Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Daily Trumpeter: Magic and Money

Trump as the evil magician, Cipolla, the title character in Thomas Mann's Mario and the Magician, a parable spoofing Mussolini. Colin Campbell reveals the parallels in his New Republic article. Here are a few snippets.

“He had very ugly hair” and “small hard eyes, with flabby pouches beneath them.” He “talked without stopping—but only in vague, boastful, self-advertising phrases.” He was “cocksure” and “irritable,” and he dealt sarcastically with those who crossed him. Billed as an “entertainer” and “magician,” he turned out to be a powerful hypnotist, and he embarrassed and humiliated people while the audience applauded him and laughed at his victims. He was, in short, a “dreadful” person of mysterious abilities, yet he also embodied “all the peculiar evilness of the situation as a whole.”

The story is worth revisiting in our current situation, as nationalists seize the spotlight in several countries and as Donald Trump casts his spell over millions of Americans. Trump’s critics sometimes call him a fascist on account of policies such as banning Muslims and building a wall on the Mexican border. But Trump hasn’t just revived some of the bad prescriptions of the twentieth century’s dictators; his whole manner and psyche seem attuned to theirs, as suggested most uncannily in Mann’s account of an entertainer and his hapless followers, of an increasingly frightening magic show that ends in disaster.

Violence feeds on itself, often consuming those who instigate or exploit it, and Trump has done that to a degree unseen in American presidential politics. He has talked of beating protesters, punishing enemies and rising up against an illegitimate government. He has also failed to control his supporters’ obscene, misogynist, racist and murderous language at rallies. Most notoriously, at a recent rally in North Carolina, he said of Hillary Clinton as president: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks—although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.” [ Scriber's note: That quote is incomplete as I have previously posted. However, it's not so much what Trump meant as it is about what the automata in the audience heard.]

Meaning what? Would Trump’s troops rise up in armed rebellion? Would they assassinate Clinton? That’s what many listeners heard. Trump denied any lethal intent, but his most fervent followers, who feel strongly about defending themselves against the government, surely caught the drift. Like Mann’s “entertainer,” Trump has been toying with explosive passions. One can only hope his horror show doesn’t end the way “Mario and the Magician” does. True liberation will be a resounding vote against Trump in November.

The Samson Option: Jeet Heer describes the analogy in If Trump Is Going Down, He’s Taking the GOP With Him.

... there is one Biblical champion that Trump resembles closely: the mighty hewn Samson. Like Trump, Samson was famous for his hair, fought against foreign domination of his nation, was quick to vengeful anger, and had a weakness for female beauty.

If he feels that the RNC is his enemy, and furthermore that he’s bound to lose, the Samson Option becomes viable. We got a glimpse of what the Samson Option would look like earlier in the campaign when Trump’s relationship with Republicans was fraying and he talked about withholding primary endorsements from Paul Ryan and John McCain. Of course, Trump and the RNC patched up their differences and he gave his endorsement anyway. But there’s nothing to stop Trump from repeating the exercise on a grand scale in the general election. If the Republican Party isn’t doing anything for him, why shouldn’t he tell his supporters not to vote GOP down-ballot?

... Last fall, Trump uttered a wonderfully Samson-like sentiment about his rival Jeb Bush: “If I’m going down, then Bush is going down with me. He’s not going to be president of the United States.” Facing defeat in November, he could easily say, “Let me die with the Republican Party!”

Tax returns: What is Trump hiding? Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBog) observes "Clearly, Team Trump had a plan: reject appeals, embrace secrecy, and wait for the questions to go away. That strategy isn’t working." Why not? Check Benen's article for impending release of tax returns by Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, and other embarrassments.

Ru$$ian connections? What else is Manafort hiding? Quoting Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog): Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign wasted no time in responding to the news. Campaign Manager Robby Mook said in a statement, “On the eve of what the Trump campaign has billed as a major foreign policy speech, we have learned of more troubling connections between Donald Trump’s team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine. Given the pro-Putin policy stances adopted by Donald Trump and the recent Russian government hacking and disclosure of Democratic Party records, Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them.”

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