Category Archives: Character

Pundits execute pincer movement on Trump & GOP

E.J. Dionne, on a visit to Columbia in 2011.

E.J. Dionne, on a visit to Columbia in 2011.

They’re closing in from the left and right.

E.J. Dionne went further than he has to date in a piece headlined, “The Republican Party has lost its soul.” An excerpt:

Let’s focus on the most revealing aspect of this week’s turmoil within a party now aghast over the unstable egotist at the top of its ticket.

Trump could falsely claim that Obama was born abroad, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call Mexican immigrants “rapists,” but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could lie repeatedly — about, for example, whether he had met Vladimir Putin and whether he had opposedthe Iraq War — but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could make degrading comments about women and mock people with disabilities, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him.

No, it seems, all this and more were sufficiently within the bounds of acceptability for House Speaker Paul Ryan to tell delegates to the Republican National Convention that “only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance at a better way.”

So what really set off the crisis in the Republican Party this week? Trump suddenly became unacceptable because, in an interview with Philip Rucker of The Post, he refused to endorse Ryan and John McCain in their Republican primaries.

No matter what Trump said, Reince Priebus, the Republican national chairman, was willing to bow and scrape before Trump for months in trying to pull the party together behind him. Now, and only now, is Priebus reported to be “furious” and “apoplectic” at Trump. The message: Trump can say anything he wants about women, the disabled, Mexicans and Muslims, but how dare The Donald cause any trouble for Priebus’s friend Paul Ryan?

The corruption of a once-great political party is now complete….

Attacking simultaneously from the right, George Will wrote that “Trump’s shallowness runs deep.” An excerpt from that:

His speeches are, of course, syntactical train wrecks, but there might be method to his madness. He rarely finishes a sentence (“Believe me!” does not count), but perhaps he is not the scatterbrain he has so successfully contrived to appear. Maybe he actually is a sly rascal, cunningly in pursuit of immunity through profusion.

George Will

George F. Will

He seems to understand that if you produce a steady stream of sufficiently stupefying statements, there will be no time to dwell on any one of them, and the net effect on the public will be numbness and ennui. So, for example, while the nation has been considering his interesting decision to try to expand his appeal by attacking Gold Star parents, little attention has been paid to this: Vladimir Putin’s occupation of Crimea has escaped Trump’s notice.

It is, surely, somewhat noteworthy that someone aspiring to be this nation’s commander in chief has somehow not noticed the fact that for two years now a sovereign European nation has been being dismembered. But a thoroughly jaded American public, bemused by the depths of Trump’s shallowness, might have missed the following from Trump’sappearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

When host George Stephanopoulos asked, “Why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?” — removing the call for providing lethal weapons for Ukraine to defend itself — Trump said: “[Putin’s] not going into Ukraine, okay? Just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.”

Stephanopoulos: “Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?”…

I deeply appreciate Will’s efforts recently to try to focus our attention on international affairs, and Trump’s utter and complete lack of preparedness or inclination to properly address them.

Sure, you can dismiss my friend E.J. as a consummate liberal, and wave away Will as a supercilious snob who doesn’t think Trump’s supporters are of the right sort.

So how about something closer to home? Check out this piece by a South Carolinian who has long admired Pat Buchanan, which is as conservative — as down-home, no-frills, paleoconservative — as anyone can get. Jeff Quinton writes:

Trump is wholly unqualified for the job of president. On top of that, his character is so fundamentally flawed that he cannot be trusted. On the character issue, I feel the same way about Hillary Clinton so I will not be voting for her either.

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton

As a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the military, I will not vote for Trump based on national security and foreign policy issues. As a former soldier, Trump’s assurances that the troops will follow his orders, even if they are illegal ones to target civilians just because he says so are troubling. Trump’s vow to violate our treaty obligations to NATO are a major problem as well. I have concerns about Trump and his campaign manager’s connections to the Russian government—whether it was the Republican platform plank that hangs Ukraine out to dry or the Russian connections to Trump corporate finances. That doesn’t include the investigation of the DNC email leaks and where that might lead. Another foreign policy issue that bothers me relates to immigration and religious intolerance.

Trump’s immigration policies play to the basest fears in society. Whether it is his proposed Muslim ban or his criticisms of Pope Francis, it brings out the worst in his supporters online. From Ann Coulter tweeting that the Founding Fathers were right to distrust Catholics to Trump’s own proposal to keep a registry of Muslims in the country, it reminds me of one of the worst parts of American history for religious freedom—the Know Nothing era.

Trump’s appeals to the “alt-right” are nothing but a dog whistle for the fringes of the Republican Party. I have seen them get caught up in questionable conspiracy theories. They post about “false flag” theories after mass shootings that were supposedly were arranged in support of gun control. Jewish critics of Trump have been threatened and ridiculed for daring to question anything the man says. Polls show self-identifying evangelical Christians largely support him—a fact that leaves many observers scratching their heads.

As a faithful Catholic, I have also been active in the pro-life movement both locally and nationally. I do not trust Donald Trump’s pandering on pro-life issues. Being around the conservative movement in Washington for the past few years, I should not have been surprised to see so many conservatives and pro-lifers in the capital who were dead set against Trump in the primaries roll over for him as soon as he became the presumptive nominee. It is about nothing but being team players for access, power, and fundraising purposes….

And so forth. Go read the whole thing at The Daily Beast.

As a lagniappe, I’ll close with this, the first in a series of seven Tweets from Bill Kristol yesterday:

Graham, McCain on Trump and the Khans

Khan

OK, vacation’s over and I’m back in the saddle, and we are in mid-outrage over the latest deeply offensive nonsense from Donald Trump. And, as is so often the case, the most pointed criticism is coming from leading members of the party that nominated him week before last for POTUS:

Already, the party’s leaders in the House and the Senate have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks, and other Republican figures are attacking their nominee forcefully.
Sen. John McCain issue a very personal statement Mondaay blasting Trump’s comments about the Khans and paying homage to their son Humayun’s sacrifice. McCain noted that his son also served in the Iraq War and the McCains have been serving in the US military for hundreds of years.

“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party,” McCain said. “While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.

“Lastly, I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said in a statement: “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen. There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics — that you don’t do — like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”

“If you’re going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism. Mr. Trump can’t,” Graham said. “The problem is, ‘unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”…

As I noted last week (you’ll recall that I did spend most of my evenings blogging despite being on holiday, because I’m just that kinda guy), a lot of the Democratic Convention consisted of fare and themes we normally get from the Republicans — upbeat “Morning in America” patriotism, appeals to fundamental, traditional American values and the like.

Which has to be eating at Sens. McCain and Graham almost as much as anything else. Their values used to be what their party was all about. In recent years, that’s been changing, as ideological loonies have been squeezing them out. It was happening already in 2008, which is why I wrote this column, “Give me that old-time conservatism.” In 2012, the “base” (can an insurgency be called “the base?” Oh, yeah, I guess it can) reluctantly settled for the sane Mitt Romney after spending much of the primary season flitting from one extreme to another.

