- CRITTER TALK
- NEWS I FIND INTERESTING
I’m not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting.
Her concern for the fact of a leak supposedly overrode for her what seemed to unite the rest of the moral universe: the tasteless joke itself.
The controversy swirling over what was said inside the White House about Senator John McCain who is battling with brain cancer. McCain expressed strong reservations over the President’s CIA nominee. Well, now it’s been learned that, during a meeting at the White House, a staffer allegedly said of McCain’s opinion, “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”
ABC’s Mary Bruce reported on the official White House reaction. There wasn’t any.
Tonight, no explanation, no acknowledgment, and no apology from the White House.
The judgment of News personalities and televised opinion makers was nearly unanimous. The laughing references to John McCain’s life-threatening condition was part of a larger pattern, flowing from the top. The very top. Only professional Trump apologists appeared on screen to offer a strained dissent.
It was all a carbon copy of the original: Donald Trump’s dismissal of John McCain’s heroism in the face of torture during his captivity in the Vietnam war.
He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell ya.
The “I hate to tell ya” was evidence of a crude attempt at humor. He thought he was making a joke. Kind of like the wayward White House aide a couple of years later: McCain has brain cancer, ha ha ha.
The pattern is not simply one of cruelty, although that is a partial result. The more basic cause is a lack of what others experience as an occasional saving grace during life’s inevitable disappointments and occasional tragedies.
During the 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump managed to turn a friendly audience into a legion of antagonism. During that year’s Al Smith dinner, he began with self-deprecation. He was pretty good at it. He told the predominantly conservative Catholic group that they had something in common. He referred to a part-time job he had as a kid.
I know that so many of you in the archdiocese already have a place in your heart for a guy who started out as a carpenter working for his father. I was a carpenter working for my father.
He did okay poking fun at his wife, who had stumbled into controversy unwittingly delivering a speech an aide had cribbed from the then current First Lady.
…but I really have to say the media is even more biased this year than ever before. Ever! You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech, and everyone loves it. It’s fantastic. They think she’s absolutely great. My wife, Melania, gives the exact same speech, and people get on her case!
Then came time to throw a few gentle jabs at his opponent.
Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate Commission.
Here, the booing began as a soft rumble.
How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate Commission? Pretty corrupt.
He couldn’t make the distinction between jibe and jeer.
Hillary believes that it’s vital to deceive the people by having one public policy…
The booing was unmistakable.
…and a totally different policy in private.
He didn’t know the difference between soft banter and harsh contempt.
For example, here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.
He was bewildered by the sudden hostility. The friendly group had become an angry crowd, then a hostile mob.
I don’t know who they’re angry at Hillary, you or I.
Everyone else knew.
It was not humor gone bad, or jokes that fell flat. It was not humor at all.
Candidates John McCain and Barack Obama had appeared at the same event 8 years before. John McCain’s humor was well received. At one point, he pretended to have accidentally seen his opponent’s remarks.
Let’s not add to the mounting pressure he must be feeling.
The audience began to chuckle.
Just prepare yourself for nonstop hilarity. The funniest 15 minutes of your life or any other. I think he knows that anything short of that would mar the evening, insult our host…
The laughter was contagious.
…and perhaps even cost him several swing states.
Candidate Obama had joined in.
Senator Obama, the microphone is all yours.
That is a contrast.
I don’t recall any instance of gentle humor toward an opponent coming from Donald Trump. It is hard even to imagine. The difficulty with humor extends beyond the podium. He could not understand humor when it was directed at himself. An attack was an attack, and that was it.
As Donald’s racist birther campaign collapsed, with pretty much everyone acknowledging the President’s citizenship, President Obama spoke in 2011 at the White House Correspondent’s dinner.
He teased Trump about what he would do now that the birther crisis had been solved.
…he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?
This went on for a bit. He talked about the crises with which Donald had to deal.
Just recently, in an episode of “Celebrity Apprentice,” at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks, and there was a lot of blame to go around, but you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Little John or Meatloaf, you fired Gary Busey.
The audience laughed.
And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.
Seth Meyers followed a few minutes later, devoting 2 minutes out of 15 to Donald Trump, winding up with an impression of Donald boasting about his clothing line:
I on the other hand sell my own line of ties. You can find them at Macy’s in the flammable section.
It was not rip-roaring, but it was humor.
Adam Gopnik from the New Yorker sat near Mr. Trump as the audience laughed.
There was not a trace of feigning good humor about him, not an ounce of the normal politician’s, or American regular guy’s “Hey, good one on me!” attitude—that thick-skinned cheerfulness that almost all American public people learn, however painfully, to cultivate. No head bobbing or hand-clapping or chin-shaking or sheepish grinning—he sat perfectly still, chin tight, in locked, unmovable rage.
I watched the video again. Gopnik had it about right.
We are told by clinicians that some people lack the ability to empathize. They develop other skills, watching for, recognizing, and finally emulating emotions felt by others and not themselves. We ought to be careful not to place clinical labels on others, labels best kept to medical people. Even they still react to abuses by professional more than 50 years ago. The Goldwater rule forbids diagnosis without examination.
But we can see patterns, even if we cannot, must not assign medical labels. There is a hole in Mr. Trump’s behavior. It includes an inability even to fake a sense of humor. He does not recognize it, except as an undifferentiated form of attack, indistinguishable from any other. Like any other attack in his life, it must be met by a massive retaliatory response.
It does not end there. There is a gaping hole where empathy ought to be. The ability to see others beyond their effect on him seems absent. Attacks on gold-star parents and grieving military widows come naturally to such a person. After all, he was criticized first.
The validity of that criticism will never be an issue. If right, it cannot be accepted. If wrong, it cannot simply be dismissed. The validity itself need never be examined. There is no truth to discover. There is only attack and the mandatory retaliation.
When Mr. Trump’s slur against John McCain’s military heroism is reviewed, the most significant part is usually omitted. Why is McCain not a war hero? It is because he had criticized Donald Trump first.
He hit me, he’s not a war hero.
Conservative George Will suggests that Mike Pence has superseded my President as the most repulsive person in contemporary public life.
Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.
That judgment should be extended to today’s conservative Trump acolytes. Those who fail to reject those values must join in that odious fellowship.
It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.
Mr. Trump is what he is.
The nation itself will be what it chooses to be.
Many thanks to our friends and partners at FairandUnbalanced.