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!"


  1. tl;dr

    "To our ear, the suggestion that Trump may be "having a nervous breakdown" takes us surprisingly close to a forbidden idea."

    Is it the "forbidden idea" that Ten Percent is 100% demented?

    Ha-ha, just kidding. Never mind, dear Bob, keep it on.

    ...we know, TDS is a very serious condition... probably incurable, irreversible, in your case... we sympathize...

    1. Dear screwball, the nutcase Bob
      is talking about stares back from
      your mirror, if you can stand to
      look into one.

    2. Yes, Bob is a nutcase. But he’s not talking about any stares, certainly not about stares back from Mao’s mirror.

  2. Anybody remember Bob ever registering any particular shock
    or distain over January 6th?
    I sure don’t. Trump’s “disordered”
    behavior in office (sheepishly
    signed off on my his party)
    started with claims that he was
    the popular vote in 2016. I
    don’t think Bob had ever
    mentioned it.
    And here again, now and
    forever, his crude ugliness must
    be measured against an anti
    Trump newspaper column or
    some such bullshit Bob doesn’t
    like. Or maybe the left is worse,
    because they aren’t struggling
    with terrible mental problems.
    Different day, same sad BS
    from Bob.

  3. Why is it an embarrassment for PEN America to point out 176 books that were banned in Duval County FL? Seems to me the book banners should be embarrassed, not those on the left who link to this list.

    1. @10:08 I suspect it is an embarrassment because the books may not have actually been banned.
      D in C

    2. Do you actually know that? The link is to a series of books that are biographies for children, all banned according to the publisher.

    3. PEN has a qualifying correction at the top of the article, saying it’s uncertain when, how long, and why the books were banned. But they were still banned. Somerby plays his fanboys for suckers.

  4. I doubt many people on the left think Trump is having a nervous breakdown. His rally in Waco was just like his previous campaign rallies. His ego is too well-defended for him to admit the full depth of what is happening to him, which is why he cannot and will not admit the truth. Given that he won't accept the truth, why should he have a breakdown? A person having a breakdown wouldn't have been able to hold such a rally.

    So this is all goofy nonsense on Somerby's part. He has no idea about what the terms he throws around mean and he is telling lies about Trump.

  5. As usual, Somerby uses the last portion of today's essay to tell us how dumb we are, without any evidence, nothing to explain why he thinks so. That makes what he says just name-calling. We are just supposed to accept that we are awful because Somerby says so.

    Why does he waste his time writing this crap?

    1. Think about how dumb your comments are.

    2. Again, no specifics. Just more name-calling.

    3. The conceit that criticism of Democratic aligned media is support for Democratic opponents is dumb. Everything you write is dumb because everything you write involves that conceit.

    4. ‘Democratic aligned media’…if such a thing existed, your argument might make sense.

    5. That's another dumb comment.

    6. The fact that you believe that media outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, or MSNBC are ‘democratic aligned’ is what is dumb.

    7. They are not aligned with any party? MSNBC isn't aligned with Democrats?

    8. Maybe, being a Democrat, I don't agree with Somerby's criticism of so-called Democratic-aligned media, especially when they are based on the gender or alma mater of the journalist or the fact that other guests on the same show agree with the host, or similar fatuous nonsense that has nothing to do with what the media person is actually saying.

      But Somerby makes it very clear at the end of each essay that he isn't only criticizing the media but also us liberals who watch those supposed "liberal tribunes" as he calls the media. It is Somerby who conflates the two, not me or the other viewers. I know the difference between my own political views and those of media, but Somerby apparently does not.

      Notice how Somerby shifts from the media, to the tribunes, to Us in the following paragraph:

      "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."

      It isn't me making that equation, but Somerby himself, explicitly. Who else does he mean when he refers to "us" and "our blue tribe"?

      But you are also arguing that Somerby doesn't support the red tribe. I have continually pointed out the ways in which he does that. If you choose to disagree, fine, but don't pretend I haven't described the memes and Republican view points that Somerby keeps promoting and supporting here.

