New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Raleigh, Dallas… I’m on a book tour in Donald Trump’s USA, which feels much like the USA I’ve visited many times before. The tour doesn’t go to any of the so-called ‘rust belt’ cities where Trump has his main support and the people I meet are quietly shocked, apologetic — as if their President is an elderly relative who has displayed horrible manners at the table. Washington is such a handsome, classical city, with its free museums and wonderful collections of art, that I feel a stab of pain as I drive past the White House and think about the man inside. A single protestor stands silently, at attention, outside the Lincoln memorial with a placard that concludes: ‘It’s time to end this national disgrace.’ My first thought is that he must be mad to be there all day. My second is that he’s completely sane. Almost everyone who passes mutters words of encouragement.
I have a little time to pop into the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and look at all the presidents on the second floor. It’s strange and again disconcerting to think that Trump will one day sit among them. Who will paint him and in what style? Surrealism springs to mind. In fact, I’m tempted to say that every president gets the portrait he deserves. Bill Clinton gets a brash, lurid representation by Chuck Close. Jimmy Carter looks hesitant, lost in his surroundings. But my theory comes crashing down to the ground when I see a tremendously flattering, respectful portrait by Norman Rockwell painted in 1968. The subject is Richard Nixon.
I once met Harvey Weinstein. Dread words! But he’s the other national disgrace that’s following me on tour as I’m here promoting Alex Rider.