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Opinion | The Ogre Gorging on America

If you can imagine the lobby bar of the Manchester Marriott as an Anglo-Saxon mead hall, I can explain how it felt to cover the New Hampshire primary.

I will need the help of the late Seamus Heaney, who described what it was like to be quaffing in Heorot Hall while Grendel lurked and swooped through the frost-stiffened north.

In his lyrical translation of “Beowulf,” Heaney described Grendel as “the terror-monger,” the “captain of evil” and “the dread of the land.”

He wrote that the fiend “ruled in defiance of right” and was “malignant by nature, he never showed remorse.”

The “powerful demon, a prowler through the dark, nursed a hard grievance,” he said, adding: “Grendel waged his lonely war, inflicting constant cruelties on the people, atrocious hurt,” pursuing “vicious raids and ravages.”

The New Hampshire primary felt like a chapter of that Old English saga: Donald Trump, the ogre who keeps coming back to terrorize us, was stomping around that lovely little snow-covered state, devouring his foes.

Unfortunately, Nikki Haley was no Beowulf. She was not mighty and canny enough to rescue us from the brute. Not a single mead bench was broken in the battle. Her blade made slight cuts, but she was tentative, hoping not to drive away Trump supporters. She was on defense, not offense. She needed more of that adamantine quality that Nancy Pelosi showed against Trump.

Haley did not say what needed to be said: Donald Trump should not be president because he tried to overthrow the government. We can’t have someone guiding our democracy who is undemocratic, claiming that every contest he loses is rigged. We can’t have a president who encourages violence, vomits misinformation, campaigns by humiliation and smears and, lately, portrays himself as divine.

Engorged by his victories over Haley and Ron DeSanctimonious, the Mar-a-Lago Monster grew stronger.

Haley was able to get under his skin by taking a page out of his book on election night. She took her second-place finish and boasted that it really counted as a win of sorts. And that sent Trump into a scary “Caine Mutiny” monologue.

All he had to do Tuesday night in Nashua was be gracious in victory and say he was going to focus on the general election.

But he is so frightened of being cast as a loser that he was totally thrown for a loop by Haley bragging about taking the silver medal. He thinks he’s the only one who’s allowed to spin election results.

“I said, ‘Wow, she’s doing, like, a speech, like she won,’” Trump said. “She didn’t win. She lost.” How removed is he from his own reality that he can say that with a straight face? That he doesn’t know he’s talking about himself?

He was befuddled by the effrontery of Haley continuing her challenge to him. He couldn’t stop his Captain Queeg rant.

Ah, but the strawberries.

“We’ve won almost every single poll in the last three months against Crooked Joe Biden, almost every poll. And she doesn’t win those polls. And she doesn’t win those. This is not your typical victory speech, but let’s not have somebody take a victory when she had a very bad night. She had a very bad night.” (Needless to say, Haley does win some polls.)

Ah, but the strawberries.

“I said I can go up and I can say to everybody, ‘Oh, thank you for the victory. It’s wonderful.’ Or I can go up and say, ‘Who the hell was the impostor that went up on the stage before and, like, claimed a victory?’ She did very poorly, actually.” He added: “I don’t get too angry. I get even.”

Ah, but the strawberries.

“But I felt I should do this because I find in life you can’t let people get away with bullshit. You can’t. You just can’t do that. And when I watched her in the fancy dress that probably wasn’t so fancy, come up, I said, ‘What’s she doing? We won.’”

What does that bitchy line about Haley’s pretty blue flowered dress even mean? It’s as if he can’t even summon a sexist insult that makes sense. No wonder Haley called him “totally unhinged” on Friday.

He kept going with his demented rant on Truth Social two days later: “I heard BIRDBRAIN totally ‘bombed’ last night in South Carolina. Why the surprise, she just bombed in Iowa and New Hampshire in a very big way, and lost both States.”

He has really lost the thread of how a democracy works. This was evident again in his outrageous endorsement of a plan to short-circuit the primaries and have himself crowned the presumptive nominee by the Republican National Committee. After a backlash, he backed off and disavowed his own desire.

Trump was still acting erratically in a federal courtroom in Manhattan on Friday, stalking in and out. After the jury returned a verdict ordering him to pay $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll for defaming her, he blasted out a screwy screed on Truth Social, ending with, “THIS IS NOT AMERICA!”

Fortunately, it is. But it won’t be if Grendel terrorizes his way back into the Oval Office.


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