Of Trees and Forests

I found more pleasant things to do last night than watch Trump’s teleprompter recital, but I read it this morning. It was what I expected: a mélange of unearned brags and bellicosity, alternately layered with military valorization and mindless jingoism, then sprinkled with a somewhat more refined form of the usual racist, xenophobic appeals.

As I mentioned in comments this morning, I was heartened to see that most mainstream media outlets didn’t buy the “pivot” bullshit this time. Could our Beltway pundits be learning? Maybe, but not fast enough. Even the criticism gives Trump too much goddamned credit.

Here’s an excerpt from local columnist Joe Henderson’s hot take that illustrates this point:

Donald Trump’s missed opportunity in State of the Union

Your opinion of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech probably hinges on whether you like him or not. This isn’t about that. It’s about something much more basic — the chance to change the narrative about his presidency.

He had an opportunity to make a splash about what’s happening with Puerto Rico, and he didn’t take advantage.

After all, did anyone else find it curious that he pledged his love and support for the people of Puerto Rico on the same day NPR reported that FEMA will end hurricane food and water shipments to that American island?


So, about that whole thing the president said to Puerto Rico about how “we love you” and we’ll be there with you, what’s the deal?

You know what would have been a real headline-grabbing moment for the president?

He could have taken that stage to announce, “You know, I saw that today about FEMA and Puerto Rico. That was a bad decision. People are still suffering, and I am hereby issuing a presidential executive order that the aid be immediately restored and continued until the island is back to 100 percent.”

Okay. But seizing that public relations initiative would require Trump to actually give a shit about our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico — to recognize that they deserve better — something his words and actions since the hurricane have proved he does not. To discuss it in terms of a lost public relations opportunity is to ignore the profound, racist malevolence behind the neglect of that island.

It disturbs me greatly that the columnist, a garden-variety centrist-y guy I’ve been reading for many years now, seems to miss that point entirely. Maybe it’s a minor thing, but it strikes me as emblematic of a larger blindness that threatens to keep us in the dark indefinitely.

77 replies
  1. 1

    I think there are certain things one can’t admit in black and white if you want to remain a member of respected media in good standing. Its not that he is sleeping, he is just pretending to be asleep.

  2. 2
    Ryan says:

    On a related note, surely Paul Ryan is a serious policy wonk. It’s not like a man who dreamed of ending the safety net at keggers would fall so low as to facilitate full-on authoritarianism to achieve his dream.

  3. 3
    oatler. says:

    @schrodingers_cat: That’s what I keep saying about Arthur and Barbarossa.

  4. 4
    rikyrah says:

    Trump’s infrastructure ‘plan’ is not what it appears to be
    01/31/18 09:20 AM
    By Steve Benen

    It’s become a running joke for those who cover the White House: in Trump World, every week is “Infrastructure Week.” It tends to get laughs because Donald Trump and his team have repeatedly suggested some kind of ambitious plan is in the works, but they never follow through with anything of value.

    And so it seemed notable that the president brought up the issue in his State of the Union – and included a new price tag:

    “Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment that our country so desperately needs. Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.”

    The dollar figure was apparently jarring to Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who told Politico last night that “$1.5 trillion, I think, kind of sucked the oxygen out of the room for a moment, as no one expected a number that big.” He added, “And the obvious thing is, where are we with debt and deficit and how are we going to be able to pull it together?”

    The answer is, you won’t be able to pull it together – because Trump’s infrastructure “plan” isn’t real in any meaningful sense.

    The HuffPost’s Igor Bobic summarized the issue nicely:

    Trump’s latest plan will seek to leverage $200 billion in direct federal spending into an additional $800 billion in infrastructure investment from states, cities, nonprofits and the private sector. The plan puts a greater onus on state and local officials to find additional revenue to fund the projects, which will likely mean allowing more tolls or usage fees to create revenue streams that lure in private investors. The challenge is especially difficult for communities in rural areas – many of which supported Trump in 2016 – where fewer people are available to help spread the cost of new infrastructure.

    According to a leaked draft of Trump’s infrastructure proposal, 50 percent of the total outlay in federal dollars – $100 billion – will be used to encourage “state, local and private investment in core infrastructure by providing incentives in the form of grants.” Rural projects will receive another 25 percent of the total share of funding – $50 billion – while the remainder will go to existing loan programs and “transformative projects” like high-speed rail.

