In the Alternative Universe

Aging baby boomers keep telling the grandkids how strange the sixties were, even if they don’t want to hear it. But the sixties were strange, and it was more than the sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and the revolution – all the civil rights stuff and the uprising against the Vietnam War and the communes and everyone who was cool getting into Eastern religions. We all sat through sitar concerts for some reason. There was something odd in the air – a genial surrealism – and it was pervasive. From October 1, 1961, to February 6, 1966, CBS gave a weekly show with a rather pleasant talking horse – then from September 7, 1967, to April 3, 1970, ABC gave a weekly show with an awfully cute flying nun – and she actually flew. No one batted an eye. It was the sixties. Everything was strange.

Things settled down in the seventies with All in the Family and Happy Days and M*A*S*H – nothing supernatural or paranormal there. The exception was Mork & Mindy – but that stood alone. America came back down to earth. Things became normal again. Horses didn’t talk, nuns didn’t fly, and no one was talking about revolution. Politicians became politicians again, arguing about public policy, and everyone running for office had been in office before. State legislators become governors. Governors and congressmen and senators ran for president. Four governors, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and one senator, Barack Obama, won. George H. W. Bush won after eight years as vice president. Everyone stayed in their lanes. Neither party nominated a flying nun. Things were as they should be.

That’s all over now. It may be fifteen months before Election Day, 2016, but if the Republicans had to choose their candidate today, it would be Donald Trump – the billionaire real estate developer, the son of a multi-millionaire real estate developer, the reality television star with the shows where he sets up poor sods with rather absurd business tasks and “fires” the ones who can’t get the job done – then explains how things really get done in his world. That’s the world of casinos and resorts and golf courses and fancy hotels and luxury condominium towers. He also licenses his name to other development projects, and a clothing line, and a perfume, and expensive watches and jewelry. That’s where the real money is – and he owns the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe pageants. And he’s never held public office before – but he says everyone loves him, and respects him, and perhaps thinks he’s sexy, and he’s smarter than everyone else, because everyone else is so damned dumb – especially every politician in America. And he’s rich – very, very rich – and seems to be saying that says it all. He had often said he was running for president, and then backed off, but this time he pulled the trigger. He’s in – calling every other Republican running a fool.

The Republican base is eating it up. Everyone hates politicians, and even if they have no idea where he stands on almost every issue, he’s not one of “them” – so policy doesn’t matter. Josh Green has said Trump’s candidacy has become “the preferred vehicle for Republican voters to express maximal outrage at their own party’s leaders for failing to carry out the agenda they keep promising – to deport undocumented immigrants, kill Obamacare, overturn Roe v. Wade, and return the GOP to a position of primacy in American politics.” That can’t be done – but they’re mad anyway. That’s why Trip Gabriel called Trump “the first post-policy candidate” we’ve ever had. No one ever saw a flying nun before either.

Then it got strange. Trump decided to say that John McCain wasn’t a war hero. McCain didn’t DO anything – he was captured. So what? Every politician in America, Republican and Democrat, was outraged. Veterans were outraged. That was going too far – but Trump’s poll numbers surged. The Republican base may not have agreed with him on that, but he had said what no other politician would dare say. They loved that, and they loved it when he said the illegal immigrants who slip into our country are rapists and murderers and drug dealers. NBC dumped his Apprentice shows. Macy’s dropped his clothing line. Contestants refused to participate in his beauty pageants. Nations pulled out of his Miss Universe pageant. Licensing deals were cancelled – but Trump’s poll numbers surged again. He had also said, as president, he’d build a giant wall to keep the Mexicans out, and he’d make the Mexican government pay for it – because those people didn’t come across on their own. Mexico was sending us its trash. They had a plan. That was their official policy – people just didn’t know about it, but he did. The Mexican government didn’t even bother to respond.

Our media let that slide, but interviewer after interviewer asked Trump just how he would get the Mexican government to pay for that wall. He said they just would. He was a master negotiator. He’d make them squirm – and he’d do the same with Putin, and the Chinese. He knows how to make people squirm. Everyone knows that. They’d pay.

The base ate that up too. They wished things were that way. Things should be that way. Trump continued to ride high, and then he took on Fox News and women in general. Kevin Drum, at Mother Jones, had the best brief account:

In Thursday’s debate, Fox host Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump why he was so fond of insulting women. Trump answered that he had just been kidding around. “I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness,” he said. “And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

That didn’t go over too well, but Trump seemed like he’d probably survive it. Unfortunately, Trump being Trump, he couldn’t leave bad enough alone. In the spin room after the debate he started attacking Kelly and boo-hooing about how she had treated him worse than the other candidates. Then, showing the restraint he’s famous for, he followed this up with a series of increasingly unhinged tweets about Kelly throughout the night and into the early morning. Finally, during a CNN interview on Friday night, he said this – “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her… wherever.”