And this year, of course, it went screaming off the rails, which is why people such as McCain, Graham, Romney, John Kasich and the Bushes did not attend their party’s convention.

Cindi Scoppe’s Gonzales Award acceptance speech

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn't ideal...

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn’t ideal…

Yesterday, as I mentioned, was my day for awards ceremonies. The best, for me, was the one at The State at which Associate Editor Cindi Scoppe received the paper’s Gonzales Award (named for the paper’s first editor, who was shot and killed on Main Street by the lieutenant governor in 1903).

It was the second time she had received the award, having gotten it in 1999 as well.

Bud Ferillo, Bob McAlister and I had written letters supporting her nomination, which is why we were there.

The work for which Cindi was honored took place during her first months alone, as the last remaining member of the editorial department. (There were once nine of us.) I addressed the significance of that in my letter supporting her:

When it comes to cold, dispassionate, hard-eyed assessment of South Carolina government and politics, no one touches Cindi Scoppe. Not in 2014, and not in 2015, either.

But in 2015, she did something else as well. She grew. She still did everything she had always done, the stuff no one else could do, but she added a couple of new ingredients: Heart and Soul.

There was a time when she didn’t have to do that sort of writing, and that comforted her. She liked being, in her own assessment, the board’s “Designated Mean Bitch.” When empathy and violins were called for, she was more than happy to let other associate editors “resonate” with the proper emotion for the moment – and some of them were really good at it. She would stick to the hard stuff.

But by mid-2015, there were no other associate editors. Warren Bolton – an ordained minister who could speak to the heart as well as anyone who had ever served on the board – left in the spring, and by June, Cindi was alone….

That sort of sets up what Cindi had to say in her acceptance speech. Here it is, shorn of some personal acknowledgments at the beginning:

The day after Dylann Roof slaughtered those nine innocents, Bertram Rantin stopped by my office to chat. I probably said I knew I needed to write something about the massacre but I had no idea what to say. Because what our community needed, what our state needed was not policy prescriptions but emotion and understanding. What was needed was RESONATING. And I don’t do resonating.

And Bertram said, you know, we used to have two people who could speak to this sort of situation. And isn’t it ironic that this would happen just weeks after we lost both Warren Bolton and Carolyn Click.

We talked some more about other things, and he left, but his words stayed in my head. And at some point, I realized that I had to step up to the task. I realized, as Brad wrote in his letter supporting my nomination, that I had to grow. I had to become a writer I had not been willing to.

Three thousand years ago, when God wondered aloud who he could send to speak to his people, the prophet Isaiah answered saying “Here am I, send me.” I think that’s one of the coolest passages in the Bible. Christians and Jews see that as a great act of faith. But it could also be seen as an act of dedication, of commitment to a cause, to a calling.

And don’t we all have a calling? Isn’t that what journalism is?

Shouldn’t we all be willing to ask, in the secularized iteration of Isaiah’s response: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Isn’t that the commitment that all of us need to give to our craft, to our community?

Now, except for Paul, there’s no one on the second floor who should be doing what I do routinely – advocating for policy positions. It’s probably not often that you should be writing about your personal experiences. Certainly not about how your faith informs your life decisions, or how it relates to public policy.

But what I had to do last year – after the massacre and a few months later, after the flood – is something every one of us can and should be willing to do every day: Look for where we can make a difference, fill roles we might not be comfortable filling, grow, if necessary, into the bigger demands of our jobs.

In his supporting letter, Bob McAlister said this about our jobs:

“I have spent my professional life in South Carolina’s political/media axis and have seen the media, especially newspapers, evolve. Of this I am certain: Our citizens have never needed good journalism more to help them wade through the complexities of life and the chaos of the Internet.”

As newspaper staffs grow smaller and the cacophony of self-interested voices grows louder and objective truth becomes increasingly optional, what each one of us does becomes exponentially more critical.

I would urge all of us to focus on the critical nature of what we would do: Not duplicating what others are doing, but providing our readers with important information they can’t get anywhere else. I urge you all to be truth-tellers, not just stenographers.

Today people in public life just make stuff up..

I can remember a time when it simply didn’t occur to journalists that we needed to verify basic facts from someone in a position of authority. Oh, we needed to watch for spin. We needed to make sure they weren’t manipulating numbers or not quite telling the whole story. But if a governor said half the job applicants at the Savannah River Site failed drug tests, it was safe to assume that was true. Not anymore.

Unfortunately, there’s no way we can fact-check every single thing that public figures say. We can’t even fact-check every single thing a governor says.

But at the very least, we can do this: When people say things we know are not accurate, and we report what they say, we can point out the facts. We can say this is what the law actually says. This is what was actually spent. Or this is what the audit actually recommended.

This isn’t being an editorial writer. This is being an authoritative voice. This is being a journalist. This is something I did as a reporter. It’s something y’all do sometimes as reporters. It’s something we all need to do more of. We need to help our readers understand what is true and what is not. We need to give our readers the facts and the context they need to make informed decisions. It doesn’t matter whether we agree with those choices or not; it matters that they are informed.

Of course, as Jeff will remind us, we need to write things that people will read. And this is the hardest part. It’s never been easy to get people to read the stuff they need to know, and now we have metrics that show, at least in the online world, how little they read it. So it’s very tempting to just give up and give people what they want. That’s the easy way to drive up our unique visitor numbers.

It is not the right way.

The right way is keep trying to figure out how to turn what people need into what they want.

It is a daily battle. It is a battle that I often lose.

But it is a battle that I absolutely must keep fighting.

It’s a battle that you absolutely must keep fighting.

We have big and difficult jobs, and they are getting bigger and more difficult every day. And we have to stretch and grow to fill those jobs.

We have a calling. We work for our community.

Not to entertain our community. To inform our community. To give our readers the tools they need to be active citizens.

It is not an overstatement to say that our system of self-governance depends on our willingness to fulfill our calling.

Amen to that.

Paul Ryan’s capitulation has eroded his ability to reason

screengrab

I like this screengrab from a video put out by the Speaker’s office because it looks like the lady is thinking, “Wait! What did he just say?”

Reading The Washington Post this morning, I saw that some of the nation’s top Lippmans (to borrow a term from Heinlein) were really pounding House Speaker Paul Ryan, which was fine by me because I can hardly think of anyone who more richly deserves it after his abject surrender to Donald Trump last week.

Richard Cohen’s column was headlined “Paul Ryan’s profile in cowardice,” and the body text reflected the hed. An excerpt:

What I know about Ryan is that he could not be proud of endorsing Trump. He shouldn’t be. Trump will not respect him for his acquiescence (he’ll call him a loser), and neither will anyone else. Ryan puts his legislative agenda above his own principles and the good name of the country so someday he could say, yes, Trump got us into a ruinous trade war but I trimmed a bit off the Affordable Care Act….

