Outlaw Politics

Everyone loves an outlaw. That is said to be what Jesse James once said. He may have been bemused by having fans, considering what he was up to, but he was right. Marketing people know this as do executives in Hollywood – think of the distracted and rebellious James Dean and Marlon Brando on the motorcycle with his black leather jacket and that goofy hat – or every other commercial on television these days. Yeah, break the rules. Be that person. Be that outlaw. Buy that Jaguar.

That works. There’s something compelling about someone who breaks those rules and just does what he wants, and takes exactly what he wants. Women swoon, even those who say they are repelled, and men wonder about themselves. Maybe this is wish-fulfillment, wondering what it would be like to say screw everything and do just that. Henry David Thoreau said that most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them – maybe that explains it. Few love their work – a job in middle management in a nameless corporation isn’t how things were supposed to turn out. It pays the bills, but that’s not the song anyone always thought they were supposed to sing – and there are far worse jobs.

What else is there? Quiet desperation is the order of the day, every damned day, and if there is a song still in them, most people don’t even know what that song is anymore, if they ever knew. They feel dead, even if they might not put it that way – but outlaws aren’t dead. One can live through them. If you dare not be a “bad boy” yourself, you can pretend you’d be Donald Trump if you could – saying whatever you felt like saying, no matter who’s offended. That would be so damned cool – and that makes him so damned cool. The man is a marketing expert. That outlaw-thing sells. It always has.

But you have to keep at it, so he does:

Donald Trump escalated his longstanding feud with Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Friday, calling on his Twitter followers to boycott her show… “Never worth watching. Always a hit on Trump! She is sick, & the most overrated person on TV.”

Yeah, he’s messing with them again, after he already screwed them over:

Trump announced this week that he would be skipping a Fox Republican presidential debate scheduled to be held in Salt Lake City on Monday, forcing the network to cancel the event entirely. He instead plans to give a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which rabbis and the editor of a Jewish-American newspaper have asked attendees to boycott in turn.

Who cares? He can say what he wants:

Trump has waged a loud, public campaign against the Fox host since she pointedly questioned him about past remarks denigrating women during the first Republican presidential debate in August. The GOP frontrunner has since referred to Kelly as a “bimbo,” “biased,” “crazy,” and a “lightweight reporter.”

And he got what he wanted:

Fox News slammed Republican frontrunner Donald Trump Friday night for his “sick obsession” with host Megyn Kelly after the real estate mogul called on supporters to boycott her evening news show. A Fox News spokesperson said Trump’s “vitriolic attacks” on Kelly are undignified from a candidate running for the for the nation’s highest office.

The full statement:

Donald Trump’s vitriolic attacks against Megyn Kelly and his extreme, sick obsession with her are beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate who wants to occupy the highest office in the land. Megyn is an exemplary journalist and one of the leading anchors in America – we’re extremely proud of her phenomenal work and continue to fully support her throughout every day of Trump’s endless barrage of crude and sexist verbal assaults. As the mother of three young children, with a successful law career and the second highest rated show in cable news, it’s especially deplorable for her to be repeatedly abused just for doing her job.

But why not do that? Why not mock disabled people? Be that outlaw. This was simply ongoing marketing, and it hit Fox News where it hurt:

The longstanding tension between star Fox News personalities Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly has gone public. In an interview, Kelly said O’Reilly should have done more to defend her against Donald Trump’s attacks.

“I do wish that O’Reilly had defended me more in his interview with Trump,” Kelly told More Magazine. “I would have defended him more.”

Kelly was referring to an interview from January when Trump told O’Reilly that he had “zero respect” for Kelly, and described her as “highly overrated.” O’Reilly made no move to defend his colleague, a decision Kelly supporters viewed as a betrayal.

Kelly’s frank remark will invite new scrutiny to the competitive tension between the two hosts, which has long been an open secret in the halls of Fox.

The marketing bonus here is that Trump can get those two at each other’s throats:

As CNNMoney reported last month, the strained relationship is a result of Kelly’s meteoric rise to stardom and her ratings success, which threatens O’Reilly’s undisputed status as the king of cable news.

Kelly appeared to stoke the coals of that rivalry in a February interview with CBS’ Stephen Colbert, when she noted that her show was live while O’Reilly and Sean Hannity’s shows, which bookend her own, were taped.

“I think it adds a lot to the show,” Kelly said. “If you’re not live at 9 [p.m.] because the shows around me are taped, you lose a lot.”

