Somewhere in the music industry, recently:
Producer One: This is terrible! Every morning I wake up and hear about our president, an egomaniacal celebrity who is vulgar, obnoxious, rude and disrespectful to everyone, ignorant of anything about policy, says terrible things about women, mocks people’s appearances, encourages violence, and whose long history of provocative behavior suggests he’s out of his mind!
Producer Two: I know exactly what we need to put a stop to this: A denunciation from Eminem!
Look, I’m no connoisseur of rap, and I’m not the target audience, although as a longtime Trump critic, one might think I would be a lot more receptive. But Eminem’s anti-Trump performance at the BET Hip-Hop Awards sounded pretty terrible. If Eminem had focused on any other topic, the buzz this week would have been about how awful his performance was and how he had lost his touch. But because he’s attacking Trump, he’s getting hosannas and glowing non-music mainstream media coverage.
CNN called it “the fiercest and most exhaustive attack” on the president. The Washington Post declared it “delivers more blows than even the most scathing talking-head could on a cable-news hit.”
It reads better than it sounds.
When Eminem says “he’s orange” and “sick tan,” is he giving Trump a taste of his own medicine, or is he simply verifying Trump’s method, that the best way to discredit someone you oppose is to ridicule the way they look? Can you applaud those lines and denounce Trump for his nasty tweets about Mika Bryzynski, his comments about Carly Fiorina, his calling Chuck Todd “sleepy eyes”? Ironically, at one point Eminem declares, “like him in politics, I’m using all of his tricks.” You can choose to do that, but if you’re making that choice because you believe his tricks are effective, that’s a form of endorsement and validation.
Eminem refers to Trump’s mockery of John McCain:
He says, “You’re spittin’ in the face of vets who fought for us you bastards,”
Unless you’re a POW who’s tortured and battered,
’Cause to him, you’re zeros,
’Cause he don’t like his war heroes captured.
Trump made his infamous remark in July 2015, two years and two months ago. Welcome to the party, Eminem.
Eminem delivered his litany of criticism in a tone of near-sputtering frustration, exasperation and outrage . . . which is how a lot of people across the political spectrum from gays to feminists to cultural conservatives reacted to Eminem’s more incendiary lyrics back in the day.
Trump thrived in the pop culture and media world that Eminem helped create. It’s not like Eminem’s audience wants to hear about the long-term unsustainability of the entitlement system, or how it’s nearly impossible to keep health insurance coverage of preexisting conditions and reduce premiums. The pop culture audience is as allergic to policy details as the president is, so the president rarely if ever talks about them.
Instead he sticks snide nicknames on his foes and critics: “Little Marco”, “Lyin’ Ted,” “Low Energy Jeb.” Trump’s method of returning fire on his rivals is not light-years away from the style of a freestyle rap showdown. Trump’s style on the campaign trail in 2015 and 2016 was a lot more like Eight Mile than the Oxford Debating Society.
Eminem complains about Trump’s obsession with pop culture disputes . . .
. . . this is his form of distraction,
Plus, he gets an enormous reaction,
When he attacks the NFL, so we focus on that,
Instead of talking Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada,
All these horrible tragedies and he’s bored and would rather,
Cause a Twitter storm with the Packers.
When he says, “he gets an enormous reaction,” Eminem comes right up to the line of recognizing that Trump wasn’t some conquering alien invader but a dark reflection of what Americans really wanted in a president. Why do Trump’s fights with pop cultural figures like professional athletes and late-night hosts and ESPN commentators get so much more attention than, say, his fight with the mayor of San Juan? Because as a whole, the American public cares more about celebrities than the mayor of San Juan. Trump alone among Republican presidential candidates was a figure of the world prime-time television, reality shows, People magazine, TMZ, Page Six. Most of the rest of the candidates wasted their pre-campaign careers working in governor’s mansions and the U.S. Senate and studying government; Trump studied America’s celebrity culture. He was the only presidential candidate who had already hung out with the Kardashians.
