Anyway, this is what happens when Trump attends a massive crowd event when it isn't a rally of his acolytes --.
You may have seen the news of fans at tonight’s World Series game booing Trump and chanting “Lock him up!” But what leaped out so notably to me beyond the reality of that – on national television – is something most people haven’t commented on. And it’s that the team colors of the Washington Nationals are...red! So, you have a sea of red caps and red shirts looking like a Trump rally shouting "Lock him up!" and booing.
Anyway, this is what happens when Trump attends a massive crowd event when it isn't a rally of his acolytes --.
Something occurred to me that I think shows how deeply at risk Trump knows he is to the charges against him of sexual abuse.
As you likely know, Ronan Farrow has a new book out now, Catch and Kill, about the behind-the-scenes story of his reporting on sexual abuse, notably of Harvey Weinstein, but much more than that. And a large part of the story is that he was initially doing his story for NBC which he says made his reporting difficult and ultimately dropped it. That's what caused him to take his story to the New Yorker, ultimately sharing the Pultizer Prize.
What you have, therefore, is a book that makes NBC look bad and, as a result, so too its news division. (To be clear, the decision to block things appears to be from NBC corporate, but as much as many news reporters helped Farrow and wanted the story, reported, ultimately it all fell on the news division that had to follow the corporate end.)
Now, under normal conditions, when a news division -- and most especially here, NBC -- has a major story about it falling down on the job, Trump is the first one to leap all over that, and shout to the rooftops that this shows how supposedly corrupt the news division is and therefore how "fake" their reporting is. Yet, though NBC has its underbelly open to such an attack...Trump has been totally silent.
If anything shows how terrified Trump is of serious investigative reporting about sexual abuse, I would suggest that his silence and total reticence to chide, let alone slam NBC News about them not reporting this story and even seemingly blocking it not only speaks the loudest volumes but also borders on "guilt by silence."
Consider, after all, a Trump tweet that would read, "Ha, ha, look at the fake NBC News being shamed for not reporting about..." as the sort of thing we know he would normally write -- and write with exuberance. Now, however, fill in the blank with the words, "sexual abuse" and it's all a totally different dynamic.
No, it's not proof of anything. It just leaps out as, I believe, something deeply telling.
I thought I'd do a couple things different for this week's episode of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!, the the NPR quiz show created and hosted by Peter Sagal. First, usually I'm a few weeks behind the current episode, but today we'll be posting this week's show the same week it aired. And second, I'm going to embed the full show, not just the 'Not My Job" segment. And that's all because this week Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is celebrating its 1,000th show. I figure that that's as good a reason anything to give people the chance to hear what the full program is really like. (If you'd still only like to listen to 'Not My Job,' you can just jump forward about 20 minutes. The guest is pioneering biologist Nalini Nadkarni.)
Last night the Writers Guild screened the upcoming Motherless Brooklyn, which stars, has a screenplay and was directed by Edward Norton. I thought it was terrific. It's handled somewhat as a film noir detective story, and has a different kind of main character, one who has Tourette's Syndrome. He's terrific in the role (which has a certain overlap with the character he played so wonderfully in The Score) and did a serous impressive job with the thoughtful screenplay and evocative directing. Others in the strong cast are Alec Baldwin, Bruce Willis, and a British actress I've liked for a while who's starting to get a lot of work now -- she's in the upcoming Apple+ TV series, The Morning Show, with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell -- Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
(He did a Q&A after the screening, and one comment struck me as fascinating. Though his script is based on a novel, he consulted at length with the novelist and only used the book for about the first 20 minutes of the film and developed his own story that followed. But it's the main character who fascinated him most and that's, of course, the focus of the book. Also, he said the book takes place in the 1990s, though has a film noir feel to it -- with the approval of the the novelist, Jonathan Lethem, he moved the story back to the 1950s.)
Here's the trailer. It does a pretty good job getting across the movie, though the film has a stronger story than the trailer lets on.
