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“For Trump, Presidential Means Being Polite”: Why Donald Trump’s Idea Of ‘Presidential’ Is Both Curious And Disturbing

Just as St. Augustine asked the Lord to grant him chastity, just not yet, Donald Trump is ready to be “presidential,” just not yet. Whenever he brings up the idea of presidential-ness, Trump always says that a personality transformation is on its way, but will have to be delayed while some more pressing campaign matters are attended to. Like so much about Trump, his conception of what it means to be presidential is both curious and disturbing.

As near as one can surmise, for Trump, to be presidential means to be polite. When he’s criticizing his opponents, he isn’t being presidential. So he says that when his daughter Ivanka begged him to be more presidential, he replied that he had to knock off the other Republican candidates first. “Let me be unpresidential just for a little while longer, and maybe I’ll be a little bit unpresidential as I beat Hillary.” He’ll often add, “At some point, I’m going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored.”

But he promises that at the right time, he will bring the presidential-ness, and bring it hard. “If I want to be, I can be more presidential than anybody. You know, when I have 16 people coming at me from 16 different angles, you don’t want to be so presidential. You have to win, you have to beat them back, right?” But he will be “more presidential than anybody other than the great Abe Lincoln. He was very presidential, right?”

Well, yes. But Lincoln was happy to make his disagreements with other people clear; his presidential qualities did not consist in turning the other cheek. So what does “presidential” mean to the rest of us? At the simplest level it suggests a combination of dignity and command, someone who holds enormous power and demonstrates him or herself worthy of it. But for most people, “presidential” is less about behavior than about identity: A person doesn’t act presidential, a person is presidential.

And until recently, that meant a certain kind of person: a tall, handsome white man, in late middle age, but aging well, strong of jaw and grey of temple, with a firm handshake and a steely gaze. Basically, Mitt Romney. Which is why back when he ran for president, so many people said Romney looked “straight out of Central Casting.”

But it may be more accurate to say that Mitt Romney is what used to be considered “presidential.” In 2016, that’s no longer the case, though it was just a short time ago. When the film Deep Impact was released in 1998, the fact that Morgan Freeman — a black man! — portrayed the president of the United States was seen as somewhere between notable and shocking. Since then, however, Hollywood has given us a whole spate of non-Romneyesque presidents of varying ethnicities and genders. Even 24, in many ways the prototypical right-wing drama of the George W. Bush era, had not one but two black men serve as president, followed by a woman.

Hollywood, of course, is always trying to cram its liberal values down the throats of good old-fashioned heartland Americans. But Barack Obama may have changed forever what we think of when we think of someone being presidential. The default face of a president may still be that of a white man, but the idea is no longer exclusively and necessarily white and male. And now it’s entirely possible, perhaps likely, that the nation’s first black president will be followed by the nation’s first woman president.

That thought makes some people very displeased; as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre said last year when considering Clinton’s run for the White House, “I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically significant president is enough.” And many of them happen to be the people Donald Trump is appealing most directly to: those who feel that in a changing country, they’ve lost something as others have gained. With women and African-Americans and Latinos and Asian-Americans all demanding respect and consideration, with popular culture embracing polyglot sounds and challenging ideas, they feel diminished, ignored, passed by, and passed over. They want their country back, and Trump promises to give it to them.

There are many qualities we might associate with being presidential, like maturity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, or compassion. But Donald Trump obviously isn’t thinking of that when he talks about being presidential; he seems to think it just means not making up schoolyard nicknames for people or talking about the size of your hands. He may not realize it, but just by being a 69-year-old rich white guy, in the eyes of his supporters he’s as presidential as could be. But in 2016, people who see that as the beginning and end of being presidential are probably in the minority. Just like people who support Donald Trump.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, April 29, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Presidential Candidates, Trump Supporters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paris, The City Of Light”: Light Reveals Bankrupt Ideologies For The Failures They Are

“I believe the light that shines on you will shine on you forever … though I can’t guarantee there’s nothing scary hiding under your bed.”

