Trump’s Impeachment and the Trial of Jesus: Comparison and Contrast

GOP Rep. Claims Trump Is Being Treated Worse Than Jesus: Yes, that Jesus

Some may be surprised to learn this:

Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk (Ga.) used his time during Wednesday’s debate on the House impeachment vote to argue that Jesus Christ received more due process when he was nailed to the cross than President Donald Trump has during the impeachment process.

“When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers,” Loudermilk said on the House floor. “During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”

These assertions are questionable. Representative Loudermilk has, moreover, overlooked an important way in which Republican politicians resemble Pontius Pilate.

In John 18:38 we learn that Pontius Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” and then scornfully turned and left the room.

“Quid est Veritas?” Asked Rudy Giuliani, Depicted Below, Examining Jesus While Dreaming of a Butterfly

Rudi and Jesus

Channeling Pontius Pilate, Giuliani has claimed that “truth isn’t truth,” and then clarified this puzzling assertion by explaining that “truth is relative.”

This has been the occasion of considerable merriment. Eugene Robinson trenchantly observes, “Whenever the Trump administration ends, we already have its shameful epitaph: ‘Truth isn’t truth.’”

Alexandra Petri amplifies Rudy’s thinking:

The thing you have to understand is that there is nothing to testify about. Certainly, objective reality does not exist. None of my actions have consequences because there is no world outside myself. That is why I work for the Trump administration. (Which does not, of course, exist — a fact that is a constant balm to the consciences of those who work there, assuming they can be said to work for a thing whose existence is in doubt, and assuming they possess consciences.)

You, Chuck, are, I believe, limited by the notion that we share a frame of reference. That what one of us does affects another. This is, of course, untrue. …

All I know is the line between law and crime, between truth and untruth, between reality and fantasy — there is no line. They are infinitely fungible. Everything is real, or, perhaps, more simply, nothing is real. This is a belief system that the president and I share, although he is of course not real, merely a cruel joke concocted by my mind, like a dream metaphor that feels too on-the-nose. (I often have dreams that are too pointed; flying, falling, mainly falling. I have not troubled myself to understand them.) …

I snap my fingers — the wall exists already! It is beautiful and tall. I close my eyes; my hands become enormous, large enough to engulf entire cities. I merely wish, and I am an expert upon any subject. The instant I cease to recollect the existence of Puerto Rico, it ceases to be a problem. I am the measure of all things. When I say that there are good people on all sides, it becomes so. Global warming is, of course, not real, because, again, nothing exists. …

Maybe there is no morality or law. Does the Constitution exist? Is not the existence of any kind of law or truth not the greatest lie of all?

Our actions have no consequences, and we move aimlessly in a void. How do I sleep at night? How do you know I am not sleeping now?

Good Question about Sleeping, Rudy: Zhuangzi Wondered about the Same Thing

The story, as translated by Lin Yutang,  goes like this:

“Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.”

Pontius Pilate Address the Press

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Already, there are signs that Mr. Trump’s closest aides are struggling to cling to some self-respect by edging away from the president’s fantasies. At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Mr. Spicer defended Mr. Trump’s fraudulent claim that millions of people voted illegally. “He believes what he believes,” Mr. Spicer said. “What does that mean for democracy?” asked a reporter. “It means that I’ve answered your question,” Mr. Spicer replied.

 From Can Donald Trump Handle the Truth?  – this morning’s question from the  New York Times Editorial Board.

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

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This from the Washington Post: Without evidence, Trump tells lawmakers 3-5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote:

Two people familiar with the meeting [with congressional leaders on Jan. 23] said Trump spent about 10 minutes at the top of the gathering with Republican and Democratic lawmakers rehashing the campaign. Trump also told them that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote.

The discussion about Trump’s election victory and his claim that he would have won the popular vote was confirmed by a third person familiar with the meeting.

The claim is not supported by any verifiable facts, and analyses of the election found virtually no confirmed cases of voter fraud, let alone millions.

Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes.

Think about it. If Trump were just cynically trying to manipulate a gullible base. a closed forum with congressional leaders is not the place he would choose to make the claim. He said it where and when he said it because he actually believes it.

Pontius Pilate, Mr. What is Truth? No. Don Quixote? Yes

Trump is rapidly becoming the crazy uncle in the back bedroom.