But that was hugs and kisses compared to the way George F. Will crushed the subject. It began like this:

The Caligulan malice with which Donald Trump administered Paul Ryan’s degradation is an object lesson in the price of abject capitulation to power. This episode should be studied as a clinical case of a particular Washington myopia — the ability of career politicians to convince themselves that they and their agendas are of supreme importance.

The pornographic politics of Trump’s presidential campaign, which was preceded by decades of ignorant bile (about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and much else), have not exhausted Trump’s eagerness to plumb new depths of destructiveness. Herewith the remarkably brief timeline of the breaking of Ryan to Trump’s saddle….

And continued in the same strong vein. While his purpose is to chop up Ryan into little pieces, he manages to eviscerate Trump on his backswing. Caligulan malice… pornographic politics…

Nicely done, sir.

Then he further grinds Ryan down with contempt for the magic beans he sold his integrity for, ending with a final, slashing description of Trump:

All supposedly will be redeemed by the House agenda. So, assume, fancifully, that in 2017 this agenda emerges intact from a House not yet proved able to pass 12 appropriations bills. Assume, too, that Republicans still control the Senate and can persuade enough Democrats to push the House agenda over the 60-vote threshold. Now, for some really strenuous assuming: Assume that whatever semblance of the House agenda that reaches President Trump’s desk is more important than keeping this impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man from being at that desk….

Tell it, Brother George!

But then, I had no sooner finished reading these pieces and sharing them via Twitter than this came to my attention:

So, I thought: The man has a spine after all.

I read on to see that he had also said that what Trump had said about the judge fit “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

All right, then, I thought — the man has awakened from his zombie-like state. He is repudiating last week’s contemptible capitulation.

But no. Turns out that he still manages a complicated backflip and says he’s still supporting the racist who says indefensible things.

About what Trump said, Ryan said:

“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “But do I think Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.”

Who, pray tell, aside from aging members of the Democratic establishment and the Identity Politics warriors who think it’s highly meaningful that she is a woman, thinks Hillary Clinton is “the answer,” in the sense that Neo was “the One?”

She’s not “the answer.” But the fact is, she’s all we’ve got between us and Trump, and as Will suggested, there is no mere political consideration “more important than keeping this impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man from being at that desk.”

Also, Mr. Ryan, examine your words. If Trump is, indeed, “absolutely unacceptable” — and he is — then you have no choice! You have to do all you can that is lawful and moral, even things that might be deeply distasteful to you, to stop him. Because the unacceptability is absolute! (And don’t tell me he just meant the words and not Trump. A president who goes around saying things that are “absolutely unacceptable” is himself just as unthinkable.)

Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase what the Godfather said to Sonny, I think your brain is going soft from all that comedy you’re playing with that buffoon. When Ryan threw aside the interests of the country to preserve his prerogatives in a job he didn’t want in the first place, his ability to reason abandoned him along with his honor.

Will Bernie Sanders have the grace to bow out?

fist 2

I doubt it. What we’ve seen up to now doesn’t point to that.

Sure, we’ve seen plenty of tough primary races in the past, followed by the losers lining up loyally behind the nominee for the general election. Hillary Clinton is the model for that. After hanging on, fighting Barack Obama every inch of the way for longer than seemed (to me, at the time) reasonable, she got with the program and followed him faithfully, with the proverbial salute stapled to her forehead.

That’s the norm.

But there is nothing normal about this situation, starting with Bernie himself.

For one thing, he isn’t a Democrat. Never has been, never will be. He’s not a guy to do the standard thing of lining up behind his party’s nominee for the simple reason that it’s not his party.

Next, do you seem him opting to back down to fight another day? Can you see Bernie, at his age, realistically having an opportunity to run again eight years from now — when he’s 82? No, of course not. And neither can he.

Also, he really, truly thinks he ought to be president, as unlikely as that seems to someone with my centrist perspective. He doesn’t think it’s an outlandish idea. In fact, he believes, he would be president, or at least the nominee, if the system weren’t “rigged” against him. He looks in the mirror and sees a POTUS. He really does.

Finally, there are his followers, whose expectations are at least as unrealistic as his own. They, egged on by him, had an absolute cow when The Washington Post (and others) reported the fact that Hillary had it wrapped up mathematically. (They are so furious about it that, if Sanders wins New Jersey and California today, it will likely be in part because his supporters’ ire toward the facts.) These folks will not be satisfied with, “Well, we gave it a good go and did better than anyone expected, and we got a hearing for our issues.”

Normally, at this point in a campaign (especially if he loses California today, although even winning there won’t get him the nomination), the candidate stands up and says he’s quitting and throws his support to the winner, and his supporters start to boo — we’ve seen this scene a thousand times — and he says no, no, his opponent is worthy and won fair and square and now it’s time for us to get behind her and win the election.

But this isn’t “normally.” There’s every indication that Bernie Sanders is in no way inclined to do something like that.

Why does this matter, especially to someone with an UnParty perspective? Well, to use that word again, normally it wouldn’t. Normally the Republicans would have nominated a normal human being, and the country wouldn’t be in danger from what George Will describes as an “impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man” who practices “pornographic politics” with “Caligulan malice.” (Will came back from England just full of beans — that was one of the best columns he’s written in years.)

All that matters now, for anyone who cares about this country and can see straight — regardless of such petty considerations as party — is stopping Trump.

But Bernie Sanders has indicated that he is unconcerned about that, and will do whatever he can to hobble Trump’s opponent for as long as possible.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Sanders loses tonight, and plays out the usual graceful loser scene, and calms and redirects his impassioned followers.

But I’m not very optimistic about it at the moment.

He's not going to play the loyal Democrat because he's never been a Democrat.

He’s not going to play the loyal Democrat because he’s never been a Democrat.

The Don, unlike The Donald, did not utter threats

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

Don’t you hate it when people use pop-culture analogies and get them wrong? Check out this one, from an editorial in The Wall Street Journal today:

But the Republican Party is not one of his golf courses for which he can determine who has what tee times. A political party is an alliance of people who share enough principles to unite to win elections and run the government. They can’t be ordered around by Don Corleone-style threats. They have to be persuaded and mobilized. Are Mr. Trump and his campaign going to require loyalty oaths of every Republican officeholder who wants to attend the convention?…

No, no, no! It most assuredly was not the Don’s style to make threats! He was way too cool, too smart, too self-contained — and therefore dangerous — for that.

Sonny made threats. Neither the Don, nor Michael, ever would. Some screenshots from the book, in case your memory is flawed:

threat 1

threat 2

threat 3

See what I mean? Case closed. Be more careful in the future, WSJ.

