Sunday, March 8, 2020

Drunken Uncles in the Year of the Rat

Houston, the Democrats have a problem. The party of intersectional diversity has ended up with two contending presidential candidates: a demented crank and a fanatical crank.

As of this writing, the demented crank has the inside track to the nomination. And savvy Democrats are wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth over the indignity of it all. 

No less than Nathan Robinson tweeted this morning that whereas Donald Trump can speak coherent sentences for two hours at a rally, Uncle Joe Biden is good for about seven minutes, before, I would add, he has put both feet in his mouth. 

Over at the Spectator, Matt Purple says that we are living in the Year of the Drunken Uncle. In Chinese astrology we are living in the year of the Rat-- make of that what you will.

He assesses the problem of Uncle Joe:

There’s Joe Biden, who’s been the source of awkward pauses over dinner since long before he became an uncle. Biden was the biggest winner on Super Tuesday, or ‘Super Thursday’ as he put it in one of his more irresistible gaffes. Those gaffes are quickly becoming his hallmark — even more than they were before, I mean. The Biden way seems to be to demand in crystal-clear Scrantonese that everyone else shut up so he can get a word in edgewise, only to descend into indecipherable gibberish about Amtrak trains smoking weed and Nelson Mandela learning to code.

Fair and balanced to a fault, Purple describes the president thusly.

He interrupts like this because another uncle won’t stop dominating the conversation. That would be Donald Trump, who doesn’t drink, but whom everyone else wishes would down a little absinthe laced with melatonin already. Trump is that infamous relation who shows up at the family reunion and babbles about his business ventures, stopping only to insinuate that he slept with this G-list celebrity or that. You think it’s all made up, until he steps out of the room to take a call and you verify every last word he said on Google. He’s a tiresome devil, yet there’s something about him you can’t help but like. He can certainly talk rings around the guy with the hair plugs.

To say the least.

 And then there’s Bernie:

Bernie Sanders is less an uncle than he is the great-uncle. He sits between the others and mediates their disagreements, occasionally interrupting with some gem of wisdom that’s both markedly insane and still somehow more reasonable than much else that’s been said. All our problems can be solved, he insists, if only the ‘muckety-mucks’ will get out of the way. Halfway through dinner, he gestures too emphatically and spills his wine. Three-quarters of the way through, his head sinks to level with his shoulders. His grandchildren love him because he promises to buy them gifts he clearly can’t afford. He’s always turning up with little jars of jam and honey, which he claims to have stolen from various New England bed-and-breakfasts.

And then, what happened to diversity? What happened to the candidates of color and the females? All gone away. All over and done with.

At least, serial prevaricator Elizabeth Warren keeps her face on our screens by showing her manifest lack of good character: like Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams, Warren is the sorest of sore losers. She has filled the airways with her plaints about sexism. This makes her look like a chronic whiner, and does not advance the cause of women in America. Warren has not damaged women as much as Hillary did, but, give her time.

Purple concludes:

After all, if good bourgeoisie morality dictates one thing, it’s that old white men who talk off the cuff are on their way out. The future, they’ve been instructed by their guidance counselor friends, is multiracial, multicultural, probably multispecies, a young generation set to infuse the country with fresh ideas while somehow adhering to ever-narrowing speech codes enforced by social media. Yet how’s that working out? Donald Trump is in the White House. Bernie Sanders just won California and Joe Biden took Texas. I’m not sure any of these men can solve our nation’s problems, but if nothing else, the Year of the Drunken Uncle will make voting a rush of transgression. This election is going to annoy people on Twitter, and there are few callings higher than that.

As for the reaction against the Biden candidacy, few have laid out the case as well as Bernie supporter, Nathan Robinson. I have quoted Robinson on the topic in another post. But apparently he was not finished unearthing Biden’s flaws. If you thought that Warren was an especially accomplished liar, that’s because you never took the true measure of Biden’s multiple falsehoods.

Robinson says this against the presumptive candidate:

But I also want to talk about Biden’s character and values. It’s not just that he’s bad on the issues: It’s also that he’s a sleazy and dishonest person, the kind who should not be rewarded with a position of extreme trust like the presidency.

It’s always worth remembering that Biden had to leave his first presidential race in disgrace, because he was caught copying his speeches directly from a British Labour leader (including not only mimicking his gestures, but lifting references to the leader’s wife and his coal mining background—Biden said he was the first in his family to go to college, which was true of the guy who wrote the speech but not of Biden!). The scandal was compounded by a lie that he had finished in the top half of his law school class when he had finished near the bottom, and his having plagiarized his academic work in law school. Lies like this may seem small in the age of the Grand Trumpian Lie, but they are real red flags about a person’s character: If Biden can so easily say things about himself that aren’t true, and do so convincingly and with that warm smile that makes you trust him, what else might not be true?