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An Update: Pontius Pilate Tries to Clean Up the Mess after Don Quixote Orders Baghdad Bob to Lie about Easily Verifiable Facts

poorly-educated

Lies, Damn Lies, and Alternative Facts

In a prior post Aardvark pondered whether The Donald most closely resembles (a) Pontius Pilate, who was cynical about the truth, or (b) Don Quixote, who looked at windmills and saw dark knights. I concluded that the better answer is (b) Don Quixote.

I carry the discussion forward in this post. It may suffer from confirmation bias. But, like Don Trump and Don Quixote, Aardvark sees what he sees.*

I refer to the hilarious Meet the Press transcript, where Chuck Todd asked Kellyanne Conway why the new press secretary so adamantly shouted lies about inauguration crowd size and berated the press for printing accurate information. Ms. Conway responded by filibustering manfully, persistently, and tenaciously. Serving up great, heaping portions of word salad, she refused to defend Mr. Spicer’s lies of yesterday, or to deny that they were lies. But she was deeply, deeply offended that Chuck Todd asked the question. That he persisted in demanding an answer she took as a grave attack on her character, and indeed on all that is holy.

To Ms. Conway’s credit, however, she did add the term “alternative facts” to the English lexicon, as a synonym for “lies.”

What the hell is going on here? Here is the explanation that, IMHO, best fits the facts.

I think that Delusional Donald looked over his inaugural crowd and saw, through his mental rose colored glasses, the most stupendous crowd in the history of the galaxy. When newspapers reported otherwise, he became incensed. I suspect his anger was real, not feigned—of a piece with how Don Quixote would have felt if he read in the Washington Post that he was tilting at windmills.

I think that, in a rage, Delusional Donald ordered his press secretary to go into the press room and dish out some unmitigated hell. I have no basis for speculating on what was or was not said in response, but in the end Sancho Panza did as he was told to do.

The next day, when the result was not good, the Pontius Pilates who surround Delusional Donald seem to have taken thought about what to do. I believe their thinking may be reverse engineered much along these lines.

Point A. Our great strategy—as our man laid out in his inaugural speech—is to insult, bully, and bluster the 535 empty suits in Congress.

Point B. The empty suits may resist our insults and bluster on occasion, at least at first, and in a limp wristed way. When they do resist, we will call on our cult followers to rise up and echo our bluster and bullying, which will scare the holy crap out of the 535 empty suits.

Point C. To effectuate this strategy, we must keep our cult followers in a constant state of high dudgeon. (If not, having no friends at all in Congress, we will be run out of town on a rail, and the luckier among us may escape with fairly light sentences.)

Point D. A tried and true method of bringing about this constant state of high dudgeon is to claim victimization by the dishonest press—a theme the cult followers are inherently inclined to believe.

Point E. Unfortunately, whatever else may be said about the mental faculties of our cult followers, they do have eyes. It follows that if we tell lies about something they can literally see for themselves, we will begin to lose them. In fact, some of them are already on the way out the exit, which is why our crowd wasn’t any bigger, which is where this vicious circle started.

Point F. It follows as the night the day that we need to clean this thing up, or at least keep it from getting worse. So, when we are on the talk shows on Sunday, let us respond to any and all questions about crowd size by being shocked, surprised, and deeply saddened that someone would make inquiry on the topic. That’s our story, and we are sticking to it.

I doubt whether they also consciously planned to bring a whole country’s ridicule down on their heads by inventing a new term for lies, “alternative facts.”

As my dear departed Grandma Aardvark used to tell my young self, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

* The invaluable Vasari has called my attention to this article, written by someone who is actually qualified professionally to speak on this issue: The Mind of Donald Trump: Narcissism, disagreeableness, gradiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.

Of Blueberry Pie, Pontius Pilate, Don Quixote, and the 25th Amendment

In an earlier post I cited Ezra Klein for the observation that we’re not seeing a war on the media, we’re seeing a war on facts. But is Trump like Pontius Pilate, who cynically asked, “What is truth?”*

Maybe so. But beginning a war on facts by denying a fact that even illiterate people can plainly see is an odd way to start to manipulate the collective psyche. It sounds much more like a very young child denying that he ate the pie even though blueberries festoon his face.

Actually, it sounds like Don Quixote. When the Don looked at those windmills, he actually saw knights in black armor. When the Donald looked at his crowd, I think he actually saw the largest inauguration crowd in history.

windmill

Richard Cohen has pointed out that the Constitution now provides a remedy for nutjob presidents, section 4 of the 25th Amendment:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

*Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again …”

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