There is no shortage of Americans who believe that the president is costing us dearly: in tariffs, in sanity, in our daily deterioration of democracy.
But Don Lessem — “Dino Don” to those in the know — can tell you to the penny how much the president has cost the Media-based dinosaur expert who is Jurassic Park-level famous:
$25,000. That’s what he spent to commission a 16-foot-high talking, tweeting and toilet-tethered robotic Trump that is starring in street protests during the president’s three day visit to the UK. ($16,000 to build, $5,000 to ship and $4,000 to assemble.)
While we Americans slept, Lessem, 67, was in London on Tuesday, unveiling the mechanical president in all of his glory: trousers down, famously too-long red tie dipping into a gold toilet while wearing a MAGA cap and — of course — tweeting. Bonus: The anamatronic prez also emits farting noises and recordings of some of Trump’s provocative sound bites including “No collusion,” “You are fake news,” and “I’m a very stable genius.”
It’s proven to be a star attraction during the protests, joining a diapered Trump blimp and a series of demeaning projections on London landmarks.
A shameless and creative Trump critic, Lessem said he got the idea after he went to the factory in China — irony noted — that makes his giant robot dinosaurs and saw that they made all kinds of frightening things.
He thought: Why not make the thing that frightens — or should— every American?
The factory was a bit nervous. Could the Delco resident really do that, without getting arrested — or worse?
The answer, my fellow Americans, is yes — at least for now.
The fear, Lessem said, of losing our basic rights, of watching history repeat itself, drove him to first write a book called, “Who said it? Trump or This Other Schmuck,” chronicling how so much of what escapes the president’s pouted lips is indistinguishable from that said by other historically horrible leaders. To sell the books, Lessem created a website, TheDumpTrumpDump.com, where 10 percent of proceeds go to pro-democracy nonprofits.
But it’s his pièce de résistance, the Dumping Trump robot, that’s won Lessem the most attention.
By all social media accounts, his creation was received in the spirit it was created on Tuesday. It’s hard not to get a laugh (and then maybe a good rage cry) when you’re confronted with such a ridiculously accurate expression of the state of the United States of America. Lessem will be flying it back to the states just in time for Fourth of July celebrations.
But like all things satire, there are some giant truths behind the giant presidential potty.
“My mother is 100, a Holocaust escapee,” Lessem said, turning solemn when we spoke by phone shortly after he landed in London on Monday afternoon. “She said, ‘This is how Hitler got started. He’s not that bad yet, but give him a chance.’ The lesson I learned was don’t keep your mouth shut. Speak out now.”
The problem — or danger, Lessem said, is that after three years of Trump, even his critics are getting tired.
That can’t happen.
“[People] think, ‘We’ll survive this and there’s nothing we can do for a couple of years.’ Well, I don’t think that’s the answer and I think we need to speak out and impeach him. We need to be angry and stay angry. And I am.”
Not surprisingly, Lessem has provoked his fair share of hardcore hate mail. His family is of mixed opinions: A lot feel it’s not the best way to spend money, others wonder if he’s debasing himself by lowering himself to Trump’s juvenile behavior.
How are we enhancing the argument with crude satire? they ask.
It’s a valid question, Lessem said.
“But satire is a weapon. It’s my weapon. We didn’t demean the presidency, he did. And I think anything that draws attention to the ludicrous behavior is a good thing.”