Well, a whole lot: At various points over decades, Biden literally fabricated an entire fictitious career as a civil rights activist. He told audiences he “participated in sit-ins to desegregate movie theaters,” when he did no such thing. Recently he told a black audience an extremely specific story about his involvement in the civil rights movement and his anti-segregation activism. It appears to be entirely made up. He did this over and over, as Shaun King documented. (King’s report is devastating and it’s shocking that it hasn’t gotten more media attention.) Biden said that he was arrested in South Africa on his way to see Nelson Mandela, which also wasn’t true. Lies like this are an insult to the people who actually did put their lives on the line during the Civil Rights and anti-Apartheid struggles, which Biden could have participated in but chose not to. Pretending to have been a civil rights hero is like pretending to have been a decorated soldier: People are honored for this work, and fakers like Biden are trying to take that honor for themselves without having done the work.

The South Africa lie was recent, meaning that Biden is still doing exactly the sort of thing that he was forced to drop out in 1988 over. It’s not clear why this time the press has decided not to care, because the underlying conclusion should be the same: This is a person who is not honest enough to be the Democratic nominee.

Biden has lied about matters large and small. He claimed, without evidence, that the other driver in the car crash that killed his wife and daughter had been drunk, leading the man’s family to call on Biden to apologize for publicly smearing him. When confronted about his terrible record on abortion by the New York Times, Biden’s “response was to lie about his well-documented record,” by saying he was on the opposite side of the one he was actually on. A Biden delegate defended his South Africa arrest lie by saying that “everyone does” this. But that is not the case. Only incredibly dishonest people do it.

As noted before, Robinson is young and bright and thoughtful. How he can support Bernie Sanders is beyond me, but, what do I know?

Anyway, in the mainstream media, Maureen Dowd lays down the predicates for a Biden candidacy. Someone has to do it, so, why not MoDo?

She will, naturally enough, counter the evidence of Biden’s unfitness for office by saying that Donald Trump is completely insane. It’s slightly problematical, because we have been watching Trump speak to the public every day for three years. And, like it or not, he is neither incoherent nor insane.

The cruel insults to Joe Biden’s mental acuity are flying fast and ferocious on Fox News.

How can we trust the nuclear codes to someone so incoherent, Fox chatterers cry, who doesn’t always seem to know what day it is or what office he’s running for?

Cruel insults… does that make you feel bad? Seriously, these are simple observations, made by many people who have never appeared on Fox News. Witness Nathan Robinson.

Dowd continues, placing the most disparaging thoughts in other minds:

Many Trump critics in 2016, and in the year after his election, pushed the idea that his father had suffered from Alzheimer’s and now Trump was losing it and that his vocabulary was eroding.

And it has become common among his attackers to say the president is deranged, suffering from malignant narcissism.

But, rather than quote Trump haters, Dowd quotes Mick Mulvaney, who recommended that White House staffers read a book by an obscure mental health professional, to the effect that great leaders are rarely the picture of perfect mental health.

About that, we might question the way these professionals describe mental health. Apparently, they do not include high achievers on their list. And we will also ask ourselves the pertinent question: where is Mick Mulvaney today? On his way out of the White House and on a flight to Northern Ireland, I suspect.

So Dowd explains, quoting from a book by one Jonathan Karl:

Karl recounts that when Mick Mulvaney became acting chief of staff, he took senior White House staffers to Camp David for a weekend retreat. He recommended they read a 2011 book, “A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness,” by Nassir Ghaemi, director of the mood disorders program at Tufts Medical Center.

“This book argues that in at least one vitally important circumstance insanity produces good results and sanity is a problem,” Ghaemi writes in his introduction. “In times of crisis, we are better off being led by mentally ill leaders than by mentally normal ones.”

Lincoln and Churchill had bouts with depression and Gen. William Sherman suffered from paranoid delusions during the Civil War. But less mercurial leaders like Neville Chamberlain and Gen. George McClellan fared badly.

So, the mental health profession holds up Neville Chamberlain, the great Hitler appeaser, as a model of mental health. Huh? 

In his book, Ghaemi says of people with mental disorder mania: “Decisions seem easy; no guilt, no doubt, just do it. The trouble is not in starting things, but in finishing them; with so much to do and little time, it’s easy to get distracted … affairs are common; divorce is the norm. … Mania is like a galloping horse. … In Freudian terms, one might say that mania enhances the id, for better or worse.”

