I may need to buy this book. It’s proving to be an even richer vein of blog content than I imagined.
There are establishmentarians, there are big-government establishmentarians, and then there are people who read Orwell and see a parable about insufficient trust in authority:
— JamesHeartfield (@JamesHeartfield) September 12, 2017
A lefty friend distills that argument, such as it is, to its essence:
Literary analysis pic.twitter.com/NoVYTisgpF
— Sigh Hersh (@Ugarles) September 13, 2017
That passage doesn’t even describe Trump’s M.O. correctly. He does prize dominance and he’s authoritarian by instinct but he’s retreated from authoritarian options so far as president. When the courts blocked his travel ban, he didn’t ignore the rulings and implement the policy anyway. He challenged the rulings in court. When James Mattis told him that waterboarding was counterproductive, he didn’t shrug him off and reinstate the practice to prove he’s a tough guy. He deferred to his SecDef and kept the ban in place. For all his rhetorical slobbering over Putin and Russia’s authoritarian regime, he reportedly rejected Putin’s offer of a reset. Relations between the U.S. and Moscow are poorer now than they were when he took office. He hasn’t even tried to muscle his own party on policy. One key reason why health-care reform failed and why tax reform looks dicey is because Trump has largely let the congressional GOP try to work those issues out on their own. His splashiest executive action so far may have been last week’s decision to cancel DACA and hand immigration back to Congress, undoing an authoritarian act by Obama of which the left approved.
Trump’s not a torturer using electric shocks to get people to bend to his reality. He’s a gaslighter. This passage from Katy Tur’s new book, which also name-checks Orwell, is a much better description of how he operates:
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) September 13, 2017
Sometimes the timeframe is compressed and you’ll find yourself questioning your memory of what happened just a few days before. His Charlottesville comments about alt-righters, veering from hints of equivocation to forceful condemnation and back again, were one example. Another is his position on legalizing DREAMers: Is he for it, against it, resolved to end DACA if Congress doesn’t act, willing to extend DACA? It was the dominant policy issue last week, driven by a presidential decision, yet the president’s stance somehow still isn’t clear. The firehose of controversial soundbites, West Wing intrigue, surprise policy shifts, and missteps of various sorts is so powerful that it’s legitimately difficult to keep track of what’s going on even when you’re paying attention to the news all day and everything is preserved in real time on the Internet. Someone tweeted a few days ago that it had been exactly four months since Trump had fired James Comey and I thought that couldn’t possibly be. It felt like years. But presidential news happens so quickly and relentlessly, replete with disorienting shifts, that time itself seems to expand. A “normal” presidential administration would be expected to produce X amount of news in eight months; because Trump produces X2, and because actual and imagined fake news is mixed up in that, you end up feeling like eight months have passed long before they actually have.
Anyway. People are laughing at Hillary’s mangling of Orwell this morning on social media but I haven’t seen anyone recall this viral-video sensation among Obama fans from before the 2008 primaries. Of course Big Sister would think the moral of “1984” is “trust authority.”