      Today, equating Trump's rally with The Trip to Bountiful is an example of putting a positive spin on Trump's courtship of the violent right who have martyred Kouresh and his followers who died at Waco. Bountiful indeed!

    9. You're described the memes and Republican view points - but dumbly. Very dumbly. And always without a basis. Always. This is my point.

    10. You are entitled to your opinion. You will get farther convincing others if you learn to express your disagreement by pointing out the lack of basis or can explain what you think is dumb. Otherwise you are just name-calling and that doesn't convince anyone of anything except your inability to discuss a topic coherently.

      Do you find what happened at Waco to be in any way similar to a nostalgia for small-town life in Bountiful TX? If not, why do you think Somerby used that reference? Do you think Waco is NOT a right-wing anti-government meme? Why not? And why do you think Trump would choose to hold his first rally there?

      Why doesn't Somerby criticize the Waco choice instead of evoking Bountiful? Why does he focus only on the left here, while whitewashing Trump and the right?

    11. That Waylon sure is dumb.

    12. "They are not aligned with any party? MSNBC isn't aligned with Democrats?"

      First, objective observers of the media consider MSNBC to be part of the mainstream media, not leftist. Second, there is a diversity of opinions on the left and it would be hard for MSNBC to align with all of them when they are divergent and critical of each other (see fights between progressives, liberals and centrists). Which left would MSNBC be aligned with? Third, MSNBC does not describe itself that way either, when they advertise and state their goals and mission statements. They see themselves as unbiased journalism. Fourth, the left doesn't consider MSNBC to be its mouthpiece or affiliate. Many on the left are as critical as Somerby, albeit for their own leftist reasons (not Somerby's right-wing criticisms). Fifth, there is not the same message-discipline and unity in promoting talking points as exists at Fox News or among Republicans at MSNBC. At MSNBC, hosts appear to try to say different things from each other, to not repeat, whereas that doesn't happen at Fox, which is the right-wing aligned media source explicitly and by design.

      If the media were aligned with the left, why did it keep harping on inflation during Biden's first two years? Why did it publish and promote attack pieces on Hillary during her campaign for the presidency, such as her emails, the Clinton Cash book, suggestions that she was corruptly selling access while Sec of State, Comey's letter, and so on? No one promoting the left would have treated its own candidate that way.

      This has all been said here before by various commenters. Why are YOU unwilling to accept the left's own opinions about how it regards MSNBC, but willing to accept Somerby's mischaracterization despite the objections of people here?

    13. At 12:04, I think the point you make is that MSNBC has liberals as it’s target audience over the years (though this shifts) but liberals actually get a dubious shake out of the mainstream press on balance, as they do with the corporate press as a whole. That’s how liberals come to believe a bigoted, often reactionary putz like Bill Maher is on their side.

    14. Why would the Bountiful reference not be to Trump's deranged state of mind surrounding the visit? Revisiting a lovely place that isn't there anymore. Really, you can't be this dumb. You must just be a troll.

    15. Accept that the old lady in the movie is not deranged. She just doesn’t know the town is no longer there. When she does get there, and realizes that it’s gone, she’s able to accept the truth. How does this relate to Trump, Waylon?

    16. You're just trolling. I hope for your sake!

    17. What are you doing here, Waylon?

    18. Right, MSNBC, which gives one of the most offensive republican ex-congressman a 4 hour block every day of the week, just recently hired republican ex-governor from Ohio as part of it's team, has Nicole Wallace with a daily in two hour show every day, has freaking former RNC chairman Michael Steele everywhere it seems, and on and on it goes.

    19. Anonymouse 3:07pm, don’t forget the hair model, Joe Scarborough.

      CNN beat MSNBC to Adam Kinzinger.

      Of course, CNN also employs the stalwart Republican, Ana Navarro.

      George Will is a columnist for the Washington Post and does commentary for NBC News and MSNBC.

      David Brooks is with the New York Times

      It’s exciting. Americans can get the gamut of conservatism from A to A1/2.

    20. @Cecelia at 4:04 PM,

      We hardly ever read (even less likely to watch) dembot media.

      Question: is there anyone among them who is not a TDS sufferer? Do you have one single name for us?


    21. It's the age-old philosophy question:
      If you put your fingers in your ears and chant "Nah, nah, nah nah, I can't hear you", do Republican voters calling GOP politicians who don't toe the party line "a RINO" make a sound?

    22. Cecelia.
      From punching down on the marginalized, to giving GIANT tax cuts to corporations and the rich, the Republican Party is quite the Big Tent of ideas.

    23. Anonymouse flying monkey 4:28pm, you’re right, but for the wrong reasons.

    24. Anonymouse 4:26pm, you don’t know what happened?

    25. Mao, that’s the job description.

    26. What is the Right going to do about it, make a good faith argument?
      I'll take my chances.

    27. What happened, Cecelia?

    28. Cecelia doesn't realize that the former Republican congressman with the four-hour slot mentioned by 3:07 IS Joe Scarborough. How can this seriously be called left-aligned media?

    29. It just shows where the republican head is at now. George Will is not conservative enough. They need a little more of the ultra-violence promoted by the probable republican candidate for president.

    30. Cecelia and Waylon are morons that think neoliberals aren’t right wing. Actually I can recall not long ago Cecelia hadn’t a clue what neoliberal really means.

      Hilariously, Somerby attacks corporate, neoliberal media for being too woke! Brother, please. If only they were such.

      It’s possible that Somerby is a complete moron, but unlikely, since his blog had a lurch to the right years ago, and the general thrust of his blog now is to repeat right wing talking points while disparaging effective strategies for progressives.

  6. "The night before, Trump had taken "the trip to Bountiful," substituting Waco as his actual set."

    In the film versions of The Trip to Bountiful, an elderly woman visits her childhood home in Bountiful TX, against the wishes of her grown children. She escapes them and makes her way there anyway.

    Why does Somerby grab this reference and apply it to Trump when it manifestly has nothing to do with Trump except being about a place in Texas (certainly not Waco)? First, it is about an elderly woman, not a man. Second, it is about returning to small town roots in TX. Trump is not from TX and he didn't grow up in a small town, and he doesn't hold any of the nostalgic values about such a place, having grown up as the son of a wealthy slumlord in Jamaica Estates, Queens, NY. Third, no one was forbidding Trump to go there, he defied no one -- there are no adult children trying to rain on Trump's parade. And Trump certainly didn't make his way there alone. He had a lot of help getting to waco.

    So why does Somerby pluck this stupid, inappropriate reference out of thin air? Geraldine Page sings annoying hymns all day. Donald doesn't do that, but boy howdy! Somerby certainly does!

    1. Some people liked The Trip to Bountiful and might resent having it applied to Trump this way. It is disrespectful to those who made that film to use it for political purposes which the audience who loved that film may not share.

  7. ""If you don't love it, leave it," Haggard once commanded. Dvorak offered a version of this advice in last Thursday's column."

    The column in question is behind a paywall. Somerby wastes time describing Merle Haggard's song instead of quoting the relevant part of Dvorak's column, so that his readers can see what she actually said. That's how he puts his thumb on the scales these days. We are meant to take Somerby's word for what Dvorak said, just take his word for how stupid liberals are, take his word for everything -- no effort is made today to convince us of anything, even how stupid we ourselves are in his eyes.

    Merle Haggard, of course, was not talking about any of the issues that Dvorak discussed. He would make no implied endorsement of Somerby's opinions, despite having his words ripped out of the context of their original song and applied to a dispute about education. That too is how Somerby puts his thumb on the scales. Our warm fuzzy feelings about Merle Haggard's music, along with that Trip to Bountiful, are recruited in service of justify the right wing, whether the authors of those works agree with Somerby's purposes or not. But we liberals are the stupid ones.

