Two on Trump

First, the Big Speech was better than expected. The entire text is at that link.

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Trump rehearses his Congress speech in the car

My former student David Smith has commented in The Australian Financial Review. David is now academic director and senior lecturer at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney.

Indeed, the difference between Trump’s scripted and unscripted comments is often stark. He began his address with a forceful condemnation of the “hate and evil” behind recent attacks on Jewish community centres and cemeteries. Earlier on Tuesday, however, he reportedly told state attorneys-general that the attacks could have come from “the reverse” “to make others look bad”. Trump also steered clear of his usual Twitter obsessions. There was no mention of the media as “enemies of the people”, nor of leaks in the intelligence community or sabotage by former members of the Obama administration.

In his most important speech so far, already earning him accolades for being unusually “presidential”, Trump remained focused on his role as the unifier of the people against external threats. Tomorrow he may go back to his fixation on enemies within.

Then there is Don Watson in the March issue of The MonthlyAmerican berserk. By the way, I am one of the few people, I suspect, to have actually read Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man: His Masquerade, which is mentioned in the article.

…yet the uncanniest thing is the sense that Trump’s election is a simulacrum for all manner of events imagined or foretold that hover in the back rows of our consciousness – way back from the daily flow of news, spin, messaging and commentary. A scam artist, an ignoramus, a professional liar, a colossal and malignant narcissist, a vulgarian, a casino operator, a serial bankrupt – a Roy Cohn–mentored billionaire with deep Mob connections – is in the White House. Has there ever been a more American presidency? What took them so long?

For devotees of HL Mencken, these are days of vindication. In a presidential election, he declared around 1920, “all the odds were on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre”. It was the logic of democracy, he said, that the people would one day get their heart’s desire and put a “downright moron” in the White House. While understandable, the widespread belief that George W Bush fulfilled Mencken’s prophecy has proved premature… But Trump is the King Kong of shallowness: the only deep things about him are his roots in the American psyche. He brings forth not just the pout, the hair and the ties, but the greed, indulgence and psychotic menace of the “indigenous American berserk” – to call on Roth again. The mistake of his opponents – including the satirists – has been to focus on his otherness: in truth he’s dredged straight from the brute material of American culture….

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One thought on “Two on Trump

  1. “And it is also worth bearing in mind, that the joke is passed round pretty liberally & impartially, so that not very many are entitled to fancy that they in particular are getting the worst of it.” – Melville, apparently. Maybe think about it. And also, I read that Watson piece; was upfront amazed he would quote from the Madison mayor. Maybe you don’t know his history? Or maybe you do, and, if so, that would disappoint.

    There are so many ‘little people’. They clog up the pathway between Don and the reflected light. How dare they?

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