When Karl reached out to Ghaemi to ask how Trump would fit into his thesis, Ghaemi replied “perfectly,” noting that the president has “mild manic symptoms all the time.” Ghaemi also concedes in his book that extreme forms of mania can be highly disabling and dangerous.

Of course, this is ridiculous. Making decisions is not easy, for anyone. The mental health profession ought to revise its standards, and it ought to notice that the value of a decision rides on the outcome. Chamberlain might have been in the pink of mental health, but when push came to shove, he misjudged Adolph Hitler, manifested extreme cowardice and produced a calamitous result.

Surely, that counts more than his place on the mental health scale:

For Dowd, like other members of the deranged left, the coronavirus will do for Trump what they themselves have been unable to do: that is, to destroy him. In fact, the anti-Trump forces have been saying the same thing about Trump, no matter what. Now, Dowd wants to blame Trump for the virus:

Trump is continuing his Panglossian handling of the coronavirus. “The tests are beautiful!” he said as he toured the C.D.C. Friday evening, after a kerfuffle over delays in testing. “The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect, the transcription was perfect,” he added, referring to his communication with the president of Ukraine. “This is the highest-level test anywhere.” “I like this stuff, I really get it,” he said, adding that maybe he should have become a scientist, like his uncle the “super genius,” instead of running for president.

Meanwhile, the stock market is still freaking out and financial angst is spreading from boardrooms to kitchen tables.

We can vividly see in this crisis how close to the surface Trump’s id is and how easily he cleaves to delusions. He personalizes everything so much that when things go bad, he can only see it as an attack on him by the forces out to get him.

He seems psychologically incapable of dealing with a virus that is complex and uncertain. The virus will be in every community and needs truth, honesty and intelligence — all absent from the unstable Trump, who at his core is a frightened boy and pretender.

As it happens, one point has escaped the Dowd ken. Trump reacted swiftly to the coronavirus outbreak by refusing entry to non-citizens coming from China. Surely, that decisive decision, not a function of madness, managed to control the spread of the virus.

As for the availability of testing, sorely deficient, the fault seems to lie in the bureaucracy, in the people that Dowd and Co. want to have more power over the government.


UbuMaccabee said...

Our culture is badly broken, and, as a result, no meaningful course of action or process of evaluation can be administered on almost any subject. We’ve built such a nest of lies that any truth can no longer identify itself. Truth will come from outside, from a hard landing.

Joe is obviously demented, and I find it highly entertaining because he’s on TV being demented. But what’s more illuminating is the giant lie that must be created to allow other people not to see this obvious fact. The emperor has no clothes but the media is going all in to tell us he does. That’s the interesting part, the emotional and intellectual commitment, in public, to a lie that a little child can plainly see.

No matter what course of action anyone takes, it will be objected to by half the nation. We’re stuck. There is no reconciling force.

I think there may be a profit to be made in the crematorium industry.

trigger warning said...

It's never noted, so I will note it... Plagarizing a Neil Kinnock speech is like entering your first grader's crumpled refrigerator drawing as your own in a curated art competition. How clueless, and ignorant, can Biden be? Kinnock was probably the only UK politician in Thatcher's time capable of making Thatcher's speeches interesting in comparison. Well, except for Michael Foot, his predecessor. I love Maggie, but she was no gifted orator, and Kinnock was just a silly berk.

Anonymous said...

"...the age of the grand Trumpian lie?" He missed the boat on that. This is the age when Pete can lift not just BO's words, but his cadence and gestures so closely that you can lay one on top of the other and watch/hear both at once. And he wants to promote the PDT style as one of "lying"? Heh.

370H55V said...

Well no, of course Joe Biden wasn't arrested in South Africa. How could he be, when he was under sniper fire in Bosnia at the time?

Sam L. said...

I'm not sorry to state this, but Mr. Purple's Prose is a HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!

Ubu: "Joe is obviously demented, and I find it highly entertaining because he’s on TV being demented. But what’s more illuminating is the giant lie that must be created to allow other people not to see this obvious fact. The emperor has no clothes but the media is going all in to tell us he does. That’s the interesting part, the emotional and intellectual commitment, in public, to a lie that a little child can plainly see."
Yes, the media is/are lying their asses off to us, and we are NOT BUYING IT.

(King’s report is devastating and it’s shocking that it hasn’t gotten more media attention.) NOT SO! The Dem/Media cabal will cover it right up! And that's assuming they'd print it, which they won't.