Donald Trump sees dead people.
He doesn’t just see them. He talks to them and relays their thoughts back to the living. This president may do things large, but he is also a medium.
A few weeks ago, while posthumously honoring a World War II hero, Trump gave the man’s family a report on their departed loved one. He was “looking down from Heaven, proud of this incredible honor, but even prouder of the legacy that lives on in each of you. So true.”
A few weeks before that, at what was billed as a celebration of patriotism at the White House, Trump reported to the crowd that fallen soldiers are pleased with his economic policies and increases in the stock market. “Many of them are looking down right now at our country, and they are proud,” he said.
Sometimes, Trump pinpoints the location of the deceased, using some psychic GPS. At an outdoor Medal of Honor ceremony in May for soldiers lost at a battle in Afghanistan, Trump pointed at a location in the sky and said “they are looking down right now.” A week before that, outside the Capitol, Trump pointed to a point in the sky over his head and told the family of a slain police detective: “So she’s right now, right there. And she’s looking down.”
Occasionally, something must get lost in the cloud and Trump receives a heavenly miscommunication. Speaking to a steelworker at the White House in March, Trump informed the man: “Your father, Herman, he’s looking down, and he’s very proud of you right now.”
“Oh, he’s still alive,” the steelworker said.
“Then he’s even more proud of you,” Trump said.
Hillary Clinton communed with Eleanor Roosevelt under the auspices of a woman who studied the psychic experience. Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer after her husband was shot in 1981. Both first ladies were ridiculed for performing “seances.”
But now we have the president himself talking directly with dead people — and even, on occasion, God. After his inauguration, Trump announced that “God looked down and he said, ‘We’re not going to let it rain on your speech.’” (There was some miscommunication over the celestial transom, because it rained.)
Trump’s frequent channeling of the dead caught the attention of Karen Park, a professor of religious history at St. Norbert College. “My sense is that this is what passes for spirituality for Trump — a world where imaginary dead white people take an elevator to a heavenly penthouse where they look down on him with approval,” she tells me.
This is pop theology, a view of heaven as an entitlement. Millions buy books and watch movies about such a simple, Hallmark heaven, and they like it when Trump devises “fantasies about happy dead people blessing his presidency and this country because these fantasies make us feel good and require nothing from us at all,” Park argues, calling this “something rotten at the core of American religious life.”
In fairness, Trump does allow that some people may not land in the happy heaven. In, 2016, he threw Iowans a theological curveball after telling them they would be looking down happily after death. “We hope you’re looking down, anyway,” he added.
Trump has had strikingly detailed conversations with the departed. In May, 2017, Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro asked Trump what his late brother Fred is “telling you now.”
“He’s telling me just keep doing what you’re doing,” Trump replied. “And I would tell you if it were different.” Fred Trump, in his brother’s view, had particular interest in the border, trade, jobs and North Korea.
Trump’s mother, the president has said on more than one occasion, “is looking down,” particularly around Mother’s Day. His father looks down, too, though seemingly less often.
Trump informed Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, that his father “is looking down on you right now and he is proud.” Same with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s mom. And golfer Justin Rose’s father.
Trump has long communed with the dead. At a 1984 game of the doomed USFL football league, he told a sportscaster that “I suspect that Bear Bryant might be looking down on the stadium right now.”
By now, Trump has perfected the medium message. Addressing Congress last year, Trump honored the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who died in a controversial raid Trump approved. The tearful widow looked heavenward and lawmakers applauded for two full minutes.
“Ryan is looking down right now,” Trump reported to the chamber. “And he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record.”
Was Owens looking down happily? Did he care if he posthumously broke an applause record?
God knows. And the president.
Follow Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter, @Milbank.
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