John McCain, 1936-2018

Washington (CNN)White House aides drafted a fulsome statement for President Donald Trump on the death of Sen. John McCain, but it was never sent out, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN.

Several staff members believed the official White House statement, which went through an internal approval process, would be released at the time of the Arizona Republican’s death, which occurred on Saturday. But as the President spent Sunday at his Virginia golf course, the statement never went out, the source said.

White House aides did not make plans for a televised statement on McCain’s passing, which would have been routine under similar circumstances in other recent presidencies.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump went against the advice of senior aides to issue an official White House statement praising McCain for his heroism and decades of service, telling aides he instead wanted to post a brief tweet.

Trump’s tweet Saturday night did not mention his military or Senate service or include any praise for the late Arizona Republican.

It’s actually possible to not like McCain in a principled way. As a staunch Reagan Republican he was an ardent hawk and a good friend of pro-US authoritarians abroad; he elevated Sarah Palin to a risible height (arguably paving the way for Trump); and in general, was much less of a maverick than the media that he flattered so assiduously gave him credit for. But Trump isn’t principled. He’s as petty as a 15-year-old mean girl. If McCain had just said “nice” things about him once in a while (instead of just voting for all of his policies but healthcare that one very dramatic and memorable time), Trump would be happy to jump on the grief bandwagon too.

I still believe that this is a terrible world, but that it is filled with decent people. Am I wrong? Do enough Americans resonate with Trump’s shallowness, stupidity, mean-spiritedness, ignorance, and racism to keep him in power? Can the Democrats, as divided and wishy-washy and compromised as they are, turn out enough voters to overcome the Republican firewall of gerrymandering and voter suppression this fall?

Trump is so vindictive and so impulsive that he can’t even put on a sad face for McCain’s death for 24 hours. Can he possibly get through the next two months without firing Mueller, pardoning Manafort, and perpetrating some new horror on the world? And will those things hurt him or help him? I honestly don’t know. Trumpism has made me rethink just about everything I thought I knew about politics.

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Womp Womp

Funny thing, I was just looking at collections of Ronald Reagan quotes. They’re banal as hell, and you can tell which were written by speech-writers and which were said off the cuff. For example, “If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen” was definitely a speechwriter. And then there’s “unemployment insurance is a prepaid vacation for freeloaders.” That one came from his heart. But most of Reagan’s quotable quotes, authentic or concocted, pay lip service to freedom, self-determination, independence, dignity and patriotism. “Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”

For all his flag-hugging, Trump doesn’t think much about those things. His agenda for America is “I alone.” He alone can make the world a better place, because only he can have the greatest relationships with the best people. America is good because it has white people in it for sure, but mostly because it has Trump. His election was the not just the happy ending but the beginning and the middle of the story too: America vindicated him and anointed him. He beat Hillary, Obama, and Angela Merkel, and they can all kiss his ass. So can Mike Pompeo, for that matter. And John Bolton. And certainly John Kelly. If Putin helped him win, then that reflects well on Putin. There is literally no room in his brain for anything else.

“No colusion!” is from Trump’s heart. So is “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful.” The rest is just womp womp, to borrow a phrase from Cory Lewandowski.

Ode to Billie Joe

Yesterday morning, for reasons unknown to me, “Ode to Billie Joe” started going through my head. I was ten years old when it was on the radio. As haunting and Gothic as “A Rose for Emily” or “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” I don’t think any pop song has ever demanded as much in the way of negative capability from its listeners.

Google tells me that when asked exactly what was thrown off the bridge, Bobbie Gentry replied, “The song is sort of a study in unconscious cruelty. But everybody seems more concerned with what was thrown off the bridge than they are with the thoughtlessness of the people expressed in the song. What was thrown off the bridge really isn’t that important. Everybody has a different guess about what was thrown off the bridge—flowers, a ring, even a baby. Anyone who hears the song can think what they want, but the real message of the song, if there must be a message, revolves around the nonchalant way the family talks about the suicide. They sit there eating their peas and apple pie and talking, without even realizing that Billie Joe’s girlfriend is sitting at the table, a member of the family.”

And then there is the mystery of Bobbie Gentry herself–gorgeous, extravagantly talented, ultra-articulate, and dripping with Las Vegas glitz–who stepped out of the limelight in 1975, never to be heard from again.

For what it’s worth, my mother was certain it was a baby.

My new theory

My new theory is that Trump is Satan, unknowingly carrying out one of God’s obscure plans (it will all become clear in retrospect in the Revised Gospels that will be carved onto stones a few centuries after the nuclear dust settles and the survivors emerge, blinking, from their caves), and that Avenatti is an angel that the Almighty deputized to torture him, just to keep things amusing.

Calm and Calculated

Did you see this pair of Tweets this morning? It’s like he sent them off while his nurse was pounding on his door, telling him it was time for his daily injection:

So much Fake News about what is going on in the White House. Very calm and calculated with a big focus on open and fair trade with China, the coming North Korea meeting and, of course, the vicious gas attack in Syria. Feels great to have Bolton & Larry K on board. I (we) are………..doing things that nobody thought possible, despite the never ending and corrupt Russia Investigation, which takes tremendous time and focus. No Collusion or Obstruction (other than I fight back), so now they do the Unthinkable, and RAID a lawyers office for information! BAD!

They were immediately followed by

Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!

and then, as the meds kicked in,

Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?

Some social scientist somewhere probably dreamed of running an experiment in which he put an anti-social 3-year-old in charge of the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal and then subjected him to various stimuli to see how he would respond. We are about to find out.

An even more interesting experiment would be to tell a large sample of people (say the population of the world’s richest and most powerful nation) that an anti-social 3-year-old is running things, and then study their reactions to his various provocations. Would there be epidemics of people dancing themselves to death, like there were in the Middle Ages? Would Gnostic doom cults arise, as they did in the latter days of the Roman Empire? Or would life go on as usual? It will be interesting to read the history books, if there are any.

Back on the blog

I moved most of my commenting to Facebook a couple of years ago because that seemed to be where the action was. Last week, partly impelled by the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, partly out of frustration with the social media bubble, I cancelled my personal Facebook account. Yesterday I cut my cord, trading in my expensive Direct TV account for a cheaper streaming alternative. What’s next, trading in my iPhone for something cheaper? Maybe. Probably, I’m just trying to escape from Trump.

I’ll post my blog comments on my Author’s page now, but it’s mostly unread because I don’t pay Facebook ad money. It’s going to be a little lonely now, living without Likes and Comments from the Internet, but I suspect it’s healthier to not have the illusion of being an influencer. I’m just a guy who wrote a handful of books now, who occasionally screams that the sky is falling.

It is, it is.