Tag: Donald Trump

H.R. McMaster Makes The Case That President Trump Is Not A Traitor…No Matter How Much Some Wish That He Was

H.R. McMaster Makes The Case That President Trump Is Not A Traitor…No Matter How Much Some Wish That He Was

“The President Looks Forward To A Twitter Forum” – H.R. McMaster, May 16th 2017.  I think we can ALL agree that much is true!

It is interesting- if unsurprising- that people who yelled loudest that “those who wish for President Obama to fail are wishing for America to fail,” are now the ones looking for every reason imaginable to cut President Trump down to size on the topic of Russia, among other things. Before saying else, let me just add quickly that I am not normally a defender of Donald Trump.  (Click here for supporting evidence.)  It’s also reasonable to assume that if Barack Obama was still Commander in Chief, many Republicans and their allies would be as loud, if not louder- albeit smaller in numbers- about a President being so chummy with a foreign adversary.  But for the purpose of this topic, I’m not any more interested in talking about alternative realities, than I am in talking about alternative facts.  In THIS reality, by jumping to the most sinister conclusions without all the non-alternative facts to support their claim, most of Trump’s biggest enemies are doing themselves no favors.

“For Every Reaction, There Is An Opposite And Equal Reaction”

For much of the press, it has become a daily hobby to see just how far Donald Trump can push his “Performance Art Presidency”. From ranting like an angry teenager on Twitter, to contradicting his own staff, to contradicting his own SELF, he has not disappointed.  Nevertheless, whatever his qualifications as a President (or lack thereof), the fact remains he IS the President, which means that he has some serious responsibility, whether he- or the rest of us- like it or not.

Part of being the President involves making difficult decisions, with ramifications spanning the entire globe, often out of the public eye.  Since World War II, when we partnered up with the murderous Joseph Stalin to defeat the Nazis- ACTUAL Nazis, not those who annoy us online- the United States has had a very delicate balancing act with Russia.  We are doing something similar today, as we look for allies, even unnatural ones, to defeat ISIS.  Prior to Trump’s arrival into the political world, Democrats strongly believed in this geopolitical balance, far more than Republicans did.  This is why they protested Reagan’s use of “Evil Empire” (even though he was right), as well as George W. Bush pulling out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty.  (If you’re a fan of irony, see how upset Democrats were, for Bush supposedly disrespecting Putin.)

But all that was before Wikileaks, the defeat of Hillary Clinton, and the unexpected rise to power of a man they despised.  Truth be told, convincing oneself that Donald Trump is a traitor isn’t so hard for members of “The Resistance”.  The logic goes something like this-

  1. One of the worst things to accuse a President of is the act of treason.
  2. Donald Trump is the worst.
  3. Ergo, Donald Trump committed the act of treason.

To be fair, Trump and his people have given his domestic enemies plenty of ammo to suspect that something is going on, between the constant praise of Putin, the non-disclosed meetings with Russian officials, and the abrupt firing of James Comey.  But all that is a long, LONG way from treason.  (For anyone who thinks such activity is so unprecedented, click here , here, and/or here.)  It should also be noted that President Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian airbase, a move that even many of his critics- briefly and begrudgingly- praised at the time, and more importantly for the purposes of THIS topic, infuriated Vladimir Putin.  Whatever else Donald Trump may be up to, that hardly sounds like the actions of a man willing to sell out his country to the Russians.

Finally, while it’s understandable that any sane person would question Trump’s motives on a variety of topics, there is no reason to ALWAYS assume the worst, particularly in this case.  Those that remain unconvinced should try watching National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s outstanding press briefing on the subject, making a strong case that it is the leaker, not Trump, who is at fault for putting national security at risk here.  (Relevant portion begins at 24 minutes.)  As for those who still can’t let go of the fact that Donald Trump should be criticized at every turn, fear not- all indications point to having plenty of other opportunities to do so.  From what we can tell so far, though, meeting with a Russian official to discuss defeating ISIS should not be one of them.

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The Most Likely Explanation For Comey’s Firing Is Right There, For Those Who Want It…

The Most Likely Explanation For Comey’s Firing Is Right There, For Those Who Want It…

…which, unfortunately, are all too few and far between.

