The problem we now live with: Our view? In a pair of complementary columns today, Krugman and Brooks have gone a long way toward describing The Problem We Now Live With.
Having canceled Thanksgiving plans, we plan to explore that problem next week. That said, one part of the problem involves the spectacular dumbness which has long characterized the analytical work which emerged from Our Own Tribal Side.
That spectacular dumbness is Trumpism too; it was dominant long before Trump. Much of it comes from the upper-end press, much from academia.
One example of the genre appears today in the New York Times, where Vanessa Friedman has been unloosed again.
What you see here is Trumpism too. No intelligent animal species would ever put nonsense like this into print:
FRIEDMAN (11/22/19): Not that Colonel Vindman and Mr. Jordan were the only participants dressing for a fight. They were simply the most obvious.In sacred Homer's two great poems, we humans occasionally form our judgments based on the flight of birds. Almost three thousand years later, our leading newspaper isn't embarrassed to put this lunacy into print—lunacy in which the newspapers' fashion director and chief fashion critic seems to suggest that George Kent wore a three=piece suit last week because the vest would "form a kind of extra protective layer" in the fight for which he'd supposedly dressed.
While Mr. Kent’s bow tie got most of the viewing attention during his appearance, his three-piece suit was equally notable. All five buttons of the vest were tightly buttoned, even though men’s wear rules tend to dictate that the bottom button be left undone, as it is in a suit jacket.
The vest formed a kind of extra protective layer for the witness, just as the silk scarf guarding the neck of Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, demanded a closer look. Reportedly a traditional design from Hermès known as the Grand Uniforme, created in 1955, it featured a pattern of gold helmets and what looked surprisingly like swords.
Elaborate, almost Napoleonic hilts, with tassels and ropes and other elements of martial pageantry. As if there were any doubt that a woman who started her testimony paying homage to her fellow diplomats in “hardship” positions, a woman of calm, carefully considered answers, did not anticipate what weapons may be deployed.
There was more...
This is undisguised lunacy. So is Friedman's return to the apparent meaning of Ambassador Yovanovich's scarf, still reportedly "a traditional design from Hermès known as the Grand Uniforme, created in 1955."
Meanwhile, Friedman is counting buttons again, a return to the astounding practice so widespread from November 1999 at least through February 2000, when the number of buttons (three) on Candidate Gore's disturbing suit jackets were a sign of his smarmy, sailor-like attempts to entice female voters.
Chris Matthews fashioned the craziest commentary on this troubling matter; Brian Williams kept the lunacy going into the spring of 2000. At one point, Arianna Huffington even sewed an additional button on the candidate's disturbing suit jackets. Here she was, om Geraldo's nightly MSNBC show, speaking to Al Franken:
HUFFINGTON (11/9/99): When you are talking about a consultant that you bring on to give opinions on how to dress and whether you're an alpha male and how do you become a beta male— Frankly, you know, what is fascinating is that the way he's now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him. And there was this marvelous story in one of the New Hampshire papers saying, “Nobody here—nobody here in Hanover, New Hampshire, wears tan suits with blue shirts.” You know, it's just—and buttons—all four buttons! You know, it's not just—it's just not the way most American males dress.For a fuller treatment, click here.
For the record, Candidate Gore wore no four-button suits. But Arianna was hitting all the themes prevalent at that time, including the slimiest theme of them all—the claim that the candidate wasn't quite like "mot American males," hint hint hint hint hint.
(The candidate had "hired a woman to teach him how to be a man." So pundits declared, again and again,. "Feminists" and "liberals" were too dumb, too somnolent, too uncaring to voice a word of complaint. Feminism wasn't hip as yet.)
That was insanity then; Friedman is crazy today. Additionally, that was unvarnished Trumpism.
Trumpism was in the saddle and ruling humankind long before Trump himself came on the political scene. The inanity of these ruling elites—inanity which was driving the discourse decades ago—is one major part of The Problem We All Currently Live with.
Are we humans really "the rational animal," the noble though laughable story line our tribunes have long advanced? Truthfully, no, we've never been anything like that! Here's more nonsense from Friedman today, in our most brainiac newspaper:
FRIEDMAN: There is a reason that both the bow tie of George P. Kent, the State Department official and witness, and the jacket of Representative Jim Jordan, ended up with their own Twitter accounts. (The bow tie actually has two.)Crazily, Friedman seems to believe that "everyone" became fixated on Sondland's seeming twinkle. The impulse to move to such ridiculous sweeping statements is a marker of The Widespread Mental Incompetence We All Currently Live With.
