Insane Clown President, my new book about the 2016 presidential campaign, comes out today, January 17th. I talked about the book with longtime friends Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! this morning; you can watch that above.
A quick note about the book, which is published by Spiegel & Grau and brilliantly illustrated by Rolling Stone's own Victor Juhasz:
Covering the presidential election for Rolling Stone is one of the unique jobs in the world, a peculiar responsibility passed from generation to generation – like being the Dread Pirate Roberts. Throughout my time at the magazine, I've never not been conscious of the tradition.
I'm sure Victor feels the same way. Every time you visit the magazine's offices, you have to pass a row of originals by Ralph Steadman of people like Nixon and McGovern, drawn back when Hunter Thompson was covering the 1972 campaign.
What made Thompson's work on that 1972 campaign art, as opposed to just snappy periodical writing, was Thompson's obsession with Nixon. It was like the two men were linked in another dimension. Thompson suffered from a congenital condition that somehow made him perfectly attuned to the particular vibe of moral death that Nixon radiated.
As Nixon's crimes accumulated over the years, as he grew even more repellent and disgusting, Thompson grew more and more obsessed. It's probably not an accident that one of the funniest things Thompson ever wrote was Nixon's obituary, in which a lifetime of snowballing hatred spilled out in one unforgettable line after another.
"Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning," he wrote. "Even his funeral was illegal."
I would never compare myself to Thompson – that's a losing undertaking for any political writer – but unlike previous campaigns I've covered for the magazine, 2016 had a lot in common with 1972. Richard Nixon was the defining monster of Thompson's era. We've now found ours in Donald Trump.
Trump is the perfect modern American. He's a human consumption machine with no attention span, no self-control, no beliefs and no hobbies outside of sex, spending, eating and talking about himself. Nixon at least played the piano and read classics. He was an intellectual with a pig's heart. Trump is just the pig part.
The distance between the two men represents how far we've fallen as a nation in the last 40 or 50 years. Once we were merely rotten and evil on the inside. Now we even lack the depth needed to be two-faced, and our dark underbelly is also our shameless, dumb exterior.
During most of the last two years I thought the Trump campaign would just be an isolated episode of mass insanity on which we would someday be able to look back and laugh. It turned out to be something a lot darker and crazier than that. Insane Clown President is the story of how we got here, to the beginning of our next long national nightmare.