SYNDICATED COLUMN: Distractor-in-Chief Trump Is Gaslighting Us Into Forgetting America’s Real Issues

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Eight days before Donald J. Trump took his presidential oath before a crowd whose size the president still insists on fibbing about, I wrote a column titled “Life Under Trump—What Happens Now?”

“In a dictatorship, particularly where the despot is a megalomaniac in the vein of a Saddam Hussein or a Muammar Gaddafi, citizens obsess over the Great Leader’s every move. These days, there’s no better place to witness this phenomenon than the Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan,” I wrote on January 12, 2017. I described how the founding dictator of that post-Soviet authoritarian state was manic, “constantly passing edicts and decrees about anything and everything that crossed his mind.”

“Whenever I visited Turkmenistan under Turkmenbashi,” I wrote back then, “the only thing anyone ever talked about – and this included ex-pats – was Turkmenbashi.”

Sadly, my predictions usually come to pass. As I expected, the United States remains a democratic republic but under Trump, everyday life has assumed some of the characteristics of an authoritarian regime, especially our obsession with Trump.

OMG can you believe what he tweeted?

            What the hell is wrong with him?

            How long can this go on?

            Trump’s antics have prompted two strains of pundit reaction. One, represented by the comedian John Oliver, urges us to “keep reminding yourself this is not normal.” Others argue for ignoring the Keeper of the Launch Codes, at least his tweets. Ever the contrarian, I subscribe to None of the Above.

You can’t ignore the President of the United States. He’s too powerful. On the other hand, chasing down and driving rhetorical stakes through a maniac’s barrage of nonsense is exhausting and futile. You feel like a character at dusk in a vampire novel — too many undead, not enough stakes, definitely not enough coffee. The proper tack is insipid: Keep Calm and Carry On.

            Here I offer my apologies.

For 15 months I have, like my competitors in the mainstream media, been reacting to Trump: to his tantrums, to his weirdness, and the incongruous hypocrisy of Democrats who complain about stuff Trump does that is exactly the same as what Obama did (mass deportations, bombing Syria). To paraphrase Walter White in the last episode of “Breaking Bad,” it was fun. I enjoyed it. And frankly, I didn’t think he would last this long. Trump was the Political Satirist Full Employment Act of 2016. I didn’t want to miss out.

But I’ve been remiss. I have always tried to be forward-looking, to change the conversation, to argue for what we Americans ought to be doing and talking about. Reacting to the agenda of our worthless political “leaders” was something I left to the mainstream idiots of the corporate media.

I snapped back to reality a few days ago after reading another piece about the booming economy. Never mind whether Trump is priming the pump before busting the joint or whether the good times are about to end with yet another recession. Things are humming now — so now, while the getting is good, is while Americans ought to be demanding that Trump and his Congress fork over big bucks to fix the country’s long-neglected problems.

Workers ought to be out in the streets agitating for a raise: a $25-an-hour minimum wage is literally asking for nothing, since it’s the same, adjusted for inflation, as it was in the 1960s. I say go for $50. While we’re at it, let’s set a $200,000-a-year maximum wage. No one needs more.

Universal health care: it’s time America joined the rest of the First World (and most of the Third).

Three out of ten American workers are self-employed. They ought to qualify for unemployment benefits when they lose work.

A high-speed national rail system is essential to modernize America’s infrastructure and bring it up to global standards circa 1990. Estimated cost: $500 billion. No big deal: Obama spent $800 billion on his 2009 bank-giveaway stimulus bill.

Then there’s stuff that wouldn’t cost a dime, like doing something about guns and gender inequality and police brutality.

Lack of money isn’t why we’re not addressing these issues. Trump recently gave $1.5 trillion in taxpayer funds to his rich friends (and his family). The problem is a lack of focus — because we’re all too busy focusing on the Lunatic-in-Chief.

It’s time to stop being reactive. This is our country. This is our time. These are our lives. It’s up to us to ignore the twitterstorms and the random rants and demand what is our birthright as Americans: the best possible lives we can afford.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the editorial cartoonist and columnist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

57 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Distractor-in-Chief Trump Is Gaslighting Us Into Forgetting America’s Real Issues

  1. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a little mind.”