  5. 5
    LAO says:

    I’m officially dead. Actual GOP train wreck:

    BREAKING: GOP train hit a truck on way to retreat. Sources say driver getting medical attention; members okay. Pic-> pic.twitter.com/99xmsGFEEs— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) January 31, 2018

  6. 6
    jl says:

    My opinion of Trump’s SOTU doesn’t depend on whether I ‘like him’ or not. It depends on the fact that I don’t like non-stop bald face lies, fascist authoritarianism, and vile smears (built on bald face lies) against whole groups of people in the cause of ruthless incitement and demagoguery. And the racism, and jingoism, and the attempts at swindling the vast majority of the population, and his base of support. So, betrayal is another reason I didn’t like it.

    Other than that, a good speech. I didn’t watch it either. I hear he managed to read it all the way through without falling into a fugue state. But I read it and it is 100 percent vile.

  7. 7
    rikyrah says:

    The cupboard is bare: Trump runs out of new ideas
    01/31/18 08:43 AM
    By Steve Benen
    There’s a standard criticism of any State of the Union address: they tend to offer laundry lists of presidential priorities, which every chief executive asks Congress to advance. Some presidents have been more effective than others in presenting these laundry lists, but ultimately, the problem seems largely unavoidable.

    That is, in theory. One of the oddities of Donald Trump’s State of the Union was the absence of a laundry list – because the Republican president doesn’t seem to have much of an agenda. NBC News’ analysis touched on an important detail:

    Save for his vow to keep open the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Trump’s address was devoid of new proposals.

  8. 8
    Raoul says:

    Congratulations, John Cole!

    NEWS — The train carrying GOP lawmakers to the retreat in West Virginia has collided with a dump truck. Initial reports indicate everything is OK.
    10:31am – 31 Jan 2018

    Also, what @LAO said.

  9. 9
    japa21 says:

    I see on John’s tweets that Wray has come out in opposition to the release of the memo because it is inaccurate and “paints a false narrative”. Wray is apparently not the toady Trump thought he might be. Probably won’t change a thing, but despite some misgivings I have about him, he’s not as bad as he could have been.

  10. 10
    jl says:

    @rikyrah: Thanks. That part of the speech is some of the swindling and betrayal that I found objectionable.

    @rikyrah: That was about the only honest part of the speech. They stole the people’s money with their tax scam, are on track to commit human rights crimes with Trump’s DACA scam. Trying to steal public infrastructure is the main agenda item yet to be enacted, but Trump’s scam there is not new.

  11. 11
    JPL says:

    Betty, Trump doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself.

  12. 12
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @LAO: and…. they hit a garbage truck. Metaphorz-a-poppin’!

    @japa21: and John Kelly has assured FoxNews the memo will be released

  13. 13

    @schrodingers_cat: that, and if somebody spends long enough thinking about things in terms of narrative and meta-politics instead of actual policy, they can’t turn it off.

  14. 14
    JPL says:

    @japa21: The problem is that you have to do more to stop Trump. According to sources is not enough.

  15. 15

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: He is the fascist general waiting in the wings. Of all the T minions he looks most like a central casting Nazi.

  16. 16
    Agorabum says:

    “Trump misses opportynity to be someone other than Trump again.”
    Just say he’s bad because he didn’t and won’t do X. Not that hard, media.

  17. 17
    japa21 says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: I have no doubt it will. The real question will be how hard the media hits back at the misleading parts of it. I am sure they will do their journalistic duty just like they always have. IOW, not at all.

  18. 18
    LAO says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: I know that I should not laugh, apparently the driver of the truck was injured — but man, this is ridiculous.

  19. 19
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: John Kelly is a fucking brownshirt.

  20. 20
    JPL says:

    @LAO: I thought it was a joke..

  21. 21
    JPL says:

    @LAO: Trash is over regulated anyway.

  22. 22
    WaterGirl says:

    @japa21: Is it wrong of me to assume that Wray has seen that he doesn’t like the way forcing McCabe out has been playing in the media so he is trying to get on the right side of this?

  23. 23
    tobie says:

    This is of no serious consequence but I did read that Trump’s SOTU got 47.7 million viewers. Obama’s first SOTU in 2009 got 52.4 million viewers. Numbers will likely be updated in the course of the day.

  24. 24
    bystander says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: I like the foreshadowing.

  25. 25
    jl says:

    @LAO: Glad that apparently no one hurt badly. But what are GOPers doing on a commie passenger train? Was it Amtrak? Why weren’t they all in their own internal combustion vehicles rolling coal to the retreat? Must be a RINO retreat.