Yeah, there was that time he was rumored to have threatened the bandleader on his godson’s behalf. But even if that was true and not just a story people told about him, it’s the exception that proves the rule.,,,

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.

Karl, all Trump ‘needs’ is to LOSE, for the sake of the nation

Democrats, and probably even some Republicans, demonize Karl Rove. Some probably have a litany of specific sins they can recite, but in general he seems to be for them a dark, menacing presence pulling strings in the background, like “the Koch brothers,” or Sauron behind Saruman.

But whatever he has done or not done to deserve that reputation, he has assuredly done a monstrous thing today.

STAFF PORTRAITS OF KARL ROVE.

Rove in the early 2000s.

He has offered, without apology or irony, advice to Donald Trump on how to win the general election. As though he were just another Republican candidate, another client (which is perhaps what Rove hopes he will be), and this is just another election.

In the same 24 hours in which his former bosses, Bushes 41 and 43, have said they do not plan to support Trump, and in which one of those very Koch brothers has hinted he might vote for Hillary Clinton, Rove has offered Trump calm, sensible, bloodless pointers on how to succeed. As though his success were a desirable thing.

His Wall Street Journal piece is headlined “What Donald Trump Needs Now,” and the subhed tells you that Rove isn’t being facetious: “To stand a chance, he must tone it down, hire a fact-checker and open his wallet.” To which I respond, to hell with what Trump “needs;” what the nation needs is for him to lose, and lose big.

The closest Rove comes to criticizing Trump comes at the beginning, when he says Trump’s “success was achieved only by inflicting tremendous damage to the party,” and that his suggestion that Cruz’ father was connected to the JFK assassination was “nuts.” But rather than treat these as evidence of something fundamentally wrong with Trump, Rove looks upon them as rough edges to be smoothed. Trump has damaged the party? Well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. As for saying something “nuts,” Rove is like, Ya knucklehead! We need to break you of that silly habit so you can win this thing!

As though he were coaching an otherwise gifted boxer to remember not to drop his guard.

The everyday ordinariness, the sheer banality, of the advice Rove offers is appalling. An excerpt:

For the general election, the Trump campaign is behind in everything: digital operations, the ground game, advertising, you name it. The campaign must add new people and talents but would be wise to leave the ground game to the Republican National Committee. Sign the “joint fundraising agreements” that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the GOP Senate and House campaign committees must have to collect the resources necessary for a massive voter turnout effort that is beyond the Trump campaign’s abilities.

Mr. Trump should also avoid attacking Mrs. Clinton in ways that hurt him and strengthen her. He is already in terrible trouble with women: In the April 14 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 69% of women rate him negatively, 58% very negatively. So stop saying things like: “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote.” He was lucky her response to that jibe was so lame. Next time it won’t be.

Mr. Trump must also retool his stump speech. Voters will tire of The Donald if he doesn’t have a second rhetorical act with far fewer insults and more substance. Reading more speeches from a teleprompter, particularly on the economy, will help. The Trumpistas argue that voters don’t need details, but those up for grabs in November do. These speeches will put meat on the bones of his policy views and yield new material for the stump….

As though… as though the idea of Trump becoming president was just an interesting challenge, a puzzle to be solved, and not an unthinkable nightmare for the country.

This same day, E.J. Dionne has a piece in The Washington Post in which he appeals to Republicans, the media, and the rest of us to avoid this very thing. “Please don’t mainstream Trump,” he pleads, and he’s absolutely right. Don’t act like this is just another election, and Trump just another nominee.

He concludes:

My friend, the writer Leon Wieseltier, suggested a slogan that embodies the appropriate response to Trump’s ascent: “Preserve the Shock.”

“The only proper response to his success is shame, anger and resistance,” Wieseltier said. “We must not accustom ourselves to this. . . . Trump is not a ‘new normal.’ No amount of economic injustice, no grievance, justifies the resort to his ugliness.”

Staying shocked for six months is hard. It is also absolutely necessary.

Amen to that, E.J….

The two Nikki Haleys: One makes us proud, the other makes us cringe

Nikki Facebook

This is one of the places where the old, less-admirable Nikki Haley is sometimes sighted.

It’s being reported that Time magazine has named Nikki Haley as one of the 100 most influential people — in the world, apparently.

And you know, if you think of the Nikki Haley who led us through taking down the flag last year, that’s not a shock. Good people such as Mari and Emile and Tom could have protested every day for a year, and if Nikki Haley had not decided to lead, that flag would likely still be there.

Ever since then, I have tended to focus on that Nikki, the one who has grown so fully into the job she’s held the last five years.

But this announcement comes at a weird moment, when we’re contemplating her snippiness toward Sheriff Leon Lott yesterday — which was petty and entirely unnecessary, and resurrects the image of the not-ready-for-statewide-office Haley I used to criticize. The one who makes what Speaker Jay Lucas has termed “middle-school comments” rather than finding ways to play well with others.

I prefer to see the Haley of last summer, and praise her for her leadership. Because that’s who I want to see. That’s the governor South Carolina needs to see. I just wish she’d stop seizing opportunities to remind us of the old, pre-growth Haley…

The man who was once Chris Christie stares out from the heart of darkness. The horror… the horror…

Christie 3

On the day after Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moved huge strides toward victory, those who beheld the scene seem transfixed by the eloquence of Chris Christie’s eyes as he contemplated what had come to pass.Christie 1

In various forms, the image of Christie standing, horror-struck, behind Trump in his moment of victory appeared with no fewer than five separate stories about Super Tuesday in my Washington Post app this morning. Two Post writers — Janell Ross and Alexandra Petri — devoted entire columns to the sight.

The Ross piece, actually, was less a column and more a recitation of ways that Twitter reacted to Christie’s silent performance.Christie 5

Ms. Petri, as is her wont, got more creative, employing a battalion of pop-culture references to explain the look on the New Jersey governor’s face. I definitely recommend you go read it:

Chris Christie spent the entire speech screaming wordlessly. I have never seen someone scream so loudly without using his mouth before. It would have been remarkable if it had not been so terrifying.Christie 2

Sometimes, at night, do you still hear them, Clarice? The screaming of the Christies?

His were the eyes of a man who has gazed into the abyss, and the abyss gazed back, and then he endorsed the abyss.

It was not a thousand-yard stare. That would understate the vast and impenetrable distance it encompassed.

He looked as if he had seen a ghost and the ghost had made him watch Mufasa die again….

“When are they coming to airlift me out?” Chris Christie’s eyes are pleading. “Please tell me that they are coming and that it is soon.” But then his expression hardens. Chris Christie knows that they are not coming back for him.

This is his life now.