    You don’t know how good I have it, Henri. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure that it is not all a dream.

    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty…one of my favorite Thurber stories. Once I get my drone, I will have an arsenal.

    • «Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure that it is not all a dream.» Did you pinch yourself before writing the rant you recently posted on how the «Spawn of Satan» and hoagie checkers are making the noble profession of teaching a «Hell» ?…

      Don’t pinch yourself too hard, dear «American Teacher» ; you might just waken from your Walter Mitty fantasies…. 😉

      Henri

      • No, I got rid of Satan’s spawn. I don’t take crap from anyone.

        Just because you disagree with my piece does not make it a rant. Truly I say to you, my colleagues found it mild.

      • > my colleagues found it mild.

        In that case, there’s nothing stopping you from sharing your “letters” and “not-rants” with the parents of the little darlings you so despise.

      • «No, I got rid of Satan’s spawn. I don’t take crap from anyone.» Not, I’m sure, from anyone smaller or less well armed than you, «American Teacher». In such circumstance, no doubt you are the every epitome of courage,…

        The two most apt nouns for a person of your ilk are, I suggest, «bully» and «coward». Rather obvious from you first post to this forum….

        Henri

  2. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a little mind.”

    You don’t know how good I have it, Henri. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure that it is not all a dream.

    • Misquoting Mr Emerson is it now, American Teacher ? Given the littleness of your mind, which you have demonstrated time and again in your posts to this forum, you must suffer from that hobgoblin as well as the other, compensatory illusions which hopefully render it possible for you to make it through the day….

      A sad – but alas, hardly unusual case….

      Henri

  3. Just to jump in for a minute.

    I was waaaaaay ahead of the curve on Zuckerberg, that creepy little Skeezix. And I was waaay ahead of the curve on Trump’s Tweetorama.

    The problem isn’t Trump. The journalists [sic] who “report” on Trump’s tweets are the problem. Every newscast, every news paper, every news cycle is a series of decisions about what to publish and what to leave by the wayside. Trump’s tweets are NOT news. By DEFINITION they are not news. THEY ARE OPINION.

    I have been saying this pretty much since Trump got elected: Why is anyone paying any attention at all to Trump’s tweets? They are the Zsa-Zsa Gabor of the news cycle: covered because they’re covered. When Trump starting tweeting about banning trans people in the military, do you know what the military leaders said? They said that they don’t take their orders from Twitter accounts. Trump tweets because the media reacts with predictable frequency to his tweets If the media stops covering his tweets, actual news can be covered instead.

    The 2018 election cycle is going to be particularly important as a bellwether. Despite all the gleeful talk about how great the economy is and how the Dow is riding high, I suspect the fine-detail research would show that a lot of people are scared shitless. All those people who lost their jobs in 2007? You really think they’ve forgotten all about that in 10 years?

    2018? The best the Dems can hope for is a 51-49 Senate and, probably, a 10-20 seat majority in the House. It won’t be enough against Trump. (And I really don’t think any of the scandals are going to derail Trump. Unless something a lot more impressive than the current batch of whispered rumors and statements by anonymous sources comes to light.)

    After the 2018 elections (I mean, about 10 minutes after the elections are over), the 2020 cycle starts. The Dems have no one. Bernie Sanders is pretty much going to have to run. His vice president will be crucial. I suspect he will pick a woman, and one who is not well-known on the national stage. Possibly a governor. Even a mayor of a large metropolitan region might work. She’ll have to be completely, or nearly completely, unattached to the Clinton brand (which is now toxic). If Sanders runs, 2018-20 will be a holding pattern (think trench warfare in WWI). If Sanders wins (and if the DNC is kept out of it, he will), I will start eating right and exercising because I will definitely want to see January 2021. I expect quite a few things that HRC told us all were unpossible: universal healthcare, long prison sentences for banker-criminals, work projects to repair the crumbling infrastructure, etc.

