Apt

History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

from The Cure at Troy
Seamus Heaney

Serial hypocrite

4. He is unwilling to follow his own precepts

The modern history of the Republican Party is a study in hypocrisy. “Do as I say, not as I do” might as well be the GOP’s motto. Republican politicians rant and rave about accountability to the taxpayers while practicing profligacy as a matter of routine. They lament about a decline in morals and leave us to read the lurid details of their own affairs when they’re exposed. They excoriate Democrats for being insufficiently patriotic while undermining the pillars of our democracy. The situation grew steadily more dire over the years, and it took a giant leap for the worse when DT arrived on the scene.

The current president is chronically hypocritical. Indeed, one could fill an entire book with instances of that alone. For our purposes today, three examples should suffice.

First, let’s look at elections. One is currently in progress and the stakes are high, but let’s go back 12 years. When Mitt Romney failed to unseat President Obama in 2012, DT declared the Electoral College “a disaster for democracy.” While he may have been right about that, it’s unclear what his specific beef was: Romney not only failed to amass enough electoral votes to win but also received about five million fewer popular votes. In other words, if the Electoral College hadn’t existed and there had been direct voting in the race, Romney still would have lost the election. One can only assume that DT was upset that a Black man had been elected president for a second time. Fast-forward four years. DT declared the Electoral College “genius” [sic]. This was after that body had catapulted him to victory despite voters rejecting him by a margin of more than two million votes. Hypocritical enough for you? Of course, he went on to make the bizarre claim that he would have won the popular vote too, if not for massive voter fraud. Like so many claims he has made, that one had no basis in fact. Presumably, he was just jealous that he wasn’t as popular as Obama. In any case, by calling into question the validity of the vote, he began setting the stage for what we’re seeing now: the disruption of the 2020 election. After decrying what he alleged (with no evidence) was a flawed election, he has been working avidly to create an actually flawed one this year—small hands foisting big hypocrisy on the nation.

In the interval between his inauguration and today, DT has engaged in what may be his most significant hypocrisy of all: sowing distrust of the press. The phrase he has used incessantly is “fake news.” He repeats it like a broken record every time a journalist questions anything he says or does. The “mainstream media,” as they call it in the alternate reality of MAGA’s base, is basically any news source that employs experienced reporters and editors, practices fact-checking as a matter of course, and hews to established journalistic ethics. It’s ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and so on. In the deluded view of his supporters, these media outlets are nothing other than propaganda organs of the left. Their idea of a reliable source is something like Fox News or Breitbart which goes out of its way to push a conservative agenda. (It may be more accurate nowadays to say that they push a pro-DT agenda.) “I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources,” DT said. Yet he himself habitually makes up stories, repeating and retweeting unsourced allegations incessantly. Can there be anything more cynical than endlessly making shit up while calling verifiable facts “fake news?” It is hypocrisy of the first order, and it is part of his calculated bid to further his own interests no matter the consequences to the nation.

All that is pretty heavy, so let’s look at a hypocrisy that is unfortunate and annoying but has holds fewer implications for the continuation of American democracy. As we’ve discussed today and in earlier posts, DT has an unhealthy obsession with his predecessor. (If the Affordable Care Act had never gained the nickname Obamacare, one wonders whether he’d be as keen to abolish it.) Long before he took office, DT interspersed among his racist birther accusations a barrage of petty criticism against President Obama. He was particularly vehement on the topic of leisure time, objecting to the president taking publicly-financed vacations and playing golf instead of attending to his duties. “I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” he told his supporters at a campaign rally in 2016. Strangely enough, he had made made no objection to Bush the Younger’s vacations, which amounted to more than one-third of the 730 days that president was in office. Stranger still, he has wound up taking more days off—and playing way more golf—than Obama ever did. At last check, he had made 30 trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort, at a cost to taxpayers of over $59 million. A small portion of that cost involved the $650/night room rates he charged the Secret Service agents who were there to protect him.

A better way

All politicians, like all human beings, have flaws. Among a person’s potential flaws, hypocrisy is particularly lamentable because it is a form of dishonesty that indicates contempt for others. Nearly everyone does something hypocritical once in a while, but those who do it repeatedly or routinely are, thankfully, rare. Somehow, we elected one of those rarities to the highest office in the land in 2016, and he’s been subjecting us all to his hypocritical impertinences nonstop ever since. It’s time time for a change. A vote for Joe Biden is a vote against hypocrisy.

