There’s something about the green marble background at the UN General Assembly that really puts Trump in his element. Normally it looks dated, like Astoria’s idea of opulence in the 1990s, but put an icon of self-aggrandizing greed in front of it and the whole thing comes together. It makes me want to get out my gold fork and knife and dig in to a copy of The Andromeda Strain. Anyway, decor is the only way Trump is in his element at the United Nations. He makes a jarring contrast with most other aspects of that organization, for example their commitment to world peace. This morning, he took advantage of his audience of world leaders to threaten North Korea, like so:
For those of you who can’t watch videos because you’re prisoners or something, here’s the fillet:
The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully, this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about. That’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.
The United Nations is the greatest force for peace in the world, and I call on it to fulfill its mission by restraining my murderous impulses. Let’s see how they do. These remarks call attention to another element of the Trump aesthetic that is totally out of place at the UN: mean nicknames. In addition to raising questions about how he understands the Elton John Song, referring to Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man” seems very out of place here.
Mean nicknames made a kind of sense during the campaign, which explicitly set candidates at odds with one another. Trump’s basic promise was that he would bully politicians on behalf of ordinary people, so his insult-comic persona was likable, albeit from a limited perspective that I did not share. It makes no sense before a body whose object is international cooperation, though. I suspect that the UN would cause more problems than it solved if all the delegates called one another names. It’s hard to claim you want peace with North Korea when you antagonize its notoriously vain dictator and then threaten to “totally destroy” his country. But it’s not Trump’s job to prevent the war that two generations of his predecessors have successfully avoided. That’s up to the UN. Let’s see how they do.
If Donald Trump lied any more often, he’d have to guard a door in a logic puzzle. He does not always lie. He’s not at the dry cleaners like, “I’m Marie of Roumania, and I’m here to pick up my dog.” But although he periodically speaks truth, he is so much more likely to disregard it that his defenders urge us not to take him literally—that is, as though his words had fixed meaning. Trump is a bullshitter. He might be the chief bullshitter of our bullshit age. So can you imagine being his lawyer? One pities such people. How much bullshit must Michael Cohen, Sheri Dillon, and the rest of Trump’s team of paid advocates wade through to convert his raw, jazz-style bullshit into something finished enough to bullshit a court of law? Today is Friday, and even the president needs fixers. Won’t you make this all go away with me?
Remember when Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Donald Trump were going to divide the Republican Party amongst themselves? Remember when we worried aloud, biting our cheeks to keep from snickering, that the GOP would suffer a contested convention? Here’s video from the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, in which delegates boo their nominee:
The DNC was in the news this weekend, starting Friday afternoon, when Wikileaks published over 20,000 emails proving party leaders connived against the Sanders campaign. The leaks probably came from Russian hackers, who likely dumped the information to sow division among Democrats and abet Kremlin favorite Donald Trump. That’s what the panicked faithful said, anyway. On Sunday, Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned as chair of the DNC. She promised to gavel the convention to order and oversee its proceedings, but after delegates from her home state met her with jeers at breakfast, she withdrew. Now the party is without a master, and Hillary’s power to command loyalty among Democrats is compromised on the eve of her ascension. Oh yeah—and Trump pulled even with her in the polls.
Donald Trump spoke for 75 minutes at the Republican National Convention last night, alternately aggrandizing himself, predicting doom, and assuring us he’d fix it. The theme of the evening was Make America One Again, which was a refreshing change from Monday’s theme, Make America Scared of Brown People. Yet Trump seemed to double down on separation. He adjusted his promised ban on Muslims to a ban on people from countries Muslim terrorists have “penetrated.” He did not mention any black lives that may have mattered, but he presented cop killing as epidemic, even though fewer officers have been murdered during the Obama administration than during any administration in the last 30 years. Then Trump promised to “end crime and violence very soon.” Today is Friday, and the Republican Party has nominated for president of the United States an ethnic nationalist campaigning on law and order. Won’t you consider fixing up the attic with me?
Commander Zinke addresses the Republican convention before an OS X Lion desktop.
On Saturday, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R–MT) took the bravest stand of his political career. He resigned his position as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, citing his objection to a plank in the party platform that called for federal lands to be returned to the states. Commander Zinke feels strongly about federal land management, as befits an admirer of Teddy Roosevelt. It’s understandable that he kept his commitment to address the convention on Monday night, because pulling out 48 hours beforehand would be a dick move. Too bad the evening’s program turned out to be a parade of dicks, rubbing against each other until everyone was too sore and sticky to stand up any more, with Zinke coming in to mop up.
That’s an unpleasant metaphor, but it was a lot nicer than Monday night’s prime-time show. Zinke was scheduled to speak at 8:45pm EDT but didn’t take the stage until after 11:30. His openers included Rudolph Giuliani and the sheriff of Milwaukee County arguing that Black Lives Matter is racist, plus five different people whose relatives had been killed by illegal immigrants. The theme of the evening was “Make America safe again,” but the message was “black and brown people make America dangerous.” After his openers emptied the hall with hours of what Charles Pierce called weaponized grief, Zinke got up and did his SEAL schtick for six minutes, tacitly endorsing the craziness that came before.
It was disappointing to watch him do that after his courageous gesture last weekend. Why did Zinke stand on principle re: land management but not re: xenophobia, police brutality, or torture? That’s the question under inquiry in this week’s column in the Missoula Independent, which is a real criticism sandwich. I praise Zinke for taking a stand on our national parks. I praise him for being one of the few new Republicans with the biography to stand up to terror paranoia. But I criticize him for buying in, however passively. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.