The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The American president has long been described with the honorific “Leader of the Free World.” No more. Donald Trump basically surrendered the title during the recent G-20 meetings in Germany.

Even the Russians were offended by Trump’s pointless abandonment of the Paris Climate Accords—pointless because it’s a purely voluntary agreement with no enforcement mechanisms. The president imagines a worldwide scientific conspiracy, which most educated adults recognize as impossible.

Trump’s Polish speech was also seen as problematic. By endorsing a Manichean, good versus evil defense of “the West”—defined, Putin-style, entirely in racial and religious terms—Trump was widely suspected of scorning multi-ethnic European democracies like Germany, France, and Great Britain. Not to mention Asian ones like Japan, South Korea, and India.

The West, so defined, excludes most of the world’s population, although it definitely includes the Confederate States of America.

However, relatively few thought Trump actually grasped the full implications of the tribalized world-view he expressed.

Somebody wrote a speech; Trump read it. Our allies can only guess who’s in charge at the White House: traditional defenders of NATO like Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster?

Or blood-and-soil “populists” like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, the author of the Warsaw speech defining ISIS — an all-but defeated terrorist organization with no army, navy, or air force — as a grave civilizational threat?

In reality, of course, the single greatest threat to the integrity of Western democracy is the Kremlin. But hold that thought.

The correct answer to who’s in charge of U.S. foreign policy is nobody. And certainly not Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who served as the president’s minder during his ballyhooed meeting with Vladimir Putin.

At the White House level, the U.S. doesn’t have a foreign policy. Trumpism is best understood as a cult of personality with a world-view rooted in WWE professional wrestling, where race, ethnicity, and tribal loyalties prevail.

But equally important, where long-nurtured enmities and alliances alike can be reversed almost overnight.

Everything depends upon the whims of the protagonist, that is to say Trump himself. In the WWE, the operative term for these scripted melodramas is “kayfabe”—possibly what the president meant when he tweeted the nonsense word “covfefe.”

Wikipedia defines it thus: “portrayal of staged events within the industry as ‘real’ or ‘true,’ specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or predetermined nature.”

Just so Trump’s meeting with Putin, which for all the hullabaloo, was basically a made-for-TV spectacle of little real import. One day Trump boasted that he and his new best friend Vlad were going to set up a U.S./Russian Cyber Security Task Force. But after Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) described this as maybe the dumbest idea he’d ever heard, the president abruptly dropped it.

Just kidding!

Otherwise, the headline on Russian expatriate Masha Gessen’s New York Times commentary said it all: “Trump gave Putin exactly what he wanted.” Specifically, a co-starring role, along with no serious criticism for such Kremlin pastimes as executing journalists and cyber attacks on other countries’ elections.

Otherwise, Putin got little in real world terms, apart from the ego-boost of occupying center stage with the President of the United States, whom, like an ambitious prostitute, he was clever enough to flatter.

Loosens Trump up like WD-40.

Every single time.

However, the good news is that even a GOP Congress won’t let the president give Putin anything concrete, such as a free hand in Ukraine, or redress from economic sanctions. Russia holds Crimea, but at a cost Trump can’t relieve. Putin’s scheming has pretty much backfired.

But what really seems to animate Trump himself is his ongoing feud with CNN—the cable network that basically made him president. Following the president’s recent tweeting of a WWE video showing him pummeling a figure labeled CNN—not so much an incitement to violence as to stupidity—I was struck by a remark from a Washington Post profile of correspondent Jim Acosta.

Covering this White House, Acosta said, is like “covering bad reality television.”

No kidding. Equally striking, however was White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s appraisal of Acosta: “He’s the prime example of a [reporter in a] competitive, YouTube, click-driven industry … He’s recognized that if you make a spectacle on the air then you’ll get more airtime and more clicks.”

Who better than Spicer to understand?

So were you aware that CNN president Jeff Zucker personally masterminded Trump’s program, The Apprentice, when he presided over NBC Entertainment? And that Trump received an estimated $5.8 billion in free coverage from CNN and its competitors—more than twice that of any other candidate—while cable news ratings and profits soared?

And that ratings continue to grow for CNN as the Trump/Comey/Putin kayfabe drives news coverage? You may disdain professional wrestling, or, like me, never seen a single episode of The Apprentice.

But we’re all watching it now.

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Stephen Colbert Returns To Mocking His Favorite Target

Ever since the Republican party was hijacked by a clownish, failed businessman and reality tv host turned fascist dictator, many on the left have pined for the simpler days of George W. Bush. Putting aside his obvious failure of a lifetime in launching a brutal, unnecessary, and costly war in Iraq, the not-so-bright former president would probably be considered a leftist by today's deranged Republican party of rabble-rousing misfits. Stephen Colbert, like many of us comedians at the time, took great pleasure in jostling George Bush over his failures in Iraq.

Although he has since dropped his more arcane Colbert Report far-right character after taking over hosting duties at the Late Show, Colbert is as political as ever. Having been said, Colbert mocked George W Bush, who gave a speech in Dallas on Wednesday for an event called “Elections – A More Perfect Union”, which focused on how elections work.

Keep reading... Show less

Sen. Ted Cruz

A group of lawyers has submitted a 15-page ethics complaint to the State Bar of Texas demanding an investigation of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) for his “leading role” in the far-reaching Republican effort to keep former President Trump in power despite his reelection loss.

The complaint — filed by the 65 Project, an organization of lawyers seeking to hold attorneys accountable for lending a hand in pro-Trump efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 elections — called for an examination of Cruz’s conduct in the weeks before Election Day in 2020 and on January 6, 2021, the day of the Capitol insurrection.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}