The Trump Quandary

We desperately need to pivot from Donald Trump and Dan Barry is here to help. If I could only share one article on Donald Trump with some person in the future curious about the Trump Era, it would be Barry’s from today’s New York Times, “‘Loser’: How a Lifelong Fear Bookended Trump’s Presidency“.

It’s not angry or mean, it’s thorough, thoughtful, and explanatory without succumbing to rampant psychological speculation. Barry doesn’t inflame and doesn’t even analyze Trump as much as he describes what has happened, or more accurately, is still happening.

I could excerpt most of it, but in case you’ve already exceeded your recommended daily calories, here’s just a taste:

“. . . his famous aversion to the label of loser has now reached its apotheosis.

Since Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner of the Nov. 3 election — and Mr. Trump therefore declared the loser — the president has repeatedly trafficked in baseless allegations of a fraudulent and corrupt electoral process. What was once considered the quirky trait of a self-involved New York developer has become an international embarrassment, nearly upending the sacred transition of power and leaving the world’s foremost democracy — grappling with a deadly pandemic and a teetering economy — with a leader who refuses to concede despite the basic math.

‘AND I WON THE ELECTION,’ Mr. Trump tweeted last week. ‘VOTER FRAUD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.'”

We’re in a quandary. We need to move on from DT for the sake of our own mental health and our relationships with our conservative friends, but we also need to remember the past.

It’s not psychological speculation to assert that Trump’s preoccupation with winning is his dad’s fault. Pay attention to the stories from his childhood. When I do that, I feel extremely sorry for him. He never stood a chance.

I suppose, like many people approaching sixty, I now realize internal, personal contentment is preferable to any exterior notions of life success.

More specifically, I now realize you can’t beat me in anything if I refuse to compete with you. Knock yourself out winner. I’ll be seeking contentment, quietly, outside of your view.

I’m profoundly thankful on this day that my dad was Donald J. Byrnes and not Fred Trump.

Are You Ready to Sip Unflavored Almond Milk?

Biden Transition tweets of note.

Lachlan Markay, “One of the more remarkable—but unremarked-upon trends of the past three weeks has been the relative calm of the Biden transition in the face of Team Trump’s frantic shit stirring.”

Jake Sherman, “THE BIGGEST SHIFT in Washington in January won’t only be that Democrats are taking the White House. It will be that the BIDEN administration will be — as @ BrendanBuck pointed out — “delightfully boring”. 

@ harrispolitico calls it “Joe Biden’s Team of Careerists.”

Sherman, “By design, they seem meant to project a dutiful competence, as Biden creates a government overseen by those who have run it before. THEY BELIEVE IN A LINEAR, plodding purposeful and standard policy process. EXPECT INTERVIEWS with JOE BIDEN to be a big deal — meaning, they won’t happen often, which givens them an extra oomph. We’ll complain, and they won’t care.”

The end of Sherman’s thread is money:

“IN OTHER WORDS, if the TRUMP White House was like downing a vat of Tabasco sauce over the past four years, the BIDEN White House will be like sipping unflavored almond milk.

Someone pass me a dictionary. . . what do these words mean—competence, purposeful, standard? Yo no comprendo. 

Rush Limbaugh Is Dying

Justin Peters with a smart history lesson on Limbaugh’s legacy. Peters argues we have him to thank for Trump in “Rush Limbaugh’s Fight to the Death.”

The conclusion:

“Limbaugh might have had a choice at one point, a choice to stop being a crabbed, reactionary loudmouth and do something different. That choice is gone now. The conservative movement—the wackos and the reply guys, the pundits and the dissemblers, the Q disciples and the truthers—has barricaded itself within the echo chamber Rush built. They swap memes and theories in a big windowless room that admits no outside light, and they have grown so accustomed to the smell that they’re convinced it’s the outside world that stinks.

