1. I’m in Atlanta, teaching ethics to lawyers, and watching some shows I seldom get to see. I believe I have discovered why so many citizens are ill-informed, have warped priorities, are entranced by a vulgar reality TV star, and appear not to comprehend that electing a President isn’t something that should be used as the means to express free-floating frustration. This morning I made the excuse of tuning into “Good Morning America!,” the top rated morning show,and watched in disbelief as the happy, giggly crew “covered” the debate by briefly highlighting Donald’s defense of his penis and the silly exchange about yoga Romney’s thorough dismantling of Trump didn’t make the cut, but the big news, according to ABC, was that a GMA cast member was announced as new “Dancing With The Stars” contestant. We were treated to a 10 minute segment including her mother, her DWTS partner, and a montage of the career of a typical TV weather girl. The news that Hillary Clinton’s tech guy who set up her server and who had used the 5th Amendment to avoid answering the FBI’s questions was granted immunity yesterday by the Justice Department wasn’t anywhere to be found. Hey, the gang on GMA don’t seem to think who gets to run for President matters, why should anyone else? Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), what isn’t reported has as much effect on distorting Americans’ views, beliefs and civic conduct as much as what is.
But isn’t it exciting that Ginger is going to get to wear those skimpy dance outfits, and so soon after having her baby?
2. Back to Donald’s penis: I was tempted to re-post this in it’s entirety. I correctly forecasted that a President Trump would transform the culture and leave us with a “nation of assholes,” but I did nor foresee that he would be able to substantially accomplish his mission by just running. In a Presidential debate, a candidate discusses his penis size and the audience hoots delightedly like Bill Maher’s crowd when he says “fuck you.” A civilized U.S. worthy of international respect would regard a candidate who stooped to such crudeness and idiocy as having eliminated himself from consideration.
3. Marco Rubio showed that Trump’s reliance on rationalizations is communicable. Asked why he spent last week name calling and suggesting that Trump wet his pants, after once vowing that he wouldn’t stoop to personal attacks, Rubio answered that the media gives “an incredible amount of coverage” to Trump’s attacks—Oh. so it’s OK because it works. How big is your penis, Marco?– and Trump “deserves” to be attacked the same way. Great: the ends justify the means, and “he had it coming.” Later, Rubio objects to Trump calling him a “little Marco” instead of giving a substantive answer to a plocy question. Yes, ad hominen attacks are the hallmark of weak thinkers, bullies and fools. Explain to us again why you started using them, Senator?
4. Nonetheless, Trump’s constant use of “little Marco” should be the last strawfor any parent who doesn’t want to raise a bully or have a child tormented by one. Trump is validating bullying behavior, at a high level. Here, I’ll link to “A Nation of Assholes” again. Insufferable conservative bloggers and pundits who know how bad Trump is but who are actively rooting for him to destroy the Republican party as retribution—Why don’t they just root for a dirty bomb to take out the Capitol?— write about how the “elites” just don’t understand:
“To the establishment, this breakdown looks like chaos. It looks like savagery. It looks like a man with a flamethrowing guitar playing death metal going a hundred miles an hour down Fury Road. But to the American people, it looks like democracy.”
Well, that’s because the “elites'” contempt for people who applaud bullies, torture and penis-boasting is absolutely justified, and if the American people think electing someone like Trump is democracy, then it proves that they understand neither democracy nor their obligations as citizens. There is nothing noble, or admirable, or justifiable about someone supporting Donald Trump. Writes another right-wing apologist for Trump supporters (the pompous conservative gang are all saying the same thing—they are interchangeable):
“The messenger doubtless is deeply flawed. Trump is no Washington, that’s for sure. Donald Trump would not have been my first choice as a GOP nominee. He wouldn’t have been my 100th choice. But if the counter-revolutionaries decide they want Trump as the nominee, I will not oppose them. And I will hope that the counter-revolution has now become too big for one deeply and profoundly flawed man to derail.”