Let’s get something straight- Donald Trump is autocratic, bombastic, reckless, and impulsive, among other things.  This is something we’ve known about the man, long before he got into politics.  Those that have a passing knowledge of his past dealings also know that he will almost-literally bulldoze anyone in his way.  (For those who don’t, click here.)  Knowing all this about a guy who has been in public life for four decades, the abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey actually makes sense, relative to Trump’s “normal” modus operandi.  But right now, we’re in a hostile, ultra-polarized political environment that’s anything but normal.  On one side, there’s a treasonous conspiracy theory that spans the globe.  On the other side, there’s applause for a move that we’re told was “inevitable”, even though we hardly heard anything about it before it happened.   What should the rest of us believe?

To The Left, To The Left…

For the vast majority of Trump-hating liberals, this is more “proof” that he’s in cahoots with the Russians, something that they talked themselves into before he even got sworn in.  (Of course, this was only after voter machine miscues and the original fake news accusations didn’t stick.)  The same people who told us how “frightening” it was that Trump wouldn’t swear to unconditionally respect the election results, are the same ones who now want us to unconditionally question the election results, something they’ve done ever since the day their candidate didn’t win.  This isn’t to say there’s NO evidence of Russian interference on behalf of Trump- far from it.  (We’ll get to that part in the next section.)  But with all the things that we know to be true about Donald Trump, let alone the things that are likely to be true, the idea that he’s specifically operating on behalf of Russia is only slightly less unhinged than the idea that he’s the next Hitler.

And since when have liberals cared so much about Russian dominance, anyway?  In the one accidental moment of greatness (in hindsight) during Mitt Romney’s otherwise feckless campaign, his attempt at a serious discussion of Russian dominance was treated with ridicule and scorn, from none other than President Obama, among so many others.  (Unsurprisingly, The New York Times wasn’t kind, either.)  The investigation into Russian interference might seem more credible to skeptics, if its biggest advocates would admit it is COMPLETELY about stopping Trump, not Vladimir Putin.  There have been plenty of opportunities to show real concern about Putin for two decades, but the western media has mostly been quiet, save for a few stories, lasting one or two news cycles, about some invasion or execution of a political opponent.  (Truth be told, the most covered anti-Putin story was probably about the band Pussy Riot getting arrested for its lyrics, but that was largely because the lead singer was incredibly good looking, and the media had an excuse to legitimately say the word “pussy”.)

One final point, before examining the other side’s motives and “logic”, such as it is- it’s worth pointing that to the extent that Russia did successfully interfere, it was in exposing the Democratic National Committee’s activities in the primaries.  Broken down into their most basic elements, critics screaming about Russian interference are essentially angry that voters found out how the DNC, under the leadership of Debbie Wasserman Schulz, was going to bat exclusively for Hillary Clinton, in an attempt to slow down Bernie Sanders momentum, and put Hillary over-the-top, once and for all.  Oh, the irony.

Right Here, Right Now…

None of the explanations given above justify a single thing about the firing itself.  In fact, the reckless way in which it was conducted by Trump, followed by the inconsistent stories given in its aftermath (they even tried to claim it was Comey’s harsh handling of HILLARY that led to the firing), have made it not only inevitable that the story would be covered, but it should be covered.  Just consider the facts- The President of the United States fires the FBI Director, openly admits that the investigation into Russia is part of the reason for it, and then implies blackmail on Twitter if the poor guy doesn’t keep his mouth shut?!  How can ANYONE defend that kind of behavior?!  And yet…

Tucker Carlson applauded the move of Comey’s firing, implying he was an out-of-control threat from the highest reaches of government, that people were more fearful of criticizing than Trump himself.  (I dunno, Tucker- YOU seem kind of fearful of criticizing Trump.  But I digress.)  Our old buddy Charles Hurt did the same thing, praising Trump for cleaning out “the swamp“.  Conservative after conservative commentator could not stop bloviating about liberal hypocrisy in criticizing the firing, when liberals themselves had previously been so critical of Comey.  In doing so, they completely disregarded the strongest point from the investigation advocates, and not-coincidentally the one gaining the most traction- the suspicious timing of the firing.  Why now?  You don’t have to be a Trump critic to want an answer to it, but you do have to be a Trump sycophant to NOT want an answer to it.

