Report From Trump’s Alt-Reich (4) Thursday, Mar 2 2017 

About Van Jones’ fawning praise of Tuesday night’s congressional speech:
Good career move. He’ll now be invited to lunch at the White House, lock in his
contract at CNN, and join Ben Carson and Don King as one of the Madman of
Mar-a-Lago’s favorite members of “those people.”

An Open Letter To Barry Goldwater on Why I Am Leaving the Republican Party Tuesday, Mar 8 2016 

 

Dear Barry,

Since your running for president over half a century ago brought me into the Republican Party, I figure you’re the one to tell why I’m leaving it.

To get straight to the point, do you remember the bullshitting New York real estate hustler who made a reputation opening (and bankrupting) Atlantic City casinos when you were still around? The spoiled rich kid who inherited $200 million from his father, was born on third base and brags he hit a triple? Dumped his first wife to marry a young model, then dumped her to marry a younger model?

That’s right, Donald Trump. In your day we thought he was a Democrat because he gave so much money to Democratic candidates. But lo and behold he now claims he’s a conservative Republican and thinks he should be the party’s 2016 candidate for president.

No foreign policy experience. No domestic policy experience. But what the hell, since cursing Washington and looking down at the rest of the world is all the current party base now seems to want, he’s their man.

Oh, I forgot: No military experience either. Four Favorite Son deferments during the Vietnam War, enough draft-dodging to make Bill Clinton look like Sergeant York. Yet he had the rich kid’s temerity to call John McCain a “loser” for spending five years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

Not that he doesn’t have foreign and domestic policy ideas, e.g., he’d round up and deport 11 million Mexican immigrants because, as he tells his crowds, Mexicans are “rapists”; he’d build a wall across the Rio Grande and “make Mexico pay for it”; he’d bar all Muslims from entering the country, put full-scale surveillance on all mosques, authorize torture and waterboarding (“even if it doesn’t work”) and go after Middle Eastern terrorists by killing their families. (No, Barry, I am not making this up.)

Of course, carrying out policies like that is bound to attract criticism, but Trump has ideas on how to handle that, too. He’d tighten the libel laws to muzzle the press, and for those critics who heckle his speeches he’d encourage their being “roughed up” – the roughing possibly carried out by followers of the neo-Nazi Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, whose support Trump can’t find the full-throated voice to repudiate.

I can imagine what you’re thinking about now: A megalomaniacal nut case like that is going nowhere in a party that claims to be conservative. Sorry to break the news and I hope whatever cloud bank you’re on you’re sitting down, but barring a political miracle before the convention, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

There’ll be some sideshow skirmishes, of course, since a sizeable number of party leaders will try to block his nomination. They see it as an aberration. Trump’s outrageous posturing, says one such leader, Paul Ryan, doesn’t reflect “who we are.” But the evidence, to my eyes, is otherwise; which is to say that Trumpism isn’t so much the problem as a symptom of the problem.

Remember how, back when you were Mr. Conservative, you’d get together with liberal Democrats in the Senate to work out compromise legislation? Your slogan was, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.” Well for the past decade, Republicans in Congress have considered compromise a dirty word, and those who think otherwise get removed from office by political Luddites who call themselves the Tea Party. You wanted to limit the size of government. The Luddites want to do away with it altogether. They talk about fighting “the Establishment,” but as this year’s primaries show, they now are the Republican Establishment.

Proof of that? The runner-up to Trump in the race for the nomination is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose claim to fame is a penchant for shutting down the government not only by refusing to expand the debt limit but, if necessary, to defund Planned Parenthood. (That’s right, the same Planned Parenthood your wife, Peggy, belonged to.)

Again, sorry to ruin your day, but leaving the party you brought me into is no easy matter; though I have a feeling if you were still around it’d be easier because you’d be leading the exit.

–As ever, Vic

 

Sound bite to remember

“Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.”

–John F. Kennedy, on refusing to appoint someone to a judgeship he considered unqualified

Scalia to Fox? Wednesday, Jul 1 2015 

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egoistic. Of course, the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.”

–Justice Antonin Scalia attacking fellow Justice Anthony Kennedy in his dissent in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.

Paging Roger Ailes! Read the above and the rest of Scalia’s dissenting opinion and tell me if that’s not the perfect tone to fill a spot on Fox’s schedule. Surely, with Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee now off your payroll, there’s an opening for an abrasive Supreme Court justice temperamentally suited to satisfy the red-meat appetite of Fox’s primetime audience.

Like Bill O’Reilly, Antonin Scalia also meets the first requirement of a celebrity arbiter in today’s political environment. Seated at a table with Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Copernicus and Voltaire, he’d still think he was the smartest guy in the room. And more: Scalia also has that special gift of the best in Fox political analysts, the inability to disagree without being disagreeable.

Think of this as well: It’s one thing for an intellectual nincompoop like Palin, who’s never heard of, much less read, the Federalist papers, to mouth the cheap demagogic line that Supreme Court decisions are “undemocratic” because they’re rendered by “unelected lawyers”; but for a bona fide Justice who claims to channel the Original intent of the Founders to make that argument, as Scalia does, is something you’re not going to get out of any washed-up candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Like, say, Scalia’s soulmate in demagogic trash talk, Donald Trump.