Soon he must return to the plane onto which Trump humiliatingly sent him before. Soon he must return to the small cupboard under the stairs where he is kept and occasionally thrown small slivers of metaphorical raw meat. When he asked to be part of Trump’s cabinet he never thought to specify “presidential cabinet, of course, not a literal cabinet underground where the ventilation is poor and there is no light.” It just did not occur to him. Why would it?…

And so forth. As I said, go read the whole thing — I’ve probably exceeded the fuzzy bounds of Fair Use already. And I hope I’ll be forgiven for the image screengrabs. I just wanted to illustrate my point about how many times the image was repeated — all five came from the WashPost app this morning.

Somehow, she managed to avoid Heart of Darkness. Perhaps that’s because she wasn’t born yet when “Apocalypse Now” came out — in fact, it preceded her by about nine years. I had to look up “watch Mufasa die” to realize it was from “The Lion King,” whereas it came out when she was about 6, and therefore made a big impression.Christie 4

Looking at him, I was reminded of something I learned from my spotty career as an amateur actor — that the hardest thing for an actor is figuring out what to do on stage when someone else is speaking lines. What do you do with your hands? What should your face be doing? You need to keep acting, but not upstage the person speaking. It’s hard.

But you know what? It was worse than that. In the video below, you see and hear what Christie said to the crowd before Trump came out. And it’s incredible. Here he is speaking the lines, but doing so like a man with a gun to his head, like a POW blinking Morse code in the video, imploring the folks on the homefront to realize he doesn’t mean a word of what he’s saying.

He doesn’t even try to look happy. Which, of course, he isn’t…

Um… N.H. people were actually SERIOUS when they told pollsters they would vote for Trump

For months, we’ve been hearing, “Yeah, people tell pollsters they’re going to vote for Trump, but there haven’t been any actual votes yet, and there’s no way that actual, normal people are going to go to the polls and vote for a guy like that.”

Well, yes, they are. Or somebody is.

The “don’t worry” crowd pointed to Iowa and said, “See? He didn’t win.” But you see, if you’re talking actual votes, Iowa shouldn’t count. A caucus is… weird. The only way to find out whether people were lying to pollsters is to have a real vote; it’s the only true test. People have to go into that booth alone, and with no one but God to witness what they really do, pick one candidate and no others.

And actual people who have enough on the ball to register to vote and find their way to a polling place on the right day showed up and really, truly voted for Trump. They weren’t lying to pollsters just to see if they were gullible enough to believe it! You might not find this amazing because you’ve been paying attention to the day-to-day, but I take the long view. Imagine someone telling you this would happen a year ago, or 10 years ago — after all, we’ve known Trump and what he was like for a long time.

Imagine, if you can, the Founding Fathers beholding this spectacle. Can you see it in your mind’s eye? Can you? See how they’re shuddering?

This is not just the guy who has been leading in the polls all along, which makes this result seem pretty anticlimactic. If you’re thinking of it that way, you’re not thinking hard enough. Think of it this way: This is the guy who parents don’t want their kids to see on television because they don’t want their kids to know that adults can act that way, and get away with it. At least, that’s the way I thought grownups were. I was pretty embarrassed over the weekend when one of my 8-year-old twin granddaughters, on her way to bed, stopped in front of the TV while the GOP debate was on and asked what those men were doing. There was an exchange going on that involved Trump.

“They’re um… they, uh… they want to be… well, president. Ummm… Have you brushed your teeth? Better get to it!” See, that’s the kind of thing that grownups say. Not stuff like this.

This isn’t about issues. It’s about basic social behavior. It’s about the foundation of civil society. We grownups tell kids not to boast, not to bully, not to tear other people down, not to lie, not to cuss, not to talk about themselves so much. Don’t we?

Anyway, that’s one result of today’s voting. Some others:

  • John Kasich is running second, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice. Maybe he’ll get some respect now, and I think he deserves some.
  • Ted Cruz (who won Iowa), Marco Rubio (who won the “normal candidate” contest in Iowa) and Jeb Bush are all clumped up together — with Bush slightly in the lede as I type this! That’s with only about a quarter of the vote counted, so who knows who will really come in third? But that sets up a real contest for the non-Trump, non-Cruz field coming in to South Carolina, which is exciting. Not terribly good for Rubio, but at least Bush can feel like he managed to achieve something with all that money.
  • Oh, yeah: Bernie Sanders won on the Democratic side, soundly beating Hillary Clinton, who managed to beat Barack Obama there in 2008. So, he’s for real, too. But we kinda knew that already. Hillary still has South Carolina, and if she loses here, well, she really, truly is jinxed. (Either that, or we men, determined to deny her and all those women who see themselves in her, really plotted and schemed well to keep them down. I just mention this to keep it in the mix, since some will believe it.)

And… well, that’s about it for now. In fact, I’ve probably said things there is not yet enough data to support, and I’ll look like an idiot in the morning. But this is the way it’s looking now.

Thoughts?

Cruz would be less appalling if he were more of a, y’know…

You’ve heard by know about Donald Trump’s nodding, winking, mock-shocked repetition of a vulgarity aimed at Ted Cruz. And if you haven’t, well, excuse this violation of my civility policy:

“She just said a terrible thing,” Trump said with a smile. “You know what she said? Shout it out.”

The woman shouted louder, but still couldn’t be heard throughout the cavernous arena.

“Okay, you’re not allowed to say and I never expect to hear that from you again,” Trump said with mock seriousness, like a father reprimanding a child. “She said — I never expect to hear that from you again! — she said: ‘He’s a pussy.’ That’s terrible.”…

There’s been a goodly amount of appropriate harrumphing over this, but I haven’t seen any address the “substance,” such as it was.

And the thing is, Cruz would be a more appealing, or at least less appalling, if he were just a wee bit more of a, well, you know.

There’s a long tradition of tough-talking in our politics, but Sen. Ted Cruz takes ersatz machismo to a level that is frankly embarrassing, such as in the video above, in which he promises that “if you wage jihad against us, you’re signing your death warrant,” and that he will never “apologize for America.”

You know what? As uncharacteristic as it would be for me, if Ted Cruz gets elected, I will apologize for America.

Here’s the problem for people like Cruz and Trump both: As much as they’d like to portray the president as a “rhymes with wussy,” Obama’s been actually killing terrorists right and left, including the grand kahuna of the jihad crowd himself. We all know that, if you get mixed up in terrorism, you make Obama’s list.

But he does it like a man of respect, like Vito and Michael, never uttering a threat, but quietly whacking guys left and right as needed. The heads of the other four families thought Michael was a, you know, but they found out different.

Cruz is a wannabe Sonny, only without the rep to back it up. Really, when did Cruz make his bones? Never, to my knowledge.

Cruz needs to get in touch a bit more with his, um, gynecological side, just enough to dial back the empty strutting about. It would make him less contemptible. Maybe then we could take him seriously as a man…

tough 2

The look that’s supposed to scare the terrorists.

