Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fresh Pages for Hillary's Notebooks

Not that Hillary Clinton needs my help disemboweling Donald Joffrey, but at the town hall format, she may need some help with the John Q. Citizens they will dredge up.

So, here's my two cents:

Q: Ms. Clinton: How can you say you will put Main Street before Wall Street when you gave speeches to Goldman Sacks for $250,000 a pop and you still refuse to release the transcripts?

A: There's really two questions here: How could I be venal enough to give speeches for $250,000 a pop and why am I unwilling to release those transcripts?

The answer to the first is I needed the money. When we left the White House, we were broke. The way you cash in on fame is to give high priced speeches.  That doesn't mean you have to get into bed with anyone, but if they want to pay you for showing up so they can get your photo for their brag wall and they want to pay you that much, who among you would not jump at the chance? Does it look like they were paying me for votes or for access? Well, for votes, no. Nobody in all of Mr. Trump's opposition research regiments has ever been able to find a case of me voting for Wall Street and against Main Street, because I never have and never will. Sure, I took their money, if they are that eager to give it.

As far as releasing the transcripts, sure it makes it look like I've got something to hide, and frankly, I'm afraid if you sent Mr. Trump's troops through those speeches they could do a snip and clip job, a sound bite which would sound bad, out of context, just the way Republicans have always done with selective editing.
 When President Obama expressed sympathy for the sorry lot of people in the rust belt who had lost their jobs when American factory owners closed shop and moved overseas, leaving workers unemployed and communities collapsing he said, "What do they have left but their religion and their guns?" And that was made to sound like President Obama held them, their religion and their love of guns in contempt.  But, of course, while he despaired about their love of guns, he was not contemptuous of their religion.  But he was made to sound arrogant and condescending.  

Well, I don't want that happening, in other ways, with my transcripts. Oh, what a feeding frenzy.

Q: Ms. Clinton: What about those emails. Why did you have your people destroy phones and computers with hammers? 
A: Because I wanted those emails destroyed. Not because there was anything incriminating or embarrassing in them but because they had information about the thinking of people I worked with, and my thinking, I did not want to share with Vladimir Putin, among others, and as it turns out, maybe that was not a bad idea, given the Russian state sponsored hackers. 
But let me ask you: What is the worst thing you can imagine might have been contained in those emails? What deep, dark secret could I possibly be trying to hide in those emails? 

Q: You could have revealed state secrets, compromised our national security.
A: Well, that is within the realm of possibility; trouble is, there was no such security breach. The FBI looked for one, but none of those mundane, boring emails had anything juicy or important in them.

Q: Why, after 30 years in public life with you serving as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State is the country in such a terrible state? Why should we want more of the same?

A:  You should want more progress, is what you should want. You should look at where we were when the Republicans left office in 2009, how we fell off the precipice which trickle down economics and T party politics brought us to, and how we have recovered, slowly, too slowly for sure, but steadily ever since. Crime rates are down. Gas prices are down. Al Qaeda is emasculated. True ISIS has sprung up, but we're on them now. 
The sad truth is, we are never going to get manufacturing jobs back to Kodak, or the steel mills or some of the manufacturing plants. Those jobs were lost, not because of trade deals but because of robots and lots of other forces, including globalization and those particular jobs are never coming back. If you are making film when the world goes digital it's not the fault of government or the Secretary of State that your company goes belly up. 
 There will be new jobs, better jobs for more people.  But we can't just wish this into being. We have to have government helping business. 

The government created the internet, and it can build infrastructure if we give it half a chance. But the truth is no one government official whether she is a US Senator or a Secretary of State can single handedly govern.  A Senator, a Secretary of State, even a President, has to work with other people. She can't just issue orders from on high the way a CEO of a drug company can do.  She can't just haul in the Speaker of the House and say, "You're fired!"

I can't take sole credit for programs insuring kids, or for routing Bin Laden, but I was part of the effort. 
 And I paid my income taxes to the federal government because that, for me, was an act of patriotism.

