Friday, May 19, 2017

"We're not healthy right now"

In the course of my morning perusal of the pundit-sphere, I've come across several pieces that illuminate various aspects of a theme that's preoccupied me here at LITD - namely, the predictably problematic nature of the Trump presidency.

There's Jason Willick's article at The American Interest that looks at what seems the most likely scenario: that the Mueller investigation won't turn up any impeachable offense, or even any egregious scandal.

 I found Victor Davis Hanson's latest essay, appearing at American Greatness,  compelling. And that kind of surprised me. Hanson, who is undeniably one of the most measured yet principled public intellectuals on the scene, had been disappointing me for a while, leaning incrementally toward supporting Trump without adequately articulating his reasons. Until today. He makes a case that looks pretty airtight to me - that is, it fully addresses my misgivings. In fact, he spells them out as well as I could have, and I have all four that he lists: 

1) The character flaws of the inexperienced and uncouth Trump would eventually nullify any positive agenda that he might enact; not opposing such a boorish character undermines one’s reputation as an empirical and fair-minded conservative;

2) Trump is a liberal wolf in conservative sheep’s clothing; at any given moment he will break his campaign promises and revert to his 1980s New York Democratic self. Or, Trump has no ideology and is an empty vessel willing to embrace almost any ideology he finds efficacious to his ambitions of the moment. Either way, he will do the conservative cause real damage;

3) Trump’s base supporters, while not irredeemables and deplorables, are prone to nationalist extremism and embrace certain prejudices that are antithetical to conservative values;

4) Clinton’s progressive agendas would not do as much damage to the nation as would Trump’s uncouth character. Thus the defeat of the Republicans in 2016, or the failure of an ensuing Trump presidency, would be cathartic. Only a Trump implosion would teach Republicans never again to allow such an untried and dangerous populist nationalist without political experience to highjack their party, while cleansing the movement of some odious figures and unpalatable ideas that have no business in it—or both.

Hanson makes the irrefutable point that "the resumption of the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, a 70 percent drop in illegal immigration, and the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court" are all magnificent achievements. I still have my doubts about his assertion that neither Cruz nor Rubio would have been able to muster the swing votes necessary to defeat Hillary Clinton and achieve the same things.

And Charles Krauthammer's prescription, at NRO, for how to move forward seems pretty obvious:

Trump’s behavior is deeply disturbing but hardly surprising. His mercurial nature is not the product of a post-inaugural adder sting at Mar-a-Lago. It’s been there all along. And the American electorate chose him nonetheless.

What to do? Strengthen the guardrails. Redouble oversight of this errant president. Follow the facts, especially the Comey memos. And let the chips fall where they may.

But no tricks, constitutional or otherwise. 
But you folks know me; I'm always looking for the core cultural and collectively spiritual state that is driving what's going on at the political level.

That's why I think Mona Charen's Townhall column today is perhaps the most important of all the pieces I'm sharing with you here.

She nails it:

We're not healthy right now. We are in a state of perpetual partisan rage; a fever stoked by interests who are making money from the clown-show ratings. CNN and MSNBC do wall-to-wall outrage, 24/7, about each and every Trump misstep (and they come thick and fast) -- keeping the needle more or less permanently dialed to 11. They perpetually label Trump a "conservative" only because they despise Trump and they loathe conservatives and assume that the two must be coterminous.

Fox News has become, with a few rare exceptions, the Trump Ministry of Information -- minimizing every mistake, justifying every outrage as a legitimate response to the "media frenzy" against him, and highlighting every hot-button news story that can enrage/frighten viewers about campus authoritarians, illegal immigrants, terrorists and Democrats. 

The Trump presidency could only be possible in a country that makes few distinctions between fame and notoriety, and that has been rubbed raw by ceaseless incitement. Throughout his career, Trump did one thing extraordinarily well -- keep himself the center of attention. His talent for controversy and "trolling" kept him successful and famous. "He fights," people noted admiringly. Yes, but only for himself. As we're seeing, now that serious blunders are becoming an almost daily affair, incessant belligerence is exhausting for everyone and self-sabotaging for Trump. It turns out that swinging a mace in all directions is not "just what Washington, D.C., needed," far less the country.

