My impulse was to here write, “It’s been an interesting week,” but in reality it’s just been a week much like those that came before it. The social weather forecast: continuing craziness with scattered outbursts of outright insanity.
President Obama gave his final State of The Union (SOTU) speech on Tuesday, and so I find myself writing about how proud I was of my president for the second time in as many weeks (and, very possibly, the only two times since he was elected).
Watching that speech, I kept thinking, “Where has this guy been for the last seven years?”
I’d have been a lot happier with my president had that guy shown up more often! He’s the one I voted for (twice).
It reminds me a bit of how athletes can get the yips, and the harder they try to break the streak, the worse it gets. It’s only when they relax and stop trying so hard that they succeed.
I’ve always wondered what would happen if politicians stopped trying to thread the needle all the time and let the pieces fall where they will. Americans do respect plain speech, even when they disagree with it.
I suspect Donnie Boy’s success is, in part, due to his unguarded approach. Many of his followers acknowledge that he’s talking smack. But they love that he’s talking plainly and directly. The off-the-chain hyperbole doesn’t bother them.
In large part because we’ve legitimized hyperbolic opinions to the point that we accept them as reality (rather than just what someone thinks is real… often without rhyme or reason). And we’ve delegitimized critical thought to the point it rarely informs those opinions.
If others share my disdain for the carefully navigated politically filtered monologues that flow from the mouths of politicians, no wonder a guy who talks like your loud-mouth bigot uncle is doing so well in the polls.
DB’s intrusion into politics is so severe that both the president and the Republican Responder (SC Gov. Nikki Haley) took thinly veiled shots at him. It’s astonishing to everyone — and a damn good clue as to how damaged is our society and politics — that Trump has managed to become the topic of every political conversation (including, damn it, this one)!
[No one can predict what will happen, the usual political calculus no longer seems to apply, so I can’t predict we will simply get bored with DB, but it is becoming my last, best hope. There is also some hope in that it’s one thing to stand in line in the cold for hours to just watch an exciting show, but something else to do that to accomplish a somewhat onerous task with no immediate gratification.]
One criticism from the right of both the president’s recent town hall and SOTU speech is that he was “lecturing” (I’m not sure what they call it when they do it).
It strikes me that, firstly, that’s part of what leaders do, they educate, and secondly, someone really needs to.
When I heard one pendant from the right criticize the SOTU speech as “disjointed” is when I thought, “Ha! They got nothing!” It was, in fact, a very well-written and delivered speech. Good structure and a strong closing.
It was also the week of the first GOP debate of 2016.
I think Rand Paul was smart to skip taking a seat at the loser’s table…
Sorry, the kid’s table…
Sorry again, the undercard table.
The three that did show up are deluded and despicable. I won’t even sully this post with their names. Suffice to say they represent the evil and ugliness the USA has to offer. Only ego accounts for their being in the race at this point.
Not that those at the adult’s table (ha!) are any better. One moderate voice of reason, Jeb Bush, is all but lost in the noise. Ben Carson is rather interesting, too. Very religious, but I do appreciate a number of his values.
Mostly I’m bemused by how much talking there is with so little actually being said. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this all shakes out in the early primaries.
§What’s really dismaying to me is how utterly useless journalism seems to have become. Investigative journalism seems nearly a dead art.
Reporting these days seems to consist of letting people talk and doing very little fact-checking or pushing back on the outrageous crap.
The one group of people who should be our watchdogs with regard to the social dialectic are completely failing at their jobs.
Even the modern version of an on-air reporter — essentially a talking head to occupy time between commercials — is bad at their sole job: making words come out of their mouth.
Here’s an example from an interview with Chris Christie who was asked about support for the NRA. Quotes may not be exact, but they’re as close as I could write them down at the time:
Interviewer: Do you stand with the NRA?
Christie: I stand with any group that supports the 2nd Amendment and public safety.
Now note the general failure to actually answer the question, as well as the dodge at the end there. This begs for the obvious question: So, do you think the NRA supports public safety?