“Father and Daughter” by Paul Simon

My wife has a bad knee and isn’t much for long walks, so that night after the Chunnel train had brought us over from London and we set out on foot from the hotel to do some exploring, I wasn’t expecting to go far. Maybe a block, maybe two.

I have no idea how far we actually went, but I know it was a lot further than a couple blocks. I kept asking if she was okay. Marilyn kept assuring me that she was and wanted to keep going.

She was enraptured, as was I. Walking through Paris was like walking through magic. We went down a fairytale street, paused on a bridge overlooking the Seine to watch the glass-topped dinner cruises plying the water, ended up at the Place de la Concorde, looking west along the Champs-Elysees. In the distance the Arc de Triomphe glowed.

Some cities disappoint you. Some cities you visit and that thing they are known for, that thing people come from around the world to experience, turns out to be exaggeration, myth or mirage. In the ’70s, I used to feel sorry for tourists who came to Hollywood (which has since been largely redeveloped), only to find that the fabled film capital was little more than office buildings, souvenir shops and street corners where prostitutes gathered six deep.

But Paris is exactly what they say. Paris is, in reputation and in fact, the City of Light.

So I suppose we ought not be surprised that it now finds itself under attack from the forces of shadow.

By now, you’ve already heard all you can stand — and then some — about the series of coordinated terrorist assaults by ISIS that left well over a hundred people dead on Friday. By now, you have already wept or prayed or vented your fury or wondered aloud what this world is coming to or simply stood mute in the face of humankind’s seemingly bottomless capacity for savagery.

I almost called it animalism, but that’s an insult to animals. They, after all, kill to feed or defend themselves. Only human beings kill for beliefs — in this case, a twisted, fundamentalist strain of Islam.

And it’s no accident it was Paris. Like New York City 14 years ago, it was a representational target. New York stands for American power and Sept. 11 was meant to spit in the eye of that power. Paris stands for light and the events of Nov. 13 sought to eclipse the glow — not simply the glow of beauty and romance, but also of enlightenment and hope.

Paris has always been a beacon of such things. That may have been part of the reason Adolf Hitler ordered the city destroyed when his troops were driven out in 1944. It may have been part of the reason Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz disobeyed the order.

The quote at the top of this column is from a song not about terror, but about a father’s love for the bright light that is his daughter and his promise to be there for her in a world of uncertainty and threat. But though they were not crafted for this moment, the words feel apropos to it.

No, it is not monsters hiding under the bed by which civilization is menaced. But it is monsters just the same, forces of savagery, ignorance, hatred, fundamentalism and extremism striking from corners where light does not reach. And no one can guarantee perpetual safety against such threats.

But we can strike back hard when they come, as France is doing now. In the long run, though: It isn’t bullets and bombs these monsters fear the most, hate the most, or that hurts them the most. No, that which lurks in shadow despises light — and well it should. Light reveals bankrupt ideologies for the failures they are. Light draws people together. Light gives courage. And light gives hope.

So Vive la France!

And shine on.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald: The National Memo, November 18, 2015

November 18, 2015 Posted by | Civilization, ISIS, Paris Attacks, Terrorism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Poor Little Rich Boys”: Weeping In Frustration At The Obstinate Refusal Of The American People To Recognize The Natural Aristocracy

If you read Matea Gold’s long piece at WaPo today about the vast, byzantine web of organizations—many just dummies or decoys or the purest kind of money launderers—set up by the Koch Brothers and their friends to exert massive influence on American politics behind multiple veils of secrecy, you may have been a bit underwhelmed by the Koch’s often-repeated rationale for all the skullduggery:

In a rare in-person interview with Forbes in late 2012, Charles Koch defended the need for venues that allow donors to give money without public disclosure, saying such groups provide protection from the kind of attacks his family and company have weathered.

