what trump forgot last night

The best thing about last night’s debate? It perfectly encapsulated both candidates. It was a distillation of the qualities and defects of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clinton did what she’s done her entire life. She prepared. She studied, she armed herself with facts and figures, she practiced, she devised various strategies for different possible scenarios. When she walked out on stage she was confident, in control, ready to debate. She knew what to expect and was ready to deal with it.

And Trump did what he’d done his entire life. He winged it. He didn’t bother to study, he didn’t prepare, he didn’t practice. He figured he knew what he needed to know and assumed his ability to out-talk, out-negotiate, and out-bamboozle his opponent would be enough for him to succeed. When he walked out on stage he was cocky, but sadly unprepared. He had no idea what he was in for, and didn’t know how to handle it.


Why was he so unprepared? The qualities that have allowed Trump to be successful at business simply aren’t the qualities needed to win a debate with a serious candidate (or to run a democratic nation). When Clinton accused him of ‘cheering’ the housing crisis, Trump truthfully and accurately replied “That’s called business.” When she accused him of paying zero federal income tax, he said “That makes me smart.” When she referred to the Justice Department’s lawsuits against Trump for racial discrimination, he said, “[Y]es, when I was very young, I went into my father’s company, had a real estate company in Brooklyn and Queens, and we, along with many, many other companies throughout the country — it was a federal lawsuit — were sued. We settled the suit with zero — with no admission of guilt. It was very easy to do.” When she brought up his multiple bankruptcies, Trump said, “I take advantage of the laws of the nation because I’m running a company. My obligation right now is to do well for myself, my family, my employees, for my companies. And that’s what I do.”

And there it is; that’s what he does. More accurately, that’s what his lawyers do. Profiting off home foreclosures — that’s business. Not paying taxes — that’s smart. Settling a discrimination case without an admission of guilt — easy. Avoiding liability by declaring bankruptcy — just taking advantage of the law. That’s why you hire lawyers, right?

That’s what got left out of all those exchanges last night — Trump’s lawyers. When he talks about his successful business negotiations, what he really means is he has enough money to hire good lawyers. He doesn’t have to go to the negotiation table prepared; his lawyers do all the preparation. He doesn’t have to know the details of the issue; he’s hired people to do that for him. He can sit in a room with business opponents and, in effect, say “This is what I want; this is how it’s going to be.” But then he leaves the room and lets the lawyers pound out the details. Trump’s lawyers have made him a lot of money. Trump seems to think having a lot of money and a lot of lawyers is the same as being smart and powerful.

Last night we saw one candidate who was willing do the dull, un-glamorous grunt work necessary to succeed. We saw the other candidate who was largely lost at sea without a cadre of legal fluffers doing the hard work for him. Last night Trump failed to bring his checkbook and his team of lawyers (and maybe Sean Hannity) to the debate stage.

the black death, cheap pans, and trump

So last week Donald Trump promised to make a ‘big announcement’ about President Barack Obama’s…no, wait. First, we should probably talk about the social and economic upheaval that followed the Black Plague in the 14th century, because…no, wait. It might make more sense to explain the Dutch language spoken from about 1100-1500 CE is known as Middle Dutch. That’s only important because…no, wait.

Okay, let’s try that again. The Black Plague killed off a hefty chunk of the population of Europe, right? Right. One result of that was the loss of village merchants. Before the plague if you needed a pan, you’d walk into the village and buy a pan. No big deal, easy peasy lemon squeezy. But then the plague comes and your local pan dealer goes toes up, and suddenly there’s no place to buy a pan. And you need a pan, right? What are you going to do — cook your porridge in a boot?

Business opportunity! There was a surge of wandering pedlars who traveled from village to village in the Low Countries selling and repairing cheap wares: pots and pans, knives and scissors, cheap jugs and pitchers. These wares were known as hoken and the men who sold and repaired them were called hokesters. They not only sold and repaired pans, the best hokesters regaled their customers with news and gossip from other villages.

You need a pan? I got a pan. Such a pan, shiny, best ever, people tell me.

You need a pan? I got a pan. Such a pan, shiny, best ever, people tell me. People love my pans, I can tell you that. 

But there were also shady hokesters. They were basically con men who charmed their customers, played on their vanity, fed into their prejudices, encouraged their desire to win a bargain through haggling, said whatever they needed to say in order to sell them some cheap-ass, shoddy hoken that soon needed to be repaired or replaced. These asshole hokesters effectively created a revolving market. They’d sell you a shiny cheap-ass pan that dented easily or broke because it was good for business. They could either charge you to repair it or sell you another cheap-ass pan, which would also break soon.

