Shameless

Last Sunday, the New York Times Magazine’s cover story was “The Fog of Rudy”–a retrospective of sorts on a career that began semi-conventionally and now has a major role in the clown show that is the Trump Administration.

The article was undoubtedly informative for people who don’t obsessively follow political news. Since I’m among the obsessed, I was aware of most of the high and low points of Guiliani’s pursuit of fame and fortune–what the article described as his “seemingly hormonal desire for power and fame.” But I was struck by a theme running through the biographical material: shamelessness.

As a prosecutor,

Giuliani practiced politics in a different key, one characterized by brazenness, by shamelessness, by chutzpah. He embraced publicity indiscriminately, picked the highest-profile fights he could find and took all of them to the furthest possible extreme. He acted as if he were bulletproof; and so, in a way, he was.

Shamelessness is a central characteristic of what the article accurately describes as a new breed of politician

a publicity-obsessed, reality-defying master of resentment politics — that is, just the kind of figure who is now ascendant across the globe in the form of strongmen, oligarchs and even populist Tories. These are not men of vision, but men of appetites.

Shameless is a word that describes both Trump and Guiliani. These are men who are willing to say and do anything that will bring them attention–it’s almost as if they believe they don’t exist when the cameras aren’t on them. The Times article recounts Rudy’s numerous shady and self-serving activities as prosecutor, Mayor and private lawyer monetizing his connection with the tragedy of 9/11, and then returns to the theme of shamelessness:

Watching his invariably viral TV performances, it often felt as if the closest thing to a unifying explanation for his behavior was his pronounced inability to experience shame. Shamelessness is not an art or even a skill. It’s simply a way of operating in the world that informs all of your actions and interactions, for good or ill.

It’s a state of mind that he shares not only with Trump but also with a growing number of blatantly dishonest, nakedly opportunistic political figures. What creates the conditions in which such truly shameless figures can thrive? In 2020, the obvious answer is the rise of an all-consuming media ecosystem in which truth is no longer meaningfully litigated. … Combine that with the ubiquity of social media, which makes no distinctions between truth and lies, and what you end up with is a political conversation without consequences that favors the most outrageous voices. If you reliably make over-the-top claims, you will be rewarded with attention, and Giuliani never fails to make over-the-top claims.

The ability to feel shame requires an ability to recognize the distinction between right and wrong, and a desire to be–and be seen by others as– moral. I couldn’t help wondering about the sort of people who lack that desire, soI googled “mental health and shamelessness,” and found this psychiatrist’s explanation of the phenomenon compelling.

He writes that shamelessness is often displayed by pathological narcissists who are saddled with deep feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness, and who compensate with displays of  “rampant arrogance and a sense of entitlement.”

To be shameless–as opposed to shameful–is also to be guiltless. For in their assuming superiority over others (unconsciously, to dispossess themselves of buried feelings of inferiority), they see themselves as entitled to push their way (as it were) to the front of the line. Having once felt small, unimportant, and possibly demeaned and humiliated as well, their massively constructed defense system now enables them to feel “privileged.” They can experience themselves almost as above the law, and certainly beyond the court of public opinion. These are the individuals who, when convicted of trespassing on others’ rights–of having acted in flagrant disregard of their fellow humans–may demonstrate little, if any, remorse. And shamelessness, at its irremediable worst, is just one of many traits keying into the diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder.

The real question we must ask ourselves is: why do presumably rational people reward these damaged folks with our attention and/or our votes?

And why on earth would we trust one of them with the nuclear codes?

 

25 thoughts on “Shameless

  1. Rudy’s “15 minutes of fame” was his vital, heartfelt reporting from ground zero on September 11, 2001, and the hundreds of funerals in the weeks after. I believe his determined efforts to stay on top of all that was going on to keep the public informed was sincere; I also believe it drained all that was humanistic in the man from his very soul and we are seeing the remaining Court Jester in King Donald’s kingdom.

