The event was billed as a comedy installation, but it was really more like a haunted house. Wandering the floor of the “Donald Trump Presidential Twitter Library” on Thursday evening in Midtown Manhattan, I read framed copies of malignant missives that Donald Trump has posted over the last half decade and felt both despair and bewilderment that their author is now President of the United States.
Comedy Central invited some reporters to preview the weekend-long pop-up event, which was written and put together by the staff of The Daily Show. The first floor of a building on West 57th street, just blocks from Trump Tower, was made up in elegant-yet-tasteful decor that Trump himself would hate.
The idea for the “library” came out of a conversation in the Daily Show office; every president since Franklin Roosevelt has established a library of his papers after leaving office, and the show’s writers were pondering just what exactly Trump might put in his own library one day. “He’s not the most well-read man, so what is his artistic or literary contribution to society? Well, the only thing we have are his tweets,” Hasan Minhaj, the Daily Show correspondent, said at the event. “So sadly enough, we were like, let’s find the most regal way to find the incoherent, insane ramblings of President #45.”
And it wasn’t just about satire or pointing out Trump’s shortcomings; the space also serves as a reminder of sorts for exhausted Americans.
“I think we have a short memory. Every day, the kind of information that would have made news six years ago, and been a news story for a week, is a news story for an hour now,” correspondent Jordan Klepper told me. “It’s so easy to be inundated by the wave of Donald Trump information and the wave of his tweets. So it’s good to take a step back and be reminded of some of the things he said, and the journey we’re all on.”
The tweets, curated from the thousands of similarly insane messages, were broken down by category, of which there were many. The wall labeled “Always the Best” contains a few of his most laughable boasts — Family Feud once called him the third most envied man in America, which he didn’t seem to understand — while his harsh words for his GOP rivals were grouped together as “The Second Civil War.”
There was a whole wall devoted to Trump’s birther tweets while scattered throughout the displays were some of the most absurd insults and names he’s hurled at other political leaders. These included “Lyin” Ted Cruz and “Little” Marco Rubio, and “Crooked” Hillary, who Trump even tweeted about on Thursday. To the amusement of just about everyone in attendance, Comedy Central threw together a Trump insult generator, so everyone could receive their own disparaging nickname. I, for some reason, was Gravy Breath Jordan.
This is a ridiculously dumb insult but also pretty mild; as another display tells us, Trump is a man who still uses “Pocahontas” to taunt Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a white woman who once claimed to have a small amount of Native American ancestry.
Minhaj, who hosted the Trump-less White House Correspondents’ Dinner but still took a lot of shots at the president in his speech, told me that he was surprised that he hadn’t been the target of Trump’s ire.
“I so thought he would, but he did not tweet about me,” he said. “I think he’s a big enough narcissist — you read his tweets about the Oscars or CNN, I think he’s aware of everything; I think he just had to covfefe.”
That infamous tweet, in fact, was given its own frame and spotlight.
Near the center of the room, towards the back, was a golden toilet, the throne from which we all assume Trump sends most of his early morning tweets. It’s flanked by an American and Russian flag, and across the floor is a large world map, with flags planted on every country he’s insulted on Twitter. It looks a bit like a game of Risk, run by the worst strategist of all-time.
Nearby was a digital display of Trump’s Twitter feed, plugged into the internet so that no one admiring his past messages would miss a new one. It was striking, gazing upon it and knowing that at any moment, he could trigger some sort of constitutional crisis or war in just 140 characters.
For Minhaj, it represented a new kind of overlord.
“My life as a Daily Show correspondent is in a constant limbo, where I feel like I’m in the strangest improv game of all time,” he said. “Whatever suggestion he throws my way, we kind of have to roll with.”
But none of this is even a surprise. The thing about the pop-up event that scared me most was that none of these flagrant displays of egotism and ignorance were newly unearthed for a shocked public; the tweets on display — and many, many more like them — were freely available, and even widely circulated long before last November’s election. Americans still picked the guy.
The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library is open through Sunday, June 18.