Part 4—A snapshot of Hamptons-based values: After the past several "weeks that were," it's surely time to add to our storehouse of basic questions concerning Donald J. Trump.
Some cable pundits—not all—have begun to feel free with one obvious question:
Is Donald J. Trump being blackmailed or bribed by his best friend, Vladimir Putin?Surely, though, it's time to add two other questions to our store. We've long recommended these questions:
Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is some version of "mentally ill?"Surely it's time to consider those possibilities, despite what the New York Times says!
Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is intellectually impaired?
That said, Donald J. Trump isn't our only misfiring animal. The mental disorder of Donald J. Trump has long had its analogs within the mainstream press.
Mainstream pundits have been misfiring, out in the open, for a very long time now. Despite our self-proclaimed tribal brilliance, we liberals have often failed to see this. That doesn't mean that the highly visible malfunctioning hasn't occurred.
Even today, our most honored pundits may balk at raising the possibilities we've listed above. Why does Trump behave as he does? Consider what Charlie Sykes told Chris on Wednesday night:
MATTHEWS (7/18/18): Charlie, why is the president to keep doing this? I mean, he is an instinctive default thing. He goes back to the Russians are the good guys...His instinct is to say the Russians are the good guys. We are the bad guys."That's what Donald Trump really believes?" That's certainly possible, of course. But how do we know that he isn't simply being blackmailed by his new best friend?
This is a nationalistic president who says our nation is at fault. And the guys on the other side of the road, and the other side of what we always thought was the good guy-bad guy relationship, are the good guys. He always does it now—the Russians are right. Charlie, why?
SYKES: Well, you know, in part, I think because he is constitutionally incapable of acknowledging the severity of this attack. Because if he acknowledges that it is ongoing, if he acknowledges that, as Dan Coats says, this is a 9/11 type attack, then he has to acknowledge that what happened in 2016 was a big deal, and every instinct in his body is to dismiss it, is to you know, push it away, to say the investigation is a witch-hunt. And look, the Donald Trump you saw in Helsinki is the real Donald Trump. That's what he really believes.
Sykes still wasn't willing to go there, nor did Matthews challenge his answer. Even more strikingly, Jeffrey Toobin said this that same night:
COOPER (7/18/18): Well, it's also incredible, Jeff, that this is Day Three since—I mean, there was Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. That summit was on Monday. We've now had three days for the White House, for the president to just very clearly, you know, stand with the intelligence agencies, stand with what he claims he believes, or the White House claims he believes. And every single time, he's either ad-libbing something, he is hedging it, he's flat-out saying no.What did Trump hedge that day concerning Russian interference in 2016? Tobbin insisted it's what he believes, full stop.
TOOBIN: He is giving us what he believes. I mean, you know, how obvious does it have to be that he doesn't believe that Putin is a liar, he doesn't believe that the intelligence community is right, that the Russians alone meddled in the election.
I mean, every opportunity he has, as you point out, to say straightforwardly, "This was a Russian effort to help me get elected," he doesn't say it. And the only explanation for why he doesn't say it is he doesn't believe it.
That's the only possible explanation? At this point, after all this time, why would anyone say that?
How hopelessly do our pundits misfire? How limited are their skills? At the end of that same hour, Cooper interviewed Tony Schwartz, ghost writer of The Art of the Deal. Within a matter of minutes, Schwartz seemed to say that Trump believes every word he says, and that he's constantly lying.
SCHWARTZ (7/18/18): Here's the thing. You have to understand that Donald Trump, more so now than at any time during the presidency, but it's always been true, creates his own reality inside the bubble of his brain. And it is—has nothing to do with what's going on in the real world. It's whatever he says it is to himself at any given time.He truly believes what he says; also, he's lying when he says it. Even after all these years, they strongly tend to function this way. As we'll let Professor Harari explain next week, it's all they were really built for.
So no, he doesn't say, "Lying is one of my strengths." He says quite the opposite. "Reality is one of my strengths, and the rest is fake news."
SCHWARTZ: What's so interesting about Trump in the way he deals with the truth is that, when he is in his most impulsive, reactive, angry moments that's when he tends to tell the truth. That's when he tends to actually say what he means, as he did at that news conference. When he is thinking about it, much less reading something, he is then almost always lying...
I believe that what reporters now need to start doing is saying in response to his outright and undeniable lies, "That's not true," and move on. Not debate the question of how could he see it that way or, for example, when he took back, you know, what he said at the press conference.
SCHWARTZ: It was clearly a boldfaced lie. Why have hours and hours of discussion about it? You know what the proper response to it is? Trump lied again. Now let's move on.
(In fairness, you can possibly reconcile those statements. Given the speed of cable pseudo-discussion, no such effort was made.)
Yeats was "fastened to a dying animal;" the American public is too. The nightly performance of these forms is a study in the foolishness of the ancient claim that we are the "rational animals."
The analytical skills are very slight; the courage is frequently lacking. Then too, there's the monumental foppishness. Let's consider a snapshot or two from last weekend's New York Times.
The Times is our most foppish major newspaper by far. It's mental horizons are made in the Hamptons. Even as perdition rushes towards us, they simply can't stop publishing piddle like this, concerning Melania's wardrobe Over There:
FRIEDMAN (7/18/18): Most of the outfits effectively faded into the background. The exception was a minor stir about the pale yellow J. Mendel gown Mrs. Trump wore to the state dinner at Blenheim Palace, with its long flowing sleeves and pleated bodice, which briefly spurred comparisons to Belle from ''Beauty and the Beast'' (the Disney version) and gave rise to a few lackluster suggestions that perhaps Mrs. Trump was using her clothes to send a veiled message to her husband (after all, if she is Beauty ...).The outfits faded into the background? If only FriedmanThink would! Meanwhile, beige! Also, there were no "statements hats," though she did please the Duchess of Sussex.
