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WORDS ARE WEAPONS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on December 5, 2019 at 12:02 am

Words are weapons—or can be, if used properly.

Republicans learned this truth after World War II.

  • Richard Nixon became a United States Senator by attacking Helen Gahagen Douglas as “the Pink Lady.”
  • Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and other Red-baiting Republicans essentially paralyzed the Democratic party through such slanderous terms as “Comsymps,” “fellow-travelers” and “Fifth Amendment Communists.”

Since 1945, Republicans have won the majority of Presidential elections: In 1952, 1956, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, 2004, 2016.

As a whole, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language.

Many of them—such as former President Barack Obama—take the view: “I’m not going to get into the gutter like my opponents.” Thus, they take the “high ground” while their sworn Republican enemies undermine them via “smear and fear” tactics. 

As far back as the early 1950s, slander-hurling Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy demonstrated the effectiveness of such tactics. Wrote Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Halberstam, in his monumental study of the origins of the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest:

“But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, [McCarthy’s] charges had an equally damaging effect: They poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying these things [voters reasoned] unless there was something to it.”

Joseph McCarthy

President Donald J. Trump solicited aid from Russian Communists to win the Presidency in 2016. He solicited aid from Chinese Communists to retain it in 2020. He has attacked countless Americans and world leaders—including those who preside over America’s NATO alliance. Yet the one man he has never even criticized is Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Yet faced with such clear-cut evidence, Democrats have refused to directly accuse him of treason.

For example, Democrats could routinely refer to him ad ads as

  • “TrumPutin”
  • “Commissar-in-Chief”
  • “Putin’s Poodle”
  • “Red Donald”
  • “Putin’s Puppet”
  • “Trumpy Traitor.”

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The Kremlin

Opponents of Trump-apologist U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have effectively dubbed him “Moscow Mitch”—in large part for his accepting at least $4.5 million from a Russian oligarch linked to Putin. 

But Trump has gotten a free pass on treason from politicians and news media alike.

Similarly, upon taking office, Trump has acted far more like a dictatorial Henry VIII than a democratically-elected President. Yet here, too, Democrats have failed to capitalize on this obvious truth. They could easily do so through terms like:

  • “Carrot Caligula”
  • “Fake President”
  • “El Dunce.”

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Yet here, too, Democrats have proven unable or unwilling to make use of this powerful weapon.

In this YouTube-obsessed age, Democrats could effectively assail Trump with a series of ridiculing videos. For example, Trump’s well-established “bromance” with Putin could be turned into a parody of the famous Beatles’ song, “With a Little Help From My Friends”:

What do I do when the bank calls me in?
(Does it worry you to be in debt?)
How do I feel when I need rubles fast? 
(Do you worry Vlad might say “Nyet”?)

No, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, I can lie with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, you’re gonna fry with a little help from my Vlad.

 

Image result for Images of memes of Trump as Putin's puppet

Many of Trump’s fiercest defenders in the House and Senate have taken “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes) from Russian oligarchs. They could be pointedly attacked by turning the Muppet song, “The Rainbow Connection,” into “The Russian Connection.” 

Why are there so many
Tales about Russians
And Right-wingers taking bribes?
Russians are Commies
And have lots of rubles
For traitors with something to hide.
 
So I’ve been told
And some choose to believe it.
It’s clear as the old KGB.
Someday we’ll find it
The Russian Connection–
The bribers, the traitors–you’ll see.

The 2008, “Obama Girl” video was not an attack video. Yet this generated huge interest in his candidacy—especially among young voters. It was funny and offered a catchy tune that, once heard, was impossible to forget.

An equally catchy tune could prove the same for Trump—in a totally different way.

The clash between Trump and porn “star” Stormy Daniels has been replaced by even more salacious scandals. But it could easily be revised through a parody of the Frank Sinatra classic, “Love and Marriage”:

Trump and Stormy
Trump and Stormy
What a couple–they’re so dumb and wormy.
They are, I tell you, brother
A filth that really suits each other.
 
Trump and Stormy
Trump and Stormy
When his wife’s away, Trump thinks, “Why worry?
Sex with sluts is kinky.
And they don’t mind I’m really stinky.”

Trump has repeatedly shown that he does not take well to ridicule. Pouring on enough of it could lead him to a blunder so outrageous that even Republicans might feel obliged to break ranks with him. 

Admittedly, late-night comedians like Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah have inflicted huge comic damage on Trump’s image and ego.

But it’s one thing for a professional comedian to serve up such barbs—and another for a major political party to do so through a series of blistering TV ads. 

Humorists could easily provide the material. But it will take Democrats the courage to use it.

WORDS ARE WEAPONS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 4, 2019 at 12:42 am

In 1996, Newt Gingrich, then Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, wrote a memo that encouraged Republicans to “speak like Newt.”

Entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” it urged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.”

Newt Gingrich

Even worse, Gingrich encouraged the news media to disseminate such accusations. Among his suggestions:

  • “Fights make news.”
  • Create a “shield issue” to deflect criticism: “A shield issue is, just, you know, your opponent is going to attack you as lacking compassion. You better…show up in the local paper holding a baby in the neonatal center.”

In the memo, Gingrich advised:

“….In the video “We are a Majority,” Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. 

“As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: ‘I wish I could speak like Newt.’

“That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases….

“This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media.

“The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.”

Here is the list of words Gingrich urged his followers to use in describing “the opponent, their record, proposals and their party”:

  • abuse of power
  • anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
  • betray
  • bizarre
  • bosses
  • bureaucracy
  • cheat
  • coercion
  • “compassion” is not enough
  • collapse(ing)
  • consequences
  • corrupt
  • corruption
  • criminal rights
  • crisis
  • cynicism
  • decay
  • deeper
  • destroy
  • destructive
  • devour
  • disgrace
  • endanger
  • excuses
  • failure (fail)
  • greed
  • hypocrisy
  • ideological
  • impose
  • incompetent
  • insecure
  • insensitive
  • intolerant
  • liberal
  • lie
  • limit(s)
  • machine
  • mandate(s)
  • obsolete
  • pathetic
  • patronage
  • permissive attitude
  • pessimistic
  • punish (poor …)
  • radical
  • red tape
  • self-serving
  • selfish
  • sensationalists
  • shallow
  • shame
  • sick
  • spend(ing)
  • stagnation
  • status quo
  • steal
  • taxes
  • they/them
  • threaten
  • traitors
  • unionized
  • urgent (cy)
  • waste
  • welfare

Yes, speaking like Newt—or Adolf Hitler or Joseph R. McCarthy—“takes years of practice.”  

And to the dismay of both Republicans and Democrats, Donald Trump has learned his lessons well.

On May 27, 2016, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks analyzed the use of insults by Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump. He did so with his counterpart, liberal syndicated columnist, Mark Shields, on The PBS Newshour.

“Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes. And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.”

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Donald Trump

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.  

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it….”

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gift for insult.  His targets—and insults—included:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.” 
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.” 
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

Trump has reserved his most insulting words for women.  For example:

  • Carly Fiorina, his Republican primary competitor: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?”
  • Megyn Kelly, Fox News reporter: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”
  • California Rep. Maxine Waters: “An extremely low IQ person.”
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: “MS-13 Lover Nancy Pelosi.”

Only one candidate has shown the ability to rattle Trump: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

As Mark Shields noted on The PBS Newshour.

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trunp’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

“I mean, she obviously—he can’t stay away from her. He is tweeting about her.”

And David Brooks offered: “And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor.” 

A May 12, 2016 story on CNN—“Elizabeth Warren Gives Trump a Dose of His Own Medicine on Twitter”—noted:  “Whenever Trump criticizes her, Warren fires right back at him, sometimes twice as hard.”  

A LEGACY LOST WITH JFK

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 25, 2019 at 12:17 am

Fifty-six years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that JFK left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmospheric testing—and poisoning—by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon—in 1969—Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • By the time JFK died, 16,000 Americans were serving in Vietnam, with more than 70 casualties.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy—and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy asked his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means hopeless:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, couldn’t reach agreement.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press—but not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

  • Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader”—thus excusing his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) didn’t know there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court: “Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you—I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah—
  • “Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”
  • In short, it’s the media’s fault if your answer reveals your ignorance, stupidity and/or criminality.
  • Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”: “He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.” 
  • In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything. Instead, he was warning his fellow  Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake—that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.  As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

Donald Trump has publicly celebrated ignorance. After winning the Nevada Republican primary in 2016, he declared: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

Similarly, 58% of Republicans and Right-wingers believe that higher education has a negative effect on the country.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders. And in seeking a reasoning and educated future for their children.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

CELEBRATING “POORLY EDUCATED” VOTERS—AND REPUBLICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 22, 2019 at 12:24 am

On March 14, Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke announced his candidacy for President of the United States in the 2020 Presidential election.

The former Congressman from Texas (2013 – 2019) had no sooner announced his candidacy that Fox News host Brian Kilmeade attacked him.

Vanity Fair had published a profile on O’Rourke, in which the writer noted that he had a “huge library.” 

“As if it’s a big plus that he reads books,” scoffed Kilmeade.

Beto O'Rourke, Official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg

Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke

His comment echoed that by former “Godfather’s Pizza” CEO Herman Cain during the 2012 Presidential race: “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.

And on April 4, Tucker Carlson, another star commentator on Fox, offered this gem: “How did we wind up with a country in which feminists do science? I mean, isn’t that sort of bound to get a study like this, right?”

He was referring to a study by Dr. Aaron Brough of Utah State University on how gender norms reflect buying choices that, in turn, affect the environment. He found that both men and women associated doing something good for the environment with being “more feminine.” 

Brough and his team call this deeply-held unconscious bias the “Green-Feminine Stereotype.”

Carlson didn’t ask a scientist or climate-change expert to dissect the study’s conclusions. Instead, he interviewed Mark Steyn, a Right-wing author. Steyn joked that his insecurities about his masculinity “are causing rising sea levels in the Maldives” and that he was “kind of on board” with the study’s thesis.

Tucker Carlson 2013 cropped noise rem lighting color correction.jpg

Tucker Carlson

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

For Carlson, “climate science was all about ice core samples” and not Walmart gift cards. 

For Steyn, “climate science is a state of mind” and the “big bucks” are in surveys where you “decide what’s heating up the planet is men.” 

All of which reflects an almost monolithic disdain by Republicans for education generally—and science in particular.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of history and current events.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”:

“He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

Actually, Revere  was warning his fellow Americans about an impending British attack—as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

And then Texas Governor (and now Secretary of Energy) Rick Perry showed pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you—I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah—

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality.   

President Donald Trump has gone even further in celebrating ignorance. At a campaign rally during the 2016 Presidential race, he infamously said: “We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated,”

As President, he has attacked the free press as “the enemy of America” for exposing his lies and criminality. And while he repeatedly scorns legitimate mainstream news media, he often seeks guidance from ego-stroking Right-wing shills at Fox News—who often prove as ignorant as he is.

By contrast, President John F. Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

Related image

White House painting of JFK

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake—that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Barack Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

POLITICAL INSULTS: IGNORE THEM OR RESPOND?—PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 8, 2019 at 4:01 pm

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, New York Times columnist David Brooks noted the ability of Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to rattle Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

But he added that this presented a dilemma for candidates who wished to retaliate against Trump’s insults with their own:

“And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor.” 

Humor has never been the strong point of Democrats generally. 

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Yet Democrats have proven unable or unwilling to make use of this powerful weapon.

Donald Trump—as political candidate and President—has repeatedly assaulted the press as “fake news.” 

But no Democrat has dared to label him a “fake President.”

Similarly, Democrats have refused to capitalize on Trump’s often-publicized admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin by calling him “Red Donald,” “Putin’s Puppet,” “Trumpy Traitor” or “Commissar-in-Chief.”

Had Democrats attacked him with such insults, the 2016 Presidential campaign might well have ended differently.

2018 inauguration of Vladimir Putin 51-1.jpg

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

Democrats and liberals (the two are often different) have similarly failed to produce funny anti-Trump jokes. Jokes are an effective weapon because they highlight traits that people are already familiar with—such as Trump’s dictatorial nature.