You know you’ve gone too far in attacking Obama when the WSJ defends him

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Meant to post this the other day…

I kind of went “Huh?” when I saw that Marco Rubio had been critical of President Obama’s visit to a mosque, saying POTUS is “always pitting Americans against each other.”

From Trump and Cruz I expect such non sequitur grumbling. Not from Rubio.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board agreed with me the next day:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio gave PresidentObama a hard time for his speech Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and we wonder if the Florida Senator read it. The speech was one of Mr. Obama’s best attempts to fulfill the promise he made in 2008 to promote racial and political comity.

We’ll admit to expecting worse, since Mr. Obama has typically addressed the issue of Islam by apologizing for Western behavior (2009 in Cairo) or analogizing Islamic State to the Christian Crusades (2015 National Prayer Breakfast). But in Baltimore he sought to reassure Muslims about their place in this country by invoking the best traditions of American religious freedom and tolerance….

Yeah. That’s pretty much what I heard.

‘The Nation’ on politics and race in South Carolina

My headline might make you cringe a bit, but the piece isn’t bad. It doesn’t really say anything about us that I haven’t said, or that you don’t already know.

After all, we are the state that seceded first, and some of us would do it again with just a modest amount of encouragement.

It’s tone-deaf in a couple of spots, though. For instance, it equates Strom Thurmond, the segregationist, with Ben Tillman, the advocate of lynching. Most of us can see the gradations of wrongness there rather clearly. And speaking of Thurmond — the writer either doesn’t know or has forgotten that the senator cleaned up his act in the last few decades of his career. In other words, he spent far more years in the Senate NOT being a segregationist than most people spend in the Senate.

That leads to confusion. After noting approvingly that Paul Thurmond says a lot of enlightened things — which he does; he’s a fine young man — the writer observes,

I leave Thurmond’s office wondering whether what I’ve just heard can be real. He seemed like a sincere man, but he, too, was eager to get beyond race. “My generation has not been taught to hate people based on the color of their skin,” the son of South Carolina’s most notorious segregationist told me.

Yet someone taught Dylann Roof and Michael Slager, the cop who shot Walter Scott in the back. The Confederate flag may finally be on its way to a museum, but the attitude of racial arrogance that the flag represented is very far from being a mere artifact. That’s a fundamental truth of our national life—though not one that’s easy to see from Iowa or New Hampshire. Perhaps South Carolina’s role in our politics is to remind us of all those parallel universes—not just Republican and Democratic, or rich and poor, but yes, still black and white—we work so hard to ignore. We always have a choice. We can carry on pretending that it’s still morning in America, that we’re all in this together. Or we can take a good hard look in the mirror.

Yep, Strom was a notorious segregationist, before he wasn’t. (Oh, and do I think it’s because he had some road-to-Damascus transformation, like Tom Turnipseed, the opponent of integration who did a 180 to become possibly the most ardent, sincerest progressive in South Carolina? No. The world changed, and Thurmond adapted. Early in his career, it was helpful to be a segregationist, so he was one. Later it was not, so he wasn’t. But it’s still true that he wasn’t.)

And the fact that Dylann Roof is a racist does in no way demonstrates that Paul Thurmond is lying when he says he wasn’t brought up that way. Possibly, Dylann Roof wasn’t brought up that way, either. I have my doubts about the old saw that children have to be taught to hate. I strongly suspect that people are capable of getting there on their own. Anyway, almost no one Paul Thurmond’s age was brought up that way, although his father certainly was. We live in subtler, politer times.

But there is no doubt that, decades after the Southern Strategy transferred the Solid South from the Democrats to the Republicans, race is always, always on the table. The article gets that right. It just misses some of the nuances…

Our shame is that SC audience cheered what Trump said

I suppose I must say something about this, since he said it here in South Carolina — yet another blot on our ledger.

Not that we control what Donald Trump says. No, the really, truly shameful thing about it for us is that some people present — most of them likely to have been South Carolinians — cheered when he said it:

At a rally in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina on Monday evening, Trump pointed to the statement he released earlier in the day.

“Should I read you the statement?” he asked.

The crowd enthusiastically agreed that he should.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” he said, adding the word “hell” for emphasis this time.

Supporters erupted in applause….

In another version of that story, that applause is described as “a boisterous standing ovation.” Is that accurate? View and listen to the video clip above, and judge for yourself.

The response is important because it is our shame, but also because Trump, employing his usual odd logic, used it to defend himself this morning: Hey, these people loved it, so it must not have been a bad idea….

In a way, for the rest of us to have to condemn this is an insult itself. We shouldn’t have to say anything, because anyone who thinks we wouldn’t be sickened by hearing something so stupid and hateful is insulting us by such a supposition.

But since South Carolinians applauded, we need to separate ourselves from them. How about if we do it this way: Let’s deport everyone who applauded and cheered, and then refuse to let them back in. It might not make us safer, but it would certainly make this political season less objectionable. (And no, I don’t mean it.)

So yeah: It was horrible. Probably the most horrible thing he’s said yet, although he’s got quite a competition going with himself. He’s an idiot, and he’s evil. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that vast numbers of likely voters love him for his worst qualities, which points to a profound sickness in our body politic.

He’s been denounced — by Muslims of course, by Lindsey Graham, by Paul Ryan, by Dick Cheney (no soft-on-terror guy he),  by leaders all around the world. And pundits, of course. I like what Alexandra Petri said: “What will make America great again is getting rid of Donald Trump.”

South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison said:

Donald Trump’s comments offend the very fabric upon which our country was founded. His racist and offensive campaign for President of the United States should embarrass the Republican Party. His comments are an embarrassment to South Carolinians, who believe in equality, fairness, and justice for all.

… which would have a lot more impact if Jaime didn’t denounce pretty much everything any Republican candidate has to say.

What else is left to say? I’ll leave it to you…

Trump still

‘Blue Bloods,’ a show that stands up for traditional values, such as… respecting each other

reagans

The Reagans, having another civil debate over Sunday dinner.

For years, my parents would ask me if I’d ever seen the cop drama “Blue Bloods,” and when I said I hadn’t, they urged me to check it out. They love it.

Eventually, in casting about this year for a new series to get hooked on after running out of “The West Wing,” I tried it. And I loved it, too, probably for a lot of the same reasons they do. And I’m kind of sad that this morning during my workout, I ran out, watching the last episode that is available so far on Netflix.

Maybe I had to get to be old enough to become a fan. At least back in 2010, “Blue Bloods” had the oldest audience on traditional broadcast television. And when you consider that traditional broadcast TV skews older anyway, that’s really saying something.

Part of it is probably that it bucks the trend, set by shows as varied as “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” — all of which lack so much as a single admirable character to root for. While every recurring character on “Blue Bloods” is human and fallible, each of them has enough to like and respect and even admire that you just want to spend more time with them. I mean, I loved “Breaking Bad,” but sometimes you want to see some people who might inspire you to break good for a change.

