Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Analogy -or- Ya Might Get Your Hair Wet

Perusing the local Internets this week, I found a pair of images from long ago which, nonetheless, got me thinking about things that are happening right. this. moment.

Stay with me. I’m goin’ long.

TRUMP HYLER EdKAV4xWkAAU014

In case the image doesn’t load here: there is a caption accompanying the images, and it reads, “Model Kelly Hyler grabs Donald Trump after he tossed her in the swimming pool at a party at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach. Hyler wanted to put him in the pool, but his bodyguards intervened, January 30, 1993.”

Throwing someone in a pool can be a harmless and humorous prank, so long as [a] the Throwee can swim; [b] the Throwee is not wearing expensive clothing or jewelry or carrying technology that s/he would prefer not get wet or otherwise ruined; [c] the Thrower and Throwee each have some prior understanding (through previous relationship, deep or fleeting) that such a prank will be understood to be *only* a harmless and humorous prank; and [d] it is mutually understood that the Throwee is within his/her rights to reciprocate — and thus to administer unto the Thrower an equivalent amount of minor and temporary humiliation, and that the Thrower is willing to accept that humiliation — regardless of whether Condition [c] is met.
A number of things cannot be deduced from this pair of images:

[1] Whether the Throwee, Ms. Hyler, thought it was all in fun.

[2] Whether the Thrower, Mr. Trump, thought it was all in fun.

[3] Whether the Thrower, Mr. Trump, checked to see whether the Throwee, Ms. Hyler, was on the hook for any damage to the clothing or jewelry, whether or not it was her property.

[4] Whether the Thrower, Mr. Trump, checked to see whether the Throwee, Ms. Hyler, could swim.

[5] Whether the Throwee, Ms. Hyler, considered her imminent Reciprocation to be an act of Party Fun or Revenge.

[6] Whether the Thrower, Mr. Trump, understood that Condition [d] had an equal likelihood of being Party Fun or Revenge.
Some things can, however, be deduced from the caption:

Ultimately, at that party, the Thrower, Mr. Trump, knew that no matter what he did, his actions would result in no consequences (damp suit and tie; wet hair(!); public humiliation; possible assault charges), because he had people — bodyguards!, as if he was a frickin’ world leader at the time! — who would make sure that no consequences would be visited upon him.

Those people would intervene. Those people would save the Thrower, Mr. Trump, from having to play the game by the rules (written or unwritten) that the rest of us understand and historically accept.

So the Thrower, Mr. Trump, knew that he could get away with Any Old Thing he wanted to get away with, and he himself would be bailed out of any trouble which that Any Old Thing would cause him.
In spite of the six things that cannot be deduced from this pair of images, but even notwithstanding what can be deduced from the caption … I think that the images may reveal just what kind of person the Thrower, Mr. Trump, is.

And just what sort of leader he is, or isn’t.

This November — provided we make it that far, and provided there is still an election to participate in — I think I would like us all, in November, to be Kelly Hyler.

In this analogy, I do worry that people like Attorney General Bill Barr, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and the Republican US Senate majority, will be the bodyguards.

July 19, 2020 Posted by | celebrity, current events, Famous Persons, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Too Long; Didn’t Read -or- Only Half the Story

Earlier this week, Steve Schmidt let fly, on Twitter.

If you watch MSNBC with any regularity, you’ve seen Mr. Schmidt. He’s the fellow with the goatee and otherwise clean-shaven head … whose entire head gets radiantly red when he rails against the current federal leadership in these United States.

He tweeted thusly [punctuation corrected because yeah, I’m a nut about that]:

The 43rd President of the United States listened to Trump’s inaugural and turned to the former Secretary of State and said, “well, that was some weird shit.”

Indeed it was. Trump raged about “American carnage”, and described a [dystopian] America that existed only in the fever dreams of a noxious mix of conspiracy theorists, demagogic commentators and dishonest propaganda platforms getting rich by spreading the disinformation planted by foreign intelligence services.

Three years on, it turns out Trump’s speech was prophecy. He has brought devastation to America. His legacy will be mass death and economic collapse caused by his staggering incompetence and ineptitude. The United States is the epicenter of Covid-19 disease and death, and the reason is because of Trump. Trump has failed at an epic level.

He has divided the country and stoked a cold civil war. He has lied more than 17,000 times, and desecrated the American Presidency. He has assaulted American patriots, [and] our most important institutions, and attacked the rule of law.