  • One day, while walking down a corridor, President Trump passes Hillary Clinton. “It’s so nice to see you,” says Trump. “I thought I had you shot.”
  • What’s the difference between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler?  Nothing—but Trump doesn’t know it.  

Or his egomania:

  • Donald Trump dies—and, to punish his blatant greed and egotism, he’s returned to Earth as a mouse. He quickly tires of raping other, mere mice—and sets his sights on something he thinks worthy of his prowess: An elephant. He spots a female elephant chewing grass at a waterhole and shimmies up her leg. Then he crawls up her backside and starts pounding away. The elephant, having eaten too much grass, gives a loud grunt. And Trump-mouse stops for a moment and says: “Did I hurt you, sweetheart?” 

Or his crudeness: 

  • Trump is so furious that he can’t send the Air Force to bomb the New York Times building, he spits on a White House carpet. A staffer promptly rebukes him: “You can’t do that—this is where Abraham Lincoln once walked.” Trump: “Yes I can. Vladimir Putin himself gave me permission. When I visited the Kremlin, I spat on the carpet there, too. And Putin said: ‘You can do whatever you want in the White House, but you can’t do that here.'”   

Incredibly for this YouTube-obsessed age, Democrats have never assailed Trump with barrages of satirical musical videos.

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Donald Trump

Trump’s notorious “bromance” with Vladimir Putin could be satirized by converting the Beatles’ hit, “With a Little Help From My Friends” into “With a Little Help From My Vlad”:

What do I do when the bank calls me in?
(Does it worry you to be in debt?)
How do I feel when I need rubles fast?
(Do you worry Vlad might say “Nyet”?)

No, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, I can lie with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, you’re gonna fry with a little help from my Vlad.

In the hands of a creative writer, the classic, “Love and Marriage,” could be turned into a searing attack on Trump’s infamous affair with porn “star” Stormy Daniels:  

Trump and Stormy
Trump and Stormy
When his wife’s away, Trump thinks, “Why worry?
Sex with sluts is kinky.
And they don’t mind I’m really stinky.”

Pay, pay, pay the porn star’s bill off
It’s a deduction.
Pay, pay, pay it off because for you
This is seduction.

Many Americans have wondered how so many millions of their fellow citizens could have voted for Trump.

“Springtime for Hitler,” the signature tune of the hit play and movie, The Producers, could become “Springtime for Trumpland”—and help mightily in clearing up that mystery:

America was having trouble
What a sad, sad story.
Needed a new leader
To restore its former glory.

Where oh where was he?
Who could that man be?
We looked around and then we found
The man for you and me.

And now it’s… 

Springtime for Trump goons and bigotry—
Winter for Reason and Light.
Springtime for Trumpland and infamy—
Come on, Trumpsters, let’s go pick a fight. 

Parody song-writers could easily attack the obvious racism of Trump’s hardcore base. Consider these revised lyrics for the classic folk song, “Little Boxes”:

And some go off to lynchings
Where they hang their black neighbors high.
And they all have stupid children
And the children flunk at school.
And the children go to Nazi sites
And learn their perversity.
Then they turn out like their parents
And they’re all scum just the same. 

For any of this to happen, Democrats would need to acquire two qualities they have all-too-often lacked: Creativity and courage. 

Fortunately for Trump, Democrats continue to lack both.

POLITICAL INSULTS: IGNORE THEM OR RESPOND?—PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 7, 2019 at 12:52 pm

Former Vice President Joe Biden has stepped into the nickname wars.

Since Biden launched his bid in late April, President Donald Trump has relentlessly insulted him, often referring to him as “Sleepy Joe.”

At a private fundraiser in Columbia, South Carolina, a supporter asked Biden if he would return Trump’s insults.

“There’s so many nicknames I’m inclined to give this guy,” Biden said to laughter in the room. “You can just start with clown.” 

Biden said he would respond to Trump if directly attacked. But he added that he believed it was part of Trump’s strategy to avoid dealing with serious issues.

“On every single issue and on every demeaning thing he says about other people, I have no problem responding directly,” Biden said. “What I’m not going to do is get into what he wants me to do. He wants this to be a mud wrestling match.” 