As it happened, the Guild showed two movies yesterday, preceding Motherless Brooklyn with Zombieland: Double Tap. (Now, there's a weird double-feature...) I hadn’t seen the first Zombiland, but liked the TV ads for this new one, so I rented the first a couple weeks ago. I thought it was just fair – but I liked this sequel much more. It had slightly more of a plot, the characters were a little more developed, there are a bunch of fun, small supporting roles, and Zoey Deutch, who plays a new character, runs away with the film. She’s hilarious and surprisingly finds different "shadings" to play in what could otherwise be a quintessentially-cliched role of an utterly dimwitted blonde in pink.. Whether the Motion Picture Academy would nominate someone for Supporting Actress from a film like this, I don’t know, but (for my taste), she was that funny. And if you do go see it, don't rush out of the theater when the end credits start. Stick with them. I shall say no more.
Here's the trailer. Though the film has a great deal of action, this makes it look a bit more heavily-weighted as a serious action film than the comedy at heart that it is. And it's a whole lot bloodier. (For one scene, Jesse Eisenberg, who serves as narrator, even warns the audience that what's about to come might be a bit squeamish for those with M&Ms.)
From the archives. This week's contestants is trombonist and classical arranger Paul Hanna from Tallahassee, Florida, who is joined at the end by his wife Christine, who it turns out had been listening in on an extension line. The hidden song was fascinating -- it was one of the few times I've been able to pick out for absolute certain which hand is playing the song, and I listened closely to it, separating those notes out, and there was a familiarity to, but I just couldn't get it. But...I eventually did. And there's a very clever twist to what it is. As for the composer style, I was way off, which is surprising since he's one of my favorite composers.
The other day I was talking with the inveterate Chris Dunn about an actor we both enjoy, Chris O'Dowd. And no, it's not because he likes all actors named "Chris." Various films came up -- things like small roles in St. Vincent with Bill Murray, and Pirate Radio, the fun and odd State of the Union, which was ten 10-minutes TV episodes written by Nick Hornby, directed by Stephen Frears and also starring Rosamund Pike which won the Emmy Award this year for Best Short Form Comedy or Drama Series, and the Netflix adaptation of Get Shorty with Ray Romano, which I think is wonderfully acted and produced, with terrific dialogue -- and I absolutely hate with gnashed teeth what they did with all of the main characters and most of the rest.
He's done a great deal more, mind you (including the National Theatre production of Of Mice and Men with James Franco), but we weren't doing a deep film historian analysis. Anyway, I also mentioned that he's a periodic guest on The Graham Norton Show on BBC America, a show I like a lot and and written about quite often hear. This is my favorite of his appearances.
To set it up, the show has a segment at the end, “The Big Red Chair.” While it's a nice change-of-pace for a talk show and I like that they have it, I don't personally care for the segment and usually stop watching at that point -- however every once in a while I keep it on, and this just happened to be one of those times. What they do is have a member of the audience sit off-stage in a big red chair and tell some embarrassing story about themself – and if at any point the host or panelists don’t like the story they can pull a big lever that tilts the chair over backwards. But if they make it through, they get to walk off. Chris O’Dowd is one of the panelists on this particular show, along with Colin Farrell, Rod Stewart Rachel Weisz and Dawn French, one-time comedy partner of Jennifer Saunders. (Side Note: That's a seriously good panel..) The host, Graham Norton, by the way, is Irish, too, which helps play into the tale somewhat…
"I don't have teams -- I am the team."
-- Trump today.
I've posted this song before in a totally different context, but it seems oh-so fitting to bring it back for an encore in this new setting. Trump's words today reminds me of the egregiously and hilariously egomaniacal last scene in Heironymous Merkin..., when the main character sings on a mountaintop to God, "I'm All I Need".
(Side note: the music here is by Anthony Newley. The lyrics are by Herbert Kretzmer...who wrote the English lyrics for Les Miserables.)
As I wrote in this article here in April, 2018, "There are three basic tenets that define fascism: one is a push to eliminate any voices of opposition sources of authority and leadership. Another is an intense use of xenophobia and overt reliance on patriotism to demonize foreigners. And finally, there is the use of force and brutality."
