Trump takes the GOP Back to School

It seems that the Donald Trump phenomenon is something that pundits and commentators can’t seem to stop talking about, but also something they can’t seem to actually understand. One particular remark on Special Report Online struck me: Dr. Charles Krauthammer wondered how it was that a man born in wealth and with a tremendous fortune, how can he connect with middle and lower economic class voters?

The problem, it seems to me, may be that Dr. Krauthammer is a great intellect (and avid fan of baseball), but it seems he doesn’t watch enough movies. Because, as Ace of Spades explains, politics has become a a movie, analyzed in terms of a heroes journey and the sensibilities of plot, pacing and motivation. But how does that help us figure out the Trump phenomenon?

There are a lot of theories among pundits: some think he panders, some thing he simply shoots from the hip, some point out his crudity, borderline vulgarity and so on. All of that has some merit, but none of them capture the whole picture: Donald Trump is Thornton Melon.

Back to School is a great comedy, and a big part of the success is the ensemble cast. That’s because, just like Donald Trump, Rodney Dangerfield’s Thornton Melon is a man we root for in part in spite of himself. The thing is that if take away the loathsome, hidebound, patrician economics professor, the cartoon jock villains and the unctuous dean, and we’re left with Melon… who’s kinda an insufferable schmuck.

Insufferable perhaps, but a snappy dresser.

At the risk of fantastically over-analyzing a light 80’s comedy, Thornton Melon would be nearly intolerable in real life: he is constantly breaking the rules and suffering no consequences because he throws large amounts of cash at problems, he’s unashamed about being crooked and simply bribing public servants, he’s a womanizer, a coward and, most significant to the plot, he’s a cheater.

In Back to School we don’t root for Melon because he’s a hero, we root for him because he’s not actively a villain. Once we realize that, and that Paxton Whitehead‘s acerbic and patronizing performance is as important to the movie as Dangerfield’s own,  we understand Trump and his role in this film.

Because if Trump is Melon, who has been cast in the role of the uptight, head-up-his-ass professors that everyone wants to see get their comeuppance?

Heirs to the legacy of Lincoln, or two putzes in need of a pie to the face?

Since putting in the Republican Congress Republican Voters have been subject to one episode after another of what Ace aptly terms failure theater. No principle seems too big to sacrifice on the alter of expediency, no favor to donors too imbecile to come through on. The Republican base is appalled and feels betrayed. They’ve delivered both houses of Congress to their party only to be told ‘oops, turns out nothing worthwhile can be done without the White House too‘. The Republican leadership is running a con job on its voters, and they have noticed.  In other words, the base has collectively decided that it’s time to do something futile and stupid.

Enter Trump, stage right.

Does the State Department think Hillary lied?

The State Department has committed to reviewing and releasing Secretary Clinton’s “after a review”;

Hillary Clinton Asks State Department to Vet Emails for Release, New York Times,

State Department to release Hillary’s emails after review, New York Post, etc etc.

There is one problem with those headlines and the course of action they describe: there is no reason for a review. From Secretary Clinton’s UN press conference yesterday;

QUESTION: Were you ever — were you ever specifically briefed on the security implications of using — using your own email server and using your personal address to email with the president?

CLINTON: I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.

So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.

In other words, given that she was not using a server and system secured to government security standards, Sec. Clinton voluntarily restricted herself to using her email only for non-classified topics and materials*. Information that could be viewed by the general public. So why is there any review at all?

By Sec. Clinton’s own statements, there is no reason for a review by the State Department, because she never transmitted or received any information that needed security. Which also means that the State Department never needed to redact any of her emails, as Gabriel Malor notes;

The only reason for the State Department to review Sec. Clinton’s emails would be… that her statement at the press conference cannot be relied upon, and there is loads of sensitive and/or classified information in her emails. The test for all this is simple:

-If the State Department reviews the emails, then they think Sec. Clinton’s emails contain material she claims they do not.

-If the State Department simply makes the emails available, without review or redaction, then they actually believe she was telling the truth.

Which do you think they will do?

 

*Yes, there are many divisions of classified and sensitive information, but this entire defense for Secretary Clinton using a private email (of dubious security) is that she rigorously avoided having problematic material in her email.

Will Hillary pimp out the Left?

