When President Trump’s Older Sister Was Two Years Old, The Soviets Bombed Helsinki

Does President Trump know that Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union during his sister’s lifetime? Or that Finland was part of the Russian Empire during his father and mother’s lifetime? History sometimes seems to have begun fresh every morning for the president of the United States.  If only someone suspicious of the Russians and Chinese and North Koreans–John Bolton comes to mind–were keeping an eye on this, and giving the president good advice, and not buying into the talking points of Putin and Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping.  If only two or three Republicans in the US Senate cared enough about “country over party” to say out loud that the Russians and the North Koreans and the Chinese might not actually follow up on their very beautiful handshakes with our stable genius president.  If only…

 

Update: and now we learn that US Secretary of State Pompeo delivered a Trump-signed CD of Elton John’s Rocket Man to Kim Jong Un the other day.  There is no bottom.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Finnish_wars

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_War

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Are We “Shining In The Space Of Appearances” Yet?

Hannah Arendt said (at a 1972 Toronto conference, published in Thinking Without a Banister, p. 451) that “glory” in the political realm is “shining in the space of appearances.”  W.H. Auden asked (and then answered) “does God ever judge us by appearances? I suspect that he does” (epigraph to chapter 1 of Arendt’s posthumous book, The Life of the Mind).  We in the US have a potentate named Donald Trump who is so consumed by how he appears and is perceived and judged that he seems to have weakened our country by misjudging, or not taking the trouble to study, or not being capable of judging, his counterparts on the world stage–and not only Kim Jong Un or Xi Jinping.  The root of this misjudgment, I suppose, is that Trump is, perhaps seemingly paradoxically, not Machiavellian enough.  As Arendt remarked in Toronto, Machiavelli said, “‘I love my country, Florence, more than I love my eternal salvation.’  That doesn’t mean that he didn’t believe in an afterlife.  But it means that the world as such was of greater interest to him than himself.”  She elaborated: “The moment I act politically I’m not concerned with me, but with the world….whether the criterion is glory–shining in the space of appearances–or whether the criterion is justice…the decisive thing is whether your own motivation is clear: for the world or for yourself.”  Donald Trump actually understands this quite well, in that he pays lip service to the noble motivation of acting on behalf of the world instead of just himself.  But there is quite a lot of reason to doubt that his stated aspirations are stronger than his lifelong habits of venality, cupidity, mendacity, and thuggishness.  He did acknowledge in the campaign that becoming president was his only shot at getting into heaven.  Sadly he seems to forget about that–or else he is even more of a miserable tyrant than I have so far imagined.

P.S. In other breaking news from the works of Hannah Arendt:

“normal men do not know that everything is possible” (quoting David Rousset)

“nothing is more characteristic of the totalitarian movements in general and of the quality of fame of their leaders in particular than the startling swiftness with which they are forgotten and the startling ease with which they can be replaced” (Origins, p. 305)

“only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself; the masses have to be won by propaganda” (Origins, 341)

“the delusion of an already existing Jewish world domination formed the basis for the illusion of future German world domination” (Origins, p. 360)

“it is in the moment of defeat that the inherent weakness of totalitarian propaganda becomes visible….the moment the movement, that is, the fictitious world which sheltered them, is destroyed, the masses revert to their old status as isolated individuals who either happily accept a new function in a changed world or sink back into their old desperate superfluousness…[the former members] will quietly give up the movement as a bad bet and look around for another promising fiction or wait until the former fiction regains enough strength to establish another mass movement” (Origins, 363)

“a mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became phenomenon of masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true….mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.  The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness” (Origins, p. 382)

“we are not in the nursery! Real political action arises as a group act…whatever you do on your own, you do not as an actor but as an anarchist” (Banister, p. 450)

 

 

 

Provocative? Moi?

Just who does North Korea think they are?  They think that they can accuse the US of “provocation”?  Just because of some military drills?  Kim the Excellent is going to find himself becoming Little Rocket Man again in no time flat.  Doesn’t he know that only people like Jared Kushner have the right to define who is “provocative”?  That only Donald J. Trump has the extraterritorial privilege to say who can laugh, and when, and how loudly?  Trump is not going to apologize to Senator John McCain just because a staffer called McCain a dead man walking, but is he going to kowtow to Mr. Kim?  Trump seems to be powerfully attracted to the notion that he too could get a Nobel Peace Prize, so I wouldn’t want to predict the future at all, except to say Kim is definitely not crazy and his PR team is not leaking.

P.S. NY Times headline: “North Korea Postpones Talks With South Korea; Decision Is Surprise.”  Not really, unless the Times thought that everything was going to go smoothly between Trump and Kim.  They are maneuvering to see who can define the other as unstable and themselves as stable and serious and not “provocative” or “defiant.”

Will Kim Jong Un Succeed In Legitimizing The President?

“Why would the US president ever want to legitimize a brutal dictator” is, in all seriousness, no longer the question on the table.  Maybe W was a bonehead to say he had “looked into Putin’s eyes” and gotten a sense of his soul.  Maybe Obama should have been less eager to press “reset” with Russia, and more willing to walk away from the Iran deal.  And Trump is unlikely to know as much as he thinks he does about Kim Jong Un and North Korea.  Do we even have an ambassador to South Korea in place?  Has Trump learned anything at all about Korea that he wasn’t spoonfed by Xi Jinping when they met in Beijing last year?

