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September 26, 2017


Upon awakening this morning and pondering the state of the nation and of the world, it occurred to me that In truth, Trump the headline grabber is not the only game in town; that the biggest game in town is Mueller, the quiet man. Trump has been desperately coming up with distractions from Mueller’s efforts in order to grab the headlines and change the subject from his Russian connections with his threats to Kim and now his putdowns of the largely black basketball and football professional teams, but even if we have a war with North Korea or a walkout of professional football and basketball teams pending Trump’s apology, or both, Mueller’s efforts will not be ended or even slowed. Quite the contrary – with such an emergency, Hahe is likely to speed up his investigation, and for good reason. We have an ill man at the helm of state, and I have yet to hear him apologize about anything.

While awaiting Trump’s next psychotic tweet, Mueller just churns ahead, as a good prosecutor should, oblivious to Trump’s childish attempts at diversion, one which now includes his dis-invitation of having the NBA champions (Golden State) come to the White House in yet another attempt to change the subject. Apparently they are not welcome to be honored by the traditional visit to the White House in Trump World, nor is anyone else welcome for long (note the wholesale firings) who will not totally conform to his views in his otherworld of narcissistic haze, a world marked by bullying and twittering and bluffing to cover both his astounding inability to govern and no apparent interest in learning how.

While still lying in bed and pondering such situations, it further occurred to me that Trump has been in office since January 20th and has not had a single substantial piece of legislation to his credit, even though both houses of Congress are majority Republican. He has not succeeded in getting rid of Obamacare, his immigration record is spotty, and his so-called “tax reform” bill (which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer) is in legislative trouble, as it should be. In short, both he and both houses of the Republican Congress have done little to nothing to advance the economy, balance our humongous trade deficit, or raise the minimum wage to a living wage, among other such burning issues that are held hostage to policy by twitter by a rank amateur. Republicans control all branches of our government but cannot get anything done since, like hyenas around the kill, they fight with one another over the spoils while their alpha male speaks and twitters verities from his otherworld.

I had the above in mind when (still in bed) I idly came across a piece in the current edition of Harper’s Magazine, a piece excerpted for one of Naomi Klein’s books, No Is Not Enough. It was an eye opener, and helped me come to some understanding of how Trump views the world from his world as he flits between his world and ours. He is a showman.

The following is a paraphrased version of her efforts in this connection. She writes that Trump is a product of the colonization of network television by reality TV beginning about 2,000, when we quickly went from deriving entertainment from scripted shows with the same characters and dramas week after week, season after season, to watching seemingly unscripted shows on which the people’s willingness to eject one another from whatever simulation of reality happened to be on display. She cited shows where millions were glued to their TV sets watching as participants on such shows were voted off the island on Survivor, removed from the mansion of The Bachelor – and eventually, fired by Donald Trump on The Apprentice.

She then notes that this transformation in entertainment from the scripted to winner take all occurred some two decades after the Reagan/Thatcher kicked off the “free market revolution” with its veneration of greed, individualism, and competition as the governing principles of society, thus making it possible to peddle as mass entertainment the spectacle of people turning on one another for a pot of gold, a genre in which the last person standing took it all and the rest took nothing in a kind of capitalist burlesque.

Before Trump’s Apprentice arrived on the scene, there was a least a pretext that such shows were about how to live in the wilderness, how to catch a husband, and how to be a housemate. With Donald Trump’s arrival, the veneer was gone, since The Apprentice was explicitly about the race to survive in the cutthroat jungle of late capitalism, and after decades of mass layoffs, declining living standards, and the normalization of extremely precarious employment, Trump and his executive producer, Mark Burnett, turned the act of firing people into mass entertainment. Every week, The Apprentice delivered the sales pitch of free-market theory, telling viewers that by unleashing their most selfish and ruthless side, they were actually being heroic, creating jobs and fueling growth. Don’t be nice, be a killer. That’s how you help the economy and, more importantly, yourself. (End of paraphrasing)

Trump did not invent greed but he became a master in exploiting it to a mass audience, an audience so infotainment-oriented that the substance and solutions of the day became secondary to the interpersonal brawls between the candidates. Insults and putdowns substituted for a sober and substantive discussion of the real issues, and the audience, so blinded, voted for an entertainer for president, with the tragic result that we are all now victims.

Even so, there could have been the possibility that Trump might have understood the enormous responsibilities that attend the presidency and have responded in a positive fashion, but his structural narcissism doomed any such hopeful outcome. He is apparently on track to cover his ignorance of history and startling inability to govern by consensus with his own majority party by way of threats, pretense and braggadocio, moving backwards and forth between his otherworld and the world in which we live, hiring and firing a la The Apprentice. It is not going to work.

The good news is that with Mueller’s investigation (which may take years to complete), Trump is en route to impeachment, indictment, or both, and if neither, he will at least be unmasked and politically defanged. We are treading water while we wait, the laughing stock of the world, and perhaps, as Klein suggests, still unable to distinguish between infotainment and reality among those who supported a showman. I await Mueller’s findings, which I think may end this charade.      GERALD       E

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