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Category: Politics

Mixed Messages
Bob Woodward says
I should be scared
But he might be
In error

Then Trumpster says
That it's all good
And that fills me
With terror
Thanks for Asking, Though
I got a letter from Mike Pence today. He wanted to make sure I was on board to help keep the Republican majorities in Congress.

He cited his party’s commitment to such virtues as a strong military, small government, and low, low taxes. He also mentioned the Republicans’ unshakable belief in personal responsibility.

Not so fast there, Mike. I’ll grant you that the GOP wants to shrink services and soup up the war machine, but promote personal accountability? I don’t think so. As proof of your devotion to this principle, you and your pals point to your unwillingness to help people who don’t deserve it. It’s a tough love thing, you seem to be saying. We wish we could help, but you’re on your own, cousin. No extra charge for the life lesson.

Your version of personal responsibility, in other words, emphasizes theirs rather than yours. You’ve already got your piece of the rock, so there’s no need to prove that you deserve it. The have nots, on the other hand, have to be carefully monitored so they don’t get away with anything, no matter how teeny-tiny.

I am not a Republican, though I’m right with them on many of their issues. If we are going to have a military, I think it should be strong. Otherwise, why bother? But it shouldn’t be any larger than it needs to be. Same with the government. It should be as large as it needs to be, but not any larger. And everybody’s for low taxes — as long as we can afford to pay for the things we need.

When it comes to individual responsibility, however, I have to part ways with the right wing and head in the exact opposite direction. I’m not a member of any party, really, but I do like the Democratic Socialists. If any party is the party of personal responsibility, they are. Unlike the Republicans, they do not focus on the enforcement of other peoples’ duties. Instead, they emphasize the duties we all have toward each other.

Which makes sense, right? That’s the whole idea behind the social contract. We (through our government) promise to look out for each other so we can all be safer and more prosperous and maybe even happier. That is our personal responsibility — not just the simple, selfish obligation to see to our own survival.

I hope the veep doesn’t consider this Republican version of responsibility to be a high principle, because it ain’t. Rather, it’s a suspiciously convenient excuse not to give a damn about anybody but yourself. It elevates self-interest to an ideal, making it easy to dismiss the less fortunate as undeserving. According to your view, if they were deserving, then surely they’d be doing much better than they are. It’s the ultimate catch-22 — you’re only entitled to help if you don’t need it.

So, Mr. Vice President, I must decline your invitation to help the Republicans stay in power. In fact, I hope every last one of them gets thrown out at the earliest opportunity and sent packing back to their various Shires. That said, if any of them find themselves unable to find work or make ends meet, I hope their replacements have the wisdom to provide some sort of government assistance.

Even though they don’t deserve it.
Waiting for the Fat Lady
Say what you want about Richard Nixon, he did have an opera written about him. Nixon in China, written by the estimable composer John Adams, premiered in 1987. After opening to mixed reviews, it has come to be accepted as a significant work and has been widely performed throughout the world.

I will predict right here that nothing Trump does will inspire an opera. Nor a light opera nor a situation comedy nor even a bad country and western song. I do, however, see a possibility that his sojourn in the Presidency could be turned into a daytime soap opera. Indeed, the stories coming out of this freak show right now are daytime drama ready.

As the White House Turns would have all the elements necessary for this brand of low theater. Picture Trump as the archetypal selfish, ruthless patriarch of a dysfunctional family of spoiled losers. He’d be the Don, if you will, of a mob of grifters, and somehow he has been elected President of the United States. That role would fit Donald like a snakeskin loafer.

He surrounds himself with an extended family of crooks, sharks, and spies who are endlessly tangled in webs of their own making. It’s not so much a crime family as a family for whom crime is simply in the blood. Acts of betrayal are central to the culture of this family, and it is from that fertile muck that a steady supply of petty plot lines would spring. Is that Hollywood calling?

Against this background would be paraded a succession of cheap scammers, tin pot dictators, and aging porn stars — all angling for a shot at the big time. Fred Trump, the bad seed at the root of all this ugly crookery, might also appear. He is long dead, of course, but his racism and venality live on. I can see his ghost returning to counsel everyone to resort to humiliation and self-dealing no matter what the crisis of the day happens to be.

As distinguished from the stories told by operas, there will be no high tragedy or grand, world-changing events in this tale. There will be nothing grand about it at all, unless you count the grand larceny. But could it really work? General Hospital is the standard here. It has run continuously since 1963, but to me As the White House Turns would be fated to a much shorter run. Once the thrill of the cologne has faded, people will find there is nobody to root for among this band of lowlifes. The show will go the way of Never Too Young and A Flame in the Wind — and just die.

