Sunday, October 15, 2017

Bullshitter in Chief

What we knew from the very beginning about Donald Trump became ever clearer this past week. It is that Trump is a blowhard, a con-man, someone who has no control over his impulse to frame every action or thought that erupts into his tiny brain into the 'greatest, most amazing piece of courage and mental gymnastics ever to emanate from a human cortex.' Thus, in recent days, he has made a huge deal of his not recertifying the Iran nuclear deal painstakingly crafted by Barack Obama and the big five nations of England, France, Germany, Russia and China, and agreed to by the UN Security Council to make it international law. His reasons were pure bullshit as usual, (Iran’s compliance has been certified countless times by the IAEA, and even attested to by Trump’s own cabinet officers like General Mattis), but he claimed to be attempting to force Iran back to the bargaining table to get the U.S. “a better deal.” Shortly thereafter, still frustrated by Congress’s inability to repeal and replace Obamacare, he took the executive-order route he constantly criticized Obama for, signing a first order ending the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments meant to help low income Americans get health care. He then signed another order allowing individuals (usually younger and healthier) to buy short-term insurance exempt from Obamacare provisions, and also allowing small businesses to pool together to buy health insurance. His none-too-subtle hope, in all of these measures, was to cripple the signature legislative achievement of his predecessor: to wit, insurance companies won’t be able to continue if their younger customers do not offset their huge payments to the elderly, nor would they be able to continue offering health care subsidies to low-income Americans without government help. And to cripple it to the point where the whole thing implodes and Congress would be forced to come up with a new health plan. But of course, the Republican-controlled Congress has already proven several times that it can’t come up with a replacement plan, and even if it could, huge portions of the nation would probably rebel.
            What’s astonishing about these measures is that the health-care orders, in particular, would end up hurting Trump’s core supporters the most: those un- and under-employed poor whites living in the South and Midwest who can barely afford to keep themselves above water as it is. And yet, these fools keep supporting their dear Bullshitter because he presents himself as certain and tough and commanding, and because the great unwashed love to venerate those who so present themselves. It’s why they’re easy prey to the likes of used car salesmen and fundamentalist preachers.
            What’s more astonishing, or perhaps not, is that none of the Drumpf’s so-called “actions” are going to fundamentally alter the situations they’re pretending to change. As numerous commentators have by now noted, the ACA is going to go on, no matter what Trump does. It’s the law of the land, most people have gotten used to it, and people are very reluctant to give up a benefit they’ve grown used to. Moreover, the only thing that can really change it is a repeal-and-replace plan that Republicans are incapable of crafting, much less passing into law. As for the Iran nuclear deal, essentially the same thing applies. The deal is not a treaty issued by the United States alone; it is a multi-nation deal that has been sanctioned into international law by the United Nations. As such, it can’t be dismantled or re-negotiated by all the parties together, much less by one nation on its own. And especially for bullshit reasons such as “not living up to the spirit” of the deal, as Trump would have it. So unless Congress is so stupid as to re-impose sanctions unilaterally (and all signs are that they will not, pressure from those ‘sanctuaries of democracy,’ Israel and Saudi Arabia, notwithstanding), the Iran deal will remain essentially as it stands.
            So what the hell was this all about?
            Well, as with much of what Donald Trump does, it was about public relations (bullshit) and shoring up his base. Trump has been hammered so hard of late (even from Republicans like Bob Corker), and is feeling so much pressure from that bulldog, former-FBI director Robert Mueller, that he constantly must revert to the only area where he can still get applause: his none-too-bright supporters. That’s why he must regularly schedule his neo-campaign rallies—like the recent ones in Phoenix, and Alabama. Approval, adulation is like oxygen for this malignant narcissist (the term is Erich Fromm’s, coined in 1964 to describe “severe mental sickness” representing “the quintessence of evil.”) And that is what he gets when he holds one of his rallies; cheers, raised fists, and thunderous applause when he attacks his usual targets such as those ‘football player sons of bitches.’ (Of course, when he attacks real opponents, such as Kim Jong Un, the Bullshitter limits himself to derogatory tweets, proving even here, even with a nation a twentieth the size of the U.S., that he’s a bullying coward whose default mode is bullshit—which allows him to reverse course as he seems to have done today, apparently ordering Secretary of State Tillerson to continue the negotiations Drumpf had just days ago derided as a “waste of time.”)
            The only real question continues to be: how long can he continue to get away with this? What will it take for his idiot white fans (not to mention his Republican enablers) to realize that he is leading them down the garden path to both financial and political ruin? That his policies, if they hurt anyone, are not going to hurt the “elites” that they hate so deeply, but rather people just like themselves? That Donald Trump really gives not two shits for his supporters in general—he’s always been an elitist wannabe himself—and that he probably has massive contempt for them, for their gullibility in believing a bullshitter like himself.
            Perhaps only the approval ratings offer some hope. As of Oct. 13, Trump’s approval rating nationally had dropped to 36%, the lowest of any presidency in modern times. Even George W. Bush’s ratings after Katrina dropped only to 44%. Trump’s is well below that, and erosion is increasingly appearing even in the so-called ‘red’ states of the South and Midwest—the core area of his support. So though most of us would have thought that a presidency such as this, reeling from one disaster to another at light speed, would have imploded long ago, we still find ourselves asking the same question: what keeps it afloat? and for how long? And can the Bullshitter even last to the next presidential election? It’s an open question, so we may never know for certain how accurate or predictive these approval ratings are. One thing we do know, though: some people can be fooled and bullshitted and scorned and treated with contempt till they’re covered with excrement, and incapable, like good Germans under Hitler, of changing their tiny minds. It’s the only thing the Bullshitter-in-Chief can count on these days—aside from a little war to pump things up, that is.

Lawrence DiStasi