Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, September 8, 2018


There is an overweening fondness for representing this country as scene of liberty, equality, fraternity, union, harmony, and benevolence. But let not your sons or mine deceive themselves. This country, like all others, has been a theatre of parties and feuds fro near two hundred years. —John Adams, 1817

Each week is wilder than the last. Can this continue? In a post on Tuesday, writing about the Kavanaugh hearings, I remarked that these are not ordinary circumstances. Is it fair to wonder if we will know ordinary circumstances again in my lifetime?

I remain ill at ease over the call to take to the barricades on the Kavanaugh nomination. It is a futile gesture to which I see no alternative given the words and deeds of the president and Kavanaugh's documented positions on executive authority and presidential accountability. It is hard to imagine what kind of bombshell it would take to sway even a few Republicans to vote not to confirm. And suppose the nomination is derailed. Is anyone under the illusion that the president would put forward a less objectionable candidate if Kavanaugh were to go down?

The Democrats on the committee went through the motions with the usual theater of stylized gestures and speechifying, coming up with nothing that might change someone's mind or have an outcome on the final vote. I am hard pressed to muster argument against critics on the right who contend that Kamala Harris and Cory Booker were prepping for the 2020 presidential campaign. I say this as someone who is generally well-disposed toward Harris and Booker. All in all the Dems did not distinguish themselves.

The spectacle of anti-Kavanaugh comrades attending the committee hearings with apparently the sole intent of creating a ruckus that will get them tossed out is disheartening. A respectful, dignified protest would be more likely to have a meaningful impact. No, it would not stop Kavanaugh's confirmation. But these things can have a cumulative effect. In the end the moral power of our arguments, the rightness of our principles, and the strength of our character are more persuasive than histrionics and grandstanding.

According to Bob Woodward, John Kelly said of Trump, "He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had." Kelly denies saying Trump is an idiot.

What did the anonymous author of the instantly notorious Times Op-Ed hope to accomplish? Bob Corker, yes, no friend of Trump and a retiring Republican senator, but a Republican nonetheless, says straight up that the piece tells us nothing we did not already know:

Anyone who’s had any dealings over there knows that this is the reality that we’re living in. And so I don’t know. I think a lot has been made out of nothing. I think the biggest issue they’re going to have is figuring out who wouldn’t have written a letter that. (After NYT essay, Trump confronted with idea that senior officials are working against him, PBS NewsHour, September 6, 2018)

Well, it does lead to more evidence that Paul Ryan is remarkably obtuse or maybe just witless, as his response missed the point entirely:

It’s a person who obviously is living in dishonesty. It doesn’t help the president. So if you’re not interested in helping the president, you shouldn’t work for the president, as far as I’m concerned.

I suppose the author's rationale is that only by remaining in the administration, for which anonymity is required, can he or she continue to help save the country from the president. This is a dubious proposition when the predictable outcome was that Trump's paranoia would be stoked and the administration thrown into even greater turmoil.

Jack Shafer at Politico makes a nice distinction on the issue of anonymity (How Soon Will the NYT’s Trump Resistance Writer Be Outed?, September 5, 2018). The author is not some reporter's anonymous source; rather, he or she is an anonymous author. The Times has a responsibility to preserve Kellyanne's anonymity. Reporters do not and cannot be counted on to do so. Ordinarily reporters are deterred from revealing other reporters' sources lest the tables be turned and their own sources outed. That does not apply here. The author cannot expect the press to protect her or his identity.

By the way, just kidding about Kellyanne. Whatever you do, don't tweet that. Wouldn't want the president to get any (more) wrong ideas.

I just kind of like this from conservative columnist Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast:

Call us the conservative "Beto males" if you like, but as a Gen-X, college-educated white dad living in Alexandria, Virginia, I have to say that Beto—at least stylistically and culturally—feels like he’s part of our tribe, too (working-class whites and intersectional minorities haven’t cornered the market on identity politics). Politics aside, he’s more relatable (at least, in my mind) than Cruz. I’d rather have a beer with Beto—and I suspect most of my friends would, too. And I’m not sure that politics in the 21st century is much more complicated than that. (If Beto O’Rourke Beats Ted Cruz, Look Out, GOP, He’s the Next Obama, September 4, 2018)

Let's close on an positive note with 45 movies to look forward to this fall from Alissa Wilkinson at Vox. Quite a few caught my eye, too many to list here. One though I will single out: Cold War by by Pawel Pawlikowski, director of Ida (2013), one of my favorite films of recent years.

Keep the faith.

#CurrentAffairs

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David Matthews

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