Prodded by Colbert, who asked if she believed her colleagues were “phoning it in,” Kelly replied: “Let’s just say they tape earlier in the day, which is an advantage to us.”

Yes, Trump is messing with Fox News, big time, to promote his brand, and now he’s messing with others:

Donald J. Trump could be staring at some empty seats when he comes to Washington on Monday to make a foreign affairs address before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s policy conference.

Some rabbis and others who will be attending the pro-Israel group’s event are organizing a walkout during Mr. Trump’s speech to protest views that they say conflict with Jewish values. The rabbis plan to hold a prayer service outside the room where the Republican presidential candidate is delivering his remarks.

“This is really a response to the statements he has made throughout the campaign that are Islamophobic – claiming that all of Islam hates us, that he wants to register American Muslims – that’s not what we believe as Jews,” Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky of South Orange, N.J., said in an interview. “What we’ve learned from our history is that we can’t stand idly by when a leader says those things.”

Rabbi Olitzky said that more than 1,000 people have joined a Facebook group called “come together against hate” that is organizing the protest on social media. Code Pink and a Palestinian activist group are also expected to hold demonstrations on Sunday and Monday.

That only makes Trump look more like the cool outlaw, but there is context:

Mr. Trump has drawn some backlash from American Jews before, because he said that he would like to remain neutral when starting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians if, as president, he were trying to broker peace in the Middle East. He also irked some last year when he made a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition and joked that he could relate to Jewish people because they are tough negotiators.

He didn’t quite say that he too could “Jew people out of their money” but he came close – “I’m a negotiator like you folks. Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”

Hey, we’re all Shylocks here! But that’s really not the issue this time:

The more heated, anti-immigrant language from Mr. Trump is what has concerned those who are planning the protest. Some have even said that his tone and style echo World War II-era Germany.

“The language and symbolic gestures and violence found in the Trump campaign echo the rise of Nazism in the late 1920s and early 1930s,” Louis Marlin, of Irvine, Calif., wrote on the Facebook protest page. “I support your efforts to clearly express a rejection of Mr. Trump by all of us.”

Rabbi Olitzky said he was not prepared to take the comparison that far, but that what he has seen at Mr. Trump’s rallies is a serious concern.

“I think his comments are scary and he’s inciting fear and violence among his followers,” he said.

Hey, that’s what outlaws do – deal with it – but then there’s this:

The editor-in-chief of a top Jewish-American newspaper is calling for a boycott of Donald Trump’s speech at a major pro-Jewish conference next week.

Jane Eisner of The Forward published a list this week of suggestions for attendees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

Top of the list is for AIPAC to disinvite the GOP presidential front-runner, who said he will speak Monday, or else give him a time slot between 3-3:45 a.m. or directly before Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

“Let her eviscerate him. That’ll give him a taste of what’s to come,” Eisner wrote.

She also suggested attendees simply stay away. “Trump seems like a man who gets hives if he sees empty seats.”

That may not work. That’ll only get them the Megyn Kelly treatment. He’ll call them out as totally incompetent whiners. Everyone will be laughing at them, not him, but the Jews need not feel so special:

Donald Trump pilloried Mitt Romney on his home turf on Friday, making his best appeal to the state’s majority Mormon population and questioning whether Romney truly represented their faith.

The rally in Salt Lake City, coming one week after clashes between supporters and protesters forced Trump to cancel a Chicago event, was also marked by crowds of protesters outside the Infinity Event Center, some of whom at one point tried to rush into the event.

“Do I love the Mormons? I have many friends that live in Salt Lake City – and by the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them,” Trump said to applause. “Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?”

So, Donald Trump has pretty much told the Jews to relax about the Nazi thing – he’s not Hitler – his problem is with the Muslims, not the Jews – and he told the Mormons that Romney isn’t really one of them. He can say what he wants, and there was a something that pissed him off:

Romney, the GOP 2012 nominee, said earlier on Friday that he would vote for Ted Cruz in Utah, who is expected to do well in the state’s GOP caucuses on Tuesday. Romney has recently become a leading critic of Trump, the national GOP front-runner, and he said he would back Cruz in Utah because he had the best chance of stopping Trump there.

So then, how can Romney be a Mormon? No, that doesn’t make sense, but deal with it – he’s a cool outlaw – but of course there was this:

While Trump was speaking, protesters attempted to breach the entrance at the Infinity Event Center as Secret Service officers quickly shut the doors. The protesters were shouting “To the doors,” “Chicago” and “Shut it down” before the doors were abruptly closed.

More than 40 police officers in riot gear moved in, creating a standoff between authorities and scores of protesters at the entrance.

The incident, which took place as Trump’s event was winding down, caused security inside the venue to direct attendees to leave through a side entrance after the GOP front-runner concluded his remarks. Outside, attendees were directed down a path away from the demonstrations but many from the rally walked over to the protesters and engaged in tense conversations and shouting matches.

Hey, everyone loves an outlaw, or almost everyone:

From China and Russia to Europe and Australia, Mr. Trump’s ascent is being watched with increasing wariness. Could an angry reality television star really win the White House? Are street fights and name-calling what democracy has come to?

The Chinese government tends to avoid meddling in the political affairs of other countries, but this week its state-run media could not resist weighing in on Mr. Trump. An editorial in the English language Global Times pointed to the fisticuffs at his canceled rally in Chicago last Friday as evidence that democracy is a flawed system and said that Mr. Trump’s language is “abusively racist and extremist.”

“Fistfights among voters who have different political orientations are quite common in developing countries during election seasons,” it said. “Now, a similar show is shockingly staged in the U.S., which boasts one of the most developed and mature democratic election systems.”

And there was this:

Russia has been one of the few countries where Mr. Trump has been praised since embarking on his campaign, thanks to his flattery of President Vladimir V. Putin as a strong leader. But Mr. Putin’s camp was not amused on Thursday after Mr. Trump released an online video that featured him throwing someone to the mat in a judo competition to make the case that Hillary Clinton was not tough enough to handle the Russian strongman.

“The demonization of Russia and everything connected to Russia is, unfortunately, an obligatory part of an American election campaign,” Dmitry Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, said of the video. “We regard it negatively.”

And there was this:

In Australia, a haunting image of Mr. Trump hovering over Mount Rushmore sat next to a headline in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday. Anxious experts warned that his presidency would be “a disaster” for the country.

“The words ‘President Trump’ should give Australians pause,” Michael Fullilove, director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, told the newspaper. “Mr. Trump reflects few of the values that have made America great. And judging from his speeches, he fails to see the advantages that flow to his country from being at the center of the global liberal order.”

And there was this:

The harshest response to Mr. Trump has come from Mexico, where two of its former presidents and its sitting president, Enrique Peña Nieto, have condemned his remarks about Hispanics as hateful and vowed never to finance the Trump-promised wall along the border. Mr. Nieto said last week that the Republican presidential candidate’s language was reminiscent of Hitler and Mussolini.

America’s northern neighbor has taken a more tempered approach. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was peppered with questions about Mr. Trump during last week’s state visit to the United States, but he insisted that he did not intend to “pick a fight” with someone he may need to work with.

“I have faith in what Lincoln referred to as ‘the better angels of American nature,'” Mr. Trudeau said diplomatically in an interview with CBC. “I am looking forward to who I am going to work with…”.

Justin Trudeau is one cool dude too. He’s not going to be baited, but Trump can laugh at all the rest of these foreign folks, and ask Americans to laugh along with him. Who the hell cares what they think? Cool outlaws don’t.

The normally mild-mannered calm and “reasonable” conservative, the New York Times’ David Brooks, had had just about enough of this:

In convincing fashion, Republican voters seem to be selecting Donald Trump as their nominee. And in a democracy, victory has legitimacy to it. Voters are rarely wise but are usually sensible. They understand their own problems. And so deference is generally paid to the candidate who wins.

And deference is being paid. Gov. Rick Scott of Florida is urging Republicans to coalesce around Trump. Pundits are coming out with their “What We Can Learn” commentaries. Those commentaries are built on a hidden respect for the outcome that this is a rejection of a Republicanism that wasn’t working and it points in some better direction.

The question is: Should deference be paid to this victor? Should we bow down to the judgment of these voters?

No, not this time:

Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa.

Trump is perhaps the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetimes. All politicians stretch the truth, but Trump has a steady obliviousness to accuracy.

Brooks cites a lot to prove that – analysis after analysis that shows almost none of what Trump asserts is true at all – but says there are bigger problems:

He is a childish man running for a job that requires maturity. He is an insecure boasting little boy whose desires were somehow arrested at age 12. He surrounds himself with sycophants. “You can always tell when the king is here,” Trump’s butler told Jason Horowitz in a recent Times profile. He brags incessantly about his alleged prowess, like how far he can hit a golf ball. “Do I hit it long? Is Trump strong?” he asks.