I can imagine, however, that producers of the show (just in case a quick finish became called for) might film a last episode ahead of time. They would want to tie up the major plot lines and provide some kind of closure for those still paying attention. The process of impeachment would be too long and drawn out for one episode, so allow me to suggest an alternative plot device: a simple public hanging for the crime of treason.

It would be the perfect farewell episode. Would Melania show up or just watch from her nest in Trump Tower? Would the Supreme Court, led by Trump appointees, step in at the last minute to save his bacon? Would Mike Pence name the ghost of Fred Trump as his new Vice President? Would Congress do anything…either way? I’d prefer to miss the whole thing, but if I had to watch just one installment, that last one might be it.

No, we are not living in the middle of an opera right now, but someday soon, I hope, the fat lady will sing. The sooner we bring this tawdry drama to a close, the better off we’ll all be.
C.O.D.
Politicians have always had something of a reputation for dishonesty. That was before, though. The lying politicians of old were known for a more circuitous sort of dissembling. They did not traffic in blatant, easily disprovable lies. Instead, they used a subtler style which conceals untruths in a cloud of tangled wordage that sounds plausible but means nothing. “Bafflegab,” my father used to call it.

We still have that kind of politician, of course. In fact, a good armor of meaningless bullshit is vital to anyone who runs for public office. It can be false or true. That’s the beauty of bafflegab. It’s main function is to obscure, and its only real deception is that it actually means something.

Now, however, such distinctions don’t seem to matter. We have entered a whole new age of political lying. As 65% of us know, this new age was ushered in by our newest president, who utters clearly demonstrable falsehoods every time — every time — he opens his mouth. For the remaining 35%, this doesn’t matter as long as he hates the same people they hate. The GOP, which believes its hold on power relies on the continued fealty of this minority, has mostly followed the President’s lead — and taken up the bald-faced lie as a weapon against his enemies.

It is a sin, I am told, to tell a lie. God doesn’t like it, it’s morally repugnant, it’s completely unprincipled. That’s why it’s so curious that the Republican Party, a group that has historically bragged about its high principles of personal conduct, its emphasis on morality, and its rock solid belief in God, would so effortlessly transition to unapologetic lying as a political style.

The purest of the Republican pure, the most righteous defenders of righteousness, belong to the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus, if you don’t know, is a fraternity of Congressmen (okay, Debbie Lesko of Arizona is also a member) in the House who espouse libertarian or very conservative beliefs. Interestingly, this group has been among the most ardent defenders of the President — and the most consistent liars in D.C. Indeed, they are so pure that they attack members of their own party, especially those who have been caught telling the truth.

Ohio 4th District hero Jim Jordan is a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus and one of the its leading sources of misinformation. (The 4th District, incidentally, is a bit of a lie itself — gerrymandered as it is to resemble a C-clamp that carefully avoids touching nearby Columbus.) Jimmy (as he is called by his towel-snapping bros in the FC) is the most angry and unrelenting in his pursuit of proof that doesn’t seem to exist. Benghazi malfeasance, the deep state, and fake news have all come under his pitiless examination.

I mention Jimmy here because he has come under scrutiny for some possible untruths he has told about his past tenure as an Ohio State wrestling coach. Several of the athletes under his care have charged that Jimmy knew of rampant sexual misconduct by school officials and did nothing to protect them from it. What kind of misconduct? Well, the kind ol’ Denny Hastert (disgraced Speaker of the House and himself a retired wrestling coach) was guilty of — and apparently some even creepier stuff. How bad was the wrestling culture at OSU? A recent headline quoted one witness to those events who called it a “Cesspool of Deviancy.”

A Cesspool of Deviancy. That is some deathless headline copy right there. Apparently, Jimmy lived in his own little houseboat, docked there on the edge of the cesspool, and (he now says) never smelled a thing. That’s in spite his super-acute nose for other things stinky and indecent.

In fact, he claims to smell the deep state and fake news at the center of this fuss about his behavior at Ohio State. As usual, there’s not much evidence for any of his propositions, only the deeply held suspicions of Jordan, the Freedom Caucus, and the President that something must be going on.

A Cesspool of Deviancy. I admit that headline was my main reason for writing this rambling essay about lying in our current politics. A Cesspool of Deviancy. That image could stand in for the whole Trumpocracy we are now witnessing, from the corruption and self-dealing to the selling out of our national security to the cruel mass abduction of brown-skinned children — all founded on the non-stop, bald-faced, so-sue-me lying that now permeates Republican Washington.

Perhaps the deviancy we’re seeing is only away from the norm of old-fashioned obfuscation and toward the new style of intentional falsehood. That seems like a big change to me, though. Bafflegab was something I could dismiss and ignore. What do I do with an outright lie that insists it is true?
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon