FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2022
Paul Simon lives alone: Long ago and far away, Meredith Willson called his shot.
Willson was author of The Music Man, a smash hit Broadway musical and then, in 1962, an Oscar-nominated film.
The Music Man told the story of Professor Harold Hill, an itinerant con man at the turn of the 20th century.
He cons the people of River City into buying trombones for their kids. But how would the children ever learn to play their new trombones?
Learning to play would be no problem, the alleged professor said:
[Professor Hill] incites concern among River City's parents that their boys are being seduced into sin and vice by the town's new pool table. He convinces them that a marching band is the only way to keep boys out of trouble, and begins collecting money for the band.
Hill tells the boys to learn to play via the "Think System," in which they simply have to think of a tune over and over and will know how to play it without ever practicing on their instruments.
Hill's con is nearly complete: all he has to do is collect the rest of the money and disappear.
In the end, the phony professor's "Think System" pretty much seems to work! But this is the happy ending to a Broadway musical, not a slice of real life.
Professor Hill extolled the think system—and so now has Donald J. Trump! On Wednesday night, he told Sean Hannity how his particular version of Professor Hill's system works.
At one point, Hannity asked Trump about the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. This exchange occurred:
HANNITY (9/21/22): You have said on Truth Social, a number of times, you did declassify [the documents in question]. Is there a process? What was your process to declassify?
TRUMP: It doesn't have to be a process, as I understand it. You know, there's different people say different things. But as I understand, there doesn't have to be.
If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it's declassified—even by thinking about it. Because you're sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you're sending it. And there doesn't have to be a process. There can be a process, but there doesn't have to be.
You're the president. You make that decision. So when you send it, it's declassified. I declassified everything.
So it goes with this new iteration of Professor Hill's "Think System."
Most experts say that Trump's presentation makes no sense, or is simply wrong as a matter of established procedure. We did see Bradley Moss say, on Thursday evening's Last Word, that there might be a tiny germ of truth to what Trump said in that passage.
Alas! Our systems are all so complexified that it seems to be very hard to ever make a definitive statement about pretty much anything. Beyond that, it's hard to explain how anything works, and few people really try.
At any rate, most people agree that Trump's version of the "Think System" doesn't make sense, or is just flatly wrong. At any rate, it started out as a joke in The Music Man—and now it's a part of world news, bannered across the top of A1 along with Putin's threat to use Mother Russia's nukes.
That said, Trump continued to talk that night. It seems to us that his next presentation was considerably stranger.
Why did the FBI conduct its search of Mar-a-Lago? Even with Hannity trying to help, Trump proceeded to offer this:
TRUMP: There’s also a lot of speculation, because of what they did, the severity of the FBI coming in, raiding Mar-a-Lago—
Were they looking for the Hillary Clinton emails that were deleted but they are around someplace? Were they looking for the spying on Trump's—
HANNITY: Wait, wait. You're not saying you had it?
TRUMP: No, no. They may be saying—they may have thought that it was in there. And a lot of people said the only thing that would give the kind of severity that they showed by actually coming in and raiding with many, many people is the Hillary Clinton deal, the Russia, Russia, Russia stuff, or I mean there are a number of things.
Does this presentation make any sense? The FBI went to Mar-a-Lago hoping to find Hillary Clinton's deleted emails?
At moments like these, we're inclined to despair for the republic, such as it has been. We don't even begin to understand what Trump's speculation might mean. But the apparent craziness of this presentation has occasioned little comment.
We've been asking a question for some time: Is something "wrong with" Donald J. Trump? Every once in a while, he says something which seems to make no earthly sense, even as an absurdly strained attempt at self-justification.
In what way could Hillary Clinton's deleted emails have been present at Mar-a-Lago? We don't have any idea what this could mean—and neither, it seemed, did the frustrated Hannity.
At times like these, we'll admit it. We're inclined to give up.
Maintaining a large continental nation requires the establishment of a delicate balance. This is especially true when the large nation in question involves a wide array of identity groups, a project that's dear to the hearts of our blue tribe at the present time.
(At one time, we liberals emphasized sameness. Now we emphasize difference.)
Beyond that, the development of new technologies has made this task much more difficult here in our staggering nation. Crazy statements are quite widespread, and our human discernment is limited.
Is something "wrong with" Donald J. Trump—whether with his "mental health" or with his basic cognition?
Our press corps has agreed that such questions must never be asked. Also, our upper-end press corps works on a level where presentations like this are somehow believed to make sense:
ROBERTS (9/22/22): Saul Kripke, a math prodigy and pioneering logician whose revolutionary theories on language qualified him as one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers, died on Sept. 15 in Plainsboro, N.J. He was 81.
Professor Kripke’s classic work, “Naming and Necessity,” first published in 1972 and drawn from three lectures he delivered at Princeton University in 1970 before he was 30, was considered one of the century’s most evocative philosophical books.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, writing in The New York Times Magazine in 1977, said Professor Kripke had “introduced ways to distinguish kinds of true statements—between statements that are ‘possibly’ true and those that are ‘necessarily’ true.”
“In Professor Kripke’s analysis,” he continued, “a statement is possibly true if and only if it is true in some possible world—for example, ‘The sky is blue’ is a possible truth, because there is some world in which the sky could be red. A statement is necessarily true if it is true in all possible worlds, as in ‘The bachelor is an unmarried man.’ ”
For more detail, see yesterday's report. That said:
According to the New York Times, the late Saul Kripke is recognized as one of the 20th century's most important philosophers because he noted the fact that, while the sky is blue in our world, there is some world in which the sky could be red.
That's why Kripke is so important. At the very top of our upper-end press, such reasoning is presented as if it actually makes sense.
This seems to be the best we can do; this seems to be all we have. We think of the glum closing line in the upbeat yet gloomy album, Graceland:
"That's why we must learn to live alone."
The post-war project which failed: The Music Man was one in a series of major musicals of the post-war era in which a certain type of man was returned to the human race by the intervention of a woman with better human values.
The Music Man, The Sound of Music? Gigi, My Fair Lady, The King and I? In these smash-hit musicals, various types of domineering men are humanized by their recognition of, and adoption of, stereotypical "women's values."
These leading men were humanized by their leading women. It's a post-frontier project we'd strongly endorse, but it doesn't quite seem to have worked.