Politics & Policy

Talkin’ Trump, &c.

Trump speaks in Biloxi, Miss., January 2, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty)
The Donald, Huma, presidential weight, and more

Supporters of Donald Trump say that Trump’s critics are guilty of great condescension toward him. Toward him and his supporters. I’m sure that’s true, in some cases.

I also believe that there’s another condescension at play. Specifically, I believe that some of Trump’s defenders are guilty of condescension toward him. And his supporters.

I’ll explain what I mean.

Trump suffers from — or benefits from? — “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” as George W. Bush said in another context. Trump’s defenders brush off the galling and appalling things he says. And when he says something normal or plausible, they say, “See? See? Good!”

Putin praised Trump, and then Trump praised Putin. Joe Scarborough, the television host, pointed out that Putin kills journalists who disagree with him. Trump responded, “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”

That is a flagrant, disgusting example of false moral equivalence. It is the kind of thing the Left has specialized in for as long as anyone can remember. If any conservative said it, he’d be gone forever, as far as the Right was concerned. Disqualified from public office. Stained indelibly.

But not Trump. He gets the shrug.

Trump further said, “I’ve always felt fine about Putin.” Putin is a man, remember, who not only smashes international law but smashes human beings who may be in his way. That is, he kills them, as he has Sergei Magnitsky and Boris Nemtsov (to name but two).

Of Putin, Trump said, “It has not been proven that he’s killed reporters.” Hmmmm. Maybe Trump and Vlad and O.J. can team up to hunt for the real killers?

I’m a Trump critic, but I feel that I am, in a sense, a bigger Trump defender than the defenders: because I pay Trump the compliment of treating him like an adult, instead of a damaged child. A messed-up kid who doesn’t know any better.

I blast him for the nutcase or immoral things he says. I don’t condescend to him (I hope). I don’t give him the shrug. When he appalls, I don’t say, “What else can you expect?” and when he says something non-nuts, I don’t pat him on the head and pretend that he’s just won the Westinghouse science award.

Does anyone know what I mean by this? I hope so.

(I should include my standard disclosure. I’m a Cruzer. Hey, does that mean my true allegiance is to Canada? Traitor!)

‐Why does Huma Abedin get so much attention? Merely because she is Hillary’s top aide? I don’t think so. I think it’s that she’s beautiful. Glamorous. Alluring. If she were short and fat and ugly — and in the same role — I don’t think she’d get half the attention.

Don’t shoot the messenger, please: I don’t write the rules, I just notice what they are.

Also, there’s the Weiner connection — Huma’s marriage to Anthony Weiner. That is interesting.

As is the parallel between the Weiners’ lives and the Clintons’!

Huma has recently been featured in Vanity Fair. Our Andrew C. McCarthy — National Review’s Andy McCarthy — is cited as a writer of “right-wing screeds.” And a purveyor of “right-wing hysteria.” Andy has “conducted something of a personal crusade on the question of the Abedin family’s purported connections,” says the mag.

You know what a “personal crusade” is? An activity or interest of someone else that you disapprove of. Andy has not been on a crusade. He has looked into a few awkward questions. Journalists ought to applaud that!

Anyway, the mag then quotes Andy: “The Union of Good is a designated terrorist organization and Qaradawi is the leading global jurisprudent of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has issued fatwas calling for suicide bombings in the Palestinian territories and in Israel and has called for the killings of American soldiers in Iraq.”

To find out about the Union of Good and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, consult the article, or other articles.

And would you like to know something interesting about the Vanity Fair article? At least I think it’s interesting. Andy is quoted. And unrebutted. Which is a feather in his cap.

And maybe, just maybe, the writer of the article wanted to get that info out there?

One more thing, of a personal nature — personal to me: Huma Abedin was born in Kazoo, i.e., Kalamazoo, Mich. So were many of my family. Plus Thomas Schippers, the late and excellent conductor.

So, we got that goin’ for us . . . (There’s an echo of Caddyshack — the Dalai Lama speech — in that, isn’t there?)

‐Last week, I was looking at a photo of some Republican presidential candidates. And something occurred to me: Jeb Bush has lost a lot of weight; Chris Christie has lost even more (because he had more to lose). Whether they win the nomination or not, they will have gotten that, out of a presidential campaign.

And, after the campaign, will that weight loss be reversed?

Lorin Maazel (the late conductor) once observed something sort of brutal in an interview with me. He said that ballerinas, many of them, blow up after they retire — blow up into obesity. It must be the years of semi-starvation, or at least strict self-denial, that lead to this.

Once, I was seated next to Tom Foley, who had been speaker of the House, at a dinner. Because I sensed I could, I asked him about his weight loss. Toward the end of his political career, he lost a ton of weight. He said he’d be happy to tell me about it.

Foley, a congressman from Washington State, went to see a doctor in New York. A specialist, I gather. The doctor said, “Oh, I can get you to lose the weight. But you won’t keep it off. No one does.” Foley said, “Let’s try.” And he did. He lost the weight and kept it off.

It was the thing in his life, he told me, he was proudest of.

‐I was listening to a man who has extensive experience in Norway and is part Norwegian himself. He said, “You know how you can tell the difference between a Norwegian introvert and a Norwegian extrovert? When he’s talking with you, the introvert looks at his shoes. The extrovert looks at your shoes.”

Would my Norwegian friends care to weigh in on this question? (I know some wonderfully hearty and sociable Norwegians, but maybe they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Don’t know.)

‐This is so New York. And so today. I was walking one way in Central Park, and two people were walking the other way. They were a young man and a young woman — about 28, I would say.

As they passed me, the young man was saying to the young woman, “She started choking me a little during sex.” And he said it with that rising female inflection at the end — the implied question mark. You know? As in, “Like, I went to the store? And looked at a dress?” He said, “She started choking me a little during sex?”

It was as though the two were talking about the weather. I almost shuddered.

That is so today, so now.

‐Let’s have a little music. On a website, when you’ve entered a password or something, there’ll be a line that says “Remember me.” And you check it or not. I always think of Dido’s Lament (from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas). “Remember me! Remember me!”

To hear Leontyne Price sing it, go here. She may not sing it “Baroquely.” But I’ll be damned if she doesn’t sing it musically, and accurately, and dramatically — which is always right (certainly in opera).

‐The January New Criterion is out, and with it, my latest “New York Chronicle.” To read it, go here. Under consideration: Leif Ove Andsnes, the Metropolitan Opera’s Lulu, Timo Andres (an American composer), Daniil Trifonov, and more.

‐More music? Okay. I write about the Met’s Donna del lago — and particularly the mezzo star, Joyce DiDonato — here. The article is titled “Joyce DiDonato, Earl Campbell, and Other Characters.” Earl Campbell the old running back? Yes. You’ll see.

‐Finally, I had occasion to write about Nino Rota (the late film composer) some time ago. I saw something in the Wikipedia entry on him — a statement by Fellini, the famed director. I was taken with it.

Of Rota, Fellini said, “He was someone who had a rare quality belonging to the world of intuition. . . . As soon as he arrived, stress disappeared, everything turned into a festive atmosphere . . .”

What a quality: to make stress disappear, when you arrive. Thanks for joining me, ladies and gents, and I’ll see you later.

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