American political thought was molded by political pamphlets, more than 1,500 of which were published between 1750 and 1783. “A bold statement on a sensitive issue was often sufficient to start such a series,” historian Bernard Bailyn wrote, “which characteristically proceeded with increasing shrillness until it ended in bitter personal vituperation.”
Therein lies the difference between our Founders and the Floundering idiot who disgraces the White House today. His politics begin and end in personal vituperation: no reasoned argument, no appeal to history or philosophy, ancient or modern — just degradation of other human beings, first, last and always.
You can see this in what, for want of a better word, we shall call his rhetoric. In any speech or interview, Don the john will hit upon a phrase, usually of no more than three words, and repeat it. “No collusion! No collusion!” “Believe me! Believe me!” “I know words! I have the best words!”
Never, in the thousands of words spewed from his mouth and clumsy fingers, have I heard a reasoned argument, built on a defensible premise and elaborated into a coherent statement of any greater moment than a schoolyard insult.
This may be a genetic flaw.
Both presidents Bush, for example, seemed to lack the grammar gene, but they made arguments: they tried to persuade, to articulate a worldview; they seldom, if ever, resorted to insult, even as a last resort, much less as a first one.
But Don the john — like the noisome offspring of his greasy loins — knows no language but insult. He leaps to it because he has nothing else in his pathetic wallet. That’s why he prefaces so many of his noxious lies with “A lot of people are saying …” Because he is unable to cite any facts to back up his crapulous lies, and is unwilling to stand behind his own words: it was “a lot of people.”
Don the john has wrought immense damage to our country, at home and around the world. Presidents Putin, Xi, Bolsonaro, Orbán, Duda and Netanyahu play him like a rusty old squeezebox. Decent leaders of great countries hold him in contempt.
The standing of the United States around the world has been ruined under his corrupt reign, not to mention our health, economy, civil relations, rule of law, and our increasing inability to get along with our neighbors — and I’m not talking about Mexico or Canada — I’m talking about the people on our block, the family next door.
I became politically conscious under the Kennedy administration. He was a middle-rate president, at best. But one thing he did was unify and inspire us, in the spirit — dare I say it? — of a greater good — even if he didn’t always do the right thing behind closed doors. He knew how to elevate us with words, and try to bring us together, with the world.
He knew how to make fun of himself, too, and he did. This is important. To make fun of oneself one needs to see oneself as just a part of a whole.
But Don the john does not have the ghost of a clue about what “making fun of himself” even means. In his cowardly, sniveling, boastful mind, He is the world. And because nothing will ever fill up his endlessly needy ego, he insults the world with every word and act.
That’s because there is nothing inside him but resentments, insecurities and anger. No learning, no knowledge, no poetry, no humor, no love or respect for others, only an endless grasping toward himself.
He is a sociopathic Citizen Kane, and we — the United States of America — are his sled, Rosebud, tossed into the flames.
(For the record: I wrote this column before the Republican National Convention opened this week. I have not touched a word of it since. Let’s see how it plays after that four-day smirkfest of fear-mongering. The opening quotation by Bernard Bailyn is from “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution,” which was awarded the Bancroft and Pulitzer prizes in 1968.)