Let’s call it Wherevergate. This was a pretty obvious allusion to Kelly being unable to control her anger because she was having her period.

That led to this:

Erick Erickson – tea party activist extraordinaire and founder of the influential RedState blog – got wind of Trump’s “wherever” comment and decided he was unhappy about it. Now, this is weird, because Erickson is not exactly famous for either his restraint or his sympathy for women’s tender feelings. He once called retiring Supreme Court justice David Souter a “goat fucking child molester” and called Michelle Obama a “Marxist harpy wife” and lashed out at feminists during the 2008 campaign by calling a statement from the New York chapter of NOW the “latest salvo fired from the thighs of ugly nags.”

In other words, Erickson is not the shy and retiring type. But he eventually apologized for those comments and apparently decided to turn over a new leaf. “I’ve definitely had to grow up over time,” he told Howard Kurtz in 2010. So when he heard Trump’s remark about Kelly, he decided enough was enough. If he was going to grow up, then by God, everyone had to grow up. Trump hadn’t, so Erickson called up Trump’s campaign manager late on Friday and disinvited Trump from this weekend’s big RedState shindig in Atlanta. “I think there is a line of decency that even a non-professional politician cannot cross,” he told the Washington Post. “Suggesting that a female journalist asking you a hostile question is hormone related, I think, is one of those lines.”

Needless to say, The Donald didn’t take this lying down. Erickson’s decision, he said, was “another example of weakness through being politically correct… Blame Erick Erickson, your weak and pathetic leader.” Was that enough? Of course not. “Not only is Erick a total loser,” he said in a statement released Saturday, “he has a history of supporting establishment losers in failed campaigns so it is an honor to be disinvited from his event.”

Oh, and his “wherever” comment? Trump said he was referring to Kelly’s nose. “Only a deviant would think anything else.”

Roger that. So far, Erickson’s acolytes are apparently divided about the whole thing. Some are glad to see Trump’s back. Others think Erickson has fallen into the pit of lefty political correctness. Stay tuned for more.

There will be more:

After all the inflammatory stuff Trump has said over the past couple of months, this appears to be the comment that’s finally going to cause him some real trouble. Go figure. Carly Fiorina immediately tweeted, “Mr Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse.” Lindsey Graham criticized Trump too, while other Republican candidates were more circumspect. So far, anyway – but I suspect this will turn into a feeding frenzy before long. Republicans are still spooked about the whole War on Women thing, and they’re none too happy about Trump taking on a Fox News host either.

This is as absurd as any sixties sitcom, but then it gets stranger:

A defiant Donald J. Trump suggested on Sunday that he had been singled out for attacks by the hosts of Thursday’s Republican presidential debate and again threatened a third-party White House bid if he was not treated “reasonably fairly” by party leaders.

In a rapid-fire series of phone interviews with four Sunday television news programs, Mr. Trump defended his record on women’s issues, arguing that his real estate company had been among the first to put women in charge of major construction projects and that he had “always had a great relationship to the women.” He criticized the Fox News anchors who were moderators in the debate, saying that no other candidate had been subjected to similarly tough questioning.

And he struck back at critics of his remarks about Megyn Kelly, one of the moderators, saying that his appraisal of Ms. Kelly’s motives for questioning him sharply during the debate – that she had “blood coming out of her wherever” – was being deliberately misconstrued by his rivals as a reference to menstruation in an effort to dampen his surge in popularity with Republican voters.

He’s not backing down:

Mr. Trump seemed to relish the situation.

“If I’m treated fairly by the Republicans, and I don’t win, I’m not going to go into doing the third party,” Mr. Trump said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” When the host, Chuck Todd, asked him whether he was a Republican or not, Mr. Trump invoked a business metaphor – “My whole life has been leverage, okay?” Mr. Trump said. “I believe in leverage.”

The base should love that. They may call for Fox News to fire Megyn Kelly. Maybe Fox News could call in Donald Trump to say the words – “You’re fired!”

And now add this:

Presidential candidate Donald Trump sought to redirect incoming fire at rival Republican Jeb Bush, saying that Bush has a “huge” problem with women and he is by far the better candidate with that demographic.

Trump excoriated Bush for saying “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues” at a speech in Tennessee last week. Bush later said he misspoke, and he was only questioning the federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood.

