track his pay-offs to crooked pols, or catalog his chumminess with gangsters. But he was ours. We made him. We delivered him to you. We sat there and laughed at him on his stupid reality TV show. We laughed at him as he told lie after lie about Obama’s birth certificate. We ignored him when he was sending us signals about what a racist he was with his war on the Central Park Five. And we laughed when he stood up there in 2016 and actually told us that when he reached the White House, he was going to tear the whole fucking thing down.
Donald Trump is our fault. He was in the headlines for decades pulling his scams, telling his lies, flaunting his fakery. He was one of us, and he was telling us exactly who he is, and we didn’t take him seriously. We didn’t do shit about him. I, for one, am ashamed.