Four takeaways from the second presidential debate

I’m awfully glad there won’t be any more debates this year. If nothing else, they’re exhausting to watch. Four takeaways from the one tonight:

  1. DT showed self-control.
    Although he may be an emotionally immature narcissist with sociopathic tendencies, the president demonstrated tonight that some degree of self-control isn’t completely beyond him. He was belligerent and rude and several times insisted on talking over the moderator, but he knew that with his microphone muted he’d look supremely foolish for trying to interrupt Joe Biden during the former vice president’s initial answers. So he didn’t. In a way, this makes him look even worse because if he is capable of controlling himself, it means he chose not to do so at the earlier debate. In other words, he was intentionally making an asshat of himself before.
  2. DT has no shame.
    Okay, so everybody knew that already, but calling himself the “least racist person in the room” reinforced the fact that he doesn’t hesitate to make any claim about his own character or abilities, no matter how demonstrably false or patently offensive, if he thinks it will suit his purposes. He looks in the mirror and sees perfection. Yet behind that…façade, shall we say, is a deeply ignorant, narrow-minded man of extraordinary privilege who wouldn’t know racism if it stared him in the face. Which it does—when he looks in the mirror and when he meets with the various white supremacists with whom he associates.
  3. DT is really, really dense.
    Comparing one’s record to that of Abraham Lincoln is a risky thing for any president to do. Though not beyond criticism by a long shot, our 16th president was probably the best one we’ve had, to date. By all accounts, he was bright, compassionate, and humble—three adjectives one would be hard-pressed to apply to our 45th president unless one were making some kind of sick joke. It was interesting what happened when Joe Biden jokingly referred to his opponent as Lincoln. Anyone else with a modicum of mental sharpness would have laughed or at least smiled, maybe cracked a joke in return. Instead, DT expressed surprise, indicating he thought Joe had misunderstood him, and took pains to explain that he hadn’t called himself Lincoln. It was a missed opportunity for DT to come across as a little more human, and he blew it.
  4. Joe has the power.
    Speaking of bright, compassionate, and humble, Joe Biden gives every appearance of sharing those attributes of Lincoln’s. Like Lincoln, he will (God willing) to take over the reins during an especially dark and trying time in American history. (We’ll hope there won’t be any sort of civil war again.) Having watched his performance now in a whole lot of debates, including those during the primaries, I am confident that he has what it takes to return the nation to a normal state. I also believe he is willing to take bold action on the interrelated issues of pandemic, climate crisis, and jobs. In doing so, he could well end up being the most transformative president since FDR. Transformation for the better, I mean.

Three takeaways from the “debate alternative”

What was supposed to be the second of three presidential debates morphed into two concurrent town hall-type broadcasts on competing networks because a certain Republican candidate was too chickenshit to appear in a virtual setting. His non-debate provided more evidence (as if any more was needed!) of his unique blend of malevolence and vacuity. Joe Biden’s non-debate went well. What it lacked in excitement, it more than made up for in substance. Joe demonstrated the considerable breadth and depth of his knowledge on an array of policy matters, he handled all of the questions competently and respectfully, and without even trying he reminded us what a breath of fresh air a return to normality would be. Three takeaways:

  1. DT is either ambivalent about winning the election or he’s even dumber than I thought.
    His core supporters are very much still with him; he didn’t need to give any further ammo to their conspiracy theories. Yet he feigned ignorance of QAnon and, when it was explained to him, declined to denounce it. This was an apparent attempt to alienate the remaining non-whack conservatives still on the fence because, deep down, he doesn’t want four more years…or it was just plain stupid. It’s not as if the QAnon creepers would abandon him for denouncing their theory. (It’s a coded sign, don’t you know? By pretending to denounce us, he was really giving us clues about a certain congresswoman’s favorite pizza topping. And you know what that means!)
  2. DT and his Republican enablers are a bunch of crybabies.
    Did a big bad journalist ask tough questions? Did yet another “nasty woman” fail to genuflect before His Royal Heinousness? Poor, poor president! (Honestly, these people have the nerve to call progressives snowflakes?)
  3. Joe Biden is everything that DT is not.
    He has dignity, class, manners, poise, knowledge, intelligence, empathy…and he’s not a crybaby.

50 days, 50 reasons

Exactly 50 days from today, an election will have taken place. For various reasons, it is unlikely we will be certain of the outcome until some days later, but on that night the voting will be over and the die will be cast: the United States will either remain in the grip of a terrifying madness for a further period or it will cast the madness off and try to build something new in its wake.

If the former happens, it will in all likelihood mean the end of a 240-year-old experiment in representative democracy that for all its faults will remain one of the most most significant attempts ever made by humans to forge a better civilization for themselves. Similar claims made four years ago were met largely with eye rolls, reproving glances, and mutterings about alarmism. Such signs of incredulity began to melt away away, of course, once many of the doomsayers’ predictions came to pass. As the toxic fruits of 2017 and 2018 ripened and fell, poisoning the most vulnerable among us, more and more unflappable people began to be, well, flapped. Now the existential crisis is acknowledged, and all sorts of people—hell, even quite a few Republicans—have been speaking out.

This blog will count down the days until November 3 and, for each day, provide one good reason to vote for the other guy, the non-incumbent, the one without narcissistic-cum-sociopathic tendencies. The one who isn’t up all night tweeting his tantrums out to the world.

An explanatory note

Since early 2017, I have studiously avoided using the proper noun spelled T-r-u-m-p, substituting for it a variety of euphemisms, epithets, and circumlocutions as context has demanded and as the mood has struck me. Words are terribly important, and I refuse to sully either my conversations or my writings with words that I find repugnant. As of mid-2020, there is no word in any language that I find more repugnant than the T-word. It may seem trivial, but it is an act of protest that I can carry out any day, any time, with great consistency, and I insist on it.