Over time, the population of Europe recovered from the Black Plague. Honest pedlars set up shops in town, and you could buy a damned pan without much fuss again. Only the shifty hokesters continued to travel the pan circuit. The Middle Dutch word hokester morphed into the modern term huckster.

Which brings us to Donald J. Trump.

The news media is constantly baffled by Trump’s willingness to say completely different things to different audiences, without any regard to consistency. They continue to view him as a person running for political office — but he’s not. He’s just a huckster selling his product. Everything he says and does is said and done to move a product — and Trump’s product is his name. Not Trump as a person; Trump as a product. Here’s what’s important to remember: a huckster says whatever he thinks will entice the customers in front of him right now to buy his product. He’s not interested in what he said to a different set of customers yesterday. It doesn’t matter. He’s already sold them a shiny cheap-ass pan, and he’s moved on. A huckster shifts his pitch to entice the customer at hand.

What, your pan broke? It happens, pans break. Pans break. They break, trust me. If you want, I can sell you a better pan.

What, your pan broke? It happens, pans break. Pans break. They break, trust me. If you want, I can sell you a better pan.

Trump isn’t driven by ideology, or principle, or religion, or concern for the public, or any of the other motivations that drive politicians. He’s driven by the desire to move the product.

Is Trump a racist? Maybe, I don’t know. He may not give a shit about race. But he’ll play along with racists if he can sell them a shiny pan. Is he anti-Muslim? Maybe. Maybe he’s go no interest in religion at all. But if it helps him unload some cheap-ass scissors, he’ll say anti-Muslim shit all day long. Is he a patriot? Don’t know, but there’s product to be moved and if waving a flag will help move it, then he’ll be Betsy fucking Ross for a couple of hours.

Trump is a huckster, plain and simple. A huckster on a very big stage, but still a huckster. He’s selling shiny, cheap-ass pots and pans to chumps. There’s always somebody who’ll buy that shit.


trump-level derangement & gazoony rays

I haven’t written much lately about Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President of These United States, for the following reasons:

  1. The tsunami of offensive, idiotic shit Trump says is just overwhelming; no human can keep up with it — not writers, not readers. It would take a damned cyborg to process the daily load of Trump bullshit.
  2. The phrase Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President of These United States is troubling in itself. I recognize all those words individually, but they make no sense when arranged in that order.
  3. C’mon, seriously, what is there to say about this guy?

But there are some Trump moments that are so entirely deranged that they bear repeating, if only as evidence that there’s a reason the term ‘deranged’ exists. Yesterday in Florida (of course, it had to be Florida), we saw two (2) such moments take place within minutes of each other. According to the New York Times, Trump said this:

“[W]hen Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”

Got that? If Iranian sailors in small craft approach a U.S. warship and make rude gestures, we should obliterate them. That’s deranged, of course, but it’s ‘normal’ derangement. I mean, it falls into the conventional range of crazy. What makes it deranged on a Trump scale is that moments later he said this about Hillary Clinton:

“She’s trigger happy.”

He wants to blow Iranian sailors out of the water for making rude gestures, but she’s trigger happy. This is the key to understanding Trump-level derangement. It creates a neural state in which a sentence spoken aloud exists independently, entirely devoid of any context or connection to the sentences that precede or follow it. Make a rude gesture and die. She is trigger-happy. To a ‘normal’ human, that would seem inconsistent. Not to Trump, though, because they’re two totally separate and completely unrelated sentences.

But that’s just ONE of the deranged Trump moments that took place in public yesterday in Florida. The other? Trump said Clinton:

“…is being so protected. She could walk into this arena right now and shoot somebody with 20,000 people watching, right smack in the middle of the heart, and she wouldn’t be prosecuted. Okay? That’s what’s happening.”

In case you were wondering what was happening, that’s it right there. Hillary Clinton can shoot somebody and not get prosecuted. That’s altogether different from what Trump said about himself back in January. He said:

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?”

Again, to a ‘normal’ person, it would seem hypocritical to complain that one’s opponent could get away with shooting somebody after having bragged about personally being able to get away…wait. Wait just one fucking minute. What sort of person uses the capacity to get away with shooting another person as a metric for…well, for anything? I mean, Jeebus Caliber, what the fuck?

Trump emitting high-power Gazoony Rays

Trump emitting high-power Gazoony Rays

See, this is why I don’t write much about Trump. His level of derangement distorts all normal measures of derangement. Instead of being appalled by his bluster about being able to shoot somebody and not lose voters — which is REALLY APPALLING — you find yourself instead examining his hypocrisy about other folks being able to shoot…fuck me, I’m doing it again.

