Tag Archives: Trump

“Mad Dog” Departs

It’s disconcerting enough when the most level-headed and trusted member of an administration is nicknamed “Mad Dog.” It is positively terrifying when that individual concludes he can no longer restrain the actual madness of the President he serves. But that is where America finds itself today.

The full text of General Mattis’ resignation letter is eye-opening.

Mattis quit after the Child-In-Chief ignored his advice and that of the Pentagon and State Departments, and decided (evidently after consulting his “gut”) to pull American troops unilaterally out of Syria. This rash move leaves our Kurd allies at the mercy of the Turks who have threatened to eliminate them; it endangers Israel; and it plays directly into the hands of Iran and Russia.

A Washington Post column was one among the many pointing to the strategic consequences of Trump’s abrupt and foolhardy move, and Mattis’ departure:

From the day Jim Mattis took over the Pentagon, he was seen by Washington and the world as a safeguard against a president addicted to chaos and animated by a different moral code.

At home, he was the seasoned battlefield commander who was willing to check Trump’s often-impulsive instincts when it came to deploying force. As long as Mattis was at the helm of the Pentagon, Republicans and Democrats trusted there was someone who would fight to ensure military actions weren’t taken on a whim.

Overseas, Mattis was perhaps the only Trump administration official who had the unconditional trust of America’s closest allies.

In his resignation letter, Mattis described the “resolute and unambiguous” leadership style that he had tried to bring to his position, particularly when dealing with threats posed by countries such as Russia and China.

Unstated, but implied, was that Trump’s erratic and impetuous approach to foreign policy isn’t up to the threats America faces.

The implications of Mattis’ resignation, underscored by the unprecedented language he employed when he submitted it, are deeply worrisome. Mattis has been one of the very few members of Trump’s administration widely perceived to be competent and honorable. His departure will make it much more difficult for partisans to ignore the damage Trump is doing to America’s standing in the world community, and his constant, dangerous assaults on global stability.

In an administration that has seen unprecedented turnover, Mattis’s conclusion that he could no longer work with Trump is likely to alter the course of the administration’s foreign policy more than any other departure.

In Europe and Asia, Mattis often traveled in Trump’s wake and calmed allies who were unnerved by the president’s threats to abandon allies who didn’t pay more for their defense. His decades of service and commitment to alliances reassured allies who were put off by Trump’s tendency to kowtow to strongmen, such as Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and insult traditional partners in Canada and Great Britain.

It is highly unlikely Trump will find anyone even minimally qualified who is willing to replace Mattis. (As one of my favorite bloggers, Juanita Jean, noted in her inimitable way, “Trump, you have no Secretary of State, no Attorney General, no Chief of Staff, no Secretary Defense, no border wall, and you probably don’t have a winkie. All you have left is the little Nazi-guy with the spray on hair.”)

Most of the people who were willing to join this administration have proved to be grifters, incompetents and/or outright thieves. A few, like Mattis, evidently concluded that duty to the country required subordinating concerns about working for an ignorant and manifestly unfit President.

Republican politicians who justified their public support for Crazy Town by reassuring themselves that people like Mattis would control the nuclear button, and Congressional Republicans willing to go along with a loony-tunes President in order to get those deficit-ballooning tax cuts for their rich patrons need to face up to the facts: America is being endangered daily by a mentally-ill narcissist who knows absolutely nothing about government or foreign policy,  is uninterested in learning, and unwilling to listen to people who do actually know something.

Congressional Republicans have been consistently willing to put party above country, and  must be held equally culpable for the incredible damage being done by this rogue administration. History will not be kind to them.

Speaking Of Fragile Masculinity..

When she emerged from the meeting at which our embarrassing President threw a tantrum and demanded tax dollars for his wall, Nancy Pelosi issued a devastating analysis: 

 “It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” the California Democrat told members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in a closed-door meeting after returning to the Capitol.

Whether she was aware of it or not, Pelosi’s observation is consistent with recent academic research. Scholars looking into characteristics of male Trump supporters found a strong correlation between what they dubbed “fragile” masculinity and a vote for Trump.

Writing in The Washington Post, the duo concludes that “Trump is not necessarily attracting male supporters who are as confidently masculine as the president presents himself to be. Instead, Trump appears to appeal more to men who are secretly insecure about their manhood. We call this the ‘fragile masculinity hypothesis.’”

The research team identified internet search topics commonly used by men insecure about their manhood: “erectile dysfunction,” “hair loss,” “how to get girls,” “penis enlargement,” “penis size,” “steroids,” “testosterone” and “Viagra.”

We found that support for Trump in the 2016 election was higher in areas that had more searches for topics such as “erectile dysfunction.” Moreover, this relationship persisted after accounting for demographic attributes in media markets, such as education levels and racial composition, as well as searches for topics unrelated to fragile masculinity, such as “breast augmentation” and “menopause.”