And At The Center Of It All…

This madness begins and ends, much like this blog post itself, with Donald J. Trump.  This is someone who wants to be the center of a universe in which he is celebrated, feared and loved at the same time.  James Comey threatened all of those things, and while no one can be sure of the main motivation of his dismissal- perhaps not even Trump himself- this seems far more likely as explanation, than the revelation of a “smoking gun” (sorry, left), or the fact that Comey was the one who was out of control (sorry, right).

But nothing about the firing reveals the nature of Trump more than the way James Comey was fired.  From the New York Times

Mr. Comey was addressing a group of F.B.I. employees in Los Angeles when a television in the background flashed the news that he had been fired.  In response, Mr. Comey laughed, saying he thought it was a fairly funny prank.  Then his staff started scurrying around in the background and told Mr. Comey that he should step into a nearby office.”

trump_comey
—President Trump clearly didn’t like the bright lights being on someone else.

Unreal, yet totally believable.  Teenage Metallica showed more tact when they fired Dave Mustaine in 1983.  Maybe Comey should’ve been fired.  Maybe he shouldn’t.  Maybe it’s part of a cover-up.  Maybe it’s not.  But the fact that the guy had to find out what happened to him from a TELEVISION SET WHILE HE WAS GIVING A SPEECH, shows yet again something we’ve known about Donald Trump, long before the Access Hollywood tapes, the wall, the comments about people from Mexico, the Birther movement, and all the other things that have come to define this guy in recent years- the man needs to be the center of his own (dysfunctional) universe.  As others have pointed out, Trump publicly speculating Comey might have become more famous than Trump himself seems less a compliment of Comey, and more about Trump fearing the loss of his own spotlight.  If his mission was to get it back, at least he accomplished THAT much.

Summarizing Talking Points About Comey’s Firing  (It’s A Quick Read, There Are Only Two)

Summarizing Talking Points About Comey’s Firing (It’s A Quick Read, There Are Only Two)

Conservatives- “It was inevitable that this was going to happen, and it was a long time coming, even though I haven’t said anything about it until just now.  But I applaud this move by our wonderful President, with his huge hands and amazing political insight.  Clearly it had to happen, and liberals are hypocrites for criticizing it, after being so critical of Comey themselves.  Sure, they’re criticizing the TIMING and not the move itself, but they’re still hypocrites.  Why?  Because!  They…well, they just are, of course!  They’re liberals!  Liberals are hypocrites!  Everyone knows that!  Case closed! *places hands over ears* Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala!!!  I can’t hear you!  Lalalalalalalalalala!!!”

Liberals- “Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  It’s like Watergate!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia! Impeach now!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Nixon!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  RUSSIA!!!!!!!!

Seriously though, President Trump- you couldn’t even CALL the man directly, to let him know he’d been fired?  The FBI does have phones, you know- man, do they have a lot of phones!
👌😣👌
Basing Public Policy On Emotion Is A Bad Idea.  Maligning A Suffering Parent Is An Even Worse Idea.

Basing Public Policy On Emotion Is A Bad Idea. Maligning A Suffering Parent Is An Even Worse Idea.

In pushing his political agenda, which one of these guys showed poor taste and poor timing?

One of the most underrated storylines of NBC’s “The Office” was the hostile dynamic between Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson, a kind-natured but tepid human-resource employee, just trying to do his job.  Scott, a delusional middle manager whose mere presence was a demoralizing influence on those around him (at least in the early episodes), always assumed his verbal- and occasionally physical– abuse was exposing poor Toby to the world (or in this case, the viewers) as a reprehensible and intrusive buzzkill, while in actuality showing everyone what kind of guy Michael Scott himself was- and it wasn’t pretty.

This week in real life, we’ve seen a similar level of accidental self-reflection.  It started after Jimmy Kimmel revealed the personal and painful trauma of living through his newborn son’s heart surgery.  Kimmel is not normally one to bare his soul to the public, so it’s pretty clear that he felt and meant every word that he was saying.  Not even the most cynical viewer could take issue with his tears.  His words, however, were another story.  Without getting into a detailed discussion of the speech itself (watch here to decide for yourself) there’s no denying that Kimmel has a very specific point of view on this subject- and, just like any specific point of view, it’s not going to be shared unanimously.  After all, there are roughly seven billion of us nowadays, which leads to roughly seven billion different points of view.  Not everyone is going to see things the way that Jimmy Kimmel does.