Notice Eminem’s form of response, a performance at a music awards show. He’s keeping the fight in the realm of pop culture, right where Trump wants it.
Finally, I notice the one area where Eminem didn’t criticize Trump was his misogyny and treatment of women. Credit Eminem for having the self-awareness to recognize he was a deeply flawed messenger for that argument.
Trump 1, NFL 0
Speaking of presidential fights with pop cultural figures, the boss writes that Trump won his fight with the National Football League.
“Like many of our fans,” [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell wrote, “we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.” Now he tells us.
The climbdown comes only weeks after a clueless bout of self-congratulation by the NFL and the media over widespread protests during the anthem. Wasn’t it marvelous that the owners and players were so united? Hadn’t Donald Trump badly overplayed his hand? Weren’t we possibly on the cusp of a glorious era of activism in sports?
NFL executives and supporters of the protests instead should have been wondering, What the hell is the end game? . . .
There were all sorts of unobjectionable means available for players to take a stand of defiance toward Trump, but they allowed themselves to, in effect, get double-dared into disrespecting the flag.
The perils here should have been obvious. The flag is one of our most potent national symbols. The U.S. Code sets out how it should be treated. It drapes the coffins of fallen warriors. It flies at half-staff to mark national tragedies and the loss of the country’s heroes. People can get extremely emotional seeing it displayed the wrong way or touching the ground.
I’d also point out that kneeling during the National Anthem is a gesture that is extremely open to interpretation. Had a player written on his socks, “HOLD BAD COPS ACCOUNTABLE” or something like that, the player would be fined by the league for violating the uniform policy, but there would be no national outrage. The more precise the message, the less likely it is to be misunderstood. But the refusal to stand when everyone else is standing suggests that “I do not feel about this country the way all the rest of you do,” which is very easy to construe as “I do not love this country as much as you do.”
Ben Domenech, who writes that other morning newsletter, declares that “the Left is losing the Culture War for the first time in three decades.”
Eh, did it just start this year? Or did it start in 2016? The forces of progressivism received a lot of humiliating losses even before Election Day: Target backed down on its bathroom policy, the no-holds-barred nastiness of Gawker led to its own demise, the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters flopped . . .
Same Old Hillary
Even in retirement, Hillary Clinton hasn’t lost a single step; her political instincts are every bit as bad as they were in her prime.
On her donations, Clinton added that it wasn’t possible to give the money back but that she would donate it to charity.
“What other people are saying, what my former colleagues are saying, is they’re going to donate it to charity, and of course I will do that,” she said. “I give 10% of my income to charity every year, this will be part of that. There’s no — there’s no doubt about it.”
Clinton said she had no idea that Weinstein acted that way in private, despite some in Hollywood saying that people close to him had known.
“I certainly didn’t, and I don’t know who did,” she said. “But I can only speak for myself, and I think speak for many others who knew him primarily through politics.”
What, she can’t say, “I’m donating every penny he ever gave me to battered women’s shelters, because as far as I’m concerned, Weinstein’s money is as disgusting as he is”?
The printed word doesn’t do it justice; her tone is the same measured, remembering-my-talking-points, she used in all of her campaign appearances. If you had found out that one of your biggest supporters for decades had been secretly living like Caligula, wouldn’t you be spitting mad? Wouldn’t you be eager to jump in front of cameras and declare, with your hands balled into fists, that you wanted to get your hands on him for all of the awful things he had done?
And finally . . . she’s Hillary Clinton. She’s got a ton of friends and supporters in Hollywood, and knows plenty of actresses and journalists, just about every high-profile self-identified feminist, every person who was in position to know about Weinstein’s behavior. And she never heard about any of this at all?
Fascinatingly, Anthony Bourdain called Clinton’s response “shameful” and “disingenuous.”
ADDENDA: Thanks to everyone who wrote in about Tuesday’s subway encounter with helpful hints on how, and when to attempt to break up a fight . . . and when to let discretion be the better part of valor.