This is the right wing we’re stuck with, even if Trump loses, even after Limbaugh dies. And a Biden victory can only make it worse, for there is nothing conservative media like more than playing the victim. Spinning spurious grievances into bullshit extending beyond the horizon is the quintessential talk-radio trick. Limbaugh pioneered it. Trump perfected it. It’s a potent, brilliant idea that will outlive them both.”

“Spinning spurious grievances into bullshit extending beyond the horizon.” If that prediction could be monetized into a proposition we could gamble on, I’d slide every last one of my chips into the center of the table. 

Too Much and Never Enough

Thank you Dahlia Lithwick for explaining the key insight of Mary Trump’s new book so well and saving me from having to read it. Day one, a million copies. To quote Adam Sandler, “Not too shabby.”

“Mary Trump’s Book Shows How Donald Trump Gets Away With It.”

“. . . what she reveals is a devastating indictment of all the alleged adults who stick around Donald Trump, who came together to fail America, to leave vulnerable populations to fend for themselves, and who continue to lie and spin to pacify his ego. They do it because they can’t admit the payoff is never coming, and to save themselves from the embarrassment of having to admit they were catastrophically wrong.”

But let’s not forget the conscientious objectors.

The Demagogue’s Playbook

By Eric Posner. This podcast episode with Posner is excellent.

What, according to Posner, is a demagogue?

“Despite it’s overuse, ‘demagogue’ has a core meaning that has remained stable over millennia. It refers to a charismatic, amoral person who obtains the support of the people through dishonesty, emotional manipulation, and the exploitation of social divisions; who targets the political elites, blaming them for everything that has gone wrong; and who tries to destroy institutions—legal, political, religious, and social—and other sources of power that stand in their way. The demagogue is frequently considered to be (and in many cases actually is), crude, vulgar, and violent—contemptuous of manners, civility, and norms, which the demagogue sees as structures that keep the elites in power.”

Reminds me of someone, I just can’t put my finger on it.

Thursday Assorted Links

1. Why I’m Learning More With Distance Learning Than I Do In School. By Veronique Mintz, 13 years old. Starts strong.

“Talking out of turn. Destroying classroom materials. Disrespecting teachers. Blurting out answers during tests. Students pushing, kicking, hitting one another and even rolling on the ground. This is what happens in my school every single day. . . . Based on my peers’ behavior, you might guess that I’m in second or fourth grade. But I’m actually about to enter high school in New York City, and, during my three years of middle school, these sorts of disruptions occurred repeatedly in any given 42-minute class period.

2. Don’t forget the other pandemic killing thousands of Americans.

3. How Yukon’s ‘one caribou apart’ physical distancing campaign became a sensation. I really miss Canada.

4. Was Donald Trump good at baseball? I couldn’t help but smile throughout this one.

Trump said he shoulda, coulda, woulda gone pro, but an intrepid reporter dug deep into the archives only to find:

“Combined, the nine box scores I unearthed give Trump a 4 for 29 batting record in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, with three runs batted in and a single run scored. Trump’s batting average in those nine games: an underwhelming .138.”

Then the reporter asked Keith Law, a senior baseball writer for the Athletic and author of The Inside Game who covers the MLB draft, if Trump’s numbers sounded like those of a pro prospect.

“‘There’s no chance,’ said Law, who once worked in the front office of the Toronto Blue Jays assessing high school players. ‘You don’t hit .138 for some podunk, cold-weather high school playing the worst competition you could possibly imagine. You wouldn’t even get recruited for Division I baseball programs, let alone by pro teams. That’s totally unthinkable. It’s absolutely laughable. He hit .138—he couldn’t fucking hit, that’s pretty clear.'”

That may be my favorite quote about Trump of all time. Just flip the bat and touch em’ all.

5. The Best Television Shows To Stream Now.

Taking A Pass On Human Empathy

Susan Glasser in The New Yorker, “Fifty Thousand Americans Dead from the Coronavirus, and a President Who Refuses to Mourn Them”.