Enter Charles Hurt, a conservative Washington Times columnist who definitely has a different point of view from Jimmy Kimmel- and what a point of view it is.  Like many of us, Mr. Hurt generally comes across in the flesh as a pleasant individual, but online often seems like a madman, writing up an angry screed on a bathroom wall (albeit with a better vocabulary).  He took it to a whole new level against Kimmel, calling him- quote- an “elitist creep”, as well as a “dirty, self-absorbed, narcissistic exhibitionist”…and for what, exactly?  Hoping that no parent would have to go through what he did, particularly poor ones that couldn’t afford the kind of care that a rich late-night talk show host could?  While Jimmy Kimmel’s endorsement of expanded healthcare has merits that are certainly debatable, his motivation for it, much like his tears, should not have been.  After all, this is a man with a newborn baby whose LIFE was in jeopardy.  To paraphrase Tina Fey when discussing Dubya going after the guy that tried to kill his dad, people become superheroes over less!

A far better (if less newsworthy) approach than name-calling would have been to criticize the idea that any single anecdote should be the final word on a serious and complex issue.  This is a common tactic to use in the Internet age- find a high-profile story that fits your worldview, share it on Facebook, and imply that you’ve just settled the debate, once and for all.  Jimmy Kimmel has every right and every reason to share his beliefs on this subject, and the public has every right to take it under consideration.  But that doesn’t mean that his experience should be the guidebook to shape public policy, any more than Kate Steinle’s tragic death should be the final say for dealing with illegal immigration.

Unfortunately, Charles Hurt didn’t take this tactic, instead deciding to malign a well-meaning individual- and by extension, the group which he belongs to.  This brings us back to Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson.  Assuming he’s being honest and not just trolling for publicity, Mr. Hurt seems to believe that he’s giving an example of why “America hates Hollywood” (his words), when in reality, he just gave Exhibit A for why so many Americans- and not just the ones in Hollywood, which is, in fact, a part of America- believe conservatives are heartless.  Also, the like:dislike ratio is actually about 30:1 on Kimmel’s video- who knew that Hollywood was so much bigger than the rest of America?!  If Charles Hurt’s intention was to expose liberals as the out-of-touch elitists, his tactic clearly backfired.  By personally and viciously insulting a new father who’s just gone through a traumatic ordeal, Charles Hurt lives up to the worst caricatures of conservatives as greedy rich people, who don’t care about others- and make no mistake, a LOT of people believe that one, not just those that live in Hollywood.  It might feel good to just take personal shots at people with a different point of view, but it’s a bad strategy long term- just ask Hillary Clinton.

Since Donald Trump’s victory, many people on the right have been laughing disdainfully at liberals living in their bubble.  For the ones nodding approvingly at Charles Hurt’s needlessly angry column, it might be about time for them to step out of theirs.

It’s Fine To Cheer For The Demise of Michael Flynn- Just Admit What The Celebrating Is Really About

It’s Fine To Cheer For The Demise of Michael Flynn- Just Admit What The Celebrating Is Really About

With a highly opinionated yet even tempered article, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake makes an excellent case that the political targeting of Michael Flynn wasn’t actually about Flynn himself, at least not primarily.  As if to prove Mr. Lake’s point, a disgraced former news anchor insists that this might be the worst scandal since Watergate. And hey, you can trust him this time- no, really!

flynn_2
“Wait, wait- I can explain!” You won’t have THIS guy to kick around anymore, but you’ll have others. So many, many others.

This is not intended to defend a guy that was supposed to be one of the gatekeepers of national security, yet couldn’t even be forthcoming about his own international affairs.  It’s hard to be sympathetic towards someone who makes such a careless and arrogant mistake, any more than for a baseball player getting thrown out a second base, because he wasn’t hustling.  (“I swear that ball was going out!”)  But given how many enemies President Trump has, ESPECIALLY from the political establishment, it’s difficult to believe that the primary motivation behind all the outrage is for Flynn’s specific act, rather than for the greater goal of bringing the Trump administration to “justice” altogether.  Maybe you think that’s a good thing, but the level of indignation directed at Flynn, like so many other things we’ve seen in recent months (going on years now), is comically disingenuous- particularly when so many thought that this gem from the previous administration wasn’t worthy of more than a news cycle or two.