There’s only one possible explanation for this — only one explanation that makes any sense at all. Donald Trump must be emitting extremely powerful Mind-Distorting Gazoony Rays. There’s no other explanation.

battle of fuckwits

Jeebus Caramba! Donald Trump is going to Mexico! That’s bizarre enough on its own, but wait…he’s going there to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto. And if you’re wondering if this is the same President Enrique Peña Nieto who publicly compared Trump to Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, the answer is yes.

Almost nobody in Mexico likes Trump. Almost nobody in Mexico likes President Enrique Peña Nieto. This is like mixing snot with pus. Nothing worthwhile can come of this. This meeting makes no sense in any rational universe. Maybe Enrique Peña Nieto thinks he can humiliate Trump, thereby finally making him popular among Mexicans…despite the fact that his invitation to Trump has made him even less popular. Or maybe Trump thinks he can humiliate Enrique Peña Nieto, thereby making him popular…among the people who already like him?

Donald J. Trump meets with Mexican President President Enrique Peña Nieto

Donald J. Trump meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto

Seriously, on the surface this move looks completely fucking insane for both parties. I have no idea why they’ve agreed to meet, President Enrique Peña Nieto must have been drunk when he issued the invitation. And Donald Trump — well, who the hell knows why he does anything. They’ll very likely both come off as…wait.

Wait just a minute. Is there…could it be possible…what if…?

What if they’ve both made themselves immune to iocaine powder?

a special kind of asshole

Yesterday a casual acquaintance sent me an email today with a link to a Baltimore Sun editorial by Richard J. Cross III. I wasn’t familiar with the name, but he’s the guy that wrote the ‘Benghazi Mom’ speech for Patricia Smith — the woman whose son died during the attack on the consular outpost. Cross, in the editorial, says this:

In that speech, I concluded with the following line: “If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency?” As a political speechwriter, that was something of a home run moment for me. The New Yorker called the speech “the weaponization of grief.”

He considers the weaponization of grief to be a home run moment. That should tell you just about everything you want to know about this guy. He wrote a speech for a grieving mother — an emotionally powerful speech he knew would be given in front of a large audience at the Republican National Convention — the convention at which Donald Trump would accept the nomination.

In the speech Cross describes Trump in this way:

Donald Trump is everything Hillary Clinton is not. He is blunt, direct, and strong. He speaks his mind, and his heart.

In the speech, Cross directly blames Hillary Clinton for the death of this poor woman’s son. He writes:

For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton. I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.

Now Cross says he can’t bring himself to vote for Trump. Why? Because Trump “embraces fear.” Because Trump has said ugly things about Muslims. Like this is some sort of revelation. In his editorial Cross says:

The central question in 2016: Are Muslim Americans an equal and welcome member of the American constituency? For me, the answer is a clear “yes.”

So he’s decided he has to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Richard Cross III

Richard Cross III

Well, fuck him. Fuck Richard Cross the Third. Fuck him three times. Fuck him in the neck. This guy deserves no praise. When you wave the bloody shirt, you don’t get to pretend you were just doing your job. You don’t get to repudiate Donald Trump while celebrating a speech that praised him. You don’t get to refer to the reality that Trump isn’t qualified to be the President of These United States as “an inconvenient fact.”

If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency?

You have to be a special sort of asshole to get a mother grieving for her dead son to stand on a stage and ask that question and then answer it by saying you’re going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Richard Cross III is that special kind of asshole.

maybe the worst thing

On Friday I overheard a passing fragment of conversation — a question, and the question repeated — and it’s sort of lodged irritatingly in my mind. You know — like a popcorn husk caught between the teeth; you keep worrying at it pointlessly with tongue. Here’s a fair approximation of the conversation fragment:

“Okay, what’s the worst thing about Trump?”

“The worst thing about Trump?”

There was a very distinct Are you fucking kidding me? vibe to the repetition of the question — as if the answer was so obvious it didn’t need a response, or that there were so many answers that it was impossible to respond. But it got me thinking. What IS the worst thing about Donald Trump?

The ease with which he tells lies? The fact that he’s completely unconcerned about getting caught telling lies? His possibly pathological need for attention? His brittle arrogance? His constant self-congratulation? His willful ignorance? His ignorance of his ignorance? Trump really DOES have so many offensive personal qualities that it’s difficult to pick which one is worst. Hell, there are so many offensive personal qualities that it’s difficult even to catalog them. You’d need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them.

