Saturday, February 18, 2017

Maybe we deserve it, maybe we deserve better

     As a journalist, I have access to all sorts of cool Secret Squirrel stuff unavailable to the average person. A healthy skepticism, for one...
     Sorry, cheap shot. I was actually thinking of Nexis. Nexis is a database of world media. The kid brother of Lexis, the case file database for lawyers. When you search Nexis, all the crappy aggregator web sites and fake news spoodle and insane partisan deformations never even get their foot in the door. You're looking at real articles that paid journalists produced using professional standards for publication. It makes a difference.
     As the wheels and gears started spinning wildly on the "well-oiled machine" of the Trump administration this week, like a cheap tin toy about to fly apart, I noticed I was looking away, distracting myself. No, no need to watch his farce press conferences—supposedly, I didn't see them—with Benjamin Netanyahu and then his 77 minute meltdown Thursday. When you know someone is a brittle, bullying liar, you really don't need to keep logging more instances of fragility, bullying and deceit. I get it. 
    Although the reaction to the second press conference was such jaw-dropped shock that I found myself circling back to watch snippets, just to confirm. 
    The word that kept coming back to me was "unfit." I logged into Nexis, set the time parameters for one year before the election—Nov. 8, 2015 to Nov. 8, 2016—then plugged in the words "Donald Trump" and "unfit."
     Because if one word of the mountains of apt criticism Trump has justly received, "unfit" seems to say it all. It kept echoing in my mind. The man shouldn't be president. He should never been allowed to be president. He should never have been allowed to run.   
    A big red notice that my request turned in more than 3,000 documents--the computer in essence saying, "That's a tall's going to take me time."
   Of course. No worries. I'm just fishing. I added "president." Still more than 3,000 hits. So I added "bully" and culled the herd down to 326--about one story every day.
     The top hit, since it ran Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016, was a column by a man I'd never heard of. Philip Martin, at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Titled "Fat, Drunk and Stupid" it began, "I have a bad feeling about this," and was a last minute plea against voting for Donald Trump.
     He summarizes the deficiencies of Hillary Clinton—not fabulous, just never connected with people—explains why Trump will probably win Arkansas and come "perilously close" to the presidency. 
     Then this:
   For the last time, I want to say it plain: Trump is unfit to be president. He lies. He cheats. He's a bad businessman and a bad American. He's a bully who keeps score and you shouldn't trust him around your teenage daughter, much less the nuclear football.
     Either you see that, or you don't.  Late Friday he called the press "the enemy of the American People." And you know what happens to the Enemy of the People, don't you? He heads Saturday to a campaign rally—he needs public adulation to survive, apparently, the way a vampire needs human blood. It'll be in an airplane hangar, and I imagine the hangar will be filled with people. I imagine they'll have no trouble filling it with people. 
     The Martin observation was repeated in every paper in America all through 2016. But people had tuned the media out. The lying mainstream media. When the history of this sordid and humiliating period of American history is written, I hope historians note that journalists were standing on a chair, banging garbage cans over our head, shouting to the rooftops, trying to avoid this. America, to its shame, voted for Donald Trump anyway, with its eyes wide open, staring at his hideous personhood, believing what he told us and not what we saw so clearly. Some of us, anyway.
    Why? They wanted a change. They were tired of the old ways, the business-as-usual politics. It wasn't that they didn't have a valid complaint, they did. It's just that their solution will make the problem, make all of our problems, so much worse. America is like a man who burns his house down to get rid of the mice. Like a person who has a genuine ailment—say cancer—and then hires a shaman to spray fragrant oils on the soles of his feet. You're sorry they're sick. You understand the fear in that. But they're embracing a quack and don't know it. I'd add "yet," but that would be wistful. If we know one thing about error is that it tends to compound. The majority of people would much rather dwell in wrongness than admit being mistaken.