 

The bottom line is that a lot of people find the current administration be so repugnant, even dangerous, that they don’t want to wait until the next election to see it brought down.  If that is one’s prerogative, so be it.  But if that’s the case, then just admit it, and stop with the grandstanding over these fairly pedestrian scandals, when we’ve seen so much worse overlooked for so many years (decades?) already.
A Message To The #NeverTrump folks, from A Gary Johnson voter

A Message To The #NeverTrump folks, from A Gary Johnson voter

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, for most of the same reasons that half the country didn’t vote for him- his incendiary comments, his lack of political experience, his shady business dealings, among other things.  You know the list.  But give the man his due.  His detractors ridiculed him for getting a head start in life from his father’s success, yet these are the same people that act like Warren Buffett built his empire from a lemonade stand.  (Howard Buffett, a successful businessman and congressman, gave young Warren a start that was light years ahead of the one that Fred Trump, a successful real estate investor, gave Donald.)  For all the times that Trump declared bankruptcy, he always came back, bigger than ever.  He’s made his enemies along the way, but for better or for worse, he’s overcome them all.

trump
Get used to saying it – “President Donald Trump”

And this brings us to the #NeverTrump movement, mostly well-intentioned but quixotic from the start.  From the beginning of this campaign, these people made every excuse in the book for Trump’s success- the primary field was too wide.  The liberal media was intentionally propping up this weak buffoon.  The voters were being conned.  But at the end of it all, Trump rose above it, as he always seems to, beating the greatest American political machine of our generation, in spite of (because of?) the opposition of the media, the entertainment industry, and even prominent members of his own political party.

And it’s that last group that, above all else, needs to understand what happened here, because as I’m typing this, the earliest indicators are that they still don’t get it.  Well, I’ll do my best to clarify it for them.  The anti-Trump conservatives that want to pretend that other candidates could have done so much better than Donald Trump- most notably Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio- are trying to convince everyone that it’s only because Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate.  There is this belief of false equivalency going around right now, that only Hillary could lose to The Donald, just like only The Donald could lose to Hillary.  Two problems with this-

1) The entire Democratic establishment was all in on Hillary.  The entire Republican establishment was all in AGAINST Trump.

2) Donald Trump DID beat Hillary Clinton.  Hillary Clinton did NOT beat Donald Trump.

In addition to these two seemingly self-evident facts, The Donald’s detractors refuse to acknowledge that he possesses something which alludes most politicians, particularly those on the right- a genuine ability to connect with people.  And if this is STILL not enough to convince his many detractors and critics how remarkable Trump’s triumph actually was, they should consider this…From the beginning, the corrupt Clinton machine, with Bill’s draft dodging, and sexual assault, and secret deals with China for campaign cash, and endless character assassination on not only political opponents, but those who simply “got in the way”, combined with Hillary’s smearing of a 12 year old rape victim, and Whitewater dealings, and Benghazi, and mishandling of classified materials, CONTINUOUSLY stepped on the Republicans for a quarter of a century, almost uninterrupted.  In turn, these Republicans feebly tried kicking Bill out of office, practically hanging all hope on a technicality, yet instead ended up launching Hillary’s political career.  Some of them even openly SUPPORTED HER FOR PRESIDENT, as  the #NeverTrump movement, with very few exceptions, became little more than Hillary’s minions.  And yet, Donald Trump, with all his faults and NO POLITICAL EXPERIENCE, managed to end the Clintons. Whatever else happens from this point forward, he deserves serious recognition for that act alone.

As for what does happen next?  That’s anybody’s guess.  We’re in uncharted waters now.
Hillary’s Best Campaign Moment (NOT the Debate), and The REAL Reason Trump Will Never Be On “Between Two Ferns”

Hillary’s Best Campaign Moment (NOT the Debate), and The REAL Reason Trump Will Never Be On “Between Two Ferns”

For many this election cycle, the only convincing argument that Hillary Clinton has had going for her is that she’s not Donald Trump.  Throughout this entire campaign season, she has made the news for all the wrong reasons.  For one brief moment, though, that changed, as she was interviewed in a genuinely funny episode of Between Two Ferns, the popular Web series hosted by Zach Galifianakis.  Zach* is the star, of course, but Hillary played a fantastic comic foil, absorbing just enough heat to let us know that she can take a joke, but not so much that she looked like a doormat for the subversively hostile interviewer.  (The hostility was mostly in jest, but substantive enough that it could potentially make her look bad, had she not known how to handle it.)   The interview humanized her in a way that would not have seemed possible to many of us, making it easy for one to consider that she may not be so bad, after all- even for those of us who long ago came to the conclusion that she is.  Ultimately, that’s what makes effective political propaganda- an image strong enough to convince people to reconsider their own strongly held beliefs, without beating them over the head with it.

