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At last night’s GOP debate– safe for work edition — Donald Trump excused the violence at his campaign rallies by saying that some of the protestors were “bad, bad dudes.” He repeated his claim that “Islam hates us,” and he managed to avoid uttering a single paragraph that could properly be called policy. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the hatred, CNN’s post-debate commentary lauded the “substantive debate” and gave Trump a nearly complete pass on his obvious lack of even the most rudimentary knowledge of how our government works. In so doing, CNN joined almost every single major news source in enabling Trump’s self-marketing as a qualified candidate for President of the United States. When and if he wins, we will all have been failed by our media. First Amendment notwithstanding, the press has largely failed to inform the voters of either the degree of Trump’s deceit, or his sheer lack of knowledge of policy. Trump is a dangerous man, and the fact that he drives ratings should not prevent the press from letting the people know that there is real cause for concern.
Facts, for example, are stubborn things. There is an audio tape capturing Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s assault of Michelle Fields. Here. A Washington Post reporter witnessed the altercation. Nevertheless, Donald Trump denies that it happened. And CNN, and other news outlets, report the denial as news, suggesting that there is some question as to the underlying truth of the matter. Here. There is not. Similarly, Trump’s comment that “Islam hates us” is not a subject for debate. It goes beyond Islamaphobia, and genuinely resembles the anti-semitism that propelled Hitler’s rise in Germany. Nevertheless, the media reports on a debate in which he repeats that claim as a substantive discussion in which Trump did well. Here. In so doing, the reporting minimizes the danger Trump presents and, instead, suggests that he did well in a battle among equals last night. From where I sit, I find it hard to think that there is any real news from last night other than the Trump’s view that one of the world’s largest religions, of which 3.3 million adherents live in the United States, hates our country.
Here’s another fact — Donald Trump did not do well in last night’s substantive discussion. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich all demonstrated far superior command of policy and detail than he did. The discussion of the looming Social Security crisis demonstrates this point. Rubio, Cruz and Kasich each acknowledged the need for change and each presented a slightly different substantive approach to the problem. Trump suggested, repeatedly, that by making America Great Again, and by cutting unspecified waste — through open bidding, there would somehow be enough money to solve the looming crisis. His answer wasn’t substantive; it was nonsense. But the reporters covering the campaign focused not on the substance but on his bearing — he kept his cool!! Similarly, in a back and forth about tariffs with Cruz, Trump seemed genuinely not to appreciate the impact of tariffs on consumers, let alone to know what the Smoot-Hawley Tariff was or why it is a negative precedent.
The evidence that Donald Trump is not qualified to be President is everywhere but in the polls. It’s in the steaks that aren’t ‘Trump Steaks”; it’s in Trump University, which wasn’t a University at all; it’s in the violence at the rallies; it’s in the utter emptiness of his rhetoric. Years ago in Massachusetts, Ed King explained that he beat Mike Dukakis by putting “all the hate groups in a pot and letting them boil.” You can see the hate boiling in the crowds around Donald Trump. Indeed, last night he literally bragged about how angry his supporters are. It is the news media’s responsibility to tell us about it, and to tell us about it again and again until we listen.
On the Democratic side of this race, Bernie Sanders keeps saying that there must be a reason that Wall Street gives so much money to political candidates. Last night, Donald Trump essentially confirmed it, suggesting that his political donations to candidates had allowed him to “own” politicians. The coverage of the Republican race teaches another lesson — ratings can allow a candidate to own a news organization. No network has the courage to take Donald Trump down. Instead, they sit in the gold plated rooms at Mar-A-Lago and ask sycophantic questions. And then, most glaringly, many of them watch a debate in which an ill-prepared, racist liar fails to engage meaningfully with a single issue of policy and report that he prevailed. Here. The essential failure to report the truth about Trump makes much of the media complicit in whatever havoc he ultimately wreaks on his party and our republic.
Here’s my take on the choice between Bernie and Hillary —
Here is today’s show on Boston Herald Radio. We get started at the 8 minute mark —
Here are two links to my reaction to the debate —
Reposting — it only gets clearer, and sadder. How many people must we lose before our leaders make the change we need?
“Fun Home” is the musical retelling of Alison Bechdel’s tragicomic graphic novel of the same name. In the books, she tries to understand and come to terms with her father’s suicide. At the time of the telling, Bechdel is a 40-something lesbian cartoonist telling the story of her 40-something closeted gay father’s suicide. The musical, won five Tony Awards, including Best New Musical.
Last Saturday morning, I drove two of my sons (20 and 16) to New York City to see the 2 p.m. matinee. All told, it was an 11 hour journey. My boys and I have been through a lot together — my divorce from their mother, my remarriage, and the simple, inherent complexity of growing up together (all of us). As we lived it, much of it seemed to move very quickly (so quickly it eludes memory). Fun Home is about accessing painful times and finding something like hope in them. It’s a universal message with particular and powerful personal importance to the three of us.
We get to know three Alisons in the show. One is roughly 9; the other is in her first year at Oberlin College; and the third is 43 — alone with her desk and cartoon tools lost in memory (the younger Alisons are living those memories on stage). The story of the show is the older Alison’s search to understand: most narrowly, the loss of her father; more broadly, herself and her family. The older Alison often has to steady herself against the force of those memories, telling herself (and us) “I’m just remembering something.” The gist of what she sees is this: her younger selves worked to shield themselves from the pain engulfing her family (through variously — television, imagined happiness, books and cartooning).
Part of the story centers around Alison’s recognition of her sexuality (“Ring of Keys”) and first experience (“Changing My Major to Joan”) and the coincidence of her coming out with her father’s suicide. One of the questions she asks herself is whether her declaration of sexuality played a role in his decision to take his own life. She can’t answer that question. Did the contrast between his own complicated, unhappy closeted life and her seemingly joyful discovery and declaration of her sexuality help propel him toward his end? We can’t know; she can’t know.
Midway through the show, the older Alison remembers the youngest version of herself drawing a map (in the form of a cartoon); it’s an assignment for school. She does it in panels. Her father hates it and tells her that she can do it better. Then the memory fades to the older cartoonist, using the device of a map to make sense of her father’s life. Recognizing that much of what she knows, she knows from him, she pushes herself to draw — “not what he told you / just what you see / what do you know that’s not your Dad’s mythology.”
The first time I heard this song, I cried without knowing why. I also found my memory running to the geographic cores of my family’s story (houses, a spare apartment, a new home with new family members). And I thought (during and after and still) about family mythology — the neat constructions we adopt that mask the complicated and painful road we navigate through life. We tell funny stories about my terrible cooking; we don’t talk about the nights the boys could not sleep because my new home was not theirs. But the gloss we put on time through storytelling doesn’t erase its complexity, and doesn’t erase the painful transitions my children endured because of me.
As the older Alison remembers the last moment she shared with her father — he turns not to college-aged Alison, but to her and asks if she wants to go for a ride. The cartoonist gets in the seat next to him. Past and present thus merge on stage just as they do in imagination. The song that follows (“Telephone Wire”) is heartbreaking as the older Alison tries to alter the script by pressing to connect with her father (“tell me you see me”). He can’t hear her, but as she finishes telling his story, she manages to see him, and to find a space, a moment of perfect balance, in which she feels loved.
There is a moment in “Ring of Keys” when the young Alison sings, “Can you hear my heart saying ‘Hi’?” There is no way to see Fun Home and not hear her heart; it reverberates through the theater. And I realize this too — as time passes, I hope that my boys will hear my heart in their memory of our day together.
Former APDA debater Mara Dolan and I talked on the radio yesterday about Ted Cruz’s campaign for President —