Patterico's Pontifications


SNL Takes On Fire And Fury

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:05 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Last night’s SNL cold open was pretty funny as it centered on Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury and Steve Bannon’s ejection from Trumpland:

When the veracity of the book is questioned by “Mika” and “Joe,” Armisen’s “Wolff” responds:

You read it, right? And you liked it? You had fun? What’s the problem. You got the gist, so shut up. Even the stuff that’s not true was true.

Who knows how much of the book is fact and how much is fiction, but some skepticism seems to be in order:

Twenty years ago, the now-defunct Brill’s Content took a hard look at Wolff’s book Burn Rate, a memoir of his time as a dot-com hustler, and charged that one of his characters was actually a composite of three people. Likewise, seven of Wolff’s main characters and six others who were either portrayed in or familiar with events in his book claimed he “invented or changed quotes,” and none remembered him taking notes on or taping their discussions…

Personally, I’ve enjoyed reading Wolff over the years. You can call him many things (see the preceding paragraph), but never dull. I do not know Wolff nor can I vouch for his credibility. Though I should add that a mutual acquaintance of ours, after spotting an anecdote he’d casually tossed off to Wolff turn up in Fire and Fury, reported this to me of Wolff’s seemingly slack methodology: “[He got it] from me, which I got from a woman on the beach in Florida, who heard it in a carpool line. Literally. I had no idea he was including it. That guy is a serious bullshit artist. Wow.”

With this, though, it’s good to bear in mind that Trump continually provides plenty of fodder for his critics as he continues to shoot himself in the foot on a regular basis, whether through outrageous lies, petty, self-serving attacks which end up foolishly distracting the public from any positive accomplishments, or his latest comments made about “shitholes”. And although you may defend him and attack his critics with silly accusations of TDS, I say let the adult, who holds the highest office in the land assume responsibility for the words that come out of his own undisciplined mouth. Because in this latest kerfuffle, Trump likely said precisely what he intended to say and has been accused of saying:


(Preemptive strike: It seems ridiculous to have to say this, but attempting to simply reduce this issue to be one of a president using profanity – which Erickson is not doing – is as dumb as trying to make the issue not be about a sitting president announcing his preference for a certain kind of people at the expense of another people. The president’s juvenile take on immigrants, race and class: White people from prosperous nations obviously make the best immigrants because prosperous and white. Poor black and brown people from third-world countries don’t make the best immigrants because poor and not white. Ergo, good citizens come only from rich, white nations, and bad citizens come only from poor, non-white nations. )


[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

The Two Real Problems with Donald Trump’s “Sh*tholes” Comment

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:00 am

The Sunday shows have revived the controversy about President Donald J. Trump’s “sh*tholes” comment. So before we close the book on the comment, I thought it would be worth taking a step back and evaluating what the real problems with the comment were.

First, let’s talk about what the problems aren’t.

The issue is not that the President used the s-word in private. All presidents and most other humans curse in private.

The issue is not that there are indeed countries in the world that can be described as “sh*tholes.” Many people have tried to make this the issue, so that Trump can be defended as fearlessly speaking the truth about what other people won’t say. Look at the physical conditions of this country! Sh*thole! Look at the way that country is run! Sh*thole!

True enough. But not the point. You don’t get to demonstrate that sh*tholes exist, do a victory dance, and dust off your hands — because you have missed the point.

The point is that the fact that a country is a bad place to live does not mean its people are bad people. The fact that a country is a sh*thole does not mean that immigrants from that country will be sh*tty citizens.

Iran is a terrible country. Cuba is an awful country. The American citizens I have met who are immigrants from Iran or Cuba are some of the most solid Americans I know. They are passionate about the ideals of this country in a way that few native-born citizens are. They embody the spirit of American in a deeply significant way. Here’s Ilya Shapiro making a similar point about the USSR:

The rhetorical bomb there overstates the case to draw a parallel to a commonly used phrase, but the point is still clear: immigrants from every country on Earth add value to America, regardless of the country they come from. India is not a particularly clean or prosperous country. But India sends us STEM geniuses all the time. I could go on and on.

And the President’s comment sends a message to American citizens who immigrated from “sh*thole countries” in general, and African countries in particular, that they are not wanted. That is not presidential, and what’s more, it’s not right.

We can set different standards for the type of people we want to allow into our country. We can insist that they bring something to the table, rather than simply coming because they have relatives here. That’s fair. But we shouldn’t smear the entirety of the citizens of any country or set of countries in the process. That’s not “virtue signaling.” It’s simple common sense and decency.

