The Talking Dog

February 19, 2017, Daddy Dearest


Congressman Mark Sanford, former governor of South Carolina and most famous, ironically, for having disappeared for six days for an extramarital tryst with his Argentine girlfriend while telling his staff he would be uncontactable hiking on the Appalachian trail, is in the bizarre position of having absolute cover to criticize our new president from within the Republican Party.

And criticize he does, in a recent Politico interview.

His digs at Trump cover the spectrum. The president, Sanford says, “has fanned the flames of intolerance.” He has repeatedly misled the public, most recently about the national murder rate and the media’s coverage of terrorist attacks. He showed a lack of humility by using the National Prayer Breakfast to ridicule Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Most worrisome, Sanford says, Trump is unprepared for the presidency. From the Politico interview:

I ask Sanford, in our early February interview, whether it’s fair to say Trump doesn’t impress him. “Yeah, that's accurate,” he tells me. “Because at some level he represents the antithesis, or the undoing, of everything I thought I knew about politics, preparation and life.”

Sanford, an Eagle Scout, has long been renowned for a work ethic that straddles the line between tireless and maniacal. Famously brutal on staff members—his former speechwriter wrote a book documenting his workplace misery—Sanford recalls holding marathon meetings as a congressman and as governor to review every intricate detail of budgets, bills and other proposals that came across his desk.

“And all of a sudden a guy comes along where facts don’t matter?” Sanford asks aloud. “It’s somewhat befuddling. It’s the undoing of that which you base a large part of your life on.”

[snip]

“You want to give anybody the benefit of the doubt. I mean, I’ve learned that through my own trials and tribulations,” Sanford says, one of numerous nods to the Appalachian Trail episode. “But if you see a pattern of over and over and over again, wherein facts don’t matter and you can just make up anything ... ” He stops himself. “Our republic was based on reason. The Founding Fathers were wed to this notion of reason. It was a reason-based system. And if you go to a point wherein it doesn’t matter, I mean, that has huge implications in terms of where we go next as a society.”

OK, I'll get right to it. The President is supposed to be our national Daddy. It is not without irony that our first, and yes, IMHO, our greatest President, George Washington, though actually childless himself, is called "the Father of our Country." And who can forget (if they're really old!) FDR's fatherly fireside chats. Or in more recent times, Dubya (father of twin girls) bought himself a second term through his skillful father-like handling of the aftermath of 9-11. Barack Obama (also father of two girls) putting a nouveau spin on the function, constantly acting as "comforter in chief."

Needless to say, looked at in this light, since demographic shifts favoring the sun belt now prevent the ascendance of a President without winning at least a portion of the most conservative, if not atavistic, parts of the country (the South and the Rust Belt) a woman running for national Daddy was not going to have it easy (and surprise, surprise, while she cruised to an easy win in the liberal parts of the country, she made no inroads anywhere else and lost the election despite winning the popular vote.)

And while Donald J. Trump is the father of five, it is unclear what that really means. He famously bragged that he never diapered any of his own children, as he is a maniacal germophobe and hates touching anyone (let alone poopy infants). It seems clear that his own upbringing involved a father who was somewhere between strict and tyrannical, although Donald J. was the favored one, the heir apparent to the family real estate business.

And it is equally clear that, as a father, whatever Donald did with respect to child-rearing appears to be at least a little bit creepy (assuming he did anything at all, as his first wife, with more than a modicum of credibility on the subject, denies that he had much of a role in raising his first three children at all).

Why do I bring this up? We are fortunate in a sense that, at least in the last four weeks, the only real national crises have been those generated by Mr. Trump himself (although foreign powers ranging from Russia to Iran to North Korea seem hellbent on testing the new waters). And of course, he takes to Twitter several times a day to complain about "unfair treatment" from the people who put him in office. (Having my very close friend also take up that medium, I can attest to its vacuousness.) Specifically, Mr. Trump or his surrogates tastelessly rail against a media that put him in office. For the I don't know how many-eth time, media's monomaniacal pursuit of non-stories like Hillary's emails while not pursuing the real story of Trump's shady business deals and foreign entanglements, not to mention legitimating him with talk show (and SNL!) appearances, actually put him in the White House. Of course, he still complains that games in his favor are "rigged" and that coverage that is insufficiently fawning on his loathsome persona and dreadful performance is somehow "unfair."

Yes, it is a tactic learned from his long tutelage with Satan Roy Cohn, but it seems to be sincere nonetheless: he genuinely fears-- FEARS-- criticism of any kind, which is why anyone who so much as says an unkind word about him is ineligible to serve in his government (despite the catastrophic cost of not having competent people in key positions as a result).

That is not a trait that sits well in Daddy, who is rugged, and tough, and does what he must. In short, the President (gak) is, in his own parlance, a disaster. He is quite likely a traitor to boot, having seemingly ordered his national security adviser to try to undermine American policy with some kind of implicit promise to Russia even as it was clear as day that Russia was directly interfering in an American election (in his favor of course), and, of course his known ties to Russia are legion, and we have no idea if there are more as he won't disclose his tax returns or provide a full accounting of his business interests, and he may well be being blackmailed, assuming details contained in a no longer secret dossier are to be believed.