    • > Trump’s tweets are NOT news. By DEFINITION they are not news. THEY ARE OPINION.

      That was most assuredly true of the opinions of world’s most annoying “reality” TV host. Unfortunately, once he assumed the position of Leader Ubba Free World his opinions did indeed become news.

      Especially when said opinions are at odds with objective reality. (AKA “Economics, History, Law, International Trade, Interstate Trade, Thermodynamics, Physics, Climatology, Biology, Sociology, and Grade School Arithmetic among other subjects too numerous to mention.”)

      Me & thee know that this twit’s tweets are tales told by an idiot … his followers, not so much. We can only hope that his fellow world leaders see them as signifying nothing.

  4. Crazy H,

    You don’t want me banned. Talking to me is like walking in paradise.

    I reread the Palast piece. Not all countries are equal and therefore not all countries can be trusted equally with firearms. Was that his point?

    • > not all countries can be trusted equally with firearms.

      Countries don’t kill people, people kill people. American people kill more people than most other people kill people. That applies both domestically and abroad, suggesting that it is American people who cannot be trusted with firearms. (Let alone nukes)

      > Was that his point?

      No. His point was that the problem of people-with-guns cannot be solved by more-people-with-guns.

      • You are obsessed with guns. In a column on repairing America despite the Trump presidency, you still manage to bring the conversation back to guns.

        What is going on and how can I help?

      • Night-night, Crazy H. I have to go to sleep now. School tomorrow. When I’m not coaching the team, I’m in the auto shop.

      • > You are obsessed with guns.

        Moi? Seriously?!! all three of your ‘letters’ were about how your right to own military-grade hardware outweighed your students’ right to live to reach adulthood.

        But anyway, nighty-night. Sweet Dreams. Try not to have that nightmare where you show up at school without any pants and the G Men steal your penis.

  5. We both know what I’m trying to say about remittances, Crazy H. I can’t be more explicit because Mr. Rall told me that I must mind my p’s and q’s while on his blog.

    And I bring a lot of money into my school, more than some leftist history teacher, indoctrinating these poor kids.

    • > We both know what I’m trying to say about remittances, Crazy H.

      Eh-HEM, “I’ll be happy to respond it if you’d break it into multiple simple questions” Let’s just assume that my brain doesn’t operate on the same level as yours – explain it to me in simple terms.

      > And I bring a lot of money into my school.

      And here I thought that the purpose of school was education. Huh, you learn something new every day. (See what I did there?)

      • If I got any simpler, my privileges would be revoked. Let’s forget this one, shall we?

        The purpose of school is to make money. Education is just a sideline.

      • > Let’s forget this one, shall we?

        Sure thing, Gene. Visitor forfeits and that’s another one for the home team.

      • > You don’t want to get me banned, do you?

        Are you handing me a straight line like that? For real and for true…? Thank you ever so muchly, but I decline to answer.

        However, I am curiouser and curiouser as to what topic it is you think would get you banned. Ted’s just real big on Free Speech. Here, watch:

        “Your father is niggardly; your mother is a proselyte; your sister is a thespian; your brother practices philately with other boys on alternate Thursdays and you masticate while posting on the internet.”

        Waiting for moderation …

        3 …

        2 …

        1 …

        …?

  6. I just looked at the Palast report. Pretty facile analysis. I could give you my own take, Crazy H, but you might get apoplectic .

    I’m a football coach. And I’ve never touched a Coors in my life.

    Guiness.

    • > I just looked at the Palast report. Pretty facile analysis.

      Why then, feel free to enlighten me as to the overlooked complexities of a graph which appears to show no correlation between gun ownership rates and the prevention of murder-by-firearm.

      Most interesting is the far right side, which shows that the US (with ownership rate of over one gun per individual) has as high a murder rate as countries with far lower ownership rates.

      Ergo: Contrary to your earlier assertions, the problem of people-with-guns does not appear to be solved by more-people-with-guns.

