Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Trumpier than Thou

Hunan Daily, via Sinosphere.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, makes a startling observation ("A Trumpism of the Left"):
Donald Trump’s post-debate ranting about Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe elevated by Hillary Clinton as proof of Trump’s misogyny, has been similar to his other meltdowns but distinctive in one particular way: It’s the first time in this election that Trump has clashed with someone who actually resembles him.
Oh? In what respect? Is she a billionaire? Was her father a real estate magnate? Does she devote all her conversation to explaining how successful she is? Does she have a really unusual hair style?

Other targets of Trump’s ire, like Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the Khan family, seemed handpicked for their uprightness, their dignity, their not-like-Donald virtues. But Machado, like Trump himself, is a creature of the celebrity-industrial complex, a dogged self-promoter with a fascinatingly checkered past.
Oh? What about the 273 people Donald Trump has insulted on Twitter, including Brent Bozell, Glenn Beck, Anthony Weiner, Charles Koch, and Neil Young? Trump has more in common with Alicia Machado than with any of those people? What about Rosie O'Donnell? (I love you, Rosie, and I don't think you're anything like Trump, but you still resemble him more than Machado does. That's what I mean about Neil Young too. By Douthat logic; both of you are wealthy and famous and could stand to lose a couple of pounds, Trump is an absurdly famous billionaire and grossly obese, therefore you're practically the same person.)

If you click that link about Machado's fascinatingly checkered past, incidentally, you get to a Daily Beast story (by Asawin Suebsaeng) explaining concisely that there is no evidence for any of the accusations Trump has made against her in the past week or so, though it's true that there were some insalubrious but so far unsubstantiated rumors about her behavior as a cast member of the Mexican reality show La Granja at the time she broke up with her boyfriend (then-Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu), in 2006. It's certainly the past, but what exactly is fascinatingly checkered about it? More to the point, what is Trump-like?

That's classic Douthat deception, kids, spreading a lubricious innuendo with a link he knows none of his stupid readers will click. He's a bad person. Machado may be said to resemble Hillary Clinton more than Trump, in that she's a gutsy woman who has made her way in the world with a lot of grit and talent and gets slimed by Republicans with vague but nasty allegations they can't back up.

(He also links another, sadder story, about how she wasn't charged for threatening a prosecutor investigating another boyfriend, in 1998, accused of shooting at his sister's husband after the sister committed suicide, but it would have been a lot more checkered if they had, in fact, charged her.)
She shares, in other words, Trump’s desperation for the spotlight and his shamelessness in reaching for it, and her shrugging, “I’m not a saint girl” response to Anderson Cooper’s questions about her interesting past had a very Trumpish feel.
No, Ross, I really don't think you've demonstrated anything there other than that Trumpishness is in the eye of the beholder. Do you understand that what Trump is accused of isn't possibly making a sex tape but criminal mismanagement of a multibillion-dollar business through theft, fraud, bribery, breach of contract, tax cheating, money laundering, and self-dealing through a fraudulent charity, and allowing himself to be bent to the wishes of a foreign leader in a political campaign? Of course you don't, let's move on.

What's your evidence for the desperation? What's your evidence for the shamelessness? What, indeed is your evidence for the Trumpishness of "I'm not a saint girl?" Trump never acknowledges that he's been naughty. His morality may change from year to year, but if he comes to feel negative about some behavior he just exiles it from the conversation; quizzed about past sins, he says, "I never discuss it."

But wait, there's more! There's a feat of Douthatian casuistry yet to come that has never previously been attempted! Because the reason he just happens to have brought Machado up and explained how deeply Trumpesque she is isn't merely to slime her. It's important, because she's a Democrat, or at least voting for Hillary this year, in her first election since she became a citizen, and since, from Ross's perspective, she's the same as Trump, she might well run for president herself one day!
In a world where a figure like Donald Trump is a major party’s nominee for the presidency, why shouldn’t a character like Alicia Machado aspire to high office as well?
Or not, strictly speaking, since she's not a natural-born citizen and therefore technically unqualified, as Ross notes ("I'm joking," he says with a Trumpian assumption that he knows what a joke is). But that just proves that somebody else just like Trump who happened to be more like Trump, in the sense of having been born in the US and having enough money to fund themselves through the primary, could easily do it,
could a Trump-style celebrity takeover someday befall the Democrats as well, without the white identity politics but with all the raging telenovela drama that’s trailed in Trump’s wake? Right now it couldn’t... But what’s true today might not be true forever. The differences between the Democratic Party’s younger, poorer, browner base and its older, whiter, richer and more moderate leadership are a potentially unstable equilibrium.... a Trumpism of the left would imitate the left-wing populists of Latin America and Asia — the Chavismo of Alicia Machado’s native Venezuela, or the Trumpian socialism presently being served up by the ranting, trigger-happy president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte.
—(I have to note here that Duterte is no more a socialist than his ferocious rightwing totem ancestor Ferdinand Marcos, and Machado's country of origin is no more significant than Marco Rubio's and actually much less so since she's really not running for office, and she's been based in Mexico since 1996, while Hugo Chávez first became president of Venezuela in 1999) maybe not this year but 20 years from now, or who knows, and therefore—therefore—
  • Major Premise: Trump has won the Republican nomination although he is an incompetent clown
  • Minor Premise: Alicia Machado may be said to have something or other in common with Trump
  • Minor Premise: Alicia Machado is probably a Democrat, though not a plausible presidential candidate
  • Conclusion: Therefore somebody as awful as Trump is bound to take over the Democrats sooner or later, demonstrating that the Republicans are not that bad, Q.E.D.
It does not work.

This could well be the worst column in Douthat's career, and there's tons more to say about it, much of which has been said to hilarious effect by Driftglass. There are at least a couple of paragraphs waiting for you, @SusanTexas—but act now! operators are waiting!

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