Urgent: The sun rose today

Image from Getty Images via New York magazine.

Per the Constitution by way of the 20th Amendment, at noon today Donald J. Trump took the oath of office and became the 45th president of the United States of America.

The earth did not open up to reveal hellfire and sulfurous caverns, nor did the clouds part for heavenly trumpets.

The temperature in Washington was 45 degrees Fahrenheit. It was cloudy with a band of rain moving through town. A friend tells me it’s been raining on and off with gray skies. It was a winter’s day.

Anyone who’s read this blog (both of you) know that I’m not a fan of the new president. I worry about his unpredictability and impulsiveness. I cringe at his bullying need for dominance. I disagree with many of the positions he’s espoused and with the stands of many of his cabinet appointees.

I find myself seeking comfort in one of the watchwords of the Jewish people — not the Shema, but a song from the great bard Mel Brooks, “Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst.”

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Sunday read: Thanks, Obama

Photo by Pete Souza/The White House.

In 19 days, Barack Obama will not be president anymore. Half the country will greet this news with profound sadness. The other half will greet it with glee.

Eight years after he took office, he remains a sometimes surprisingly polarizing figure. I say “surprisingly” because, despite being a mild-mannered, wickedly humored politician inclined towards the professorial, the conspiracy theories about him floated during his two terms — that he was a Kenyan Muslim Socialist Usurper; that he was going to revoke the Second Amendment and take away everybody’s guns; that he was gay (and his wife was a man) — all of these, on their face, were literally unbelievable. And yet millions of people — including some in Congress (and, yes, the incoming president) — couldn’t merely disagree with his politics or policies; they believed the conspiracy theories, too.

It’s because he’s the Other, of course.

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Sunday read: You’re a clever one, Mr. Trump

Image from Time via today.com.
I hadn’t planned on reading another story about the election. The November 8 result, from my perspective, is depressing enough, and watching the parade of bankers, generals and industrialists make their way to Trump Tower to be anointed the president-elect’s cabinet is enough to make me take some Quietus.

But I started reading Glenn Thrush’s piece in Politico, overdramatically titled “10 Crucial Decisions That Reshaped America” (some editor has been staring at his Creasy too long), and was sucked in. And, frankly, I found it fascinating. It’s my Sunday read.

First of all, I give credit to Thrush for not engaging in the breathy recap we’re sure to get from Mark Halperin and that other guy, his partner, whatsisname. Thrush is generally fair and generally avoids twisting the knife with gossip and anonymous back-stabbing.

Also, he offers some interesting perspectives, particularly on the eventual winner. In private, it seems, Donald Trump was more clever than he seemed in public, even when he was spouting off. In the beginning, at least, he was clear-eyed about his chances and also opportunistic when the crowds started showing up, tweaking his applause lines for maximum effect.

And when it came to whether he should play to the head or the heart, he deliberately aimed lower. Roy Cohn taught him well.

But it wasn’t until the debate season began in late summer of 2015, by which time Bush had already plummeted to single digits in the polls, that Trump really found his voice: brutal, funny, fact-free, baiting and wildly quotable as he turned the well-mannered Bush into a 6-foot-3 human springboard for his own ambitions. And that was where Trump’s political imperative—to position himself as the ultimate outsider alternative in a field crowded with wannabes—fused with something more primal, even ugly, in Trump’s character. He didn’t just want to beat Bush; he wanted to prove his own manhood at Bush’s expense.

Bush is Jeb, of course. And he was more self-aware than I thought, too: After an adviser told him that his chances of winning were about 40 percent, Bush replied, “Oh, I think it’s a lot lower than that.”

How right he was.

Hillary Clinton comes off as Hillary Clinton: smart and on top of every issue … except herself. It’s not that she wasn’t aware of her poor personality as a candidate, it’s that she just couldn’t open herself up enough to put the most damning rumors — about the emails, of course — to rest. (Or at least as much to rest as possible, given her status among a certain percentage of the population.) In Thrush’s telling, she spent too much time listening to her lawyers and not enough to her campaign advisers. Too bad for her. Based on her own leaked emails, someone should give the straight-shooting Neera Tanden a TV gig.

Anyway, it’s well worth a read — devoid of sensationalism and arrogance. We’ll have enough of that when “The Hair Apparent: How I Predicted the Rise of Donald J. Trump” is issued from the bowels of some Washington insider.

You can find Thrush’s story here.

Sunday read: An elitist takes aim

Image from Great Minds on Race.