There is a reason that everyone became fixated on the seeming twinkle in Ambassador Gordon D. Sondland’s eye, the smile that seemed to play around his lips. They undermined the card-carrying-member-of-the-establishment messaging of his dark suit and subtly patterned Republican red tie, just as his testimony undermined the no-quid-pro-quo White House story line.
Friedman's work is Trumpism too, as is much of the work which appears in the Times. (Additional posts to follow.) And it's a shame that so much folderol gets churned by our most brainiac newspaper, because these Days of Impeachment called for our most careful analytical work.
Did you receive such work on cable TV? Let's consider the way Rachel Maddow introduced these days of impeachment.
Last Tuesday night, November 12, the excitement was building. The hearings would begin the next day—and at the start of her nightly TV show, the multimillionaire "cable news" star started setting the scene:
MADDOW (11/12/19): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.To watch this bullshit, click here.
Here at MSNBC, we work closely with, we work alongside, physically alongside our NBC News colleagues. But that does not always mean we have any inside information about what exactly they're doing on the network side and what they're working on, and vice versa.
You know, whatever we're working on and whatever we're developing, they might not have, you know, total transparency.
As such, when NBC News broadcasts its special report tomorrow morning on the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the first public impeachment hearings in the impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump, and when that NBC News special report tomorrow morning is anchored by Lester Holt from Nightly News and NBC`s chief legal correspondent, Today Show host Savannah Guthrie, and Chuck Todd from Meet the Press–
I mean, yes, we all work in the same together. Yes, we are all part of the same big happy family, but I can't tell you exactly what that NBC News special coverage is going to look like.
Interesting! As always, Maddow was talking about herself, at significant length. Nor had she failed to cross-promote all the network's stars.
That said, she clearly seemed to be headed toward a major important reveal. And then, her actual topic emerged! Let me entertain you, she basically said, as she played some music for us:
MADDOW (continuing directly): That said, I can pretty much guarantee you it will not have a theme song as cool, or as oddly ponderous and artistic, as the way NBC News played its special theme song and lead-in to the impeachment proceedings in 1973 for then-President Richard Nixon, because that was all covered with NBC News special reports, too.So entertaining and cool! Wasting our time while making us like her, our own Rhodes scholar played "like the opening credits to the Watergate hearings" from NBC News in June 1973.
But have you seen this? This was–they like developed a whole theme song! This was like the opening credits to the Watergate hearings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER (5/17/73): NBC News Special Report.
ANNOUNCER: Watergate Senate Hearings. Here from Washington is NBC News correspondent Garrick Utley.
UTLEY: Good morning. This is the Senate caucus room in Washington, D.C., and it`s jammed this morning, jammed with spectators, newsman, senators and their aides. And the scene adds to the sense of drama as the Senate opens with what is likely to become the most serious investigation it has ever made, an investigation of the American political system and the presidency itself.
The name of the investigation is Watergate because that is the name of the building where the Democratic Party offices were located, offices that were broken into last year. But the investigation that begins today will go far beyond that incident. The senators will also be asking questions about other acts of political sabotage in last year`s presidential campaign. And they`ll be asking about the money, secret cash that finance the sabotage, where it came from and how it was used. That is the Senate committee, seven members headed by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That's NBC News correspondent Garrick Utley, off-camera but doing like live color, live play-by-play of the NBC News special report on the first day of the Watergate hearings, May 17th, 1973. Having to kind of vamp there a little bit as everybody is getting seated.
"No more pictures, no more pictures!" OK, they're convening the hearing.
And tomorrow morning, every network will do their own version of this special report, right? As I just mentioned, NBC News is going to have their whole senior crew doing their special report. Again, 46 years and a half on from the way it looked on Watergate.
Here in MSNBC, Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace, they're going to be co-anchoring MSNBC's special coverage starting at 9:00 a.m. All of the networks are going to be doing something like this.
But as you can see from this vintage testimony from '73, the fact we have done this so few times in American history means it's hard to see any of this as normal, right? It's hard to extrapolate what we've already been through to know exactly what it ought to be like when these hearings kick off tomorrow. There's nothing you can look at from '73 or from any other impeachments that can tell you how it's likely to go this time.
For example, I can tell you I don't think they're going to run that theme music in the opening again. I will say, it's cool enough I want to take it for this show. What we need on this show is more timpani. I've always thought so. Watergate.