He is corrupt, indecent and utterly lacking character. He processes none of the qualities of greatness and goodness that have steered our country through its darkest nights. He is a fool without compare. He is intellectually unfit and mentally fragile. He is unworthy of his office and unfit for its duties.

We are living in a moment of American weakness unlike any of us have ever seen. Trump is the architect of that weakness. He is the instrument of our precipitous national decline. Recovery from this disaster will take many years. Trump is not capable at any level of leading it.

The election ahead is the most important this country has faced since 1864. Let it end this rancid era of the reality-show Presidency. Let it send this tiresome and ignorant bully back to Trump Tower and cleanse the stench of his corruption, idiocy, race-baiting and failure from our national life.

The name Trump will long linger. It will stand for suffering and unnecessary death. It will stand for economic collapse and financial ruin. It will stand for failure and weakness. It will stand for decline and dishonesty. It will stand for stupidity and indecency.

But mostly it will mark a tragic time in America where the worst leader in our long history, a man so outmatched by history’s test was the President. He will be remembered rightfully as the worst one we have ever had.

 

Which is fine, as far as it goes. And it goes fairly far.

But it would be well to note that immediately, a comment appeared, in the form of a multiple-Tweet thread, from a gentleman called Bradley Dlatt. Mr. Dlatt is a Chicago-based insurance attorney, but otherwise not a nationally-known pundit or similar. And this Tweet sets Mr. Schmidt’s commentary in a bit more context … context which will be important to keep in mind, come November.

Mr. Dlatt tweeted thusly:

Good thoughts here, Steve, but any conversation about Trump that divorces his brand of division, cruelty, incompetence, and ineptitude from the political party that elected him and has enabled him only tells half the story.

That story begins in 2008, with a little known Alaska Governor your team plucked from obscurity named Sarah Palin.

The media loved to talk about her, because she made division, incompetence, and ineptitude “cool” by being an “average person” who shunned expertise and science. Sarah Palin also made it “cool” to be objectively wrong and uninformed, thus creating a brand of politics best summarized as: “if your gut believes it, it must be true.”

Sarah Palin also gave us a new brand of conservatism that many call simply “Own the Libs” conservatism – a knee-jerk approach to politics wherein conservatives were taught to believe that any idea proposed by a progressive politician must inherently be wrong.

From Sarah Palin, we get the proliferation of sites like Breitbart News, a mainstream focus for the first time on conspiracy theorists like InfoWars, and the birth of “the tea party” – an anti-government, anti-science, and anti-intellectualist movement where Trump found a home.

The Tea Party was a political melting pot for racism, anti-intellectualism, anti-elitism, “Own the Libs,” and “if my gut believes it, it must be true” politics. Because it was entertaining, the media propped up the Tea Party as the “conservative” response to Obama. Since no other conservatives stepped in to fill the void and the media likes a good story, the Tea Party quickly gained popularity as the “GOP response” to Obama, unseating moderate republicans and bringing the Palin Values into the conservative mainstream.

When Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and others within the GOP mainstream saw that the Tea Party was a credible threat to the hold on the GOP and could whip voters into an Anti-Obama frenzy, they went “all in” and essentially capitulated to the Tea Party worldview. After the Romney Experiment (“run a conventional Republican”) failed in 2012, Mitch and others doubled-down on the Tea Party. The result was that voices like Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, and Tom Cotton, who firmly espouse the Palin Values, were elevated within the GOP.

Enter Donald J. Trump.

Trump, a tea party figure and TV celebrity, took everything that Sarah Palin was saying in 2008 and everything the Tea Party said from 2009-2014 and “turned it up to 11” – the fringiest of the fringe. The Trump Train gathered steam within the GOP, powered by the media’s infatuation with the ever-entertaining candidate.

There was a single moment in early 2016 when Santorum, Cruz, Marco could have united by backing one of their 3 to end Trump. Mitch could have made it happen. Instead, the leaders of “mainstream conservativism” refused to coalesce, capitulating to Trump’s popularity with their “base” much as they did to the Tea Party several years before. The result: Trump wins the GOP nomination.

Fast-forward to January 2016.

Trump is inaugurated after running as a “Tea Party Turned Up to 11” candidate and with almost full backing from the ashes of “mainstream conservativism” who – again – gave in to the “Own the Libs” view whereby Trump > any qualified candidate.

Now, we’ve reached Present Day. Trump is all of the things you say he is, Steve, but he can be those things without limit because any elected Republican with political capital helped put him in the White House, opposed impeachment, and ran on the same Tea Party/Palin Values.

