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A Great Leap Backwards

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, as George Santayana once famously remarked, and President Donald Trump does not strike us an astute student of history. This doesn’t necessarily doom us to repeat history’s worst mistakes, but it has often proved embarrassing for Trump, at least for those of who do study history.
Trump has made public comments that suggest he believed Frederick Douglass was still alive and is recently getting the credit he’s long deserved, was surprised to learn that President Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, and that the slave-whipping President Jackson of Trail of Tears infamy had a “big heart” and would have averted a Civil War if only he’d been president a couple of decades longer, retold some disproved tales about General “Black Jack” Sherman executing Islamist prisoners with pig’s-blood-soaked bullets, and he continues to believe that he’s a historically popular and successful president despite all evidence. He also seems either unaware or unconcerned that his “America First” slogan was coined by the pre-World War II isolationist movement that thought America could peacefully coexist with an Axis-dominated world, and that the term “nationalist” is by now associated with other unsavory movements, and that a “leap forward” has certain unhappy connotations when used in the context of Chinese-American relations.
Trump has recently negotiated a cease-fire in the trade war he launched against China, which for now has a salutatory effect on the international stock markets, but it remains to be seen what the eventual armistice will look like. Trump is already touting major concessions, the Chinese are saying otherwise, and Trump’s underlings are putting the best face on it, and Trump is “tweeting” that it’s a “big leap forward.” Both Chinese and English-speaking people of a certain historical bent could help be reminded of China’s previous “Great Leap Forward,” Chairman Mao Tse Dong’s forced-collectivization policy that resulted in mass starvation and cannibalism and a human-made humanitarian disaster that rivals anything in history, Stalin and Hitler notwithstanding. Perhaps it’s just an unfortunate turn of phrase, as when the flawed but undeniably humane President Jimmy Carter said he thought a second term would have brought a “final solution” for Israel, but it’s still the kind of a thing that a well-educated president should know to avoid.
Meanwhile, back on the home front, the “Russia thing” seems to be heating up, and Trump seems to have forgotten all the lessons he might have learned from the “Watergate thing,” if he’d been paying any attention. That commie bastard Karl Marx famously remarked that history always repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, and we’ll be angrily annoyed if he’s proved correct once again.

— Bud Norman

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Two Scenes From the Campaign Trail

We spent much of Thursday celebrating the folks’ 60th wedding anniversary, which is such a rare accomplishment these days that we thought it worth mentioning, but we spent enough time perusing our usual news sources to come across two intriguing and starkly disparate accounts from the day in the still-slightly-in-doubt Republican presidential race.
The first was a report by Roger L. Simon of the much-ridiculed but usually reliable PJ Media, about a large and enthusiastic crowd at a rally for Donald J. Trump in California. If you’re not familiar with his work, Simon is a former hippy-dippy leftist who had some success in Hollywood as a screenwriter and some best-selling mysteries about a hippy-dippy detective, but at some point he went over to the right and became mostly a entertaining internet writer, until his more recent move to the Trump side. We still don’t doubt his veracity, and will glumly concede that the crowd was indeed as large and enthusiastic and even as diverse as he describes, and we’re old enough we can dig where the formerly hippy-dippy leftist is coming from when he likened it to a “happening,” nor do we disagree at all when he says “It’s all a little ‘Cult of Personality,'” but we’re starting to question his judgment when he adds after a dash that “but what the hell?”
We’re wondering what the hell ourselves when someone who had previously seemed so sensible concludes that a “little ‘Cult of Personality'” is gaining such momentum that it’s about to seize control of the executive branch of the federal government, and then sanguinely dismisses the thought with a hackneyed profanity. Considering that we’re talking about the bombastic, bumptious, braggadocious, buffoonish, bull-in-a-China-shop personality of self-described billionaire Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-scam-university-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul whose newfound conservatism is clearly as negotiable as anything else in his entire life, we’d think that someone who’s already been so thoroughly duped as Simon once was would be careful, as The Who might sing, that he “Won’t Be Fooled Again.” Simon likens the Trump crowd to the ones he once saw rallying to the cause of Bobby Kennedy, and the analogy is both apt and seasoned enough that it makes his writing still worth reading, but we suspect that something in the young and hippy-dippy writer that once yearned for the faux-revolutionary appeal of Kennedy’s cult of personality still lurks in the soul of an otherwise wised-up aging right-wing internet writer.
Meanwhile, long-shot lone challenger Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was wandering around the crowd at a more traditional campaign event in Elkhart, Indiana, where a young man strutted up and asked the candidate to sign his well-worn copy of “The Writings of Karl Marx.” Cruz smiled and agreed to sign, and the young punk was forced to admit that “You have a good sense of humor.” Cruz then told the cameras that he’d written “Millions of people have suffered because of this,” and added that as a son of of a Cuban immigrant he knew well of what he spoke, and the impudent young man had nothing to say but “Thank you, Sen. Cruz.” We found it a touching moment, and would like to think this sort of of human-to-human politics can still prevail in our fractious country. We can’t imagine Trump coming into such close contact with any of his adoring and likely to rip-his-clothes-off-like-teeny-boppers crowds, although we have managed to shake Cruz’s hand during this campaign, and if any of them were wielding any book other than “The Art of the Deal” or his other ghost-written tomes we can only imagine what would have happened, given his frequent invocations for his crowds to get rough with any protestors.
Once upon a time in America people of decent moral character and unobjectionable personalities would get elected to high public office by walking around the public square and meeting with both friends and the foes who can be engaged on a reasonable level and making persuasive arguments about what the country could and should do, but at the moment it seems that was way back when people could get married and if they were lucky enough to live long enough they’d be married for sixty mostly good years.

— Bud Norman