Patriotism cannot be patriotism with sacrifice and risk. Singing the Star Spangle Banner at the ball game is fine fun, but it's not patriotism. Fighting for your country is patriotism.  Paying your fair share of taxes is patriotism. Patriotism costs you. All the other stuff is just bluster. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trump: Only The Little People Pay Taxes

The Donald's reply to why he paid no federal income taxes was two pronged:
1. He was too smart to pay taxes
2. If he had paid taxes people like Hillary Clinton would have squandered them.

It must be remembered where Donald is coming from: The New York class of business people who believe paying taxes is for chumps, and of course, this was given it's clearest and fullest expression by Leona Helmsley, who famously said, "Only the little people pay taxes."

But, in Mr. Trump's defense, he is definitely not a racist, because he built a really beautiful--you wouldn't believe how beautiful (and I don't)--country club in Florida, and it admits Black people, if they are rich enough.

So there.

No surprises this debate. The Donald was Donald, for all the world to see and Hillary Clinton was, Hillary--smart, controlled, on topic.

Afterwards, Mark Shields kept insisting she has to open up, to be warmer, to reveal herself, but as Gwen Ifill asked, "Why doesn't anybody ever ask Donald Trump to be more of a good egg?"

Because men can be men and that makes them strong.
Women have to be warm, nurturing, non threatening.

Personally, I wish Ms. Clinton had a better answer to his attack on her stamina. "You pride yourself on an animal faculty..." you know the rest.

Oh, well.

King of the Illiterate

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an editorial supporting Hillary Clinton for President. 
Today, it ran an editorial itemizing why Donald Trump should not be President. 

I'm not sure who those people are out there who are so isolated from political discourse in this nation they have not made up their minds about Donald Trump. 

I sincerely hope anyone who hasn't made up his or her mind by now will not vote on November 8, because anyone who still cannot see through Mr. Trump has no business voting. You really have to wonder about the mind of a person who cannot see  through Mr. Trump. 

It's just not that difficult.

This morning, on NPR they interviewed a Trump supporter in Georgia, an auto mechanic who was proud his wife was a stay at home mother because that is the way you produce good children. Okay, so far. But then he mentioned he took down the Confederate flag because his kids' friends were "made uncomfortable by it," although he still has a full length portrait of Robert E. Lee hanging above his mantel in his living room and and he has joined a militia because if Hillary Clinton is elected, he foresees a civil war between patriots who will defend the Constitution (presumably the 2nd Amendment) and those of the power elites who want to destroy it.

So he is in that basket of deplorables. A 20th century head of state exhorted his people: Do not be guided by thinking. Think with your heart: It will never lead you wrong. 

But can there be enough of these predictable deplorables to elect a President in a country of 300,000,000 people?

There are people who get their news and entertainment from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News--we always knew that.

Cokie Roberts told a story about interviewing people after the Ronald Reagan/ Jimmy Carter debate. Ronald Reagan came across as funny, benign, congenial and that was enough to convince them that he would be a good alternative to Jimmy Carter, who had worn out his welcome.

My great fear is that Donald Trump can pull off the same trick. 

The man who exhorted people to think with their hearts did it.  He took off his brown shirt and Swastika arm band and dressed up in a respectable, conventional suit and walked with Hindenberg and looked safe for a day. Then he reverted to form. 

People see what they want to see. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ms. Clinton vs The Great White Wail: Debate Run Up

As Jeb Bush et al discovered, it's not easy debating D.J. Trump. Most people enter debates thinking about making points which, when fact checked or analyzed by the chattering legions of post debate on camera faces, hold up.

Mr. Trump operates in an alternative universe--the solar system of the grade school play ground in which you answer your antagonist by braying, "Oh, you're so ugly."

Actually, even at the upper strata of intellect, this technique has been applied with effect:  Drunk at a dinner party, Winston Churchill was upbraided by a society doyen, in her diamond necklace and silk dress, looking down her nose at him, she intoned in her best upper class scandalized accent, "Sir, you are drunk!"
To which Churchill responded.  "Madame, you are correct. I am drunk. But in the the morning, I shall be sober and you shall still be ugly."

For the Donald, at the low end of the intellectual spectrum it was enough to simply deride Marco Rubio as being small of stature, or Jeb Bush as being "low energy." 