 

With this in mind – the fact that Donald Trump won more primary votes than any candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination ever, and the fact that if the national Republican Party establishment wanted to derail his campaign, they surely could have and would have …

It will be well to remember that Steve Schmidt, former communications and public affairs strategist, has the following on his professional resume:

[] 1995: Managed the unsuccessful campaign for Kentucky attorney general of Republican Will T. Scott.

[] 1998: Managed the unsuccessful campaign for California lieutenant governor of Republican State Senator Tim Leslie.

[] 1998: Was communications director of the unsuccessful campaign to unseat US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) of California’s Republican state treasurer Matt Fong.

[] 1999: Was communications director of the unsuccessful presidential primary campaign of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), leaving in June when the campaign reduced its senior staff.

[] 2001: Was Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush and Counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

[] 2004: Was a member of the senior strategic planning group ran President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign (oversaw the reelection “war room”).

[] 2005/2006: Was the White House strategist responsible for the US Supreme Court nominations of Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

[] 2006: Was campaign manager of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign in 2006.

[] 2008: Was senior campaign strategist and advisor to the presidential campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain.

[] The New York Times described Schmidt’s management as having transformed the McCain campaign into “an elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine”, crediting him with aggressive responses to press criticism and creative methods of manipulating the news cycle. In a September 2008 Times opinion piece, columnist Michael Scherer nicknamed Schmidt the “lord of outrage”.

[] Schmidt may be best known for pushing John McCain to select Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

 

So, yes, Mr. Schmidt is rightly scathing in his indictment of the current occupant of the White House.

But from a larger perspective … a perspective that requires people to remember recent history, say, before the year 2015 … it is important to note that Steve Schmidt is part of the team that is responsible for all this.

I can think of plenty of people who would be better suited to speak Schmidt’s words on national cable news television – people who played zero role in creating the current state of national Republican politics and in fact were hair-on-fire warning everyone about it.

And I can think of people who would be better suited to sitting down and, in the recent words of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), “keeping their mouths shut.”

May 15, 2020 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, government, media, news, politics, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Have Reached That Moment

I’ve been following a number of folks on Twitter – psychology professionals as well as lay people with observational experience about decline in mental acuity in older humans (in one case, his own father). They have been helping me kinda keep track of the possibility that the Commander-in-Chief is compromised – not merely in a national security or personal finance or personal-peccadillos-leading-to-possible-blackmail sort of sense, but actually mentally compromised.

Ever since the era of Barry Goldwater, the long-distance diagnosing of Presidents and paupers alike has been frowned upon, sometimes by professional organizations of psychology and psychiatry professionals. If you haven’t formally examined a person, what basis do you really have to judge their, say, fitness to hold office?

On the other hand: as Keith Olbermann asked pointedly in one of his video commentaries from three years ago, is that kinda like suggesting that you’re not qualified to judge whether a brush fire is dangerous unless you personally have been singed by those specific flames?

Nonetheless, I’ve been pretty careful, all things considered, to keep my own anecdotal observations and assessments fairly conservative where Orange Julius Caesar is concerned.

I’ve taken a look at quite a few video clips that have been publicized (click-bait-ily) with headlines or Twitter blurts like “watch as he loses his mind on live TV”, or similar. I’ve watched for the promised physical tics or verbal slips that surely (according to those who post the videos) must indicate the onset of full-blown frontotemporal dementia!!… And most of the time, I’ve thought, yeah, but that’s not nearly as conclusive PROOF as they say it is, at least to my eyes. If you’re looking really hard for something, and you really want to find it, your brain will help you to find it. Call it a personal echo chamber, call it confirmation bias … but in most cases, these videos aren’t rock-solid evidence, admissible in court or in competence hearings, of a person absolutely having lost their grip on things in a clinically diagnosable way.

In fact, I would rather not see rock-solid evidence that the leader of the free world and the holder of the nuclear codes is not all there.

This weekend, though.

I have now found the piece of video that makes me sit back, release a gusty exhale, shake my head in my own partial daze, and say out loud, “okay. Holy hell. NOW it’s clear. He’s somewhere else other than where he needs to be.”

There was no question.

And what really surprised me was: out of all the things that it could have been, out of all the things that have already happened that would have brought out the guys in clean white coats brandishing butterfly nets … it had to do with the national anthem.