Trump’s rush to announce a meeting with Kim may yet be countermanded or undermined or sabotaged by the “Deep State.”  And I don’t blame the Deep Staters.  They are concerned, perhaps beside themselves, for good reason.  At this point, sad and almost unthinkable to say, Trump looks more desperate to meet with Kim than Kim is to meet with Trump.  Is it too much to ask an American president to stop trying to prove that he is bigger and better than all other presidents?

Choose Your Babyface

Babyface Kim seems to have long-term strategic goals.  Babyface Trump, well, “long-term” isn’t a word I would associate with him but I hope I’m wrong about that.  In fairness to Babyface #2, he did inherit a problem.  North Korea has been working to become a nuclear-armed state since the 1950s, and tested a nuclear weapon over ten years ago (2006).  Babyface #2 is acting as if Babyface Kim is the one with more to lose.  Does Babyface #1 recognize this as bluster and bluff?  When you have to hope that the leader of North Korea has a better sense of humor than the American president does and a clearer sense of the real incentives in the “game” being played than Trump does, it’s not a happy day.

Newt Gingrich, bless his heart, defended Mitch McConnell vis-a-vis Trump by observing that the president is a player on the field, who ought to be playing with the Republican team, not acting as if he is the owner in a skybox.  Trump will do his very best to stay in the skybox and avoid blame for anything and everything that happens on the field.  Not a great approach if you actually wish to achieve political and domestic policy goals, even misguided and harsh ones.  I think it’s an even worse strategy to climb down out of the “leader of the free world” foreign affairs skybox and recklessly intensifying a mudwrestling match with a truly world-class piglet.  He seems likely to enjoy it more than we will.  Hope I am wrong about that, and that Babyface #2 is making the best of a very tricky situation.

P.S. Maybe a North Korean missile will misfire, come down in Manchurian countryside, and China will decide to put an end to Kim’s regime?

 

https://imgur.com/lIuLT0z

Babyface Trump, Meet Babyface Kim

Some people still see a true babyface wrestler when they see President Donald Trump on TV.  Many others see a heel. But let’s assume for the moment that Trump is still a good guy, that is a “babyface.”  How will he get along with Kim Jong-Un, a true babyface.  Trump would like a script in which after some brief preliminary hype and posturing, somebody else (Xi Jinping, for example) does the hard work of negotiating with the young North Korean leader.  Then Babyface Trump gets all the glory, with little to no risk.  But Babyface Trump is not in a great position to leverage the Trump brand in this game the way he did in his previous lives in real estate, reality TV, and pro wrestling.  The kayfabe, the cheap heat, the dusty finish–are we Americans confident that Trump’s undeniable talents as BS artist and ratings machine are going to keep us safe from a North Korean missile?  In fairness, the past several presidents, from both political parties, failed to disarm North Korea.  Maybe Trump will succeed where others have failed.  But he is the first president I have seen actively provoke and insult the North Korean leader, as if it’s all a sporting match in which the outcome has been rigged in Trump’s favor.  I am concerned that Kim Jong-un has even more of a devil-may-care “sucks to be you” attitude than Chris Christie, and that we the people are in a more precarious position because Trump does not seem to realize that his life skills may not have prepared him very well for North Korea.

Out-Crazying Kim Jong-Un–What Could Go Wrong?

Trump’s apparent use of “madman theory” logic to get his way (whatever that is on any given day) on healthcare probably won’t intimidate Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer.  Will Trump-as-madman succeed any better on the Korean peninsula?  Are we the people ready for an American president who can actually out-crazy Kim Jong-un?  We elected him.  We knew that no-drama-Obama was getting old.  We wanted a little excitement.  How much excitement?  That’s what China is wondering!  Their foreign minister just put our president on the same level as Kim by urging “all parties” to stop “provoking” each other. Should we blush with embarrassment?  Trump, who says he comprehends very well, listened to Xi Jinping explain thousands of years of Korean history in ten minutes (or less, believe me) and now grasps very very well how to put America first by using the craziest words and threatening to use the biggest bombs.  And why worry that Kim might be even more unpredictable than our president?  North Korea has an excellent system of checks and balances, many people say.  Their National Security Council is far more fully staffed than ours, so I hear.  Their family dynasty, as Mr. Xi no doubt explained to his U.S. counterpart, is much more experienced than ours.  So they will surely do the right thing.  Oh right, we still have to worry about Trump–oops.

Why Am I Feeling So Threadbare and Theoretical?

Because the UK’s Telegraph has spoken: “Everyone Can Celebrate a Child Born to Be King.” Perhaps they are right to say that the “widespread rejoicing…deserves to be taken seriously for what it is…. We all know very well what a prince is. And yet it has to be spelt out.” Okeley Dokely, hit me with your best shot. “The arguments of republicans…are threadbare and theoretical, whereas the benefits of the monarchy have been tried and tested.” Ouch–how in the world have we gotten through the last two hundred thirty-seven years? What about Ben Franklin? Mr. “a republic, if you can keep it,” himself–what would he do to stifle these little Britons? Quite the technophile, our Ben; would he send in the drones against these monarchists?

Then again Kim Jong-Un leads a democratic people’s republic.