Friday, October 2, 2020

Reading the Tea Leaves

I’m old enough to remember the Soviet Union.

Fewer and fewer people are these days. The average college freshman this year was born a decade after it collapsed, and there are people running multinational corporations and coaching professional sports teams who didn’t draw breath until after Boris Yeltsin became President of a non-Communist Russia. It was a major event. The Cold War was supposedly over and Americans assumed we’d won it, even if we no longer think either of those things is true anymore.

But I grew up with the Cold War in full swing, with grainy grey photographs of grainy grey old men in heavy coats and fedoras standing grimly on platforms in Red Square, watching military hardware parade by. It was kind of the background noise of politics when I was a kid and even as far along as my college days in the mid-1980s. I don’t know if they even had color in the Soviet Union. They must have – they kept talking about “Red” this and “Red” that, after all – but you couldn’t tell it from the news programs.

One of the biggest differences between Them and Us at the time was the relative freedom of information. Oh, the US had its classified things and not all of them had anything to do with national security, but as a culture we definitely err on the side of oversharing when it comes to, say, health information. Honestly, I could have lived a full and happy life without ever knowing some of the things that I learned about presidential bodily functions during my lifetime. But hey. We’re Americans. We’ll tell you all sorts of things, even while you’re trying to eat. We’re good that way.

The Soviets, on the other hand, said nothing at all about anything. There was a whole category of persons in American intelligence called “Kremlin Watchers” whose only task was to analyze tiny little variations in protocols for clues as to what was going on with them. Reading the tea leaves, essentially. It’s not like there was any actual information being offered. Even as Leonid Brezhnev was being lowered into the ground in the early 1980s there were columns in Pravda insisting he had a cold and would be back in on the platform with his heavy coat and fedora in time for the next parade. They were still saying that about Brezhnev when his successor Yuri Andropov was being buried, as if Brezhnev would magically spring back to life once Andropov was finished using the state fedora.

Today we woke up to the news story that karma is a bitch der Sturmtrumper was diagnosed with COVID19.

On the one hand, you don’t wish that sort of thing on anyone, even an asshole like him. The last thing this country needs is to turn that corrupt racist authoritarian into a martyr.

On the other hand, well, couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. He has refused to take this seriously. He actively destroyed any chance the United States had of responding to this pandemic in any responsible way. He has politicized the CDC and undermined the states in their attempts to deal with this as adults, and he has consistently refused to wear masks or take any action to prevent its spread, and now his supporters are set in their opposition to doing anything sensible for their own health or the health of anyone else. He prioritized his re-election campaign over American lives. There are over 200,000 Americans dead from this disease – 20% of the world’s fatalities, which is impressive for a nation with 4% of the world’s population and the world’s most expensive health care system – and a significant percentage of those dead Americans would still be alive if someone, anyone, else had been president. His catastrophic failure as a leader will be his legacy.

So it’s a quandary.

The key thing, is, however, that nobody really knows how seriously to take these reports of his illness.

He’s such a compulsive liar that if he told you the sun was shining you’d be well advised to pack your umbrella. Half the internet spent the day arguing over whether to believe his diagnosis or not.

He’s also such a narcissistic, power-mad Fascist that the other half of the internet spent the day arguing over how he planned to weaponize this situation to maintain his grip on power regardless of elections.

But nobody knows.

We’re reduced to making guesses based on clues. He’s not in the hospital. Now he is in the hospital. He’s got a mild case. He’s asymptomatic. He’s got a moderate case. He walked into the hospital under his own power. He hasn’t tweeted in 20 hours.

We’re all “White House Watchers” now, reduced to reading the tea leaves. All he needs is a heavy coat and a fedora and he’ll have the whole totalitarian dictator thing pretty much down.

This isn’t the way the United States is supposed to operate. Right now I should be turning off the television to get away from the avalanche of minutia about his physical condition – something I honestly don’t want to know much about beyond top-level information – but no. Not under this regime.