Another likely reason for the older audience is that everything about the show, from the central characters to the plots to the dialogue, fosters and celebrates traditional values such as family, loyalty, honor and duty. To some extent, these are the kinds of things I was talking about in 2008 in a column headlined “Give me that old-time conservatism” (as opposed to the kind that people like Mark Sanford and Rand Paul promote).

Oh, and there’s another traditional value the show celebrates: Respect for others, including those who don’t necessarily look at things the way you do.

That observation may be jarring to a lot of the people whose teeth are set on edge when you say “traditional values,” people who would define that as meaning some throwback to the bad old days (many seem to regard old days as bad by definition) when people who didn’t adhere to some norm were despised and put down.

But I don’t see it that way. I see a political environment today that has almost zero tolerance for varying opinions. Today, if you don’t agree with me, you are beyond the pale, a person without value, or worse, a person with negative value, one to be despised and condemned and reviled.

And I can remember when our politics weren’t quite that bad, when Democrats and Republicans were committed opponents, but more in the way fans of different football teams are, rather than as participants in a morality play in which there are only Good People and Bad People.

(Those earlier times had their own problems, of course. As I said on a previous post today, I don’t believe any previous generation was any better, or worse, than this one. People are always people, and each individual has his or her capacities for good and evil. We don’t have a moral advantage based on the time in which we are born.)

One of the ways “Blue Bloods” promotes this value is through the trope of the Sunday family dinner, as traditional an institution as one might find.

To back off and explain briefly — the show centers around the Reagan family. Not Ronald’s, but Frank’s. Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, is the New York city police commissioner. His father, who lives with him (both of their wives are deceased), is the former police commissioner. Frank’s two sons are both cops — Danny a veteran detective, younger Jamie a graduate of Harvard Law School who gave it up to become a beat cop. Another brother was also a cop, but was killed in the line of duty before the show began. Sister Erin is an assistant district attorney.

So, when this clan gathers for Sunday dinner at Frank’s house, with Erin’s daughter and Danny’s wife and two sons, there’s a lot of shop talk, and it tends to center around some ripped-from-the-headlines issues such as police use of force and the like. And there is always a fairly wide array of perspectives, from the cops and Erin, and from Erin’s daughter and Danny’s wife. Danny is the hard case; Jamie is more the bleeding heart and rights-of-the-accused guy and so forth.

And while it gets contentious — in fact, there are dinners when one or another member of the family is giving one or all the cold shoulder over some current issue (say, Erin is at odds with the cops on whether a certain suspect should be prosecuted) — ultimately everyone loves and respects everybody else, and at least gives them the benefit of the doubt enough to listen. Even Danny, the hothead — usually.

But the respect-other-views thing runs through the whole show. Paterfamilias Frank, the commissioner who models himself on predecessor Teddy Roosevelt (right down to the mustache) might have one firm opinion, but the views of others are fairly represented.

I’m far from the only person to notice this. I like the way Mark Blankenship, a blogger at HuffPost, wrote about it when the series was young in 2010. I found this by searching on “Blue Bloods conservative,” to see how others reacted to the series’ traditionalism:

And although it’s never been stated, I’d wager that Danny would identify himself as a political and social conservative. Almost every episode of the show features a dinner table debate among the extended Reagan clan, and Danny always comes down on the ostensibly Republican side. He gets heated when someone suggests that drugs should be legal or that criminals should have inclusive rights, and he often chastises his brother Jamie, who left Harvard Law School to become a beat cop, for being an elite, Ivy League softie who doesn’t know how the real world works. In moments like this, I almost expect Danny to quote Sarah Palin.

But here’s the thing: Unlike the people who bloviate on cable news about their so-called conservative values, I’m actually willing to listen to Danny. His character is written and played with nuance, with flaws, and with admirable traits… so even though I might disagree with some of the things he says or does, I can’t dismiss him as a jerk, a lunatic, or a man who would like to see my rights as a gay man obliterated in the name of what’s good for America.

Meanwhile, that’s almost always how I see conservative candidates and pundits. They play to their base by underlining their most radical views, and their opponents play to me by underlining them, too. I’m left inside a system that boils everyone down, asking me to make quick decisions about right, wrong, good, evil.

And the truth is, it works. I try my damndest to live a thoughtful life, but after years of exposure to Tea Party vitriol, Red State vitriol, and Evangelist vitriol, I almost always assume that Tea Partiers, Red Staters, and Evangelicals wish me harm.

I know this is unfair. I also know that other people jump the same unfair conclusions about me. But I’m a person, you know? I can be influenced.

That’s why I find it almost spiritually refreshing to be presented with a character like Danny Regan, who is so different from me, but who still seems human. I see Danny sit at dinner with his family — some of whom are his political opposites — and I see him, I see all of them, talk to each other and listen to each other. Thus far, no one has changed anyone’s mind, but no one has been shamed away from the table, either.

Blue Bloods, then, has created a world where different points of view can coexist in the same family. How nice to imagine that metaphor spun outward, to imagine different Americans allowing each other space at the table. How nice to imagine people with wildly different views still finding ways to care for each other….

Yes, it is a nice thing to imagine, and I thank “Blue Bloods” for helping us imagine it. I’m sorry I’m out of episodes, and look forward to the most recent season being posted on Netflix as well…

Traditional values: The Reagans, in keeping with the cop stereotype, are Irish Catholic. Interestingly, in early episodes they got the words to the Catholic grace wrong. It was corrected in later episodes.

Traditional values: The Reagans, in keeping with the cop stereotype, are Irish Catholic. Oddly, in early episodes they got the words to the Catholic grace slightly wrong. It was corrected in later episodes.

My second favorite moment on ‘The Wire’

I loved the look on Terry D'Agostino's face as McNulty explains that he couldn't be bothered to vote in the presidential election between Bush and what's-his-name. ("Kerry," she says helpfully.)

I love the look on Terry D’Agostino’s face as McNulty explains that he couldn’t be bothered to vote in the presidential election between Bush and what’s-his-name. (“Kerry,” she says helpfully.)

Sorry, but I couldn’t find video to embed of this one.

Previously, I shared my delight at the scene from the first season in which Rawls tries to comfort McNulty, whom he hates, while cussing him out. Wonderful device for deepening the viewer’s sense of these characters. (Later, there is further cause to be sympathetic to Rawls’ dislike of McNulty, as the latter repeatedly shows his disregard for the opinions and prerogatives of other bosses and colleagues.)

I’m in the third season now, and my fave so far is the one in which McNulty and Terry D’Agostino are for once having dinner together before jumping into the sack, and she learns how apathetic he is about politics — which means there will be no jumping into sacks tonight.

