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.

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