What I continued say was "It's difficult to not see those words painted over the fullness that is Trump. Even acolytes most devoted to him, while crying out at the label, would be hard-pressed to deny the description, especially since so many revel in it. Indeed support him specifically for those reasons. But when you proudly wear the definition, it comes with the badge"
I went into a lot of detail in that article, but the short version is that his "America First" slogan combined with whipping up hysteria against Mexicans and sh*thole countries, while trying to create laws that keep Muslims out of the country is the xenophobia at its fullest. His embraces of brutal strongmen like Putin, Xi Xengping, Kim Jong-Un, and Erdogan, and telling his rallies he'll pay their bail if they're arrested for beating up protesters, and telling police that they should be rough will people they arrest -- not to mention dating years back to his full-page ad calling for the death penalty of the Central Park 5 (who turned out to be innocent) -- is his foundation of encouraging brutality and violence. And not much needs to be added to his calling the press the "enemy of the people," along with his attacks on judges, all the U.S. intelligence services and firing FBI officials is as core to fascism as anything for his efforts to diminish the authority of institutions that could oppose him.
So, it is not surprising to see the story that Trump's Justice Department, lead by co-conspirator William Barr, is poised to open a criminal investigation of agents within the department, most notably the FBI, to find out their supposed-part in the right-wing nut-job conspiracy story of its own Russia investigation.
I'm not going to go into all the reasons why this is insane. In part because it's near-impossible to unravel this lunatic conspiracy theory, since at its heart you have to believe the Democrats hacked themselves and then released their own harmful private emails to help Hillary Clinton lose the election so that Trump could win and the FBI and ALL the U.S. intelligence services could conspire to investigate him. The only other alternative theory is that it was Russia who hacked the DNC and cyber-attacked the U.S.in order to manipulate the election, which every U.S. intelligence service has established. And just other other week, so did the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee.
Occam's Razor says that when there are multiple explanations for something, then the one that is simplest is usually right.
And so Occam's Razor does it again.
But the main reason I'm not going to try to unravel the insane conspiracy theory behind this Trump-led Justice Department criminal investigation is that I feel pretty comfortable that there is nothing to find and nothing will be found and the Trump minions likely know that nothing will be found and, most of all, they don't care. Because the point isn't to find something deranged that doesn't exist, but rather -- to once again undermine faith and trust in the U.S. justice system. At any time, but especially when Trump is being investigated for impeachment.
And this, at its most glaring, is fascism at its fullest.
As I wrote in that article a year-and-a-half ago -- "I do now feel very comfortable in saying -- after having believed it for a long while at this point -- that among his other many characteristics Trump is a fascist. I don't mean that as an exaggerated description of indignation, but in the most literal sense."
Trump and his administration is fascist.
Unless that wasn't clear, it's best to say it another way -- Trump and his administration is fascist. Oh, that's the same way. Well...the thing is, that's pretty much the only way to say it. Not as hyperbole or in hysteria, but by the plan, direct, actual historical and political definition of the word. This is fascism.
And the elected officials of the Republican Party enable it all and are not only silent, but now active and complicit. Just two days ago, we saw over 20 House Republicans store the high-secure SCIF room to break up the impeachment deposition, and some even brought in their cell phones to send reports, which is profoundly a deep security risk. And only yesterday, Lindsey Graham, (R-SC) introduced a resolution to condemn House Democrats for holding what he and many Republicans now call a supposedly "illegal" impeachment. (I haven't yet figured that one out, since it's in the U.S. Constitution and all the rules are being followed, diligently to a T.) And 44 of his fellow-GOP senatars co-signed his resolution. (Somehow three Republican senators up for reelection or retiring didn't sign.) [NOTE: When I wrote this last night, the number was nine. That's now dropped...) The only thing I have figured out is these efforts by by House and Senate Republicans to undermine Democrats and the Rule of Law is once again a core foundation of fascism.
And as always, this is not about Trump, we know who he is. This is about the elected officials of the Republican Party who enable him, actively participate and are complicit.
Let's head back Out and About the town once again with Jiminy Glick. This time, his celebrity guest to fawn over and utterly bewilder is Goldie Hawn.
As I noted on Wednesday, the whole story about Hillary Clinton suggesting that Tulsi Gabbard was being groomed by the Russians to run as a third party candidate was based on a mistake in the New York Times which they've subsequently corrected. What Secretary Clinton said was that the Republican Party -- not Russia -- was grooming a Democrat primary candidate to run on a third party. (Besides which, she didn't name anyone specific.)