He'll look down at the diminutive Hillary Clinton and tell her she is short and fat, tired, worn out, menopausal and harboring some un named illness which disqualifies her.

Ms. Clinton, who has studied the preparation notebook for the debate and is ready to do her best court room analytics will have problems responding.

One hopes she is working not on the details contained in that 500 page notebook, but on counter punches to the jibes.

"Mr. Trump you pride yourself on an animal faculty, in which the chimpanzee is your equal and the jackass infinitely your superior."  (My favorite.)

"Mr. Trump, you mistake physical size for largeness of spirit: If ever there was a person who proved the two are not always connected, it must be you."

"Mr. Trump you mistake libido for valor.  You may excel at the former but you have shown no evidence of the latter." 

"Mr. Trump, I would rather be the wife of Bill Clinton than any of your--how many?--wives."

"Mr. Trump, you mistake a loud voice for a clear head."

"Mr. Trump, on what planet do you spend the majority of your time?"

"Mr. Trump in what alternative universe are you living--in which a wall can prevent illegal immigration and in which every Muslim is an enemy by virtue of their faith?"

"Mr. Trump you vilify Muslims and Hispanics as dangerous enemies not because of what they have done, but because of where they come from."

And all like that.

But what are the chances?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Harinder Bains and the New Jersey Bomber, Ahmad Khan Rahami

Harinder "Harry" Bains

Every once in a while you see something on CNN which surprises you.

Chris Cuomo interviewed Harinder (Harry)  Bains, the owner of the Linden, New Jersey bar who called the cops when he recognized the bomber shown on CNN.  

After having Bains describe the sequence of events, Cuomo asked Bains if people were coming into his place to thank him for what he did. 

"We're all glad you called  and you saved us all from a lot of harm, no doubt," Cuomo said. 

"Anyone would have," Bains replied, then added,  "Whether he's Jewish or Muslim, or Christian.  I'm Sikh myself, but we are all Americans." Bains speaks in a light subcontinent accent.  And he wears a baseball hat. The New York newspapers call him "Harry" Bains. Maybe a name he's adapted to assimilate. 

People do assimilate. 

It looked unrehearsed, spontaneous, and he did not seem to be making a speech, just saying something simple and obvious. Of course, Sikhs, who are often mistaken for Muslims, have been the targets of nativist violence and venom.

Hopefully, Hillary Clinton's people will be smart enough to get a clip of that interview and run with it. 

For months Ms. Clinton has been saying we need to enlist not alienate people of all faiths, Muslims included, to be the eyes and ears in communities where terrorists try to blend in.  Hillary Clinton could not have written a better script. Here is a modest guy in a baseball hat, trying to be a good American, saying just what those who oppose Trump have been arguing: We're stronger together. 

Here's the link: 


Monday, September 19, 2016

The Symbol of Trump: The Great White Wail

Moby Dick was not simply a whale. He was a symbol.

I am now coming to understand the hold Donald Trump has on the 40% or possibly the 51% of the country he holds under his spell. It was all so obvious, hiding in plain site. His call for a wall coupled with his battle cry, "Make America Great Again," is simply a call to return to what things were, when white guys who stopped going to organized school after the 12th grade, at age 17 or 18 could walk down the street or take a bus across town to the plant and get a job for the next 30 years working in the plant and save enough to buy a house, could support a family and take paid vacations and retire on the company pension, as people did in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Gary, Indiana.

If you were "working class" all that slipped away forty  or fifty  years ago and now your kids are looking at their lives and realizing although they left high school at age 17, as their parents had, their lives will not be nearly so successful.  They will live in trailers on the scruffy side of town and when they go to see the doctor she will be Indian or Pakistani or maybe even Black and when they drive their F 150 pickup along the highway, they see dark skinned coloreds driving BMW's and Mercedes, headed to the gated communities. 

These white people have lost power but Mr. Trump, who is a puffy white guy promises to give it back to them, to make America White again. The reality of the moment is not important: It's the fantasy of turning back the clock, of reversing this thing called globalization, of bringing back those lunch pail days of good factory jobs, of throwing out all those dark skinned people we see among us, of going white again which animates Mr. Trump and his followers. 