We are only at two per cent of the time designated for his presidency, and things don't look good. Foreign powers, be they Iran, or China, or North Korea, or, of course, Russia, are testing, testing... and, well, if the President (gak) isn't actually beholden to Russia, he is certainly doing nothing that is not in the national interest.. of Russia.

Four years is a long time. Things are going to happen. And when our nation's head of state, who already is the least qualified man ever to be in the position, as well as the oldest, is nothing more than a needy, ego-centric and unstable individual with a tendency to being a pathological liar... that ain't good.


February 12, 2017, Inflection points


Item: The Oroville Dam in California, the nation's highest, in apparently in imminent danger of collapse after damage to the dam's main spillway following severe storms earlier this week. A metaphor for other things? Or a cautionary tale for a global-warming-denying-President?

Item: Democratic Senator Al Franken tells all who'll listen that his Republican colleagues in the Senate believe that Republican President Donald J. Trump is mentally unstable.

Item: The Grey Lady reports on turmoil at the National Security Council, where the National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, may well have improperly signaled future American policy to a hostile power (that would be Russia) while not yet in office... a problem... and Steve Bannon is on the council... a problem... and the President (gak) is looking for public reaction to determine his next move. Meanwhile, the Jared Kushner owned New York Observer offers an analysis of an intelligence community determined to push back against the Trump Administration.

Item: The President is complaining that the media is not reporting about thousands of enthusiastic supporters cheering him at Mar a Lago. Given that he's probably paying many of them time and a half or more for their presence, his irritation is understandable. Perhaps the crowds are admiring the President's golf game, which he now devotes much time to (after, of course, criticizing Obama for playing golf.)

Item: At least someone is optimistic in light of the Trump Presidency: Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, who suggests that having "the idiot Trump" in the White house is cause for optimism.

Item: In the same week Nordstrom's dropped Ivanka Trump's clothing line, Kmart and Sears are dropping their connection to Trump branded products. If Walmart goes... he's sunk.

Kudos to (gak) the President, insofar as he has altered my understanding of the laws of physics, and, for the now just over three weeks (that's it?) he has been President, he has made time run slower. The question is... what can we take out of the fire-hose worth of activity that has been unleashed (often at the unfortunate speed of "Twitter"-- a medium whose stupidity I can personally attest to since I've my good friend Donald J. Putin has been following the affairs of state.)

Superficially, Trump is a self-absorbed buffoon, stuck in a 3 or 4 year old's narcissistic state of demanding approval and recognition for his greatness. Part of this is his Roy-Cohn-Dark-Side-Jedi training of always lashing out at anyone who crosses him, no matter how small or meaningless the alleged slight, coupled with refusal to pay just debts. But there is also the master tactician at work, who always manages to squeeze something out of any situation for himself, while screwing vendors, contractors, partners, customers, etc. etc. (hint: this won't go so well for the American people). He has figured out that small-minded meanness (of a kind that comes naturally to him) is shockingly popular, and hence, he won't drop his idiotic calls for a Southern border wall and his downright psychotic insistence that Mexico will pay for it, and of course, his surprisingly popular attempt to ban Muslims from entering the United States (then again... how unpopular is it?).

And that's just it. Never before have we had a government come in whose explicit goal was to lie about everything, from voter fraud to the size of crowds to their contacts with Russia presumably to their golf handicaps. So... it becomes hard to see what exactly is coming.

Damned if I know; I just know that I will be very likely poised to oppose it, because it's almost certainly anathema to every principle this country is supposed to stand for. I think.

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February 1, 2017, Today in international incident news


Hey, boys and girls, we're not even two weeks into the (gak) Trump Administration, and we are so spectacularly dealing with all our old international friends, and our new BFFs over in Russia. In neighborly news...

Item: The President evidently berated and threatened the President of Mexico during a phone call, replete with the threat of U.S. troops to combat drug traffickers in cases where the Mexican military couldn't or wouldn't, to, as Trump described it, stop "bad hombres." According to reports, he also demanded Mexico pay for his God damned wall.

Item: The President berated the prime minister of Australia during a phone call, particularly over a long-standing U.S. commitment to accept some 1,250 refugees housed in island-based controversial refugee centers by the Australian government. Aside from abruptly ending the call early, he treated Prime Minister Turnbull to accounts of the size of his electoral win and presumably some of his body parts.

Item: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn "put Iran on notice" concerning its recent test of a missile that might or might not be a prohibited ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon, which is barred by UN resolution and the recent nuclear deal, or... it might not be. Also, a naval assault on a Saudi frigate by Houthis operating in Yemen, believed to be allied with Iran... Well, that's pretty clear.

And a federal judge in Los Angeles issued one of the broadest temporary injunctions yet, basically ordering the government to stop enforcing much of the executive order intended as a ban on Muslims intended as a ban on Muslims from countries where the President isn't doing business in a case brought by a family of 28 Yemenis.

In bonus domestic news, a draft executive order that would seriously curtail LGBTQ rights is circulating; Republicans are shifting their aspirations from "repealing Obamacare" to "repairing Obama care;" the President takes the hair growth drug Propecia; and the First Lady may never move into the White House.

For those keeping score, the number of days without a significant act of national humiliation as a result of actions by the Trump Administration remains unchanged, at zero.

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