Close Reading: Trump’s “not” joke

Remember a few months ago when we said Combat! blog wasn’t going to be about politics anymore? That was before a cartoon character got elected president. Not the good kind of cartoon character, either—Donald Trump is like a character in one of those nineties cartoons where everyone is bored and sarcastic. He’s the guy who doesn’t move the plot forward but says what we’re all thinking, i.e. what a marketing team thinks children are thinking. In that vein, the President of the United States executed a “not” joke on Twitter yesterday:


Although he does not play the “not” joke strictly according to Hoyle, this tweet is a significant achievement. He manages to make “not!” into a Trumpian exclamation. But there’s a lot of other stuff going on, too, and that’s why this tweet is the subject of today’s Close Reading.

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“The president is signing the order we’re discussing”

President Donald Trump signs an executive order, being somehow president.

On Friday, Donald Trump issued an executive order that blocks refugees from entering the United States for the next 120 days, refuses refugees from Syria indefinitely, and bars visitors of any kind from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The Department of Homeland Security initially said the travel ban would apply even to legal permanent residents—so-called “green card” holders—from those countries, but it has since announced exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Maybe that had something to do with the lawsuits. The New York Times reports that multiple federal courts have enjoined customs and immigration officials from enforcing the ban, but they seem to be doing it anyway—paving the way for a constitutional crisis between the executive and judicial branches. It’s almost as if Trump and his team didn’t fully grasp the process by which such policies are made. Or maybe they just don’t like it. Another Times report on how the travel ban came about gives us this amazing anecdote:

Gen. John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, had dialed in from a Coast Guard plane as he headed back to Washington from Miami. Along with other top officials, he needed guidance from the White House, which had not asked his department for a legal review of the order.

Halfway into the briefing, someone on the call looked up at a television in his office. “The president is signing the executive order that we’re discussing,” the official said, stunned.

The president signed a border security order on TV before he talked it through with the head of the DHS. It’s every barstool pundit’s fantasy of personal power come to life. It also might be a threat to democracy.

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Clinton says “radical Islamism,” dealing blow to ISIS and victory to Trump

Donald Trump politely rejects Bill Clinton's offer.

Donald Trump politely rejects Bill Clinton’s offer.

In discussing the most deadly mass shooting in American history, which I guess we’ve decided to call terrorism and not gun violence, Hillary Clinton used the phrase “radical Islamism.” She used it a lot, mostly to explain why it wasn’t a big deal that she was saying it now. Quote:

[T]o me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point. I have clearly said many, many times we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them and we will. We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism or radical Islamism, whatever you call it. It’s the same.

Calling terrorism “radical Islamism” is so much the same that she offered nearly the exact same reasons it’s not a big deal to two different morning shows. Meanwhile, after Donald Trump had congratulated himself on predicting something like the Orlando massacre, he taunted Hillary for deciding to talk like him:

So good news, voters: our lesser evil now resembles the greater that little bit more. Fretting after the jump.

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It’s not peaceful protest if you bring guns

Ammon Bundy, who led an armed takeover of a vacant federal building in Oregon yesterday

Ammon Bundy led an armed takeover of a vacant federal building in Oregon yesterday.

As you have no doubt heard on the shortwave radio set in your guard tower, anti-government militia members took over the visitor’s center at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon yesterday. Led by Ammon Bundy, son of patriot/delinquent grazing account Cliven Bundy, the group massed to protest the arson convictions of Dwight and Steve Hammond, who were sentenced to five years in prison last week for burning several acres of federal land. But that’s bullshit. Federal land does not belong to the federal government; it belongs to ranchers, who have a constitutional right to graze it/set it on fire/shoot does on it while the rest of us pay for its maintenance. Bundy and his supporters are just standing up for their rights. There’s nothing violent about marching through the streets with guns and then seizing a federal building, as the Missoulian reminds us with its headline, Peaceful protest followed by Oregon wildlife refuge action.

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Tim Kreider on the specious danger of Western art

The first cover of Charlie Hebdo since last week's attacks reads "all is forgiven."

The first cover of Charlie Hebdo since last week’s attacks reads “all is forgiven.”

Ben al-Fowlkes sent me this excellent essay by Tim Kreider, in which the former political cartoonist notes how much more dangerous art seems to be for Islamists and North Koreans than it is for anyone in the West. That’s good: most of the reason we’re not afraid of art is that our civil society is stable and well-developed, and we’re confident enough in our ideologies that we don’t have to silence anyone who suggests they’re flawed. But part of it, as Kreider points out, is that contemporary Western culture has made art frivolous and anodyne:

“In the mature democracies of the West, there’s no longer any need for purges or fatwas or book-burnings. Why waste bullets shooting artists when you can just not pay them? Why bother banning books when nobody reads anyway, and the national literature is so provincial, insular and narcissistic it poses no troublesome questions?”

Kreider is good at the relieved lament, and he finds in the international outrage at the Charlie Hebdo attacks “a small, irrational twinge of guilt that we’re not doing anything worth shooting us over.”

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