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Joe Biden 

The blunt truth is that neither Democrats nor Republicans have even tried to match—let alone top—Trump’s penchant for insulting his political opponents.

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks have noted this aspect of Trump’s character

On May 27, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—appeared on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

With the business magnate having won the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, both columnists appeared increasingly dismayed. 

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.  

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it….  

“I cannot figure out any possible advantage to Donald Trump when he’s got a problem with Latinos and with women to go into New Mexico, where the nation’s only Latina woman Republican governor sits, who has not said anything negative about him, who endorsed one of his opponents, but has not been an attack dog on Donald Trump, and absolutely goes after her and is abusive to her.  

“And I’m just saying to myself, what is the advantage to this?

“…I think this man may be addicted to the roar of the grease paint and the sound of the crowd, or however it goes, smell of the crowd.

“And those rallies bring out something in him, and he just feels that he has to—and it’s all personal….I mean, it’s not a philosophical difference. It’s not a political difference. It’s all personal.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works.  It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes.  And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.”  

Hillary Clinton official Secretary of State portrait crop.jpg

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gifts for insult. His targets—and insults—included: 

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.”
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.”
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio tried to out-insult Trump at the Republican Presidential candidates’ debate on March 3, 2016.

“I call him Little Marco. Little Marco. Hello, Marco,” said Trump.

And so Rubio retaliated with “Big Donald.”

Since Americans generally believe that “bigger is better,” this was a poor choice of insult.

So far, only one opponent has managed to verbally stand up to Trump: Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, whom Trump has called “goofy” and “Pocahontas.”  

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted the ability of Elizabeth Warren to rattle Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trunp’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

“I mean, she obviously—he can’t stay away from her. He is tweeting about her.” 

Elizabeth Warren--Official 113th Congressional Portrait--.jpg

Elizabeth Warren

JUDY WOODRUFF (moderator): “But whether it’s Elizabeth Warren or not, doesn’t Hillary Clinton need to come up with some approach that works, that is as effective comeback?”

DAVID BROOKS: “Yes. Well, I think she does, not that anybody else has managed to do this….

“And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor. Humor is not Hillary Clinton’s strongest point.”  

But sharp-edged humor clearly works for Warren.  

TRUMP CHANNELS STALIN FOR AN UPCOMING PURGE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 3, 2019 at 12:10 am

For Donald Trump, American history begins and ends with himself.  To hear him tell it:

  • “It is much easier to act presidential than what we are doing here tonight, believe me. With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office.”
  • “Almost everyone agrees that my administration has done more in less than two years than any other Administration in the history of our Country. I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done. Also, I question everybody and everything—which is why I got elected!”    
  • “Never has there been a President with few exceptions—case of FDR, he had a major Depression to handle—who has passed more legislation and who has done more things than what we’ve done.”   

Related image

President Donald Trump

  • “The amazing thing is that you have certain people who are conservative Republicans that if my name weren’t Trump, if it were John Smith, they would say I’m the greatest president in history and I blow Ronald Reagan away,”
  • “How do you impeach a President who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?” 

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin couldn’t tolerate criticism or dissent. He dubbed those who disagreed with him “enemies of the people.” And for 30 years, he unleashed a series of purges that slaughtered 20-25 million of his fellow Russians. 

Joseph Stalin

President Donald Trump also can’t abide disagreement or criticism. He’s repeatedly called the media who report his crimes and follies “the enemy of the people.” And he’s used insults, lawsuits and threats of violence to intimidate and/or injure his perceived enemies. 

Now Trump may be moving on to a new and even more dangerous phase.

Trump has repeatedly claimed to be “cleared” by the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This despite the fact that it’s been seen only by William Barr, his handpicked Attorney General.

Trump is now acting like a king who feels himself the victim of a failed overthrow. In fact, he has said as much:

“There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things—I would say treasonous things against our country. Those people will certainly be looked at. I’ve been looking at them for a long time.”

And: “This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody’s going to be looking at the other side.”

