John Michael Greer has called the American political class “a collection of cheap whores, not a nobility in any imaginable sense.” This is unfair: no $20 streetwalker in Over-the-Rhine ever demanded that American blood and treasure be spilled profligately all over the Middle East so that US oil companies be spared the horrific sacrifice of having to negotiate international drilling and purchase rights on a fair, competitive international market that is equally open to nations not allied with the United States. Nor did any such thick bitch (and, if you’ve watched Police Women of Cincinnati, you’ll agree that I do mean thick) ever loot the national treasury on her own behalf or on behalf of post-Soviet-style oligarchs. It’s hard to come up with the gumption for such thievery when one doesn’t even have the heart to say, uh, maybe you pay me $30 for the blowjob, or, I dunno, $25.
JetBlue gave me the opportunity to watch the most recent main stage Republican debate on my way to Reno last night, with occasional short interruptions by flight attendants to beg us all to sit down because OMG turbulence. With a few passing exceptions, the entire debate had an appearance of deep, abiding frivolousness. Most of the candidates acted like they were there to prove their fitness to administer sick burns on their rivals, not their fitness for high elected office. Their frivolousness would be embarrassing in a city council race, let alone one for the presidency in a country of over three hundred million and ultimate military command over the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. They presumably believe that this immature showmanship will endear them to the electorate; these people aren’t idiots trying to discredit themselves. This raises the frightening question of whether Americans truly cannot distinguish the stakes of presidential elections from those of audience voting on American Idol. If the candidates thought that they’d win our trust and support by acting like competent adults and treating their challengers and their audience like competent adults, they would presumably heed the Adults’ Hour. Instead, they treated each other with recurrent contempt and treated the electorate like a group home for the mentally retarded. On the other hand, the specific faction they were trying to reach was likely Republican primary and caucus voters, who are one of the most lunatic fringes in American politics. The comfort here is that Republican primary voters are a small constituency; the discomfort is that they’re exceptionally adept at hijacking electoral processes and ruining the outcomes for everyone.
Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have both been acting like the electorate has no fucking idea how Congress and the White House work. Trump has been carrying on about how Ben Carson, a man who has led 24-hour-long neurosurgeries, is “low energy,” i.e., not endlessly loud and blustery. In point of fact, this calmness, even if it puts easily bored members of the audience to sleep, is consistent with exactly the sort of temper that is well-suited to surgery (so that the surgeon isn’t constantly yelling at scrub nurses, orderlies, residents, consulting nonsurgical physicians, ad nauseam, and occasionally assaulting them with anything handy; cf: Dennis Geyer) and, for very similar reasons, well-suited to the presidency. The US presidency may be the craziest shitstorm on earth. Presidents are bombarded at all hours and from all directions by unstable situations arising in every conceivable corner of the government. If Carson is actually as calm inside as he appears outside, he’d have one of the most suitable temperaments for the office of any modern US president.
Trump may be too self-involved to realize that he doesn’t have a decent layman’s understanding of White House operations. Jeb Bush, a former governor and the son and brother of former presidents, has no such excuse. He knows damn well how political offices function, and he chose to misrepresent them at the debate by way of smearing Marco Rubio as lazy and derelict in constituent services. Bush knows that members of Congress have staffers dedicated to constituent services, and he knows that most members are too lazy to have staffers read and summarize, let alone personally read, bills before voting to approve them. It ain’t Jeb’s first ride in this rodeo. Rubio was absolutely right to berate him with a laundry list of other members of the August Body who had missed session days, including votes, in order to campaign for the presidency. The public deserved this level of candor about what a bunch of craven self-promoters Congress is, and Bush deserved the pushback just for being a whiny, entitled scold. Jeb came across as a creep when he gave Rubio that talking-to about the solemnity of public service and the work ethic, and he often comes across as a creep when he gets whiny. Every time he wags his finger at a political adversary for being a bad boy, he looks like he’s about to go back to his hotel room and get spanked by a dominatrix.
The entire Bush family has but one civic duty to its country: to retire from public life.