The Current Occupant of the Oval Office was hanging out at his south Florida resort, hosting a Super Bowl watch party in a large function room full of fairly fat cats. The game was about to start, and the band (more accurately, a recording of a band) began to play “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Everyone in the room stood silently and respectfully, many with hands over hearts.

Except for one.

The nominal leader of the free world stood, all right; but throughout the smartphone-videorecorded Anthem, he twisted around, this way and that, pointing toward and waving at and mugging for other (offscreen) people in the room, as if they had all stood in order to honor him; as if the evening were one of his rallies. Hey there how ya doin’. What a night. Big smile for the camera I bet you’re holding. No? Well, big smile anyway; it’s a party, ain’t it?

Okay, so I’ve dealt with people who didn’t grasp how to behave during solemn occasions, who couldn’t stand still if their very lives depended on doing so (and not in a neurological way, not in an clinically-diagnosed and medically-recognized ADHD sort of way). Granted, many of them were the first- and third-grade kids to whom I taught music a dozen years ago. But I know adults who have to work at it, too, for various reasons, not all of which are strictly neurological.

So as I was watching this video clip, I thought, yeah, okay, he’s full of himself. We know that. Yeah, we know (thanks to leaked national security briefing anecdotes) that his attention span is remarkably short. Rather than paragraphs on end, he really likes bullet points, and not too many of those at a crack, thank you. This activity isn’t headline-generating anymore. Sadly, a lot of this kind of thing coming from this particular guy has been normalized by supporters and mainstream-media types alike.

Then, though, about halfway through the Anthem, I saw it. I saw the moment that made me realize that we really genuinely have arrived at that different place, the one I was being so careful not to prematurely declare.

It was a behavior that I’ve seen from little kids at band concerts. From them, it’s cute (and sometimes inspiring).

I’ve seen it from folks who, through no fault of their own, are beset with developmental delays that cause them to react to music in this way. From them, it’s understandable, and when we grasp what we’re looking at, we smile a bit and nod. Yes, this happens; and it’s okay.

But that’s about it.

I have now seen it from the fellow who currently holds the highest office in the land.

He raised his arms and flapped them back and forth in front of himself, vaguely almost in time with the music. I’m not convinced it was in a mocking way at all … but he was very definitely pretending to conduct the music of that recorded band playing the national anthem. Not ironically. Not to try and pretend to be a Great And Influential Band Conductor. But only, it really seemed to me, as a literal in-the-moment response to the music.

Now. I spend a week every summer helping train high school students to be the drum majors of their high school bands, and one of the things we help them with is how to conduct the Star-Spangled Banner, because once a week during football season they will have to do this in public. Early in that week, a lot of the first-year drum-major gonna-bees have conducting patterns that can look a little … vague, or a little … flappy, or a little … well, let’s bring those arms down from shoulder-height to waist height, and make ’em look less like you’re waving to your family; and let’s teach you a little bit of technique…

This wasn’t that either, not by a long way.

If the cameras had shown the spectators at the actual Super Bowl last weekend, during the actual singing of the National Anthem, it is very doubtful that you would have seen many … any? … of the spectators conducting along with the music, unless they had fallen into one of the two groups I mentioned a moment ago. Any grown adult member who has grown up in American society as it is currently constructed and as its norms are currently taught and modeled … simply wouldn’t do that.

Again, I am not prone to pointing to one single event and declaring it a trend, then a pattern, then a behavior, then a habit, then a permanent indicator of a permanent condition. Science demands that we gather more than just one data point, that we run experiments or conduct observations that overcome the effect of singular, unusual occurrences.

But this particular, singular, unusual occurrence … at least to my wondering eyes … has to be an exception.

The Current Occupant of the Oval Office is not … well.

And I take no pleasure in noting this.

And I can think of no American institution, governmental or otherwise, that currently is capable of dealing directly with this.

Who is going to stride into the Oval Office and insist that its resident needs to come to a side room, so that we can conduct proper neurological tests and thereby confirm or deny that he is fit to serve as the leader of the most heavily-armed nation on the planet?

Who is the Doctor McCoy to his Captain Kirk? Who is the person who can pull rank and demand that the commanding officer head down to the USS Enterprise‘s sickbay and sit for a full medical workup?

I don’t know.

(And from a strictly personal, nearly selfish, perspective … from the perspective of a former high-school and college-band director … I wonder. Of all the events I could have observed, that would have convinced me that he is not fit to serve as that leader …

(Did it have to be related to pretending to conduct a recording of a band playing the national anthem?)

February 5, 2020 Posted by | current events, government, news | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments