[I was up until 3 AM watching a Red Sox game in Seattle that went 13 innings and five hours—they lost– and this doesn’t feel like morning, it feels like Hell. I’m dictating this to my dog, and hoping it warms ME up…]
1. The American Psychoanalytic Association told its 3,500 members that they should not feel bound by the so-called “Goldwater Rule,” which the rival American Psychiatric Association announced in 1964, prohibiting its members from diagnosing political figures from afar without the benefit of actually examining them. It’s an ethics rule, an obvious one, and shouldn’t be controversial. As I have documented here, however, professionals of all kinds have allowed anti-Trump bias, panic and fervor to dissolve their ethical standards. The groups afflicted include college presidents, teachers, scientists, lawyers, judges, historians, legal ethicists, journalists and artists. Nobody should be shocked that psychiatrists are eager to do the same. As with the other professionals, all they will accomplish is an erosion of public respect and trust. I thought Ann Althouse’s response to the announcement was spot on:
Let them speak, and then the rest of us will speak about whether they are professionals deserving of deference or human beings like the rest of us who can’t keep our political preferences from skewing whatever it is we might think about some pressing issue of the day.
Go ahead, expose yourselves. Let us see all narcissism, impulsivity, poor attention span, paranoia, and other traits that impair your ability to lead.
2. I’m not devoting a solo post to the ridiculous Trump Boy Scout speech controversy, because despite all the efforts of the news media to maintain otherwise, it was not a scandal, was not a big deal, was not an enduring scar on the Boy Scouts of America, and is mostly significant as demonstrating how distorted the perception of those who are verging on being physically allergic to the President has become. Some points that have arisen in the thread about the speech are important to note, however.
I posted the entire speech in the discussion yesterday (in part because few of those expressing outrage over it had bothered to read the thing), and challenged readers to pull out the “political” portions and explain why they were so offensive. To his great credit and with my genuine gratitude, indefatigable commenter and Trump critic Chris did so. He also accepted my challenge to determine what the percentage was of political content in what was primarily just a standard inspirational speech with ad-libs by an unusually undisciplined and inarticulate speaker.
I had guessed that the political content was 10% or less; Chris, whose definition of “political” may be a bit broader than mine, reached the figure of about 19%. 19% does not justify calling the speech political. Yesterday, much of the bashing in the news media continued with the assertion that to include any political content in the speech broke with tradition. Granted, but so what? This is America; our culture is about challenging traditions. The position of the Left is that when they challenge traditions, say, the tradition that marriage is between a man and a woman, conservatives are evil and stupid if they don’t turn on a dime to embrace the shiny new order. When a Republican or a conservative breaks with tradition, it’s an outrage.
Here are the segments Chris flagged as political, and his objections, with my reaction in red.
- The press will say it’s about 200 people. (Laughter.) It looks like about 45,000 people. You set a record today. (Applause.) You set a record. That’s a great honor, believe me.
Chris: “He literally attacked the press in his first paragraph.”
Me: Good. At this point, telling the Boy Scouts, or anyone, that the news media and American journalism are now wholly partisan tools of one ideology and a single national agenda, and no longer is trustworthy or respectable, qualifies as vital information and wholly consistent with the mission in such speeches as preparing young adults for the realities of life. This isn’t a political or partisan message at all, Denying it is partisan.
- Tonight, we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C. — you’ve been hearing about with the fake news and all of that. (Applause.) We’re going to put that aside.
Chris: “Yes, we’ll put all that aside, except I want to mention it several times right away and several other times later.”
Me: I thought the complaints were about politicization, not self contradiction.
- You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp. And it’s not a good place. In fact today I said we ought to change it from the word swamp to the word cesspool or, perhaps, to the word sewer. But it’s not good. Not good. (Applause.) And I see what’s going on, and believe me I’d much rather be with you. That I can tell you. (Applause.)
Chris: “This is just him trying out new buzzwords. Shameless self-promotion to build his “brand,” and further his political battles (which are really just personal battles writ large for him, since he doesn’t care about policy)”.
Me: Saying that Washington, D.C. is a mess, “not good” and the rest is hardly partisan politics. Chris’s critique illustrates my point about the attacks on the speech from the news media and the Left, as well as some conservatives. They just object to Trump in general. Has any previous President made a disparaging comment about politics and D.C. to gathered scouts? I don’t know, but if one has, I wouldn’t be surprised, and the news media wouldn’t have had a cow about it in past years. [Pssst: all Presidential speeches are about self-promotion.)
- I wonder if the television cameras will follow you. They don’t like doing that when they see these massive crowds. They don’t like doing that. Hi, folks. (Applause.) A lot of love in this big, beautiful place. A lot of love, and a lot of love for our country. There’s a lot of love for our country.
Chris: “More bashing of his perceived enemies.”
Me: All this stuff is petty and inappropriate. It’s also trivial, unless you are looking for reasons to have the vapours.
- TRUMP: By the way, you going to get the votes?
He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better — otherwise, I’ll say, Tom, you’re fired. I’ll get somebody. (Applause.)
He better get Senator Capito to vote for it. You got to get the other senators to vote for it. It’s time. After seven years of saying repeal and replace Obamacare, we have a chance to now do it. They better do it. Hopefully they’ll do it.
Chris: “A long stretch of non-political stuff there, and then he had to go and ruin it.”
Me: I doubt many in the audience had any idea what he was talking about. It’s a non-sequitur. Yes, bad speech technique. The Horror.
- By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive crowd, record-setting is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero? (Applause.)
The fake media will say: President Trump — and you know what this is — President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.
That’s some — that is some crowd. (Applause.)
Fake media. Fake news. Thank you. And I’m honored by that, by the way, all of you people they can’t even see you. So thank you. I hope you can hear.
Me: See above. Which is more damaging, naive belief that the press is objective and doing its job as the Founders intended and assumed, or being aware that it is breaching its duty to democracy by engaging in partisan propaganda and manipulated news? I am waiting for a more articulate and unconflicted messenger—a respected journalist would be ideal—but it is still an appropriate message to convey to any young people. A similar message about their teachers and college professors would also be appropriate.
- TRUMP: By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?
TRUMP: And we’ll be back. We’ll be back. The answer is no, but we’ll be back.
Chris: “Contemptible, so I’m mentioning it as a side note here.”
Me: I agree, as I’ve noted before. Not political, however. Personal. That’s worse. That’s also Trump, and he isn’t changing.
- Now with that, I have to tell you our economy is doing great. Our stock market has picked up — since the election November 8th. Do we remember that date? (Applause.) Was that a beautiful date? (Applause.) What a date. Do you remember that famous night on television, November 8th, where they said — these dishonest people — where they said there is no path to victory for Donald Trump? They forgot about the forgotten people. By the way, they’re not forgetting about the forgotten people anymore. They’re going crazy trying to figure it out. But I told them, far too late. It’s far too late.
But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say? (Applause.)
And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College — popular vote is much easier. Because New York, California, Illinois — you have to practically run the East Coast. And we did. We won Florida. We won South Carolina. We won North Carolina. We won Pennsylvania. (Applause.)
We won and won. So when they said, there is no way to victory, there is no way to 270. I went to Maine four times because it’s one vote, and we won. But we won — one vote. I went there because I kept hearing we’re at 269. But then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years — Michigan came in.
And we worked hard there. My opponent didn’t work hard there because she was told —
TRUMP: She was told she was going to win Michigan, and I said, well, wait a minute, the car industry is moving to Mexico. Why is she going to move — she’s there. Why are they allowing it to move?
And by the way, do you see those car industry — do you see what’s happening, how they’re coming back to Michigan? They’re coming back to Ohio. They’re starting to peel back in. (Applause.)
And we go to Wisconsin — now, Wisconsin hadn’t been won in many, many years by a Republican. But we go to Wisconsin, and we had tremendous crowds. And I’d leave these massive crowds. I’d say, why are we going to lose this state?
The polls — that’s also fake news. They’re fake polls. But the polls are saying — but we won Wisconsin. (Applause.) So I have to tell you what we did, in all fairness, is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for Make America Great Again. (Applause.)
Chris: I normally wouldn’t count encouraging words about the economy or a resurgent auto industry as unnecessary politicization, but given that he immediately pivots from those topics to talk about his electoral win, Hillary, and “fake news,” in this case they obviously count. This stretch of political talk is nearly as long as his longest stretch of non-political talk. I still don’t know if it counts as “most” of the speech, but it’s obviously way too much.
Me: Yes, this is all partisan and political, and just barely relevant ( it follows the message of persevering and winning despite opposition and the odds, and could have been done gracefully by a coherent speaker).
- TRUMP: And I’ll tell you what, we are, indeed, making America great again. What’s going on is incredible. (Applause.)
We had the best jobs report in 16 years. The stock market on a daily basis is hitting an all-time high. We’re going to be bringing back very soon trillions of dollars from companies that can’t get their money back into this country, and that money is going to be used to help rebuild America. We’re doing things that nobody ever thought was possible.
And we’ve just started. It’s just the beginning. Believe me. (Applause.)
Chris: “I’m not counting this part as political, since he is saying generically encouraging things about the state of the economy. There is nothing wrong with that. Notice that here he does not tie it to his own greatness or his enemies’ weaknesses. Had the rest of his political asides been like this, I wouldn’t have a problem.”