“This is worse than what Romney did when he blew 47 percent of the vote with his ridiculous statements,” Trump said, referencing a secret recording from the 2012 election that captured GOP nominee Mitt Romney telling donors that the 47 percent of voters who don’t pay income taxes considered themselves victims and felt entitled to government handouts.

“I’m exactly the opposite. I will be phenomenal to the women. I want to help women. What Jeb Bush said last week I thought was totally out of order. Then he came back a day later and he said ‘oh I misspoke’ — well that’s an awfully bad thing to misspeak about. I just don’t think you misspeak that way. So I thought what he did was terrible,” Trump said. He added that he believes Bush has a “huge problem” now.

“I couldn’t believe he even said it. Now he corrected himself a day later, but I don’t think that’s acceptable,” he said.

He will be phenomenal to the women? Karen Tumulty in the Washington Post notes this:

For decades, Donald Trump has made flippant misogyny as much a part of his trademark as his ostentatious lifestyle. …

Trump has a history of similar inflammatory statements about women – both as a sex, and with reference to his antagonists and subordinates.

As far back as a 1991 interview with Esquire magazine, Trump had boasted: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of [expletive]. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.”

In a 2006 book, he wrote of women as objectified collectibles: “Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art is not just superficial or something pretty to see.” He once sent New York Times columnist Gail Collins a copy of something she had written about him with her picture circled and “The face of a dog!” written over it.

And in 2012, he tweeted that Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington is “unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man — he made a good decision.” (Huffington’s ex-husband, former congressman Michael Huffington (R-Calif.), came out as gay after their divorce.)

In Thursday night’s debate, moderator Kelly reprised other Trump comments. “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,'” she said.

Well, he has, and that is a problem:

His rivals warn that Trump’s comments about women will reflect badly on the entire party.

“Give me a break. Do we want to win? Do we want to insult 53 percent of all voters? What Donald Trump said is wrong,” former Florida governor Jeb Bush said during his appearance at the RedState event. “Mr. Trump ought to apologize.”

Instead, the real estate mogul ramped up his criticism of Kelly in an interview with The Washington Post: “She’s a lightweight as a reporter, very unprofessional. Her questions were ridiculous.”

That generates comments like this:

“At a certain point, those that are Trump supporters will want policies, will want ideas, will want to know what he wants to do,” said Ashley O’Connor, a Republican political consultant whose firm is working for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign.

O’Connor may be wrong about that. Trump supporters never wanted policies or ideas. They wanted attitude. Why would that change? Chris Cillizza tries to untangle things here:

The problem for Trump is that he seems not to understand the difference between battling political correctness and puerile put-downs. To him, speaking out on immigration is the equivalent of running down Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly for her allegedly biased questions during Thursday night’s debate.

There is, of course, a big difference: His sentiments on immigration represent a real strain of belief within the country; his comments on Kelly – as well as anyone else that stands in his way – are pointless, the reflex action of someone who aims to destroy anyone who dares question him.

That’s a conceptual error:

Trump seems to think that name-calling – because most politicians don’t engage in it – is somehow consistent with his broader anti-politician image. But, politicians – and people – don’t engage in name-calling because of a little something called basic human decency; treating people the way you would like to be treated. We don’t make jokes about women’s’ menstrual cycles to explain away behavior we don’t like not because we are paralyzed by political correctness but because we aren’t pre-teen boys.

Trump doesn’t get it:

Saying things in politics that more standard-issue politicians won’t say – whether it’s about raising the retirement age, raising taxes, making changes to our entitlement programs, or, yes, solving our immigration problems is of genuine value. People feel as though politics is broken and the men and women who are active players in the game don’t get it. They’re so afraid of their own shadows – or of not getting re-elected – that they try to say as little as possible that could be offensive to anyone.

Trump quite clearly has positioned himself as the opposite of that mentality. The problem is that his message works when he is willing to say things other people can’t or won’t about policy matters. But, name-calling isn’t a message. And, simply trying to be as offensive as possible to the largest number of people isn’t a message.

Trump has hit a vein in the American consciousness. But, he doesn’t really know why it is people are responding to him. It’s because he’s willing to break with political protocol on issues that matter to people, not because he’s willing to engage in a verbal food fight with everyone who crosses his path.

Cillizza, however, may be making a distinction where the Republican base sees no difference. And we old farts thought the sixties were strange, but this gets stranger:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has ended his relationship with Roger Stone, his longest-serving political adviser and a controversial consultant, and says that he is moving quickly to surround himself “only with the best people” as his 2016 campaign deals with a wave of criticism over disparaging remarks the GOP front-runner made Friday on CNN about Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly.