But at the moment, I’m inclined to think the worst thing about Trump is that he’s so unrelentingly awful — both as a candidate and as a person — that he might immunize the Republican Party from their worst defeat in recent history. Let’s face it, the Republicans have been increasingly horrible as a political party for two or three decades. This year they put up seventeen of the most ghastly, reprehensible weasels imaginable to run for President of These United States. Seventeen candidates, each completely horrible in his or her own way — and they ended up nominating that worst of them.

Donald Trump is such a hopelessly dreadful candidate that when he loses in November he’ll likely drag down a big chunk of the Republican Party with him. If any of the other potential GOP candidates had been nominated, they almost certainly would lose in November as well — but their loss might have triggered a moment of genuine reflection among Republicans. They might have found themselves asking the questions the GOP really needs to be asking: ‘How did we allow our party to become the party of obstructionist fuckwits? How did we turn from a party of principled conservatives into a party of hateful, bigoted pus-buckets? How did we become the party of fear and anxiety? Why did we convince ourselves that it was more important to prevent the president from succeeding than to find ways to make the government work?’

"'Twasn't us who threatened the Maid of America, 'twas that asshole Trump!"

“‘Twasn’t us who threatened the Maid of America,” cried Republicans, “’twas that asshole Trump!”

For a while I honestly believed a crushing Trump defeat might be the spark Republicans need to reignite themselves as ‘the loyal opposition’. I thought his loss might create an atmosphere that would encourage Republican legislators to remember that their primary responsibility is to help sustain a functioning government while fighting for policies driven by their political ideology. But, again, it looks like a Trump defeat might allow them to avoid asking those uncomfortable questions.

That might actually be the worst thing about Donald Trump. Not any of his odious personal qualities, but the fact that he might give the GOP a Get Out of Jail Free card for four more years.

When Trump loses in November, they can tell themselves “It wasn’t the Republican Party that lost; it was that asshole Trump.”


Have you ever had a concussion?

Yesterday I dragged myself to a Donald Trump rally. It was a lot like being concussed. We’re talking about confusion, difficulty remembering, impaired concentration, weariness, headache, lack of motivation, bouts of nausea. Listening to Donald Trump speak is a lot like getting clocked in the noggin with a ball peen hammer.

First off, Trump’s speech — well, it wasn’t really a speech. Not in any traditional sense. Gov. Mike Pence, who introduced Trump (and whose hair, by the way, is so blindingly white that you can only directly look at it through a welder’s mask), gave a speech. A traditional speech with rhythm and applause lines and an internal structure leading to a conclusion. The content of his speech was bullshit, but it was recognizable as an actual speech and it was well-delivered.

I didn't see anybody use the ADA entrance; I'm not sure Trump supporters are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I didn’t see anybody use the ADA entrance; I’m not sure Trump supporters are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Trump, on the other hand, spoke almost entirely in muddled sentence fragments. He had notes which he’d occasionally consult, after which he’d say…stuff. I got the sense the notes held talking points arranged in some sort of order, and a few quotations he wanted to read to the crowd, but mostly he just said…stuff. Much of what he said was stuff he’d said before. I don’t mean stuff he’d said in earlier events (although he did that too); I mean stuff he’d said moments before. He’d say stuff, then say it again in a slightly different order or with a slightly different inflection. Like this: “France isn’t France anymore. It’s not France. It’s not. It’s not France. It’s not France anymore. Many people agree, it’s not. It used be France. Not anymore.” He said that. Maybe not exactly that (it’s hard to recall on account of that whole ‘concussion’ business), but something very much like that.

Here’s the weird thing — well, one of the weird things: I think France isn’t France actually had meaning for him. I have no idea what that meaning was, but he clearly thought he’d made a point. France, to him, was somehow NOT France. Don’t ask me to explain.

Waiting for Trump to arrive.

Waiting for Trump to arrive.

Sometimes he’d say stuff he’d said before, then he’d explain how other folks heard and misinterpreted what he’d said. So he’d say it again. He told the story about the crying baby at an earlier rally. He talked about the baby, what the baby was doing, why he loves babies, about how loud the baby was, the baby was like Pavarotti, he wanted to find the baby and hire somebody to give it opera lessons, it was a loud baby, babies are things he loves, but c’mon. Then he talked about how the media reported the Crying Baby Incident, how he was unfairly accused of throwing the baby out of the rally. He spoke about how corrupt the news media is and how wrong they are about him throwing babies. Trump said (again, maybe not the actual words) “I don’t throw babies. I love babies. I don’t throw babies.”

With that I thought he was done with the CBI, but no. He then talked about talking about the Crying Baby Incident with a local newscaster, saying he’d given that newscaster a three-minute explanation of the CBI, explaining in detail what happened with the baby (who by the way, was very loud and Trump was trying to give a speech after all), but did any of his three-minute explanation get broadcast to the public? No. Unfair. Sad.