He looks at the reality of an America which is changing  which will  no longer be majority white, and the most potent symbol of that change, that shift of power, Barack Obama, and he roars: That is not America! That man is not American!

Mr. Trump, like the fabled ancient king, walks down to the shore and commands the incoming tide to stop. 

Ken Burns has, in one of his most canny executions of timing, focused a new film on the story of Mr. and Mrs. Sharp, who rescued Jewish refugees, children mostly, from the devouring maw of the Third Reich.  He raised the image of people who saw desperate children, terrified parents and these people hid the hunted, took risks with their own lives and their own families on behalf of the "other."  

Of course, Mr. Burns knows how to tie the past to the present. 

Of all the stories of the holocaust, the one which most disturbed the generation of Germans who lived in Germany and Austria during those years was the story of the people who sheltered the Jews rather than turning their backs on them, as 99% of Germans did.  The stories of those sympathetic, heroic (there is no other word for it) people is memorialized at every Holocaust museum, the Christians who were not in the cross hairs but who chose to place themselves in danger.

And Burns is asking: Which type of person are you, in today's edition of this story?
Ken Burns: Sharps' War

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Trump Fans: Who Are These People?

Here's  today's quiz:  Which home is scarier?

This is from my Hampton/Hampton Falls/Kensington,  New Hampshire bike ride.


click photo to enlarge


C.  Both A and B, but for entirely different reasons.

Gary Trudeau takes on Captain America

You don't choose your heart surgeon because he's entertaining; you don't decide to go to a neurosurgeon because he makes you laugh. When it comes to people who you need to be competent, you don't care if they are nerds or boring or seem un-forthcoming about themselves. 

But when it comes to a President, who carries the nuclear codes, oh, no special qualities really matter, just "authenticity." Someone who will "shake things up."

Gary Trudeau got to the problem today:


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Archie Bunker Rides the Crest

Close your eyes next time you hear Donald Trump speak and tell me you do not hear Archie Bunker talking. 

"My doctor tells me I got a communications disease."  

Tell me truthfully, who said that? Donald or Archie? If Donald never said it, he should have, is all I can say.

Has the Donald not objected to the whole neighborhood turning into a smelting pot? Or did he say, sweltering pot?

He has defended himself against the charge of excitement to riot, as well he should have. 

He claims his testosterone levels are really excellent, the best testosterone levels of anyone who has ever been President and way better than Crooked Hillary's.

Ifso fatso. 

He just can't find a receptive audience among those Black people in Flint. It was like casting pearls into wine. 

The one thing he insists is that he is a red blooded male, and you know, men have waddya call, a carnival instinct. If Mr. Trump does not have that, I don't know what he has. 

And  he is making progress about defining his policies now. He's working on position papers, taking positions, because, as he says, "position is nine tenths of the law." 

What he really can't stand is when anyone insults him. You know what they call that:  Definition of character.

November 9, 2016: The Day After the Trump Victory

Signs are we may well be faced the night of November 8 with a President Trump, and we will all go to bed exhausted, depressed and wake up the next day to  face the consequences.

Trying to imagine that future inevitably one looks to the past.

November 9 will likely not see an unleashing of the nasties, no Kristallnacht  no  bands of marauding thugs roaming the streets, burning mosques, beating up immigrants.  It will likely take a little while for the Trump version of the KKK to organize, to choose targets:   setting fire to Lawrence, Massachusetts where there is a concentration of Hispanic immigrants, or throwing Molotov cocktails around Dearborn, Michigan, where the Muslim population is dense.

The figure most like Mr. Trump in recent memory is Spiro Agnew, who was a wheeler/dealer from Baltimore, who became Richard Nixon's choice for Vice President and Nixon regretted it almost immediately.

Agnew had the same taunting, irreverent style as Mr. Trump, describing liberals as "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals."
He became the darling of the right wing and soon after he emerged in the national spotlight, newspapers across the country got inundated with frothing antisemitic and racist mail. It was as if his victory signaled all the creepy crawlies out there to pop out of their underground shelters, but they never did start rampaging. Of course, he was only Vice President. 