    But I also see the danger he presents as a private citizen in a highly placed government appointment; somewhat like the years ago based on truth TV drama character in”I Led Three Lives” but with none of those lives working for the good of anyone but Donald Trump.

    Reported on CNN this morning; the late night comedians have now turned on the Democratic House Managers presenting the forced repetitious presentation of evidence on the Acts of Impeachment against Trump, in which Rudy Giuliani plays a major role. The comedians are not funny in these latest monologues and we stopped laughing at Rudy long ago.

    “And why on earth would we trust one of them with the nuclear codes?” This question got lost in Trump’s almost daily disastrous distractions his first year in office; we need to be reminded of this as we watch the Senate defend Trump who has no defense to be presented. Also reported on CNN this morning was the Pentagon report that 34 members of our military were seriously injured with brain damage from the Iran attack; will this renew Trump’s need for reprisal against Iran and his unrestrained access to the nuclear codes and to that red button?

  2. “why do presumably rational people reward these damaged folks with our attention and/or votes?”
    I would answer that the reason is two fold… fear and hope. A fear, deep and instinctual, that the world is descending into a state of such chaos that our very lives are at stake. Then, seeing no one operating within the present systems of government and economics who presents solutions to our problems that they can live with, the people have put their last vestiges of hope onto the most extreme leaders who now strut across the world stage.
    The problems we face: climate change, overpopulation, rising seas, new viruses, AI, damning poverty, weapon proliferation, violence and a corrupted system of information sharing, seem to be too much for our existing systems of governance to handle. Thus, belief in democracy, religion, and honesty gives way to survival at any cost.
    For way too many of the world’s population the big, brash, tough man with no attachment to morality seems to be the answer.

  3. If you are looking for shameless politicians, you should also include the 53 Republicans in the Senate.

  4. so my thinking about most present day lawyers,and prosicutors isnt much more than a lay term, back alley lawyers.(see billboard atesting to truck accidents,and their little finger pointing at you).ive been thru the fed system under manditory mins for growing weed,indoors,in a small mind state of NoDak where,as my endevours were popular elsewhere,they were a first big time thrill for the public,via a local prosicutor, newspapers and then a fed prosocutor who was handed my case to be a star as to my downfall in the pot buisness. i delved into my case as i sat in county jail i was able to bring the ACLU in for literally mistreatment of the caged ones..(thanks Steve Pevar)my first time lawyer bless his aching heart, probably has never had my type of presense in his brief again..i worked it myself, took no crap from anyone and provided a judge ,a real oppertunity in SoDak on fed bench someone who stood up to,the harrassment from such a fed prosecutor. small town stuff here folks..i did get my consessions,and caused said prosicutor to literally throw a temper tantrum in court…the judge im sure had his moment proceeding court t discuss his inability to maintain,in chambers…my lawyer after picking his jaw,literally off the floor.went to more trivial cases as,porbate and accidents,,bless his heart… appeal was easier, the schleck didnt even challenge it,and boofed his cites in regard..i won here,and made a promise to,said judge he would never see me again on fromt of him.. i detected a smile… the prosicutor was a flop…when i encountered rudis move to trumps glass bowl, and now followed thru with what the F..its amazing what a slime ball like rudi can achive,at the costs to others. when i was growing up, we had a respectable lawyer,one who,advised,and made suggestions. he didnt need a billboard, he was honest..im looking at what a working man sees everyday, as in law,and its contents,trump has surpassed the PR hype to give all his,and many more lawyers,a bad name

  5. I read one commentator months ago who opined that the most dangerous territory one can find is the 20 feet between a microphone and Rudy. I think the shrink’s opinion Sheila quotes is on the mark and as an amateur would call it overcompensation – an attempt to make up with bluster and threat for lack of substance, but whatever, it is a great mistake to ever allow such an individual with power, as we have seen and are seeing. We (with the aid of the electoral process) made that mistake in 2016 and I certainly hope we will not pull another such boner in 2020, assuming we do not obtain interim relief via the current impeachment exercise.