Instead, the reporter tried to pin him down on whether he supported the NRA but, politicians being practiced at evasion, never did get an answer. Had he asked the obvious question, Christie would have had a harder time evading.
It makes me wonder if journalists are that incompetent or if they’re feeding their subjects deliberate softballs (for fear they’d never get another interview if they, for once, did their job).
Hanlon’s Razor suggests incompetence, and it’s what I’ve generally gone with.
One certainly has to wonder when one sees in the news ticker: “A man falls to his death while apparently distracted by electronic device in San Diego, according to authorities.”
I wondered briefly how one can be “apparently distracted” but what I really want to know is where the man was. If he was in St. Louis, for instance, it’s really something to be (apparently) distracted by a device in San Diego.
Maybe he was so far away from the device they weren’t sure.
January 15th, 2016 at 4:12 pm
“Many of his followers acknowledge that he’s talking smack. But they love that he’s talking plainly and directly. The off-the-chain hyperbole doesn’t bother them.”
I think you’re right. I think some of them don’t mind the hyperbole. Some certainly see through it…I just hope most of them do.
“One criticism from the right of both the president’s recent town hall and SOTU speech is that he was “lecturing” (I’m not sure what they call it when they do it).
It strikes me that, firstly, that’s part of what leaders do, they educate, and secondly, someone really needs to.”
Totally agreed. Why must our presidents be at the level of average, or even worse, the lowest common denominator? Insisting on this is ludicrous.
“One moderate voice of reason, Jeb Bush, is all but lost in the noise.”
I agree with you again and find it so ironic. Not ironic, sad.
January 15th, 2016 at 4:45 pm
“Some certainly see through it…I just hope most of them do.”
When you see his supporters interviewed (and challenged on his more outrageous statements), you hear a lot of, “I know, but I like how he…” And what they like usually is his approach.
I gotta admit, in the early days of Stephen Colbert hosting the Late Show, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, were guests (on three different shows). I really like the politics of the first two, but both of them didn’t answer Stephen’s questions directly, but used them as springboards to parrot rhetoric I’ve heard from them over and over (and over).
(It all makes me tired listening to it. It’s like straining your ears listening to noise, hoping to hear some infrequent shred of signal.)
Trump was engaging, answered questions directly, and was in the moment. (I’ll give props for Hillary Clinton being such an old hand at this that she’s pretty good at being in the moment, too, but she also has the political thread-the-needle thing going.) It was the first time I found myself going, “Huh! This guy is no clown.”
I’m actually excited to see what happens in the primaries of both races! There’s a real horse race on the Democratic side, and the GOP side is this weird 24×7 reality show (that appears on multiple channels… I just wish they’d found less creepy actors to play the Cruz and Rubio roles…).
Is Trump Fever a show people are enjoying (but won’t “take home to mother” so to speak), or do people think he really would make a good president.
And, again, I gotta admit, I’ve been scratching my chin going, “Huh! This guy… maybe?”
Have you noticed how he’s toned down the BS level a bit and is acting more presidential? It’s like he’s taking it seriously. He needs to walk back (or rather: entirely lose) the rhetoric a bit, quite a bit, but he is a sensible and intelligent person (who was once a liberal, so his views might not be entirely bat poop bonkers).
In any event, it seems increasingly possible he’ll be the GOP candidate.
“Why must our presidents be at the level of average, or even worse, the lowest common denominator?”
You’d think people would want their leader to be the best possible. Leading from the top rather than leading from the bottom. You’d think people would want the person making crucial decisions to be as smart as possible about them.
“Not ironic, sad.”
It says something, doesn’t it, that the moderate voice — the one who could probably work best with the left, the one who many on the left think isn’t bad — is just crashing in the polls.
Part of it is physical comportment, I think. The way he stands, his body language, even the semi-apologetic way he speaks, just isn’t strong. (Like Obama, he might be too honest for politics.)
But the right has gotten so far to the right, that a big part of Jeb!’s problem is that he’s just too far to the left for them. Very sad, indeed.
