Death of a F***ing Salesman

Dog Bites Man: Trump is Crazy

We are reaching that point in the emperor’s story where even the adults are coming around, reluctantly and grudgingly, to the view that, yeah, he’s bare ass naked all right, and his little weenie is out there dangling in the wind. There are many examples, but thanks go to Vasari for this one from the Guardian:

Like some kind of Shakespearean villain-clown, Trump plays not to the gallery but to the pit. He is a Falstaff without the humour or the self-awareness, a cowardly, bullying Richard III without a clue. Late-night US satirists find in this an unending source of high comedy. If they did not laugh, they would cry. The world is witnessing the dramatic unfolding of a tragedy whose main victims are a seemingly helpless American audience, America’s system of balanced governance and its global reputation as a leading democratic light.

I don’t know, but I’d guess that most of you don’t read the National Review with any regularity. I know I don’t. But you probably need to make an exception today, to check out Devin Williamson’s Death of a F***ing Salesman. He writes,

Trump is the political version of a pickup artist, and Republicans — and America — went to bed with him convinced that he was something other than what he is. Trump inherited his fortune but describes himself as though he were a self-made man.

He has had a middling career in real estate and a poor one as a hotelier and casino operator but convinced people he is a titan of industry. He has never managed a large, complex corporate enterprise, but he did play an executive on a reality show. He presents himself as a confident ladies’ man but is so insecure that he invented an imaginary friend to lie to the New York press about his love life and is now married to a woman who is open and blasé about the fact that she married him for his money. He fixates on certain words (“negotiator”) and certain classes of words (mainly adjectives and adverbs, “bigly,” “major,” “world-class,” “top,” and superlatives), but he isn’t much of a negotiator, manager, or leader. He cannot negotiate a health-care deal among members of a party desperate for one, can’t manage his own factionalized and leak-ridden White House, and cannot lead a political movement that aspires to anything greater than the service of his own pathetic vanity.

He wants to be John Wayne, but what he is is “Woody Allen without the humor.” Peggy Noonan, to whom we owe that observation, has his number: He is soft, weak, whimpering, and petulant. He isn’t smart enough to do the job and isn’t man enough to own up to the fact. For all his gold-plated toilets, he is at heart that middling junior salesman watching Glengarry Glen Ross and thinking to himself: “That’s the man I want to be.” How many times do you imagine he has stood in front of a mirror trying to project like Alec Baldwin? Unfortunately for the president, it’s Baldwin who does the good imitation of Trump, not the other way around.

Hence the cartoon tough-guy act. Scaramucci’s star didn’t fade when he gave that batty and profane interview in which he reimagined Steve Bannon as a kind of autoerotic yogi. That’s Scaramucci’s best impersonation of the sort of man the president of these United States, God help us, aspires to be.

Man Bites Dog: We’re Crazy to Have Elected Trump

It’s great fun to talk about what kind of crazy Trump is. But there are plenty of crazy people in the world. We don’t usually pick one to be President.

And it isn’t as if Trump’s peculiarities were hidden until his election. Nothing whatsoever that has happened in the last six month’s is a surprise. It isn’t as if a reasonably normal person some kind of unexpected psychotic episode. The facts were there. Yet we elected him anyway.

The thing to be investigated is not Trump’s craziness, it is our craziness.

To that end, Aardvark has pre-ordered Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump.

When the book comes, I hope it will improve my own sanity.

41M8ddMXHoL

Medicare for All

pie in the sky

Here at Happy Acres, the growing band of progressives has invited a speaker on Medicare for All. Everyone is excited.

Meanwhile, Fred Hiatt—no progressive he—has composed a thumb sucker called Behold the Trump boomerang effect. It’s like the Midas touch in reverse: everything that Trump wants to do backfires on him. Among many disparate examples, Hiatt addresses health care:

Obamacare is not just hanging on but becoming more popular the more Trump tries to bury it. And if he now tries to mismanage Obamacare to its death, we may boomerang all the way to single-payer health insurance. This year’s debate showed that most Americans now believe everyone should have access to health care. If the private insurance market is made to seem undependable, the fallback won’t be Trumpcare. It will be Medicare for all.

Unless Trump beats the Democratic establishment to the punch.

At Daily Kos Egberto Willies warns: Democrats beware: Trump may beat you to single payer Medicare for all.

I think Willies is right and Hiatt is wrong. Hiatt obviously has not grasped the full absurdity of the moment. Contrary to the reasonable but inaccurate assumption Hiatt makes, Trump does not give a flying fuck about keeping American health care in the tender embrace of the insurance industry. Trump wants a bill to that seems bold and courageous and has his name on it. That’s winning!

So, progressives, what do we do? The Paul Ryan Republicans made their deal with their devil, and it has not worked out well for them. Should we progressives propose our very own Faustian bargain? Should we embrace the

Donald Trump Make American Health Care Great Again Medicare for All Act of 2017

Amusement, Contempt, Pity, and Fear

Lion King

Contemptuous Amusement

No, Donald, we’re not laughing WITH you, we’re laughing AT you.

