The reviews are in!
“…a stunning tour de force…” — Jake Tapper, CNN.
I’m only kidding here. After the president* took his sojourn into the izonkosphere on Tuesday afternoon, CNN cut back to Tapper, who looked very much like a man who had seen space aliens humping in his jacuzzi. I give him credit for having been able to say anything at all. I sat there in silent awe and petrified wonder for a good two minutes.
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All the hinges are gone now. The rails are far behind. The trolley is missing and presumed lost. The president* came down to the lobby of his Manhattan tower, ostensibly to sign an executive order on “infrastructure.” He then took questions and we all went on a magic carpet ride through what he really thinks about the events in Charlottesville last weekend. For three days, whatever sensible people remain at Camp Runamuck have been trying to find some way to run damage control on the president*’s initial, ridiculous non-response to those events, whereupon, on Tuesday, the president* stepped up to the mic and blew all that work into tiny bits. Quite simply, the only president* we have lost his shit so badly on live TV that he’ll never be able to find it again.
Quite simply, the only president* we have lost his shit so badly on live TV that he’ll never be able to find it again.
Let’s go to the videotape. In no particular order, the president*:
1) Equated Robert E. Lee, who fought against the United States and in defense of chattel slavery, with George Washington, who fought for the United States before it was the United States.
2) Brought the philosophies of Both Sides and Whataboutism to their apogee by referring to some phantom “very fine people” who’d gone to Charlottesville to protest the removal of the statue of R.E. Lee, and by blaming something called the “alt-left” equally for the violence that occurred surrounding a march of Nazis.
3) Did the usual fandango about “fake news” and about “if you’re honest reporters, which many of you aren’t.”
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4) Insinuated that John McCain might have voted against his healthcare plan because McCain has brain cancer.
He was tense. He was choleric. He looked like he might at any minute wade into the crowd of reporters swinging a five-iron. I kept waiting for geysers of blood and bile to erupt from his ears. This was not a presidential press conference. It was a glorified barroom argument that exposed quite clearly how angry he is that he had to come out and make that second statement in which somebody forced him to say how bad Nazis are. He’d clearly been stewing about that for at least 24 hours.
But it was his tour through U.S. history and its controversies that will live in the annals of presidential tirades forever:
“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? …Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? OK, good. Are we going to take down his statue, because he was a major slave owner. Now we’re going to take down his statue. So you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”
“You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch. But there is another side. There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is…I think there’s blame on both sides. I don’t have any doubt about it and you don’t have any doubt it either. And if you reported it accurately, you would say it.”
There’s actually an interesting question buried in all that malarkey as to where to place the slaveholding of Washington, Jefferson and many of the rest of the Founders in our historical memory now that we’re correcting the memory of the Civil War, monument by monument. (At Montpelier, the home of James Madison, the people in charge have been working hard for several years to honor the stories of the slaves that lived and worked there.) But that’s not what the president* was getting at. He was bigot-signaling to his vaunted base that he would have been out there with a tiki torch himself. That’s why we got all that talk about the very fine Nazis who were patrolling the park on Saturday night along with the Citronella SS, and who were treated so unfairly by the fake news media when they decided to go for throats.
He looked like he might at any minute wade into the crowd of reporters swinging a five-iron.
And that’s what takes Tuesday’s explosion beyond the realm of simple mockery. There’s an audience out there for every lunatic assertion the president* made. We saw it in full flower last Saturday. And he knows it’s there, too. He knows that it’s the one segment of the American population still guaranteed to give his fragile-if-monumental ego the constant boost that it needs. So he needed to salve all the fee-fees he wounded the other day when somebody dragged him out so he could say right out loud that being a Nazi is a bad thing. This was an angry, heartfelt appeal to his white nationalist base to stick with him, probably because that base is all he has left.
On Tuesday, shortly before the president* went bananas, Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, joined the effort to remove from the state house grounds a statue of Roger Taney, the ghoulish Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court who wrote the majority opinion—”A negro has no rights which the white man must respect”—against Dred Scott. As I mentioned once before, not far from the place out of which this shebeen operates, there is a monument to Benjamin Curtis, who served on the Supreme Court while Taney was Chief Justice and whose contrary opinion in Dred Scott is still considered one of the great dissents in the history of the Court. The monument is a plaque on a simple rock. You can miss it if you walk too quickly down the path by the river. But it stays there, as though deposited in antiquity as a rebuke in deathless stone to the sins of the following ages.
This press conference is going to live forever.