Friday, May 31, 2019

This morning’s secular sermon

Whether it is in his frenzied tweeting (the grammar of which suggests he could not graduate high school) or “encounters” with the press, like yesterday on the South Lawn of the White House, where he spoke, among other things, to Mueller’s remarks on the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, symptoms of Trump’s narcissistic megalomania are on full and painful display. Trump rhetorically exemplifies the egregiously fallacious use of ad hominem “arguments” (yes, there are non-fallacious ad hominem arguments, as I hope to demonstrate!) which should not surprise, given that he absolutely must personalize everything, being constitutionally unable to view things without even a meager measure of—while lacking even the slightest pretense to—objectivity, impartiality, and thus realism, utterly bereft of any perspective that does not habitually orbit around his desires, wishes, and phantasies, that does not repetitiously and tirelessly refer back to something about him. 

The President routinely regresses in public (one shudders to think what happens in his private life) to childlike temper tantrums, childlike emotional outbursts, to childlike language (in the worst sense). One is reminded, once again, of Jack Goldsmith’s observations in The Atlantic:  “We have never had a president so ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his own party), and even senior officials within his own administration.” Characterized in comparative terms, “Trump is a Frankenstein’s monster of past presidents’ worst attributes: Andrew Jackson’s rage; Millard Fillmore’s bigotry; James Buchanan’s incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt’s self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon’s paranoia, insecurity, and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton’s lack of self-control and reflexive dishonesty.” Yet one feels that even this grim descriptive assessment does not adequately capture all that is wrong with the President’s tenure to date in office. Undoubtedly one reason for that feeling is the feckless and reckless, servile and sycophantic support provided President Trump by Republican members of Congress and his public enthusiasts. Conspicuous by their absence are a disposition to truth, a moral compass, and genuine and consistent concern for the common good, with its corresponding and complementary understanding of what it means to shape our national politics around the meaningful and pressing aims of generalized welfare and well-being, not only for our fellow human beings, but for members of the non-human natural world as well.   


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