As it turned out, Agnew was really a two bit grifter.  I don't know the story of how they finally got him, but I do know from people who knew him in Maryland, he was dirty as they come.  A developer who built shopping malls told me most of the officials he had to deal with in Maryland were squeaky clean, but Agnew was simply a guy who demanded a bribe without dancing around what he was asking for.  He was elected Vice President twice, but did not make it through his second term, when they finally caught up with him. 

Benito Mussolini had the same braggadocio style as Mr. Trump, but he lasted a lot longer than Agnew--he ruled Italy over 21 years until they caught up with him.  Things changed in Italy less explosively, but no less dramatically, as the Garden of the Finzi-Continis portrayed: The underlying hatred he fostered took a while to ferment and mature, and those who found themselves in the cross hairs of the social and political changes coming often chose to remain oblivious, until it was too late. 

None of us want to be caught unaware, like the elegant, precious Finzi-Continis, but none of us can see the future.  The constant among the victims, whether they lived in Ferrara, Italy or Vienna or Berlin or Amsterdam, was a conviction, a hope "this is just a passing cloud." That's the problem which Mr. Trump presents: Is he a passing cloud or a gathering storm?

Whereas Hitler had written "Mein Kampf" and it was clear where he was headed, Trump has no well delineated agenda, other than the fuzzy "Make America Great Again" and building a wall and reinstating torture for suspected terrorists.

Justices Gingsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor will not likely all die on November 9, 2016, but at 83, 78 and 62 they will likely all be replaced by Mr. Trump. Why Sotomayor?  She is an insulin requiring diabetic and that means the underwriting on her longevity is severely limited.

It's hard to outline the sequence of the apocalypse. 

When Reagan was elected, I thought, "Good, now those conservative idiots can fail." Every President disappoints; now it's their turn. 

As liberals, we all had to endure the excesses and inanities of the liberal extremists who floated up when Lyndon Johnson came to power.  Even today, in the wake of a hamstrung  liberal presidency, we have to endure the ultra politically correct fools who argue for "safe spaces" at universities and who want warning labels on works of literature.  Pandora's boxes abound on both sides, right and left.

But with Reagan, despite his astonishing failures:  tripling the national debt, military debacles around the globe, his Hollywood marketing machine sold his 8 years in office as a Disneyland extravaganza of the golden age, with fluttering bluebirds and song. 

It's hard to predict, but my bet is Mr. Trump will simply be another George W. Bush.  Watching him posture and flounder and fail, may be Schadenfreude,  but scant consolation.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Double Down on the Deplorables

Hillary's "deplorables" comment has been decried by media pundits as a blunder, compared to Mitt Romney's remark about the 47% of Americans who will simply never vote Republican.  NPR's reporters have been saying how bad it looked for Hillary speaking to a well heeled crowd of affluent white women to denigrate Trump supporters and Mr. Trump has had a field day saying Hillary slanders hard working Americans.

Hillary's shrinking response shows she has learned nothing from Donald. When you say something outrageous and steal a few headlines, don't retreat, don't apologize: Double Down.

What I'd have loved to hear Hillary say is this:  "Mr. Trump is trying to define that comment as the opening salvo in a class war. His supporters are white males with no more than high school educations, and he says I look down my nose at those people.

" Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Traditionally, those are the people who built cars on assembly lines, worked the steel mills and built the skyscrapers and the battle ships and the airplanes.  Those are the core of the Democratic party.

"But as he well knows, it's not that demographic, that group I deplore. I deplore those people you see in his crowds who smile and nod and cheer when he says Muslims--and he doesn't qualify that by saying 'some Muslims'--he means all Muslims, hate America and want to destroy it.  He uses that hate and bigotry to attack Mr. and Mrs. Khan who lost a son who serve fighting Islamic fundamentalists, and he says Mrs. Khan stood by her husband silently during the Convention because Muslim women are not allowed to speak in public.  He gets cheers from the crowd when she says Mexican immigrants are rapists and when he says no judge of Mexican ancestry can judge him because no Mexican, even one born in Indiana can judge him. Notice what he says: You're not an American, even if you were born here, if your parents are from Mexico.
"This is a man who believes President Obama was born in Kenya and so cannot be a real American. Well, maybe he was born in Hawaii, but his father was born in Kenya, so like the judge, he cannot be a real American.

