Trump’s transition reality show: Kanye West, a naked cowboy and a month to go

Every day is a new episode of the bizarre spectacle at Trump Tower as politicians and celebrities visit the president-elect but just what is he up to?

Is it an alarming prelude, a nonsensical distraction, or simply an improbable work of pop-up theater with a daily run in the outsized lobby of a gaudy Manhattan skyscraper?

After winning a presidential election like no other, Donald Trump has turned the period of transition, one of the worlds more sober and serious mass hiring programs, into a reality show set against a backdrop of 1980s brass and marble.

In Trump Tower, at the base of the lobbys five-storey, dribbling waterfall, an unprecedented drama of American politics is playing out. The hundreds of tourists from around the world who drop by each day sense it. The metal detectors and cordoned media scrum signal it. And the frequent appearance in the lobby of immediately recognizable stars even if you dont know who they are, you know theyre stars confirms it.

Only the Starbucks employees on the mezzanine level, and the guy who runs the souvenir shop in the basement next to the bathrooms, seem unimpressed.

Trump could have done things differently, more discreetly. Barack Obama ran his transition from an anonymous headquarters in Chicago. George W Bush ran his from hastily requisitioned office space in Washington DC.

Trump, whose rsum is padded with television producer credits, has chosen to run his as a mini-series, in which contestants must pass through the silent doors of a Trump-branded elevator and make an invisible ascent to meet their destinies. At the end of each meeting, the elevators deliver the contestants back to Earth, where some make a beeline for the cameras, while others scurry for the Fifth Avenue exits.

Since November, those elevators have swallowed and disgorged an improbable procession of Americans glamorous and grotesque, plus assorted hangers-on: elected officials, an ebullient Nigel Farage, at least four National Football League heroes, two former vice-presidents, a bunch of generals, the founder of the World Economic Forum, a passel of Silicon Valley billionaires, and the rapper/entrepreneur Kanye West, who explained to fans on Twitter afterward: I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future President if we truly want change.

Some of them came for job interviews. The main work of any White House transition, after all, is to field a team for the work ahead, running a superpower. Thus the presence in the lobby of Mitt Romney, the previous Republican presidential nominee, who was hoping for a nod as secretary of state, it turns out pitifully; and of Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, who declared himself unqualified to lead any federal agency and was promptly handed the urban development file.

The next album cover? Trump and West meet at Trump Tower. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

What is Trump up to? He has not merely been parading erstwhile enemies, with the intent of publicly shaming them, the way American police parade criminal suspects. Why should Trump force stalwarts such as Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, and Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio host, to walk past cameras to apply for jobs not reserved for them? There are, after all, back entrances to the tower, which Trump himself mostly uses to slip in and out.

Romney had to sit through dinner with Trump and make his way through an expensive plate of scallops as he grimaced for the camera, realizing he had lost all opportunity to ever again take a credible principled stand against the phoney he had called too dangerous to be allowed inside the Oval Office.

Al Gore, the former vice-president turned global warming Cassandra, met with Trump for 90 minutes in early December, describing to reporters afterwards an extremely interesting conversation. Two days later, Trump tapped a climate change denier who has worked as a state-level hatchet man for fossil fuel companies to run the environmental protection agency. A week later, Trump picked the head of ExxonMobil to run the state department (sorry, Romney).

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