Friday, October 30, 2020
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.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Though almost all brief assessments are faulty, I offer these two concerning the last and current presidencies: Obama came into office inspiring such high hopes and failed them all, whereas Trump came in only presaging dread and fear and he fulfilled them all. For certain Democrats, at least. Now the same folk, including me, are awaiting Obama’s vice president’s triumph over The Donald, but are standing on unsteady legs, fearing the worst, while hoping for the best, or whatever cliche seems most appropriate. Riots at the polling places? Absentee ballots being burned in the public square? All of this drama begins in two weeks, more or less. Back in 2016, I was disturbed by the photo of Trump that NBC used most regularly and prominently, because it seemed to be a publicity shot, not strange, since NBC was the host and semi-creator of Trump’s long running show, “The Apprentice.” The trouble was that Trump, the candidate, didn’t look much like the photo. His hair, that is. In the photo, it was business-man standard, a mixture of silver highlights, gray, a bit brown. It was the network’s go-to shot. The problem was that Trump’s hair color was orange, sometimes more blonde toned, but certainly stuck at that end of the spectrum, a decidedly Florida hue. On NBC that photo has been turning up again in 2020. All of TV, I suppose, is fantasy land, but NBC, its top brass, still seems to be in The Donald’s camp. What’s good for television is good for, etc. Putting the Trump “town hall” right up against Biden’s version on ABC seemed to certify some not so latent aura of connection. Though the moderator, Savannah Guthrie, was more aggressive than Bill Clinton’s former lap dog, it appeared that NBC couldn’t cut the cord on the entertainment factor. Obviously, all is entertainment these days, everything is ratings driven, and the mob wants its human sacrifices in the arena. Even the New York Times has surrendered to this ethic. The Gray Lady is gray no more. Full pages of graphics, art, photos, eye candy, almost no text. The Times seems to be turning into a weirder newsprint version of Vanity Fair and the last six months or so, it’s become so heavily Black centric, it seems to be making up for its long, long history of discrimination and neglect. Whatever. The FBI, as I mentioned in my last blog entry, has continued its wacky kidnap case of the governor of Michigan. I’ve wondered if Trump’s recent criticism of Gov. Whitmer, inspiring his MAGA crowd at the Muskegon county airport, after the case had come to light, to chant Lock Her Up, would inspire the Feds to name him and them as unindicted co-conspirators in a subsequent legal filing. A lot of the TV press has expressed dismay at the plot outlined, kidnaping the Addams Family governor, taking her off to the woods, having a trial, doing a citizens arrest, letting her ultimately go, after sufficient humiliation, etc. Such a plot! Though one familiar to me, since I wrote a book about just such a charge and trial and behavior back in 1972, The Harrisburg 7 and the New Catholic Left. None of the Dumbo Michigan “Wolverine Watchmen” conspirators (most sporting the usual tasteful Jihadists beards) would have noticed the similarities, but there’s a small, very small, chance that one of the FBI implant handlers in the group would have heard of it back at Seat of Government (SOG), the phrase gumshoes use, or used, to refer to headquarters. The FBI requires informants. Life continues to get stranger and few and fewer seem to remember anything beyond the day before. That’s what happens when you go from a literate culture to an aural/visual one. Images dominate, not words. Trump, of course, is the epitome of this change. His fifty-word vocabulary suits the times. But, this Thursday, we are told, will be the last debate. The Last Debate. Ominous itself. That one, as they say, will be a humdinger, a real knee slapper. And guess what Network is “airing” it? Yes, NBC. I’ll be interested to see what stock promotional photo they use of Trump. I won’t expect to see orange hair.
Friday, October 9, 2020
One thing that continues to amaze me about The Donald and his “Presidency” is that he continues an upward graph of weirdness. It’s a talent, of sorts, I have to acknowledge it. The past couple of days he has been helped by actual craziness, in the form of his fairly secret medical treatments, his steroid dose, which has caused a Ruling Roid, or Roid Ruling, or his threatening William Barr for not indicting Barack Obama, or Hillary, or whoever is on Trump’s long list of criminals who need to be caged. The Speaker of the House wants to employ the 25th Amendment. Well, that’s not likely with Mike Pence sitting there in wait. I’ve had a long history with Pence, writing about him since before he was governor of the state of Indiana, where I live. I wrote about him in 2016, saying he was Mitch Daniels with fewer brains. And I’ve never been impressed with Mitch Daniels’ brain. But Pence, who slithered into the position after Daniels, seemed more of a hallowed/hollow shell, and other than being, becoming, a right-wing evangelical – the opposite sort of Justice Neil Gorsuch, Pence, like Gorsuch, growing up Catholic, though, after college, instead of becoming high-church Episcopalian, chose low-church Evangelical. Pence knew what side of the electorate his bread was buttered on in Indiana and, I suppose, Gorsuch did too, having higher aspirations, and more lofty company in mind. Anyway, Pence filled the flat TV screen for 90 minutes the other day, some sort of visual contrast to Kamala Harris, one alive and animated, the other dead(?) and moribund. At least the fly thought he was dead. Two minutes! Pence’s eyes became redder and redder as the debate droned on and I thought, at any moment, the stage would become the set of a Hammer movie and Dracula would emerge. Glad that didn’t happen. And speaking of Hammer films, the public anointing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett was something out of a bad movie script (or crypt). It’s aftermath, at least. It was as if the Deity (or whoever) was hurling thunderbolts of Covid germs down on the crowd’s heads. It appeared someone on high was not pleased. People of Praise look out. The White House as plague hotspot. Hasn’t been a good few days for the GOP. Not that Democrats have been spared. The governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, keeping in the pop culture world, looks straight out of the Addams Family, especially the 1964 version. This resemblance has only been enhanced by her almost daily appearances for months speaking of Covid in Michigan. And her "signers" in the background have added to the casting resemblance, given the nature of their work, which, most often, requires broad gestures and pronounced facial expressions. It’s a mad, mad world. Nonetheless, some rough and ready mainly Michigan types have been indicted as potential kidnappers and general trouble makers. It seems FBI informers and plants are involved, so I’ll wait to hear where the brains came from. In cases like these the deep thinkers are often supplied by the FBI. The perps all have beards, which makes them look like deep cover Jihadists of sorts. Things are getting crazier and, given Trump on the loose, it’ll doubtless get even more so.
