The Very, Very Bad Place Donald Trump Is Taking Us
THIS IS CAT. I’ll be handling today’s blog, and I should explain why.
Like many news organizations, we at On Trump’s Trail start off the day with a morning meeting to decide what we’ll be covering in the next blog, what’s trending, what can we cover that other outlets aren’t emphasizing, what graphic support we’ll need and which staffers are available.
Usually, the meeting breaks up with a decision to take the rest of the day off. I know that this sounds like the kind of slacker-welfare-state attitude you expect of a lefty news operation. But the real explanation has nothing to do with bias, but biology. Phoebe and I are, after all, animals, and we need our sleep, generally about 23 out of the 24 hours available. and I usually try to get a little more.
But today, we decided that the week has been so action-packed that we should rush to put up a “Special Edition.” However, Phoebe objected strenuously about doing the write-up, saying that her image as a “sweet dog” was likely to be damaged by the substance of today’s post.
You can imagine that I was more than a little insulted, since, if Phoebe opted out, Cat, - that would be me - would have to step up to the keyboard (We aren't exactly the size of the BBC or the Associated Press, here).
And if a story is too torrid for Phoebe, what does that say about me? Am I some sort of alley cat, running with dumpster-diving lowlifes, scrounging decaying food, and looking for easy hookups? But Phoebe was adamant: “Not Going to Happen!” she said, as she stalked out of the meeting to lie on the sun-splashed back deck. To do what? Wait for her personal masseuse, someone to do her nails, an etiquette session with Miss Manners?
My problem is where to start?
Should I begin with Trump’s coarse, boastful, politicized, crowd-size-obsessed appearance at the Boy Scout Jamboree, at which he led the Scouts in booing the country’s first black president, or Trump’s vanquished opponent?
Begin with the Commander-In-Tweets' attempt to goad Attorney General Apparently-Not-Mean-Enough Jeff Sessions into resigning, so Trump can shut down the investigation into whether his campaign was involved in Russia’s attack on our election process?
Or Trump’s bully tactics to get Senators to kill Obamacare, which failed, thanks to the vote of Sen. John McCain, whose heroic service in the Vietnam War was mocked during the campaign by Five-Deferment-Don?
Maybe with Trump’s attack on transgender people by declaring on Twitter that transgender men and women would no longer be allowed to serve in the military, adding to his growing underclass of Lesser Americans he wants the rest of the country to turn on?
Nope. Phoebe and I decided I should focus on a relatively minor episode of the past week, the “communication” that spewed from Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. Go ahead and criticize us for opting for shock value over substance. That’s true enough. But we also have a serious purpose.
A writer for the New Yorker magazine, Ryan Lizza, Tweeted something that strikes this cat as a truly boring item: that Trump was having dinner Wednesday night with Scaramucci, Mrs. Trump, Fox commentator Sean Hannity and a former big cheese from Fox News, Bill Shine.
Scaramucci later telephoned Lizza with a demand that Lizza, as a “patriotic American” should tell him the source of the “leak,” so Scaramucci could fire him. Then, Scaramucci speculated the “leaker” was Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, whom he described this way:
“Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.”
The communications chief turned his attention next to another White House pal, Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s “chief strategist:
“I’m not Steve Bannon. I’m not trying to suck my own cock. I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.”
Lizza writes this up for the New Yorker’s Website, including Scaramucci’s threats to fire practically everybody in the West Wing, and the New Yorker leaves nothing out, not the word “fucking,” not the word “cock,” as it applies to anatomy, as opposed to visitors to the chicken coop.
Lizza’s account becomes part of a front page story om the New York Times, although you have to turn to Page A-20 to get to the good parts.
And the Times does not mince words, either, which is a departure for not only the nation’s paper of record but most newspapers, which usually “protect” their readers from uncouth breakfast reading with a variety of devices that sometimes make it impossible to understand exactly what was said.
They’ll say that “Mr. Scaramucci used barnyard language,” (inaccurate in this case). Or papers will run the quote, minus the interesting words: “Reince is a (expletive deleted) paranoid schizophrenic.” Another way out is a fill-in-the-blanks quiz: “Reince is a f-----g paranoid schizophrenic." And sometimes papers will go clinical: “Reince is a (crude term associated with a frantic act of reproduction) paranoid schizophrenic.”
Indeed, broadcast outlets took their usual way out, explaining that Scaramucci used “language that we cannot repeat over the air” – knowing that those viewers and listeners who cared were already at their smart phones, finding more complete accounts online.
Phoebe and I think its blogworthy for two reasons. For its shock value, just like the rest of the “respectable” media. But also, because we think this sequence tells us something important about how far the nation has moved since we elected Donald J. Trump as our 45th president.
It tells us how far we’ve traveled from where we used to think we were as the world’s greatest democracy and the world's richest economy, and from our aspiration to be the world’s beacon of progress and justice.
You are saying: “No news here, Cat. We’ve known this since the campaign, since election night, since the inauguration.”
“We know about the cruel, cynical, anti-democratic things that Trump has said and done and hopes to do, taking us to this new place, a place where we believe lies, think only of ourselves and where we turn on one another, having learned to hate everyone who Trump hates: immigrants, foreign allies, attorneys general, judges, certain members of the House, transgender soldiers, political opponents, the poor, the sick, John McCain and eventually the people next door.”
But sometimes it helps to understand where we are now by listening to the language, the actual words that are spoken in this new place.
And yesterday the words were coming right from the sewer.