Politics postsThursday July 28, 2016
It Can't Happen Here
From Jonathan Chait on New York magazine's website:
Amazingly, even as Democrats painted Trump as an authoritarian menace, he continued to confirm the point on the ground. Weeks earlier, Trump's campaign had banned the Washington Post, whose coverage it found objectionable, from campaign events. The ban had only symbolic meaning, though. ... But yesterday, the Trump campaign extended its ban from the symbolic to the real by preventing Post reporter Jose DelReal from entering a public speech by Trump's vice-presidential nominee, Mike Pence. Private security first told DelReal he could not enter the rally with his laptop and phone. DelReal asked if other attendees were allowed to bring phones and was told, “Not if they work for the Washington Post.” DelReal placed the items in his car, returned, was patted down by security, and then still told he could not enter. Later, Pence's staffers insisted it had all been a mistake, blaming overzealous local staffers. This sort of iterative, inconsistent, and even chaotic sequence of events fits a common pattern of how political authoritarians break down rules and norms.
Be afraid. Or better: Keep Calm and Fucking Vote.
My Thoughts Exactly
Jeffrey Toobin on the email hack/scandal at the DNC, potentially orchestrated by the Russians to benefit Donald Trump, which led to the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schutlz:
What was so terrible about the e-mails? In one, a D.N.C. staffer raised the possibility of Sanders being asked about his religious views, though it appears nothing came of the suggestion. In another, D.W.S. referred to a Sanders campaign official who had criticized her as a “damn liar.” A third showed her explicitly criticizing Sanders himself, saying he had “no understanding” of the Democratic Party. (This might be because Sanders has never been elected as a Democrat but, rather, always as an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate.)
Do these e-mails strike anyone as appalling and outrageous? Not me. They strike me as . . . e-mails. The idea that people might speak casually or caustically via e-mail has been portrayed as a shocking breach of civilized discourse. Imagine! People bullshitting on e-mail!
The Kindergartner in Chief
“I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”
The following quotes are from Jane Mayer's article, “Donald Trump's Ghostwriter Tells All,” about Tony Schwartz's experience writing Trump's 1987 bestseller, “The Art of the Deal.” WARNING: May scare small children and other living things.
- “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is,” Schwartz said. “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”
- If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”
- “Trump didn't fit any model of human being I'd ever met. He was obsessed with publicity, and he didn't care what you wrote.” He went on, “Trump only takes two positions. Either you're a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you're the greatest.”
- The discussion was soon hobbled by what Schwartz regards as one of Trump's most essential characteristics: “He has no attention span.”
- After sitting for only a few minutes in his suit and tie, Trump became impatient and irritable. He looked fidgety, Schwartz recalls, “like a kindergartner who can't sit still in a classroom.”
- “This fundamental aspect of who he is doesn't seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It's implicit in a lot of what people write, but it's never explicit—or, at least, I haven't seen it. And that is that it's impossible to keep him focused on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes . . . ”
- “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it's impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time.”
- Schwartz believes that Trump's short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.”
- “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”
- “Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said. “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”
- [He asked Trump] about a story making the rounds—that Trump often called up news outlets using a pseudonym. Trump didn't deny it. As Schwartz recalls, he smirked and said, “You like that, do you?”
- “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump's indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”
- When challenged about the facts, Schwartz says, Trump would often double down, repeat himself, and grow belligerent.
- Whenever “the thin veneer of Trump's vanity is challenged,” Schwartz says, he overreacts—not an ideal quality in a head of state.
- “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that 'I'm richer than you.'”
- In 1992, the journalist David Cay Johnston published a book about casinos, “Temples of Chance,” and cited a net-worth statement from 1990 that assessed Trump's personal wealth. It showed that Trump owed nearly three hundred million dollars more to his creditors than his assets were worth. The next year, his company was forced into bankruptcy—the first of six such instances.
- “He didn't write the book,” Trump told me. “I wrote the book. I wrote the book. It was my book. And it was a No. 1 best-seller, and one of the best-selling business books of all time. Some say it was the best-selling business book ever.” (It is not.) Howard Kaminsky, the former Random House head, laughed and said, “Trump didn't write a postcard for us!”
- Minutes after Trump got off the phone with me, Schwartz's cell phone rang. “I hear you're not voting for me,” Trump said. “I just talked to The New Yorker—which, by the way, is a failing magazine that no one reads—and I heard you were critical of me. ... You should have just remained silent. I just want to tell you that I think you're very disloyal.”
- As for Trump's anger toward him, he said, “I don't take it personally, because the truth is he didn't mean it personally. People are dispensable and disposable in Trump's world.” If Trump is elected President, he warned, “the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he couldn't care less about them.”
In the past I've called Trump a third grader, but that's an insult to third graders. He's a rich snot, a bully and a liar, with no attention span, who has a meltdown whenever called on to concentrate or tell the truth. As liars go, he makes Nixon look like a piker. He seems like the worst person in the history of our country to get this close to the presidency.
Fox & Former Friends
Fox News has long seemed like a Golden Age Hollywood movie studio to me. Behind the scenes you have moguls: Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. And on the screen you have:
- hardened, flinty old guys: Bill O'Reilly, etc.
- pretty young women in secondary roles, mostly blonde
- villains: often liberal guests
- white hat/black hat absolutism
The point of the network is for the flinty old guys, sometimes paired with the pretty blondes, to take on the villains, defeat them, and ride off into the sunset before the end of the show. It's a formula that plays into how its oldster demographic digested entertainment in movie theaters in the 1930s and '40s. It's comforting for them and profitable for Murdoch. It also bends reality—inevitably. It remakes our world to fit inside its (I imagine stultifying) studio.
It's also in line with Karl Rove's thoughts to Ron Suskind in 2004 about “the reality-based community,” and how stooges likes Suskind thought they were still in it. “We create our own reality,” Rove said, “And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out.”
That's Fox News.
Did Ailes see himself as a mogul? Did he think he could get away with what you could get away with in the '30s and '40s, and even into the '70s and '80s? Did he think the world he was creating protected him from, I don't know, rule of law?
That's assuming the accusations in Gretchen Carlson's sexual harassment suit are correct. Either way, it's interesting seeing a little 2016 reality intrude upon that old-time fantasy world.
Exit, stage left.
Not The Onion
This is the lede paragraph in last night's New York Times story on the 2016 presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican party:
Donald J. Trump on Wednesday offered a defiant defense of his campaign's decision to publish an image widely viewed as anti-Semitic — saying he regretted deleting it — and vigorously reaffirmed his praise of Saddam Hussein, the murderous Iraqi dictator.
The party is ratfucking itself.