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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 7:06 am | Fair 42º


Jamie Stiehm: Donald Trump Would Love Julius Caesar

On the Ides of March, President Donald Trump stayed clear of the Capitol. Good. Some still cherish it as a citadel of democracy.

Under the dome, the place is festering, thick with tension. Few countrymen have Trump’s back. Even fellow Republicans were flustered by his firing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet. Is that ruthless or what?

The relentless exits from the White House have put the word “purge” in common usage.

Beware the ides, a soothsayer told emperor Julius Caesar. Sure enough, on March 15, Caesar — the noblest Roman of them all — died, brutally slain by a scrum of senators. The assassination by conspiracy is Shakespeare’s most haunting scene. His best friend betrayed him. When Caesar looks Brutus in the eye, I have to close mine.

For what crime did Caesar die by murderous daggers in the Roman Senate — the first bloody stroke upon his neck? I’ve known well since sophomore year: The Senate, which feared the mighty conqueror, voted Caesar dictator for life in 44 B.C. He had, after all, crossed the Rubicon and won the Gallic Wars. Trump hinted that would be a good idea, being president for life.

That was a few disasters ago, B.P. — before Pennsylvania’s House race changed the district’s colors from red to blue, after Trump came calling. Trump and the Republican Party lost on that battleground, near land where the Civil War turned at Gettysburg.

Caesar’s ego was the knell for the Roman Republic, senators felt, though Caesar did not seize power. It was granted for life by timid lawmakers. That Republic was the model for American democracy, architecture and all.

Caesar’s death at 56 (like Abraham Lincoln) was “one of the most momentous happenings in the history of the world,” wrote the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. Another Republic did not arise until A.D. 1776. The dark days of the Roman Empire lay ahead.

Trump hardly compares to Caesar, who spoke few well-chosen words: “ veni, vidi, vici.” Given how much Trump admires and hires generals of the “Marine Core” (the commander in chief’s spelling) he would have been in absolute awe of Caesar, who strode to political power across continents, commanding armies on a general’s horse.

When Caesar rode back to Rome from his adventures — well, he kind of earned his parade. By his own account, 800 Roman ships sailed from Gaul (France) full of soldiers to invade Britain. Caesar noted the white cliffs of Dover.

Give me Caesar any March day.

Our man Trump successfully swerved away from military service while the Vietnam War raged for his generation. I wonder what old Julius would say about his soldiers begging off for bone spurs. But I think I know how he’d scornfully sum up Trump: “fat and sleek.” His words. As Shakespeare tells us, Caesar was wary of men who were “lean and hungry.”

Trump prefers to conquer opponents by temper, tweets, insults, nicknames, bragging and — what else — exaggeration. I’d bet the world Trump brags more than Caesar.

Words are his weapons. He draws blood in a different sense. Give him this: He’s a discerning judge of weaknesses. Then he relentlessly preys by repetition. President Barack Obama is gone from the stage, but Trump never lets go of his anger. He’s the most profane president in public, ever, mocking senators of both parties.

Trump is so brazen that he brags about lies he told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in trade talks. Very nice. Most people lie to protect themselves. Trump lies to hurt other people, starting in New York when he vengefully denounced five black men wrongfully accused of a rape in Central Park.

Trump has one thing in common with Trump: Calpurnia was his third wife.

Caesar declared his wife must be beyond suspicion, but he cavorted with Cleopatra a long way from Rome. Two centuries later, Trump has brought Stormy Daniels into the public eye.

How far we’ve come. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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