Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Penis of the Donald

His supporters are nonplussed-- with exception of those who are drooling-- but the rest of the nation is captivated, and perhaps also nauseated by the public conversation about Donald Trump’s penis.

It is fairly obvious that Marco Rubio has been baiting Trump about this issue. He has suggested that since Trump is so good at handing out the insults, let’s see how well he can take one.

One suspects that Rubio is taking one for the team. In truth, his chances for winning the nomination will likely evaporate after the March 15 Florida primary. Rumors yesterday suggested that he will soon suspend his campaign and run again for the senate.

And yet, Trump should have known better. He should have known much better. But, someone who has made a virtue of shamelessness cannot have any real self-discipline.

In Thursday’s debate the Donald said:

I have to say this: He hit my hands. No one has ever hit my hands. Look at those hands, are those small hands? And he referred to my hands as if, if they’re small, something else may be small. I guarantee to you there’s no problem, I guarantee!

His protestations notwithstanding, the penis of the Donald has occasionally been the subject of public discussion and debate. New York Magazine has collected it all a story entitled: “A History of Donald Trump’s Penis.” At least, Eve Peyser did not entitle her article: “A Short History of Donald Trump’s Penis.”

As for Trump’s claim that no one ever referred to his small hands, this is obviously false. Decades ago, when he edited a satirical magazine called Spy, current Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter described Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian.”

Apparently, the thin-skinned Donald was sorely offended. Carter was surprised and recounted his experience with the short-fingered vulgarian:

Like so many bullies, Trump has skin of gossamer. He thinks nothing of saying the most hurtful thing about someone else, but when he hears a whisper that runs counter to his own vainglorious self-image, he coils like a caged ferret. Just to drive him a little bit crazy, I took to referring to him as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in the pages of Spy magazine. That was more than a quarter of a century ago. To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him—generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers. I almost feel sorry for the poor fellow because, to me, the fingers still look abnormally stubby. The most recent offering arrived earlier this year, before his decision to go after the Republican presidential nomination. Like the other packages, this one included a circled hand and the words, also written in gold Sharpie: “See, not so short!” I sent the picture back by return mail with a note attached, saying, “Actually, quite short.” Which I can only assume gave him fits.

Of course, you are probably thinking that Trump has just the temperament we need in the White House. At what point does one just let it go.

Naturally, the press and the comedians are now regaling themselves with jokes and other witticisms about the Donald’s male member. It has gotten Trump a lot of attention. It has distracted everyone from the issues that really matter. Now Trump seems to be competing in a shamelessness sweepstakes against the wife of the man who exposed himself to Paula Jones and who gave us the famous “semen-stained dress.” Next to Trump  Hillary Clinton, now being investigated for various felonies, looks like a dignified adult.

Since I have written a book on “the politics of shame” and have been working on the subject for two decades now I feel compelled to point out, for those who still do not understand shame, that the emotion refers primarily to the ability to keep one’s pants on. Having a sense of shame means keeping your pants on, not allowing yourself to be publicly identified by the shape, size or any other aspect of your external genitalia or even your sexual behavior.

If you drop your pants and demand to be respected for your candor you are demonstrating shamelessness. And you are also showing that you exist in your own amoral universe, that you do not respect other people, and that you do not need to follow the rules. You are your own rules.

I have been saying this over and over again on this blog, so today I will quote Ezra Klein from Vox who has understood clearly the problem with the politics of shamelessness:

Of course, Klein is a Democrat, so he is not exactly appalled to see the Republican Party self-deconstruct. At the least, he finds Trump entertaining. Like P. T. Barnum, the Donald always puts on a good show:

It is undeniably enjoyable to watch Trump. He's red-faced, discursive, funny, angry, strange, unpredictable, and real. He speaks without filter and tweets with reckless abandon. The Donald Trump phenomenon is a riotous union of candidate ego and voter id. America's most skilled political entertainer is putting on the greatest show we've ever seen.

When it comes to Trump’s shamelessness, Klein is on the mark:

Trump's other gift — the one that gets less attention but is perhaps more important — is his complete lack of shame. It's easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they're exposed as liars, when they're seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn't. He has the reality television star's ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won't, to say what others can't, to do what others wouldn't.

Trump lives by the reality television trope that he's not here to make friends. But the reason reality television villains always say they're not there to make friends is because it sets them apart, makes them unpredictable and fun to watch. "I'm not here to make friends" is another way of saying, "I'm not bound by the social conventions of normal people." The rest of us are here to make friends, and it makes us boring, gentle, kind.