And let's not be coy here. What makes Mr. Obama illegitimate in Mr. Trumps eyes is Mr. Obama is Black. It's not that he's Kenyan or Hawaiian or any of the other things, to Mr. Trump, and most importantly to his supporters, Mr. Obama is disqualified because he is Black. And just like the judge who was born in Indiana, well he can't be a real American because his parents speak Spanish and were born in Mexico. Make America Great Again is just a dog whistle. You know the dog whistle: you use the dog whistle so only the one you want to hear it hears it. And Make America Great Again means 'Make America White Again.' And that's what Mr. Trump's most ardent supporters are hearing and that's what they're cheering for. 

"Well, there will always be despots and bigots and hate mongers--nothing can stop those lunatics from existing. But the crowds who support those haters. Those are the real problems. Those are the real deplorables. And those who simply smile through those vile statements, who say, well I don't agree with everything he says, but he's honest, when he has hate dripping from his lips, those people, those deplorable people, those genteel haters, they are the real deplorables."

If she can say that, then she deserves to win. If she cannot, well, we get the leaders we deserve.

The Nervous Mess Minister and Donnie John

when Donald Trump launched into his cant on Crooked Hillary at a Black church in Flint and the Minister got up and cut him off with the words, "We did not invite you here to make a political speech." The Donald retreated, but the next visit to Fox News he bragged about his performance, saying the minister was a nervous mess.

Too bad the minister was not wearing a microphone, and too bad she was not more assertive. She was just a little too polite. Firm, but polite. It would have been nice to see her really launch an assault in the mode Donald launches his, and see how well he can take it.  Looking at his quaking at a mild rebuke, one would think he wouldn't do well with a full blown assault.

The last time anyone challenged him full on was Megan Kelly and we all know how that turned out. Since then from Chris Cuomo to Matt Lauer, nobody has actually got in his face. His poll numbers reflect that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pneumonia and a Free Press

Sue Page and Tamara Keith tell us Hillary hid her pneumonia. What a slut!

She got the walking pneumonia and the boogey woogie blues this news cycle.
And now you got people who make their living in makeup on TV sets fluffing their hair and checking their eye make up saying that this pneumonia thing is just part of a bigger story which is Hillary Clinton's secret streak. She had pneumonia on Friday and it was SUNDAY before she told us about it. She is just such a control freak. Paranoid as Richard Nixon. Always hiding something. Always obfuscating. That woman. And you know, maybe it's more than pneumonia. Maybe Donald Trump is right about Hillary. Maybe she's too frail to be President. Maybe she is LOW ENERGY!

Oh, let's all go vote for Donald J. Trump, who after all is the very picture of male vigor and he's big where a man should be big.

Setting aside the nebulous term "pneumonia" and the even more non medical term "walking pneumonia"  let us ask ourselves, each and every one of us a question: When you have a cough, or a urinary tract infection or low back pain because you lifted furniture, do you call up all your friends and relatives to tell them all about it? 

Surely, you call your local newspaper.

You know what's really exasperating about this election, about all elections lately, actually: People who you know are not total idiots start talking like idiots.

That doesn't make them idiots, just fools.

But that Hillary, taking a risk with the public health by spreading her pneumonia germs around.  She does have that kind of pneumonia, right? I mean, she has been shaking hands with people without applying Purell every time. What a typhoid Mary! She's a public health menace! Isn't she? I mean she breathes on people, on crowds of people. 

Now, on the other hand, if you nod your head when Donald John says deplorable things, that does, in fact, make you a Deplorable, ipso facto
I mean, haven't you watched those Trump rallies and said to yourself: He's an idiot, but at least he's entertaining, but look at those wackos in the audience! They are scary and he's making them feel NORMAL! Well, don't let us allow them to creep out from under their rocks and whatever greasy holes they came from and shout Zeig Heil! Let's shine a light on these creepy crawlies.

But Hillary, don't apologize for speaking the truth. And put your feet up and chill.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Deplorables: Martin Shkreli Exhibit A

Birds of a feather, do flock together. 

