Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Curtain Down On The Trump Show Already. Please.

I've got that thing again where my heart races and my belly hurts and I don't know whether those tears are from laughing or crying.  I'm craving chocolate, any kind will do, and I can't stop thinking the end of civilization as we know it is right around the corner or up the street or somewhere in Iowa.

I go to sleep stressing and I wake up stressing.  Terrible things are going on in the world.  I should be stressing over them, and it could be that that's what's going on, but it feels like it's Donald Trump.

He's doing this to me. I should stop listening to him. I should pretend I'm not living in a country where Donald Trump, of all people, could be a front-runner in a bid for the presidency.  I should stop waiting for him to mess up so badly there's no going back.  I should do that, but if I had that kind of self-control I wouldn't be a full-time self-unemployed political blogger on the liberal circuit.  Now would I?

I'm a mess and it's all his fault.  I have succumbed to the slump I call Trump.  Donald Trump has entered my brain and if I don't get this down fast, my words will start sounding like a three-bean salad on a bed of spinach.  (I have no idea!  It just came out.  I'm telling you. . .)

Just this week Donald Trump, the man who would be president (or Tony Soprano, depending on how he strikes you--not literally, of course, though that's not out of the question), told a Black Lives Matter activist/heckler at a public meeting to "get the hell outta here".  This was after the man had been pummeled to the ground and then kicked by one of Trump's goons supporters.  Trump then took to Fox News, and, in his best considered presidential tone, said the man was obnoxious and loud, so, "Yeah, maybe he shoulda been roughed up.  Because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing."

On Sunday he told George Stephanopoulos he has no problem with waterboarding because "it's peanuts compared to what 'they' do".  (Almost every Republican could be heard groaning.  Cheers, though, from Dick Cheney, who, until that moment, hadn't even considered pushing for the job of choosing Trump's vice president.)

Then, with cameras still rolling, Trump assured Stephanopoulos that what he'd said the night before about seeing thousands and thousands of Arab people in New Jersey cheering as the World Trade Center came down was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

George suggested in an adorably nice way that there are some--or maybe all--who can't find a single solitary bit of footage or eye-witness account that would make what Donald said even slightly true.  Donald chalked it up to reporters wanting to be politically correct, and George, not ever wanting to be branded a politically correct reporter (oh gawd no!), thanked him ever so kindly for his time.

I watched that and breathed such a grateful sigh you wouldn't believe.  At last!  Caught in his own terrible lie!  Hoist[ed] with his own petard!  Stick a fork in him! He's done!

But you know what happened, don't you?  Come on, admit it.  You know.

Trump's poll numbers went up.  The crowds loved him even more.  Fifty five percent of likely Republican voters now say they would trust him over all other candidates to do the right thing about terrorism.  (What would he do about terrorists? Namely ISIS?  He would "bomb the shit out of them!" and take the oil. Yay!)

He is a serial liar and is the number one choice among Republicans for the next president of the United States.  (These same people, so deathly afraid of refugee families fleeing for their lives, have no fear of a Donald Trump presidency.  No fear!  None at all!  But there I go again.)

You know by now--because I keep telling you--I tend to take these things personally.   My America is not a plaything.  It's not a joke.  Turning my country over to a non-politician with no government experience would be punking of the worst kind.  But even thinking for one second of turning it over to a lying billionaire braggart who has a history of taking but not giving, who calls people ugly names and shuts up anyone who disputes him, who is such an embarrassment even countries with their own embarrassing characters can't believe we've topped them--that's insanity undisguised.

There are horrifying things going on in the world.  Donald Trump's ascendancy into the heights of American politics isn't one of them.  I know and you know that he'll never become president,  (We know that, right?) but the people egging him on will still be out there, still wishing it had been Trump, and I will still have to live among them.  Festering.

Once Trump is gone, the press, never ones to let an exploit pass, will be egging on Trump's people, pushing them to find someone equally entertaining. Because when it comes to American politics, there's no business like show business and, above all else, the show must go on.

Well, curtain down already.  Footlights off.  Come out into the daylight.  It's a whole different world out here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's Been Fun. But Seriously, Folks, It's The Presidency.

Since at least the turn of the 21st Century it's been a time-honored tradition to bring in the clowns and have some fun with the quest for the highest job in the nation.  You would think the duties and obligations of the presidency of the United States would cause most people to turn and run and keep on running, but every four years the most unlikely characters come out of the woodwork, shouting, "Hey, I could be president!  Why not?  How hard could it be?"

