Do The Donald and The Unspeakable Pence and all the others have any glimmering that they're asses?
Last Tango in Halifax's Alan and Celia: Below, normally
soft-spoken Alan shares a striking political insight.
soft-spoken Alan shares a striking political insight.
In Series 1 of Last Tango in Halifax, Alan Buttershaw (Derek Jacobi) and Celia Dawson (Anne Reid), both now widowed, had refound each other after 70 years without contact and, discovering that they were both still madly infatuated, and considering their advanced age, hatched a plan to just go ahead and get married. Of course in most ways they hardly knew each other, and in this exchange from Episode 3, which aired originally in December 2012, they fell afoul of each other's politics. (Like all 17 other episodes to date, this one was written by series creator Sally Wainwright.)
CELIA: D'you know, I'd never had you down for red-hot Labour.
ALAN [trying to say something]: Hmm --
CELIA: I thought you had more about you.
ALAN: You know, the good thing about David Cameron is that even he knows he's an ass. You know, every time he opens his mouth, you can see him thinking, "I was born an ass, I'll die an ass, but at least I know I'm an ass."
Okay, this post is mostly an excuse to do something with this delicious rant of Alan's -- a soft-spoken rant, of course, because Alan is almost always soft-spoken, but a rant nevertheless. At the same time, I think it has some significant resonance, not just in more recent British politics, but in our own as well.
After all, the condition of having been born an ass and being destined to die an ass isn't exactly unknown on our side of the pond. What's rare -- on both sides -- is this quality that Alan attributes to the now-unlamented David Cameron: knowing that he is one. To pick a random example, do you suppose that The Donald has even a glimmering? Or his anointed running mate, The Unspeakable Pence? Or, for that matter, many of their fellow pols and the pundits who provide sideline chatter?
In The Donald's case, I think there really are moments when he knows he's being a buffoon, sometimes for entertainment purposes and sometimes in the hope of attracting favorable attention from potential voters he thinks are buffoons. Within a certain range, we have to remember, the man knows how to play an audience.
And so, in a season of almost nothing but political insanities, should I really have done a double take upon sight of this item in yesterday's nytimes.com "FirstDraft"?
But seriously now, Donald Trump attracting contributions from small donors sufficient to seriously alter his campaign-finance situation? People giving money to Donald Trump just for being Donald Trump??? Am I missing something here?
Do I have to add that I didn't pursue that link? (And I haven't given it to you as a link. If you really want to find it, you can do that via nytimes.com.) From the same source, I didn't pursue this link either:
Well now, isn't this a surprise?
Of course there's nothing I see that can be done about it, beyond recognizing that this is where the country is in the year 2016 -- something that isn't likely to be magically changed by the election, whatever the outcome. The disaffection that's driving the would-be Trump voters is real, and as Ian Welsh has been pointing out, when people in desperate need of change come to the determination that no hope of change is to be entertained from any of the existing players, it's not surprising that they may grasp at any straw advanced toward them without intensive scrutiny of the source.
And if they've fixed their hopes on The Donald as their "breath of fresh air," are they likely to be persuaded otherwise even by an episode as egregious as their boy's utterly astonishing response to the DNC appearance by the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan? Aren't we already seeing even loonier responses by the Trump faithful: that it's all a plant by anti-Trump Dems, very likely in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood. It's kind of hard to argue rationally against hopes that have no toehold in reason. (And Democrats might be in a better position to address them if they had made any serious attempt to make government work for any segment of the country other than the 1% and their cadres of hangers-on.)
Nevertheless, for those of us who try to dwell in the domain of reason, or at least try to make regular visits, the stuff that's come out of the mouths of many of the political participants is eye-popping. Like that of the aforementioned Unspeakable Pence, who apparently thought he could paper over the problem with his running mate by offering mouth honor to the heroic captain and his family and laying all the blame on (who else?) President Obama. (This was dealt with nicely by Teacherken in a Daily Kos post, "Pence responds on Capt. Khan - if you can stomach it.")
Of course, as all sorts of folks in the reasoning world have pointed out, Captain Khan's killing can't have had anything to do with Obama or Hillary Clinton since it occurred in 2004 -- in other words, during the first term of Chimpy the Prez Bush, amid the insanity created there by his invasion.
And in the Unspeakable's official statement, in the sentence "Due to the disastrous decisions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a once stable Middle East has now been overrun by ISIS," beyond the lesser delusions embodied, there is the one that at some point in the rememberable past there was such a thing as a "stable Middle East." This represents a level of ignorance and dishonesty that seems to cross some sort of line as to what ought to be permissible. It certainly boggles my mind, which is no longer easily boggled. Unfortunately, our system doesn't allow us any way to define "what ought to be permissible" in political discourse.
At the same time, it's possible for the level of political discourse to descend so low that I find myself passing along a Washington Post column by the normally appalling "Chucky the Hammer" Krauthammer. It's called "Donald Trump and the fitness threshold," though I note in this link to the NY Daily News version that to the original title they added, not inappropriately: "He craves not only validation but adoration." I can't believe I'm saying it about anything penned by Chucky, but -- while it's not the whole story about Trump (it doesn't account for the undeniable success he's had carving out that peculiar but undeniable position he's created for himself), but it's worth a read. Here's the basic premise, jumping off from the candidate's seemingly unaccountable blunder in attacking a Gold Star Family.
Why did Trump do it? It wasn’t a mistake. It was a revelation. It’s that he can’t help himself. His governing rule in life is to strike back when attacked, disrespected or even slighted. To understand Trump, you have to grasp the General Theory: He judges every action, every pronouncement, every person by a single criterion — whether or not it/he is “nice” to Trump. . . .
This is beyond narcissism. I used to think Trump was an 11-year-old, an undeveloped schoolyard bully. I was off by about 10 years. His needs are more primitive, an infantile hunger for approval and praise, a craving that can never be satisfied. He lives in a cocoon of solipsism where the world outside himself has value — indeed exists — only insofar as it sustains and inflates him.
Most politicians seek approval. But Trump lives for the adoration. He doesn’t even try to hide it, boasting incessantly about his crowds, his standing ovations, his TV ratings, his poll numbers, his primary victories. The latter are most prized because they offer empirical evidence of how loved and admired he is.
Prized also because, in our politics, success is self-validating. A candidacy that started out as a joke, as a self-aggrandizing exercise in xenophobia, struck a chord in a certain constituency and took off. The joke was on those who believed that he was not a serious man and therefore would not be taken seriously. They — myself emphatically included — were wrong.
POSTSCRIPT: AREN'T WE ALL GONNA MISS CIVILIZATION, WALLY?
DILBERT by Scott Adams
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