Current Comment #13

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 13 ……… December 12th, 2020

SCHEDULING NOTE ~ With this issue, Current Comment is taking a 3-week break for the year-end holidays. The next issue will be posted on January 2nd, 2021.

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ Three separate news stories this week gave us small, but significant, cause for guarded optimism. First, concerning the coronavirus pandemic, the Pfizer vaccine began shipping to all 50 states. Second, amidst the continuing uncertainty about the electoral college’s certification of the presidential election results, the Supreme Court – its three Trump appointees notwithstanding – rejected the Texas challenge to the election results in four crucial swing states. Third and last, the United Nations reminded us in its latest report that the global climate crisis is still very much with us, and suggested that we may actually be making some progress in dealing with it.

The two selections this week both reflect back upon recent history to paint contrasting portraits of Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama. Reading them one after the other may bring to mind the famous opening line of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Twelve words that perfectly capture the last twelve years of the American presidency.

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Selection #1 – New York Magazine political commentator Jonathan Chait takes a look back at an ominous but influential essay from Michael Anton of the conservative Claremont Institute, published in the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign, in which the author misappropriates the heroic choices made by the 9/11 victims on Flight 93 to make a fantastically delusional case for Republicans to choose to support Trump …

“Anton articulated the bedrock principle that has driven the right the last four years: The Democratic Party is so terrifying and all-powerful that literally any measures, however unwise, are justifiable to block them from winning an election. That is the power of Anton’s chosen analogy, which urges his audience to overlook all of Trump’s complete unfitness to handle the job (“You — or the leader of your party — may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane,” he concedes) on the grounds that the alternative means imminent national death. Consciously or not, Anton’s imagery seemed to lodge in the minds of the party elite. Again and again, officials tasked with preventing Trump’s erratic impulses from producing a disaster cast themselves in the position of emergency pilots. “I can land the plane,” promised Rod Rosenstein. “I’m landing the plane right now,” testified William Barr.”

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/michael-antons-flight-93-election-trump-coup.html?utm_source=tw

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Selection #2 – Author and retired New York Times lead book reviewer Michiko Kakutani interviews former president Barack Obama on the occasion of the publication of the first volume of his presidential memoirs, “A Promised Land” …

“Mr. Obama speaks slowly and thoughtfully but with the conversational ease that distinguishes his books, moving freely between the personal and the political, the anecdotal and the philosophical. Whether he’s talking about literature, recent political events or policies implemented by his administration, his observations, like his prose, are animated by an ability to connect social, cultural and historical dots, and a gift — honed during his years as a community organizer and professor of constitutional law — for lending complex ideas immediacy and context.”

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THE WEEKS AHEAD ~ Looking for progress on the coronavirus vaccine rollout and the ongoing Biden presidential transition, and hoping for an end at long last to the democracy-undermining tactics of Trump and his enablers seeking to overturn the results of the November election.

Happy Holidays! Wishing you all in the year ahead good health and growing harmony, in your personal lives and in the world at large. 

Take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom 

REMINDER ~ Current Comment will return with issue #14 on January 2nd, 2021. Until then, you can keep up with the articles I’m reading by following me at https://twitter.com/LiberalBuddhist.

Current Comment #12

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 12 ……… December 5th, 2020

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ We held our collective breaths as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic increased in strength, and at the same time we collectively breathed a little easier as the Biden transition team continued to put forward competent nominees to lead the new administration while Trump’s baseless, and often fraudulent, lawsuits and other schemes to overturn the election met with one failure after another.

This week’s three selections explore from various perspectives the profound consequences for the country as a result of being led these past four years by an individual whose most identifiable trait is, and for his entire public life always has been, his complete lack of honesty.

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Selection #1 – New Yorker editor David Remnick considers the widespread and long-lasting damage caused by Donald Trump’s constant disregard for facts and by his continual embrace of falsehoods …

“Trump’s assault on the press and his assault on the truth––he made more than sixteen thousand false or misleading claims in his first three years in office, according to the Washington Post’s fact-checking operation––have taken their toll. Where once American Presidents gave at least rhetorical support to civil liberties, he has given comfort to foreign autocrats who routinely parrot his slogan of ‘fake news’ and lock up offending journalists. Perhaps Trump’s most disgraceful act in this regard was his refusal to speak a critical word against the Saudi leadership after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Post. The costs at home are no less ominous. It is now estimated that one American dies every minute from Covid-19. Every two or three days there is a 9/11-scale death count. How many of those people died because they chose to believe the President’s dismissive accounts of the disease rather than what public-health officials were telling the press? Half of Republican voters believe Trump’s charge that the 2020 election was ‘rigged.’ What will be the lasting effects on American democracy of that disinformation campaign?”

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Selection #2 – New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni offers a shout-out to Dr Anthony Fauci and other lesser-known heroes of “the deep state”, who, by consistently and courageously speaking the truth in the face of Trump’s lies, often at grave personal danger to themselves and to their families, have made such a huge contribution to our democracy …

“’Deep state’ isn’t the right term — its overtone is too clandestine, its undertone too nefarious — but let’s go with it, co-opt it, [and] define it ourselves, not as a swampy society of self-preserving bureaucrats in Washington but as a steadfast, tradition-minded legion of public officials and civil servants all over the country, in every branch of government. These officials and servants are distinguished by a professionalism that survives and edges out their partisan bearings, by an understanding that the codes of conduct and rules of engagement become more important, not less, when passions run hot. They’re incorrigible that way. Invaluable, too.”

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Selection #3 – New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg examines the toll Trump’s world of “alternate facts” is taking upon many of those Republicans who have supported and enabled him throughout these past four years …

“Since Trump’s defeat, the MAGA revolution has begun devouring its own. As it does, some conservatives are discovering the downsides of having a president who spreads malicious conspiracy theories, subverts faith in democracy and turns the denial of reality into a loyalty test. Historically the American left, more than the right, was known for circular firing squads and excommunications. By turning the Republican Party into a cult of personality, Trump changed that. As the archconservative Jeff Sessions learned years ago, even a lifetime of ideological service is no defense when you’ve displeased Dear Leader. People and institutions that get involved with Trump often end up diminished or disgraced. Since the election, this is happening faster than ever. The president is reportedly thinking of firing Attorney General Bill Barr because, for all Barr’s obsequious toadying, he has declined to repeat Trump’s fantasies about widespread electoral cheating. Much of the MAGA-verse has turned on Fox News, because its news programs aren’t pretending that Trump won.”

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THE WEEK AHEAD ~ More worries about the spread of the coronavirus, and more relief as we move one week closer to the inauguration of Joe Biden.

As always, take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom 

https://twitter.com/LiberalBuddhist