Doonesbury captures another moment in our national consciousness: the one where President Bannon won’t let us live the rest of our lives in peace…
The phrase jumped off the obituary page in Houston’s Leading Information Source last June: Elene Davis passed away from “…complications due to congestive heart failure and the 2016 Presidential campaign.” Imagine if she’d seen what’s gone on in the past week!
Late last month I saved the link to this Garrison Keillor column punching again at Donald Trump, noting that “a panhandler in Times Square sat holding a sign reading, ‘Give me a dollar or I’ll vote for Trump,’ and people laughed and reached into their pockets.”
His bucket overflowed. He stuffed the bills into his jacket, and other panhandlers looked at him with admiration. The man could’ve sold franchises and retired to Palm Beach. The panhandler knows what every New Yorker knows, which is that the biggest con job since the Trojan horse is taking place in our midst. Millions of Americans are planning to cast their votes for a man who has lived his life contrary to all of their most cherished values. They are respectful, honest, generous, loyal, modest, church-going people with no Mafia connections and good credit records who try not to spout off about things they know nothing about.
The same week USA Today did something it had never done in its thirty-four years of publication: it took sides in a presidential race:
This year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates — Republican nominee Donald Trump — is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.
From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.
Then it went on to spell out the record, that Trump is erratic, ill-equipped to be commander in chief, traffics in prejudice, has a checkered business career, and more. The Atlantic quadrupled-down when it comes to historical precedent, making only its third endorsement since 1860 and the first since recommending Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater:
Today, our position is similar to the one in which The Atlantic’s editors found themselves in 1964. We are impressed by many of the qualities of the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.
Hillary Rodham Clinton has more than earned, through her service to the country as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state, the right to be taken seriously as a White House contender. She has flaws (some legitimately troubling, some exaggerated by her opponents), but she is among the most prepared candidates ever to seek the presidency. We are confident that she understands the role of the United States in the world; we have no doubt that she will apply herself assiduously to the problems confronting this country; and she has demonstrated an aptitude for analysis and hard work.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.
This week the Republican Party’s nominee added something new and bizarre when he repeated to CNN his belief that the Central Park 5 are guilty of a famous 1989 rape and beating of a jogger in Central Park. That is, he claims that the five men (who were teenagers in 1989) originally convicted of the crime but “exonerated in 2002 when an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney found DNA evidence linking the vicious crime to a previously convicted rapist. That man admitted to acting alone in the crime” are, nevertheless, the guilty parties. DNA evidence to the contrary, and the confession of the actual guilty party notwithstanding, Trump today insists those five men are guilty of the crime. It’s one thing to have taken a stand on an issue and then have time and the facts ultimately prove you to be wrong; it happens. But Trump is incapable of acknowledging the facts laid out for everyone to see, and rather than admit a thoroughly human error–or even, God forbid, just shut his damn mouth–he repeats his error.
Dumb ol’ me, here I am thinking that should be enough to shock some more Trump supporters into realizing just what a moron he is…but then the issue completely disappears when the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold publishes the Access Hollywood videotape that has dozens of high-ranking Republicans elbowing each other out of the way to jump off the Trumptanic. (Fahrenthold is the reporter who’s dug into the Trump Foundation and found it to be far less than the charitable organ that’s advertised.) I won’t pretend to be horrified by Trump’s comments, which on their face do resemble an admission of numerous instances of sexual assault (if you assume he was telling the truth and not just “bragging”), since they reinforce my previously-held belief that he’s a genuine creep, as well as an ignorant narcissistic megalomaniac with the attention span of a three year old.
Question for those now changing their minds on Trump: why now? Does this incident just seem to be a good excuse that also allows you to pander to the puritanical element of your constituency? It seems like you’ve passed up plenty of chances to do the right thing…
The Deseret News, among others, is now calling on Trump to drop out; I hope he keeps his promise not to withdraw from the race because I think he’s now on an irreversible slide to a yuuuge loss and I want the Republican Party and the crazy right-wing element that nominated this yutz to feel the pain of what they’ve done while they consider their future…yesterday Craig Mazin storified a Tweetstorm that pretty well sums up the path forward for the GOP.
