Intellectual Shutdown

I’m sure by now you are thoroughly sick of the transparent messaging squabbles involved in the “Schumer shutdown” versus “Trump shutdown” debate that ended earlier this evening. The particulars of how we arrived at this strange moment in American politics are complicated but comprehensible, and they involved a detailed accounting of the parties’ (and the president’s) positions on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy, not a silly hashtag war about who is to blame. Both parties are to blame in a sense, of course. The salient question, however, is whose role in shutting down the government was justified and to what extent. That’s an inquiry that involves both an assessment of the parties’ values and whether their negotiating positions and public statements support them—a full consideration of who is being consistent, who is negotiating in good faith, and whose words are backed up by their actions. But that’s not what we are getting.

For all the talk of how the media has adapted to the Trump era, the shutdown coverage has shown how far we have yet to go. Continue reading

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Review: What Happened

 

What Happened by Hillary Clinton

It was no surprise that Hillary’s Clinton’s latest book was greeted by many as yet another attempt by a calculating politician to deflect blame and reposition her reputation. Here was the former Democratic nominee, not even a year removed from a shocking electoral defeat that by all accounts should not have happened and that has imperiled American democracy, reinserting herself into the national discourse to yet again defend and explain her values and choices. Always opposed to losers, frequently distrusting of Clintons, and often unsympathetic to women, political pundits focused their reviews on whether Clinton sufficiently accepted responsibility for her election loss, seeking their pound of flesh. In a media landscape that allowed vague suspicions about Clinton’s motives and morals to reach equal footing with the daily outrages of Donald Trump, it was all too easy to dismiss Clinton as the worst interpreter of “what happened.”

In many ways, the critical reception proved the unstated thesis of the book. That once set, narratives never die. And for Hillary Clinton—a smart, ambitious, private, and independent woman—that narrative has always been that there was something lurking behind the curtain even when she was most exposed. Fortunately, then, Clinton didn’t write What Happened for those viewing her through that prism. Instead, she set out to expose that prism and show its effect on both the campaign and her public life. Continue reading

The Wrong Stuff

It has been clear for some time now that Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be president of the United States. This observation has little to do with recognizing his profound lack of knowledge, expertise, or interest in the job, to say nothing of his gusto for dousing America’s smoldering racial and religious divisions with kerosene, or his penchant for looting the government’s coffers for his own private gain. All of that is true, and supports the years-long insistence from Democrats and half-hearted, anonymous leaks from timid Republicans that Trump is fundamentally unable to perform even the most minimal functions of the job. What has become increasingly clear since he took the oath of office, however, is something even more serious—Trump is exhibiting significant mental deterioration and instability. Continue reading

This Has to Stop

Nuclear explosion

It’s not the most egregious thing Donald Trump has ever done. He’s made far more vulgar statements before. His past utterances have been far more bizarre and nonsensical. His presidential actions are more likely to cause greater lasting harm than any incendiary comment gushing from his addled, angry brain—from environmental deregulation to regressive tax cuts to the destabilization of health care markets. Besides, maintaining peak outrage over a Trumpian tweet is a hopeless endeavor. He can always go lower, and he’ll waste little time doing so.

But the series of 2018-christening presidential tweets this week were a truly nauseating display, and they culminated in a proclamation that should instigate his speedy removal from office. At 7:49pm on January 2nd, Trump pressed “send” on the following inane missive:

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works! Continue reading