On March 25,  Trump’s re-election campaign sent a memo to television producers instructing them to “employ basic journalistic standards when booking” six current or former government officials that the campaign accused of making “outlandish, false claims, without evidence” about Trump’s collusion with Russia while on air.

Specifically:

  • Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut)
  • Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez
  • John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency
  • Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee
  • Representative Eric Swalwell (D-California), who has indicated he might run for President

Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s private attorney and a former Federal prosecutor, offered a chilling threat: “If there are people who contrived this investigation, who made up this collusion, maybe they themselves should be investigated.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) warned: “I believe that Donald Trump got scrutiny like nobody else in the history of the presidency, since Nixon probably ….To those who were abusive of the process in 2016 on the other side, you haven’t had much scrutiny, but that’s coming.” 

And since Graham heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department, that is no idle threat.

Lindsey Graham, Official Portrait 2006.jpg

Lindsey Graham

Hurling an insult and threat at Adam Schiff, Donald Trump, Jr., tweeted: “#fullofSchiff has been flagrantly lying to the American people & slandering POTUS & me for years for airtime. Should he not face any repercussions for the lies?” 

There was, of course, nothing illegal about a legitimate Justice Department investigation of proven links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

What is almost certainly coming is an illegal purge worthy of Joseph Stalin.  

And Americans who believe “it can’t happen here” also once couldn’t imagine that:

  • Trump would demand that FBI Director James Comey pledge his loyalty to Trump. When he refused, Trump fired him.
  • Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, would open an investigation to determine if Trump “had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.” When this became known, Trump forced him out of the Bureau.
  • Trump would repeatedly demand that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions prosecute his former Presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, although the FBI had not found her guilty of a crime.

Trump commands the FBI and the Justice Department, and is backed by a compliant Republican Senate. He has appointed 92 Federal judges—and can expect at least some of them to uphold convictions against his real and imagined enemies.

In short: Trump is poised to “get even” with his critics in the media—and Congress.

A LOST LEGACY: GOVERNMENT BY RATIONALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 18, 2019 at 12:17 am

Fifty-five years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that JFK left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmospheric testing—and poisoning—by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon—in 1969—Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. 

But there was a fourth legacy—and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

Since December 22, 2018, President Donald J. Trump shut down the Federal Government because Democrats would not agree to spending $5.6 on a symbolic “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. As a result, 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

By January 13, 2019, the shutdown had reached its 22nd day.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you—I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah—

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality.   

And President Donald Trump has gone even further—attacking the free press as “the enemy of America” for exposing his lies and criminality. 

His senior adviser, Kelleyanne Conway, set the tone of his administration’s approach to the truth right at the outset. Asked why then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer had lied about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration, Conway replied: 

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving—Sean Spicer, our press secretary—gave alternative facts.” 

“Alternative facts aren’t facts, they are falsehoods,” Chuck Todd, the moderator on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” properly responded.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump infamously chortled after winning the Nevada Republican primary: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

And, that November, “the poorly educated” elected him President. He is their ideal of what a President should be.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.

It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

JFK’S GREATEST LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 22, 2017 at 12:03 am

Fifty-four years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that JFK left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmosphereic testing—and poisoning—by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon—in 1969—Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy—and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you—I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah—

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality.   

And President Donald Trump has gone even further—attacking the free press as “the enemy of America” for exposing his lies and criminality. 

His senior adviser, Kelleyanne Conway, set the tone of his administration’s approach to the truth right at the outset. Asked why then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer had lied about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration, Conway replied: 

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving—Sean Spicer, our press secretary—gave alternative facts.” 

“Alternative facts aren’t facts, they are falsehoods,” Chuck Todd, the moderator on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” properly responded.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump infamously chortled after winning the Nevada Republican primary: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

And, that November, “the poorly educated” elected him President.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.

It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

COUNTERING INSULTS WITH BETTER INSULTS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 29, 2017 at 1:12 am

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Yet Democrats have proven unable or unwilling to make use of this powerful weapon.

Donald Trump—as political candidate and President—has repeatedly assaulted the press as “fake news.”  He has similarly attacked the judiciary and Intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI. But no Democrat has dared to label him a “fake President.”