This is where Joss Wheedon- the otherwise brilliant director and writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers, and other national treasures- completely missed the boat with his star-studded anti-Trump screed, appropriately and overtly titled Save the Day.  Starting out the commercial by mocking the self-importance of Hollywood, Wheedon and his stars tried to inoculate themselves from accusations of it.  In reality, they merely drew attention to it, as evidenced by the mediocre (at best) Like:Dislike ratio, compared to the stellar one of the Between Two Ferns clip.  Next time Wheedon wants to do a political commercial with humor, he ought to give Zach a call.

Regrettably, though, in the aftermath of the phenomenal Hillary interview, Zach proved every bit as unoriginally “Hollywood” about his partisan approach to politics as the rest of them, explaining how he could never have a “mentally challenged” person like Trump on his show.  To be fair, he’s probably right that this wouldn’t be the best format for Trump, but the idea that he wouldn’t have Trump on because of that is as far-fetched as the idea that Hillary really was diagnosed with pneumonia the day she went on his show.  I mean, come on- this is a top-rate professional who would have no issues spinning a narcissist like Trump into comedic gold-  he did it for Justin Bieber, for crying out loud!  Plus, Trump would be great for ratings, and however arrogant and insufferable the man might be, he has shown that he usually knows how to take a joke.  (To the extent that he doesn’t, Zach could make the interview even better!)

Far more likely for the Between Two Ferns “blackout” of Trump is pressure from the entertainment industry.  This isn’t to say that anyone is making threatening 3 AM phone calls to Zach…well, besides Hillary’s people, perhaps.  But consciously or not, surely Zach and his people recognize the intense criticism that even someone as popular as Jimmy Fallon is taking, for daring to treat Donald Trump like any other celebrity guest.  (Collectively, Saturday Night Live received the same criticism last year.)  The message from Tinseltown is clear- Trump is a danger for which there is no precedent in modern American life, and any attempt to humanize him will be met swiftly and mercilessly.

gettyimages-487813454-trump-fallon-tonightEven if the outside pressure has nothing to do with this, there is plenty of evidence that many Trump detractors hope that it does.  We have seen and heard, from many in the media, that Donald Trump cannot be treated as a “normal” candidate.  In other words, those who attempt to shine the slightest bit of light on Trump’s more “human” qualities are aiding and abetting this dangerous monster.  The reality is that this attitude says far more about the critics than it does about Trump.  Everyone should have a fair opportunity to show who they really are, particularly those running for President.  If Trump is truly is a threat to the republic, then let the people decide that for themselves.  There is plenty of evidence going around of what kind of person he is overall, without having to “protect” people from seeing him in an occasional moment of levity.  The same goes for Hillary Clinton.

Finally, to liberals smugly convinced that they are better at taking a joke than conservatives (see the comment section of the Huffington Post link)- get back to us when you don’t get so worked up about Donald Trump’s hair being rumpled.

*I’m not trying to pretend that I’m on a first name basis with Zach Galifianakis- I just hate typing out his last name!

South Park Is Still Great, While Colin Kaepernick Is Not

South Park Is Still Great, While Colin Kaepernick Is Not

(Note- this is A *SPOILER HEAVY* review of the season 20 premiere episode)

It’s impossible to pinpoint a single reason why South Park remains so incredible. For one thing, the height of the show’s popularity came years before the height of the show’s quality.  Think about it- when the feature film “Bigger, Longer, and Uncut” was released at the end of the last century, not a single word had yet been spoken by Butters, Randy was merely known as Stan’s dad, and Cartman was, in hindsight, a somewhat one-dimensional foul-mouthed ignoramus, still a long ways from the double-crossing schemer that we’ve come to know and, for lack of a better word, love.

