Shredding the Fabric

Since the State of the Union Address, President Trump and Nancy Pelosi have been going at it hammer and tongs (though Pelosi would probably prefer a hammer and sickle match with Bernie) .  The Buffoon-in-Chief is in great form, praising his supporters with childish  epithets endlessly repeated and damning his enemies with more vigor, at least, though not with a wider vocabulary.  Thriving on hatred, Donald Trump is like one of those Sci Fi monsters that grow stronger with every attack.  Trumpzilla.

Opposing the President with every fiber of her aging and malevolent being is the harridan whose daughter calls her "a typical Sicilian grandmother," though Mama Corleone was never like this. I suppose the Speaker's daughter was thinking more of legendary Mafia women like Maria "Penelope" Campagna, who ran her incarcerated husband clan.

The surface issue is Nancy's deliberate shredding of Trump's speech.  Pelosi has given multiple explanations, ranging from the President refused to shake her hand, to the speech was a tissue of lies that shredded the truth, up to repeated statements that Trump is evil, will always be "impeached," and the acquittal means nothing.

I watched the unedifying speech live and was nauseated by the cheap rhetoric and maudlin melodramas that have been obligatory since the American people elected a Hollywood actor.  The President's sycophants can say anything they like, but no sober intelligent person can do anything but deplore such antics.  I don't blame Trump or his staff for indulging in disgusting vulgarity--if they did object, they would still have no choice but to play the game as it has been played by Reagan, Carter, Clinton, the Bushes, and Obama.  My discomfort is the fitting punishment for watching the degrading spectacle.

Watching live, I barely noticed that the President walked by without  shaking the Speaker's hand, but I could not tell if it was a deliberate snub or simply inattention.  This was a big moment, and he seemed completely absorbed by the task he had to perform.  Someone who follows junk-news more assiduously than I do will be able to inform me if Trump has actually admitted that he intended to insult Ms Pelosi.

Accident or snub, the President's misstep was a glorious PR opportunity for a clever politician who had even half a brain unscathed by Botox.  She could have borne the snub with dignity, listened to the speech with the attention required by an historic occasion, and at the conclusion invited a second snub by offering her hand.

Alas, Ms Pelosi, who had probably planned her stunt in advance, is anything but clever.  She mugged and grimaced throughout the speech--like a spoiled adolescent forced to attend church or listen to Bruckner--and, in a gesture of contempt for the President, his office, the Congress, and the American people, she shredded the document without even managing any dramatic effect--apart from the anxiety that the frail old lady  might not have the strength to finish the job.

In trying to come up with a literary or dramatic parallel for Pelosi, I could only think of Carrie Fisher in The Blues Brothers.  Her apologists can say whatever they like but a sensible Democrat--that is, a crook who is not bent on suicide--could only conclude that Nonna Nininna is nuts, a danger to her Party.  In the Clinton years such insane behavior might have been regarded as disloyalty.  Even today, my advice to the Speaker would be:  Don't book a flight to Croatia.  Just kidding.

After  his SOTU Triumph, President Trump has gone on to claim complete vindication.  The Democrats complain, but acquittal is acquittal--especially when the votes have been recorded by the Chief Justice explicitly as "guilty or not guilty."  The press is outraged, naturally, and compare Trump's exultation with Clinton's humble apology for putting the American people through the nightmare of impeachment.

What  else did we expect?  American journalists do not believe in justice or even in making judgments. What crime has been committed matters less than who committed it. An illegal immigrant who commits assault in New York City is a victim of the system who must be let go, and when he rapes and murders a 92 year  old woman, that is, of course, regrettable, but nothing that would cause New York politicians to rethink their sanctuary policy.  Only a bigot like Trump would have the indecency to bring it up.

So, the fact that Clinton, first, abused his authority by seducing an aide, and, second lied about it, makes no difference.  Clyde Wilson and I ridiculed the Republican's impeachment of Clinton, and I stand by our statements, but he was accused of doing something morally wrong, and the accusation covered only one instance of Clinton's sociopathic attacks on women.  He damn well owed his many victims a good deal more than the perfunctory apology he made after his acquittal.

What was Trump accused of?  Using foreign aid as leverage over a receiving country?  Isn't that almost the whole point of foreign aid?  Why do we give so much to Egypt if to to keep the Egyptians off Israel's back?  The mere fact that crooked Joe Biden's crooked son Hunter was the object of the investigation makes it entirely political?  Complete nonsense.

First off, even if getting Biden was the primary objective, the only question on the table at the impeachment hearings should have been the allegations against Hunter.  If Hilary Clinton murdered her husband, would federal law enforcement authority be forbidden to investigate the case on the grounds it would give pleasure to the President?  If the evidence shows, not that Hunter is guilty, but that he has given grounds for suspicion, then Trump's personal interest becomes irrelevant.

Second, it appears there were ample grounds for investigating Hunter Biden.  Perhaps, unlike his father and his father's younger brother who refuses to pay $1 million damages awarded the family of a man run down by his car, he is an honest man, but, as Trump has pointed out, if his own children had made a fraction of the suspicious deals that have made Hunter a very rich man, there  would be no end of accusations.

Trump is not the first buffoon to live in the White House.  Recall the drunkard U.S. Grant, the philandering dimwit Warren Harding, the cheap little haberdasher Truman.  Naturally, the men of  earlier generations behaved in public with more discretion, but after Mr and Ms Obama made the White House a hostelry for pop music trash, what could Trump possibly do to bring shame to the presidency?  Make Oprah ambassadress to Switzerland, perhaps, or create a cabinet position for Vince McMahon.   With McMahon's experience in rigging rassling exhibitions, he could be put in charge of the Federal Elections Commission.

Trump is anything but stupid.  He has spent his life getting rich off the gullibility and vulgarity of the American people.  He is, as I have said too many times, the President this country deserves, but he is also one of the few men who can get anything done in Washington.  He'll never drain the swamp or build the wall, but he has aroused the ruling class to a pitch of impotent fury it is glorious to behold.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. Robert Peters says:

    Presidents should refrain from delivering the State of the Union before a joint gathering of Congress with all of the attendant dignitaries. It should be delivered on plain paper entitled “State of the Union” with the text, “It has not existed since 1865, and it was in its death throes will before that date.” Were, however, such to happen, “we the people” would lose a Vaudeville venue as we sit in our deckchairs and the icy salt water swirls at our feet!

  2. Vince Cornell says:

    It’s a terrible movie, but at the same time I can’t help but think of “Idiocracy” whenever I think of the State of the Union. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch one in a long time, regardless of who the President is, but at least the headlines after one of Trump’s SotUs are worth laughing over. I continue to wish Trump all the best – a man just couldn’t have better enemies, and that’s enough for me!

  3. Clyde Wilson says:

    Jefferson started the republican practice of written messages, which lasted until Wilson, I think, who returned to the monarchical address from the throne.
    Does Carter really deserve to be in that rogue’s gallery of presidential clowns that you cite? I think he lost because of inability to be as big a clown as Reagan.

  4. Harry Colin says:

    This is wonderful. I have never seen the Blues Brothers, but might have to do so now. Love the “don’t book any flights to Croatia” line! Maybe in honor of that memory Herman’s Hermits can remake the song with “Mr. Brown” instead of Mrs. Brown, with appropriate lyrics inserted, perhaps even shooting a video. ( sorry about the “shooting” line…couldn’t resist).

    I concur with Dr. Wilson on Carter, as lumping him in with those others is rather demeaning.