Am I getting personal here, arguing ad hominem? Good. It fits the subject. What’s more, as Scalia’s erstwhile hunting partner Dick Cheney once said after insulting a U.S. senator, I feel better for having done it.

Sound bite to remember

“Any man who tells you he starts off each morning with a cold shower will lie about other things.”

         –Dwight Eisenhower, commenting on a news report about his presidential campaign opponent Adlai Stevenson, 1952

A Case of Mistaken Obscenity Monday, Apr 27 2015 

“I’m on television, I’ll f–ing sue you.”
–Britt McHenry, ESPN’s Miss Congeniality, to towing employee

 “That’s not who I am.”
–Britt McHenry, on being reinstated after a feeble one-week suspension from ESPN

The all-sports network’s poster girl for “I’m on TV and you’re a tow-truck peasant” is back on the job, with a lengthy apology for her slobbish behavior: The usual “second chance” drivel, plus a line increasingly used by miscreants, whether the behavior involved be choking your girlfriend or skipping out of a store without paying for lifted merchandise.

McHenry’s patronizing, foul-mouthed outburst? That’s not who she is, says Miss Congeniality. An old Humphrey Bogart rejoinder comes to mind. After being berated by a woman, Bogart’s character in To Have and Have Not is asked to excuse her because, explains her friend, “She’s not herself”; to which Bogie snaps, “Then who is she?”

A question ESPN, in Britt McHenry’s case, doesn’t think matters – so long as no tow-truck peasants are listed among its advertisers.

Book review to remember

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
–Dorothy Parker

The Limits of Satire Sunday, Dec 21 2014 

Sony made a mistake. Not in canceling release of “The Interview” – theater chains had sent word they wouldn’t show it – but in first giving the green light to a satire plotted around the assassination of a real-life political figure.

You say, as Alan Dershowitz does, that canceling the movie was a blow to artistic expression, allowing the dictator of North Korea to suppress free speech? Fine. How about a satirical film about a couple of zany Palestinians who plot – and carry out – the assassination of Benjamin Netanyahu?

Or, like Michael Moore, that refusing to release “The Interview” is caving in to hackers? Fine. Let him produce and try to screen a satire plotted around a couple of dumb-and-dumber rednecks who set out – and succeed – in assassinating a live American president.

Imagine the odds on films like that being green-lighted. Imagine too Alan Dershowitz’s outraged op-ed piece in The New York Times if they were, and Al Sharpton’s organizing a nationwide boycott to shut down theaters that showed them.

Years ago I turned off a “Saturday Night Live” that featured a satirical conversation between Katharine Hepburn and Muhammad Ali, both suffering from advanced Parkinson’s. Somebody thought it was funny. Had I been in charge, I’d have canceled it. Obviously my appreciation of satire and free speech comes up short.

Sound bite to remember 

“Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it.”

–Samuel Johnson

Lincoln’s Gettysburg “dud” Friday, Sep 19 2014 

In a prior life and century I worked for a controversial Vice President named Spiro Agnew who delivered fiery speeches denouncing, among other things, what he called “instant analysis” of presidential speeches.

Instant analysis, a feature of the television age, took place when, immediately following a presidential address, a panel of talking heads appeared on TV screens to tell us not only why the President said what he said, but what was wrong with it. In short order that practice spread to the print media as reporters, once given only to reporting the news, felt it necessary to interpret it for what a new generation of  journalists viewed as the dim-bulb masses.

Agnew’s speeches on the subject, delivered in Des Moines, Iowa, and Montgomery, Alabama in October 1969, were in turn instantly analyzed by his media critics as being “an attack on the First Amendment.” The Vice President, it was written and said by media pundits from Walter Lippmann to CBS’s Eric Sevareid, aimed at producing a “chilling effect” that would inhibit if not stifle critics in a free American press.

If that was Agnew’s aim, he missed his mark badly. Far from being chilled, media critics of presidential speeches since that time have been, if anything, overheated. Take, for example, the instant analysis of President Obama’s speech last week on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

Though no fan of Obama’s loquacious style of making a point, I thought his speech that night, while predictable, was direct and effective. But no sooner than he finished, a bevy of instant analysts, notably led by CNN’s David Gergen (of Gerald Ford speechwriting fame) and Chris Matthews (of Jimmy Carter speechwriting fame) were on-screen to tell us how bad it was.

All of which brought to mind a piece I wrote back in my Agnewesque days, imagining what a 20th century (now 21st century) press would have to say about a presidential speech made in a small Pennsylvania town in mid-autumn of 1863 . . .

GETTYSBURG, Pa. – Nov. 19 – President Lincoln, in what White House aides billed as a “nonpolitical” speech, dedicated a military cemetery here today before a sparse, unresponsive crowd estimated by local authorities as fewer than 300 people.

In a tactical move clearly designed to get the political jump on Gen. George B. McClellan, his probable Democratic opponent next year, Mr. Lincoln made one of his rare trips outside Washington to visit this vote-rich Keystone State. Judging by early reaction to his appearance, however, the White House strategy appears to have backfired.

Not only was the President’s address sharply criticized by political experts for being too brief, but he was upstaged by the main speaker of the day, the brilliant public orator Edward Everett. Moreover, Mr. Lincoln’s glaring failure even to mention McClellan or Gen. George Meade, the victorious Union commander of the battle fought here in July, cast doubt on White House staff claims that the trip was “purely nonpolitical.”

One veteran political observer, noting recent charges that the Lincoln Administration has created a “credibility gap” between itself and the public, termed the President’s omission of McClellan’s and Meade’s names from his speech text “a serious blunder that will come back to haunt him in next year’s election.”

“This is another example of the sloppy White House staff work that has plagued the Administration since the day Lincoln took office,” commented another observer on receiving news that the President’s speech has been hurriedly scribbled on the back of an envelope en route to the speech site.

White House spokesmen vehemently denied this rumor, claiming that Mr. Lincoln had “worked over two drafts of the speech before he left Washington.”

While debate went on regarding the manner in which the speech was drafted, there was general agreement with the opinion rendered by a visiting professor of oratory from the University of Pennsylvania that the President’s address was “a dud.”

Mr. Lincoln delivered his remarks in the same high-pitched, vaguely irritating Midwestern inflection that has characterized his past public addresses. Another criticism was that the speech, in the words of one Gettysburg resident, “didn’t say anything we haven’t already heard.”

“My family and I came out here to see and listen to the President of the United States and all we got was a puny two minutes,” said one outraged localite.

Mr. Lincoln remained unsmiling throughout his visit to this small eastern Pennsylvania village. Aides claimed the President’s solemn demeanor was simply “appropriate to the occasion,” but knowledgeable Washington sources have indicated that serious problems in Mr. Lincoln’s home life more likely account for his grim public visage in recent months.

In support of this view, it was noted that Mrs. Lincoln did not accompany the President here.

Another significant absentee from the speaker’s platform was Vice President Hannibal Hamlin. Rumors persist that Mr. Lincoln plans to dump Mr. Hamlin as a running mate next year in favor of a Border State Democrat who would be more helpful in pursuing his Administration’s Southern Strategy.

The President, who has not held a major news conference in two years, refused reporters’ requests that he answer questions following his address. In the speech itself, Mr. Lincoln said that the men who died in the battle here gave their lives in order “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

However, the President, who was elected three years ago on a pledge to preserve the Union, once again failed to provide details on any fresh Administration initiative to achieve this objective.

Sound Bites to Remember

“Nattering nabobs of negativism.”
— Spiro Agnew’s description of Democratic critics of the Nixon Administration, words written by speechwriter William Safire, 1970.

“An effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”
— Spiro Agnew’s description of antiwar demonstrators, words written by Spiro Agnew, 1969.

About Lincoln’s Body Language…. Tuesday, Oct 23 2012 

Wolf Blitzer here with CNN’s elite panel of political experts to dissect what we’ve just seen in the first of seven planned debates between Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, and his Democratic opponent, Stephen A. Douglas.

First we go to our senior analyst David Gergen who, having worked for both candidates at one time or another, is guaranteed to be—

GERGEN: Objective, which allows me to say in all fatuity that while both candidates get high grades for making their case, I think Douglas did a better job connecting with the back rows because of his—

BLITZER: Projection?

GERGEN: Exactly. I don’t know how many times I’ve told Abe he has to do something about that tinny voice—

GLORIA BORGER: I couldn’t agree more, David, but I think Lincoln’s inability to speak from the diaphragm is the least of his worries. I got the distinct impression he felt he was above it all, didn’t even want to be there.

PAUL BEGALA: Yeah, right, I mean pulling out his pocket watch in the middle of Douglas’ peroration was bad enough, but that habit of looking down at his opponent, it’s a definite no-no.

MARY MATALIN: Hey, he’s a foot taller, what do you expect? Though I have to admit, Lincoln’s body language wasn’t all his base could have hoped for. Not to mention that fuzzy reference to a house—how did he put it?

ARI FLEISCHER: A house divided against itself cannot stand. I think that’s what he said. For a moment I thought he was going to get into the housing crisis but—

CANDY CROWLEY: May I say something here? I thought the same thing, that he’d get in a personal touch about growing up in a log cabin with his mom Nancy Hanks, then splitting rails—

JOHN KING: A missed opportunity there, no doubt about it. Our focus group by a 3-to-1 margin gave Douglas the edge in likeability and having a personal narrative more like their own.

BLITZER: Fascinating stuff, John. Next, our CNN poll telling us who won, Lincoln or Douglas, after this brief station break . . .

 

Sound bite to remember 

“You will find out that you cannot do without politicians. They are a necessary evil. But the thing for the school people to do is that if the politicians are going to steal, make sure they steal for the schools.”

–Huey Long to the faculty of LSU, April 12, 1935

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