Like other progressives, I often experience contemptuous amusement when thinking of The Donald. In Week 10: Donald Trump, Lion King, Jack Shafer captures the mood superbly:

Our leonine president spent the week pawing and poking his downed prey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, licking the little man’s fur in great slurps with appetite-whetting tweets as he dillydallied about delivering the death bite and devouring his catch. …

Was it human sadism at work, an indication of how frustrated Trump has become at blunting the investigation into the scandal with no name? Or was it just Trump obeying the law of the savanna, which dictates that the strongest, largest cat with the most tufted mane and the most prolific seed shall dominate the pride at his leisure? …

His hairdo matted with lion spittle, Sessions temporarily escaped to El Salvador for a photo-op about deporting MS-13’s bad hombres. He quivered like a baby wildebeest suffering PTSD when Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson caught up with him to inquire about the president’s scolding. Trump’s steady disparagement was “kind of hurtful,” a humbled Sessions squeaked, “but the president of the United States is a strong leader.”

And so on, and so forth. It’s a fine piece. Feel free to divert yourself by reading the whole thing. I won’t blame you; in fact, I’ll join in with you, yucking it up.

Pity

That said, it is becoming clearer day by day that Donald Trump is a miserable man suffering from a serious mental disorder—a defect that literally makes it impossible for him to do the work he is paid to do. And, yes, I do mean “miserable” in the sense of “pitiably small or inadequate.” But, mainly, I mean “miserable” in the other sense: “wretchedly unhappy or uncomfortable.”

Suppose you knew a friend, Robert, in the days when he was a great orator. Now, afflicted with Alzheimer’s, Robert can only bumble through a short speech, committing many errors in the process. Would you feel contempt for Robert? I hope not. Would you feel amusement? Well, maybe a little, because some of the errors might be comical. But mainly, if you are the kind of person your dog thinks you are, you would feel pity and empathy. And, so, I feel pity and empathy for Trump.

Fear

Then there is the fear factor. Let’s say you’re a passenger on an airplane, and you come to learn that the pilot, having become incapacitated, has handed the cockpit over to his five year old son.

You would probably feel pity for the pilot—and, for that matter, the pilot’s son. And the little boy’s attempt to guide the plane might have its comic moments. But mostly you would feel abject terror, because your airplane is being piloted by a little kid.

Mark my words.

This week, Donald Trump is losing whatever support he had with the Republican establishment. This week, with his attacks on Sessions, his wingnut following is beginning to question what flavor of Kool Aid they have poured down their throats.

Yes, there will always be some supporters left. Some people still think Nixon was a great guy who got a raw deal. Some still think Hitler was a fine German and it’s too bad he lost the war. A lot of Chinese remain fond of Mao. But there is going to come a time—sooner rather than later—when the temple all comes crashing down.

And what, ladies and germs, will The Donald do?

  1. He will do his level best to divide us and to bring out worst instincts. Yesterday’s paean to police brutality is an example.
  2. He may well encourage vigilante violence by wingnuts.
  3. He will probably start a war, most likely with North Korea.
  4. He will figure out ways to use his vast discretionary power as President to wreak vengeance on the American people, who, in his house or mirrors mind, will have betrayed him, and will have failed to recognize his greatness.

Samson

The Method in the Madness

bobble head

It has long seemed to me that Trump is on a course toward out-and-out madness—in his underwear on the White House balcony, baying at the moon. I remain of that view, and I believe that recent events are consistent with that prognostication.

In that context, I initially read Trump’s twitter fight with Sessions as nutso, chiefly because it was bound to divide and confound his precious “base.” As Ross Douthat said, “a multitiered tower of political idiocy, a sublime monument to the moronic, a gaudy, gleaming, Ozymandian folly that leaves many of the president’s prior efforts in its shade.”

Pretty much covers the ground, doesn’t it? And thanks, Ross, for the reference to Ozymandias. Great minds think alike.

Then I read the analysis by law professor Steve Vladeck. I won’t try to repeat it, or even to fully summarize it, in all its legalistic grandeur. But, in a nutshell, there are four scenarios to defenestrating Sessions and replacing him with a flunkey who will then fire Mueller, bury the Russia investigation, and order investigators to look the other way if they suspect any Trump wrongdoing. They are:

  1. Sessions could resign or get fired, Trump could select a bobbing head flunky to replace him, and the Senate could confirm said bobbing head flunky.
  2. Trump could follow the Justice Department succession statute, and his own related executive order.
  3. Trump could fire Sessions during a Senate recess and name a bobbing head flunky as his recess appointment, or,
  4. Trump could invoke a law called the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998.