    Edit: makes it seem like they are all too good for coal powered cars, innit it?

    @JPL: House GOP needs to open an investigation into Deep State Big Trash, and call for arrests. It all worked better when the mafia ran it all.

  26. 26
    Steeplejack says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    But seizing that public relations initiative would require Trump to actually give a shit about our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico [. . .].

    Or to even know that the FEMA aid was being cut off. I don’t think that can be assumed. Hard to see it making the cut on his “one page including pretty pictures” president’s daily brief.

  27. 27
    germy says:

    Those poor souls in the media who have to fact check Trump's State Of The Union this week…

    pray for them.

    — Rod (@rodimusprime) January 28, 2018

  28. 28
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Exactly. Calling out Deadbeat Donald for what he is would get you branded as partisan, shrill, a snowflake, a hater, etc.
    Which apparently is not allowed with conservative douchebags, but is okay if the target is a liberal/progressive.

  29. 29
    japa21 says:

    @WaterGirl: I would not say it was wrong of you to do so. The whole McCabe thing is somewhat confusing. McCabe was becoming a punching bag for the Right and his stepping down early could have been an attempt to remove him from the discussion and make one less distraction. I don’t think the whole story on McCabe and how Wray entered into it will be know for a while. However, this is not the first time Wray has shown signs of a backbone. And there has been no muttering or leaks coming out of the FBI to indicate he is kowtowing to the Great Orange One. I think if he was to much a sycophant, we would have heard something.

  30. 30

    @Major Major Major Major: If dyed in the wool MSMer John Harwood gets it, I don’t see why this Henderson person can’t.

  31. 31

    @schrodingers_cat: who says he’s trying to? (True) introspection barely even occurs to most people.

  32. 32
    jl says:

    @NorthLeft12: I’ll look for a clip of some talking dingbat on a newsie show offer the deep insight that those who hate hate are haters too. So it’s all the same.

    @schrodingers_cat: Because most of them are corporate hacks who view their job as a platform to keep the money rolling in. Nothing else matters. Most of the rest are partisan hacks, like Dickerson.

  33. 33
    GregB says:

    The only more apt metaphor for the Republicans would have been for a the Hindenburg to crash into the Titanic.

  34. 34
    EmbraceYourInnerCrone says:

    Speaking of Puerto Rico and the Hurricane, anybody know how the US Virgin Islands are doing? There were one or two media articles in a few major markets right after Hurricanes then nothing.


  35. 35
    JPL says:

    Benjamin Appelbaum
    Also the driver is not OK. Although fortunately there is on the scene an entire trainload of experts in administering ‘thoughts and prayers.’

  36. 36
    Jay S says:

    @JPL: That’s not true, Donald cares about people. He hates people that are insufficiently “loyal” and needs people that adore him. He doesn’t care much about Puerto Rico and doesn’t think his fan base cares either. He is probably right about that.

  37. 37
    Amir Khalid says:

    I take issue with Benen’s contention that the Trump administration is running out of ideas: to be “running out” of something implies that you started out with a supply of it. It’s been clear from the beginning that, beyond undoing whatever Obama and the Democratic party had done, Trump has never had any ideas re policy or governing.

  38. 38
  39. 39

    @Amir Khalid: I read that Malaysia banned Padmavati/Padmaavat but Pakistan which seems to ban every other Indian movie didn’t.

  40. 40
    Chris says:

    “You know what would have been awesome? If the Czar had said, ‘I heard about what those Cossacks did. That was a bad decision. People suffered because of it, and as Czar, I am issuing an imperial decree that the Cossacks will never do such a thing again.’ But he missed that opportunity to be unifying, and that’s just sad.”

    Too soon?

  41. 41
    efgoldman says:


    Too soon?

    A year ago November wasn’t too soon.

  42. 42
  43. 43
    NotMax says:

    Cannot be repeated too frequently.

    This is not normal. This is not a “new normal.” This is aberrant and perverse.

  44. 44
    Chris says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: John Kelly is a fucking brownshirt.

    To dive much deeper into that Nazi analogy than you probably intended: nah. Kelly isn’t a brownshirt. Kelly is a gentleman of the Wehrmacht. The kind of person who rallied to Hitler, but insisted that that wide-eyed, foul-mouthed, undisciplined, plebeian rabble sometimes called “brownshirts” had to be cut loose, so that the Right People could get on with the business of building a clean-cut, well-mannered, properly pedigreed, respectable fascism.