Similarly, he has branded Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary.” But Democrats—despite Trump’s often-publicized admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—have never called him “Red Donald.”  Nor charged him with using dictatorial methods via the damning barb: “TrumPutin.”

Had Democrats met his insults with effective ones of their own during the campaign, the results might well have been different.

Democrats and liberals (the two are not always the same) have similarly failed to produce funny anti-Trump jokes. Jokes are an effective weapon because they highlight traits that people are already familiar with—such as Trump’s dictatorial nature:

  • One day, while walking down a corridor, newly-elected President Trump passes Hillary Clinton. “It’s so nice to see you,” says Trump. “I thought I had you shot.”
  • What’s the difference between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler?  Nothing—but Trump doesn’t know it.

Or his egomania:

  • Donald Trump commissions a sculptor to draw up blueprints for a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Version #1 shows a towering Lincoln reading the Gettysburg address. Trump: “That’s very good, but there’s something missing.” Version #2: Trump standing next to Lincoln, who’s reading the Gettysburg address. Trump: “That’s better, but something’s still missing. Try to fix it.” Version #3: Trump, sitting in the Oval Office, reading the Gettysburg Address. Trump: “Yes, that’s it.  You finally got it right.”

Nor have Democrats assailed the ignorant semi-literates who comprise most of Trump’s voters: 

  • Why do Donald Trump’s supporters always travel in threes? One who can read, one who can write, and one to keep his eye on the two intellectuals.   

Incredibly for this YouTube-obsessed age, Democrats have never assailed Trump with barrages of satirical musical videos.

Trump’s notorious “bromance” with Vladimir Putin could be satirized by converting the Beatles’ hit, “With a Little Help From My Friends” into “With a Little Help From My Vlad”:

What do I do when the bank calls me in?
(Does it worry you to be in debt?)
How do I feel when I need rubles fast?
(Do you worry Vlad might say “Nyet”?)

No, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, I can lie with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, you’re gonna fry with a little help from my Vlad.

In the hands of a creative writer, the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” could become “Can’t Buy Me Class”:

I’ll sell you a load of crap my friend
If it makes you feel all right.
I’ll don a Klansman’s robes and hat
‘Cause it makes me Super White.

‘Cause I don’t care too much for humble.
Money can’t buy me class.

Can’t buy me class
Everybody tells me so.
Can’t buy me class—no, no, no, no.

Many Americans have wondered how so many millions of their fellow citizens could have voted for Trump.

“Springtime for Hitler,” the signature tune of the hit play and movie, The Producers, could become “Springtime for Trumpland”—and help mightily in clearing up that mystery:

America was having trouble
What a sad, sad story.
Needed a new leader
To restore its former glory.

Where oh where was he?
Who could that man be?
We looked around and then we found
The man for you and me.

And now it’s… 

Springtime for Trump goons and bigotry—
Winter for Reason and Light.
Springtime for Trumpland and infamy—
Come on, Trumpsters, let’s go pick a fight. 

Parody song-writers could easily attack the obvious racism of Trump and those who elected him. This would be especially easy after his praise for white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia:

LITTLE NAZIS
(To be sung to the tune, “Little Boxes)

Little Nazis in the White House
Little Nazis made of Fascist hate.
Little Nazis in the White House
Little Nazis all the same.
There’s a big one and a small one
And a fat one and an Orange One–
And they’re all made out of Fascist hate
And they all look just the same.

And the voters in the “heartland”
All went off to the polling booth
Where they pulled hard on the levers
And the Nazis got a win.
And there’s bigots and oppressors
And screaming misogynists–
And they’re all made out of Fascist hate
And they all sound just the same.

And some go off to lynchings
Where they hang their black neighbors high.
And they all have stupid children
And the children flunk at school.
And the children go to Nazi sites
And learn their perversity.
Then they turn out like their parents
And they’re all scum just the same. 

For any of this to happen, Democrats would need to acquire two qualities they have all-too-often lacked: Creativity and courage.

Specifically:

  • The creativity to produce audience-captivating humor; and
  • The courage to ruthlessly attack Trump as he attacks others.
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