    Martin ends this way:
     Anyway, tomorrow is coming. And no matter what happens, no one is coming to take our guns. No one is going to make us any greater than our spirits will allow. Make no mistake, we are getting what we deserve. We need to start taking this stuff seriously, we need to stop listening to those who tell us we're the best and the brightest and that nothing is our fault.
     To paraphrase Dean Wormer, fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through history, America.
     From "Animal House." Perhaps an unfair reference, as Trump is a teetotaler -- kind of gives us teetotalers a bad name, huh? People often talk about drinking as an escape from the Trump monstrosity, and I'd join them if I thought it would shorten his administration by an hour, but I don't see how it would. So as bad as the Trump years will be for you, remember, I have to endure this sober.
     "Unfit." It echoes. I noticed E.J. Dionne's column in the Washington Post a few days back: "Admit it: Trump is unfit to serve."  Well duh. Though odd that people are just noticing. He's no different than when he ran. Only now he's president. 
     Though I might take exception with the idea that we deserve it. Even though I recall writing the exact same thing. Maybe we allowed it to happen. Not just last November. For years, decades, allowed money to overtake government, allowed the powerful too free a hand. Mocked the idea of experts, of competence. 
     Do we deserve this corrosive clown show of a government? A flailing, incompetent president, his Dick Tracy hall of villains staff?  This groveling Congress? Maybe we got what we deserved in November. But maybe it changed us. Galvanized us. Maybe seeing what we ended up with, we are now, trying to be a people who deserve better. A little late. But better late than never.


  1. We deserve better than that #Trumphole. I hope it becomes apparent to those that voted for him. So far, they seem to be blindly anointing him with adulation. He lied about the enormity of his electoral college margin of victory?? That wasn't his fault, someone gave him wrong information! He didn't "lie", he...well, shit, I don't know what they call it so that they can sleep at night.

  2. i tried to read the transcript of the "press conference" the president held the other day. i tried i really did. then i tried some more after a few thousand absolutely unintelligible words? i had to stop. my brain hurt. maybe someone could translate what he says into cogent statements. how can you tell if he's lying if you can't figure out what he's saying?

    unfit maybe . but should not have been allowed to run? this is america dude.

    unhealthy skepticism i might suggest. and even when your points are indisputable the overuse of hyperbole detracts from the message.

    seems to me we got exactly what we deserved sitting smugly on our fat lazy asses thinking our sole responsibility is to cast our ballot. money in politics not withstanding, because it has been shown time and again not to effectively influence voters, the lack of grass roots political action is what gave us mr trump. grass roots . thats us. time to get up off our sofas , turn off the television and take action . if we don't were going to get it in that fat ass again next cycle

  3. Of course in the movie dean Wormer is the villain and flounder is the hero. The movie ends with a promise that flounder becomes wealthy and successful while continuing to mock the notion of personal responsibility. Two generations of Americans now have been raised on that movie. Chickens coming home to roost? My only surprise is it has taken so long.

    1. Plus, Bluto, "...Germans bombed Pearl Harbor," becomes a Senator. These are some messed up times when it starts following Animal House. White House tours start up soon, will there be a Babs as a guide?

  4. I'm just wondering how much havoc Trump can create if he lets loose his vindictiveness in a big way before his right-wing brethren rein him in or more likely boot him out.


  5. A friend who I thought would know better told me that he voted for Trump because, as a businessman he would know how to get things done. My reminding him that some things aren't worth doing or are beyond the powers of government seemed to make no impression, but it reminded me of something my old political science professor, Hans Morganthau, wrote that seems pertinent. "The desire to 'do something' often pervades top levels of government and may overpower a common sense view that insists their ability to shape events is often negligible. The yen for action often leads to bold action as therapy." That, in the words of Francis Bacon, 'Hope makes a good breakfast but a poor supper,' is something at least some of the Trumpsters might come to recognize.

    As also our best President, the one who saw us through our most devastating conflict, put the matter: "Democracy discovers its justification not in emergency actions, but in the ordinary and difficult work of passing laws, and the daily dedication of people who agree to live by laws."

    Tom Evans

    1. Yet Lincoln is known for his "emergency actions," even the somewhat negatively perceived suspension of habeas corpus, rather than his ability to get laws passed or to inspire Americans to abide by those laws. His influence I think has been many times greater after his death than it was during his presidency.