As the scene was summarized by HBO:

McNulty, slightly intimidated, has dinner with Theresa D’Agostino in a fancy D.C. restaurant. The more she learns about him — that he only has a year of college under his belt, that he is essentially an apolitical being who doesn’t know the difference between a red state and a blue state and who didn’t even bother to vote in the presidential election — the less interested she is in him. When McNulty takes her home, she doesn’t invite him in…

Yeah, there was some class stuff going on there. But I think she liked his rough edges. The deal-killer, the anti-aphrodisiac for her seemed to be the moment he said he couldn’t be bothered to vote.

I was watching her face, and that was when he lost her. Up to that point, he thought he had a really hot borderline nymphomaniac eating from his hand. As from that instant, I knew Jimmy was out of luck.

I’ve heard SO many people say the dismissive things McNulty was saying about politics. It was refreshing and fun to see such a person pay for his apathy, in terms he could appreciate…

 

Linking the flag and Atticus Finch

Samuel Tenenbaum — who goes to Publix each morning to by The New York Times because they refuse to deliver it in Lexington County, where he and I live — brought to my attention this piece from that paper, which notes the parallels between the Confederate flag we just got off our lawn and Atticus Finch:

FOR as long as many Americans have been alive, the Confederate flag stood watch at the South Carolina capitol, and Atticus Finch, moral guardian-father-redeemer, was arguably the most beloved hero in American literature.

The two symbols took their places in our culture within months of each other. The flag was hoisted above the capitol dome in April 1961, on the centennial of the Civil War during upheavals over civil rights. Atticus Finch debuted in July 1960 in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a novel that British librarians would later declare the one book, even before the Bible, that everyone should read. Given life by Gregory Peck in the 1962 Oscar-winning film, Atticus Finch would go on to be named the top movie hero of the 20th century.

Nearly at once, both icons have fallen from grace in ways that were unimaginable just months ago…

I just pass it on in case you’re interested. I’m not crazy about the way it ends up — suggesting that we should embrace this “new” Atticus as a way of coming more truly to grips with who we are and have been. I’m of the “Atticus is still a hero” school. But I pass it on nonetheless…

As the governor says, ‘Be kinder than necessary’

Nikki Haley posted this on her Facebook page this morning:

Cynthia HurdToday the legislature will come back in to take up our vetoes. We will report the votes on the many pork projects that we struck and let you know how legislators voted. They will also take up the removal of the Confederate flag. We ask everyone to remember the importance of respect during this debate. There are no winners or losers with this vote. Passions are running high but in the words of Cynthia Hurd “Be kinder than necessary.”

OK, she tarnished the shine on the message a bit by unnecessarily referring to things that a majority of lawmakers thought worthy of funding as “pork,” but this is a Facebook message, not a major policy address. Old habits die hard. But the rest of the message is something we should all heed.

I posted, in response to that, my thanks (again) for the governor’s leadership on this, and urged her to do what she can to prevent any effort to delay or to weaken the power of what we are about to do with any “compromise.”

You can be kind, and still insist upon doing the right thing.

But the being kind is important. In fact, it’s the main point here.

As I’ve said so often before, getting the flag down isn’t the goal in itself. When it comes down, if it comes down the right way — not in conflict, but in a consensus of unity — then it will show us that our state has come an amazingly long way in terms of our ability to respect each other and work together to accomplish things that up to this point, thanks to a lot of nasty impulses that have held our state back for its entire history, have proved intractable.

We are experiencing a moment that I did not expect, did not dare to dream of, in which the broad-based willingness to put all that stuff behind us and move forward finally exists. So be kind. And get it done.

You MUST watch this video, in which Lindsey Graham gets choked up talking about his friend Joe Biden

 

This is an extraordinary clip, which I thank Norm Ivey for bringing to my attention. HuffPost sets it up this way:

When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) celebrated his retirement from the Air National Guard last week after 33 years of military service, he was greeted at the ceremony by an unexpected guest: Vice President Joe Biden.

Though they hail from opposing parties, Graham and Biden have long had a close friendship, going back to their years serving together in the Senate. The South Carolina senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate was particularly touched that the vice president attended his military sendoff.

Over the weekend, The Huffington Post spent a day with Graham on the campaign trail in Iowa for the latest installment of our original series, ’16 And President. We’ll have the full episode up next week, but the above clip is a short preview of what’s to come….

In it, our senior senator chokes up talking about Joe Biden, about whom Graham says:

If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, then it’s probably… you’ve got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation. What’s not to like?… He’s THE nicest person I think that I’ve ever met in politics. He is as good a man as God ever created…

This is one of the more touching illustrations I’ve seen of my oft-stated thesis that politicians — despite what you may firmly believe — are people, and not monolithic representations of good and evil, as most partisan rhetoric would have it.

Graham Biden

The way Lindsey Graham dealt with a racist blowhard

I liked reading this at Buzzfeed:

TAMA, Iowa — Lindsey Graham was in the full swing of his pitch to a group of potential voters gathered at a VFW hall in this small town an hour outside Des Moines on Saturday when, while he was talking about his relatively liberal stance on immigration, there came an unwelcome interruption.

“Towel heads,” grumbled a man sitting at the bar, sporting a denim shirt with the arms cut off. “Sand n*****s.”

Graham did what every candidate must in the age of smartphones and opposition trackers following a candidate anywhere he or she goes.

“I totally dissociate myself from this guy,” Graham said. “What I would say is that what he said is not who I am. I’m not running to be president to please this guy.” He then moved on and continued on taking questions from the other attendees.

At this early stage, running for president can be a weird thing — especially in these tiny, intimate gatherings where people are able to to speak their minds. In an earlier era, maybe before a woman once notoriously insisted to John McCain that Barack Obama was an Arab, Graham could probably have gotten away with ignoring the man; today, he had to act.

But Graham is also a long-shot candidate without much to lose, and his response ended up being different from the kind of tight-lipped, efficient shutdown one could imagine coming from someone for whom the stakes are higher. A few minutes after the exchange, Graham concluded his spiel to the 15 or so people assembled in the dark, low-ceilinged room by drawing a comparison between his own hardscrabble upbringing in a bar in small town South Carolina and people like the man who had issued the slurs.

“I’m tired of telling people things they want to hear that I don’t believe. I changed a long time ago as a politician. I was scared to death of going into a room to be disagreed with. I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel free. I feel able to tell you exactly what I believe and why I believe it,” Graham said….

I hope Buzzfeed doesn’t mind that long quote. I wanted you to have full context. But I urge you to go on and read the whole thing. It has a nice ending.

The event had been billed as “Politics and Pool,” and before leaving, Lindsey wanted to shoot pool with somebody. The only person willing to play was the blowhard. So our senior senator played him, and beat him.

Quoth Graham: “I wanted to beat him. I was going to beat him if it’s the last thing I did in Iowa.”