Dismissing calls for him to leave the race, Trump, in a series of phone interviews with The Washington Post, said he firmly believes he can capture the White House without the support of the Republican establishment, which has grown increasingly hostile toward the real-estate mogul. He cited his support among frustrated members of the GOP’s base as well the “millions of people everywhere” who are unhappy with the political class as his coalition.

“I have a lot of money and I’m not getting out. I’m going to win,” Trump said. “You watch, when this campaign is over, I win. As good as I’m doing, and I’m leading the polls, it’s just the start.”

“I terminated Roger Stone last night because he no longer serves a useful function for my campaign,” Trump added. “I really don’t want publicity seekers who want to be on magazines or who are out for themselves. This campaign is not about them. It’s about victory and making America great again.”

That may be bullshit:

Trump insisted that he and Stone, who have been quarrelling for weeks over Trump’s political strategy, was “fired” late Friday after Trump heard from associates about Stone’s grumblings over Trump’s behavior and Trump’s refusal to take his advice ahead of Thursday’s GOP debate in Cleveland. In a phone call Saturday, Stone “categorically denied” being fired.

“I’ll let my resignation letter speak to the other issues,” Stone said in the call. “I have great personal affection for Mr. Trump and wish him well.” Later, in a Twitter message, Stone wrote: “I fired Trump.”

In the letter, which was obtained by The Post, Stone expressed regret for the end of a “close relationship – both personal and political/professional – since the 1980s.” But, he added, since “current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core message … I can no longer remain involved in your campaign.”

Trump’s reaction to Stone’s letter: “I fired him Friday night. We sent him a notice.”

Kevin Drum is simply amazed:

Not all of you are familiar with the Stone oeuvre, so how can I put this? Roger Stone complaining that Trump has become too vitriolic and combative is like the Kardashian family getting on your case for being too much of a publicity hound. It’s like Dick Cheney advising you that you’re banging the war drums too loudly. It’s like Louis XIV telling you to cool it with the mansion building.

Roger Stone is famous for calling himself a “GOP hit man.” He admires Richard Nixon so much he has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he founded an anti-Hillary group called Citizens United Not Timid. [Yes, CUNT] He played a bit part in the Watergate scandal at the age of 19. He is famous for his many rules, one of which is “Attack, attack, attack – never defend.”

This is the guy who left the Trump campaign because Trump was too preoccupied with “provocative media fights.” The same guy who has proudly called his brand of politics “performance art” can no longer stomach the performance art that is the Trump campaign.

So this is where we are. On Friday, Erick Erickson criticized Trump for being sexist. Today, Roger Stone quit Trump’s campaign because he was being too combative. We are now officially living in an alternate universe.

That seems to be so. Now all we need is that flying nun, or that talking horse. This horse’s ass just won’t do.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to In the Alternative Universe

  1. Rick says:

    As we all continue to struggle to find the slam-dunk analogy to explain the Donald Trump phenomenon, let me offer a new one.

    It’s just that I noticed, while watching the debate, in certain camera shots of Trump, especially when he’s looking over at Kasich as he was talking, something oddly reminiscent of a bygone age. Finally I realized it was that his pose, with his head tilted slightly back and his defiantly downturned mouth, reminded me of photos I’d seen of Benito Mussolini, striking that very same pose.

    If you get a chance to see those shots, look closer. Imagine the Donald without a stitch of hair. It’s amazing!

    But I also began noticing similarities in their personalities. Both shouters; both bullies; both having done their share of whoring around, possibly believing it made other men envious of them; both disdainful of society’s rules; neither caring much about the weak and feckless losers they found themselves surrounded by. Both men started out with more liberal views, but later switched to Social Darwinist views of hierarchies.

    Most worrisome is that both seem to find their appeal in times when so much of the public is tired of all those other people, and willing to take a chance on maybe trading an orderly democracy that doesn’t seem to work for them for some powerful person who seems perfectly willing to kick somebody’s ass, just for the fun of it.

    So I had already settled on this characterization of Donald Trump as “Il Duce with a combover”, when I noticed some other commenter on a blog describe him with those exact same words. There’s obviously something happening here that’s catching people’s notice, which is that there are disturbing similarities between the days we’re living through now, and the times leading up to a truly horrible time in world history.

    Then again, I could be wrong about this. If we’re lucky, we’re not destined for the second coming of Mussolini at all, but merely on the cusp of a new historical first: America’s first lounge-lizard president.

    Rick

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