But the ratings are great.

There's a minuscule degree of comfort in the realization that one is still free to fulfill one's role as an engaged citizen - as a pundit, even - without succumbing to this fever.

Steady as she goes. The three pillars:

1.) Free-market economics, which begins with the premise that a good or service is worth what buyer and seller agree that it is worth - period. No other party has any business being involved in that agreement - certainly not government.

2.) An understanding that Western civilization has been a unique blessing to humankind. (Judeo-Christian morality, Greco-Roman model of representative democracy, the great scientific and artistic achievements.)

3.) A foreign policy based on what history tells us about human nature. This plays itself out as our allies knowing we have their backs, our adversaries respecting us, and our enemies fearing us. 
 . . . and an insistence on high standards of conduct and thought - that is, on dignity, the accumulation of wisdom, refinement in the employment of humor, common sense, and, wherever it can be employed, kindness.

And then, as Krauthammer says, the chips shall fall where they may.


  1. Somebody wishing on a shooting star
    Shooting star streaming 'cross the sky
    You know it's just a meteorite
    People throwing pennies on a wishing well
    Wishing well's gonna run dry
    But I ain't gonna leave you tonight
    Everybody talking about changing the world,
    World ain’t never gonna change
    But you could always change it for me!
    I'll shuck all the oysters and you keep the pearl
    I do my shucking and my jiving for free
    Free... like walking down the beach at night
    Throw a bunch of lines out to the way you want
    Till you get it right
    Sometimes you don’t get it right!
    Sometimes you won’t get it right!
    But when you do, it's outta sight
    Sometimes you do... get it right

  2. Beautiful, man. Now I understand.

  3. Stunning, Trump continues to be underestimated. The man we love to hate. I personally have not seen a Arabic nation treat a western leader with more deference than Arabia did today. Always newsworthy.

    The Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir signaled his country was hopeful Trump would truly hit the reset button.

    "If we can change the conversation in the Islamic world from enmity toward the US to partnership with the US, and if we can change the conversation in the US and in the West from enmity toward the Islamic world to one of partnership, we will have truly changed our world and truly drowned the voices of extremism, and drained the swamps from which extremism and terrorism emanates," Jubeir said, echoing a phrase once used by Trump on the campaign trail.

  4. What do we underestimate about Trump? Sorry, I have no such optimism about Trump. And fail to find a goddam thing about him stunning unless it's outrageous. Do you believe his bombast?

  5. The real message yesterday was that the US military industrial complex will rise again for another season or so of wretched reruns.

  6. Fundamentalists of all stripes are drawn to the rich fake blonde one who doesn't have to read or even break a sweat in any semblance of physical exercise unless he still services his 3rd wife who wouldn't have given him a second look had he not been born with the bombast of big money--God's reward I guess it's viewed as, I dunno, but isn't he so strong and morally forceful?

  7. As I say in this post - and elsewhere, with great frequency - going forward in this era, it's going to be essential to make clear distinctions between things.

    For example, it's possible to take Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia as a development unto itself. It was pretty noteworthy. Lots of trade and investment agreements. The US women, including Melanie, did not cover their heads and this was shown on national Saudi television. Also, a huge sale of military equipment - jets, tanks, radars, artillery, etc. - was confirmed, sending a strong message to Iran that the days of patty-cake are over. Also, Trump made the first direct flight ever from Saudi Arabia too Ben Gurion airport in Israel.

    Now, there is another matter about, as you put it, whether to have optimism about Trump overall. I share your doubt that that would be warranted. He'll find some way to diminish what he just did, even if it's just with a flurry of tweet-brags.

    Then there is the unhinged Left. How unhinged? Well, I guess you heard about Anderson Cooper's live-on-the-air "If-he-took-a-dump-on-your-desk" remark.

    So, as I say, it behooves anyone concerned about the sum total of our situation to try not to contribute to the societal brittleness that is palpable to us all.

  8. The guidelines for avoiding that are provided in the last three paragraphs of the post above.