As it turned out, NBC had "like developed a whole theme song" for those ancient Senate hearings! Time passed while Maddow pointlessly played the pointless comments of the late Garrick Utley. But then, inevitably, she was talking about herself again!
That old theme music was so cool that she wanted it for her own TV program! "What we need on this show is more timpani," she said, advancing her branding as she persistently does.
As she continued, Maddow wasted everyone's time with endless, utterly pointless remarks about the testimony of Robert Odle, the little-remembered first witness in the 1973 hearings. And so cool! As Maddow played the tape of Odle walking to the witness stand, she didn't fail to describe the lack of staging, or to mention his clothes:
MADDOW: See, they didn't choreograph this for maximum drama. This is the first witness. They didn't have the first witness sitting anywhere near the witness table or the front of the room. He's got to make his way through the whole crowd. Obviously, he's also wearing his father's suit.So cool! Later, she returned to the entertaining claim that Odle had been wearing a "Dad suit." In these well-disguised Trumpist realms, nothing stops the flow of the bullshit, or the obsession with self:
MADDOW: And so, we shall see how all that goes. I can't wait, like I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight, in part because this is such an historic thing.Maddow like didn't know how she'd be able to sleep that night! Two nights later, she clowned and vogued with Joy Reid about the insomnia the two stars share. It's almost like the two cable stars are two of your like friends.
There aren't very many Americans since the history–since the origins of our country. Just hasn't happened very many times in our history as a country.
To be here for it, let alone to have the privilege to cover it as a news story, is a humbling and exciting thing.
Maddow said the whole thing was "humbling" for her. That seemed like a misstatement.
Do you mind if we tell you something about the endless bullshit you're served on the Maddow program? While the cable star is wasting your time with her endless pointless flashbacks to Days of Nixon and Agnew, she isn't telling you about homeless students in New York City, or about how many there are.
She isn't telling you about the astonishing costs pf American health care. She isn't discussing the climate crisis, which is on track to kill so many children around the world.
She isn't discussing low-income public schools, a topic to which she would never stoop. She's telling you about herself and treating you like a fool as she does, as she stuffs millions of corporate dollars into the back of her pants.
Later on last Tuesday night, the silly Trumpism returned. Inevitably, this silly corporate-fed harlequin child went there all over again:
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)Children are dying all over the world as the silly corporate child entertains and panders to you in these silly childish ways.
MADDOW: This is my favorite kind of breaking news!
At the very top of the show tonight, I was caviling about how NBC covered the first day of the Watergate hearings in 1973, specifically this title sequence that was the lead-in to the live NBC News special report for the first day of the Watergate hearings in '73. And I caviled about this for obvious reasons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: NBC News Special Report.
ANNOUNCER: Watergate: Senate hearings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I was like, "We are definitely taking that special report theme song from 1973! The Rachel Maddow Show needs more timpani!"
Well, because you are all the best viewers in the world, I am now informed and absolutely convinced that is a Berlioz symphony, that is from Symphonie Fantastique composed in 1830.
And here's the amazing thing, because you are the best viewers in the world, I almost can't believe NBC was this on the nose with its music choice that day. But it wasn't just Symphonie Fantastique, the music NBC used as the lead-in to the impeachment hearings in May 1973 was specifically from the fourth movement of that symphony which had a title.
The title was “March to the Scaffold!”
Thank you to Racgel Maddow Show viewers for knowing your French composers.
Last Tuesday night, she was once again "like, We are definitely taking that special report theme song from 1973!" She returned to this pointlessness near the end of her program
She played the theme music once again, even explaining its origin. She'd been caviling about the music earlier on, through she had caviled for obvious reasons. Also, she needed more timpani on her TV show.
The circus clown said that her viewers were the very best in the world. This is stupidified Trumpism too, wrapped in a smiling face, sitting atop a pair of large orange shoes.
This is one major part of the problem we're all living with. That said, Chris and Brian and Arianna had all been engaged in Creeping Trumpism too.
That was twenty years ago, long before Donald J. Trump waddled onto the scene, with his path to the White House greased by the likes of Maddow.
Our own tribe's stars are Trumpists too! They have been for a very long time, and they're massively paid to behave in these ways by our own nation's oligarchs.
You aren't allowed to know how much they're paid. Fellow tribals, show some sense! Just sit there and eat what you're served!
Next week: The nature of The Problem