The Mask That Orange Man Wears

Trump Mask

Maureen Dowd writes,

The fact is that Donald Trump has been wearing a mask for a long time, like Eleanor Rigby “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door.” He studied larger-than-life titans like George Steinbrenner and Lee Iacocca and invented a swaggering character called Donald Trump with a career marked by evasions, deceptions and disguises.

The young builder was intent, as T.S. Eliot wrote, to take the time “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” Early on, Donald locked in his costume for the masquerade, the look of a C.E.O. in the ’80s. His body armor was a dark suit, white shirt and monochromatic silk tie. His hair was a blond helmet, his war paint was orange.

“He is the most vaudevillian performance artist who ever inhabited the White House,” says his biographer Tim O’Brien. “He has a consuming desire to always be center stage, yet he never wants to reveal who he really is. He masks his finances, his taxes, his friendships, his ongoing family conflicts of interest, his ignorance and his inadequacies. He’s constantly making up areas of expertise he doesn’t have.

“He doesn’t read the Bible and he doesn’t live as a Christian and love thy neighbor. But he is demanding that the churches be reopened because his evangelical base will love that. Everything he’s doing right now is to stave off a loss in November.”

He Says It Ain’t So

aint so

Maureen Dowd, Joe Says It Ain’t So: With partisan goggles, we plunge back into the muck

You may want to read the whole thing. Maureen concludes,

In the end, these moments highlight the hypocrisy of both parties. Each case has to stand or fall on its own facts, patterns, corroborations, investigations — not on viewing it only through partisan goggles.

You could ask if hypocrisy in the age of Trump is antiquated. Why should the Democrats hold themselves to some higher standard of conduct when Trump, a serial assaulter of women according to his accusers and own “Access Hollywood” confession, is wallowing in amorality and refusing to release a scrap of paper about personal finances or conduct?But moral relativism is not the answer. Joe Biden is running — or for the moment, sitting — on compassion and decency, the antithesis of Trump. If he throws that away, he’s going along with Trump’s worldview: We live in a corrupt jungle. Everybody’s down here in the muck. So you might as well go with me, because I’m stronger.From the day Trump was elected, it has always been a race between the damage he could do and the day his term was up. Let’s hope that damage doesn’t include the Democrats sinking to his cynical, miserable level.

Ms. Dowd enlarges upon the theme of how Democrats have brought this situation on themselves—viz. Al Franken, viz. Brett Kavanaugh. That’s true, but it provides us no guidance on how to act now.

Like many others, she seems to be of a mind that it’s unwise for progressives just to say, well, Ms. Reade’s accusations are not particularly credible, so let’s just stop our ears and ignore her. I agree. On multiple grounds. Which is, however, not the point of this post.

Like many others, Maureen has not proposed a specific suggestion about how to proceed. That IS the point of this post, and of one of yesterday’s posts as well. Here, I want to review the bidding.

  1. The Timing of the Allegation—and Its Intended Effect

The alleged event took place 27 years ago. Ms. Reade chose to speak out in March, 2020. She could have spoken out any time earlier. Or, she could have waited and spoken out in, say, September,2020—in which event, one might infer that she was trying to promote Trump’s reelection.

But, no. She chose to speak out in March of this year. A strong, almost irrebuttable inference arises that she was trying to persuade Democratic voters, and the Democratic political establishment, to pick Bernie Sanders over Joe Biden.

  1. The Democrats’ Response—a Question of Strategy

The two possible strategies are (1) ignore the allegations, on one purported ground or another, or (2) investigate the allegations. The latter is by far the better strategy. The gist of the response should be along these lines.

Thank you, Ms. Reade, for bringing these matters to our collective attention.  We understand that you are trying to influence our nominating process. Your complaints are addressed to us. Fine, we hear you, and we will conduct a proper investigation.

All that said, you need to understand, Ms. Reade, that we are not only going to investigate the accused, we are also going to investigate the accuser. We will not make up lies to smear your name. We will not try to expose any irrelevant peccadillos on your part. But we will examine all the relevant evidence proffered by you and by your corroborators and by anyone else claiming knowledge of these matters.

And we will expect your full and complete cooperation.

And if we do not receive your full and complete cooperation, we will be entitled assume that you are lying.

  1. The Democrats’ Response—a Question of Tactics

Within the next few days, the Democratic National Committee should hire a very large law firm to begin an investigation. One team should begin interviewing witnesses—from both the accuser’s camp and the accused’s camp—and identifying anyone else who might have relevant knowledge. That would include Joe Biden himself. The witnesses should be asked to provide copies of any relevant documents, including, for example, recent emails bearing on the matter.

The witnesses should be interviewed over Zoom or some similar service.

Affidavits should be prepared based on their stories, and they should be asked to sign the affidavits and have them notarized.

A second team should be charged with tracing down the relevant personnel records, whether they are, in the National Archives or somewhere else.