Me: I guarantee that this is a section that the media and pundit Trump-bashers consider political, and offensive, and ear-poison to the delicate Boy Scouts. The anti-Trump Furies consider “Make America great again” offensive: racist, jingoistic, nationalistic. I don’t, and if there should be any setting where that slogan should be right at home, it is a Boy Scout Jamboree.
- And by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying, merry Christmas again when you go shopping. Believe me. Merry Christmas. (Applause.) They’ve been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying, merry Christmas again, folks. (Applause.)
Me: I don’t think Chris flagged this, but I would. Christmas is thoroughly politicized through the culture wars. I am certain that this section also aggravated the media critics. Well, tough. The Boy Scouts were launched as a Christian organization, and religion, the bane of the Left, is central to its values still.
Ethics Conclusion: A lot of petty sideswipes didn’t belong in the speech, but they were tangential to the primary inspirational messages, which were not political. Calling the sections above the equivalent of a Nazi speech to the Hitler Youth is so grotesquely unfair and misleading that it is far more unethical than any Trump offense here, which was primarily that he behaved exactly as he usually does. Trump, much as we might have wished otherwise, is not going to suddenly behave as previous Presidents have. That was obvious months ago. Each new episode where this fact comes to light is not a revelation worthy of expressions of disgust and horror.
3. I am still certain that it is John McCain’s obligation to resign from the Senate once he begins his cancer treatment. I must say, however, that I am grateful he did not resign before saying this in the Senate yesterday—if it is to be his valedictory,the speech is a noble, wise, ethical and important one:
“I’ve stood in this place many times and addressed as president many presiding officers. I have been so addressed when I have sat in that chair, as close as I will ever be to a presidency.
“It is an honorific we’re almost indifferent to, isn’t it. In truth, presiding over the Senate can be a nuisance, a bit of a ceremonial bore, and it is usually relegated to the more junior members of the majority.
“But as I stand here today – looking a little worse for wear I’m sure – I have a refreshed appreciation for the protocols and customs of this body, and for the other ninety-nine privileged souls who have been elected to this Senate.
“I have been a member of the United States Senate for thirty years. I had another long, if not as long, career before I arrived here, another profession that was profoundly rewarding, and in which I had experiences and friendships that I revere. But make no mistake, my service here is the most important job I have had in my life. And I am so grateful to the people of Arizona for the privilege – for the honor – of serving here and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the history of the country I love.
“I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict. They held different views on the issues of the day. And they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest.
“But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively. Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.
“That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today.
“I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous eras either. But I’m sure there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.
“Our deliberations today – not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities – authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role – are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.
“Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.
“Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.
“Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.
“Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’ Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph.’
“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.
“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.
“We’re getting nothing done. All we’ve really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Our healthcare insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.
“I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It’s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. I have changes urged by my state’s governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill. I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it.
“We’ve tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don’t think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn’t.
“The Obama administration and congressional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare. And we shouldn’t do the same with ours.
“Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let’s return to regular order.
“Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate, and see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.
“What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting much done apart. I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.
“The Senate is capable of that. We know that. We’ve seen it before. I’ve seen it happen many times. And the times when I was involved even in a modest way with working out a bipartisan response to a national problem or threat are the proudest moments of my career, and by far the most satisfying.
“This place is important. The work we do is important. Our strange rules and seemingly eccentric practices that slow our proceedings and insist on our cooperation are important. Our founders envisioned the Senate as the more deliberative, careful body that operates at a greater distance than the other body from the public passions of the hour.
“We are an important check on the powers of the Executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and in many respects to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!
“As his responsibilities are onerous, many and powerful, so are ours. And we play a vital role in shaping and directing the judiciary, the military, and the cabinet, in planning and supporting foreign and domestic policies. Our success in meeting all these awesome constitutional obligations depends on cooperation among ourselves.
“The success of the Senate is important to the continued success of America. This country – this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, restless, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, good and magnificent country – needs us to help it thrive. That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliations.
“We are the servants of a great nation, ‘a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’ More people have lived free and prosperous lives here than in any other nation. We have acquired unprecedented wealth and power because of our governing principles, and because our government defended those principles.
“America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter and the greatest defender of that order. We aren’t afraid. “We don’t covet other people’s land and wealth. We don’t hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.
“What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice? That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.
“What a great honor and extraordinary opportunity it is to serve in this body.
“It’s a privilege to serve with all of you. I mean it. Many of you have reached out in the last few days with your concern and your prayers, and it means a lot to me. It really does. I’ve had so many people say such nice things about me recently that I think some of you must have me confused with someone else. I appreciate it though, every word, even if much of it isn’t deserved.
“I’ll be here for a few days, I hope managing the floor debate on the defense authorization bill, which, I’m proud to say is again a product of bipartisan cooperation and trust among the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“After that, I’m going home for a while to treat my illness. I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the nice things you said about me. And, I hope, to impress on you again that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company.
“Thank you, fellow senators.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”