“A Dangerous Brew…”

One of my favorite writers, George Saunders, recently said in an interview on PBS that, when writing, it’s proper to be a little bit confused about what you’re doing. As my outrage grows along with my need to share it, I am comforted by Saunders and ask for your indulgence.

“[Trump] tells so many untruths that it’s time to leave behind the textual parsing over which are unwitting and which are deliberate — as well as the condescending notion that most of Trump’s supporters enjoy his lies. Trump sets out to deceive people. As he has put it, ‘I play to people’s fantasies.’ Caveat emptor: When Donald Trump says something happened, it should not change anyone’s estimation of whether the event actually happened. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. His claim doesn’t change the odds. Which brings us to Russia.” -David Leonhart 3/20/2017 NYT

I fear that simply “going along” with Trump is becoming the new normal. How can we listen to any of the Republicns and supporters who with knitted brows announce that “he really believes” Obama had him wiretapped? Are we going to continue to act as though the man is going to suddenly become trustworthy after a long career of lies, bullying, and clowning? Watching him in one of his staged rallies is to see a man delighted with casual cruelty and malice. All of the testimony I hear from around the world indicates that the United States is losing its credibility and reputation as the leader of the free world. I am experiencing continuing unprecedented dismay and disgust with the lying swindler in the White House, and nothing that has happened has forced a re-evaluation of anything I’ve said on the subject so far. Early on, shortly after the election, I was asked by a DT supporter what the worst thing that could happen was. My answer was that people would die. That’s another opinion that hasn’t changed one bit, but there are so many other sub-sets of harm emerging that it might seem the deaths of innocent individuals will pale compared to the full scale assault on our heritage, values, and institutions. How do Trump supporters feel about America’s tradition of international leadership since World War II? Do Trump supporters think that Trump is enhancing our reputation and reliability? Do they feel he is engendering trust? Do they feel more safe? Do they trust him?

There has been creeping (and creepy) normalization. Even the failing New York Times in reporting on the chemical attack in Syria has taken a tone of detachment implying Trump has consciously eschewed what have heretofore been seen as “American Values” as a pragmatic political choice, ignoring the evidence of Trump’s past indifference to government sponsored cruelty and his open promotion of torture. How the so-called right can maintain straight faces when talking about what the President BELIEVES is mind boggling. Trump had no understanding of what was in Ryan’s repeal and replace bill. His understanding of diplomatic relations and techniques is nil. I am sick of hearing about deals. Spicer and others have been strained to address or define “policies.” That any policies have come from the mind of DT is patently absurd. Some principled Republicans have been heard to praise him as a businessman, not an ideologue. We should take comfort from this?

I guess an ideologue is someone like that ramrod man of integrity, Paul Ryan. The health bill he proposed was immoral. What the bill actually said was much less important, though, than, as McConnell and Ryan repeat, “keeping promises to the American people.” According to these yahoos, the American people want more carbon in the atmosphere and more holes in the ground; the American people want streams and rivers polluted; the American people want freedom from health insurance; the American people disbelieve scientists; the American people hate gays and lesbians and have a very special hatred for transgendered young people and jews; the American people want women to be subject to men; the American people want their personal information sold by corporations; the American people want more boots on the ground in the Middle East; the American people scorn other peoples’ babies; and most obviously, importantly, and insidiously, the American people want to be WHITE.

Fox, of course, does a hell of a job reinforcing Republican talking points so any sort of nonsense Trump tweets becomes amplified under the serious scrutiny of men like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. While rational human beings scratch their heads at each new absurdity, idiots and shills like Devon Nunes try to convince us that they are following a leader, and Republicans scurry to get things done before the voters recognize the nakedness of the king. We must celebrate those few Republicans showing a hint of courage like Walter Jones of North Carolina, the first Republican to break with the White House on Nunes’ ability to continue as Chairman of the House intelligence committee. All praise to Walter Jones!

The overarching goal must be to get Trump out of the White House as quickly as possible. He is an immediate danger to us all. The White House explained his not throwing out the first pitch as a scheduling conflict. The fact is that they know he would be jeered. While his handlers must continue to look for opportunities for “rallies” with invited audiences of supporters in places where Trump won’t be booed, this President must become increasingly isolated. His popularity will continue to dwindle as his gang struggles with legislative action and governance during increasing legal challenges, but should there be a terrorist attack, what Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University, member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna has been characterizing as a “Reichstag Fire,” it could mean Trump can get on a white horse and come to the rescue. Do Trump and Bannon look forward to this outcome? I believe it’s likely.

Snyder has been puffing his book, titled On Tyranny on radio and television. With a focus on twentieth century history, he delineates steps that have commonly, historically led to tyranny. Win an election. Appoint your family. Demonize a group. Build up the military. Prompt a grab for power in the guise of a rescue from a manufactured crisis- a “Reichstag Fire.” Snyder is unsmiling and very convincing. The book is terrifying.

“ ‘We are all sitting on the edge of our seats hoping nothing catastrophic happens in the world,’ said Phil Larson, a former senior science and technology adviser to Mr. Obama. ‘But if it does, who is going to be advising him?’ “ -Cecilia King & Michael D. Shear 3/30/17 NYT

“It might almost be funny. Almost. But the day will come when the Dow plunges and what the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is said to have feared most in politics — ’events, dear boy, events’ — - occurs, perhaps in ghastly terrorist form, and an incoherent administration will be confronted by its first crisis. All that can be said for now is that, in such a moment, illiberalism and xenophobia in the hands of a would-be autocrat will make for a dangerous brew.” -Roger Cohen 4/1/2017 NYT

Each day brings more bad news. The normalization of these circumstances could end our democracy. We must do our best to deny Donald Trump the respect the office of President deserves. He and his minions demean our heritage and history. Our hope lies in a future when we can look to the Trump era as a most regrettable collective mistake, from which we miraculously recovered. For me, that hope remains sadly uncertain and elusive.