  45. 45
    Ridnik Chrome says:

    Five Things I Would Rather Do Than Read or Watch Trump’s State of the Union Speech:

    1. Have a prostate exam
    2. Have a root canal
    3. Clean out a litter box
    4. Change a diaper
    5. Watch paint dry

  46. 46
    Matt McIrvin says:

    Saw a Facebook commenter explaining that it’s good FEMA cut off aid to PR because the aid was wrecking their economy.

  47. 47
    Chris says:

    @Jay S:

    He doesn’t care much about Puerto Rico and doesn’t think his fan base cares either. He is probably right about that.

    The noise he was making about how Puerto Ricans are lazy and irresponsible and expect the government to do everything for them was too on-the-nose, and too often repeated, for it not to have been aimed at his audience.

  48. 48
    NotMax says:


    But what are GOPers doing on a commie passenger train? … Why weren’t they all in their own internal combustion vehicles

    Two words: bar car.

  49. 49

    @Chris: I am pretty sure that we can find an analogy of a decorated German general who embraced the man with the brush mustache. I don’t know my WWII history in that depth.

    ETA: I thought of Goering but he was not a general.

  50. 50
    Cacti says:

    It’s almost like some Dem candidate warned presciently “There is no other Donald Trump”.

    Nah, couldn’t have happened.

    Besides, her e-mails.

  51. 51
    jl says:

    @NotMax: Thanks. Obvious. I don’t enjoy booze enough to remember that.

    Josh Marshall’s twitter feed says GOPer Gowdy won’t run again.

    Edit: Gowdy could go into Westerns. GOPer Gowdy, riding to the rescue has a ring to it. Maybe he figures he has done his duty to party above all else, enough to deserve sufficient wingnut welfare for duration, and he calculated risk of ruinous scandal or indictment getting too high to stay to do more of Trump’s and House GOP cheap flunky dirty work.

  52. 52
    Chris says:


    I was about to post “Goering,” then refreshed the page and saw your ETA. I didn’t even remember that he wasn’t a general.

    As I understand it, there’s not too many generals that stood out in their embrace: most of the senior officer corps just accepted Hitler, albeit in a NeverTrumpist kind of way of “well, I’m still not crazy about him – he’s so crude! But everybody else is worse.” Guys like Canaris who actually worked against him were the exception, not the rule. Though that started to change a little as the end of the war drew nearer and people started worrying about their future.

  53. 53
    Cacti says:

    OT but holy shitballs, Trey Gowdy is retiring.

  54. 54
    Amir Khalid says:

    The Malaysian Film Censorship Board (LPFM) is capricious and mystifying in its ways. It banned Schindler’s List in the 1990s for openly anti-Semitic reasons that it listed in a letter to the film’s distributor, drawing international condemnation when the distributor publicised the letter. It tried to ban the live-action Beauty And The Beast last year. I have argued in print that such decisions serve the Malaysian public badly, but LPFM has an ingrained belief that upholding Malaysian values includes affirming bigoted Malaysian attitudes.

  55. 55
    WaterGirl says:

    @japa21: Yeah, I bet we get 25% of the story, at best.

    OT, my best friend grew up in Appleton. It seemed like a nice place to me.

  56. 56
    LAO says:

    @Cacti: I know!

    #BREAKING: Gowdy announces retirement from Congress https://t.co/QIWEB9kxLX pic.twitter.com/DUpauLQfPl— The Hill (@thehill) January 31, 2018

  57. 57
    jl says:

    @Amir Khalid: ” an ingrained belief that upholding Malaysian values includes affirming bigoted Malaysian attitudes. ”

    Seems to be a common characteristic of censorship boards all around the world.

  58. 58
    japa21 says:

    @WaterGirl: It was. I have not been back there for a couple decades (at least) but I will always have fond memories. But then again, as with most things, memories don’t necessarily match reality.

  59. 59

    @Amir Khalid: Indian Censor Board is pretty much like that too. They don’t outright ban many things but suggest (more like compel) cuts etc.
    Possibly they banned it because Khilji is shown as a kind of a brute. Well, IRL he repelled the Mongol invasions and pushed the boundaries of the Delhi Sultanate deep into peninsular India, so I am sure he was not all that cuddly.
    His court poet Amir Khusro, said of him that the jewels oin his crown were the crystallized tears of his enemies.

