Friday, October 30, 2020
Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#11)
The presidential race of 2020 has forced me to think about the presidency. Not much that has happened in the Trump years is a surprise, depending on one’s own memory. How good it is, so to speak. When it was clear in 2016 that Trump would win I began to think of his predecessor, or his most obvious counterpart. That, of course, was Ronald Reagan. But it was a case of yin and yang, of inside, outside, Jekyll and Hyde. Reagan being the Dr. Jekyll, Trump the Mr. Hyde. Yes, this was flip side politics. Reagan was a TV star, exploiting nascent television for decades. I recall as a youth my seeing him pitch for General Electric. Both on its Sunday show during the ‘50s and then on the road thereafter. The term used for the fame that brought him to the mega-firm’s attention was, is, “second lead,” in his weird film career, marked by some schizophrenic casting, mainly criminals and dunces. For those who would leap to point out differences between Reagan and Trump, since Reagan was governor of California, I have two words: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Reagan, though, unlike Trump, was the soft side of craziness, of the far right wing, of Hollywood blowhards. Even I am willing to admit Reagan was more substantial than The Donald. Trump is the ultimate bottom feeder, a barely literate spokesperson for the rabble, a rabble that delights in the similarities between its commander in chief and themselves. He reassures all their half-baked deformed ideas and notions. He, truly, is one of them, except, of course, for his money, life style, and entitlements. The Republicans who share those qualities did vote for him, despite the example of those public figures who have quite noisily abandoned the GOP. If Trump is the Dorian Gray portrait version of Reagan, I am slightly straining the analogy and not giving enough credit to Reagan. But, Reagan perfected the treacle presidency, whereas Trump has perfected the opposite. I never associated Halloween with the presidential election till this year, even though there won’t be any typical Trick or Treating this year. Nothing, of course, is typical in 2020, nor the earlier three years. The debacle of the latest Supreme Court appointment points out any number of things: one of the more obscure is how Republicans have managed to stack the courts over the years. Democrats, much to their, our, detriment, haven’t pushed the importance of the Court in past elections. I have, but to no avail. Part of the problem is the Democrats'overconfidence in their positions and ideas and chances in presidential elections. Gore should have won. Hillary should have won, etc. In the sitting Court, the Bushes (G. W. B. and G. H. W. Bush got two and one, Clinton one, Obama two [both women], and The Donald three), so you see, the current six to three conservative v. liberal count leaves the Democrats at a two to one disadvantage. But, you can also see that Gore was supposed to beat George W. and, of course, Hillary was supposed to have defeated Trump. Both those elections were, so to say, close. Of Trump’s three appointments, I currently see Kavanaugh’s as the most disastrous, in the sense that he seems the most unhinged. He seemed unhinged when his confirmation process hit the rocks and his early adolescent and college life was gone over, roasted for its privileged ridiculousness. I, too, went to an all boys Jesuit highschool, the same one Hillary’s veep attended. So I know the Kavanaugh type. It, too, will always be with us. It would have been better if more time on Kavanaugh’s history as a Republican operative and stooge would have been as thoroughly combed through. He, of course, wasn’t the first Justice who worked in the rag and bone shop of Republican politics, but Kavanaugh more than others seemed to relish all the unpleasant work he did. Down in the Florida recount, and working hard for that wonderful man Ken Starr, etc. When women charged Kavanaugh with various indiscretions, he took it badly. In the last days of his confirmation hearings, when questioned by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Kavanaugh was so defensive he seemed to think he wouldn’t survive the grilling and finally reach his promised gold ring,his seat on the Court. Oh, he of little faith. We learned he likes beer. Doubtless he still does, given the incoherence of his latest judgments. The Court will suffer for decades on Kavanaugh’s watch. And then there is the newest Trump appointee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, giving Trump a modern record of SC appointments. Ah, yes. My knowledge of Justice Barrett is at least close up, if not extensive. She has always seemed, to me, the ultimate Good Student. I’ve had a number of them over my decades as a professor. What they seem to lack, in the aggregate, are original ideas. But, alas, in the time ahead, we will have that tested on the Supreme Court. I hope she has a few original ideas, but, given what is on the record, it seems she is indeed the best of the best of Good Students, and if she only has her formative years growing up as a noted People of Praise member to have nurtured them, God help us all.