The most salient characteristics of Donald Trump can be summarized using only four of the 26 letters of the English language. He is evil and he is vile.
This occurred to me some time ago, but life intrudes and I put off writing about this troubling insight until now. But when Trump referred yesterday to a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia as an excuse not to confront the Saudis about their suspected murder of a Washington Post journalist … that, as they say, was a bridge too far.
The alleged arms deal is fake news and some speculate that Trump’s real concern is his own financial ties to the Saudis, but that isn’t the issue here.
The issue is the utter evil of the man who holds the position once referred to as “the leader of the free world.” The word “leader” no longer applies. The current occupant of the oval office is not a leader. He has no moral compass. He can bully, prevaricate, insult, create havoc, visit violence on those who seek refuge, and refuse to honor the most basic norms of governance, but he can “lead” only those who are willing accomplices in his madness.
Yesterday in that office, with the fate of reporter Jamal Kashoggi still unknown and thousands of Floridians left homeless by Hurricane Michael, Trump spent his time entertaining a foul-mouthed rapper--or perhaps, more accurately, letting the rapper entertain him with a rambling rant that sounded like Trump had been his speech coach.
The scene was a vile deflection from the life and death issues of the day, about which Trump couldn’t have been less interested.
His lack of empathy is legend. In a normal person, the ability to feel empathy, to imagine and identify with another, increases as one gains experience in the world. But we all started out as children; it’s the one universal experience we know everyone has had. Who among us can’t understand and care about the fear and confusion of a child ripped from parents, locked in a cage with strangers, moved from place to place by grown-ups whose language he or she can’t understand? Whether a parent or not, who can fail to understand the anxiety, helplessness, frustration and anger of the parents of that child?
As I prepared to write this piece, I looked up the definitions of the two words we started with—vile and evil. There was some similarity in the definitions, but I think of them as distinctly different. Evil means malevolent, cruel, corrupt, sinister, unconstrained by a concern for others. Evil is often used to describe not only a person, but a specific act. Vile, on the other hand often describes not only an act, but the condition, either literally or figuratively, of the actor: foul, nasty, disgusting, fetid, stinking.
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Grace Under Pressure Meets Attack Dog ________________________________________________________________
There’s no positive way to spin this. Whether the allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Brett Kavanaugh are true or false or—as I suspect—a combination of the two, he is unsuited for a seat on the Supreme Court of the land.
He lacks the requisite character and temperament as demonstrated in his rude, out-of-control performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday. And in an interaction with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), 12 years a senator, Kavanaugh gave a textbook example of sexist attitude and behavior when, offended by her persistence in asking whether he had ever passed out while drinking, he flustered into this dialogue:
Kavanaugh: It’s—you’re asking about, you know, blackout. I don’t know. Have you?
Klobuchar (reining in her shock at this juvenile impertinence): Could you answer the question, Judge? I just—so you—that’s not happened. Is that your answer?
Kavanaugh: Yeah, and I’m curious if you have.
This is the guy the Republicans want to sit as a final arbiter on issues that will affect us all.
Contrast that with the grace-under-pressure performance of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who had nothing to gain, didn’t want to be there, and described herself as “terrified” as she began reading her statement to the committee.
Some will say, of course, that Kavanaugh’s behavior stemmed from anger at what he regarded as unjust accusations. You can believe the last two words of the previous sentence if you want to. But if you do, wouldn't you have preferred to see a calm, reasoned, responsive, believable denial? Instead of that, we had evasion and dissembling, much like we saw in his earlier appearance, but overlaid with anger as he was now, obviously, in extremis. Methinks he doth protest too much.
Others will say he was just doing Donald Trump’s bidding, that in fact it was a performance ordered up by that purveyor of blusterous prevarication and carried out to placate the puppet master. If so, that's just as disqualifying. It reveals lack of independence, no backbone, disregard of truth, and a dysfunctional conscience.
If Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court, both the court—and he—will be forever tarnished. Already sullied by rulings that are politically tainted (Bush v. Gore, for instance) and strain credulity (Citizens United, for instance), the Court will be seen as the professional home of two accused sexual predators, Clarence Thomas having faced allegations at the time of his confirmation in 1991. It’s time to end the drama and the trauma and find a more credible candidate.
Thoughts for Our Time
“Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future.”