I find it refreshing that a commentator has gotten shame right.

He could have added that those who are fawning over someone who is shameless are saying that they would be happy to see him as the great national role model. If you like Trump and if you think that he is just what the country needs, are you ready for a nation where everyone is a bully, where everyone will do whatever it takes to get what he wants, where everyone insults and denigrates anyone who crosses him and where everyone is sending out images of his or her external genitalia?

Think about it.


Scullman said...

"It's easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery.”

"Most people feel shame when they're exposed as liars.”

"I find it refreshing that a commentator has gotten shame right.”

And I find it un-refreshing that these same geniuses have yet to aim their “shame” detectors, not on a bragging, egotistical business tycoon ( wow, there’s a shocking combo, and so unusual today) and haven’t yet found the ability to expose the most shameful liar in "American politics” in my memory, who just happens to hold the most important office in the world at the present time, right under their noses.

Talk about shame.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Some of us have been pointing out Obama's shamelessness for years now, from the very beginning... so, find someone else to point a finger at.

Scullman said...

Don't get so testy. You run a blog. That’s hardly enough of "some of us". When writers like Klein are "on the mark" about Obama’s shamelessness, that’ll be something.

Dennis said...

I would suggest that the time has come for Trump to start demonstrating something other than Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals." The name calling, et al is getting quite boring and does not reflect well on Trump or others who have had to protect themselves from it. The time has come to "put some meat on those bones" of lofty pontificating. I suspect many of us want to see the anger that is out there turned into policies that can actually be accomplished given the nature of government.
Whether one likes it or not one needs people in the legislative, judicial and executive branch to make things happen and most of them cannot be threatened. Politicians have a long memory.
Trump might become familiar with how much power both the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader possess. They both have far more power than the president which is why many of us are unhappy with the establishment on both sides. They had the power of the "purse" and the ability to keep Obama's agenda even making it to the floor. Why they feared the "media" is beyond description because the "media" had more, and still does, negatives than Congress. Demonstrating that "shutting down the government," not really possible, does Not create large problems that cannot be ameliorated by Congress. The anger being demonstrated denotes that a large number of people would have backed them. The democrats and republican created Trump by not doing their job.
If Trump does not start demonstrating he understands that a business background only works in certain areas and there is a large range of knowledge required to work and lead a government he will self destruct or worse yet elect Hillary Clinton. Once one starts giving orders that are of questionable legality there will be a growing disrespect for those who given them. One only needs to notice Obama's growing problems and desire for a legacy. The time has now come for Trump to demonstrate the knowledge to lead a nation who needs a real leader. Anger only takes one so far.

Ares Olympus said...

I have no objection to the characterization of Trump as shameless, and that this trait enables him to go where none of us would.

The open question for me is how a person can have ANY sense of shame at all, and act in a public sphere.

As best I can tell the answer has something to do with holding a "public persona" that is not you. So you have a private self, someone you can be with people you trust and care about, and you have a public self, who is playing a role, and can't be humiliated too easily.

And that's the whole point. There must be something of legitimate and illegitimate shame, and illegitimate shame is judgments made against your persona, which you can carry without taking it personally, just like a baseball player getting heckled by their home team fans.

Of course a player who can't separate himself from his persona, when he's gone 0 and 42 stump, and he knows he's in a slump, and the fans know he's in a slump, and they can continually remind him of that, then his personally shame will come out, and his confidence will drop, and he won't be able to ignore them, and he'll get angry inside, and not concentrate as well, and the fans will help him go 0 and 43 and feel even worse about himself.

And thinking to Trump, and his "Art of the Deal", I confess I didn't read it, but we can imagine being an expert dealmaker in part means knowing when to "psych out" your rivals, when to bluff strength, and when to bluff weakness, and when to try to guess the "hidden shame" behind his rival's mask, and if he can trigger that shame, then they might lose confidence, and fail to put their best deal forward.

Anyway, I guess the whole question for me is how we "take things personally" and how we "don't take things personally" and the cool-headed people who can take an insult without reacting, or without choosing to react, he's going to compete better.

And the other thing about shame is that there's some rule that if you feel shame, and you can make someone else feel shame, yours momentarily disappears, so maybe that's where the "game" is, your rival can't attack when he's being defensive, and as soon as you're defensive, you're denying something, and that denial itself is an expression of shame.

Even if someone asks "When did you stop beating your wife?" the very act of denying the context of the question puts you on the defensive, and you feel the shame "as if you'd beat your wife", even if its not true at all.

At least that's how "normal", "unprepared" people act, who actually think they are the person that other people claim they are.

