Lotta lukewarm takes this morning, including on Scarborough’s show, about how this helps Trump in 2020. Please. We’re on the eve of a presidential summit with North Korea and three days out from the DOJ releasing its internal report on how Emailgate was handled two years ago. We live several news lifetimes each week in the Trump era. The daily celebrity outrage isn’t just a fart in the wind, it’s a fart in a Category Five hurricane.
If the economy tanks (as other celebrities are now hoping it will), there won’t be enough right-wing spite at left-wing invective to rally POTUS to victory. If the economy cruises, no amount of embarrassing presidential tweeting will send him down to defeat. If that’s a simplification, it’s not much of one.
The most offensive thing about De Niro’s spiel wasn’t the profanity but the sheer witlessness of it:
The greatest actor of his generation could have said something important. He could have defended liberal democracy or freedom of speech and expression. He could have stood for Decency. Instead he strengthened Trump’s hand by mirroring his debasement of our culture. Be better . https://t.co/dicDBu8ReX
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) June 11, 2018
Even some Trump antagonists on the left agreed:
“I used to think it was good for people to call Trump out,” Kenneth Lonergan–liberal playwright behind the best revival of a play nominee “Lobby Hero” and Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Manchester By The Sea”–told The Washington Post at one gathering. “I’m just self-defeatist about it. I guess a lot of people like Robert De Niro,” Lonergan said. “But is he really going to change anyone’s mind? It just becomes more fodder for the right.”
Imagine being given an open mic on national television and feeling resolved to use the opportunity to say something political and the best you can do is “f*** Trump.” He could have said anything. He could have gone after POTUS for brawling with Canada, for ICE’s new separation policy for illegal-immigrant children, for the national-anthem demagoguery, for 500 other things. Even if the producers had only invited him to present an award at the last second, all he’d have needed to craft a short, literate statement of grievances is 15 minutes. As it is, he was likely invited weeks or months ago. He knows a thousand writers in Hollywood, any one of whom would have done him a favor by drafting something for him if he didn’t feel up to it. Instead this is what he produced. Writing today in the Post, Karol Markowicz aptly describes celebrity slacktivist virtue-signaling as “all signaling, no virtue.” The only gesture I can think of emptier and less articulate than grunting “f*** Trump” is if De Niro had said “Trump?” and then belched into the mic for 30 seconds like Curtis Armstrong in “Revenge of the Nerds.” Something for next year’s ceremony, perhaps.
The audience ate it up, though, even more than I would have expected. I think it’s because of that gesture he does with the upraised fists. He’s egging them on, encouraging them to applaud if they agree, so they did. It’s a pep rally. That’s why the virtue signaling lacks a statement of virtue: It’s more about team sport than political principle. Beat State!