Martin Shkreli, who bought the drug company which made an anti parasitic  drug, Daraprim, and then raised its price 5000% percent reportedly stood outside Chelsea Clinton's apartment when Hillary retreated there to recover from her very bad day in the heat and Mr. Shkreli shouted that she needed pharma now and other taunts.

The smirking Mr. Shkreli is a Donald Trump supporter.

Why are we not surprised?

The only question now is whether Ms. Clinton underestimated when she said "half" of Mr. Trump's supporters are deplorable. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hillary Clinton Playing It As it Lays

Ms. Didion

"What makes Iago evil? Some people ask...You might ask that. I never would, not any more."
--Joan Didion, "Play It As It Lays." 

"The Countess Margit Batthyany, nee Thyssen-Bornemisza, threw a lavish black tie good-bye party fo the SS officers in residence at her castle near the Hungarian border, where she had been reportedly cuckholding her husband with a Gestapo officer. At some point during the evening, the SS men reportedly marched out some Jewish slave laborers. They invited guests to shoot them for a while, then returned to the dance." 
--Ann Marie O'Connor, "The Lady in Gold"

"You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic--you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up...He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric."
--Hillary Clinton

Evil may be an out dated word, but it does have the virtue of clarity. 
But what is evil? If evil has clarity, we should be able to define it pretty easily.

Of course, evil  is in the eye of the beholder.  For Countess Batthyany, those Jews who were shot for sport at her dinner party must have been evil. Shooting them for sport was like shooting rats. Or like shooting that deer like thing at her feet.  Although, one might ask, how much fun is shooting rats or deer in black tie?  (The fact is, having seen rats on city streets, they are not my favorite mammals, but shooting them would not fill me with joy.)
Evil is what we find repellent, although the beggar covered with sores, reaching up pathetically from the street is repellent, he is not evil. You need more than that.

Evil demands a quality of lack of sympathy, often it is wrapped up in aggressiveness, and relishing the misfortune of others. As they say in "Avenue Q" when explaining the word "Schadenfreude" --happiness at the misfortune of others, "Oh, that IS German." 

The Countess with her Trophy

But simply taking pleasure in seeing the demise of someone we do not like is not necessarily evil. If Donald Trump were to lose this election, and all his backers gather in a room to weep and wail, relishing that moment (looking, now increasingly unlikely) would not be evil, but a sign of relief and joy at the ascendancy of virtue.

Hey, let's get this party going: Shoot some Jews
Evil has to do with a willingness to hurt others, perhaps to enjoy the hurting, as a sadist, who is, by definition, evil, would do. Although, one might say the sadist is not so much evil as diseased, but that would be drawing too fine a line. Psychopaths who torture other people may be mentally deranged but they are still evil. 

So evil may involve, but does not always necessarily involve a willingness to harm.
Think of the wives of the commandants of concentrations camps, who raised their children within earshot of the camps, who could smell and see what was happening there,  but ignored what they knew was happening, as they served their children schnitzel on fine china at their carved tables:  They were evil, even though they may not have enjoyed the pain of their fellow human beings. They were willing to support those who did the evil and they were, in their passivity, evil.

The child who throws a kitten into a pond and watches it drown is evil. But what about the adult who watches a child stumble into a river and simply watches rather than attempting to rescue it?  You could say, like Woody Allen, "Well, I don't know how to swim." But not reacting is a form of evil.

The sum total of what Donald John Trump has spewed out over the course of the campaign is evil, for all the reasons Ms. Clinton enumerated. And those who respond to it are just as evil. 

The real problem for Ms. Clinton, and for the rest of us, is that the next day she said she regretted having called  some of his  supporters deplorable. 

If you read more than the sound bite, she went on to remark, "They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end. Those are the people we have to understand and empathize with as well."

The problem with this, Hillary, is the same problem you run into with the Austrians, post war. The Austrians fashioned themselves as "Hitler's first victims," the first country he invaded. Never mind, Hitler was received ecstatically, and as the German troops retreated at the end of the war, Austrians jeered Jews and cheered as Jews were mowed down by crowds of Austrians.  

No, you cannot have it both ways.  When it comes to despots, you are either with them or you are against  them. You may have your reasons, but if you support evil, if you raise that arm in salute, you are just as evil as the guy you are saluting.