The weekend Tweets accusing Barack Obama of bugging him brought him almost universal public disdain and near-zero defense from his own advisers. Backed into a corner to which his lifestyle is sadly not accustomed, the president is suddenly shunning the cameras and the Internet. Usually one to revel in his own righteous xenophobia, he even felt compelled to sign his revised, but still very nasty, Muslim travel ban behind closed doors. His press secretary has not held a televised briefing in many days.
(Update, 1:38 p.m.: I obviously wrote this post prematurely, because Trump has fallen off the wagon. He was just seen bursting out from behind a portrait of Hillary Clinton, his mouth open and his arms outstretched, to "surprise" a group of school children touring the White House. According to the New York Times, the kids shrieked with joy, or something. Oh, and Spicer was also holding a TV Q&A)
The longer that Trump delays declassifying and releasing any evidence of Obama wiretapping, the more it appears that there's nothing much to his allegations. That is a profound disappointment, especially in light of the new WikiLeaks revelations about CIA hacking of smartphones and TVs. Trump could indeed be "caving" to pressure from the so-called intelligence community as well as from relentless gaslighting by the mainstream media.
Naturally, the liberal commentariat are already seizing upon the WikiLeaks dump as just one more indication of a nefarious (and still totally unproven) Trump-Russia conspiracy. (see, for example, readers' comments in the above-linked New York Times article.) Trump's xenophobia is being countered not by tolerance and facts and progressive ideas, but by rabid Russophobia. An unhealthy allegiance to the Spy State is on full display by liberals and neocons alike.
It's one form of ugliness being pitted against other form of ugliness.
Meanwhile, the establishment media's psychological warfare against Trump seems to be taking its desired toll. He is in Twitter rant retreat, at least for now. This might be a welcome reprieve for those of us suffering from severe Trump fatigue, but it's very bad for democracy. With a paranoid authoritarian like him in charge, wouldn't you rather know what he is doing and thinking at all times, no matter how much it nauseates you?
If you're a normal human being, probably not. I know that there are many days when my own stomach and nerves can't bear even a glimpse of his tufted comb-over and his flapping tie, when my ears close at the slightest hint of a whisper of his spittle-inflected voice. There are days when I literally have to force myself to turn on the news and go online to learn about the latest depravity.
As regular readers know, I recently called my cable provider to cancel TV, until they offered me a one-third price reduction to keep me tethered to the freak show. When threatened, capitalism does occasionally offer its slaves a crumb here or there to keep its engine thrumming.
So as we're both eagerly awaiting and dreading Trump's bodily return to the public stage, it's easy enough to discern the essential Trumpian nastiness of his latest legalistic executive order. The written word can be every bit as vile as the spoken word. No matter how much he tries to tone it down and hide it beneath formal legalese, Trump's psychopathology comes through loud and clear.
By bending over backwards to insist that he is not bigoted against Muslims, the president displays all his irrepressible bigotry against Muslims. He clumsily couches this bigotry in language purporting to protect the interests of "minority religions" in locales with a majority Muslim population:
Executive Order 13769 did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion. While that order allowed for prioritization of refugee claims from members of persecuted religious minority groups, that priority applied to refugees from every nation, including those in which Islam is a minority religion, and it applied to minority sects within a religion. That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion, but was instead intended to protect the ability of religious minorities -- whoever they are and wherever they reside -- to avail themselves of the USRAP (United States Refugee Admissions Program) in light of their particular challenges and circumstances.Trump also has limited the number of refugees granted entry into the US this year to a ridiculously low 50,000. And he will bypass international human rights norms by allowing individual states to reject people based upon whatever criteria they wish. If they want to be racist and xenophobic, they have the full blessing of the Trump administration.
The misogynistic president further betrays his bigotry by calling for a public database of gender-based offenses against Muslim women... by "foreign nationals" only. Good ole boys from America are apparently exempt from inclusion in The List. Grab away, guys!
Although he mercifully removed Iraq from the original seven countries subject to his travel ban, Trump made clear that this exception was only the result of the "cooperation" of Iraqi officials in allowing American troops back in to fight the never-ending war in their destroyed country.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer also made it clear in one of those newly-closed "press gaggles" on Monday that the Trump administration's revised order is no admission of fault or correction of error in the original. "Make no mistake, we lost the element of surprise back when the court enjoined this in the Ninth Circuit," he said.
The nastiness just cannot hide itself. Spicer tacitly admitted the utter contempt with which the Trump administration holds the judicial system. He gloated that the only purpose of the "revised" order is to dress the bigotry in just enough concern-trolling fluff to punk the judicial system.
Trump and his minions are trying to become more traditional, adept politicians through the magical use of double-talk. And they're really quite terrible at it.
Victor Klemperer, a German Jew and Enlightenment scholar who kept a diary (I Will Bear Witness) of more than decade's worth of everyday life under Nazism, regularly included critiques of what he called "the language of the Third Reich."
His entry for March 31, 1942:
"The language brings it out into the open. Perhaps someone wants to conceal the truth by speaking. But the language does not lie. Perhaps someone wants to utter the truth. But the language is more true than he is. There is no remedy against the truth of language. Medical researchers can fight a disease as soon as they have recognized its essential properties. Philologists and poets recognize the essential properties of language, but they cannot prevent language from testifying to the truth."
|Victor Klemperer: Our Literary Guide to Fascism|