As Vladeck lays it out, there are big, big problems with one, two or three. If the professor’s analysis is right, option four would be the optimal way for Trump to obstruct justice.

However—big qualification—option four may not work if Trump fires Sessions. It may only work if Trump hounds Sessions into resignation.

It follows that Trump, listening for once to legal counsel, is trying to hound Sessions into resignation, so that he can have the clearest path toward appointment of the flunkey.

There is apparent method in the madness.

Maintaining Unit Cohesion

onoff

At the Plum Line Paul Waldman cites data indicating that military expenditures on treatment of erectile dysfunctions are ten times greater than expenses on transgener issues.

He explains the distinction:

OK, but erectile dysfunction medication is critical to maintain unit cohesion.

In other news, Kenneth Starr resurfaces to give Donald Trump advice on proper behavior.

Torn Between Two Lovers, Feeling Like a Fool

Two Lovers

Recently, Aardvark and his posse have been yucking it up over Trump’s twitter war with Sessions—and how anguished the dispute makes Trump supporters, who first loved Sessions’ right-wing nativism, long before Trump had discovered birtherism.

Our discussions have touched on the appropriate use of the word Schadenfreude.

This from Hans—who has his own special tie to Sessions’ native state. The suggestion is that it is to be sung below Jeff Sessions’ balcony.

Torn between my two lovers, feeling like a fool

Still loving both of you is now against the rule. 

You mustn’t think you failed me just because there’s someone else

You were the first real love I ever had

And all the things I ever said

I swear they are still true

For no one else can have the part of me I gave to you.

But now I have my Donald

You have to face it, Jeff.

There is a whole new menu,

I love a whole new chef.

Leaving the Stadium

leaving stadium

In 2016 Trump received 46.09 percent of the popular vote. In April, 2017, 42 percent approved of the job he was doing as President. As of early July, his job approval rating has decreased to 36 percent.

In other words, 22 percent of the people who voted for Trump are disappointed in him.

Whether they are disappointed enough to regret their vote, and to wish they had voted for Hillary, is another matter. Probably yes for some and no for others.

To gain further insight into this question, a recent poll of people who voted for Trump but now “disapprove of his job as President” found that more than half of them “strongly agree” with the following statements.

  1. It is a great relief to me that Trump meant none of what he said about draining the swamp, because I love the swamp, and feel right at home in the swamp.
  2. I was happy to learn that Trump’s repeated promises not to cut Medicaid were hypocritical bullshit, because people who do not make a lot of money do not deserve health care.
  3. At least we got Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.
  4. My disappointment with Trump lies not in his narcissism or his treasonous behavior, but rather in his total incompetence.

This is ABSOLUTELY NOT FAKE NEWS.

New Poll: 36% of Americans Still Drinking the Kool-Aid

Kool Aid

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on July 16, 36 percent of Americans “strongly agree” with these statements.

  1. I approve of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as President.
  2. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.
  3. Donald Trump may be an incompetent asshole, but he’s OUR incompetent asshole.
  4. War is peace.
  5. When picking someone to support for President, my most important consideration is finding a person who will well and truly piss off the damn libruls.
  6. Freedom is slavery.
  7. Facts should be based on opinions, not opinions on facts.
  8. The Bible says opinions first, facts later. Read John 18:38, dammit.
  9. Ignorance is strength.
  10. I fully support democracy, so long as my side wins.
  11. The singer who best exemplifies my weltanschauung is Little Jimmy Dickins.

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair

Napoleon

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Gamblin’ Man, or, Mike Pence, This Song’s for You

Aardvark gets by with a little help from his friends. I’m indebted to Vasari for this information about Lyndon Johnson:

LBJ didn’t like the Kennedys, but weighed the merits of the number-two job in relation to his own stalled but ferocious presidential aspirations. He even instructed his staff to look up how many presidents had died during their term since 1860 — five out of 18. Later, when asked why he took the offer, LBJ said, “I looked it up: one out of every four presidents has died in office. I’m a gamblin’ man, darlin’, and this is the only chance I got.”

Speaking of gambling, today Ross Douthat sagely observed, “Here is a good rule of thumb for dealing with Donald Trump: Everyone who gives him the benefit of the doubt eventually regrets it.”

Putting the thought yet another way, he who would sup with the devil must have a long spoon. And you Fausts have been supping with Donald Trump. And his spoon is a hell of a lot longer than your spoons.

So, inspired by Sara Palin, Aardvark poses this rhetorical question: how’s that Faustian bargain workin’ out for ya? Wink, wink, sneer, sneer.

There are signs in recent days that Mike Pence may be about to bail. Could be a good career move. But until you do, better keep those cards close to your chest.

Because, Mike, you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

And so, Mr. Vice President, this here song is just for you. I hope you enjoy it. (This version comes from a leading Norwegian country music performer.)

And while you’re listening, you might pick up your well worn Bible, read Ecclesiastes chapter 3, and see whether it speaks to your heart.