  6. Rudy also took credit for the work his attorneys did when he was DA at SDNY.

    “Giuliani practiced politics in a different key, one characterized by brazenness, by shamelessness, by chutzpah. He embraced publicity indiscriminately, picked the highest-profile fights he could find and took all of them to the furthest possible extreme. He acted as if he were bulletproof; and so, in a way, he was.”

    Now, his shield is Trump. He’s all in. Greedy, unprincipled idiots cultivate shamelessness. As mentioned above, all 53 Republican Senators share that vacancy of purpose. Rick Wilson’s excellent read, “Everything Trump Touches Dies” is very insightful as to how and why the entire Republican party went down the fetid rathole to become Trump-ites. You will discover that these wretches are so afraid for their shameless careers, that they will do ANYTHING, say ANYTHING just to keep Trump off their backs. He is real poison to those craven sods. The Republican party has become the party of traitors and are so compromised financially and politically, that we will not see them budge from the shamelessness until they’re all voted out of office. Full stop.

  7. Thee pundits keep waiting for shame to magically happen in the Senate. It won’t. It seems shamelessness is contagious.

  8. I keep hoping that Trump will have a stroke or just go senile and we would be rid of him, but then Sheila has to point out that Trump has surrounded himself with like minded individuals and we will always have a supply of these egotistical self serving politicians. 🙁

  9. According to the DSM, Trump and Rudy fit the models of extreme Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I think they both are sociopaths, as are many in Washington.

    “The manual sets out nine diagnostic criteria that are indicative of the disorder, but only five of the nine need to be present for a diagnosis of NPD to be made. Here are the nine:

    1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).

    2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

    3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).

    4. Requires excessive admiration.

    5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).

    6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends)

    7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others.

    8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.

    9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

    These criteria are accompanied by explanatory notes that seem relevant here: “Vulnerability in self-esteem makes individuals with narcissistic personality disorder very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat.” And “criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They may react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack.”

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/george-conway-trump-unfit-office/599128/

  10. Rudy just happened to be the Mayor of NYC when 9-11 happened. He suddenly became “America’s Mayor”. It was a small step to capitalize on the fame to grab for the fortune.

    Rudy became the Trumpet’s personal lawyer. The Trumpet and Rudy have a symbiotic relationship. Rudy can cash in and the Trumpet has a hit man. Even though Rudy has no real legal standing within the US government as the Trumpet’s personal lawyer he can purport to represent the Trumpet, i.e., an “in” so to speak. Rudy, is a gatekeeper for people looking for favors and fees would be charged for his “consulting”. I suspect the the Trumpet family is cashing in behind the scenes.

    The Trumpet did not change the GOP. The Reactionary-Right Wing-Evangelical Republicans embraced the Trumpet because he was perfect for the job. Some in the GOP may have objected to the Trumpet’s insults, macho-crass behavior past and present. However, these Republicans like Lindsay Graham, McConnell and Ted Cruz quickly realized the Trumpet spoke the language that could ignite the base of the GOP.

    No Republican Senator is going to oppose the Trumpet – the Trumpet is the Republican Party.

  11. Todd,

    Well done. What worries most of us is the counterattack thing. Many of us believe that when Trump loses the 2020 election too…anyone, he simply will declare the election invalid/rigged/mismanaged, etc., and refuse to leave on Jan. 20th, 2021. The quandary, then, is what do the Democrats, the Congress or the military do. Since Barr is up Trump’s ass, we can forget justice being done here. Will in fact it be pitchforks and torches against AR-15s?

    The rational world wonders. Would there be another “Valkyrie”?

    The dumb show presidency isn’t finished destroying our Constitution and the nation with it. How about that $3+ trillion defense budget proposal? We are on a deficit express train with loans we can’t walk away from….as Trump has done so often. We just can’t declare bankruptcy and go back to filching and fleecing contractors….as Trump did so often. Are there ANY Republicans with enough character to get rid of this festering carbuncle on the nation’s backside? The answer to that question is seen every day on television.

