Trumps explore limits of nepotism

The heir to generations of hard-won success and Donald Trump, Jr.

They’re a bunch of hardasses over at the New Yorker, where coverage of Donald Trump, Jr. renders the possessive of his name with a period-comma-apostrophe-s. For example: Donald Trump Jr.,’s Love for Russian Dirt. That’s some strict copy editing, right there. No one is eyeballing it at the New Yorker. Probably, the way they maintain such high standards is by hiring the old copy editor’s son. It just makes sense. Once a guy has spent his whole career editing copy, practicing at the highest level until he knows every page of the stylebook, the second-best copy editor in the world has got to be his kid. Being good at stuff is hereditary. That’s why the world is ruled by kings.

Anywhom, Donald Trump Jr.’s emails tested the limits of this principle when he released them on Twitter this morning. He seems to have published them in an attempt to scoop the New York Times, which reported today that Trump Jr. expressed interest in damaging information about Hillary Clinton that was explicitly provided by the Russian government. Here is an actual email exchange between “Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer” Natalia Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr. that I am not making up:

Veselnitskaya: This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.

Trump: If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.

Kids: When someone asks you if you want sensitive information from a foreign government to help your political campaign, you say, “Are you a cop?” They have to tell you if you ask. I don’t know how this exchange could be more explicit. If you were writing a comedy sketch where Donald Trump, Jr. gets caught in a DOJ sting, you could use this wording. Trump surrogates have argued that the meeting that came from these emails turned out to be about Russian adoption policies, and Veselnitskaya offered “very high level and sensitive information” as a false pretext. That would explain her wording. If you had such information, would you ever say so in an email? But Trump Jr. literally goes on record as loving this illegal plan, bringing to his role in his father’s presidential campaign less discretion than one brings to a weed deal on Facebook.

It’s almost as though he attained his position by favoritism. There’s something gross about the way President Trump gives important jobs to his children. It’s un-American. A founding principle of our government is that it will be run by people who have earned it, or at least won a popularity contest. Getting born into it was the old way, the collapsing system that took Europe down with it. Maybe I’m just mad because my dad isn’t president. But if Trump had hired an experienced campaign operative to do Donald Jr.’s job, I bet they wouldn’t have sent this email. They might still have colluded with Russia to influence the election, whatever that means. But they wouldn’t have embarrassed the whole country doing it.

Okay, now choose which of these is funny

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been loving today’s wall-to-wall coverage of a Twitter exchange between Donald Trump, a real estate magnate and reality TV celebrity who recently became President of the United States, and Chelsea Clinton. You may remember her as the daughter of that world-famous symbol of feminine power, Kim Kardashian. Anyway, here’s the leader of the free world this morning:

The amazing thing here is that Trump has access to professional speechwriters, yet he continues to address millions in the same voice your uncle uses on your Facebook wall. The other amazing thing is that he is referring to the recent G20 summit, where Ivanka filled in for him at a general meeting as he met with the president of Indonesia.

No biggie—it’s just the president’s daughter representing the United States to foreign nations, like when Barack Obama sent Malia to the Sochi Olympics. Too bad the Fake News, continues to apply a double standard to him and Hillary Clinton even now, in the second year of their campaign. That’s why he mentioned Chelsea in his tweet, since she is the logical parallel to the sitting president’s daughter.

Anyway, the whole thing is garbage. You have to read the sentence three times to even understand what he’s trying to say. He wants to imagine Clinton in a parallel situation to his own, but he also can’t resist saying that she would “give our country away,” whatever that means. These two concepts are incompatible, but Trump is too bad at sentences to realize that, so he crams them in together and leaves the reader to unpack. It’s bad. To get a sense of how bad it is, look how good Chelsea’s rejoinder seems by comparison, even though it, too, is terribly bad:

Look what you can accomplish when you have multiple people writing the tweet instead of just one! Chelsea also crams in too many ideas, including that A) her father was president, and he never had her sit in for him,  B) he slipped up with that giving-the-country-away thing, C) she respects the office more than he does, as her salutation will indicate, and D) she hopes he does a better job in the future. It’s banter from the least funny and spontaneous person ever to inherit fame. But at least the writing doesn’t sound like she’s yelling over a dragster engine. It’s committee-quality copy from a brand that knows it will be applauded for any gesture of defiance.

Anyway, which one of these people totally inspires you? Is it the sub-literate plutocrat who insists the news is fake? Or do you prefer the anodyne nepotism case whose mother’s obstinance put the plutocrat in charge? I’m siding with Chelsea, because she seems less likely to put people in camps. But does she seem 100% certain not to do that? Not really, and therein lies the problem.

John Osoff ran an ad that was just him leaning on a desk tweeting

You lost me.

Democrat Jon Ossoff has lost the most expensive race for a House seat in US history. Republican Karen Handel beat him by pert near four points, becoming the new representative of Georgia’s sixth congressional district and shattering Democrats’ hope of retaking the House with the aid of a fortunate meteor strike. This election was not very important. To hear FiveThirtyEight and various other pundits tell it, it wasn’t even good for a bellwether. The only thing we can say conclusively is that it occasioned the spending of more money—about $55 million, by the Times’s count—than was ever before spent on a congressional race.