The second problem with Trump’s sh*thole statement is what it reveals about the honesty of the people who attended the meeting. You don’t have to believe every word of what Sanctimonious Dick Durbin said to know that, if Donald Trump referred to any countries as “sh*tholes,” that would be an attention-grabbing moment that people would remember. Yet we see people who have an incentive to maintain a good relationship with Donald Trump coming out and saying that … they just don’t remember whether it was said. Watch this clip, for instance, of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen saying she doesn’t remember Trump saying that precise exact specific phrase:

WALLACE: You were in that meeting in Oval Office. Did the President say that ?

NIELSEN: I don’t recall him saying that exact phrase. I think he has been clear, and I would certainly say undoubtedly, the President will use, will continue to use strong language when it comes to this issue, because he feels very passionate about it.

. . . .

WALLACE: I can understand you either saying they were said or they were not said. It is pretty shocking language, and to say, “I don’t recall” seems implausible. If the President of the United States used the word blankhole, talking about countries in the Oval Office, or didn’t say it, I would know.

NIELSEN: I understand the question. It was an impassioned conversation. I don’t recall that specific phrase being used. That’s all I can say about that.

If it didn’t happen, she would say: “I was there. It didn’t happen. Nothing like that happened.”

She’s either lying, or using a Clintonian parsing of “that specific phrase” to try to mislead the citizens of the country she serves. And the same goes for Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who also used the “We do not recall the President saying these comments specifically” gambit, combining a professed lack of memory with the weaselly “specifically” caveat.

Let’s state the problem starkly: These people are not being honest.

Look: I understand why they are lying or dissembling. If they admit the truth of what Trump said, Trump will fly into a rage. Nielsen would lose her job if she told the truth. Cotton and Perdue would find themselves personae non grata with Trump, who might run to Twitter and set his base against these Senators. The easy thing to do is to sacrifice what seems to them like just a small bit of their integrity — to find a way to wriggle out of the unpleasant situation without upsetting Dear Leader.

I can already hear Trump supporters telling me to get over it; politicians and political appointees lie, all the time. And that is absolutely true. Shall we abandon all political commentary then? Shall we cease pointing out lies, and rationalize our failure by arguing that everybody lies, so why bother noting it when it happens?

As you ponder that question, understand that the Trump supporter’s stance that he doesn’t care about lies is itself a lie. Tomorrow — hell, probably later today! — that very same Trump supporter will be whining about the lies allegedly told by one of Trump’s opponents, whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Michael Wolff or somebody in the #FAKENEWSMEDIA. Just hours later, lies will be important again. So spare me your “everybody lies” argument, because it is based on a political stance (“I’m too worldly to care about politicians’ lies!”) that is itself dishonest. All this argument is, is a partisan hack’s way of saying “don’t apply to me and to the politicians I like the same standards that I apply to others.” Sorry, guy, not happening.

These, to me, are the problems with Trump’s sh*tholes comment. I suppose there could be others. Happy Sunday!

UPDATE: Cotton and Perdue are now denying the comment more forcefully:

A Republican senator who attended a Thursday immigration meeting at the White House forcefully denied on Sunday that President Trump had used the phrase “shithole countries” in describing Haiti and African nations, saying a Democratic senator’s account of the session was “a gross misrepresentation.”

Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia, said on ABC’s “This Week” that Mr. Trump “did not use that word,” and accused Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, of distorting what the president had said at the meeting, which included more than a half-dozen lawmakers.

Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, joined Mr. Perdue later in the morning in questioning Mr. Durbin.

“I didn’t hear that word either,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.”

I’d say it’s time to ask Lindsey Graham directly. I have not seen the segments, so I don’t know if the Senators were asked why their initial statement was so mealy-mouthed.

UPDATE x2: Rich Lowry says his sources tell him the word Trump said was “sh*thouse” and not “sh*thole.” Now run back to Perdue, Cotton, and Nielsen, and ask them if he said that. If they totally dodge the question, you’ll know why they got so cute about denying remembering that exact precise phrase. If Lowry is right, their comments are not honesty, but Clintonian nonsense. Non-partisans have been able to tell they were hiding something.

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 79

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 7:00 am

It is the second Sunday after the Epiphany. The title of today’s cantata is “Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild” (God the Lord is sun and shield).

Today’s Gospel reading is John 1:43-51:

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

The text of today’s cantata is available here. The first movement is translated as follows:

God the Lord is sun and shield. The Lord gives grace and honor, He will allow no good to be lacking from the righteous.

The promise of good things happening for the righteous is reminiscent of Jesus’s words from the Gospel reading about Nathanael: “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” He promises Nathanael, in whom there is no deceit, that he will see great things, including the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

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