      As much as I like and admire Lincoln, I wonder if he would be considered "our best president" had the Southern States succeeded in seceding, the failure of which had more to do with the military and industrial superiority of the North than with Lincoln's powers of leadership.

    2. I suppose not. And FDR wouldn't rank very high if Germany had won the war. Such rankings are, of course, subjective, but I think most historians would put Abe at least among the top three. About his leadership, U.S. Grant, a reliable authority, wrote: "Mr. Lincoln gained authority over men by making them believe it was a pleasure to serve him."

      On another subject, Trump's germaphobia and teetotalism brings to mind something A.J. Liebling wrote about another supreme leader: "No sane man can afford to dispense with all debilitating pleasures; no ascetic can be considered reliably sane. Hitler was the archetype of the abstemious man. When the other Krauts saw him drinking water in the beer hall they should have known he was not to be trusted."


    3. tate: All the military and industrial superiority in the world wouldn't have amounted to a hill of beans if we hadn't had a president who was willing to keep the Union together, even at a terrible price. Lincoln's leadership stemmed from his commitment to that idea and his ability to withstand the many, many countervailing forces, from all directions and locations. That's the reason he's remembered as our best president and not, say, Franklin Pierce or James Buchanan.

  6. "But maybe it changed us. Galvanized us. Maybe seeing what we ended up with, we are now, trying to be a people who deserve better."

    That is the thought I've grabbed on to, for my own sanity if nothing else. We may not be able to fully shape this moment in our country's history, but we can't afford to let ourselves sink into despair.


  7. One reason Trump got elected is because many Americans prefer to live in a virtual reality show world and communicating on machine s instead of live is preferred. Overthrowing traditions is valued. I'm not against advances in technology, but we have really let it get the best of us.We need the government in Washington D.C. preserved as it is and we need the traditional media and it is not fake news!

  8. Don't forget that Trump's election was an utter fluke. 30,000 deluded souls in three states canceled out the votes of almost 3 million. I don't believe it will happen again.

  9. I am positive that I replied to this but don't see my comment here. I was referring to this. I hope historians note that journalists were standing on a chair, banging garbage cans over our head, shouting to the rooftops, trying to avoid this. America, to its shame, voted for Donald Trump anyway, with its eyes wide open, staring at his hideous personhood, believing what he told us and not what we saw so clearly. Some of us, anyway. While it is some what true that journalists were banging the drums, I don't think they got to the heart of the matter. David Cay Johnston who has written a lot about Trump is one if not the only journalist who has done a great job on reporting about Trump. He has been covering Trump ever since he got into the casino business. Perhaps if more people had read his articles or read his latest book The Making of Donald Trump people would have a better view of him. Johnston was never on the Sunday shows. As far as I can tell only on CNN twice. It was too bad this segment didn't last a little longer. I don't think the former LT Governor knew very much. There is also a documentary that was made around 1992 that somehow Trump got suppressed. You can watch it for a few bucks on I Tunes. If you go to you tube you can find other videos of Johnston talking about Trump. Worth watching even though there is not much one can do about Trump now. And sorry if I am repeating myself. I was looking to see if any one had replied to my comment and didn't see it.

  10. The same drum many of us were banging ever since his announcement to a crowd of paid extras. The human tendency to change horses, getting sucked in by something new (to our politics, anyway) and different. We grossly underestimated that proportion of Americans susceptible to conspiracy theories and personality worship. And we shocked by how warm the embers of racism still were, shocked by how eagerly people lined up behind the uncouth bully. Shocked by the persistent loyalty to *a man who has no loyalty to anyone.* Trump was the perfect figure to grab the banner of the divisiveness that the GOP has been sowing since Richard Nixon. There is nothing quite equivalent to the Mason-Dixon Line, but our society is just as divided as it was in 1860, a segregation over what a just American society should look like. Instead of Blue and Gray we have pro- and anti-democracy. We also have millions armed with weaponry more deadly than any ever imagined in the Civil War.


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