In contrast, fragile masculinity was not associated with support for Mitt Romney in 2012 or support for John McCain in 2008 — suggesting that the correlation of fragile masculinity and voting in presidential elections was distinctively stronger in 2016.

We live in an era when men who are less than secure in their masculinity–especially men who associate “manliness” with dominance and shows of strength–are feeling beleaguered. Women have poured into a workforce in which most jobs no longer require physical strength, diminishing the advantage such strength once gave them. Women are also, finally, entering American politics–and winning elections.

Even more terrifying, women are no longer “sucking it up” when their male colleagues sexually harass them, and a recent article in the New Yorker–triggered by the Kavanaugh hearings–considered the effects on men of women’s emerging defiance of the patriarchy.

Listening to Kavanaugh speak, I could tell within a few minutes that he had never been asked to account for himself—that despite a prestigious education he could not string together two coherent sentences of self-reflection. Confronted with Ford’s testimony, he had no story to tell; he couldn’t utter the phrase “This is how I’ve changed” or “This is what I’ve learned.” Instead he stripped the rhetoric of self-defense down to its most basic layer: I’m right, you’re wrong; she’s lying, I’m not; she remembers nothing, I remember everything. For his supporters, this apoplectic behavior under oath was not only persuasive; it opened up that vein of reflexive empathy that conservatives often reserve for white men in positions of power. The hearing, Trump said afterward, was something “nobody should have to go through,” a phrase repeated over and overin the conservative media, along with much outrage over the violation of Kavanaugh’s privacy and the sanctity of his family and marriage. Opinion polls taken after the hearings showed that many Republican voters saw him as a hero for fighting back—defending his honor against accusations that were devastating, whether or not they were true.

The problem for Trump, Kavanaugh and the legions of unhappy men prowling the Internet looking for a magic potion is that while they weren’t looking, society’s definition of manliness changed.

Men can no longer console themselves that they are “manly” by yelling more loudly, bullying the weak, or assaulting subordinate women. These days, in order to be considered manly, you need to be a mensch.

And let’s face it: Trump is the anti-mensch.

Adults And Children

We’re at the stage of the Mueller investigation when shoes are dropping pretty regularly. In fact, it’s hard to keep up with the plea agreements, the guilty pleas, the additional indictments–not to mention the speculation about where this is all leading that is on offer from this former prosecutor or that former Judge on a daily basis.

You would think his base would begin to catch on (and evidently a few of them are beginning to)…but my Facebook page still shows periodic comments from members of the cult that continues to defend him; most are of the “what about Hillary” and “Obama did stuff I didn’t like” variety. And of course, reminders that no public servant is perfect. That’s certainly true; there has never been a candidate or a President I agreed with 100% of the time.

What the Trump defenders are unwilling to admit is the magnitude of the difference.

“I disagree with the policy positions of the adult who holds this office” is dramatically different from deploring the (ungrammatical) tantrums of a wholly unfit-for-office (or polite society, for that matter) child. But then, as post-election research has pretty conclusively determined, most of the people who hated Obama really couldn’t identify a policy position if they fell over it; what they resented was having a black family in the White House. What they voted for was an undisciplined child willing to say out loud what adults had been socialized to suppress.

I’m surprised Trump hasn’t called someone a poopy-head; given his diction, vocabulary and emotional “maturity,” it would seem entirely in character.

Most sentient Americans have figured out that the people who applaud Trump because “He tells it like it is” are defining bigotry as forthrightness, and racism as honesty. And evidently, having a President express and validate those sentiments is more important to them than having even minimally competent government.

Trump’s jealousy of his predecessor is not only obvious, it explains what passes for his agenda. If Obama promoted it, Trump wants to destroy it. The merits or demerits of the Obama administration’s policies are totally irrelevant to the three-year-old brat who–inconceivable as it still seems to me– occupies the Oval Office.

Obama made mincemeat of Trump at a Correspondent’s dinner, and like the child he is, he thinks undoing Obama’s very real achievements will “show him.” The collateral damage to the country is beyond his childish capacity to understand, and because he is a child, he wouldn’t care if he did understand.

Speaking of Obama–he has been incredibly restrained as Trump has eviscerated important policies he put in place, but as the indictments and the guilty pleas have mounted, he recently took a swipe:

“Not only did I not get indicted, nobody in my administration got indicted,” the former president said at an event in Houston on Tuesday, “which by the way was the only administration in modern history that that can be said about. In fact, nobody came close to being indicted, partly because the people who joined us were there for the right reasons. We were there to serve.”

Adults serve. Children are incapable of understanding the concept of service. Children misbehave–and when they are disciplined, they whine and call other people names.

More shoes please, Mr. Mueller. And ASAP.

