Is it too soon to propose a President Donald Trump Memorial on the National Mall?
President George Washington waited 49 years after his death for ground to be broken for his memorial and another 36 years for the spire’s completion. President Thomas Jefferson was dead 117 years and President Abraham Lincoln 57 years before receiving their honors in stone. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spent 52 years on hold. A spot along the Mall has been reserved for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, dead 48 years, but what good is the dedicated real estate doing him? The feds have blown more than $40 million on the hamstrung project, a Frank Gehry-designed atrocity, and nobody knows when it will be built.
Some might say, Why can’t it wait? Nobody can deny that Trump is as pioneering president who has ever inhabited the White House. He’s the first president to own social media. He’s our first true citizen-president, elected without a day of public service to his name. To those who carp that he hasn’t much in the way of accomplishment to show for his first five-plus months in office, hey, it’s early yet! Proceeding on the assumption that 62,984,825 voters can’t be wrong, and that he’ll eventually sweep something of real consequence into his presidency, it’s not too early to start designing a granite, marble, and bluestone salute to the man.
And one more thing: He’s colossally impatient: He’d want this thing to go up in a hurry, like Wolman Rink revisited. If we get cracking now on a Trump memorial, we could dedicate it as his first term ends. A president as unique as Trump deserves a memorial that’s hugely unique. So what would it look like? A few modest proposals:
The Fairway to Heaven
The most natural fit for his presidency would be a memorial with a golf theme. In the first 165 days of his presidency, Trump has spent 36 of them on one of his golf properties, driving on a green, and blinding the traveling press pool to his swing by sticking them in a basement room with blacked out windows. Trump has a way of turning his negatives—a foul mouth, a boorish manner, a short attention span—into positives. He could do the same with his golf habit, which the commentariat can’t stop complaining about, but his votaries clearly don’t mind.
Never mind the pedestrian 18-hole course tucked nearby in East Potomac Park. A champion golf course would, in true Trumpian fashion, sprawl across the whole place. The Mall’s 146 acres would make a superb wooded, scenic course, with ample room for a several double dogleg par 5 holes. Existing water hazards—the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the Jefferson Memorial’s Tidal Basin, and Constitution Gardens—could be incorporated into the course, as could the Potomac River, adjacent to West Potomac Park. Tiber Creek, which once ran from the foot of Capitol Hill to the Potomac, was rerouted to a sewer tunnel in the late 1800s. It could be reopened to give the Trump Memorial additional aquatic grandeur, putting the “hazard” back into water hazard. Convert the swale that forms the Vietnam Veterans Memorial into a grand sand trap. Obviously, the flat-as-a-fritter greenway would have to be terraformed to add the contours a top-quality course must have, which shouldn’t be a problem because so much of the Mall is already landfill. And for a clubhouse—well, the White House has a perfect location, and could double for a suburban country club anyway.
The “Mine’s Bigger” Tower
Should a golf course be considered too intrusive, we could scout other Mall locations. In his essential guide to the interconnected meanings of the Mall memorials, Charles L. Griswold Jr. sees the whole system as a form of “recollective architecture” through which we tell our nation’s story. All of the memorials radiate from the center marked by the Washington Monument, which symbolizes both the nation’s founding and its founder. The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials extend like “like planets in orbit around this obelisk.” Naturally, the monument they should be orbiting is Trump’s.
Because everything with the Trump name on it must be—or claim to be—bigger than what has gone before, the Washington Monument will have to surrender its centrality and its spot to the bigger Trump Tower. The design specs for this one are pretty straightforward: Slightly more of everything. This newest Trump Tower needs to stand taller than the 555 feet and 5 1/8 inches of its competitor; if it’s going to be white, it should be whiter than the Washington Monument. If made of marble, only flawless extra virgin marble will do. (Or at least a veneer of it.) The real debate will be what happens to the Washington Monument itself—do we take the trouble to move it to a new location? Or just raze it, like Trump did to Bonwit Teller? Maybe one way to assuage the preservationists would be to cover the Washington Monument in just enough gold leaf to make it reflect the new Trump monument, and rebrand it with a subtle onyx “T.”
The Conqueror of All Media
Monuments often represent the triumphs of the men they commemorate—nearly every big Roman arch depicts some emperor’s defeat of a hated foe. For Trump, that enemy is clear. The perfect spot for the Trump Memorial would be next to the Canadian Embassy, near the U.S. Capitol. Yes, that’s where the Newseum currently stands; building on its ashes would signify Trump’s triumph over the pesky scribblers and yellers of the Fourth Estate. Something domed, Roman style, would echo the imperial Trump style and harmonize with the other domes (Jefferson, Capitol, National Gallery, et al.) that decorate the city’s monumental core. Domed, but bigger. A statute of Trump in toga and scandals, perhaps, place at its center, with fast food wrappers scattered at his feet—a symbol of his prolitarian cred, and an actual record of his eating habits.
Many presidential memorials enshrine their man with inspiring quotations he’s uttered or written. Trump’s most famous tweets and other lines (“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”; “Fake media”; “You’re fired!”; “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice”) could be chiseled into his shrine. And most gratifyingly, building on the Newseum site would permanently expunge the giant copy of the First Amendment etched on its exterior.
In 1978, as Chicago considered building a monument to its long-time mayor and despot, Richard J. Daley, one proposal came from Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mike Royko. His solution was as elegant as it was fitting: He proposed a two-mile high statue of Daley placed two miles off the Chicago coastline in Lake Michigan. At sunrise, the giant Daley would rise from its submerged depths; at sunset it would disappear under the waters. During the day it would rotate 180 degrees to reveal a giant mistletoe on his rump at which citizens could throw kisses.
This approach might be too subtle for Trump, but it’s a start. Perhaps the fullest expression of Trumpian grandiosity currently exists in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, where longtime strongman Saparmurat Niyazov transformed the capital into a white-and-gold monument to Saparmurat Niyazov. It includes the “Arch of Neutrality“ (topped with a giant statue of Niyazov), “Giant Ruhnama“ (a large sculpture of his unreadable book), “The Independence Monument“ (augmented with another Niyazov statute), and “The Walk of Health,” an uphill trail that the president forced his government members to walk, as he ascended to the top by helicopter.
To do the Trump presidency justice, a mere memorial on the Mall, or even series of memorials, would not suffice. Griswold notes that in 1783 the House voted to build a mausoleum shaped like a pyramid to honor Washington, but the Senate did not concur. Why not revive the pyramid idea for Trump to connect his legacy to antiquity? A Trump Pyramid—taller than any structure in the DC area—could rise on the site of the current RFK Stadium, which lies right on the emblematic line that strings the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and the Capitol. The Trump Pyramid would be first to greet the first light of the rising sun, evoking his perpetually tanned face. The structure would contain a TV studio to honor his Apprentice years; an interactive diorama of his business, media, and political careers; a functioning casino to remember his Atlantic City years; a small, corrupt university; a constantly scrolling textual history of his tweets; and acres of shopping space for Trump-branded steaks, water, mattresses, ties, Ivanka shoes and jewelry, and whatever global enterprises his sons manage to launch during his reign.
At the pyramid’s center, of course, would rest Trump’s preserved body, standing with thumbs up—a vertical version of Lenin’s Mausoleum. On weekdays they could dress him in a suit and long red tie; on weekends in golf garb. And every day they could rotate his gilded corpse to expose the mistletoe pinned to his butt. Let the design competition begin!