I think maybe they are starting to take my advice!
Way back on January 19, 2017, the final day of President Obama, I suggested that we needed to come up with a better analogy for people we wanted to criticize than simply saying they were like Hitler, particularly for incoming-President Trump.
Not that Trump didn’t or doesn’t display fascist tendencies – whatever that means in a country that already tortures people, persecutes whistleblowers, has the highest incarceration rate in the world, is ranked 45th in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, and is effectively governed by corporations. It’s just that opponents of the past six Presidents at least called them Hitler. Plus, Putin is Hitler, so are Assad and Kim Jong-un, as were Saddam, and Gaddafi, and Milosevic, and so on.
If everyone is Hitler then no one is Hitler, and all that.
For Trump, I suggested we could go with someone like Silvio Berlusconi, the three-time Prime Minister of Italy, a “billionaire best known for his hair transplant, ludicrous fake tan, mistresses, alleged tax fraud,” and now banned from the Italian government.
Or maybe Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London, former British Foreign Secretary, and perhaps next British Prime Minister who called President Obama “the part-Kenyan President,” Hillary Clinton “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,” told a journalist who had written a negative article to “fuck off and die,” made a gay marriage joke about Arsenal, and called African people “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles.”
If neither of these works, then what about Qin Shi Huang, the Emperor of China from 247 BCE-220 BCE. Trump talks about building a wall; this guy built the wall, as in the Great Wall of China.
Just … a little originality, please?
Then, this week:
… Trump sent out a tweet comparing special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation team to Joseph McCarthy, the late Wisconsin Senator who led a somewhat ludicrous hunt for communists in the US in the 1940s and 50s.
CNN responded with their best ‘I know you are but what I am’ retort, stating, “it’s not Trump or Mueller whose situation evokes a McCarthy comparison at the moment — it’s House Speaker Paul Ryan.”
This, I suppose, a new type of McCarthyism – not hunting for commies, rather, hunting for McCarthys. Be careful what you wish for; nothing like vague historical stereotypes to explain complex current problems.
CNN’s dropping of the McCarthy hammer on Paul Ryan didn’t have to do with communists, but instead, with the idea that Ryan “will soon face a ‘sense of decency’ moment.”
This, a reference to a nationally televised Senate hearing in 1954 where McCarthy viciously grilled a young lawyer representing the US Army named Fred Fisher, to which his counsel famously responded, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” The exchange destroyed McCarthy’s career.
According to CNN, Paul Ryan’s decency moment will come with a decision whether to defend or obliterate Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, when, next month, Republican Freedom Caucus members try to impeach him.
As CNN rightly points out, the impeachment effort “is really about” trying to “take control of (and kill) the Russia investigation.” That is to say, the impeachment of Rod Rosenstein is really about the impeachment of President Trump; it is about control of the investigation Democrats hope will provide them with a smoking gun, and which Republicans view, like Trump says, as a “witch hunt.”
It’s a curious word, “decency.”
Many of us dislike the President, many even think he should be impeached. But there are also many who probably don’t think the President should be impeached. For example, Trump currently has a 90% approval rating among Republicans. I’d imagine that his approval rating would be similar among Wall Street executives, military contractors, and oil companies.
Just as in war, when governments and media endeavour to convince people their enemies are not human beings but something less than, something to be crushed with impunity, just as racists view certain people the same way, here CNN is suggesting the debate is not between ‘I think the President should be impeached’ and ‘I don’t think the President should be impeached,’ but rather between decency and indecency – you are a bad person unless you agree with me.
It’s irrelevant whether or not we agree with them this time, that impeaching the President is the only decent thing to do. Allowing the ‘you’re a bad person if you don’t agree with me’ card to be played and held is a dangerous proposition.
Speaking of decency, another story which CNN and much of mainstream media were running with this week was the revelation that the National Enquirer had a secret safe filled with damaging documents on Trump, the contents of which may or may not be in the hands of prosecutors.
That would be The National Enquirer, whose recent headlines include:
It’s not that documents on Trump’s sordid dealings don’t’ exist, or that they should not be uncovered if they do. It’s that mainstream media – who only last week dramatically proclaimed their love for journalistic integrity, who repeatedly present themselves as the last bastions against fake news – brought forward, with a totally straight face, as their latest smoking gun … the National Enquirer.
Have you no decency, sir?
A few weeks ago, at the height of the heat wave that mangled much of the northeast, I was walking down the street in the midday sun when I noticed an unusual sight. Up ahead, outside a Starbucks in a small flower bed containing two trees, a few shrubs, and wood chips, was a fire. As in, a full-on fire, flames up to a person’s waist.
As I approached, I noticed something much more interesting. Easily dozens of people, on a moderately busy street in the middle of the day, walked past the fire and had the same response – first glancing at the flames, then experiencing a brief moment of confusion or fear, then continuing on.
I ran into Starbucks as the flames threatened to engulf one of the trees and told the employees they probably wanted to run outside with a few buckets of water or, you know … call the fire department.
Having Donald Trump as President is a bit like living in a heat wave; sometimes you are already so hot that you don’t consciously notice part of a city block is on fire.
Just this week, accusations of McCarthyism were hurled around by both sides at the same time as the US Navy re-launched a Cold War-era fleet with a legacy of confronting the Soviet Union. Then, mainstream media used the National Enquirer as a credible source in their pursuit of impeachment.
Further, when Richard Nixon faced impeachment, he started talking to the paintings on the walls of the White House. Some 50-odd years later and Trump appears to be doing much the same thing, though with a modern revision – tweeting all-caps nonsense to no one in particular at 1:10 am (EST).
Yet, a midnight snack of Twitter belligerence was not the only way Trump defended himself this week. On Thursday, the President went on Fox News and proclaimed, “If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”
For those who accuse Trump of acting like a mob boss, this would be your moment to meme – ‘but if you got rid of me, who would protect the shops?’
As with mob bosses, those associates closest to Trump have slowly evaporated through criminal charges and face-turns. One of the few remaining captains is Rudy Giuliani.
This week, the former Mayor of the country’s largest city, the former semi-serious presidential contender, and current lawyer to Trump, said, in a defense of the President during a Meet the Press interview, “truth isn’t truth.”
In some ways, I actually agree with him; everyone is experiencing their own unique and massaged version of “Truth.” But it was probably not the best statement to make at this point in time for a person in his particular position.
The truth is not the truth, and those aren’t 4-foot flames in the middle of a downtown city block. Everybody keep walking.
Quote of the Week: