self-centered

A Note on Temperament and Character

#trumpswindle | #GOP

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Central Intelligence Agency, 21 January 2016, in Langley, Virginia. (Photo: Olivier Doulier/Pool/Getty Images)

This is a bit worrisome:

I am not surprised by President Donald Trump’s antics this week. Not by the big splashy pronouncements such as announcing a wall that he would force Mexico to pay for, even as the Mexican foreign minister held talks with American officials in Washington. Not by the quiet, but no less dangerous bureaucratic orders, such as kicking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff out of meetings of the Principals’ Committee, the senior foreign-policy decision-making group below the president, while inserting his chief ideologist, Steve Bannon, into them. Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.

We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could ‘this is abnormal,’ to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations.

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have.

Eliot A. Cohen is a former Bush administration lawyer under Condoleezza Rice at the State Department. By no means should we disregard his analysis, but it is from the outset nearly stereotypical in its partisan and personal interest: Good for him, you know, because he is not surprised. And, hey, pat him and his friends on the back, because they were right: The problem is not President Trump’s policies, but his temperament, as his policies demonstrate. It is not his program, but his character, as his program makes clear.

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Speculation on Murmur and Buzz (HRC Horizon Remix)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during their annual convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 July 2016. (Photo: Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

And yet this is all about me. Should I apologize, or can we just admit that’s an inherent aspect of this valence of the blogosphere?

Because the truth is that the great “candidate” post is something you always want to get around to but somehow gets put off because any starting point leads to seemingly daunting prospects.. Whether it’s Ezra Klein’s article about how, “It’s time to admit Hillary Clinton is an extraordinarily talented politician”―and it’s a very good article, but still you want to argue about what do you mean “it’s time”?―or perhaps reminding my Sanders-supporting neighbors why he’s endorsing Hillary Clinton, it’s actually a really big pitch; there’s a lot going on.

But the post need not be some grandiose presentation; nor is that a repudiation of the basic idea of pitching the campaign.

Let’s try it this way: Steve Benen considers the murmur and buzz around Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential shortlist, mainly reports that the leading contenders are Tom Vilsack, presently Secretary of Agriculture and formerly governor of Iowa; and Tim Kaine, presently the junior U.S. Senator from Virginia, previously serving as that state’s governor, and in between managing an overlapping gig as chairman of the Democratic National Committee:

Clinton seemed to tilt her hand a bit on Monday during an interview with Charlie Rose, which included the presumptive Democratic nominee emphasizing “experience” as the key factor. “I am afflicted with the responsibility gene,” she added.

The interview turned into a sort of word-association game. Asked about Kaine and his self-professed “boring” personality, Clinton said, “And I love that about him. I mean, he’s never lost an election. He was a world-class mayor, governor and senator, and is one of the most highly respected senators I know.”

Asked about Hickenlooper, Clinton said, “First class.” Asked about Warren, she added, “Amazing. I mean, what she has done in relatively few years to put the agenda of inequality front and center is something that I think we should all be grateful for.”

Sanders supporters, of course, will be disappointed; I would in turn suggest that hope is not yet lost. While it is true that on this occasion I can read the conventional wisdom as well as any other, it is similarly true that this is a year in which I presume the conventional wisdom unstable. To wit, while it is unlikely, Hillary Clinton is perfectly capable of turning the screw in order to mean the manner, relative dimension, and quality of experience, thus turning to the essential newcomer, Elizabeth Warren.

Yeah, it could happen.

(cough!)

(ahem!)

But there is a hidden gem, there.

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The Ben Carson Show (Phenomenon)

Source photos: Ben Carson announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, 5 May 2015 (Paul Sancya/AP). A biblical inscription is chiseled into the wall of Ben Carson's home, with 'proverbs' spelled incorrectly (Mark Makela/The Guardian, 2014).

Tom McCarthy tries to explain the Ben Carson phenomenon for The Guardian:

He is more than an American success story, brilliant brain surgeon and bestselling author of 10 Christian-themed books. He has also coined some of the most outlandish statements ever uttered on the national stage, a purveyor of bizarre conspiracy theories and a provocateur who compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia.

This week, Carson restated his belief that the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain, and not by Egyptians to entomb their kings. He believes that Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Abbas attended school together in Moscow in 1968. He believes that Jews with firearms might have been able to stop the Holocaust, that he personally could stop a mass shooting, that the Earth was created in six days and that Osama bin Laden enjoyed Saudi protection after 9/11.

The Carson conundrum is not fully captured by a list of his eccentric beliefs, however. He also confounds the traditional demographics of US politics, in which national African American political figures are meant to be Democrats. Not only is Carson a Republican – he is a strong conservative on both social and economic issues, opposing abortion including in cases of rape and incest, and framing welfare programs as a scheme to breed dependence and win votes.

He has visited the riot zones of Ferguson and Baltimore but offered little compassion for black urban poor populations who feel oppressed by mostly white police forces.

Even Carson’s core appeal as a Christian evangelical is complicated by the fact that he is a lifelong adherent to a relatively small sect, the Seventh-Day Adventist church, whose celebration of the sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday and denial of the doctrine of hell have drawn accusations of heresy from other mainstream Christian groups.

That last probably plays more strongly with the British audience; in the United States, Christian is as Christian does; Dr. Carson’s penchant for false witness and exclusionary, judgmental scorn are his own ad hoc iteration of faith, shot through with neurotic self-contradiction as it struggles to justify his self-centered pretense of humility. If one seeks strangeness about the SDA experience in general, it is a different phenomenon.

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Oklahoma Governance

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), in May 2015. (image: KFOR)

There are days, you know, when it is really easy to pick on an idea. Take Oklahoma for instance. Last week we learned about the strangeness of Oklahoma virtue, and then a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin (R) found himself blaming Texas for protests in Durant and Oklahoma City demonstrating support for the Confederacy as President Obama arrived.

Talk about a trifecta; this also happened:

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and the GOP-led legislature announced they’re prepared to ignore the state Supreme Court, at least for now, while they consider new solutions.​

The Republican governor talked to reporters, saying roughly what you’d expect her to say: she’s “disappointed” with the court’s decision; she thinks they made the wrong call; etc. But as KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, reported, Fallin added one related thought that wasn’t expected at all:​

Gov. Fallin said she believes the final decision on the monument’s fate should rest with the people.​

“You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, the legislative branch and the people, the people and their ability to vote. So I’m hoping that we can address this issue in the legislative session and let the people of Oklahoma decide,” she said.​

The KFOR report added, “Despite what the governor said, the three branches of government include the legislative, executive and judicial branches” ....​

.... We can certainly hope that Fallin, a former multi-term member of Congress, knows what the three branches of government are. Indeed, in Oklahoma, she’s the head of one of them – the one she left out this week.​

(Benen)

This is actually one of the big differences. Look, Democrats might well be just as middling, mincing, and incompetent as they seem, but, to the one, to the one, it’s nothing comparable to this, and, to the other, ritual equivocation would only obscure important considerations.

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A Bug in the System

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 29 April 2015.This is interesting. Or maybe it isn’t. Who am I to say? In truth, Adam Huber manages to mix disparate elements worth noting.

To the one, Boyfriend Bug there actually does sort of remind me of certain people I know; the thing is that the rest of the strip breaks that form. That is to say, the people I know who would actually pull that line wouldn’t understand the rest.

Or so it seems to me. That, at least, is not interesting. But the joke comes ’round at the end, so in a way I must insist that this is interesting.

Bug Martini, not me.

Oh, right. You could probably figure that last for yourself.

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Huber, Adam. “Date Minds Shrink Alike”. Bug Martini. 29 April 2015.