      However, since the problem of people-with-guns appears to be directly related to economic inequality – it stands to reason that we *could* alleviate that problem by reducing economic inequality. (Which brings us back to that whole $50/hr thing)

      • I have studied the situation carefully, Crazy H, and would love to offer you my astute analysis, but it is not worth risking getting banned from this blog.

        Mr. Rall knows where this is going.

        And please, Crazy H, call me Gene .

      • > … love to offer you my astute analysis, but it is not worth risking getting banned from this blog.

        I can assure you that no-one has ever been banned for analyses, be they mathematical, economical, or logical.

        … for that matter, I’m pretty sure no-one has ever been banned for illogical analyses. (although it would increase on the signal-to-noise rati0)

    • «I’m a football coach. And I’ve never touched a Coors in my life.

      Guiness.» Doesn’t make you James Joyce, mate – just a (US) football coach attempting to climb socially…. 😉

      Henri

      • One of the winningest coaches in the country. The only place to climb is down.

      • «One of the winningest coaches in the country. The only place to climb is down.»

        O wad some Power the giftie gie us
        To see oursels as ithers see us!
        It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
        An’ foolish notion:

        Bu then again, in cases like yours «American Teacher», the result would no doubt be a psychic collapse – not a particularly good idea for persons with such an arsenal as you claim (Walter Mitty speaking ?) to posses….

        Henri

    • Wishful thinking, along with whinging that things aren’t working out as you hoped, seem to be the twin – if contradictory – pillars of your character (if that term can be applied to such an object), «American Teacher». Pitiful, but that’s the way the cookie seems to have crumbled in your case….

      Henri

      • «I am delighted with the way things have worked out.» Ah yes, «American Teacher» ; your rant on Children from Hell does indeed read like the work of someone «delighted with the way things have worked out». But then again, expecting a modicum of consistency – or of intellectual honesty – from a person like yourself would be demanding too much…. 😉

        Henri

  7. Well, at least the W. Virginia,Kentucky and Oklahoma teachers went on strike and Arizona teachers are ready to strike. They finally were tired of low wages which is a symptom of the decades -long devaluation of the teaching profession. Apparently in W. VA instead of improving their health insurance plan, the state put them in a “wellness” plan with mandatory fitbits and tracking of every little thing. I’m not a teacher, but my health insurance benefits have gotten worse too. Speaking of health, I’m reading the book “An American Sickness” and learning more about our ridiculous health care system(and I work in that system in an ancillary job, not patient care).

    • You might want to take a look, No, on OECD statistics on longevity, maternal and infant mortality, and not least, costs of that peculiar system. But it does serve to enrich the large insurance companies, so I suppose it can be considered fit for purpose….

      Henri

    • Teachers have targets on their backs.

      People are jealous of the time that we get off and at least where I live, the compensation. They also think that we do not work, that we just play with kids.

      We should be treated like cops, 20 years in and out, full retirement and medical. We should also get overtime.

      And the evaluation system is punitive and nonsensical. No one in the business world gets evaluated like we do.

      • > We should [get] full retirement and medical. We should also get overtime.

        Well, the good ones certainly should . . .

    • «And I don’t want to deprive you of my rare verbal gifts.» They are, indeed, «rare», «American Teacher» – would that the asininity you exhibit on these threads were equally infrequent !… 😉

      Henri

      • Well, that was a speedy reply!

        I’m like the Venus fly trap; I keep drawing you.back in.

      • «I’m like the Venus fly trap; I keep drawing you.[Sic !]back in.» I’m sure that in many ways, my dear «American Teacher», you do resemble D muscipula, but the point of the exercise for that species seems rather to be to render it difficult for prey to leave rather than drawing them back in. But then again, I’ve already remarked on your knowledge of the matters on which you seem compelled to comment on Ted’s commentary threads, so no need to repeat myself here…. 😉

        Henri

  8. Completely relevant comment. $50 minimum wage will see the price of everything skyrocket.

    I know a lot about lefties. After all, I know Ted.

    And if we have a $50 minimum wage, don’t we have to raise that maximum cap, say to $1,000,000? We don’t want to be equally poor, do we?