Then, there is the matter of Biden’s senatorial records at the University of Delaware, said to amount to 200 boxes of paper documents and 400 GB of data. My friend CDT would wait until the above matters are accomplished before taking any further steps, including searching this University of Delaware material.

That is one way to proceed, and it might be the right way. Additionally, right or wrong, Joe Biden, who controls this material, might demand that the witness interviews precede any look at the senatorial materials.

Whenever the Delaware material review takes place, it should be done by a small and highly trusted team within the law firm, and the young lawyers should be charged simply with identifying and pulling out any personnel-related documents. They should be threatened with castration if they leak any embarrassing material not related to the investigation.

I believe that reviewing the paper documents for this purpose should take, at most, 100 person hours. As to the 400 GB of electronic data, presumably it is searchable electronically.

  1. An Investigation Sponsored by the DNC Will be Seen as Biased, Won’t It?

The Democratic Party is the intended audience for Ms. Reade’s March, 2020, complaint, so one could not reasonably object if the Democratic Party chooses to investigate.

Of course, one could unreasonably object, and of course some will unreasonably object. But remember that a DNC investigation does not foreclose any other investigation.

If the Republican National Committee wants to conduct its own investigation, the DNC can’t stop it.

If Lindsay Graham wants to haul Tara Reade and Joe Biden before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the DNC can’t stop him.

If the FBI, for whatever reason and with whatever legal authority or lack of same, chooses to investigate, then that is their affair.

It is, Among Other Things, Funny

twitter war

It is, among other things, funny, to see two elderly rich guys like Trump and Bloomberg duking it out on Twitter. That was Maureen Dowd’s insight. It seemed like a good idea for a column, but she really didn’t have much to say on the subject. That did not, however, dissuade her from writing the column anyway.

Here’s my two cents’ worth.

An effective politician has a whole variety of skills. One of the most important is to know how to communicate—in particular, to know how to communicate in a whole variety of ways, as the the situation demands and as the audience changes.

Trump is a one-trick pony. He knows how to bully and insult. He knows how to inspire fear and loathing. But he lacks the capacity to persuade by rational argument.

Trump insulted his way into the Republican nomination. But before you ascribe magic power to his insult comic routine, think about the context. What was his message about folks like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz? The message was that they were a bunch of empty suits whose own constituents didn’t like them much, and probably hated their guts.

And what made those insults effective, with the audience to whom they were addressed? What made them effective was that the audience knew the conventional candidates were a bunch of empty suits, and they largely hated their guts already.

Hardy haar haar! That sort of thing makes for a really good belly laugh.

Some people you can terrify, at least some of the time. Some people you can insult, at least some of the time. And some people you can bully, at least some of the time.

And some you can’t. Trump loves to insult people for being poorer than him. But that line of insult isn’t going to work on a rival who’s the twelfth richest person in the world and who could buy you out a hundred times over. And, by the way, having told your own cult followers to worship you because you’re allegedly wealthy, how can you turn around and say that wealth doesn’t matter.

So, Mike, just twit away. That’s what I say.

But, if you can, you need to show me that you have the right policies and the right attitude. And you have to address all the bad stuff about your “baggage” that keeps coming out. You can’t ignore it, and you know you can’t ignore it.

In short, Mike, you got some splainin’ to do.

splainin

Trump and Cassandra

Maureen writes,

He brings to mind the paradox of Cassandra. Her gift was that she could see into the future, but her curse was that no one believed her. Trump’s triumph is that he has sought attention his whole life and now he can command all the attention in the world. But his curse is that the attention he attracts is largely ridicule and repulsion.

Extra! Extra!

newsboy

Maureen has some thoughts on Trump’s newspaper cancellations.

Maureen Dowd, Extra, Extra! Prez Won’t Read All About It:

So, Mr. President, given that you are shorn from The Times and The Post, I feel an obligation to fill you in on what you’re missing:

You’re about to be impeached.

Nancy Pelosi is kicking your butt.

The Deep State is not only out to get you; it’s gotten you.

Ain’t Gonna Be Biden, Folks

busing

In January, a reporter contacted the nascent Biden campaign to request an interview. She wanted to ask the former vice president about lingering criticisms that were bound to come up on the trail: how, as a senator, he failed Anita Hill; his lead role in the 1994 crime bill; his vote for the Iraq war; his mixed record on abortion rights; his handsy ways; the hot mess that is Hunter.

And that little girl was me.

Maureen Dowd, Kamala Shotguns Joe Sixpack.

Read on. Read on.

Tired of Winning

winning

Maureen Dowd was at the Grand Rapids rally. I wasn’t, so I’ll have to depend on her. Of the last hour of the rally, she writes,

For the last hour of the speech, Trump went flat, simply resorting to golden oldies. (He had already managed to step on his own parade in the dumbest way possible against the recommendation of his top people and Kevin McCarthy when he jumped back into the quicksand of health care.)