January 16th, 2016 at 12:53 pm
On Trump, I know what you mean about his answering questions directly. I listen to him for that reason. It’s refreshing. And Bernie on that Colbert show was so freaking disappointing. I can’t tell you how many times I yelled at my TV, “ANSWER THE QUESTION!”
Another thing I like about Trump is that he’s not afraid to admit he doesn’t know things. He’ll actually just come right out and say it. “I don’t know X, but I’d hire the right people, experts.” You’d think that would be political suicide. On the other hand, that is what presidents do. They don’t micromanage.
I have noticed that he’s toned down the BS. Especially on the Rep. debates…although when not on the national stage he seems a bit looser. That’s where I hear most of his more hyperbolic stuff.
I’m starting to sound like a Trump supporter, but the truth is, I don’t know what he’s about. I can see him being either okay or a tyrant. He’s too much of a wild card to get my vote.
I think you’re right about Jeb’s physical comportment and such. He comes across to me as pretty strong, though. He beats back at Trump with level-headed ideas, but just doesn’t get the air-time. The thing about Jeb is he’s a Bush. That’s a big stain. People are always after “change”…even Obama is still talking about “change.” Trump is definitely change.
I’m so sick of that rhetoric. But it’s been around for a very long time.
January 17th, 2016 at 9:50 am
“Another thing I like about Trump is that he’s not afraid to admit he doesn’t know things.”
Oh, good point! Having the self-confidence to say “I don’t know!” is an excellent character trait. It usually means someone has the sense they know enough, are seen as knowledgeable often enough, that being ignorant of some things isn’t a threat.
(Of course, a good con man knows that and knows how to act humble, so one never knows. It’s a specific case of a general security problem: Authentication can be faked. (So the trick in security is making authentication as hard to fake as possible. Hence the effort that goes into making money and passports.))
“On the other hand, that is what presidents do. They don’t micromanage.”
Right. (Except for a single pet project, maybe. I always thought President Obama should have micromanaged that ACA federal website more. Talk about a huge black eye.)
“I have noticed that [Trump has] toned down the BS.”
Yeah, and it seems like it might have an interesting effect on how well he does in serious interviews. I just watched him interviewed by George Stephanopoulos, and he seemed not to have much (see my comment below about a Trump cure).
I’ve also noticed he’s using the same material over and over, and some of it is getting old. I still think the ultimate Trump cure is that he’ll be seen as a fad or meme, and we tire of those eventually. That’s the thing about all our shiny distractions… they’re empty, so they don’t hold our attention for all that long.
(Hmmm… note to self: An analysis of how long a TV series lasts compared to how substantial is its content. One problem: How to define substantial.)
“He’s too much of a wild card to get my vote.”
Yeah, I can’t see voting for him. I can see being less alarmed if he got elected than I would be if Rubio or Cruz got it. (OTOH, I also think they have less of a chance in the general election.)
“The thing about Jeb is he’s a Bush.”
Yeah, that’s a definite problem. Perhaps 2016 is a practice run for Jeb! and O’Malley. (I really don’t understand why O’Malley is running otherwise. I do think Bush still has a shot if people wake up and reject the crazy ones.)
“I’m so sick of that rhetoric. But it’s been around for a very long time.”
Yeah,… the ancient Greeks had a word for it… 😐
January 17th, 2016 at 9:26 am
Hmmm… I think I’ve found the cure for starting to think Trump isn’t too bad… actually listening to him in a serious interview (someone like George Stephanopoulos, for instance).
He is smart, and he is savvy, but he also seems to have nothing… to be just hot air.
The only upside is that, if actually elected, he might end up being a lot more left than the right expects (kind of like how Obama ended up being a lot more right than the left expected). Reality pulls the sane towards the center.
February 9th, 2023 at 3:01 pm
[…] seek out a stream of President Biden’s State of the Union address this past Tuesday. Firstly, this post of mine from 2016, about President Obama’s last SOTU address, got a bunch of hits. Secondly, there were […]