Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Charles Pierce on Trump: "The president* has transformed the office into just another adjunct of the multigenerational criminal enterprise to which he was heir" -OR- More Trump-World Red Tide Fear, Racism, and Performative Cruelty

Even as the Sun was eclipsed by a small cloud, sunlight sparkles off the Potomac River on a fall day, Georgetown, Washington, D.C., 5:03 pm Oct 21, 2018.


This is a political-themed entry with a few excerpts of recent columns that I like. The political cartoons include a number referencing to the horrific murder-assassination of journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and the likely role that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played in the orchestration of the killing (which apparently involved a bone saw). It's a major story with profound consequences for the sick U.S. - Saudi relationship.

We'll start with a piece by the Trump era-invaluable Charles Pierce from a few days ago: Donald Trump Is Not the President* of the United States in Any Way That Matters

Opening (without embedded links):

Ben Jacobs of The Guardian is a friend of mine, so when he was assaulted two years ago by a thug named Greg Gianforte, I was pretty pissed. This was not abated by the fact that the thug, Greg Gianforte, became Congressman Greg Gianforte anyway.

So on Thursday night, just as the final consensus was solidifying around the fact that journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been tortured, murdered, and dismembered within the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey by members of the Saudi intelligence service and (probably) at the behest of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the president went to Montana and said this about the thug, Congressman Greg Gianforte, I got pissed all over again.

This same piece includes this memorable quote:

The president* has transformed the office into just another adjunct of the multigenerational criminal enterprise to which he was heir. He thrives on the support of brainless masses in this country, and of more competent authoritarians overseas.


From David Frum in The Atlantic, Oct 16, 2018: Woodward Missed Everything That Matters About the Trump Presidency

This is a lengthy piece, but I'd like to focus just on the ending part …

Woodward sees himself as just a reporter, collecting facts and offering them to readers. As he told an interviewer in March, "My job is not to take sides. I think it's important to send the message to people and to act and be as careful and neutral as possible."

This commitment to neutrality promises fairness. Its effect, however, can be to absolve the journalist of responsibility.

Woodward cares a great deal about accuracy: If he is describing a conversation, he will check the memories of as many participants as will speak to him, checking and double-checking that he has reproduced as nearly as possible what happened in the room. But there he stops.

It's not his job, as he seems to see it, to check what happened in the room against what happened in the external world. His disavowal of any point of view of his own effectively resigns the book to the control of his sources and their points of view.

But that does not rate attention from Woodward, perhaps because those scandals do not perturb his sources. Woodward's sources care about Trump's chaos and disorder -- and so that becomes the gravamen of Woodward's critique.

Fear paints a damning picture of Trump the human being. Who will soon forget Trump's derisive comment that H. R. McMaster -- whose life of service to the United States crimped his clothing budget -- "dressed like a beer salesman"? Yet in the end it offers a remarkably forgiving assessment of Trump the president.

The Trump presidency without the corruption, without the Russia entanglement, without the racism, without the abuse of women is hardly recognizable as the Trump presidency at all. There are worse offenses than messiness, after all.

Woodward approaches the Trump presidency as he has approached every other subject in his long and distinguished career. But the Trump presidency is something quite unlike anything anyone in Washington has seen before. Woodward's access to that administration's relatively normal figures -- Cohn, Porter, Priebus, and their colleagues -- actually erodes rather than enhances understanding of the administration's actions.

Their need to justify their own service to Trump compels them to minimize what Trump is and extenuate what he is doing. Woodward's reliance upon them leads him to minimize and extenuate, too. If the only things we had to fear about the Trump administration were the stories told in Fear, Americans and the world could relax. Unfortunately, by relying on Trump’s enablers, America's most legendary reporter has largely missed the biggest part of what they enabled.


A piece from earlier this month by Adam Serwer of The Atlantic: The Cruelty Is the Point.

Taking joy in that suffering is more human than most would like to admit. Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life …

Trump's only true skill is the con; his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright.

The president's ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.

As for that "Blue Wave," it's looking less and less likely. Maybe a few election victories -- but the Senate is a lost cause and the House, meh. Remember: Dems feel more comfortable with failure and losing.

Charles Pierce points out that Trump's latest eve-of-election ploy about transgendered people is in keeping with the performative cruelty (link embedded): Trump's New Attack on Transgender People Is Another Sign It's About the Cruelty Itself.

This is in addition to Trump's massive, racist fearmongering over that "immigrant caravan" wending its way through Mexico designed to arose the Trump MAGA base.

About this Trump crowd, I have to be careful in my own daily life while at L'Enfant Plaza -- where I work and a place overloaded with frickin' tourists, especially in the spring and summer months -- when I see the goddamn loathsome MAGA cap-wearing Trump supporters.

Often, the wearer is a suburban or exurban punk-ass adolescent or teenage boy with his ignorant fat fuck of a father. I hate having to be in the same country as those people.

Returning to the midterms it has to be said, though, that this bilious, hillbilly fascist Trump strategy is in fact having the intended effect …

… of arousing the GOP base and making the upcoming midterms -- which have been fully nationalized as a Trump referendum -- less of a "blue wave" election and more of the usual standoff with the toxic "Red Tide" faction keeping its death grip in place (even if the House manages to just barely flip to the Dems with the Senate a lost cause).

OK, that's all for now. My plan is to post another, non-political-themed entry tomorrow night.


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