Boundless intemperance/In nature is a tyranny; it hath been/The untimely emptying of the happy throne/And fall of many kings.
—Macbeth, Act IV, Scene III
Now that we have a brief break in the action, and the Secretary of State has had his lunch with the president* whom the Secretary of State declines to deny once having called a “fucking moron,” let us review Tuesday’s other White House highlights, shall we?
The president* tweeted out an attack on both ESPN and ESPN presenter Jemele Hill, whom ESPN suspended after she told the truth about the NFL and the media, that "change happens when advertisers are impacted." The president* tweeted out an attack on the National Football League, because there are a lot of black players in that league, and because many of them do not like watching other black people killed by police officers. The president* also turned the Schoolyard Sneer function of the electric Twitter machine up to 11 in order to fire one off at “Liddle” Senator Bob Corker, who’d pointed out in an interview that there is a desperate need for padding on the Oval Office walls.
While all this was going on, and the president*’s interest was fully engaged in these pressing national emergencies, northern California was burning down. Most of Puerto Rico was still without power and safe drinking water. Kim Jong-un was still nuttier than he is, by a hair, anyway. And the administrator of the EPA—with whom Bob Corker had no problem whatsoever, by the way—was preparing to reverse a plan put in place by the previous administration to cope with the climate crisis that probably has a lot to do with why northern California is aflame, and why Puerto Rico is as thirsty as a prisoner in Sheriff David Clarke’s jail, and why there’s another damn hurricane forming out in the Atlantic. This is because the EPA administrator doesn’t believe the climate crisis is real and because the president* doesn’t know shit from tunafish about anything.
Anyway, that was all before breakfast on a Tuesday, in the second week of the 10th month of the first year of his presidency. Something has to be done.
It’s time, Mr. President.
No, not you. The other guy.
The one who, a year ago last Tuesday, was signing an order declaring 10 counties in North Carolina to be a federal disaster area as a result of the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Matthew. That president did not accuse the victims in North Carolina of being ne’er-do-wells with bad infrastructure. He was not tossing paper towels to a shellshocked crowd. He did not immediately thereafter complain that he had not yet gotten enough credit for doing what really should be the easiest part of his job.
It’s time, Mr. President.
No, not you. The other guy.
It’s time, Mr. President.
I do not begrudge Barack Obama his leisure time. He spent eight years as president, and he spent all eight of those years beset from the beginning by vandalism and deliberate sabotage. He spent all eight of those years facing ghastly attacks upon his person, his background, his upbringing, his wife, and his children. He came into office in the middle to the worst economic cataclysm since the Great Depression.
He left office knowing that strange—and, in many cases, malignant—circumstances required him to hand the office over to an unqualified poltroon who’d made his political bones by engaging in racist attacks upon Obama’s background, and who’d fueled his campaign with those very forces that, in 2004, in the speech that had made him a star, Obama assured the country did not really exist anymore. That cannot have been an easy conversation.
So, no, I do not begrudge him his hang-gliding, and his afternoons with Prince Harry watching the tennis matches, and the time and peace that’s required to write his book on a tropical isle, and the time he got to spend with his wife and daughters, including that strange mixture of pride and sadness that attends sending a child off to college for the first time. He’d more than earned every second of it. However, the country is burning down at the moment, literally and figuratively. A concerted effort being made to obliterate all the achievements of his eight years in office is one or two timorous votes away from succeeding. We’re lurching toward war on the Korean peninsula, and there’s one natural disaster after another being dropped on a government that is half-staffed at best, and being run by fools and lunatics in any case. Race and class and gender and all the other national wounds are being inflamed purposefully in the hopes that nobody will notice that the institutions of American democracy are unable to cope with the simple fact that the American people elected, yes, a fucking moron.
Those institutions are not capable of withstanding these assaults much longer without cracking. The people in the country know this, or, at the very least, except for the 35 percent who are the real cargo-cultists out there, they sense it deeply in their bones. They feel the deepening acceleration of the spiral. The Democratic Party doesn’t have the power to lead and the Republican Party doesn’t have the will and, even at its best, the media is overmatched by the sheer magnitude of bullshit this administration shovels out as a matter of course every hour of every day. This is absolutely no time for the most eloquent voices in society to be on the bench.
So why, sir? Why in the hell are you out there giving speeches to motherfcking bankers in motherfcking Brazil? As the NYT reports:
Mr. Obama did not mention his successor’s name and steered clear of discussing the turbulence afflicting President Trump’s administration. The former president also did not bring up the Trump administration’s efforts to reverse the reconciliation he negotiated with Cuba in 2014, a signature policy initiative that was hailed across Latin America. “My biggest regret is not being able to bridge the differences that were emerging in our politics as much as I wanted,” Mr. Obama told an audience of about 1,000 people who paid $1,500 to $2,400 to hear him speak. Mr. Obama has given at least 10 paid speeches since leaving office, charging as much as $400,000 per appearance. He has addressed audiences in Montreal, Italy and Indonesia in recent months. A spokesman declined to say how much he was paid for this speech.
Holy Mary mother of god, not this again.
We are not a good people. For Christ’s sake, look who we elected to be president*. Look who may be about to be elected senator from the state of Alabama. We are an armed, angry, paranoid people. We kill each other. We have a sociopathic love for our firearms. We have an unconquerable rage directed at anyone who challenges our most cherished illusions. We save our most abandoned , pointless wrath for those whom our history and our politics have most regularly victimized. We turn on each other like dogs in a pit at the slightest provocation and we will follow over a cliff any gaudy charlatan who tells us that there’s a white bread paradise waiting for us on the rocks below.