Mostly, though, her outfits' overriding impact was polite and appropriate. They were tailored, but not too much. Buttoned up, but also feminine. Below the knee. Even the colors—pale pink, pale yellow, white, navy and beige (beige!)—were low-key. The clothes were elegant, but bland. They were notable largely for what they were not.
There were no statement hats, for example—not even in Britain, where, presumably, a hat might have made sense. Also no scrawled messages. No attempt at mixing in the accessibly priced item or two.
She did arrive in England in Roland Mouret, a French designer working in London who is a favorite of the new Duchess of Sussex, and she chose a striped Victoria Beckham dress for an appearance the following day.
Friedman noted the mandatory inane musings concerning Beauty and the Beast. This is the way these life forms flail, even as Mister Trump's Fully Dispositive Global War approaches. The piece appeared on the front page of Thursday Styles, right next to the piece about tick bites—in the Hamptons, of course.
It isn't just that our floundering species donnt reely reezun reel gud; we're also born to fawn. At the upper ends of our social order, we're born to bow low to all that's foppish and faux.
Consider last Sunday's editions. Online, the Book Review was pimping this rather extensive list of "Summer Reading" selections. Even as perdition threatened, the categories offered were these:
Thrillers"The Great Outdoors?" one analyst scoffed. "By the time Mister Trump gets through, we'll have a lot more of that!"
Movies & TV
The Great Outdoors
More sensibly, we marvelled at the Book Review's list. Granted, "summer reading," almost by definition, is supposed to be easy and stupid. At a newspaper like the Times, summer's the season when the guild is told they can be even dumber than usual.
That said, we ourselves were struggling with Professor Harari, with comic relief from Professor Rovelli—and the end of the world was rushing forward. Might it have occurred to these types to include even one section like "Current Issues" or "Public Affairs" or even "Not Totally Mindless?"
Dearest darlings, this is the Times! In the face of the end of the world, Luther said he'd still work in his garden. At the Times, they continue to drag out Vanessa Friedman to talk about "statement hats."
We were struck by those reading selections, but then came the Sunday Review. The foppishness was general there. Some of the headlines were these:
I’ll Be Out in the Garden, De-stressingAnother hard-hitter started like this, headline included:
Get Yourself a Giant Dog
Forget a Fast Car. Creativity Is the New Midlife Crisis Cure.
Taking Away the Phones Won’t Solve Our Teenagers’ Problems
I Didn’t Want Co-Sleeping to End
What Adults Can Learn From Dutch Children’s Books
The World Cup Final Is Upon Us. What Have We Learned?It didn't go on to offer a point. Meanwhile, on The Review's front page, in one of the paper's most high-profile venues, we got a long piece about "the New York Yankees and their fans." Along with which, Michiko Kakutani got the chance to type in her sleep about the wrongs of the Japanese Exclusion Act, which took effect in 1942.
Here we are. The final match of the 2018 World Cup has almost arrived, and it has been as thrilling a tournament as I can remember. As Maximus, Russell Crowe’s character in “Gladiator,” famously yelled, “Are you not entertained?”
Kakutani was all over last Sunday's Times. In the Book Review, she got to pen the standard self-praise about the way, when she was a child, "reading was a refuge and a magical form of transport to other worlds." She also got to hand us this piddle about her worthless new book:
KAKUTANI (7/15/18): In “The Death of Truth,” I wanted to look at how we got to where we are today—with reason, science and the rule of law under assault from a president who lies shamelessly and reflexively, and at least a third of the country willing to dwell in a world of “alternative facts.” In examining the fallout that dishonesty and the denial of objective truth are having on our democracy, I went back to the writings of thinkers like Hannah Arendt (“The Origins of Totalitarianism”) and George Orwell (“1984,” “A Collection of Essays”) who chronicled how cynicism and weariness and fear can make people susceptible to propaganda, and the lies and false promises of leaders bent on unconditional power.So scripted, so tribally pleasing! Meanwhile, poor Kakutani! She "want[s] to look at how we got to where we are today—with reason, science and the rule of law under assault."
Our view? If you want to ponder that question, we'll recommend Kakutani's astounding 1999 review of Candidate Gore's 1992 book, Earth in the Balance. It may have been the craziest review of a book we've ever read, and it appearewd on the Times' front page. In each case, that's because it constituted a crazy campaign in the ongoing war which was being conducted, all over the Times, against the hated Candidate Gore, Bill Clinton's chosen successor.
Kakutani's sneering attack on reason and science helped send Bush to the White House. We're so old that we can remember when we liberals used to pretend that we cared about the war Kakutani helped give us through that astonishing front-page pseudo-review.
Today, the Times calls upon hacks like Kakutani to recite about Trump and Trump voters. Back then, the assault upon reason and science was being conducted by the Times, in part through a crazy pseudo-review.
The Sunday Review was instructive. One scribe didn't want co-sleeping to end. Another scribe recommends big dogs. A third will be out in the garden.
The war will begin while she's pulling those weeds. You see, Kakutani and her fiend, Maureen Dowd, helped send Donald J. Trump to the White House. The rest of the creatures are still crawling all over cable, pretending to sift the key facts.
Next week, we'll examine the species as shown by Harari. For today, we'll end with this "noteworthy fact" from today's page A3:
Of InterestAt the modern-day New York Times, that's called a "noteworthy fact."
NOTEWORTHY FACTS FROM TODAY'S PAPER
Magic's version of the Oscars is called the Merlin Awards.
Donald J. Trump may be stark raving mad. At the Times, that isn't a noteworthy fact. Early this year, the editorial board told the world that it can't be discussed at all!
Next week: Professor Harari explains Homo sapiens. Also, comic relief