It’s also refreshing, in a time where most topical comedy seems to be about finding the easiest path to getting a “WOOOOOO!!!” from a sympathetic audience, South Park continues to take shots at targets everywhere. Even longtime fans of the show will find themselves saying, “Heeeey- wait a minute!” at least once or twice an episode. All of its elite peers, such as The Simpsons and Family Guy, peaked years ago. With an ever-growing list of things to offend anyone, combined with the increasing madness of our world, the one which South Park resides in has more than enough reasons to be as compelling as ever.

Recently, though, the most important change to the show has been in the format. With prior seasons more or less relying on each episode as a standalone, last season followed a format usually suited for dramas, with continuous storylines throughout.  If not watched from beginning to end, the viewer could be left very confused.  (I’m speaking from experience.)  Given the renewed praise of the show, which introduced PC Principal as one of the show’s newest main characters, it’s no surprise that Season 20 is sticking with this format.

Also back are the Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s lightning-fast real time responses to current events. The commercial for the opener, featuring the townspeople singing the “new national anthem” in a scene not actually shown in the episode, imply a strong distaste for Colin Kaepernick’s perceived self-aggrandizing.  On the flip side, the opening scene of season 20 gives us South Park’s girl volleyball team, protesting a legitimate grievance during the National Anthem.  In this case, the target is the public’s reaction to the protest, too caught up in turning the National Anthem protest into a sport, to consider what the point of the protest might actually be.  On the show, the cause was misogynistic cyberbullying, serving as a stand-in for real life police brutality.  This is classic South Park- before you can get too comfortable nodding up and down, clapping like a trained seal at your TV set as the host (or hostess) validates your etched-in-stone worldview, you instead find your worldview being challenged.  In other words, those who want more public attention focused on injustices, might wonder if Colin Kaepernick’s divisive tactics are the right way to go about it.  On the other hand, others might wonder if Kaepernick’s cause, if not Kaepernick himself, might at least be worth considering.

south-park-garrisonBut that wasn’t even the biggest target of the night for this episode. Returning to the spotlight, more relevant even now than when the joke was first introduced, was “Giant Douche versus Turd Sandwich.”  This has gotten some criticism from other parts of the Internet, seemingly because some take umbrage at Hillary Clinton being referred to as Turd Sandwich.  Lacking in self-awareness, many of these people scream at South Park’s “false equivalency” of Donald Trump’s awfulness and Hillary Clinton’s (from their point of view) far-less dangerous qualities.  Always ahead of the curve, Parker and Stone seem to have anticipated this in advance, in the form of Randy Marsh, incredulously wondering how anyone can possibly consider voting for a Giant Douche (Trump) over a Turd Sandwich (Clinton).  In fact, those paying attention to the episode in a non-partisan light would see that they did actually spend more time skewering Trump- with Mr. Garrison used as his stand-in, to hilarious effect.  Some pro-Clinton critics also griped that the level of Trump bashing wasn’t enough, which missed yet another point of this plotline- that Trump’s buffoonish behavior (or in this case, Garrison’s) has been a net positive for the guy.  Besides, they had his solution to getting rid of America’s enemies as “f*cking them all to death”!  What else were they supposed to do, exactly, have him shoot someone on 5th Avenue?!  That wouldn’t have mattered, either!

But wait- there was even more to this episode!  It was a long summer, and there were plenty of other topics to address, as well.  Thanks largely to Eric Cartman, we witnessed jabs at-

  • Internet Trolls
  • Amy Schumer’s increasingly tired act
  • Overly sensitive reactions to criticisms of the Ghostbusters reboot
  • An excess of reboots, complete with over-the-top praise for JJ Abrams’ minor tweaking of classic plotlines
  • Gratuitous gender-bending roles, courtesy of a brief mention of Token, playing the role of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma (“Get over it!”)
  • Hashtag Activism
  • And finally- for those who disdain Parker and Stone’s anti-liberal leanings- deceptively tasty right-wing nostalgia fruit, known as ‘member berries.  (As in, ” ‘member Reagan?”).

The last one- which, in fairness, had nothing to do with Cartman- is of particular interest.  Although it was fairly lonely as the one target solely aimed at conservatives, it also is the one that has the potential for the most mayhem this season.  (It took every ounce of strength for me not to type out, “bare the most fruit.”  Forgive me, dear reader.)  Starting out as relatively harmless nostalgia vehicles, mostly by mentioning great movies of yesteryear, the berries find their way into sinister territory, reminding Randy of a time when there weren’t as many Mexicans in the United States.  Not one to normally figure out when he’s being duped, Randy almost immediately senses that something is horribly wrong.  This was quite out of character, but perhaps the writers thought that having a beloved character like Randy susceptible to racism was a bridge too far for viewers to cross.

