Friday, June 12, 2020

Cotton Mouth

"Treason Memorial: The Portrait of Tom Cotton" by Daniel Edwards, 2015, when Cotton and 46 other Republican senators violated the Logan Act by going over President Obama's head to attempt negotiating directly with Ayatollah Khamenei, depicting "the life-size head of Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton looking seditiously ahead, beneath the looming representation of Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, who appears to have a sly and divisive smile. Etched below is a ‘U.S. seal of treason,’ featuring the bald eagle, scornful and glaring with its back turned away, accompanied by text which describes the offense committed by the 47 senators." Via Send2Press Newswire.

The battle over Senator Tom Cotton's fascist piece calling for the deployment of federal troops across the country in an "overwhelming show of force" against the "orgy of violence" perpetrated by "left-wing radicals like antifa" and their "thrill-seeking rich" allies in "exotic cars" continues even after James Bennett's departure, and The Times is presenting more commentary. Here's Mr. Bret Stephens:

In the week of the Op-Ed’s publication, an ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 52 percent of Americans favored deploying troops to help quell violent unrest in American cities. That’s not a political fringe unworthy of consideration. And Tom Cotton isn’t some nobody you’ll never hear from again. He has the pulse of his party, the ear of the president and an eye on higher office. Readers deserve an unvarnished look at who this man is and what he stands for.
LOL, "unvarnished". That's the issue right there. Cotton's prose is so varnished you could just about stand it up on a pedestal in the Arkansas capitol and call for it to be removed as a fraudulent glorification of the racist or (as the case may be) treasonous past. An unvarnished look would have to come from a pitiless reporter, not from the man himself, who's as curated as a presidential library.

Also, that poll asked the wrong question, failing to distinguish between governors legally calling in the National Guard, which was being done in some states during the first phase of the George Floyd demonstrations, and Trump sending active-duty troops over state governments' objections, which would only be legal if the state was defying federal law (and even when Eisenhower sent troops to Cotton's home state of Arkansas  they were federalized National Guardsmen, not regular army). We have no idea how many Americans favored the latter during those first couple of days of demonstrations before the looting stopped, predictably, of its own accord (as I was saying, Dr. King predicted it in 1967). But we can be pretty certain it wasn't 52%.

I don’t agree with Cotton’s view. I know of nobody at The Times who agrees with it. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page doesn’t agree with it. Ditto for much of the mainstream media, at least its more liberal precincts.

Then again, isn’t this the biggest problem these outlets have faced in recent years — being of a single mind on subjects that sharply divide the nation? Isn’t that how we got into trouble in 2016, with our rock-solid belief that Donald Trump couldn’t possibly win?

No. Did you get into trouble? I didn't get into trouble. I've never seen a reason to change my view that a Trump victory was extremely unlikely, for that matter. It's one of those things that Mr. Bret is constitutionally unable to understand, but the fact that it happened doesn't change the odds. Un coup de dés n'abolira jamais le hasard (The laws of chance can't be abolished by a single throw of the dice—Stéphane Mallarmé). 

And I based my view on polling data, not on my understanding of the Deplorable mind, or lack thereof. I don't in fact see how understanding the Deplorable mind would help me predict the election result at all, if that's what I thought my job was. Of course we are interested, as a matter of fact, in the Deplorable mind—in why it exists at all, for starters, and why it exists in such quantities, and whether it's a pathology for which there's a hope of a cure, and so forth. But I can't use Tom Cotton as a source for understanding it, because Cotton is just too dishonest. As Michelle Goldberg notes in her contribution:

In a racist inversion, he equates his fantasy of soldiers putting down an uprising triggered by police brutality against black people with previous presidents using the military to enforce desegregation.

His argument is frequently slippery and dishonest. The claim that police officers “bore the brunt of the violence” is hard to square with countless videos of police instigation. (So far, more civilians than police officers have been reported killed during the uprising.)

Cotton notes that President George H.W. Bush sent federal troops into Los Angeles in 1992 to quell the riots that broke out after the police who beat Rodney King were acquitted. But he doesn’t tell readers that Bush did so at the invitation of California’s governor.

Cotton serves as an example of how you might use sophistry to defend the Deplorable point of view—as does Mr. Bret Stephens, except he's worldly enough to insist that he personally doesn't share it. But neither of them tells us anything about what it's like. What they're anxious to do is show what it would look like if it was respectable, but that's the very last thing it is. It's not interested in being respectable in the eyes of the Times op-ed page, though it does want to be respected.

For an unvarnished view of that, it might be more useful to go straight to Donald Trump, letting it all hang out on his Twitter feed, though he's clearly a lot stupider than most of them, and less experienced at managing his own life. (The idea that Cotton "has his ear" is hilarious, by the way; Trump listens to nobody.) The New York Times op-ed page is the last place I'll go for that, in any event.

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