    • «Completely relevant comment. $50 minimum wage will see the price of everything skyrocket.» Utterly irrelevant comment as a response to my remark (which it posed to be), «American Teacher» ; I had said nothing whatever about Ted’s proposal for a 50USD/hr minimum wage. But confusing Ted with myself is, I suppose, par for the course, for someone like yourself, who «know[s] lefties» (and the sort of beverages they tend to drink)…. 😉

      Henri

      • Lefties drink peppermint lattes and Drambuie.

        Hyperbole is in sentence after sentence, such as in comparing Turkmenbashi, who renamed the months of the year after himself, to this very mainstream leader, Donald Trump.

      • «Lefties drink peppermint lattes and Drambuie.» I pointed out earlier, «American Teacher», that your knowledge of «lefties» was on a par with your knowledge of the other matters on which you for some odd reason feel compelled to comment on these threads. But it really wasn’t absolutely necessary for you to confirm my analysis with such unseemly haste ; you could have taken your time…. 😉

        Henri

      • > Lefties drink peppermint lattes and Drambuie.

        Righties drink ice cold Coors lite with lukewarm spit for a chaser

        I’ll have a Jack Daniels with otherwise undiluted espresso, (“triplo w/ dbl Jack”) thank you for asking.

    • > don’t we have to raise that maximum cap?

      Why, no, no we don’t. In fact – that’s the whole point: reduce economic disparity. That will reduce crime, disease, and homelessness while raising the general standard of living.

      ECON 101: More money in the money supply means a more active economy, raising all boats instead of just the mega-yachts. As this appears to be new information, we have now determined that you do not teach Economics (earlier, we determined that you do not teach Civics.) I’m still betting on Remedial PE & Boys’ Health. (whatever the flock they call ’em nowadaze)

      Do you teach math? Here’s your homework for the day:

      1) Please provide your analysis of the scatter chart in the following. 50 words or less.

      http://www.gregpalast.com/florida-honduras-inequality-kills-want-to-end-the-american-shooting-epidemic/

      • “More money means a more active economy”

        So I guess we should not let people send remittances out of this country? They are worth billions. Trump would be right to want to tax them?

      • I’m a football coach. And I’ve never had a Coors in my life.

        Guinness

      • > So I guess we should not let people send remittances out of this country

        So I guess I have no idea what you’re trying to say (and I’m pretty sure you don’ t either.) At best this is a complex question, at worst it’s an aggregation of vaguely-interconnected subjects in a transparent attempt to derail the conversation. In the former case, I’ll be happy to respond it if you’d break it into multiple simple questions; in the latter it’s a waste of bandwidth.

        > I’m a football coach.

        Does that have something to do with your overly-generous compensation package? That’s not surprising – Red State “schools” always have valued feetballz over academic achievement.

        If you taught a real subject, you’d have to move to a Blue State to get such a generous compensation package.

        MAGA!

  9. How much do you think a businessman is going to pay someone for pouring a cup of coffee? (I’d get a robot and write it off as a business expense.)

    • «(I’d get a robot and write it off as a business expense.)» Given your previous posts, «American Teacher», shouldn’t that be «(I’d get a student and write it off as a business expense.)». Perhaps you taught – if, indeed, you taught at all – at «Liberty University» ?…

      Henri

      • Oh, and how much are you willing to pay for an increase in the price of a latte, Henri?

        My guess is, not much. (I know lefties.)

        When you’re out with friends, you are probably the last to by a round.

        No, Hillsdale College.

      • «Oh, and how much are you willing to pay for an increase in the price of a latte, Henri?

        My guess is, not much. (I know lefties.)»

        Perhaps – unlike your good self, «American Teacher» ? – I don’t drink lattes. I suspect, as your irrelevant comment would seem to indicate, that you know as much about «lefties» as you do about the other matters on which you’ve pontificated on these threads – i e, zilch. But fun having you here – if not, alas, for our elucidation, at least for our amusement…. 😉

        Henri

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