  12. Part of Nancy Pelosi’s brilliant strategy to save democracy is the Impeachment process. Not the fact of impeachment and removal from office, that will almost certainly be blocked by Moscow Mitch, but what the process has laid bare.

    Adam Schiff and the rest of the managers have painted a detail picture of one chapter of the many times of corruption and incompetence and Presidential dysfunction that we suspected. The would be king is now as naked as a jay bird for all to see because Mrs Pelosi has brilliantly led the campaign for blue no matter who.

    The glare is so bright that the Republican aristocracy has only one possible defense. Distraction. But the best they can do is Hunter Biden, a private citizens acting as all of us do making a living, but carrying a now famous name. Really? That’s a defense? That’s the best you’ve got?

    Now it’s up to us. How much do we value our rights and our freedom and liberty? Will we stand for this or will we rise up as did our founders? Are we the patriots that they were? Will we eject once again the would be aristocrats and return to the Constitutional guarantee that the government serves at our pleasure, not theirs?

    That’s our part, Nancy has done hers.

  13. Monotonous; however Rudy Giuliani became “America’s Mayor”, he stepped up to the podium and stayed there when his information was most needed by this entire nation. Where was Bush during those terrible days?

    My brother was awarded a meritorious citation for heroism by the U.S. Navy when he went into a burning plane that had crashed; seeing the pilot was dead, he brought out the co-pilot who later died. Two years later my brother was given an Undesirable Discharge for drinking and swearing and they removed his citation. His later behavior did not lessen the fact that he put his own life on the line in an attempt to save the men in that burning plane. That act did not remove his later offensive behavior. Please do not try to take away Rudy’s one meritorious time when the nation needed him and he was there; and those days of being “America’s Mayor” do not lessen his treasonous acts or ridiculous behavior today.

  14. Rudy Giuliani was always a “small town pizza lawyer,” LOL with an overinflated view of himself. He more than likely has an inferiority complex, but he also was/is probably also a criminal who projected on those he was prosecuting.

    It’s in the same vein as these staunch anti-gay homophobes who turn out to be gay! It’s almost as if, they hate themselves, and who they are, so they project that hate and loathing on those who are freely being who they want to be.
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-weird-science-of-homophobes-who-turn-out-to-be-gay

    The list is long in the conservative ranks, so, it seems that whatever conscience they have is at work if it concerns their idolatry laden worship to illusionary belief system, which obviously they don’t really believe in, LOL, because they’re doing what they claim they hate! Man is it confusing!

    Hypocrite/hypocrisy is on full display across the spectrum of the GOP. That’s why the current POTUS is so popular amongst his lapdogs, there’s something for everyone. Get your taxes slashed? Check! Pretend you are not gay but persecute those who are? Check! The desire to disavow scientific evidence for personal gain? Check! Misogynistic? Check! Xenophobic? Check! Racist? Check! Child molester? Check! Sanctimoniousness???????? without a doubt!!!!!
    (“Sanctimoniousness” making a show of being morally superior to other people.)

    You know without a doubt, that these people do not believe in their own religious beliefs! They tell everyone else how they’re going to burn in hell, LOL, but then turn around and do the same things that they preach against, so they know that burning in hell is a fiction! And they also know, that they are morally, religiously, legally, civicly, socially, and civilly corrupt! They are completely oblivious, or maybe not oblivious, maybe just gluttonisticly and voraciously power seeking above and beyond all moral and ethical standards!

    Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

    Therein lies the rub, they see themselves as Great, small men who want to be great men, and throughout history, and history is loaded with these type of folks, authoritarian and evil men. Men who have an issue with “others” who tend to reflect something that bothers their conscience or “personal” belief, and use those others as stepping stones for footholds to accomplish their ascent to their king of the mountain goal. Instead of wanting to worship a God, they want to be worshiped as a God!