  60. 60
    Starfish says:

    There is a lot of “Why are you defending MS-13” when this president has lost the trust of most immigrants because he is painting all immigrants as dangerous. Everyone who knows nothing about immigration is now an immigration expert. They approve of calling the government break-up of other people’s families “chain migration.” Chain migration was not even in the lexicon a few months ago.

  61. 61
    JPL says:

    @japa21: Now that the FBI has released a statement asking the memo not be released, that is big.

  62. 62
    Ruckus says:

    @Ridnik Chrome:
    All at the same time.
    Would be less painful.

  63. 63
    Amir Khalid says:

    The depiction of Alauddin Khilji is indeed the reason given, per this story in my old newwpaper.

  64. 64

    @Amir Khalid: The Hindu Rajput characters are vanilla and boring, Ranveer Singh’s Khilji is by far the most interesting character according to many who have seen the movie. BTW Om Puri played Khilji differently in the TV show based Nehru’s Discovery of India, as a wily schemer rather than the wild eyed despot of Padmavaat.

  65. 65
    geg6 says:


    Jodl. That’s your guy.


    Wrote a paper about him in an undergrad “Totalitarianism and Nazi Germany” class. What an arrogant creep.

  66. 66

    @Amir Khalid:IRL Khilji had two Hindu wives, he imprisoned his first wife who was also his cousin and the daughter of the Sultan he succeeded ( by murdering him), he in turn was assassinated by Malik Kafir, the slave general (they have hinted a relationship between the two in the movie) who conducted his Deccan campaigns. Padmavaat is a poem written by a Sufi poet two centuries later. Khilji persecuted the Shia, and mostly had a live and let live attitude towards his Hindu subjects (as long as they paid him tribute). I am not sure but I think Jayasi was Shia.

    So the real history is complicated.

    ETA: Rajput histriography on the other always involves battles where they lose badly, their reputation as brave seems ill deserved IMHO. Bravery without smarts==stupid.

  67. 67
    Elizabelle says:

    Hello jackals. Checking in.

    The universe is trolling us now. Day after the SOTU, the GOP congresscritters’ train runs into a garbage truck.

    Sadly, a fatality on the truck. Very sad. Clearly was not where it was supposed to be, unless a problem with the signals.

    Anyway, you cannot make this shit up.

    ETA: I know you discussed this a little upthread. Have not caught up with you yet.

  68. 68
  69. 69
    Jack the Second says:

    @Elizabelle: If it was a regular truck route and an irregular (specially chartered) train, that probably goes a certain distance to explaining it. You cross the tracks at the same time each day and there’s never a train there and you stop expecting it. :-/

  70. 70
    tybee says:

    @Raoul: would have been better had that been a garbage truck

  71. 71
    Lapassionara says:

    @tobie: I don’t know how they get those figures, but he did get some 62 million votes, so some of his voters must have turned him out. I read those that watched were for the most part positive.

  72. 72
    Elizabelle says:

    @Jack the Second: Chartered train. Unusual schedule. Yup.

    I was on a train in Spain that hit someone (this past summer). It was a tragedy too, and a long, long wait for the coroner.

  73. 73
    catclub says:


    Glad that apparently no one hurt badly.

    except for the dead driver.

  74. 74
    WaterGirl says:

    @catclub: What is it they say on the cop shows when the person who died was a prostitute or gang member or drug dealer? NHI – no humans involved.

    Seems that term would be fairly applicable to the republicans these days, those I am at least a decent enough person to know that even having thought that is terrible.

  75. 75
    gratuitous says:

    Perhaps you could drop Mr. Henderson a line? Start off with how long you’ve been reading him, you don’t always agree with him, but you are baffled by the unspoken assumptions that accompany Henderson’s hypothetical Trump who would order FEMA to get cracking on Puerto Rico instead of cutting and running. That is, does Henderson have any basis to support his hypothetical Trump, or was he just filling out his column word count? Because Henderson might just have easily postulated a hypothetical Trump ducking down behind the podium, emerging with a red cape, and launching himself skyward through the Capitol Dome to go to Puerto Rico personally and set things right.

  76. 76
    J R in WV says:


    Oh, it so WAS a garbage truck… If it was a dump truck, it was going to dump garbage at the dump. The train spread the garbage and trash all over the Virginia hillside.

  77. 77
    WaterGirl says:

    @J R in WV: Thank you for saying that! I have never seen a dump truck that wasn’t a garbage truck.

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