Like many people who keep up with the campaign, I’ve spent too much time reading articles on the latest goings on. Here are some quotations from the news, with brief comments in the second section.
Three sayings on tribal politics
“Me against my brother, my brothers and me against my cousins, then my cousins and me against strangers.” —Bedouin saying
“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?… You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” —Jesus, in Matthew 7:3-5
“Nature has so formed us that a certain tie unites us all, but…this tie becomes stronger from proximity.” —Cicero, “On Friendship”
Obama trashes Trump, but doesn’t recognize how we got here
“The fact that he has gotten this far tells me the degree to which our politics has become like a bad reality TV show.”
“As if it’s some parody — you can’t tell the difference between Saturday Night Live and what’s actually happening in the news.”
~ Barack Obama, campaigning against Donald Trump in North Carolina
As usual, President Obama has no idea how he himself helped create the bizarro world he describes. He acts as if Trump and his supporters just sprang out of nowhere. Yet Obama kicked off his first term with one of the most bizarre pieces of legislation ever passed in Congress, the ACA, and he took pride in it! He still does. This legislation was so demonstrably bad, on so many counts, that it should disqualify Obama from ever saying anything on the subject of politics again.
But Obama is the president, and presidents get to say what they like, especially about politics. For him to blame Trump for making our politics into a bad reality TV show, tells you we have one narcissist talking about another. The difference is that Obama radiates cool, Trump boorishness. The similarity is that both think they are God’s gift.
Apparently Obama does not recognize how his own style of leadership and governance led to Trump’s rise. If so, he has even less self-awareness than we thought. His condescension toward people he regards as beneath his notice, his dishonesty about big things like the IRS scandal and ACA, his detachment and irresponsibility about foreign and defense policy, and his dismissive treatment of people who oppose him: you can draw a line directly from these qualities to the fed-up attitude of Trump’s supporters.
If you want to see a bad reality TV show, rerun the last eight years.
Jeremiah, Lincoln, and 2016: does God chastise nations when they behave immorally?
Peggy Noonan writes this week in the Wall Street Journal:
“The Democratic Party and its lobbyist/think-tank/journalistic establishment in Washington have long looked to me to be dominated by people devoted mostly to getting themselves in the best professional position and their kids into Sidwell Friends School. They want to be part of the web, the arrangement. They want to have connections, associates, a tong. They want to be wired in. They don’t want to be I. F. Stone, alone, reading the fine print of obscure government documents. And Clintonism—for years the biggest web, the securest source of money, a real tong with enforcers and reward-dispensers—has long been a sound route to all of this. You may have to bend rules to be part of it, accept unsavory deals and characters, but it is warm and cozy in there.
“One thing I saw this year was that sincere conservatives wholly opposed to socialism had real respect for Bernie Sanders because they saw his sincerity. He wasn’t part of the web and they honored him for it.
“Both parties have their webs. Maybe this year begins the process by which they will be burned away.
“A closing thought: God is in charge of history. He asks us to work, to try, to pour ourselves out to make things better. But he is an actor in history also. He chastises and rescues, he intervenes in ways seen and unseen. Or chooses not to.
“Twenty sixteen looks to me like a chastisement. He’s trying to get our attention. We have candidates we can’t be proud of. We must choose among the embarrassments. What might we be doing as a nation and a people that would have earned this moment?”