Mar 31, 2017

March 27, 2017: The Politics of Mass Distraction, Jambing Our Radar, Not the Medium nor the Man

“Only a twit goes on twitter, and only a birdbrain tweets”
                        ----from “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

A theory is being bandied about which holds that tRUMP’s use of the social media “Twitter” is a clever stratagem to circumvent conventional media, in whose hands he has been savaged, opting instead to speak directly to his constituency in 40 characters or less.  I imagine that this would comport with the ‘bumper-sticker’ mentality of the great unwashed in search of a champion, but it is no way to explain public policy.  Others hold that tRUMP’s nearly daily use of the medium is a bit of genius, distracting as it does from the wretched Rescumlican agenda, serving as a form of “flak” in effect jamming our “collective radar”, distracting us from watching what congressional Rescumlicans are cooking up in the smoke-filled rooms and about to foist upon an unsuspecting public.  Others hold that tRUMP’s “tweet storms” serve to distract us from the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in our election, possible tRUMP campaign ties to the Russians and possible collusion with the Russians to rig the outcome of the election.  Lurking beneath, not so far from the surface, are possible financial dealings which may involve racketeering and money laundering.  So, it is held, tRUMP almost daily takes to “Twitter” and “Tweets” false accusations and insults in every direction, calling into question in the process the legitimacy of every institution in this country, be it law enforcement and the courts, the press, the congress, thousands of county clerks (mostly Republican) across this country who conduct our elections, financial institutions, American corporations and businesses and accusing anyone who slightly disagrees with his version of reality of being “fake”, disingenuous, and an outright liar; all of this designed to smear with a mighty hand so as to obfuscate, confuse and obstruct.  He has even been compared to the ‘Great Communicator’ Ronald Reagan as an alleged genius in connecting with the ‘people’. 

I’m not about to give tRUMP such credit.

You see Reagan spoke on behalf of a moribund and largely discredited political and economic philosophy honed by messages delivered at countless ‘rubber chicken’ events held at VFW and other venues in countless towns and cities throughout America, transforming himself, over the years, from a first-rate second-rate actor to a master political salesman.  Moreover, a political salesman possessing a deeply-flawed philosophy of governance, but a philosophy nonetheless.  tRUMP, it by now must be clear, possesses none of that. 

Many students of the presidency have correctly pointed out that the president has very few constitutional powers.  Beyond his or her role as “commander-in-chief” of the armed forces and the veto power over acts of congress (which can be overridden), the power of the presidency is one largely of persuasion. In this the president, to be successful, must first have a clear idea of where one wants to lead the country, how to use the office in order to so lead, and, most importantly, how to sell one’s agenda to the nation at large.  For this one must be able to adroitly use in Teddy Roosevelt’s immortal words the “Bully Pulpit”, but in order to do so one must be able to make a salient case for one’s agenda; one must use the profile of the presidency in order to legitimize and move one’s policy goals.  For that one needs an uncommon salesman.  tRUMP, it appears, is not a salesman.

I have often pointed out in these columns that a business background is an immediate disqualification for political office, especially the highest office in the land.  The president, you see, does not “rule” by “decree”, but must persuade the people, the congress and the courts of the need, legitimacy and urgency of proposed change. For this, the star of the reality television show “The Apprentice” is the most ill-suited for the job, for barking “you’re fired!”, will hardly get the job done for the inevitable question—and it is always a PUBLIC question-- immediately emerges “now what”?, demanding a public debate and discussion.    In any case, nowhere is the totally ill-suited nature of this man for the office he holds on greater public display than in his almost daily use of “Twitter”.

“Twitter” along with “Facebook” and “LinkedIn” represent the vanguard of an explosion in this culture of so-called “Social Media”.  It should be more correctly termed “Anti-Social Media”, inasmuch as complex questions of public policy, when they are discussed at all, are done in crude two-dimensional “Memes” where everything is reduced to bumper-sticker mentality or involve sometimes long threads where people, armed with few facts and less understanding, openly abuse each other by reducing public discourse to invective, vitriol, and abuse. 

These are media made for one Donald J. tRUMP, for it should be clear by now to even the most casual observer that the man in the oval office, armed with few “facts” and even less understanding can only express himself by reducing public discourse to invective, vitriol and abuse.  And so, the headlines of the day are dominated by these “tweet storms” in which our intrepid leader is constantly seen whining, blaming, accusing and demeaning everything about him—even, on occasion, his own party’s policy agenda.  None of these rants stick, none have in the parlance of the theatre “legs”, save the “tweet” that President Obama bugged tRUMP tower thereby accusing the former President of committing a felony.  That little tweet storm rattled through the ‘news cycles’ like loose change in a dryer for nearly two months bringing unwanted attention to the Russian mess all the while robbing Rescumlicans of a splendid opportunity to sell their much-anticipated savaging of the health care system in this country. 

But it is one thing to steal a Supreme Court seat in the static caused by these “tweet storms”; it is one thing to get a health care bill through the house stripping, by estimates of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, 22 million people of their health care; it is one thing to then have a handful of Senate Rescumlicans meet behind closed doors to fashion a Senate version of same.  It is quite another to get this country to swallow such a savaging of the safety net as Rescumlicans are learning with each trip back home. 

So instead of addressing the nation from the oval office or, as Obama before him, before a joint session of Congress in order to explain himself, we find instead this little man, hamstrung by language reduced to trying to forward his agenda in 40 characters or less.  “Twitter” is not the medium for this and Donald J. tRUMP is not the man.   To do this one must sell the program to the American people.  To do this one must have a Master Salesman, one must have a president.  Donald J. tRUMP is no Master Salesman; Donald J. tRUMP is no president worthy of the name.  

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