I’d also like to see NBC News pay for its role. Producers for Access Hollywood, which is a corporate relation of NBC, brought the tape to the network last Monday and they sent it to their lawyers; while a legal review was prudent, withholding permission to publish out of fear that Trump would sue is plain old cowardice: in real journalism, being sued by powerful people over a big story is sometimes just part of the deal. So far Trump has apologized and he’s started to accuse others of being bad guys, but he hasn’t threatened to sue anyone. It appears that someone in NBC who was frustrated at the delays leaked the tape to the Washington Post, leaving NBC to be scooped on its own story.
Now, let’s see how Trump handles the town hall-style debate this evening when, hopefully, the nice people at Washington University will insist on straight answers rather than a string of sentence fragments out of the Republican nominee. I predict that without a fawning audience to buoy him, the real, ugly Donald Trump is likely to be on full display.
Today’s smarmy little performance by Sen. Ted Cruz stands out from all his other smarmy little performances as a great example of something I’ve believed for a long time: politicians think voters are stupid. Time and again they demonstrate that they believe we’ll fall for anything dressed up in a few well-worn catchphrases, that we don’t remember anything that happened before breakfast.
You didn’t have to watch every minute of every Republican presidential candidates’ debate to know that they savaged each other on those stages, that there was real personal dislike and lack of respect. Granted, Donald Trump was the nastiest and most obvious about it, but he was not the only candidate who tried to pull him-or-herself up by tearing their opponents down. Only weeks later Fiorina endorses Cruz for the office; then on the day after he was mathematically eliminated from any chance of capturing the nomination on the first ballot at the Cleveland convention, Cruz decides to present her as his choice for the second spot on the ticket, the person he feels confident about placing one heartbeat from the presidency. Today the two of them behaved as if they’ve been secret members of the other one’s fan club all along, and they expect we’re going to just forget what they said about the other, with such conviction and passion, such a short time ago.
Which is it: were you being honest with us when you were trying to tear your opponent a new one, or are you telling the truth now about your respect and admiration for that same person? It’s one or the other, can’t be both. All I know for sure at this point is what you’ve taught me: you can’t be trusted to tell the truth. Neither can the so-called journalists covering the story, who aren’t calling you on your hypocrisy, as they should.
A old friend of mine—a friend from way way back, I mean; I’m actually older—recently published a nice piece in which he argues for all of us to expand the sources of news and information we regularly sample and to rediscover the ability and the inclination to think critically. You can read it here, and when you get past the cows and the sharks (you’ll see) he makes a good point about how in today’s world our experience and exposure tend to drive most people into a set of beliefs that become impermeable to facts and reason. Unfortunately.
To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists.
“It’s very depressing,” said Mary Poovey, a professor of English at New York University and author of “A History of the Modern Fact.” “I think the thing Americans ought to miss most about facts is the lack of agreement that there are facts. This means we will never reach consensus about anything. Tax policies, presidential candidates. We’ll never agree on anything.”
Through the 19th and 20th centuries, Facts reached adulthood as the world underwent a shift toward proving things true through the principles of physics and mathematical modeling. There was respect for scientists as arbiters of the truth, and Facts itself reached the peak of its power.
But those halcyon days would not last.
People unable to understand how science works began to question Facts. And at the same time there was a rise in political partisanship and a growth in the number of media outlets that would disseminate information, rarely relying on feedback from Facts.
Though weakened, Facts managed to persevere through the last two decades, despite historic setbacks that included President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, the justification for President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and the debate over President Barack Obama’s American citizenship.
“American society has lost confidence that there’s a single alternative,” [Poovey] said. “Anybody can express an opinion on a blog or any other outlet and there’s no system of verification or double-checking, you just say whatever you want to and it gets magnified. It’s just kind of a bizarre world in which one person’s opinion counts as much as anybody else’s.”
Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion…
…and a not-so-distant cousin, Bald-Faced Lie, all of whom now appear regularly in the political “reality show” that passes for journalism on the 24-hour news networks.
(Relive the debut of “truthiness” right here.)