WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 6, 2021
Lessons in building a Babel: Does Donald J. Trump believe the various things he's been saying? Does he believe the various things he said in last Saturday's phone call?
We can't answer your questions. That said, deep within the cable guild which almost wholly prevails in Our Town, one reliable overpaid pundit said that he actually does:
HEILEMANN (1/4/20): He clearly has come to believe more than he did months ago, back in like middle of November, he's clearly come to believe more, and reporting suggests that this is true, that he really actually believes these conspiracy theories now.
This is not just a political ploy. He believes the craziest of the conspiracy theories now.
On the one hand, who knows what this man might do, in the next two weeks, if he's that disordered? Might he start a war, then attempt to declare martial law?
We don't know if he'll do that. But if he's as crazy as he seems, who can swear that he won't?
There's another way in which it matters if Trump is so disordered that he really believes his claims. Quite a few legal experts have noted the following point. Indeed, Rick Hasen did so on that same Deadline White House program:
If Trump really believes that the Georgia election is being stolen, then it's much less clear that he may have committed some state or federal crime during that telephone call.
If Trump believes his disordered claims, he isn't asking state officials to engage in an act of fraud. Instead, he's asking them to do their jobs—to stop taking part in the conspiracy by which the election was stolen.
Thus spake Hasen on Deadline White House; others have made the same point. Needless to say, this point is being completely ignored within the highly scripted cable world which has long prevailed in Our Town.
Lock him up! our sachems have cried, borrowing directly from Trump. On Monday, these pundits spilled onto cable TV, renewing this sacred war cry.
Briefly, though, let's be fair! Before they described their plans to lock him up, they offered their mafia citations.
In our view, Chris Cuomo has almost completely fallen apart under the stress of the Trump years. Here are some of his remarks, made in the first few minutes of Monday night's TV show:
CUOMO (1/4/20): Put a pinky ring on this guy's little hand. He is nothing but a mob boss.
He has no proof of any of that. He offered no proof of any of that, but it's going to be costly. Is he going to sleep with the fishes? Scorsese never had a more obvious malefactor in his films.
But the Re-Trump-licans, they're just pawns to a garrulous gangster. He even gave them mobby nicknames, right? "Lyin' Ted," "Little Marco."
Sadly, it's true. Cuomo has become so childish that he now routinely uses the term "Re-Trump-licans" as part of his news presentation.
(We're taking the term straight from the CNN transcript. Also, note the "little hand" dish.)
Meanwhile, back when Trump was childishly referring to Lyin' Ted and Little Marco, did anyone think or say, even once, that this sounded like "mobby" behavior?
We're prepared to assume that the answer is no. But pundits knew, during Monday's shows, that such references had to be offered. On Deadline White House, Heilemann quickly said this about the tape of the telephone call:
"As Carol said, the mafia don thing—and that Andrew talked about—that is very much there."
In this instant remark, Heilemann joined Nicolle Wallace's two other guests in emitting the "mafia" whistle (Carol Leonnig, Andrew Weissmann). On Monday afternoon and evening, pleasing whistles of this type were proof that a pundit belonged.
The cable clatter this Monday was very deeply scripted. We kept flashing back to 1999 and 2000, when every (mainstream) pundit knew that allusion had to be made to the lying and the dishonesty of reviled Candidate Gore. Also, his heinous clothes!
(Children are dead all over Iraq because these idiots did this. They continued their whistles about Hillary Clinton until they got Trump elected.)
According to Heilemann, Trump actually believes that he's being defrauded, but he's acting like a mafia don when he complains about this to two of the malefactors! This may not exactly make perfect sense, but since both claims involve mocking denunciation of Trump, the logic won't be parsed.
No questions will ever be asked. Chuckling will be allowed, even as we say we have no idea what this man might do.
American discourse has functioned this way for a good many years. In our view, behavior like this provides obvious lessons in ways to build a Babel.
Last evening's (apparent) double win reflected a different kind of conduct. As we noted a few weeks ago, Stacey Abrams did something in the past decade which no one ever does.
In the past several years, Stacey Abrams rolled up her sleeves and actually accomplished something. This is almost never done at this particular point in time. In this age of cable Babel, you never see anyone do this!
Tomorrow, we'll talk about Raphael Warnock. He also accomplished something last night—and in his remarks, he showed a strong inclination to tear down the walls within our growing Babel.
For today, we'll direct your attention to those who cried, "Lock him up." They seemed aware of no other way to approach our very large national problem. We'll also mention Neal Katyal, who wants to see Trump re-impeached.
Yes, it's actually true! While Lawrence was urging Fulton County's new D.A. to bring criminal charges against Trump, Katyal was saying that Trump should be impeached all over again.
His column was published by the New York Times. With two weeks to go in Donald Trump's term, Katyal says we should just impeach him all over again. Also, we should do this:
KATYAL AND KOPPLEMAN (1/4/20): In 2008, a young member of the Judiciary Committee said, “The business of high crimes and misdemeanors goes to the question of whether or not the person serving as president of the United States put their own interests, their personal interests, ahead of public service.” That congressman’s name was Mike Pence—and he was exactly right.
We need to convict President Trump and make sure he can never call the White House home again.
Given the rules of the game, on what planet could this highly disordered commander-in-chief be impeached and convicted? Meanwhile, to what extent would we be building higher walls within our Babel as this endeavor took place?
Over the past several years, the cable TV on view in Our Town has been dominated by the legal beagles. They own one hammer—the spotting of crimes—and they keep driving their nails.
This group is astoundingly single-minded; watching them, we've occasionally thought that we finally knew why our prisons seem to be full of innocent people. Also, their projections as cable pundits are extremely poor.
They spent the better part of two years swearing that the sainted Mueller would soon be locking him up. He already has the tax records, they told us night after night after night.
They entertained and pleased us this way for a couple of years. Then, the real Mueller emerged.
According to major anthropologists, we humans are wired this way. We're wired to split ourselves into tribes, then to march off to war with The Others.
We're wired to construct tribal realms within the walls of our Babel. Each tribe will speak to itself, and to no one else, until we finally get our war.
Last night, the newly-elected Senator Warnock gave voice to a different idea.
Tomorrow: What Warnock said