MONDAY, MARCH 27, 2023
A changing of the guard: An unusual exchange occurred on yesterday's Meet the Press.
The critique began with Peggy Noonan, then jumped to host Chuck Todd. At issue was the recent behavior of former president Donald J. Trump.
The night before, Trump had taken "the trip to Bountiful," substituting Waco as his actual set. On Meet the Press, this exchange occurred:
NOONAN (3/26/23): There's also, I think, there’s been a sense this week that you look at what he's doing, posing with a baseball bat, saying there may be violence, all this stuff. You look and you think, "Is this strategy or a public nervous breakdown?" You actually are not sure—
TODD: I'm not sure.
NOONAN: —of which. Look, I think, speaking in terms of tacky politics, he's trying to nail down and excite his base. Looks like he succeeded. Waco looked, last night, like he succeeded.
TODD: Cornell [Belcher], I'm actually with Peggy on this. I'm not sure if he's having a nervous breakdown, or if he thinks this is good politics...
This struck us as an unusual moment, mainstream analysis-wise.
To our ear, the suggestion that Trump may be "having a nervous breakdown" takes us surprisingly close to a forbidden idea. We refer to the idea that the former president's peculiar behavior should be analyzed in terms of psychology / psychiatry / mental illness.
Steadily, the upper-end mainstream press has always refused to go there. Given the primitive nature of our primitive nation's discourse, this reluctance may even be wise.
The first step down that analytical road would lead to many demented claims from the realm of psychiatry as a form of rebuttal. Still and all, here is David French's capsule account of what happened at Waco this time around:
FRENCH (3/27/23): Politicians are always tempted to pander, but rarely do you see such a complete abdication of anything approaching true moral or political leadership as what transpired at the Waco rally...[The rally] ended with an angry, albeit boilerplate Trump stump speech that was also littered with falsehoods.
And if you think for a moment that there’s any Trumpworld regret over the Jan. 6 insurrection, the rally provided a decisive response. At the beginning of Trump’s speech, he stood—hand over his heart—while he listened to a song called “Justice for All,” which he recorded with something called the “J6 Prison Choir,” a group of men imprisoned for storming the Capitol. The song consists of the choir singing the national anthem while Trump recites the Pledge of Allegiance.
It's amazing to think that there's some such group as the "J6 Prison Choir" at all. At Waco, their new record drop was played for the crowd as Trump stood by, hand over heart.
At least in its print editions, the New York Times hasn't provided a news report about the Waco event. On a journalistic basis, this strikes us as odd.
For better or worse, the paper doesn't just avoid discussions of the former's president's possible clinical state. At this point, the Times also seems reluctant to provide news reports about the various things the gentleman says and does.
Certain types of conventional sanity seem to be disappearing inside the tents of TrumpWorld. But as the former president behaves in such ways, how does our blue tribe respond?
We'd have to say that our own tribe's certified tribunes have been melting down as well. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our own tribe's moral and intellectual resources are severely limited.
The meltdowns within our own tribe strike us as troubling and deep. Tomorrow, we'll likely start with last Thursday's column for the Washington Post, in which liberal columnist Petula Dvorak turned to the oldest play in the 60s-era right-wing playbook.
Who is Petula Dvorak? For starters, she had the good sense to go to college in what was then the Pacific 10.
She graduated from Southern Cal in the class of 1992. In the fall semester of her senior year, she was editor of The Daily Trojan.
She's been a columnist at the Washington Post for the past fourteen years. Under the Post's current peculiar arrangements, her columns receive prominent placement in the paper's print editions, but are routinely hard to find in the dumbnified online Post.
In the column to which we refer, Dvorak turned to the ancient bromide in which those who disagree with the writer's infallible view of the world are invited to "Love it or leave it." We flashed on the advice the anguished Merle Haggard once offered in one of his most authoritarian songs:
If you don't love it, leave it
Let this song I'm singin' be a warnin'
When you're runnin' down my country, man
You're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.
"If you don't love it, leave it," Haggard once commanded. Dvorak offered a version of this advice in last Thursday's column.
Judged by journalistic norms, Dvorak's column was an incoherent mess. Increasingly, tribunes of our own blue tribe tend to play that way now.
At this point, we'll remind you of a basic fact. Nothing which gets said at this site is going to affect anything moving forward. We're offering pure anthropology now—anthropology all the way down.
As the week proceeds, we'll show you some of the embarrassing conduct performed by the tribunes of our own blue tribe. For example, did you ever think you'd see the day when Virginia Foxx (R-NC) would make more sense in a committee hearing than the embarrassing Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)?
We never thought we'd see that either. Over the weekend, we did!
(Meanwhile, how about this frequently cited post by PEN America? Unless there's something we're totally missing, that's an embarrassment too!)
Former president Donald J. Trump may be having a nervous breakdown! On the other hand, the dumbness within our own blue tribe has been mammoth and virtually endless, as has been our tribe's inability to see ourselves as we are.
The dumbness of our most trusted tribunes has been mammoth and virtually endless. To us, this seems like the wrong approach as the prospect of war moves along.
The sheer stupidity is everywhere now. It has even crossed our mind that a changing of the guard may be underway.
Could it be that the yahoos, even the rednecks, may turn out to be Us? At a time like this, top experts aver, it will be extremely hard for us to see such truths about our own infallible tribe.
Tomorrow: "There are options these folks might consider!"