If by chance you find yourself visiting an old friend or creaky relative after this long coronavirus interval and innocently spy a copy of Donald Trump’s Our Journey Together (Winning Team Publishing, $74.99, with signed copies priced at $229.99) proudly displayed on their mantle, pause, slowly back out of the room, then make a mad dash for it. Race for the car as if being chased by demon bats.
This isn’t snobbery; it’s self-care: unless you’re one of those enlightened masochists who believes in “dialogue,” you don’t want to be around anybody, not even kinfolk, for whom this lavishly illustrated thunker is a cherished keepsake, a MAGA status symbol, an emblem of pride. The Trump presidency was heinous enough without having it flaunted in your face again, flapping its tail feathers.
Gauded up in imperial blue and gold, the cover of Our Journey Together presents The Former Guy at the top step of Air Force One, not saluting or waving in traditional friendly presidential fashion but raising a black-gloved fist, like Darth Vader entering the banquet room. The gesture signifies “firm resolve,” an assurance to Trump’s followers to keep the faith—he has not abandoned them in their dark hour of Biden and never shall, not as long as there’s money to be made.
As a presidential record, Our Journey Together is mostly grammatically questionable cocktail-napkin scribble accompanying Tarzan poses. “No President did more for Israel than I did,” declares Trump as he and Benjamin Netanyahu exchange manly looks. And, opposite a photo of Trump addressing the troops abroad from behind a camo-green barrier, the claim “No President did more for the military than me.” More, more, more, me, me, me: that’s the disco chant Trump lives by.
As a pictorial record, the book is equally scanty, despite its coffee-table heft and new-car smell. Missing are photos of Trump chucking rolls of paper towels at Puerto Rican survivors and first responders in a relief center after Hurricane Maria, or the ignominy of his oversize panda suit at the white-tie state dinner at Buckingham Palace. These would hardly be fitting for a commemorative edition.
It’s what is included in the book that’s befuddling. The curatorial eye is all over the place. Four pages of sumo wrestlers? A studio snap of Trump being interviewed by the inflatable Piers Morgan (“a big winner on Celebrity Apprentice”)? A one-pager celebrating Kimberly Guilfoyle’s birthday bash at Mar-a-Lago? The ersatz splendor of the egregious Diamond and Silk, “two incredible ladies” whose careers have sunk without a ripple? It’s like amateur hour in the Lido Lounge.
As if that weren’t filler enough, there are the cheesy callouts to Fox News sycophants and lap dancers Sean Hannity (“American patriot”), Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters, the load-bearing Mark Levin, and some knucklehead holding a mike named Pete Hegseth, the pictures and captions carrying all the conviction of framed, autographed celebrity testimonials in old-school pizzerias and delis.
The one-on-ones with world leaders offer one surprise—Trump’s warm respect for France’s Emmanuel Macron—but are mostly staged photo ops amid the stilted pageantry of statecraft. The funniest, most telling photograph in the book features Trump and Pope Francis posed uncomfortably side by side. The look on Francis’s face could only be translated as “Oy vey.”
A vanity production extravagantly half-assed in execution by a pop-up publishing company partly owned by Don Jr., Our Journey Together is held together by the binding force of Trump’s craving, infantile ego, stronger than any toupee glue. Give the man credit for not pretending to be nobler than he is, performing remedial work on his legacy.
The pettiness and bombast of the Trump presidency form the flip sides of the scrapbook, with snide digs at “Crazy Nancy Pelosi” and “ass-kisser” Mark Zuckerberg, a surly disrespecting of Barack and Michelle Obama, and yet another unpardonable sneer at the late John McCain. (“John McCain visited me in the White House, asking for a job for his wife…. I didn’t like him even a little bit.”) These alternate with pictorial spreads exalting the drawing power of Trump to bring vast hordes out of the woodwork and crabgrass.
There is nothing Trump loves more in this world than a mob that loves him, and the two-page spreads of MAGA rallies, the Daytona 500 (“the crowd was filled with American patriots”), and other mass assemblies form a feedback loop that is the virile lifeblood of a personality cult. It’s the selfie writ large.
The crowd scenes depicted in Our Journey Together look more monster-truck get-together than Leni Riefenstahl, populated by what Norman Mailer labeled “the Wad,” the great white lumpen army of the perpetually disgruntled and aggrieved. Here we see the Wad in widescreen, as a group frieze, a demographic congregation, sparing the reader individual portraits of their bovine grins as they flick their tiny American flags and show off their Lock Her Up and Fuck Your Feelings T-shirts.
In future MAGA rallies, many of these dears will be holding up their copies of Our Journey Together for the camera, adding another layer to the feedback loop. Even Ronald Reagan riding off into the eternal sunset never commanded such idolatry.
James Wolcott is a Columnist for AIR MAIL. He is the author of several books, including the memoir Lucking Out and Critical Mass, a collection of his essays and reviews