In some rare cases, political victors do not deserve our respect. George Wallace won elections, but to endorse those outcomes would be a moral failure. And so it is with Trump.

And that means Brooks’ party needs to stop this now:

The Republicans who coalesce around Trump are making a political error. They are selling their integrity for a candidate who will probably lose. About 60 percent of Americans disapprove of him, and that number has been steady since he began his campaign.

Worse, there are certain standards more important than one year’s election. There are certain codes that if you betray them, you suffer something much worse than a political defeat.

Donald Trump is an affront to basic standards of honesty, virtue and citizenship. He pollutes the atmosphere in which our children are raised. He has already shredded the unspoken rules of political civility that make conversation possible. In his savage regime, public life is just a dog-eat-dog war of all against all.

As the founders would have understood, he is a threat to the long and glorious experiment of American self-government. He is precisely the kind of scapegoating, promise-making, fear-driving and deceiving demagogue they feared.

Trump’s supporters deserve respect. They are left out of this economy. But Trump himself? No, not Trump, not ever…

Brooks has never written a column like this before. These are strange times, but Josh Marshall argues that “reasonable” conservatives have no chance of stopping Trump:

There have been a number of groups of Republicans, generally fairly sad-sack, who’ve met to plot a third party candidacy on the assumption that Trump either cannot or should not be denied the nomination in Cleveland. In the nature of things almost all these embryonic efforts have proceeded on the belief that the independent candidate must be a “movement conservative.” But this exposes a key problem with the whole concept – indeed, a key driver of the crisis itself.

It would be one thing if there were a moderate or establishment independent bid (though it is a dubious proposition that the ‘establishment’ is really ‘moderate’, even in the context of the GOP politics). That would provide a very clear contrast with Trump. But if you run a ‘movement conservative’ against Trump, it gets pretty hard to see where you can find any real points of contrast on any significant issues.

So, look at the issues:

Hardline on illegal immigration? No real difference. Hardline on terrorism, needing to say “Islamic terrorism”, creeping Sharia or any of the rest. No real difference. Huge, huge tax cut? Same. Obamacare terrible? Same. Generalized opposition to ‘political correctness’? Check. Abortion? Check. Hating on Obama as feckless, exotic loser? Check.

There are no real differences:

The real differences seem to be interrelated but threefold. One: Trump just isn’t a member of the club. Two: Trump is too boorish, vulgar and authoritarian even if his broad issue agenda is broadly similar to our own. Three: He didn’t used to believe this stuff. So he’s an either an opportunist or a phony.

If you’re a conservative intellectual or someone who’s very into conservatism (not just as a set of issues you believe in but a movement you participate in) each of these three points could have a lot of traction. But conservative intellectuals and what we might call (with half a wink) movement cadres only make up a tiny smattering of voters.

If you’re not in one of those categories, these points of distinction are pretty thin. What’s more it shows the pretty substantial gulf between conservative elites and the people whose votes they rely on. Does Trump’s more over-the-top line on immigration and Muslims make him more or less attractive to most Republican voters? The answer is obvious.

A similar logic applies to the one significant difference: on trade. Unfettered trade is a key orthodoxy among Republican elites and business Republicans. But it’s a very different story among Republican voters (much the same cleavage exists among Democrats).

Don’t believe me? Think I don’t understand the Republican electorate? Who cares? We’ve already tested this. We’re halfway through a national election among the country’s most conservative voters: Republican primary voters. And Trump is simply crushing the opposition. Indeed the only candidate who has been able to mount any significant challenge is Ted Cruz, whose position on most key issues is fairly difficult to distinguish from Trump’s.

Something else is going on here: 

The point is simple. ‘Movement conservatives’ can field a candidate. But other than general arguments about civility and anti-authoritarianism or just bad taste, it’s hard to know how they would be able to distinguish themselves from Trump on any significant issues. The reasons they really don’t like Trump are points of temperament and emphasis, where he is likely closer to their voters than they are.

That’s because everyone loves an outlaw. That’s all he’s got, but that’s more than enough. For those who lead lives of quiet desperation, and fear that they’ll go to the grave with the song still in them, he sings for them. No one seems to understand what he’s actually offering – a chance to feel even halfway alive. That is why everyone went to those James Dean movies long ago. Trump is, in fact, more than an outlaw. He’s another rebel without any particular cause. No one has found one yet, and it hasn’t mattered. We love our outlaws.

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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1 Response to Outlaw Politics

  1. 1banjo says:

    Take off the gloves next time.

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