Thursday, February 1, 2018

Preventing the President of the United States

By Giphy.
And the heart (big, fat, and beautiful) is in the delivery!

There's an answer to Steve's question! We were looking for the heart in the wrong place, in the formation and implementation of policy. Trump's heart isn't in that; the man is a born trouper. It's in the greasepaint and the greenrooms and that connection with the crowd, and the ratings of course, although that seems a little backward—the fact that you turned it on, if you did, doesn't prove that it was good, because you didn't know whether it was good or not ahead of time. Ratings are a measurement for advertisers, as you know, advertisers are interested in whether you get the eyeballs, not their critical esteem, and you can get the eyeballs with a slow-motion train wreck. Also Fox didn't make any money on it, since you don't interrupt the SOTU with commercials, although they did presumably benefit from the before and after color commentary.

Nevertheless Trump achieved his personal goal, of whacking his way through reading the text without a fail and achieving more applause breaks—turns out all you have to do is ask for them, leading the applause yourself from the dais!—than any of his predecessors, stretching a thin speech out to an astounding 90 minutes and making the Republicans do all the work. I didn't hear him say, "Believe me," or fluff any difficult words, at all, though I wasn't listening attentively all the time. Paul Ryan blew more lines than he did, I thought, even though he only had one, which he began, "I have the high honor and distinct privilege of preventing..." before pulling back.

And the ratings were tremendous! Well,

Comparison may actually be where the rub gets a bit raw for Trump, especially in terms of his immediate predecessors. Barack Obama had just more than 48 million total viewers for his first SOTU in 2010 on 11 outlets, and nearly 52 million watched George W. Bush’s post-9/11 first SOTU in 2002 on eight outlets. Adding to the con column, Trump did not beat the 45.8 million who tuned in for Bill Clinton’s first SOTU on ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN in 1994.
Which means Trump’s initial SOTU, the third longest in history, is now also the least watched [initial] address in nearly a quarter of a century. (Deadline Hollywood)

The criticism he's getting for the other aspects of the speech, for what is and isn't in the selected words, should really be addressed to his screenwriter Stephen Miller, whose job it is to pull together the vagaries of the president's big, fat heart (it's clear that he suffers from serious atherosclerosis, in spite of the cheery report of Rear Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson—that report wasn't designed for the use of the public but for the pleasure of an audience of one, the patient, when he watched it being talked about on Fox) with the political aims of the Trump administration, if you can say such a thing exists.

I'm starting to get as concerned as anybody about the North Korea question, but not so much from what was in the speech as from the week's other event, which is that the administration has pulled Georgetown professor Victor Cha, who's been awaiting Senate confirmation as US ambassador to South Korea for I don't know how many months, from consideration, and they have to start all over again. The most serious foreign policy problem the Trump administration faces is the nuclear-armed insane DPRK, and the one country, our close ally for many decades, that is most directly affected by this and also best equipped to understand what's going on, is one that our government can't be bothered to communicate with at a high level.

And the reason they withdrew Cha is more disquieting still: apparently because he openly disapproved of the project of a "preemptive" attack on North Korea, "giving Kim Jong Un a bloody nose", which won't affect their nuclear program at all but could lead to an accidental or enraged exchange of nuclear weapons, or prompt an attack on Seoul, fourth most economically powerful city in the world, with a population of ten million. And thought the US should retain its bilateral trade agreement with ROK, which Trump regards as a "bad deal", meaning one that's been signed by some other dude not internationally famous for dealing, pussy-grabbing, and walking away from a business failure with a personal profit.

It is every day more urgent that major countries other than Russia and China develop ways of acting without the United States, which is just going to be AWOL and possibly dangerous, at the same time, for a while. This should have begun to happen, and did, I believe, while Obama was "leading from behind" and effectively training them, whence the 11-country TPP cooked up by Japan and Australia, and more important for security the fact that a delegation of North Korean athletes and their minders (500 altogether!) has really arrived in Pyeongchang today for the coming Olympic Games.

I'll try to get to immigration eventually, and the "infrastructure" scam if there seems like any chance it could lead to any action (I don't think there is any appetite among our construction companies for building new toll roads and bridges and tunnels that they have to collect on in order to realize a profit, and I don't think Congress is going to develop an interest in it either). In general, I don't think this SOTU was very important, historically, in any way.

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