It’s not clear why, on a night when his aides promised high energy, he seemed to lose altitude. Did he miss having Mueller as a foil? Did he know in his heart that he was guilty of some of those sins? Is he tired of rallies even before the 2020 race gets well underway? Does he know that his “No Collusion” headline will not change the minds of all those Americans who disdain him? Or is he being a sore winner again?

Maybe Trump, like America, is just tired of winning.

Why Did Maureen Dowd’s Chicken Sit in the Middle of the Road?

Because she wanted to lay it on the line.

Do check out Trump, Flush With Power, Maureen’s very own take on Trump’s decision to fire anyone with an IQ over 100 and replace them with yes men.

But before you do, if, like Aardvark, you Yiddish is a little sketchy, this will help out with “swamp schnorrers.”

Maureen writes,

If you’ve ever had a narcissistic boss, you know that they hate to hear any criticism and love to whack the naysayers and replace them with more compliant types. The circle of sycophants, who do not care about the boss, often spurs the leader’s flameout.

bobblehead

Speaking in Parseltongue

the snake

Maureen Dowd:

On her way to work one morning,
down the path along the lake,
a tenderhearted woman
saw a rich, coldhearted, frozen snake.

His tangerine skin was all caked with makeup
and his bald spot was frosted with the dew.
“Poor thing,” she cried,
“I’ll take you in, and I’ll take care of you.” …

She wrapped him up all cozy,
tucking in his absurdly long tie of silk, a
nd laid him by her fireside with two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish,
and a chocolate shake of milk.

She hurried home that night from holding up a torch on Liberty Island,
and soon as she arrived,
she found that the freaky snake, transfixed by his own image on TV,
had been revived. …

She stroked his puffy Velveeta scales again,
and kissed and held him tight.
But instead of saying thank you, that grabby snake wrapped around her you-know-what
and gave her a vicious bite. …

“I saved you,” cried the woman.
“And you’ve bitten me. Heavens, why?
You know your bite is poisonous,
and now I’m going to die.”

“Oh, shut up, silly woman,”
said the serpent with a grin.
“You knew damn well I was a snake
before you took me in.”

The French Have a Right to Condescend, For Once

frenchsnob

Don’t Hold Back, Maureen. Tell Us What You Really Think

WASHINGTON — We’ve been conditioned by Hollywood to see the president of the United States step up to the lectern to confidently tell us how he will combat the existential threat to the planet … So it was quite stunning to see the president of the United States step up to the lectern to declare himself the existential threat to the planet.

America is living through a fractured fairy tale, in the grip of a lonely and uninformed mad king, an arrogant and naïve princeling, a comely but complicit blond princess and a dyspeptic, dystopian troll under the bridge. …

The more he is labeled a boor and a brute by his critics at home and abroad, the more Trump digs in, trying to drag America back to a time when black smoke belched, women scrambled for birth control, sick people were out of luck, reefer madness reigned and Cuba was shunned. …

Trump was goaded in the direction of dropping out of the Paris accord by a couple things that irritated him.

As Mark Landler and Michael Shear reported in The Times, Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser, had told reporters in Sicily that Mr. Trump might be coming around. “His views are evolving” on climate change, Cohn said. “He came here to learn. He came here to get smarter.”

That smarted and made Trump want to blast classic rock.

Then the president read an interview with Emmanuel Macron in a French newspaper, bragging about how he had prepared to give Trump an Iron Man grip because it was “a moment of truth” showing that he “won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones.” …

Trump [by contrast to Macron] has rattled the world with his crude manner, cruel policies, chaotic management style, authoritarian love-ins and antediluvian attitudes, cementing his image as the highchair king.

For once, the French have a right to be condescending toward the United States.

Drug Therapy

It is the evening of Sunday, March 19. Two months into Trump’s minority presidency, there is little point in belaboring the seriousness of Trump’s mental disorders. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Maureen Dowd observes:

[W]e’ve never watched a president so hungrily devour his own presidency.

Soon, there won’t be anything left except the sound of people snickering.

Consumed by his paranoia about the deep state, Donald Trump has disappeared into the fog of his own conspiracy theories. As he rages in the storm, Lear-like, howling about poisonous fake news, he is spewing poisonous fake news. …

Many voters who took a chance on the real estate mogul and reality TV star hoped he would grow more mature and centered when confronted with the august surroundings of the White House and immensity of the job. But instead of improving in office, Trump is regressing. The office has not changed Trump. Trump has changed the office.

He trusts his beliefs more than facts. So many secrets, so many plots, so many shards of gossip swirl in his head, there seems to be no room for reality.

His grandiosity, insularity and scamming have persuaded Trump to believe he can mold his own world. …

Everyone is tiptoeing around the mad king in his gilded, sparse court. His lieges make fools of themselves trying to justify or interpret his transcendentally nutty tweets and willfully ignorant comments.

***

A tip of the hat to Mitzie for the fake commercial.