So much great stuff to read, so little time. The least I can do is share.
So today, I am touting a trifecta. The bad news is, all three pieces relate in some way to Donald Trump. I know, I’m groaning, too. On the health meter, thinking about this guy is like dining at Chipotle. But still, I stand by these recommendations.
A weekend with Trump: ‘He hasn’t changed’
A fellow Philadelphia Inquirer alum, the estimable Mark “Blackhawk Down” Bowden, is reminiscing on the Vanity Fair website about the long weekend he spent with Trump back in 1996. Here’s a choice passage:
He was like one of those characters in an 18th-century comedy meant to embody a particular flavor of human folly. Trump struck me as adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated, and consistently wrong. He remains the most vain man I have ever met. And he was trying to make a good impression. Who could have predicted that those very traits, now on prominent daily display, would turn him into the leading G.O.P. candidate for president of the United States?
You know how Trump’s naive and doltish fans – potential voters, no less — revere him because they think he’s a successful businessman? Perhaps they should read this passage:
As a businessman he had crashed and burned, rescued only by creditors who had to bail him out lest they be dragged down with him. His enterprises were being run by court-appointed managers, who had put him back on his financial feet mostly by investing heavily in Atlantic City, which was then on the rise. He had insulated himself from failure with bluster.
Bowden recounts his personal dealings with Trump – they’re priceless, as you can imagine – and he winds up here:
As I’ve watched his improbable political rise, it is clear that he hasn’t changed. The very things that made him so unappealing apparently now translate into wide popular support. Apart from the comical ego, the errors, and the self-serving bluster, what you get from Trump are commonplace ideas pronounced as received wisdom. Begin registering all Muslims in America? Round up the families of suspected terrorists? Ban all Muslims from entering the country? …. The ideas that pop into his head are the same ones that occur to any teenager angry about terror attacks. They appeal to anyone who can’t be bothered to think them through …
Can’t be bothered to think things through – there you have it, an apt summation of the Trump fan mentality. And if you want a good laugh, check out Bowden’s closing anecdote.
Poisoning the grassroots
New Yorker political writer Ryan Lizza has a piece in this week’s magazine about the House of Representatives — most notably, the Republicans’ attempts to govern at a time when their grassroots voters are getting more and more nuts. One particular passage stands out:
[Devin] Nunes, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence, told me that the biggest change he’s seen since he arrived in Congress, in 2002, is the rise of online media outlets and for-profit groups that spread what he views as bad, sometimes false information, which House members then feel obliged to address. The change has transformed Nunes from one of the most conservative members of Congress to one of the biggest critics of the [right wing] Freedom Caucus and its tactics.
“I used to spend ninety per cent of my constituent response time on people who call, e-mail, or send a letter, such as, ‘I really like this bill, H.R. 123,’ and they really believe in it because they heard about it through one of the groups that they belong to, but their view was based on actual legislation,” Nunes said. “Ten per cent were about ‘Chemtrails from airplanes are poisoning me’ to every other conspiracy theory that’s out there. And that has essentially flipped on its head.” The overwhelming majority of his constituent mail is now about the far-out ideas, and only a small portion is “based on something that is mostly true.” He added, “It’s dramatically changed politics and politicians, and what they’re doing.”
Only a small share of the Republican congressman’s mail is “based on something that is mostly true.” Most of Nunes’ mail recycles lies and conspiracy theories. No wonder Trump is thriving. A fetid fever swamp is the ideal ecosystem for a demagogue.
Notes from a Muslim-American: ‘I too am American’
Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry is best assessed by a Muslim-American. Here’s food for thought from a high school student whose byline is R. Aicha:
Like all Americans, I have processed the Islam/terrorist association. Unlike most Americans, however, I am at once the target audience and the monster to be feared. This is an unpleasant state of being …. I am 17 years old. It is crushing to think about spending an entire life shape shifting and explaining and overcompensating in a desperate attempt to prove that I’m okay. That I too am American. An entire life watching people watching me and wondering what they think, even though it is entirely possible that they don’t care at all …. This column was supposed to be funny. It was supposed to be about gym class. But after the Paris attacks the plans changed. After San Bernardino they changed again. What happens tomorrow?
R. Aicha, a budding writer and contest winner, has voiced interest in the University of Pennsylvania, where I teach. I hope she comes.