Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Dawn of Trump

Fellow Contemporariones,

The hour is late.  On Tuesday Super Tuesday will rear up and gorge on all our political prospects.  Let me throw in a few observations, an idea or two, at least a little of which you might find relevant.

The political appetite incarnate blotting out the sky at the moment is the candidacy of Donald Trump.  I know, I've attempted to deal with Trump before, but enough has come through to deserve another round.  Bear with me, and I will be patient with you.

For months the pundits dealt with Trump as an obstreperous but passing entertainment, a kind of Borscht Belt quasi-Yankee popoff who couldn't possibly last.  He has lasted, in part by gnawing away at treasured elements of Republican Party mythology the party establishment seems to hold sacred.  Universal, government-run single-payer health care might not be too bad, Trump has suggested, better than the patch-and-fill of Obamacare.  Tax the hedge fund impresarios at normal rates. Face up to the gross misjudgments that induced the Congress to authorize the invasion of Iraq and leave the country with so many thousands of crippled and deranged veterans and a two trillion dollar national debt.  Hang onto Planned Parenthood, except for the subsidizing of abortions.

As Trump sets his charges under the planks of Republican orthodoxy it is hard not to agree with Jeb Bush:  This rabble-rouser is not a Republican at all.   While the drums were beating to go into Iraq in 2003-4 I myself was talking to senior CIA officials and passing on their confessions that there were no WMD  of consequence in Iraq to Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.  Kennedy, at least, listened.  We went in anyhow and have been paying the price.
Many of Trump's revelations are overdue, especially on the Right.  Bernie Sanders is well advised -- our tax policies need revision. The unexpected demise of Justice Scalia doesn't seem to me grounds for his premature canonization -- this was the leader of the Supreme Court faction that delayed federal efforts to clean up toxic coal emissions and foisted Citizens United on the unwary public and by doing so authorized the flood of money that hardened into place the oligarchy Sanders decries.  And on what grounds -- First Amendment, free speech!

The most serious problem I see with Donald Trump's candidacy is his willful ignorance, his habit of throwing phrases and bromides at situations without understanding what has gone on so far and what the likely consequences of his outbursts might turn out to be.  In this respect -- I've suggested this before -- he reminds me of Hitler, who peddled the notion of getting rid of the Jews, or rolling into Lebensraum in the East, and finally found himself compelled to follow up on all the rhetoric.  In the end six million Jews were exterminated along with perhaps twenty million young Germans, a generation the loss of which I would discover when I lived there still tortures the entire nation.  The problem with loose talk is that it leads to unimaginable tragedy.  Trump's claim that he would throw out eleven million Latinos, or execute the relatives of radical Islamists, or permit the government to torture its suspects far beyond mere waterboarding -- a rant like this raises hackles.

I broke off writing this to watch a rebroadcast of Bill Maher's show this week.  His guest was General Michael Hayden, head of both the NSA and the CIA during his time in government.  If Trump makes good his promise to "do waterboarding and a whole lot more" the entire military establishment would revolt, Hayden insisted.  Universal disaffection looms.

We may very well be at a historical crossroads.  Let's hope even Joe Sixpack is starting to understand that.

Keep your powder dry.

Burton Hersh