PITTSFIELD — At one time or another, you've probably heard a media talking head refer to the "presidential bubble" — the closed universe surrounding the chief executive that, by necessity, keeps him separated from the hoi polloi. Closeted away in the West Wing and residential quarters, surrounded by phalanxes of Secret Service, the Leader of the Free World lives several stages removed from real life. Past presidents have lamented their isolation, and often tried to get out "among the people," much to the anxiety of their handlers.
Those who are old enough may remember when President Bush 41 marveled the first time he saw a supermarket scanner, and asked if he could work one himself. Or when he had no idea of the price of a gallon of milk. At least, most presidents could draw on past experience to identify with the Great Unwashed: Bill Clinton grew up in poverty in Arkansas, and Barack Obama was a neighborhood organizer in Chicago. Harry S. Truman had been a haberdasher. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.
Not so the 45th president. Born into luxury, his life of lofty separation didn't really change much after his inauguration, except that he was forced to move into a "dump" (his description of the Executive Mansion), presumably because there wasn't a solid-gold toilet in the bathroom. That shortcoming was rectified, I understand, by the Guggenheim Museum — which provided him a fully functioning one on loan as a kind of artistic statement.
So much he doesn't know
The other day, as I was scraping snow and ice off my windshield after work, it occurred to me that there are myriad things with which our current president has absolutely no familiarity (in addition to foreign policy, the separation of powers, economic theory, military affairs, the truth, and other items useful for running a country). He's probably never changed a tire, plunged a stopped-up toilet, picked up his own dry cleaning, dragged his garbage out to the curb, split a pill to stretch his prescription, baled hay, stood in line to get his driver's license, planted anything, filled out a time card, dropped his kid off at school, had his electricity turned off, ridden in the back of a pickup truck, slopped pigs or wielded a wrench. He doesn't carry supermarket loyalty tags on his key ring. He probably doesn't even have a key ring, since functionaries exist to open all his doors for him.
Here's what he has done: He has driven a golf cart. He's allegedly had unprotected sex with a porn star. He's mimicked a handicapped reporter. He's bragged about grabbing women in their nether regions. He filed a $100-million lawsuit against Palm Beach County because planes were flying over Mar-a-Lago, even though the property had been under the airport's flight path since long before he bought the place. He called a book of the Bible "Two Corinthians," during a speech establishing his religious bona fides with evangelicals. In his hotels, he's hosted foreign government figures who wish to curry favor with him. He's congratulated the dictatorial leader of our greatest adversary on his "re-election." He has repeatedly stiffed contractors and tradespeople who have done work for him.
And if you were to ask one of his diehard supporters why they voted for him, chances are they would say, "Because he's one of us."
Chan Lowe is the deputy editorial page editor of The Eagle and a syndicated editorial cartoonist.