The US has become a grey grainy place under Trump.


LucyInDisguise said...

“But nobody knows.”

True. However, everything you’ve written above, in fact everything you’ve written on this subject so far, has failed to foretell how this country could transition from “Them and Us” fo “We become Them”.

When I first heard that he’d been diagnosed, my first reaction was: ‘Karma”

But this is a vicious little bug and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Second reaction: since he has already contracted it, hope it’s mild and recovers quickly. Not because of any noble thought on my part, but because no other outcome is acceptable.

If there could possibly be anything worse, if there is anyone that could take this country to an even darker place than where we are now, if there is an actual real live nightmare scenario here, it lies in that white-haired bastard currently standing it the traitor’s shadow.

Drumpf and the rethuglican party need to suffer a resounding, humiliating defeat in the election that lies ahead. Their whole ideology needs to be rejected by the citizens of this country so forcefully that is will be a very long time until anyone tries it again. And yet, the scariest thing I’ve heard in the last 24 hours is:

“Well, if he should die, then it is only fair that Pence be given a chance to make things right.”

[shudders uncontrollably]


David said...

Absolutely. My worst case scenario is that der Sturmtrumper dies of this, turning that corrupt Fascist white supremacist into a martyr.

On the one hand, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy and I won't lose any sleep over it. It is indeed karma. The man has deliberately flouted every precaution recommended by reality-based scientists and his entire political platform can be summed up as "deliberate cruelty." If it were Biden who had been diagnosed you can bet he'd be out there mocking him just as he mocked Hilary's pneumonia.

On the other hand, him dying of this would completely screw up an already fucked up election and give right-wingers an excuse not to abandon the stinking moral cesspool that is the modern GOP.

The only way the American republic survives the next four years is if the GOP is destroyed and replaced with a grown-up, responsible conservative party - one that respects the rule of law, human decency, and the Constitution. We haven't had a conservative party like that for decades now. And the only way that begins to happen is if they go down and go down hard in November.

I don't think Pence would win if he were the candidate, to be honest - he's got the charisma of a dishrag and the survival rate of cults without their founders is pretty low (future historians, if we survive long enough to have them, will probably throw around the name Huey Long a great deal when discussing Trump) - but he'd do well enough to muddy the waters of what I am hoping for this country's sake is a catastrophic and crushing defeat for the GOP this year.

It may not happen even if Trump survives - 43% of the US thinks Trump is a deity (versus 57% who wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire; there are no undecideds in America) and that might be enough to keep the GOP around. But I hope not.

I want Trump to live a long, long time.

I want him to spend the next thirty years of his life broke, disgraced, convicted in lawful and fair trials, and screaming in impotent rage at the four walls of his cell, forgotten and reviled by a penitent nation.

That won't happen if he dies now.

I wish him all good health.

LucyInDisguise said...

Watched The traitor's Triumphant Return to the Howse of COVID last night.

YE Gods! That was the most bizarre thing I think I've ever seen. And I've seen some pretty bizarre shit, Maynard. (Recently, too!) I've seen fish on a riverbank that weren't working that hard to breathe. "Spooky" doesn't even get us in the correct universe, let alone a recognizable ballpark.

Thor help us all.

For the record: my wife just dropped off our family's correctly completed ballots at the County Clerk's Office. Less than 20 minutes to complete*. Job One Done!


* Doesn't take long when half the offices up for election in this county are depublicans running unopposed. No, they didn't. (In the unlikely event that that 'No" wasn't clear: "Get any votes from our household." should clear that right up ...)

David said...

That was a truly Mussolini-esque moment, one that should put to rest any lingering questions of whether der Sturmtrumper has any tenuous hold on reality whatsoever. Bizarre doesn't even begin to cover it.

Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick, they're going to have to fumigate the White House with lab-grade alcohol when he finally leaves just to make it safe for human habitation.

We have our absentee ballots - we just have to fill them out and turn them in, which will happen by Friday. And then, we wait.