Friday, October 2, 2020
Well, look where we are now. The Covid denier has Covid. Even though The Donald yammered on to Bob Woodward way back when about how dangerous the Corona virus was, he was worried about “panic” (a nebulous and unlikely fear) and broadcast the opposite to we, the people. Now, as they say, it has come home to roost. I have been struck, given the various Air Force One tapes the media have been running, how much the White House crowd resembled a Frat or Sorority House party: dressed to the nines, chatty as hell, commingling happily, and Hope Hicks, the reigning hot number, striding along in six inch heels, ready to board the plane and whatever else. It’s not a matter of the other shoe (or high heel) to drop, but whether the entire footwear store will implode. Time will tell, those ominous three words. The first “debate” is over. It didn’t seem to please anyone. The second debate – not pensive Pence and harried Harris – but the next “Presidential” debate may never take place. I will miss its town hall style, seats sparsely filled with so-called undecided voters. This sort of gathering is the summoning of the lame and halt, politically speaking, the slice of the electorate in play. Save us Lord. As Mike Pence might say. Each four years we get to see the average American psyche, housed in those who can’t seem to make up their minds. If, somehow, Democrats manage not to lose the election instead of packing the Court they might just make the president’s term six years and no more. “No more” is what you want to say about a lot of this. Amy Coney Barrett, at this time Covid free, is making the rounds of Senators, the friendly ones now, Republicans all. Her picturesque religious past is actually being downplayed thus far. Imagine, attacking religions!, the non pious have been saying, meaning any number of godforsaken GOP types. It is now confirmed, thanks to the local paper, that she is against abortion. Big surprise, it seems, for the rest of the country. Speaking of religion, I still imagine Trump resigning after he loses (if he makes it that far and if anarchy doesn’t break out) to let the former Catholic Mike Pence become President in order to grant The Donald an all encompassing pardon, along with anyone else with whom he shares DNA. The Covid cases throw any predictions into the hopper, though. What continues to provoke me is that all of what we are experiencing was more than predictable: when Trump won, gathering less votes overall than Mitt Romney, many things were clear, other than the end of our world, thanks to Covid. What could be worse?, I thought at the time, to put this criminal clown in charge. The undecideds back then broke for Trump and many, far too many, former Democrat voters abstained. And, for equally though different demented reasons, today’s as-yet-undecided voters can’t seem to make up their minds. Somehow these folk vote for the person, not the party. I blame Ralph Nader for many things, but one chief complaint is that he convinced a lot of people decades ago that the two parties were more or less the same. The Dems and Repubs once might have been close, but they haven’t been since the flip-side huckster television produced loon, Ronald Reagan. I take that back. Not the Reagan part, but the historic date. The party of FDR was far, far different than that of Wendell Willkie, etc. In any case, there’s nothing, it seems, we can do about the undecideds. The last minute pickers. Impulse voters. Some people do change over time. The young occasionally become more wise. Some thirty days remain and, thanks to Jim Comey, who, thanks to the recent movie ("The Comey Rule"!), is now again a star, it is implanted in most careful observers’ brains, that things can change the last ten days of the election. And even now the specter of Proud Boys clogging voting centers seems likely. Trump does manufacture slogans: Stand back, Stand by. We’ve already had hanging chads, and worse lies in wait. Right now, the current spectacle might be a rerun of the Beauty and the Beast happening simultaneously. Amy Coney Barrett being the beauty and you know who being the beast. I, unfortunately, tend to blame Obama for our present condition. I realize that may be extreme, but he didn’t seem to learn much from his, say, seven years as president. One example: when he put up Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court he showed an opaqueness that ranks as criminal. He was still trying to please the other party, be a conciliator, give those raging animals a choice that they couldn’t possibly be against, a sixty-five year old, fairly middle-of-the-road, well-known judge. And then Mitch McConnell bit Barack’s head off. He became a seven year president. Somehow, Obama thought, after seven years of being pushed around, he still could win over the Republicans. With his charm? All Obama proved was that the Senate was the most powerful of the three branches of government. Obama let Hillary hang by never quashing the Russians' effective meddling in the election. The FBI might be able to smear her campaign, but Obama’s default to propriety ruled the day. His desire to have a woman become president after his historic election, was, shall we say, mild. Just as Bill Clinton’s legacy was George W. Bush, Obama’s legacy is Donald Trump, Covid-19 and all. Water under the bridge, I know. Worse has occurred and worse is yet to come.