    There actually is an example of this in Scripture, it’s mentioned in Genesis 4:26, and referenced in the Jerusalem Targum which reads; “That was the generation in whose days they began to err, and to make themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the name of the Word of the Lord.”

    So they called themselves gods, used God in reference to themselves! Unfortunately, for them, they don’t believe in their beliefs, and you can’t say that emphatically enough. At that point, if you read the account in Genesis, they ended up paying a price for what they did, and that was death.

  15. Vernon,

    You pose excellent questions. I spend a good bit of time on Twitter getting a feel of what is taking place around the world directly from the journalists on the ground. As Bernie Sanders surges in the polls, the attacks against his campaign escalate, which has only caused Bernie to rise even higher in the polls.

    Jamie Dimon was recently interviewed and told the world how devastating “socialism” would be in the USA. The banking industry and Jamie willfully accepted trillions in socialism from the American people to clean up their toxic balance sheets.

    We’ve got HRC and Obama saying they won’t back Bernie. Everybody is watching the DNC very closely to see what they do as the primaries unfold. The establishment wants Joe Biden to win because he will change nothing. The status quo will not work in this country. The MIC is preparing itself for the inevitable civil uprising in this country — possibly from both the right and left.

    Your questions may require the addition of further questions if the establishment works to undermine the left’s uprising.

    I know in Davos this week, there have been many workshops on democracy and capitalism, or what socio-economic-political model will work for our global society experiencing a climate crisis.

    A survey was sent to participants before their arrival, and climate change was named the most important risk to address in 2020, yet Trump, on Day 1, told attendees at Davos that “climate change was a hoax.” He didn’t even stick around to educate himself because he’s a “stable genius.”

    Probably for the first time since the World Wars, the USA is a laggard. Collectively, we are moving in the opposite direction of the world while our “leaders” point at GDP and the NYSE.

    Trump’s lack of mental stability renders predictions worthless. His cult-like followers, however, are predictable, and they’ll do whatever he tells them to do.

  16. John Sorg, certainly Lord Acton had Trump in mind when he wrote the following, “Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.”

  17. Todd,

    You gotta read Wilson’s book, “Everything Trump Touches Dies”. You’ll be chortling for hours.

  18. For those who didn’t see Trump’s comment at Davos….he suggested he might cut Medicare to reduce the deficit…how many of his demographic followers would love that? We could find out quickly if they have a grain of sanity or are just hopelessly hypnotized…

  19. Todd 9:48 AM
    Nailed it. Thanks! If we finally are rid of the DJT disease, there stands Pence. What then?

  20. Todd, seems Greta Thunburg better get a edu, according to mnuchin who is far above her as he stands in his ilk,of climate deniers.he doesnt believe wall streets time may be coming or dimons hopeful demise also..I would like to see trumps face on his lose,and his reaction,and mitches downfall..id go and buy a round at the local red neck bar..im presently in kansas headed back to hexas,,,with my new trump/putin 2020 bumper sticker in red white and blue. for the record, im hauling some tooling from a all American company,to gibraltar fab,in burnet tx…seems they have a contract to waste our bucks on that damn wall.. ill keep ya posted on my getting run off the property..
    seems Bernie is climbing,,,but according to HRC hes never been liked in congress,ever.. interview…
    maybe she needs a reality check herself

  21. Jack, I’ve got to admit, you’ve got some Mucho grande cojones, LOL! Rolling through wingnut militia territory, well, you get my drift.

  22. I’ve said it before, and I frustratingly repeat: Power does not automatically corrupt. Nothing good ever gets done without power having the lead part in the project.

    I would like to think that readers of this blog see the problem inherent in demonizing power: power then becomes a lit fuse when it bounces into democrat hands. Please, tell me how democrats can achieve anything good when we have taught the citizen public to stampede at the very thought of power.

    Power is neutral and fully at the mercy of leaders. Heinous leaders tend to corrupt power, but virtuous leaders ennoble power absolutely.

    Perhaps power eludes our grasp because in our libel of it we do not deserve it.

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