As a political entity, we are stupid, angry, and apathetic where we should be active. We have traded impotent tantrums for civic involvement and we’re so goddamn proud of having done so that we elected to lead us a guy who is the obvious avatar for everything that makes us less than what we should be as a nation.
Jesus, take the goddamn wheel.
Mr. President, it is time to admit publicly that the speech in Boston, while lovely in its sentiments, thoughts, dazzling in its rhetoric, and inspirational in its delivery, was a dangerous narcotic fantasy and that history has shown that it contained many of the elements of a garish public lie. It gave an implicit pass to the crimes of your immediate predecessor, shoving lies about war and torture, and feats of manifest incompetence, so far down the memory hole that it was inevitable that the country would fall for an even bigger liar and a more manifest incompetent when your two terms ran out.
There was a red America and a blue America. There was also a raging, ignorant America that wanted your head on a stick from the moment that your hand came off the Bible. There was a racist America waiting to be unchained again and using your very presence in the White House as an alibi, over and over again. The pass that your speech gave to George W. Bush was accessorial to the conduct we see now from the president*. It’s time for us to give up on the fantasy and many people won’t do that until you do.
It’s time for us to give up on the fantasy, and many people won’t do that until you do.
I do not believe, as do some people on the left, that you’re a creature of the monied interests, even though I believe your administration’s greatest failure was in not stomping the architects of the financial collapse into the mud. But I also believe, again, that you spend too much time arguing that Jamie Dimon and the rest of us are all in the same boat together, that we share happily the task of building a better and more just society. I don’t think Dimon is working at that and, given what we have tolerated thus far in 2017 in our politics, I don’t think the American people are, either. If you were to recognize this, loudly and clearly, people would listen. Your primary gift as president—and, I would argue, your greatest flaw as a politician—was your devotion to reason. You have to see the madness encroaching on the system from all sides now.
Another thing that happened this week was golfing. You know about golf. You golfed. The current president* plays more golf than you did. On Tuesday, he played with Senator Lindsey Graham, who went full Kim Jong-Il on the president*’s game.
You know that, unless they were conceding approach shots from 150 yards in, this is probably all my bollocks, the president* being over 70 and approximately as athletic as an andiron. You know that all the lies and enabling, large and small, trivial and not, are driving us toward some kind of existential crisis that neither the system nor the people in it are capable of handling anymore.
Graham is fairly typical, and he’s supposedly one of the rational ones. Revolting sycophancy too often surrenders easily to contagious madness, and counterfeit civility to perilous complicity. Too many of this country’s various political elites began this presidency* by ignoring the warning of Shakespeare’s Helicanus, who reminds Pericles that “flattery is the bellows that blows up sin,” but they’ve all ended up as Starbuck now, mumbling themselves into mutinous madness on the quarterdeck of the Pequod, but never daring to act.
My soul is more than matched; she’s over-manned; and by a madman! Insufferable sting, that sanity should ground arms on such a field! But he drilled deep down, and blasted all my reason out of me! I think I see his impious end; but feel that I must help him to it. Will I, nill I, the ineffable thing has tied me to him; tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut.
You know what a lie it all is. You know how dangerous it all is. And while we’re on the subject of North Korea, the president* is flying fighter bombers north of the 37th parallel and threatening to go to Panmunjom and wave the presidential* member over the border at Kim Jong-un, and we’re one day’s tantrum away from all-out war on the Korean peninsula. This is what we elected to succeed you. You know this is madness. You know what we’ve done to the country.
You know what a lie it all is. You know how dangerous it all is.
Please stop telling us fairy tales about ourselves. Stop worrying about our “differences.” There are actual Nazis being empowered all around the world. The conservative project here of simultaneously re-establishing Jim Crow and the Gilded Age, this time for good, is too far along to be fought with fantasies of a great people misled, or visions of good Christians at Little League games in the blue states. I can’t think of any voice of resistance that would resound more deeply, or any voice in defense of civic values that would be more compelling. But, if you’re going to resist, you have to be honest about what you’re resisting, If you’re going to defend something, you have to be honest about what you’re defending it against.
Where were you when the women marched? Where were you when scientists marched? Where have you been on Pruitt, on DeVos, on Sessions, or on the endless assaults on your achievements? I know there are rules and norms guiding the deportment of ex-presidents, but it's not really a time to worry about political rules and norms, is it? You called the repeal of your healthcare law (correctly) an "act of meanness," but didn't mention the president* who is in such a jacked-up frenzy to pass it. What the hell is that?
Where were you during the election about the Russian ratfcking and where have you been since? Hillary Rodham Clinton is out there getting whacked around from hell until breakfast talking about it. Do you have her back? She called the reaction of your administration to this assault on American democracy "mushy," and she was right. And she was the one who got pilloried for saying it. Where's the courage in that? People have been pushing back against this monstrosity daily, at great personal risk. Why haven't you been one of them? Why haven't you been out front?
You always have been a voice for reason. Defend it now. Angrily, if you must. You always have been a voice for reconciliation. Demand it now. Harshly, if needs be. You always have been the voice of a vision of the American ideal. Fight for it now, ruthlessly, and realize that it has real enemies within this country with whom we cannot reason, who will not reconcile, and who have every intention of grinding that ideal into the dust in order to appease the unappeasable gods of their hate and their fear.
Long ago, I wrote that your capital error in politics was that you offered this country absolution without demanding penance. Look at where that’s gotten us. If you honestly believe in the America you described in Boston, then goddamn it, fight for it against the people to whom it is anathema. It’s time to join the resistance full-time, if you have the stomach for it. A madman is begetting more madmen and, frankly, I don’t know how much time we have left.