Sunday, January 29, 2017

When the World Thinks You're a Loser - Just Make Up Your Own Alternative Universe!

I have long said that I didn't really underestimate Donald Trump; I merely overestimated American voters. But now, for the first time, I confess that I have indeed underestimated him. I mean, I never expected his behavior to reach such lofty levels of lunacy so early in his administration

And I’m not the only one. When Trump downgraded the role of the Joint Chiefs on the National Security Council, and replaced them with white supremacist Stephen Bannon, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice tweeted, “This is stone cold crazy. After a week of crazy. Who needs military advice or intell to make policy on ISIL, Syria, Afghanistan, DPRK?”

                           Susan Rice  (Thanks NPR)

Until now I’ve had only three criticisms of Trump:

      1.     He’s an outrageous liar.

      2.     He has a pathetically obvious need for approval underlying a pathological narcissism.

3.     He’s an ignoramus about both national and international politics.

Except for being grossly dishonest, psychologically unfit for office, and stupid about politics, I find him A-OK. 

Well no. Now that I think about it, I should also mention that he’s crude, vulgar, bigoted, and shockingly selfish. Also, he's a  sexual predator and an all-around bully.

When I say Trump is an outrageous liar, I mean he is in a class by himself. He’s not an ordinary political liar who says things like, “I did not have sex with that woman,” or “Read my lips. No new taxes,” or “We did not, repeat, did not trade arms for hostages.” Such garden variety lying we have come to expect from our leaders. With Trump, about 50% of his utterances are outrageous and easily disproven lies, like, “Thousands of Muslims cheered in New Jersey on 9/11,” and “I did not support the Iraq War,” and “I did not mock a reporter with a disability,” and “It was 3 to 5 million illegal voters that kept me from winning the popular vote,” and, finally, “My inauguration crowd was bigger than Obama’s.”

These are not just ordinary lies, these are lies that have been proven false. They are also, for the most part, lies whose sole purpose is to make Donald Trump look amazing.

This is his overriding problem. He can’t be trusted. Or, to put it another way, he can be trusted to construct an alternate universe, unconnected to reality, in which he is a magnificent winner and all his opponents are losers.

Here’s a bit more evidence on this point. Today on CNN’s Inside Politics, correspondent John King reported that he had recently texted a senior administration official to point out to him one of Trump’s “alternative facts.”

King: “It’s just wrong, it’s factually wrong. Why [do] you keep saying it?”

Senior Trump official: “We don’t care what you say. We’re louder than you.”

King’s conclusion was that the Trump people don’t seem to think they need to answer for their lies, or reality itself, so long as their base stands by them.

It’s all part of what comedian Bill Maher calls Trump’s War on Facts.

Trump, with his “alternative facts” has established an entirely separate universe, one in which the facts that normal people accept as self-evident, don’t apply. I wonder if his next proposal will be for the U.S. government to extend recognition to this alternative universe. In the meantime, could we possibly refrain from having “Hail to the Chief” played when Trump steps up to the dais? In its place, I recommend the theme from “Looney Tunes.”

Monday, January 16, 2017

On Legitimacy

Democratic Congressman John Lewis of Georgia stirred things up last week by saying of Donald Trump, “I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

This was during an NBC interview broadcast on January 13. By early the next morning Trump was attacking Congressman Lewis in a series of tweets:

Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to......

mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!

My immediate response to these tweets was, “How do you ‘falsely complain’ about something?”

More to the point, most people know that Congressman Lewis struggled heroically on behalf of civil rights in the 1960s, during which time he was clubbed almost to death by conservative southerners. So, I wondered why Trump would describe him as “All talk, talk, talk – no action or results?” Really, all talk and no action is the opposite of Mr. Lewis.

But Congressman Lewis's heroism aside, let’s consider the question his comment raises: Will Donald Trump be a legitimate president? 

My answer is a decisive Yes. 

And No.

Perhaps you're unimpressed by my bold stand on this issue, but wait -- let me explain. The American presidency rests atop two structures, one legal, the other moral. These two systems don’t always correspond in our society or in many others. For example, in The Sound of Music, when a group of nuns stole a distributor cap to disable a Nazi vehicle, thus allowing the Von Trapp family to escape to freedom, nobody faulted them for the theft – though it was an illegal act.

Well, maybe David Duke, American Nazi icon and Donald Trump fan may have faulted the nuns, but ordinary people would not, because, though their action broke the law, it reflected a higher order, a moral order. Any decent person would want the Von Trapps to escape the Nazis, even if the legal system had to be violated to make their getaway possible. What is legal is not always what is moral, and vice versa.

That’s Donald Trump’s problem. Or one of them. He is the “legitimate” president because he got enough votes to allow him to slip into the White House with a boost from our quirky Electoral College. By law he is about to become president.

But the American presidency is different from the offices of many other world leaders in that the occupant of the White House is not only a powerful politician, but is also a representative of the American people. In this role, a president is expected to occupy an elevated moral plane, much as a constitutional monarch (ideally) would.

Queen Elizabeth, as a monarch, is the representative of the British people. She fulfills this office with dignity, even though there are those who don’t believe that the UK should have a monarch. If she had Trump’s personality, she might well tweet something like this to those Brits who harbor anti-monarchist sentiments:

One day the throne will be Williams and then Georges, so whiffle-piffle on you so-called “patriots.” It’s a right gaggle of losers you are!


Tho tis true everyone’s seen Harry’s private parts, this doesn’t keep him from being an emergency back-up king. Long live the Royal Family and its proud members!

But no, the queen doesn’t send out crude, petulant tweets every time someone attacks the Royal Family. If she did, she would lose her legitimacy as the representative of the nation.

This is one reason why Trump is not legitimate in a moral sense. He is not a worthy representative of the American people. He doesn’t present to the world an image that says, “This is who we Americans are.”

Instead, his persona says, “I’m a grossly unethical, corrupt, and narcissistic vulgarian, and, I only care about myself.”

At his core, where most people harbor a basic sense of decency, Trump nurses a deep self-loathing shrouded with a crude, ill-humored hyper-sensitivity.

Is this the kind of person that we, as Americans, want representing us? Most would say, No, a point that was officially (and legitimately) revealed in a Gallup poll taken earlier this month. According to this poll 51% of Americans expressed disapproval of Donald Trump. The same poll had shown that in 2009 83% approved of Barack Obama during his transition and in 2001 61% approved of George W. Bush.

So my view is that in Trump we have someone who can legally occupy the White House by virtue of the Electoral College. What we lack is a legitimate representative of us and our ideals.