Impossible to argue with this description:

“To the extent that he discusses those who have died, he tends to do so largely in self-justifying, explicitly political terms, framing the pandemic as an externally imposed catastrophe that would have been much, much worse without him.”

Or this opinion:

“The numbers of dead citizens he throws about, meanwhile, seem to be abstractions to a President who believes that even the subject of mass death is all about him.”

Glasser with much needed historical context:

“Honoring the dead has long been one of the tests of American Presidential leadership. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was, after all, not just another political speech but a remembrance of those who were killed in the bloodiest single battle of the Civil War, in which some fifty thousand Americans became casualties and about eight thousand died. Twenty-five years ago this week, Bill Clinton’s lip-bitingly empathetic response to the Oklahoma City bombing, in which a white supremacist blew up a federal building and killed a hundred and sixty-eight people, was seen as a key moment of his tenure. He was dubbed the ‘mourner-in-chief,’ at a time when he was languishing politically. That speech is often said to have saved his Presidency. More recently, Barack Obama wept from the White House lectern in speaking about the deaths of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, and gave arguably the speech of his lifetime in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, singing ‘Amazing Grace as he mourned at a funeral service for nine African-Americans killed by a white supremacist at a church massacre. Even those Presidents who aren’t particularly good at speechifying—think of the two George Bushes—have considered public commiseration amid national tragedy part of the job description. Have we ever had a President just take a pass on human empathy, even of the manufactured, politically clichéd kind?”

Showing empathy is not something he could be coached to do, even if he was coachable. I wonder, do his supporters, some which are empathetic people, look for it in him or not?

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Jia Tolentino on “The Pitfalls and Potential of the New Minimalism.” Strong opening paragraph.

“The new literature of minimalism is full of stressful advice. Pack up all your possessions, unpack things only as needed, give away everything that’s still packed after a month. Or wake up early, pick up every item you own, and consider whether or not it sparks joy. See if you can wear just thirty-three items of clothing for three months. Know that it’s possible to live abundantly with only a hundred possessions. Don’t organize—purge. Digitize your photos. Get rid of the things you bought to impress people. Downsize your apartment. Think constantly about what will enable you to live the best life possible. Never buy anything on sale.”

2. Goldendoodle has new purpose.

3. A not so genius move. I feel really badly for him.

“Six years ago to the day, a pre-presidential Donald Trump said on Twitter that he sold his Apple shares, complaining about the fact that the company at the time didn’t sell an iPhone with a smaller screen. Assuming Apple’s post-earnings stock gains holds through the open of the markets on Wednesday, its price will have gone up 356% from the day of Trump’s tweet in 2014.”

4. San Fransisco bans cars on Market Street.

“San Francisco’s car-free move is part of a wave of cities around the globe pedestrianizing their downtown cores and corridors, from New York City to Madrid to Birmingham. And there are signs that SF’s effort will not end at Market Street: Local officials in the city are calling to remove cars from other sections of the city.”

5. An interview with the woman who wrote the viral 1,000 word job listing for a “Household Manager/Cook/Nanny”. $35-$40/hour to river swim? I’m in.

Donald Soprano

Or Tony Trump if you like alliteration.

Sometimes political pundits use mobster metaphors to describe the President’s behavior.

The metaphor makes increasing sense. Consider that the President wanted to repeal an anti-corruption law so US businesses could bribe foreigners. Consider that the President directed his “associates” to “take out” Marie Yovanovitch, Amabassador to Ukraine. Consider how quickly he turns on “associates” like Tillerson, Mathis, or Bolton who “rat him out”. Or how he denies knowing “associates” who run afoul of “the family”.

There are numerous other examples, but when it comes to Donald Soprano and Tony Soprano, there are two differences, one more obvious than the other. The obvious, Donald Soprano has never whacked anyone. The less obvious, Tony Soprano had just enough of a conscious to seek out a therapist. Consequently, he reflected on his criminality. In that regard, Donald Soprano is no Tony Soprano.