Photo:  Richard Drew/Getty Images
It's like the first weeks of every new season of "American Idol".  Singers?  You want singers?  Be patient, we'll get to that. First we need to haul out the phonies and the almost-singers and pretend they're really auditioning because it's not just about finding the best singer in America, it's about the show, the whole show, and nothing but the show.

I would say the Republicans have outdone themselves this cycle, but I'm still quivering (could have been laughter; could have been dread) over the potential 2012 lineup:  Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Thaddeus McCotter. etc.--remember?

Early on, Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul won the Iowa straw poll, but not before some high hilarity at an Iowa fairground, where blow-up slides, corn-dog obscenities, and fights over the size of their tents took center stage.

Earlier still, pizza guy Herman Cain ran as a non-politician who was pretty sure there was a lot wrong with the government.  His qualifications for the presidency included a vast knowledge of pizza ingredients, a build-up of a chain of pizzerias, and an economic plan that included the numbers "999"--a plan so brilliantly obtuse it shot him to number one in the polls for what seemed like a really long time for a pizza guy wanting to be president.  (Sort of like Sanjaya on American Idol.  Some things are beyond understanding.)

The Democrats haven't been immune to the silly season, either. In January, 2012, just before the New Hampshire primaries, C-Span broadcast The Great Debate of the Lesser-Knowns, a two-hour show where both Republican and Democratic wannabees had a chance to present their credentials and give reasons why America should vote for them. Among them was a wizard named "Vermin", a guy who visited all 1712 US counties and found that "people aren't happy", and a guy who had been in Real Estate but was now out of a job so he figured what the hell?  (It may have been the most fun I've ever had writing a blog.)

So here it is, 2015, less than a year away from our next presidential election and the silly season is upon us.  The Republicans, as usual, are outshining the Democrats, who, to be fair, only have three candidates in the running, all bona fide politicians.  They're way too boring for the pundits, who, if they were honest, would admit what they really want is a burlesque show.  Show us some skin!  We want pratfalls! Where are the comics?

Contrast the Democrats with the Republicans who, as of this writing, have 10 candidates running in the main, three or four relegated to the debate night kid's table, and several, including Lindsey Graham--a real, honest-to-goodness long-time politician--on the outside looking in.

Knowing they have nothing to offer their followers, the GOP keeps coming up with irrelevant attention-getters, hoping nobody will notice.  Donald Trump is a snarly, puffed-up businessman hawking his celebrity in place of actual policy.  Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon whose utterances conjure up Peter Sellers as Chance the gardener in "Being There".  Day after day, they're polling as the front-runners.  Neither of them has any political experience--an obvious asset for a party hoping for another chance to stop the damn governing already!

So last week the two Republican front-runners made political news again.  Ben Carson, because some of his words ended up forming actual sentences, was forced to hold a news conference defending his veracity.  He was accused of lying about stabbing a friend and in order to maintain some semblance of credibility (because he's running for PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES), he had to insist that he was telling the truth.  Oh, yes I did!  I did stab him!  I swear!

And Donald Trump managed for yet another week to keep himself at the top of the pundit dance cards. (Thus never having to spend a dime of his own money promoting his candidacy.)  Much to the delight of the press, he took a break from the hard work of pretending to be a politician to become the first active presidential candidate ever to host NBC's "Saturday Night Live".  He was able to do this even after NBC had kinda sorta fired him from his own show, "The Apprentice" and showed at least outward signs of not being pleased when he insulted Mexicans and dissed Univision, the Hispanic network that refused to air Trump's own personal beauty contest.

The Democrats made it to the news cycle last week, too, for a few brief moments.  On Friday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow hosted the "First in the South" Democratic Forum in South Carolina.  The two-hour program gave the top three candidates, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley, a chance to answer questions without interruptions or attempts to one-up each other. They even had some fun--Bernie laughed out loud--but there was no doubt they are serious applicants for the job--repeat, the job--of President of the United States.

I don't see that yet in either Donald Trump or Ben Carson.  Trump is busy building his brand, so to him Situation Room angst is for losers. And Carson is--I don't know--selling a book?

Meanwhile, there are real Republican politicians like Lindsey Graham, and even Jeb Bush, who don't stand a chance against this need by the media to keep politics so highly entertaining there's no danger of the dreaded channel-surfing.

Photo:  Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons
Someday soon we're going to have to stop looking for the fun part of politics and start cramming for the hard stuff.  We're going to have to be the grown-ups. We don't let children vote for a reason.  It's because they're not equipped to read, to study, to analyze, to decide.  We are.  They don't understand the difference between showmanship and statesmanship.  We do.  They feel no sense of obligation toward establishing a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. As the grown-ups in control, we do and we must.

(Also appearing at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)