“We get death threats, threats to blow up our facilities, kill our people. We get Anonymous and other groups trying to crash our IT systems,” he said, referring to the computer-hacking collective. “So long as we’re in a society like that, where the president attacks us and we get threats from people in Congress, and this is pushed out and becomes part of the culture — that we are evil, so we need to be destroyed, or killed — then why force people to disclose?”

Playing the victim has long been part of the Brothers’ shtick. Some readers may recall a stomach-churning Wall Street Journal op-ed by Ted Olson early in 2012 defending the Kochs (his clients) from the omnipotent, malevolent, Nixonian hostility of Barack Obama, before which they were apparently cowering in fear. This was in the midst of a presidential cycle in which the Brothers walked very, very tall, per Gold’s estimates:

Together, the 17 conservative groups that made up the [Koch political] network raised at least $407 million during the 2012 campaign, according to the analysis of tax returns by The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.

That was all self-defense spending, you see—just as Sheldon Adelson’s vast investments in American and Israeli politics are merely the feeble efforts of an honest entrepreneur to protect himself from persecution.

It would be funny if it weren’t so pathologically sincere. I suggest you read Gold’s piece in tandem with Molly Ball’s fascinating profile of Frank Luntz, who is apparently going through some sort of mid-life crisis because of Obama’s re-election:

Luntz dreams of drafting some of the rich CEOs he is friends with to come up with a plan for saving America from its elected officials. “The politicians have failed; now it’s up to the business community to stand up and be heard,” he tells me. “I want the business community to step up.” Having once thought elites needed to listen to regular people, he now wants the people to learn from their moneyed betters.

Luntz’s populism has turned on itself and become its opposite: fear and loathing of the masses. “I am grateful that Occupy Wall Street turned out to be a bunch of crazy, disgusting, rude, horrible people, because they were onto something,” he says. “Limbaugh made fun of me when I said that Occupy Wall Street scares me. Because he didn’t hear what I hear. He doesn’t see what I see.” The people are angry. They want more, not because we have not given them enough but because we have given them too much.

For the time being, Luntz appears focused on breaking into Hollywood, presumably to reform the people via popular culture:

If he could, Luntz would like to have a consulting role on The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama. “I know I’m not supposed to like it, but I love it,” he says. He feels a kinship with Jeff Daniels’ character, the gruff, guilt-ridden, ostensibly Republican antihero, who is uncomfortable with small talk and driven by a “mission to civilize.” “I love that phrase,” Luntz says. “That doesn’t happen in anything that we do.”

When he’s at home in Los Angeles, The Newsroom is the high point of Luntz’s week. He turns off his phone and gets a plate of spaghetti bolognese and a Coke Zero and sits in front of his 85-inch television, alone in his 14,000-square-foot palace. “That’s as good as it gets for me,” he says.

Yes, Frank’s another poor little rich boy, weeping in frustration at the obstinate refusal of the American people to recognize the natural aristocracy that seeks to guide them away from the evil demagogues who demand limits on their wealth and power. Luntz is a relative small-fry in the counter-revolutionary universe, but the Kochs’ whining sounds to me like the warning rattle of a coiled snake.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 6, 2014

January 8, 2014 Posted by | Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Red Carpet For Ugly People”: White House Correspondents Dinner Has Nothing To Do With Journalism

Reading Peggy Noonan got me into a bad mood, and it was just terrible luck that the next cookie on the plate was this earnest Politico piece by Patrick Gavin on the anniversary of the “controversy” over the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. It seems Tom Brokaw has again broken the silence by expressing the quiet angst of the Beltway press corps at the pollution of this hallowed event by Hollywood celebrities:

Tom Brokaw blames it all on Lindsay Lohan.

Last year, Brokaw became one of the biggest critics of the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner after he saw Washington buzzing around and about the troubled Hollywood actress, who was a guest of Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren.

“The breaking point for me was Lindsay Lohan,” Brokaw told POLITICO during a recent interview in his office in the NBC News Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York. “She became a big star at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Give me a break.”