A number of the candidates at that debate told obvious lies and gross misrepresentations. Carly Fiorina repeated her bogus story about rising from secretary to CEO. In real life, she was recruited into a management trainee program at AT&T at the age of 25, leaving her little of her preceding extracurricular youth to spend in typing pools. In a similar fashion, John Roberts was a steelworker before he became a second-generation federal judge. Unlike Fiorina, who is also the child of a federal judge, Roberts is honest enough not to make absurd statements about how his career proves that even a steelworker can become Chief Justice one day, because only in America. (Oh, no, I was just in the general secretarial pool at the UN, not one of the specialized pools.) Jeb Bush referred to his career in “business,” insinuating that he was an aw-shucks entrepreneur just like anyone else, not a child of family compound old money privilege with backchannel connections at his disposal that the poors couldn’t dream of using. Mike Huckabee carried on about how Social Security and Medicare deductions are “stolen” from workers’ paychecks. Ted Cruz made a broad-brush claim that most people his age (44) don’t expect Social Security and Medicare to be around for them in their retirement, apparently to insinuate that they’re hostile to the programs, not that they’ve been scared by concern-trolling alarmists working on behalf of the private investment houses whose bidding most of the Republican Congressional Caucus has been doing in recent years. I recall two or three of the candidates (mainly Bush and Cruz, I think) acting like they’d go into a tent and let AARP members run a train on them sooner than they’d cut one cent in benefits for today’s elderly, recovering the loss by cutting future benefits to young people (who don’t vote much).
(Rubio, to his credit, merely sort of dodged a followup question about why exactly he had let a house go into foreclosure after earning a $1.5 million book advance. He’s a Florida Cuban family man trying to make ends meet in a Washington world of hideous social climbers. God knows what skeletons are in the closet in this foreclosure matter, but they probably aren’t his.)
Trump has been making equally meretricious comments off the debate stage recently, including a brazen one about receiving a “small loan of one million dollars” from his father to start his own real estate business, at a time when that one million was worth $5.8 million adjusted for inflation today. Trump is the closest thing to a modern-day FDR, so it’s worth noting that FDR didn’t pretend not to be from money, while Trump makes a bogus show of being a self-made man while publicly admitting to having received a private loan through family channels whose sheer size puts his childhood household well into the top percentile of American households.
Trump’s fraud in this area is a common one in the GOP field. The candidates can’t say enough bad things about government, that it’s thievish, inefficient, useless, unaccountable. Well, if government is so fucking awful and immoral, why did so many of the candidates on that stage spend so much of their careers working for it? If they thought they could do more to better their societies in the private sector, why didn’t more of them seek out private-sector employment? Even Trump, who has never worked in the public sector, has a long history of colluding with elected officials to loot municipal and state treasuries and give the proceeds to his development companies. But then we have all these guys who have made careers in government stumbling all over each other in a frenzy to revile the damn gubbyment. Here is an institution that they claim to distrust and hate to the core of their being, and they’ve spent their adult lives doing everything in their power to obtain employment in it.
Maybe the lesson is that the rest of us should try to get our own government jobs. Gimmedat, and dat, guvnah, includes Federal BlueCross/BlueShield. The candidates’ attitude, of course, is gubbyment for me but not for thee. Even Marco Rubio, who seems quite decent and naturally inclined to seriously consider proposals for expanded government services on their individual merits, is too attached to Go Galt nonsense to think for himself, lest he go off the reservation.
One of the most disgusting vignettes I’ve heard of the Republican Party is that John Boehner came to Washington to do mercenary transactional politics on behalf of multinational corporations, including tobacco companies, but got fed up with having to deal with the religious lunatics whose votes kept his party in power. There are other countries with equally bad right-wing politics, but it should be embarrassing to any country to have one of its two largest political parties assembled from such a rotten coalition of strange bedfellows. The Teapot Dome wannabe got sick of the Elmer Gantries, or so we’re told, and tendered his resignation as Speaker of the House. Good grief.
Pope Francis may actually have convicted him of the immorality and waste of his own career, just by publicly living a life well lived. Boehner was probably thinking, God, I could be praying for this pope who is a much better man than I am and who asked me for my prayers, or I could whore myself out to RJ Reynolds again, but first, I think I’ll cry about it for a bit. (I’m guessing Francis ended up hearing one hot mess of a confession during his meeting with Boehner. He signed up for it when he entered the priesthood, of course, but still. And I have no idea if there’s any protocol for advising the Pope that one of the dignitaries he’s scheduled to meet is a notorious emo who’s always crying about shit in public.)
When the Republican Party either drives out these shysters or implodes, we’ll finally deserve a good government. When the Democratic Party loses its bourgeois supremacist pseudo-leftists, we’ll finally deserve a good government. If a third party successfully takes on these two dumpster fires, we’ll deserve a good government. Until then, we’ll deserve all of these disgusting embarrassments, and more.