In recent weeks, the chattering classes have been trying to come to grips with Donald Trump’s election win. Who are these people who voted for him? How could anyone who can walk and chew gum at the same time even consider casting a ballot for “Cheeto Jesus”?

But this is a story that’s as old as America. It’s a story of classes — the educated versus the uneducated, elite versus common man, cosmopolitan versus country bumpkin. In general, the former has laid into the latter.

In a famous essay by H.L. Mencken, the latter was the South.

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Jon Stewart: ‘This is the fight that we wage against ourselves and each other’

Jon Stewart was on “CBS This Morning” with Charlie Rose Thursday, talking about the election and what it revealed.

As always, he proved himself to be as insightful as anybody on the scene — perhaps more so, because he’s nothing if not honest with himself and doesn’t talk in that stentorian, overly dramatic cable-news tone.

Somebody should give this guy a show.

‘There is no longer any pretense that the America social fabric is a single cloth’

A letter to The New York Times by Edward Warren, a former Air Force nuclear weapon launch officer:

To the Editor:

Too many people are looking at this election through the wrong lens. They believe that electing Donald Trump was a decision point. They are wrong. Electing Mr. Trump was the manifestation of a split that already existed in our country.

I have spent the last year building a cabin in northern New Hampshire and have gotten to know my neighbors. Talking to them has made one thing clear to me: The identity of being an American, the “social fabric,” has been slowly tearing for years, if not decades. What makes these friends feel American and what makes my liberal friends feel American are two completely different cloths.

While my Harvard Kennedy School classmates tend to talk about microaggressions and systemic bias, my rural neighbors deal with opioid addiction, unfulfilling jobs and PTSD from a war they fought for a country that seems to be moving on without them.

This country needed a world-class tailor to stitch these red and blue fabrics into a proud American flag, but that wasn’t a skill set that either of our candidates possessed. And without a tailor on the ballot, America chose a candidate who didn’t mind ripping the last threads apart.

There is no longer any pretense that the America social fabric is a single cloth. And while that is a painful discovery, it is the first critical step in the long process of patching together a new American identity. Let’s get started.

May you live in interesting times

Image from Mic.

I don’t even know where to begin.

Donald Trump is now the president of the United States. If his win wasn’t a landslide, it was solid, apparently including Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

I’m still in a state of shock.

When I lived in New York in the late ’80s, Donald Trump was a figure of fun — a caricature of a rich developer. He’d shown some talent in putting together projects and rebuilding Central Park’s Wollman Rink, but in general he was tabloid fodder: a blowhard who lived for the front page of the tabloids and painting his name on buildings, planes and casinos. The real New York builders were quieter and less ostentatious, even in an ostentatious age.

In the almost 30 years since, Trump had barely changed at all. He was nimble, certainly — you have to be to escape the jaws of bankruptcy and still maintain the illusion of incredible  (liquid) wealth — and an amazing marketer. But his essential personality remained all about him. I was genuinely stunned when his supporters said they believed he would fight for the little guy, that he would name the best people to his administration, that he would Make America Great Again.

Hadn’t they read the papers?

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Really, ‘Judge Parker’? ‘Three months’ later? THREE MONTHS LATER?

From ComicsKingdom.com.

Let me get this straight: The world of “Judge Parker” has gone to hell, and suddenly the strip skips three months into the future.

In today’s strip, we find Hank and Neddy sitting in snow-covered Alaska, with a moose haunting their rustic cabin.

Hank has a beard. Neddy is mourning … something. Sophie has apparently disappeared, not died. The moose isn’t talking.

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Sunday read: The election that killed satire

Image from motherjones.com.
Years ago, a creative writing professor told me a story about novelist Robert Coover.

Coover had spent years working on “The Public Burning,” his dark and humorous novel about the Rosenbergs that featured a foul-mouthed Uncle Sam and a conniving Richard Nixon. According to my professor, Coover had started writing the book before Watergate, only to have Nixon far outdo any portrayal of venality Coover could come up with.

I’ve never been able to confirm the story — feel free to correct me, Mr. Coover, and I’m sorry I never finished my senior thesis on you — but certainly by the time the book came out in 1977 there was little about Nixon that Nixon hadn’t already surpassed.

Which brings up this election year. What do you do when real life is more outrageous than any joke you can think of?

The Onion is not laughing, and neither is “The Thick of It” and “Veep” creator Armando Ianucci. They’re the subject of my Sunday reads.

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