Sunday, October 23, 2016

Today, Eags & Roger The Dodger Figuratively Bitch-Slap The Most Stupid Candidate Ever

Mea culpa. This blogger realizes that he is violating the politics-free rule for this blog, but... two Op-Ed pieces in today's NY Fishwrap were too good to ignore. So... sue this blogger (like a Stupid presidential candidate is wont to do). If this is a (fair & balanced) Sunday double-helping of snark, so be it.

Vannevar Bush HyperlinkBracketed numericsDirectory]
[1] The REAL Choice For 2016 (Eags/Timothy Egan)
[2] The Word O'The Day: "Sure" (Roger The Dodger/Roger Cohen)

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American Gut Check
By Eags (Timothy Egan)

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You can imagine Donald Trump sitting on his golden throne in the Las Vegas hotel he built with all that cheap Chinese steel, imagine him trying to keep every molecule of reality from entering the room. He’s seething, because his numbers are cratering. And yet, in his mind he cannot be losing. So, everything is rigged.

When he takes the debate stage, he does not smile. The closest thing to it is a sore-loser sneer for failing to get an Emmy out of a reality television show that allowed him to belittle women. He tries to act normal — to hold back the hatred inside him. But this dangerous man is incapable of bottling up his dark self for a full 90 minutes. And in the end, he finally crosses the one political barrier he had yet to fully cross — trashing democracy itself, we the people.

The best presidents are aspirational, urging us to climb every mountain and ford every stream. Trump has never been able to make it out of the gutter.

The remaining enablers — Reince Priebus, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pence — had to know that things were bad when the Republican presidential nominee was tougher on the sainted Ronald Reagan than on the Russian strongman, Vladimir Putin.

And they had to know the game was over when another 3 AM tweet was blasted out by Trump, with his conclusion that he won, because of online polls that could not pass the vetting of Baghdad Bob.

The smear and loathing in Las Vegas was in character. So was Trump’s lack of stamina. He’s become a very tired and confused 70-year-old man feeding nuts to squirrels in the park of his delusions.

Thus, every Trump lie, every Trump insult, every Trump befuddlement over something he’s utterly clueless about barely made a dent in the public’s perception of him. What resonated was when he went after us, and after the most powerful tool of a self-governing nation.

To understand how Trump got to this point you have to understand who is shaping Trump’s worldview. The architect of the candidate’s last-gasp attempt to bring the country down with him is Steve Bannon, the former head of a fabulist, far-right website — Breitbart. Bannon is not much of a Republican.

“I’m a Leninist,” he said in a conversation recounted by Ronald Radosh in The Daily Beast. “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Bannon later said that he didn’t recall the conversation. But he is the Trump whisperer, the one whose influence you can see with every minute left in the hourglass of this election. You have no better blueprint for Trump’s destructive campaign than those words.

Trump himself does not have a plan. He certainly doesn’t have a governing philosophy. When asked about his Supreme Court values, the only thread of the Constitution he could talk about was the Second Amendment. But he is, in the words attributed to Bannon, doing all he can to bring everything crashing down.

So, we arrive at this American gut check. Are we the country that sends election monitors out to fledgling democracies, with more than two centuries of experience to impart? Are we a nation of Rockwellian citizens at polling booths overseen by church ladies? Is there any morning in Trump’s America, or is it just the sleazy bar with a candidate desperately looking for a “10” at last call?

His debate-night threat, holding the validity of the election itself hostage, is no surprise. Trump is bereft of patriotism, and seems to hate the country he wants to lead. He’s been talking down this nation and its most cherished institutions throughout his campaign. Time and again, he would rather defend Russia than the United States.

He’s gone after free speech — that would be the right granted in the amendment just before the only one he knows — threatening his enemies in the press. That same first amendment ensures that a religious test will not be used to judge us — another thing he has thrown to the side.

When most of us look in the big mirror, we see a nation of immigrants. We see families who fled a famine, who fled war, who fled nations that offered no hope to own property or have a say in choosing a leader. Trump sees only menace, and lowlifes with foreign accents.

He attacks the rule of law, due process, the separation of powers. He will jail his opponent, he promises. And a federal judge is disqualified because of his ethnic ancestry.