    If you find this type of argument compelling, you deserve Somerby and you deserve another helping of the shit Trump shovelled in Waco. Send in your campaign contributions pronto or Trump won't be able to afford to put on another show or entertain another celebrity at Mar a Lago. Meanwhile Somerby runs the rubes for Trump, without asking for a cent -- or does he?

    1. And for context, something Somerby abhors, Haggard apologized for his early bigoted songs such as the one Somerby quotes.

      If Somerby were drowning and someone threw him some integrity as a life saver, he would refuse it and drown.

  8. Another comment that took me some time to write has now been deleted. I suppose it was became I used the same words Somerby did, to show how the definition of r*dn*ck includes "politically reactionary" and thus logically cannot be applied to liberals. But I don't know for sure why some comments are disappeared here.

    1. Sorry you are getting screwed with, it’s happened to me. It’s why I stopped signing posts.

    2. Face it, this is a lousy blog.

    3. If you don’t love it, leave it.

    4. Anonymouse 1:44pm, anonymouses don’t hate the country, they merely hate almost half of its people.

    5. Yeah, the country is fine. Fertile farmland, beautiful lakes and rivers, tremendous mineral resources. Without the GOP, it would be a second Paradise.

    6. Cecelia, speaking for myself, I only hate con artists like Somerby, Trump, Republican legislators and religious leaders. I don't hate the rubes. Somerby does though, and he really hates liberals. Wonder why...

    7. @6:23, with the GOP, farmland is less fertile, those beautiful lakes and rivers are polluted, stripped of fish and game, run dry from diverting too much water to agriculture, the mineral resources are depleted and extraction allowed to pollute rivers and sources of irrigation for farmlands, and then we are forced to rely on the resources of less profligate countries. We've all seen this happen, so why do we keep electing these guys?

    8. There is a lot of hate in this country, but it’s exclusively from the Right, as made obvious by their relentless need to oppress and take away our rights, all while being ridiculously servile to the wealthy and corporations.

  9. Nichole Wallace isn’t leading with Trump Trump Trump! Today, as school shooting in Nashville kills six.
    Good day to recall Bob’s taunting disgust
    aimed at the Parking surviving kids who
    formed an anti gun movement. Those
    miserable spoiled brats, was basically
    Bob’s response.
    Bob is hardly a good, decent person.

    1. Thoughts and prayers, Cecelia. We all know how PRECIOUS your children are to all you gun fetishists. Three nine year old children.

    2. Anonymouse 5:22pm, I don’t have a gun fetish, I have legally obtained and registered guns.

    3. You have a gun fetish.

    4. Anyone who owns guns and also has kids doesn't love children as much as their guns. Those guns are the major cause of death for children, accidental or not (as in these school shootings).

      The first step to child-proofing your home is to get rid of the guns. The first step to stopping those school shootings is to make sure your teens cannot get access to guns. You cannot claim to be a responsible gun owner and have guns anywhere in a house with children you care about.

      And Republicans are the ones who won't vote in favor of child-safety features on guns, even though they allow child-safety caps on prescription medicines and household cleaners. Cecelia, you are not respected here, but this assertion takes the cake.

      And if you were not a parent but kept guns around your home, you would still be responsible for the neighbors kids, burglars who target households with guns, and the toddlers of visitors to your home, if not your own misguided teen mass killer (who claims to have gotten guns from grandparent homes, if not a local Walmart).

      You cannot look at the stats and say the stupid things you do about child safety and the guns you own.

    5. Anonymouse 6:48pm, my daughter actually used guns as her teddy bear.

    6. My nephew uses CRT as his whiffle ball bat.

    7. The Right doesn't care about children. The Right cares that LGBTQ+ people have equality.

    8. Cecelia, that is the kind of thing that should get you reported to child protective services.