Seriously, I am NOT making this up; Donald Trump, speaking to voters, did maybe eight minutes on the CBI. The crowd looked pretty dazed and confused. They’d come to cheer and chant slogans. “Lock her up!” “Build the wall!” But Trump wasn’t giving them anything to chant. Not even a crowd of Trump supporters is going to chant “Throw that baby out!”

This is the guy I followed to find the Trump rally.

This is the guy I followed to find the Trump rally.

Trump apparently sensed their confusion, so he dropped the CBI and gave the crowd what they wanted. Hillary and terrorism. Not just Hillary, and not just terrorism — Hillary AND terrorism :

“I can tell you this. If Hillary Clinton becomes president, you will have, you will have terrorism. You will have problems. You will have really, in my opinion, the destruction of this country from within. Just remember that. Just remember I said it. The destruction of our country from within.”

The crowd ate that up with a spoon. These people hate Hillary Clinton. There were folks in the crowd wearing t-shirts with Hillary Sucks, but Not Like Monica on the front and Trump That Bitch on the back. Think about that — people actually wore shirts like that to a rally for a guy who says he wants to be President of These United States. On a couple of occasions somebody in the crowd shouted “Hang the bitch.” They openly referred to his political opponent as a bitch. And nobody was outraged. And why would they be? I mean, when their chosen candidate himself tells them she’s out to destroy our country, why would they be offended by somebody calling her a bitch? That line about destroying our country got cheers and applause, and cheers and applause are heroin to Trump. So he continued:

“She’s really pretty close to unhinged, and you’ve seen it a couple of times, but the people in the background know it. The people that know her know it, and she’s like an unbalanced person.”

She’s unhinged, unbalanced, a bitch. That gave the crowd a reason to chant. That’s what they really seemed to want from Trump’s ‘speech’ — a reason to chant. “Build the Wall!” “USA! USA!” But clearly, their favorite chant was “Lock her up!” The other chants were sort of perfunctory, but they really got into “Lock her up.” They’d been waiting for the opportunity to chant “Lock her up” and damn it, they were going to chant the hell out of it.

Trump supporters seemed baffled by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Trump supporters seemed baffled by Black Lives Matter protesters.

By that point I was deep into ball peen to the forehead territory. I was emotionally concussed. So I stumbled out of the hall and spent a few semi-hallucinatory minutes watching Trump supporters try to figure out the best way to offend a small group of Black Lives Matter protesters. A few tried chanting “White Lives Matter” but it didn’t really take.

Giant fishing bobber and Pokestop

Giant fishing bobber and Pokestop (pagoda in the background)

I wandered down by the river where an Asian family with young kids were hunting Pokemon beside a statue of a giant fishing bobber.

I caught a Jynx. It was that sort of afternoon.

booing and heckling and slouching toward bethlehem

Okay, let’s talk about Bernie Sanders supporters booing the speakers at the Democratic National Convention. Let’s talk about them booing and heckling Elijah Cummings and Cory Booker, let’s talk about them booing and heckling Elizabeth Warren, and booing every time Hillary Clinton’s name was spoken. Let’s talk about them booing and heckling Bernie Sanders himself.

I’m okay with it.


The booing and heckling, I mean. I don’t like it, mind you. It’s rude and it’s childish and it doesn’t accomplish anything other than making the hecklers feel better. But basically, I’m okay with it. These folks are angry and disappointed and frustrated; they’ve invested a lot of themselves into Bernie’s campaign. They were promised a revolution; they just didn’t understand that nonviolent revolutions sometimes take longer.

Bernie never promised them a victory; he only promised to help create a revolutionary movement. He fulfilled that promise. A lot of the hecklers appear to have believed that the sheer intensity of their belief in Bernie merited some sort of reward — that because they loved Bernie more than Hillary’s supporters loved her, they should get electoral extra credit for it. They seem to have felt that Bernie owed them a victory. And they feel they’ve been misled and cheated.

bernie protesters

I don’t think they have been misled; I don’t believe they’ve been cheated. But I also feel they really DO deserve some sort of reward for their passion and hard work. Let them vent their frustration. It’s not much of a reward, to be sure. But I’m inclined to think they’ve earned the right to be a bit unruly.

At the heel of the hunt, however, it’s critically important to come together and defeat Donald Trump. I think almost everybody understands that. There will undoubtedly be some Bernie supporters who write Bernie’s name on the ballot in protest, and some who’ll vote for Jill Stein instead — but I hope those numbers will be few. Because, in the words of my boy Billy Butler Yeats, we know “what rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born”.

It’s Trump.