As the writer David Frum noted: “Who among us hasn’t woken up in Las Vegas feeling he made a fool of himself the night before?” Trump will never know he made a fool of himself. But in the final debate, his true persona was there for all to see — a self-hating American. ###

[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]

Copyright © 2016 The New York Times Company

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Trump The Anti-American
By Roger The Dodger (Roger Cohen)

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Delmore Schwartz, the poet, wrote of “the beautiful American word, Sure.

To anyone raised as I was in the crimped confines of a wearier continent, Europe, that little word is indeed a thing of beauty, expressing a sense of possibility, an embrace of tomorrow, openness to the stranger, and a readiness for adventure that no other country possesses in such degree. It is the most concise expression of the optimism inherent in the American idea.

It is also something incommunicable until lived. To the outsider, America may appear by turns vulgar or violent, crass or childish, ugly or superficial, and of course it can be all of these things. Jonathan Galassi, the poet and publisher, has written of the “American cavalcade,” Philip Roth of “the indigenous American berserk,” and there is a gaudy, raucous, cinematic tumult to American life that is without parallel. Relentless reinvention is what America does; that is not always pretty. But beneath it all reside a can-do straightforwardness and directness that are the warp and weft of the American tapestry.

“Will you come with me?”


No questions asked. Sure I will. The word is at once strong and soft, reassuring above all. The American experiment unravels without this.

The spirit of “Sure” stands in contrast to the culture of impossibility and the fear of failure that often undercut European enterprise. Bitter experience of repetitive cataclysm has taught Europe to be wary of risk. Perhaps the French brick wall contained in the phrase “pas possible,” ["impossible"] a frequent response to my inquiries during the years I lived in Paris, best expresses this mind-set. Call it the spirit of “Non ["No"].” No wonder Europe does social protection better than innovation.

Now if this America, whose essence is openness, whose first question is not “Where do you come from?” but “What can you do for me?” becomes consumed by rage, then it is lost. Rage is a closing of the mind. Anger against the foreigner, against the outsider and against the other may offer some passing consolation in times of difficulty or dread but they lead America away from itself. They offer the spirit of suspicion in place of the spirit of “Sure.” They undercut American decency. They replace the draw of the next frontier and of the unknown with the dead end of walls. Rage is also a form of dishonesty because it precludes the reflection that leads to truth.

And this in the end is all that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for the highest office in the land, has had to offer America: his shallow, manipulative, self-important, scapegoat-seeking form of rage.

Over the three debates with Hillary Clinton it became clear that this businessman who says he wants to make America great again in fact wants to make America shrink into a defensive crouch of resentment. Trump was small in the debates. He was as small as the America he seems to envisage. He was mean, nasty, petty and lazy. Smallness oozed from his petulant pout; it was all that would fit between those pursed lips. Any target was good for this showman whose ego is so consuming that he is utterly without conviction: Mexicans, Muslims, women, the disabled, war heroes, and, in the end, American democracy itself, for which he showed contempt in suggesting he might contest the outcome of an election that he contends, without the slightest shred of evidence, might be “rigged.”

The America of “Sure” is a stranger to Trump. His is the angry America of “shove it.” If that frustrated, tribal and incensed America were not lurking in a time of disorienting economic upheaval, Trump would not have garnered millions of votes. He has held up a mirror to a troubled and divided society. That, I suppose, is some form of service. But the deeper, decent, direct, can-do America is stronger; and for that America the Trump now visible in all his aspects is simply unfit for high office. He would threaten to undo what America is.

Of all the sentences written about Trump over many, many months now, my favorite is the last one in the letter sent this month by The New York Times lawyer David McCraw to Trump’s lawyer. Trump had demanded the retraction of an article about two women who had come forward to describe the way he had groped them. The women’s accounts, McCraw argued, constituted newsworthy information of public concern, and he concluded: “If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

Sure, we’ll see you in court.

Sure, America is a country that, despite its “original sin” of racism, elected a black man.

Sure, America will elect a woman as president.

Sure, this land was made for you and me. ###

[Roger Cohen joined The New York Times in 1990. He was a foreign correspondent for more than a decade before becoming Foreign Editor in 2001. Since 2004 he has written a column for the Times-owned International Herald Tribune, first for the news pages and then, since 2007, for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of three books: Soldiers and Slaves (2005); Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo (1998); and (with Claudio Gatti) In the Eye of the Storm (1991). His family memoir, The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family, is forthcoming in January 2015. Born in London, Cohen received both a BA amd am MA (history and French) from Oxford University.]

Copyright © 2016 The New York Times Company

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