Wineke: Power is a transitory thing

Trump Bids Farewell To Washington, Hints Of Comeback
Manuel Balce Ceneta

Former President Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump disembark of off Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

MADISON, Wis. — And, poof!, he was gone.

At 7:59 a.m. Wednesday, Donald Trump was the most powerful man in the world.

A minute later, as Air Force One ascended above Andrews Air Force base, his image dissolved into a vapor trail.

Technically, of course, Trump was president until noon. In reality, television attention turned immediately to the Bidens heading out for church. And, in Trump world, television is reality. Trump was gone.

Such is the nature of power. We think we can earn it or seize it, but, in this country at least, it is granted for a limited period of time.

Trump will, of course, remain visible for some period to come. For one thing, he has an impeachment trial coming up. It does grant him some degree of notoriety. No other president in history – and most likely no other president to come – will leave office under that kind of cloud.

But, for four years he dominated our reality, dominated our television news, dominated our politics, even dominated our social media. There was no escaping him and friend and foe both feared him.

And, then, at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, he was gone.

The inauguration took place without him. That was his choice.

President Obama was part of the ceremony. President Bush was part of the ceremony. President Clinton was part of the ceremony. Did anyone really miss President Trump?

I doubt it.

In his world there was never really any place for anyone else. He dominated everything.

Then he was gone and it was as if he had never existed.

He went back to his golf club, back to Elba. I expect he is plotting his return, plotting his revenge. That’s what exiled leaders do. Some even return. When they do, it never turns out well.

Power is transitory. Whatever part of it we hold, we hold only for a few moments, then it is gone.

We can use what power we have for good, or we can waste the opportunity.

Literally or figuratively, it will one day disappear in a vapor trail.