His bow tie sets him apart: For the record, we assume that everything Donald Trump does is likely to be disordered, deranged and corrupt.
Unfortunately, we don't think that's the main issue at this point. The issue is the dangerous tribalization within which we all now live, along with the tribal propaganda which flowed so freely last night.
Throw in the sheer inanity routinely displayed by our upper-end elites and you may have a bit of a dying culture.
If only for entertainment's sake, let's start with that upper-class dumbness. For that, we direct you to Vanessa Friedman's analysis of George Kent's bow tie in today's New York Times.
Friedman is fashion director and chief fashion critic for the Times. "No one was saying [that Kent's bow tie] was the most important detail of a historic day—of course it wasn’t," she wrote in this morning's Times. But then, she went on to say this:
FRIEDMAN (11/14/19): But it was impossible for many to ignore because, like the moment itself, it was singular; an anomaly in an anomalous time. And in that sense, it almost seemed to symbolize not just Mr. Kent himself, but also the whole experience.There you see the silly, novelistic dreamscape within which this upper-class guild has long dwelled.
Within this silly upper-class dreamscape, any chosen item or incident can come to symbolize—no, to seem to symbolize—anything the daft insider wants.
What did Kent's bow tie seem to symbolize—no, almost seem to symbolize—to this ridiculous newspaper's barmy fashion director? We'll let Friedman tell you herself, although it's a very old tale:
FRIEDMAN (continuing directly): The bow tie, at least onscreen, appeared to be blue and yellow (some said orange, others ocher and turquoise), in a sort of chain/paramecium pattern. It was paired with a matching pocket square and was worn with a light blue shirt and gray plaid three-piece suit, complete with neatly buttoned-up vest.Of course! As with Saints McCain and Bradley in 1999 and 2000, Kent's hand-tied tie almost seemed to maybe symbolize the "authenticity" of Kent himself!
It also looked hand-tied, listing slightly as if to underscore its own authenticity—and, maybe, that of the man who wore it. It was the same bow tie that Mr. Kent wore for his portrait currently on view on the State Department website, a nod to both continuity and the fact that he was appearing in his professional capacity.
Our upper-class scribes are constantly spotting "authenticity" in those with whom they're aligned. As this dreamer allowed herself to dream, the possibly blue and yellow bow tie seemed to say something else:
FRIEDMAN (continuing directly): Some speculation had it that it was his good-luck bow tie. Or his power bow tie, depending. Either way, it was definitely a signature tie. Mr. Kent adopted a similar look—a paisley bow tie and matching pocket square—during his closed-door testimony on Oct. 15.Of course! The bow tie seemed to symbolize Kent's obvious authenticity. Not coincidentally, it also struck Friedman as "the opposite of the Trump tie." Thanks to the tie, she could see that Kent is highly authentic, and the opposite of Trump!
And, in its truncated shape, the opposite of the Trump tie, which is famously worn extending below the belt.
In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche describes the dreamer calling out to himself, "This is a dream! And I want to continue dreaming!" This is the way our political discourse has worked at least since the determined stereotyping of the four major candidates in Campaign 2000, with Candidates McCain and Bradley cast as straight-shooting truth-telling straight-talkers and the heinous Candidate gore cast as the man who had "a problem with the truth."
(Just for the record, the pundits could tell that Gore lacked authenticity because he was wearing earth tones! People are dead all over Iraq because they behaved that way.)
Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly and scribblers like this have to novelize. And sure enough! All over cable last night, our own tribe's hirelings were telling us stories designed to set hearts at ease.
One such story involved the moral purity of Kent and his fellow witness, William Taylor. To our eye and ear, the two men came across quite differently in yesterday's hearing, but no such thought was allowed to intrude on our tribe's cable reverie.
Nicholas Kristof even bought the package this morning, midway through a column containing some very constructive work:
KRISTOF (11/14/19): The first witnesses before the impeachment hearings were two distinguished foreign policy experts with a long commitment to public service and no history of partisanship. One, George Kent, noted that “there has been a George Kent sworn to defend the Constitution continuously for nearly 60 years.” And Ambassador William Taylor, a Vietnam veteran who was appointed acting ambassador to Ukraine by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, emphasized, “I am not here to take one side or the other, or to advocate for any particular outcome of these proceedings.”To Kristof, they were two of a kind. After the mandatory citation of Taylor's service in Vietnam, Kristof seemed to praise that statement by Kent—Kent's peculiar statement in praise of all the other George Kents.
As we pondered the nation's deadly tribal divide, Kent's statement struck us quite differently. As he began his opening statement, these were his more extensive remarks in praise of his excellent breeding:
KENT (11/13/19): Good morning. My name is George Kent, and I am the deputy assistant secretary of state for Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. I have served proudly as a nonpartisan career foreign service officer for more than 27 years under five presidents, three Republican and two Democrat.That was the speech of a Harvard graduate (class of 1989)—and, in its tone, of an old-school Eastern elite. In completely irrelevant manner, he praised the several generations of Taggarts and Kents, not failing to mention five great-uncles, his father's academic standing, and no aunts or mothers at all.
As I mentioned in my opening comments last month in the closed-door deposition, I represent the third generation of my family to have chosen a career in public service and sworn the Oath of Office that all U.S. public servants do in defense of our Constitution. Indeed, there has been a George Kent sworn to defend the Constitution continuously for nearly 60 years, ever since my father reported to Annapolis for his plebe summer.
After graduating first in his Naval Academy class in 1965, the year best known for his Heisman-winning classmate, Roger Staubach, my father served a full, honorable 30 years, including as a captain of a nuclear ballistic missile submarine during the height of the Cold War.
Five great-uncles served honorably in the Navy and the Army in World War II. In particular, Tom Taggart was stationed in the Philippines at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He survived the brutal Bataan Death March, and three and a half years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, unbroken. He returned to service as an Air Force judge advocate, upholding the rule of law until his death in 1965.
Like his bow tie, his genealogy served to identify Kent to many Americans, we'll guess in divergent ways. In our view, his speech in praise of his excellent breeding was completely unnecessary. In our view, so was the attitude and the manner we detected through the course of the day.
We'll guarantee you that many Trump supporters were quickly turned off by this guy. To us, he seemed the very embodiment of crusty old world upper-class self-admiration, in a way Ambassador Turner very much did not.
Kent and Taylor seemed very different to us. On liberal cable, they were two peas in a pod. To the Times fashion director, Kent's bow tie seemed to suggest his authenticity, and of course his difference from Trump.
By way of contrast, we'll guess that many Trump voters saw Kent as the essence of everything they don't trust about our eastern elites, sometimes called the deep state.
We thought his opening speech was strange, and a bit of a class offense. The fact that our cable helpers saw none of this is part of the era we live in.
We live in a deeply dangerous tribalized time. Our tribe is perhaps just a tiny bit blind, as of course is theirs.
For the record: They sold us this same silly twaddle at Vox. Just as a simple matter of fact, our tribe just isn't real sharp.