Rumpelstiltskin bets no one will uncover his name, and thus he will take away the great prize of a child to call his own. When the Queen reveals that she knows and utters his name aloud, he descends into such a temper that he shouts, “The devil told you, the devil told you,”* and then he stamps his feet so hard upon the ground he sinks to his waist, and then climbs from his hole, and so furious does he remain that he grasps his left foot and tears himself in two.
And so we too watch our own Rumpelstiltskin tear himself apart, but in a sardonic twist even Grimm could not have imagined, because he already possesses the child — the jewel of incalculable worth and power, the Presidency — his annihilation of himself, ugly tweet by ugly action, does damage to untold millions, to the rule of law, and even to our capacity to continue as one people.
Oh, if all of the fairy tale had applied, if we had not known who he was, if he had pulled aside the mask after the Inauguration and laughed that he had fooled us all, but then he would need a sense of irony and an aptitude for actual laughter (has anyone seen him laugh? ever?)
My friend recently reminded me that Trump never disguised himself. Unlike Rumplestiltskin, we knew his name from the beginning. The long record of his ruthless and often unethical business dealings, his sexual maneuvers, his deep and abiding dislike of human beings who do not genuflect in his presence, his disregard for the truth, his synthetic bully boy tactics (as if he would ever enter a closed room alone with a real man or woman and call them such names). All of this was known. No one can plead ignorance. To his credit, he never lied about his intrinsic character. He must have had moments when he had to shake his head and break what seemed to be a trance — how could so many believe his carny lies? How could so many blow up their personal, moral gyroscopes to follow him?
When the Romans conducted a siege of an enemy city, they practiced something called circumvallation. They built a wall around the city’s walls. They cut off all routes of escape. Nothing got out. Mueller is closing in — on Monday, he unveiled his first circumvallation. More will follow. And inside that once jeweled city, Trump sits alone, surrounded by sycophants, staffers worried about their own legal jeopardy, and almost certainly, men and women who secretly hate him. And so the mad billionaire rants in his palace which has suddenly become a labyrinth.