 

Something There Is That Doesn’t Love A Wall

Robert Frost said it best.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

Good fences might make good neighbors, but walls signify more impenetrable barriers–barriers to understanding, to friendship, to growth.

Which brings me, of course, to Trump’s threat Tuesday to shut down parts of the government if he doesn’t get the money he’s demanding to build his “big, beautiful wall.”

Forget, for the moment, that Trump repeatedly promised he would make Mexico pay for his wall. (I don’t know who was dumber–Trump for promising something that any sentient being would know wasn’t going to happen, or the presumably non-sentient voters who believed him.)

Forget, too, the inescapable consequences of Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants and the urgent need to wall the dark-skinned ones out–the damage to America’s standing in the world community, and the even graver damage to the stories we tell ourselves about the promise of America and the American Dream.

And be sure to ignore the extent of environmental damage that would be caused if a wall were actually  to be constructed along America’s southern border.

Instead, put yourself in the shoes of those who agree with our delusional President. Tell yourself that you accept the importance of a wall to the achievement of what he calls “border security.”

Then ask yourself how a twenty- five-billion-dollar wall would contribute to “border security.”

It isn’t just that tall ladders are widely available, or that enterprising refugees might dig tunnels. It’s that a majority of the people who are in the United States illegally flew in and overstayed an initially proper visa. That method of entry is unlikely to be affected by a wall, to put it mildly.

(There is, to be fair, the possibility that construction of Trump’s wall  would dampen enthusiasm for migrating here, by acting as a signal that this is no longer a country worth coming to. But the number that would be so deterred is highly speculative…)

That’s not to say that construction of a border wall wouldn’t have an effect. It might not keep determined immigrants out, but it would be a powerful symbol of America’s retreat–not just from much of the rest of the world, but from who we are. It would symbolize rejection of values we may not always have lived up to, but have persistently worked toward. It would be a lasting symbol of small-mindedness, of fearfulness.

It would send the world a signal that the high-minded experiment that was the United States had ignominiously failed.

 

Power And Glory And Memory Lane

The Limeliters were one of my all-time favorite musical groups. (My musical tastes definitely mirror those of my generation– the “get off my lawn” category of elderly curmudgeons. If the music is subsequent to the Rat Pack or 60’s folk, I’m probably unfamiliar with it.) Thanks to modern technologies like Pandora, I can stream my embarrassingly old-fashioned choices through my car radio, and the other day, as I was driving to the office, I was listening to the Limeliters–and was struck by the contemporary relevance of the lyrics in  their rendition of Phil Och’s “Power and Glory.”

When I got to work, I Googled those lyrics:

Come and take a walk with me thru this green and growing land
Walk thru the meadows and the mountains and the sand
Walk thru the valleys and the rivers and the plains
Walk thru the sun and walk thru the rain

Here is a land full of power and glory
Beauty that words cannot recall
Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom
Her glory shall rest on us all (on us all)

From Colorado, Kansas, and the Carolinas too
Virginia and Alaska, from the old to the new
Texas and Ohio and the California shore
Tell me, who could ask for more?

Yet she’s only as rich as the poorest of her poor
Only as free as the padlocked prison door
Only as strong as our love for this land
Only as tall as we stand

But our land is still troubled by men who have to hate
They twist away our freedom & they twist away our fate
Fear is their weapon and treason is their cry
We can stop them if we try.

Only as rich as the poorest of the poor” resonates today as a reproach to the growing gap between the 1% and the rest of us, to the GOP’s persistent efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare, to deny access to basic medical care to those who cannot afford it by defunding Planned Parenthood and restricting Medicaid, and by heaping punitive restrictions on all manner of public assistance.

Only as free as the padlocked prison door”...Not only does our frequently unjust criminal justice system incarcerate a greater percentage of our population than any other country, the Trump Administration is “padlocking” the border, engaging in crimes against humanity for blatantly political purposes. The other day, in one of his fact-and-logic-free rants, Trump made clear his belief that he benefits politically from the crises he instigates along the border.

“Those pictures are very bad for the Democrats,” he told The [Washington] Post on Tuesday, referring to recent images of migrants.

If he is correct–if the photos of American soldiers gassing refugee women and children are indeed “bad for Democrats” and viewed positively by large numbers of Americans– then we have not only lost any claim to “power and glory,” we have lost any claim to morality or simple humanity.

Fear is their weapon and treason is their cry” could hardly be more contemporary or relevant. The men “who have to hate” still live among us, still vote their fears and hatreds.

Given the age of the song, one thing is clear: evil people aren’t a new problem, and the tools they employ–fear and accusations of treason leveled at critics–aren’t new either.

The songwriter says “we can stop them if we try.”

A lot of us are trying; I sure hope we “stand tall” enough.