An occasional series on the new nationalists – dingoes and drongos like Trump, Farage, and Bernardi – and other Oz twerps.
IV Politics as reality TV
CNN has become a constant freak show – or horror show – about a president who looks like a punch-drunk prize fighter. No attempt is made by either side to hide a state of war. There is also no attempt on either side to hide the fact that a state of war exists between this president and the very large security services of the U S. The Wall Street Journal, a quality paper of a conservative nature and Republican leaning, reports that security services are withholding material from the White House. But two explanations can be found on offer. One is that the White House leaks – that is notorious. The other is the apprehension that the Kremlin has ears in the white House – that is not so notorious. The two explanations are not exclusive.
The leaking and lying are of Himalayan dimensions. The press is now informed – presumably by the FBI – that Flynn lied to the FBI. If that were proved according to the criminal standard, Flynn would be in jeopardy, as they say over there, because lying to the FBI is a felony offence.
Everyone has their own morbid favourite of the act of this president that is the most rank or the most stupid. The blanket ban on Muslims? The rubbishing of the judges? Giving carte blanche to the laughing out loud Bibi Netanyahu and his religious fanatics back home? Going feral at a press conference and yet again revealing his fixation about the margin of his win? Telling guests at his resort – for which he has just doubled the $100K entrance fee – that that dude over there is the one with the nuclear codes?
For me, the lowest of the low was the response to the suggestion that Putin was a killer. ‘We have plenty of those here. Do you think we are that innocent?’ or words to that effect. It is not just that this was a reverse ad hominem with full pike and twist – it is a shocking thing for any national leader to say. And it happened on a home ground – Fox News has gone from M K (Mein Kampf) to SOT (State Owned Television.) Of course US presidents are killers. They do it with drones. But of course that was not the kind of killer up for discussion here.
The total breakdown of trust and government is patent. Any Republican president knows he is in real trouble when the WSJ runs stories against him, and one editorial is headed Another Trump Casualty and the leading article beside it is Is This Trump’s Watergate? The editorial, after a presidency of four weeks, has the following.
The White House should be especially concerned that Republican Senators dumped Mr. Puzder so easily. As many as a dozen were worried about the left-right assaults and asked the White House to spare them from a vote to confirm by withdrawing the nomination. So much for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise that all Trump nominees would make it. This is what happens when Republicans begin to feel they must distance themselves from an unpopular President.
It’s too early to be talking about the Titanic. Doing the best I can with the tea leaves, Miller appears to be just a young man on the make who lacks judgment and doesn’t know it; the real villain is Bannon who is both bright and venomous and intent on blowing up the Establishment that he has turned on; Trump is an idiot who has no ideology at all and who will go with the flow that lifts his ratings; Mattis and Tillerson are two people of substance who are used to running their own show and who have got better things to do with their names than seeing them trashed by an idiot. If that’s right, the sooner we see the showdown at the OK Corral, the better.
It was obvious from the notorious press conference that Trump is unbalanced or, if you prefer, deranged. You don’t have to be an expert to say that. (There is now a division within psychiatry as to whether it is appropriate to express a professional opinion without talking to the subject. I have a lot of sympathy for the side of reticence, but if a woman on TV said that she was going to kill her husband because he was cheating on her, I would have no hesitation in expressing an opinion, if asked, that if she went ahead and killed him, she would be liable to be found guilty of the crime of murder.) The manifest lack of balance in the President led me to write this to journalists at the WSJ. The letter contained the following.
In common with a lot of Australians, I have been watching events in the US with mounting amazement and horror. If it matters, I am an ageing lawyer come writer who has been happy to visit your country on a number of occasions, once to do a Summer School at Harvard.
May I put three questions from our side of the Pacific?
- Your paper is of a conservative bent with Republican leanings. Is it common ground that Trump is neither a conservative nor a Republican?
- If a head hunter was retained to put up a candidate for CEO of a major US listed company, and the head hunter put forward someone like Trump, would the best result be that he could look to be summarily dismissed?
- If a management consultant was hired to restructure the management of a major listed US company, and the consultant put up the model of the current White House, would the best result look to be a lot worse than summary dismissal?
I need not remind people at a paper as respectable as yours that the role of the press at this moment in US politics is as fundamental as it can get. The people of the US, and people here, are relying on you to help see us through these hard times. And we are confident you will do so – even if you do get up the noses of two of the most powerful people in the world.
You can test the issue as follows. If the board of a public company found its CEO acting in the course of his employment as irrationally and impulsively as Trump is, would it have any option other than to fire him?
Where are decent Republicans? I have given up on McConnell, not just because of that stunt with the Supreme Court next last year, or with Elizabeth Warren this year, but because his eight years of mindless partisan stonewalling is largely responsible for this mess.
What about Paul Ryan, a sane and decent man of a faith that would be repelled by everything that Trump is? Do you remember The Caine Mutiny? A US navy ship has a very unbalanced skipper, Captain Queeg (Bogart). His very decent second in command is Maryk (Van Heflin). Keefer (MacMurray) is a bright and social Communications officer. He tries to incite Maryk to get rid of Queeg, but Keefer goes to water. In a typhoon, Queeg breaks down, and Maryk has to take over. In the trial for mutiny, Keefer rats on Maryk, but Queeg breaks down in cross-examination – the strawberries and ball bearings – and when Keefer tries to cosy up to Maryk at the end, Maryk’s lawyer (Jose Ferrer) throws a glass of grog in his face.
Which role will Mr Ryan play – Maryk or Keefer?