If it was possible to quickly and accurately separate legitimate and illegitimate shaming, then I'd believe in its social usefulness. But until you can do that, the best plan is to categorically reject all shaming judgments against you, as if, someone was intentionally trying to hurt you, and punch first, and only later when you're alone, wonder what you can dare take in and question its factual accuracy.

And I suppose Jonathan Haidt's review of Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning's work applies here, seeing 3 cultures of: Honor, Dignity, and Victimhood, perhaps the first being more Masculine and more public, the second more Feminine and more private, and the last some degenerate hybrid.

Scullman said...

And I'd like an explanation of this: How is it, he's such a titanic asshole, loser, bully, etc., according to so many qualified experts, and yet he seems to have out thought and wrangled his way to success against a vast collection of crooked NYC Real Estate thieves, shyster lawyers and slippery City Council members in Manhattan, for over thirty five years?

And around the world.

Are you saying none of these traits could be of use dealing with the lovely, gracious, soft spoken types of world leaders we find ourselves surrounded with today?

Marsh said...

So we have a choice between a shameless man or a traitor (someone who wants to give away our sovereignty).

Make your choice.

Marsh said...

Exactly, Scullman, and if he's such a horrible person, why did every candidate on that stage the other night agree to get behind him if he's our nominee?

priss rules said...


Our culture.

Scullman said...

First of all, you write about this incident as if Trump suddenly turned around at the podium and announced, out of nowhere, that he has a big dick. Rubio, desperately watching his Oval Office dreams burst right in front of his smarmy puss, thought he’d became the latin version of Don Rickles for a set, and tried the hand-size-equals-penis-length sophomore keg-party crap on him. Trump took the bait. Too bad for him.

Does it say anything about Rubio’s fitness for the presidency or his “shame”?

Ares Olympus said...

On the question of shame and shamelessly, it does seem like "free speech" is contradictory to the "Shame society" that Stuart advocates.

Case in point Bad Lip Reading's newest video mocking Ted Cruz, currently trending on Facebook.

As as much as I generally dislike Cruz, I have no wish for this senseless mockery, and since there's a chance he may become the president of the United States, I can see this sort of mockery isn't just an attack on an individual, but upon our entire country.

So the first step to returning to a society that takes shame seriously, it seems we should be able to limit free speech that mocks political leaders. Of course that is the exact opposite of freedom, and our actual constitution that protects free speech.

I remember watching a few of Penn and Teller's Bullshit! episodes online, and remember Penn saying that our free speech laws allow them to call people names like asshole avoids legal threats.!
At the beginning of the first episode of the first season Penn points out that the series will contain more obscenity and profanity than one would expect in a series dealing with scientific and critical inquiry, but explained that this was a legal tactic because, "if one calls people liars and quacks one can be sued... but 'assholes' is pretty safe. If we said it was all scams we could also be in trouble, but 'bullshit,' oddly, is safe. So forgive all the 'bullshit language', but we're trying to talk about the truth without spending the rest of our lives in court."

And in general I guess this is called Defamation: slander (spoken), and libel (printed).

Of course the whole purpose of a "Shame society" is to avoid the law being the arbitrator of behavior, so a society that values good character would simply ignore the big mouths who try to gain attention by trash talking public figures.

But I suppose ostracization only works if there is a unified standard of good behavior, while reality within our two party politics is that each side tries to shame and condemn the opposite side, and that offers little practical power to reject people for bad character. So Republicans can feel contempt for Bill Clinton while admiring Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich for their marriage infidelity, or at least justify it that they married their mistresses, so its okay.

Anyway, what apparently makes Trump unique is he's willing to break Reagan's code of silence, against speaking bad of fellow republicans, so that breaks down the "honor system" that rewards in party loyalty. Of course Cruz's ZERO Senate endorsements also shows he follows the same path - demonizing his own party's corruptions, so he can appear standing above it.

And if you believe in reform, and the corruption of status quo, then you want shameless warriors to break down the "good old boy" networks, and when power is corrupt, you can justify any language, break any social rules, to humiliate the powerful who have betrayed their followers.

Its curious Trumps stands as both a completely unviable candidate, yet there's some necessary self-delusion of his followers that he is capable and competent, because if they admitted he wasn't they'd be back to supporting "Establishment" candidates whom no longer command respect. And the 8-12% congressional approval rating shows this lack of respect.

Political insurrection is an arrogant possition, and depends on people either being hopeless (so anything is better than this), or relatively safe (I've got mine), so willing to let things fall apart, with no idea what comes next, just like what we did with Iraq.