What an irresponsible statement. And by the way, if Trump would be your 10,000th choice, your respect for ethical values and responsible leadership is woefully insufficient. The Left ridicules Trump, and the Right roots for him to wreck the country. The Left is correct, and the Right is disgracing itself while showing the deep, deep cynicism and ugliness within.
4. Trump was, of course, asked if the tape of his off-the-record discussion with the New York Times, in which he supposedly expressed a willingness to be flexible on his immigration stance, should be released, and he says he won’t authorize it. This is identical to Hillary Clinton refusing to release her Goldman Sachs speeches. If the tape wouldn’t contradict what he has said in public, there is no reason not to release it. Trump’s angry zombie supporters will excuse this just as Hillary’s corrupt zombie supporters will ignore the fact that she says what any given audience wants to hear.
When I hear the complaint that politicians have contempt for ordinary Americans, I am tempted to say, “And they have earned every bit of it.”
5. Leading into the yoga exchange, Trump excuses a list of his flip-flops, some very recent, by saying, “I’ve never seen a successful person who didn’t have a degree of flexibility,” and, regarding one of his reversals on a specific issue, “I’m changing it, and I’m softening the position.” In other words, the most cited reasons for Trump’s irresponsible support, that he “means what he says” and “tells it like it is” are completely illusory, and he admits it.
Oh, never mind, Trump fans, it’s not worth trying to explain it to you. Here’s a hammer: go and keep hitting your head with it.
6. Trump defends his advocacy of torture by invoking the most inexcusable rationalizations of them all, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.” In case you feel Donald Trump rotting your values while he tries to destroy the culture’s, here’s a brief reminder:
“…this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” … So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.
“There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.”
My rule is that anyone who thinks this is a valid argument is per se untrustworthy, and capable of doing, or excusing, terrible.
7. Ted Cruz had a strong debate, not surprising, as he is a strong debater. He is still repugnant on a visceral level, has shown himself to be shameless cheat as a campaigner, and has more negative charisma than even Hillary Clinton, Bob Dole, or Mike Dukakis. Maybe Nixon was as inherently unlikable as Cruz; I think he was easier to look at.
Admittedly, that little white thing that came out of Ted’s mouth and crawled around his lips didn’t help.
8. Ann Althouse didn’t say so outright, but she flagged this exchange as smoking gun proof that Trump thinks like a fascist. (Hey, but that just means he’s just “flawed,” right ?). She is correct. And this is why his supporters are either ignorant, or irresponsible, and definitely not “counter-revolutionaries” to be deferred to:
BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists’ families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they’ve been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders. So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?
TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.
BAIER: But they’re illegal.
TRUMP: Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East. They’re chopping off heads. They’re chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They’re drowning people in steel cages. And he — now we’re talking about waterboarding. This really started with Ted, a question was asked of Ted last — two debates ago about waterboarding. And Ted was, you know, having a hard time with that question, to be totally honest with you. They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it’s fine. And if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too, because, frankly… (APPLAUSE) … that’s the way I feel. Can you imagine — can you imagine these people, these animals over in the Middle East, that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That’s my opinion.
BAIER: But targeting terrorists’ families?
TRUMP: And — and — and — I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.
BAIER: Even targeting terrorists’ families?
TRUMP: Well, look, you know, when a family flies into the World Trade Center, a man flies into the World Trade Center, and his family gets sent back to where they were going — and I think most of you know where they went — and, by the way, it wasn’t Iraq — but they went back to a certain territory, they knew what was happening. The wife knew exactly what was happening. They left two days early, with respect to the World Trade Center, and they went back to where they went, and they watched their husband on television flying into the World Trade Center, flying into the Pentagon, and probably trying to fly into the White House, except we had some very, very brave souls on that third plane. All right?
Not only should Americans who support this man be ashamed of themselves, we should be ashamed of them, and that we have so neglected basic civic education here that there are so many of to be ashamed of.