Was it worth it? Not for Democrats, who only managed to wedge another loss for low-agenda centrism into their electoral postseason. I hesitate to say it was worth it for Republicans, either. They squeezed donors tightly to increase by one their majority in a chamber that seats 435. But at least a shitload of consultants got paid—and in an off year, no less. Say what you will about the Democrats’ recent streak of expensive moral victories; at least it’s funded commercials like this:

I’m no veteran campaign operative, but I think the idea for this advertisement was actually an idea for some tweets. What does this message gain from becoming a video? Maybe the campaign wanted to reach voters who watch television instead of using the internet but still admire people who stare numbly at their phones. Perhaps their research found that voters in GA-6 liked Jon Ossoff but wanted him to more strongly resemble a two-episode character on Veep. Or maybe the old ad-budget pie got sliced up in a way that left an off piece.

But wait, you say, ever on the lookout for opportunities to be charitable, this looks like B-roll footage. Maybe this ad was made from the kind of bland, soundless footage campaigns release publicly so that unaffiliated groups can use it in their own spots. The whole tweeting conceit is probably just a clever workaround. But no, the last frames inform us that the ad was paid for by Jon Ossoff for Congress and, almost as improbably, approved by Jon Ossoff.

It’s easy to second-guess the Democratic Party lately, and I think now is a good time to remember that no one else has demonstrated any better understanding of how to beat Republican candidates. But ads like this one explore the limits of campaigning without a strong policy agenda. To a lot of viewers, this is footage of a bland corporate type promising not to be Donald Trump. That doesn’t offer much to voters who worry that bland corporate types are running the country into the ground—a description that covers a substantial portion of the electorate, plus many of the people who hold themselves outside it. It’s funny how limp Democratic messaging has become. But only for a second, and then I get scared.

Trump on Twitter: I am being investigated

Three-dimensional chess

I’ve spent the last several hours writing blurbs for the Indy’s upcoming Best of Missoula issue, and boy are my arms…glib. Remember yesterday, when I said there would be Friday links? I’ve got some bad news, champ. Fortunately for us, the president is refreshing the news cycle so rapidly there’s no time to look back on the week that was. This morning, he took to Twitter for this quasi-official statement:

I worry that the bizarre content of this tweet will distract from the bizarre punctuation. The president who has spent the last few weeks trying to get various members of the Department of Justice to say that he is not being investigated is, apparently, being investigated. While attempting to defend himself, he became the first person to reveal that publicly. He also thinks Witch Hunt is a title, like Duck Hunt.

This behavior is very much like that of a character in comedy. First he becomes monomaniacally dedicated to a goal—in this case, getting the word out that he is not under investigation. Then his efforts to pursue that goal bring about the opposite result—in this case, telling the world that he is under investigation. It’s times like this I’m glad there’s nothing funny about his speech patterns, or the president would seem ridiculous.

Or perhaps this is a genius gambit! Maybe, at the moment when it most appears that Trump doesn’t want people to think he is being investigated, he tells everyone he is being investigated to deprive his enemies of the opportunity to tell us themselves. It is a plan fiendish in its intricacies. Surely it is the work of a mastermind—the kind of mastermind who uses his inherited wealth to rise to the presidency and then, like a phoenix, fails at literally everything else he attempts. You’ve fooled us again, President Trump. We almost thought you were incompetent, for a second.

War Machine gets 36 to life

I stopped reading about War Machine after Sir Nigel Longstock, a character I play on the Co-Main Event Podcast, banned him from MasterTweet Theatre. His offense was that he nearly beat a woman to death. Up to that point, our funny mixed martial arts podcast had regarded him as a resource. For example, he legally changed his name from Jon Koppenhaver to War Machine approximately two weeks before he was cut from the UFC. Then he ventured into adult cinema. Finally he went to jail, where his use of Twitter skyrocketed. It also got less funny.

He was still an aggressively dumb person pronouncing on his own excellence, but in the context of an assault conviction, it didn’t strike the right tone. As his tweets went from defiant to self-pitying to Jesus, using him on the show started feel like hackery, at best. Then he did that thing to Christie Mack, and it was over. The guy named War Machine who loses prize fights is funny. The guy named War Machine who assaults and rapes people is not.

At first I typed that he did that thing to Christie Mack and we knew he was a bad person, but that’s not true. We knew before that. The time he spent in jail, Tweeting aggressively-capitalized critiques of Society, was for attacking ordinary people in parking lots and bars. He got blackballed from pornography because he stormed around a party punching strangers. Even before he assaulted Mack, he was a pro fighter who pressed his advantage outside the ring. He was evidently awful. He just hadn’t done anything life-defining yet.

Is this the salient difference between a comic figure and a sociopath? We care how the sociopath has hurt people? War Machine is going to spend the rest of his life in prison. The sentence he received today makes him eligible for parole in 36 years. He will be 71. The body he used to punch and rape people will be gone. The mind that chose to do those things will probably be gone, too. The man will be gone, and what comes out of prison in 2053, still legally known as War Machine, will be a relic of this world.

This world will be gone. Good, one is tempted to think, when considering the operation that produced this person and turned him loose to hurt other people until, collectively, we decided to hurt him forever. I could stand to let that one go. But first, show me what else you’ve got.