Reading the whole article, it’s unclear to me whether Brokaw is primarily concerned about gate-crashing by Hollywood types, or understands that the whole idiotic phenomenon of journalists dressing up like celebrities to schmooze with the rich and powerful people they are supposed to be writing critically about is itself a tad bit sick-making:

“They [the Great Unwashed] were making their own decisions in their own states, in their own communities, and the congressional ratings were plummeting,” he added. “The press corps wasn’t doing very well, either. And I thought, ‘This is one of the issues that we have to address. What kind of image do we present to the rest of the country? Are we doing their business, or are we just a group of narcissists who are mostly interested in elevating our own profiles?’ And what comes through the screen on C-SPAN that night is the latter, and not the former.”

That is exactly right, but it has nothing to do with the admixture of entertainment industry figures in the proceedings. All the borrowed Hollywood glitter does is to make it clearer than ever that if politics is “show business for ugly people,” as the old saying goes, then the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is their red carpet event. Let the stars of E! take over the whole damn thing, and stop pretending it has anything to do with journalism.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 26, 2013

April 28, 2013 Posted by | Journalism, Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Class Act”: Let’s Hope Our Next First Lady Is As Exemplary As Michelle Obama

Something happened last week that was political, gratuitous and embarrassing for our country — and it actually can’t be blamed on the sequester.

Out of nowhere, the first lady of the United States appeared at the Academy Awards and announced the winner for Best Picture. Not landing by helicopter, not inside an egg like Lady Gaga, but via satellite from the White House, where she was hosting the nation’s governors for dinner, surrounded by smiling military personnel.

Immediately, the appearance — not her idea, but an invitation — became a national subject of scorn. Most of the first lady’s detractors were conservatives, like Michelle Malkin, who slammed “the White House-Hollywood industrial complex.” Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post blogged: “It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband’s election) … it makes both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping.”

But other critics were liberals. Donny Deutsch of MSNBC, an “elite” of the first order, sniffed, “there was an elitist flavor to it.” The Post’s Courtland Milloy wrote he had “enough with the broccoli and Brussels sprouts” and all the attention paid to Obama’s toned arms and hair. “Where is that intellectually gifted Princeton graduate, the Harvard educated lawyer and mentor to the man who would become the first African-American president of the United States?” he asked.

These deeply disappointed Americans don’t exactly know what they want from the first lady — just that it isn’t what she is offering. And that’s why it’s so sad. No, Michelle Obama is not going to throw her Ivy League credentials around, or weigh in on war or peace. But she has led an awareness movement to tackle the epidemic of obesity and diseases associated with it, and she helped build a support net for military families and veterans returning from war, the likes of which they never had before.

Those who cannot understand the importance of Obama helping communities most affected by poor eating and poor health engage to improve their choices and habits must not appreciate not only the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, particularly among African-Americans, but the economic toll diabetes and other weight-related illnesses are taking on our healthcare system. Obama has not only worked on federal legislation requiring new standards for school lunches but is urging corporations to open new stores in the 6,000 “food deserts” the Department of Agriculture has identified across the country, areas where fresh food is not readily available.

Meanwhile, she has quietly invested thousands of hours — without any camera crews in tow — supporting military families along with Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president. Together they founded Joining Forces to encourage businesses to hire veterans returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Veterans groups have said Obama has hosted and participated in more events for veterans and military families than any other first lady.

Let’s hope our next first lady is an exemplary wife and mother, and a daughter who would move her mother in to the White House with her. Let’s hope she embraces strangers and hugs them tightly, just the first lady we have now.

We can all freak out if Obama appears on “Wife Swap.” But unless she does, please stand down.

Americans taking swipes at the first lady, asking why she is having a good time — when invited — with comedians and producers planning the Oscar ceremony, should instead think about saying “thank you.”

 

By: A. B. Stoddard, Associate Editor, The Hill, March 6, 2013

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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