The surprise I felt at Randy’s awareness at the situation, however, was nothing compared to the twist ending, though, as we discover that the troll is Kyle’s dad, of all people.  Near everyone in the world, both South Park’s and ours, figured it was Cartman, but the South Park writers have shown themselves to be capable of some pretty jarring twist endings, ever since “Scott Tenorman Must Die”.  Why a mild-mannered lawyer, usually one of the more level-headed characters on the show, would take to the Internet to troll elementary school girls is anyone’s guess.  Finding out why is a good reason to keep tuning in, in case you needed one.  Which you shouldn’t.

Gary Johnson Never Heard Of Aleppo. Chances Are, Neither Did You.

Say this for Mike Barnicle, the man who exposed the world to Gary Johnson’s ignorance of war ravaged Aleppo- his thoughts on the debacle were reasonably merciful to the former governor of New Mexico, particularly compared to most of Mr. Barnicle’s peers in the media.  Jessica Durando of USA Today was indignantNabih Bulos of the Los Angeles Times was snarkyLiz Sly of the Washington Post was both.  All of this for a candidate who remains (sadly) on the fringe, and whose many other far more revealing qualities has received far less attention.

allepo
A less depressing picture montage of Aleppo, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The whole thing seemed a little bit strange to begin with.  Leading with a question about a relatively obscure city- obscure to most of the American public, anyway- rather than directly asking about the broader crisis itself, is an unconventional strategy, to say the least.  In other words, why not just ask Governor Johnson about Syria directly?  It would almost be like a reporter in early 1940, asking a fringe-challenger of Roosevelt to open with his thoughts on Westerplatte.  But even assuming Mr. Barnicle himself had the best of intentions, it defies belief to think that the media-at-large did.  This is enforced by none other than Mr. Barnicle’s employer itself, MSNBC, putting up a Youtube video a few hours later, asking the (loaded) question, “Should Gary Johnson Be Disqualified From Debates?”

Consider that we have one major candidate, who has been near the pinnacle of American power for a quarter of a century, claiming to not know what constitutes classified data.  (Of course, many think she’s lying about that.  Assuming she becomes President, we’d better hope that she is, but that’s for another topic.)  We have the other major candidate, showing he doesn’t know…well, much of anything, besides how to work a room and self-promote.  (Also for another topic.)  And never mind the Presidency- the media, along with many in the American public, decide that this is what disqualifies a candidate from even debating?

And how about that American public?  If you can’t name all of the Supreme Court justices, then you really are the 99%! It might be unreasonable to assume that someone who can’t name all (for the time being) eight justices would be unaware of Aleppo.  It would, however, be reasonable to assume nearly all of the 63% who can’t name one Supreme Court Justice would have no idea where Aleppo is.  And yet, many of those same people took to Twitter and Facebook on September 8th, to ridicule Gary Johnson for the exact same “sin”.  Sadly, this is what passes for public debate these days- ridicule and scorn.  Think about it.  Whenever climate change comes up, what is the percentage of comments dedicated to those making fun of those merely skeptical of it, versus comments that discuss possible solutions?  We see this play out in the very same interview that created this controversy.  With all the “gotcha!” coverage of Governor Johnson’s geographic lack of expertise, his thoughtful, nuanced, and far more relevant response about American use of force was completely drowned out-

When we involve ourselves militarily…in these humanitarian issues , we end up with a situation that is not better, and in many cases end up being worse.”

Well said, Governor.  And, with respect to Hillary Clinton and her vast knowledge of the globe– she was Secretary of State, after all- I’d rather have a President with a thoughtful foreign policy, than one who can ace a geography quiz.

None of this is to entirely let a Presidential candidate off the hook, for not knowing a strategic place of tragic consequences on the other side of the world.  But given that most of us, myself included, had no idea where- or even what- Aleppo was before all of this, maybe we can try knowing more about it now, instead of ridiculing someone who didn’t know about it then.  And given our primary choices for Presidential candidates, it can’t hurt to learn more about Gary Johnson, as well.