As new scandals emerge to bedevil Hillary Clinton’s march to power, a question occurs: what exactly is this quality of Hillary’s that actually makes people want to vote for her? Right now it seems that Secretary Clinton is doing her own rendition of Taxi Driver, with her in the role of Matthew and the Democratic Party in the role of Iris (WARNING! Strong Language);

As I pointed out in an earlier post, conservatives have gradually come to terms with the “transparent selfishness and corruption” of Republican politicians, a recognition that the best that government can aspire to is an evil, albeit a necessary evil.

But the Left believes the opposite: that government can be a force for good, that rule by experts can usher in a new age of Aquarius, blah blah blah, etc. As Jonah Goldberg put it, “Liberalism, as an ideology, insists that government can do good and great things for the people and the world, if the people running the government are smart liberals.”

The left must claim that good government comes from good governors. The election of Barack Obama may be excused by his particular brand of practiced obscurity: he was a blank slate coming into office, onto which a majority of voters could project their allotments of “I hope”. Secretary Clinton allows for no such illusions as her history making it explicitly clear that she has a mafioso’s contempt for the strictures of government.

Apparently she was playing Tetris. Damn that L-block!

It is one thing for the Republicans to hold their nose and vote for the lesser of two evils: at the heart of the skeptical outlook of conservatives and libertarians is the idea that government may be necessary, but it remains a necessary evil. This is both a problem and a strength for conservatives: the expectation that the best and brightest are doing something, indeed anything but going into politics puts them at a certain disadvantage, but at the same time… well, it makes possible the “vote for me because my opponent will ruin this country” avenue of attack.

The left cannot so easily accommodate this reality. One of the greatest gifts the Obama presidency has presented to his opponents is, paradoxically, transparency. Not on his part (of course) but on the part of everyone else. Obama has so abused his office, so systematically embraced the machine of government, so taken to the things claimed to abhor that his defenders… well, they have been shown to be not so much principled as partisan.

You thought Obama’s election promised to advance the Anti-War movement he made so many appeals to? Well… that didn’t turn out so well.

You thought the left objected to a president killing people in far off lands with a stroke of the pen? Oops, turns out he’s rather fond of the practice.

With that in mind, let’s ask what offenses against good government Hillary has already committed?

-As MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell observes, the transparency requirements Hillary has evaded with her emails are policies liberals have desired for decades.

James Taranto of the WSJ points out that Secretary Clinton’s decision to provide her emails entirely in paper print-outs has some selling points, although entirely from the view of thwarting public access. Providing her emails in the form of boxes and boxes of paper slows Freedom of Information Act requests to a crawl and makes FYI, if you hear someone reference Hillary turning over 55k emails, correct them: it’s 55k pages of emails. Not at all the same thing.

-Liberals concerned with the power of money in politics will be (no doubt) overjoyed to learn that the Clinton Foundation “has received as much as $81m from wealthy international donors who were clients of HSBC’s controversial Swiss bank.

-Concerned with the plight of women in repressive Middle Eastern nations? Don’t worry, though Bill Clinton’s “friends” in the United Arab Emirates may have thrown some money into the Clinton Foundation coffers, Bill doesn’t “agree with everything they do“.

-Maybe that’s alright, so long as the Foundation abided by the rules set up by the State Department. Except they didn’t. Algeria managed to slip $500,000 into the Clinton Foundation coffers. No doubt it was a coincidence that they gave money to the Secretary of State’s family charity at the same time Algeria “was spending heavily to lobby the State Department on human rights issues.

-Further the Clinton Foundation makes sure to keep company with a, uh, rarefied group of donors. As the New York Times reports (emphasis mine);

The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation has accepted tens of millions of dollars in donations from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Algeria and Brunei—all of which the State Department has faulted over their records on sex discrimination and other human-rights issues.

-As Mollie Z. Hemingway points out, when American companies do the things that foreign governments did with the Clinton Foundation, it falls under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. As she observes, “it would be weird if we held U.S. companies to far stricter standards regarding bribery than we did our own secretary of state.

Now, don’t mistake any of this: I don’t like Hillary. I haven’t liked Hillary for decades, and for reasons entirely to do with the standards and philosophy she professes to believe. But in a strange way,  all of this makes me a little less worried about Hillary. After all, as a conservative I have no illusions about the integrity of politicians, and there is something refreshing about a politician so blatantly mercenary. But for the left, if you think that the Republicans are the party of big business, why would you want to put in power a politician that has spent decades in Washington establishing that her loyalty is exclusive… to the highest bidder?

As Joe Scarborough of MSNBC asks, no doubt speaking for liberals everywhere, “How stupid do they think we are?”