Sunday, September 6, 2020

Sunday Reading

The Most Infuriating Thing — Charles P. Pierce on the article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.

The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, told me. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.” Kelly’s friend went on to say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried.”

That is the single most poignant moment in Jeffrey Goldberg’s soon-to-be-legendary piece in The Atlantic. Except for the likely instant intervention of the Secret Service, I don’t know how John Kelly didn’t flatten the vulgar talking yam right there at Arlington. But John Kelly didn’t do that. In fact he stayed with the administration*, eventually taking a promotion from Secretary of Homeland Security to White House chief-of-staff. Kelly became the face of cruel and stupid immigration policies at the country’s southern border, defended the president* when the latter made similarly insensitive remarks to a Gold Star widow in Florida and then called Rep. Fredrica Wilson “an empty barrel” when she called the president* out for it, spoke warmly of Robert E. Lee and the armies of the Confederate States of America, and ultimately left the administration* to take a job with a firm that runs the largest detention facility in which “unaccompanied” migrant minor children are held. And John Kelly did all of this after the president* made those graceless remarks about Kelly’s son while standing aside the young man’s grave. Frankly, I don’t know how Kelly could even look at the man without vomiting after that.

That is the part of Goldberg’s piece that is the most infuriating. Yes, the president*’s remarks about all the “losers” and “suckers” who died in Belleau Wood are grotesque—although, to be fair, he isn’t entirely wrong about World War I. Yes, the idea that El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago avoided a trip to a military cemetery in France because rain might have damaged his coiffure is both sad and hilarious. Yes, his obsession with John McCain, which continues to this day, apparently, is the product of a bent and twisted mind. And yes, his apparent revulsion at the sight of wounded veterans is unbecoming in a president of the United States. All of these things are true. But all of these things were true at the time. Kelly and the president* went to Arlington five months into the president*’s term. Kelly worked for the president* for another year and, since then, until just now, he has maintained his silence as the president*’s assault on the rule of law and the Constitution only intensified. All of them—Kelly, H.R. McMaster, James Mattis—have been Good Soldiers rather than patriots. (Mattis did call the president* a threat to the Constitution in another Goldberg piece that ran in June. Of this year. Barn. Lock. Missing horse.) This is also the case for all the anonymous people behind Goldberg’s opus. Personally, I have more respect for the average kid marching in the streets than I do for all of them combined.

I don’t want to hear about “duty” and “service,” either. They took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to hold their tongues until they could get a book deal as a reckless vandal takes the Republic down, brick by brick. Of all the people whom history will account as being complicit in the attempted demolition of constitutional government, I rank them ahead even of the invertebrate Republicans in the United States Senate. I do not expect political courage from the likes of Mitch McConnell or Ben Sasse. I expect it of men who have demonstrated physical courage under extreme circumstances, but never has the difference between battlefield courage and political courage been more clearly drawn. I am glad that Goldberg has written this piece. I’m glad it’s out in the world. I’m glad that people are outraged about it, and I’m glad for whatever role it may ultimately play in lifting this scourge from the land. But I am sorry, and angry, that it has come to this, in 2020, when the vandals are still on a rampage that seems as though it can only end in annihilation.

Acting Out — Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald Trump should take an improv class to make the stories that he creates out of thin air richer in detail, a leading improv expert advised.

Harland Dorrinson, a founding member of Yes/And TheatreWorks, the legendary improv group in St. Louis, said that a grounding in improv would help Trump craft stories that “at least sound like they could be true.”

Dorrinson said that he recently watched a scene performed by Trump and Laura Ingraham, of Fox News, that demonstrated just how much the President could benefit from taking a beginners’ improv workshop.

“Laura Ingraham was giving him great prompts, but he didn’t build on them,” he said. “She asked him to describe the thugs on planes, and he had nothing.”

“He said that they were wearing ‘dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that,’ ” Dorrinson said. “Then he said that they came from ‘a certain city’ and that he heard all of this from ‘a person.’ If you did an improv that lazy on our stage, the audience would demand its money back.”

Despite his criticism, Dorrinson believes that Trump “has what it takes” to be a solid improv performer.

“He has a wild imagination and a truly demented stage presence, but he needs to get serious and put in the work,” he said.

Doonesbury — Color me furious.