All that aside, I wrote elsewhere that much as I hoped there wouldn't be such a third party candidate, I wasn't overly concerned by it since such a person would likely be moderate to leaning conservative -- since I find it profoundly unlikely that any of the strong liberals running would ever even consider running as a third party candidate -- and as such would likely draw more support away from Trump than a Democrat. In fact, Democrats are so focused on getting Trump out of office that I've had many people say that though they have favorites in the race, they'd vote in the General Election for any of the Democrats candidates running who got nominated, even Maryanne Williamson.
I of course received great disagreement about this, some considering me deeply naive. The most thoughtful criticism came from a friend who wrote that "you are assigning too much intelligence to the average voter. Even the average Democrat isn’t that well informed or knowledgeable. Few are able to discern a 'plant' designed to distract or deflect or otherwise muddy the waters."
I replied online, but think it's worth commenting passing along those thoughts here.
First, it will not shock anyone to learn that, no, I do not believe I am assigning too much intelligence to the average voter. But I say that because I think my points are supported by what we've actually seen in real world politics. For example, we've seen that voters are supporting Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by around 10 points over Trump. (Even Pete Buttigieg is polling ahead of Trump.) And we've see polls that show around 55% of Americans want Trump impeached and convicted. And we saw the Democratic Blue Wave in the 2018 mid-term elections that overwhelmingly gave Democrats significant control of the House. I'm not going to bore readers here with loads of statistics and poll results, but there are many along these same lines.
But also, I meant it when I said I've had many people say to me, "I would vote for any Democratic candidate against Trump, even Maryanne Williamson." I do not offer that as proof of anything, it isn't, but as a general sensibility I've perceived.
As much to the point is that this isn't 2016. It is hard for me to imagine that most people who voted for Jill Stein in the last presidential election don't feel burned and aggrieved in getting Trump. Further, and deeply importantly, Trump isn't the outsider who can attack others with impunity, free from response, but has a record now -- and a horrific one that has made him the only president never to have a 50% approval, now hovering around only 41%. A horrific record that allowed Democrats, as I noted, to have a landslide win to take back the House. And he's on the verge of being impeached. For three years, Democratic activist groups have organized resistance against Trump. Unlike 2016, the coming election is not being positioned as "Are you unhappy with government and do you prefer Hillary or that outsider Trump?" It's "Are you horrified by Trump and his record and do you think it's critical for America that he not be re-elected." Furthermore, the "Get out the vote" ground game that Democratic resistance groups have been putting together for three years through rallies and resistance events are, I'm quite sure, focused on reaching the very voters most likely to waver -- since the ones who've been waiting anxiously, chomping at the bit for three years to vote Democratic need no encouragement.
And given what we've seen in the polls and public protests and general responses, I believe that most "average" voters do get it. Not all, but most. That this is about Trump in 2020, and everything else at issue (while valid) is a distant second.
But significant as all that is, this is the most important thing -- my whole point was NOT that no Democratic voter will vote for a third party candidate. I'm sure some will. Rather, my point was that I believe MORE Republicans are likely to vote for a third party candidate than will Democrats. And I say that because this segment of the Republican Party is sickened by the idea of voting for Trump yet can't see themselves voting for a Democrat, and a third party candidate gives them that option. And I base this, in part, on the reality that we know, in fact, there have been Republicans SO GALLED by Trump that they actually left the party! It think it is profoundly reasonable to suggest that there are many moderate GOP voters in purple states (and yes, maybe not as politicians, but as voters they really do exist) who are almost as galled, but not willing to make a full break and leave the party -- however but given the chance to vote for someone moderate (let alone leaning conservative) as a third party candidate who would permit them to stay a Republican, but not vote for Trump and not vote for a Democrat, they will leap at that.
My initial comment was not a guess of whimsy or wishful thinking. I might be wrong, no question -- though I feel strongly of course that I'm right -- but before writing it publicly, it was fully thought out first for what I believe are supportable reasons.
One may disagree, fair enough. But I wasn't underestimating anyone's ability to be fooled, just putting into perspective what I've observed on both sides of the aisle over the past three years. It's absolutely possible that my observations aren't as fully realized as I think. But these are among my many reasons why I think they are.
If the GOP is actually grooming a Democrat to run as a third party candidate, I think it will draw more votes from the Republican Party more than from the Democratic Party.