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CSotD: Clean-up time

Tom Toles leads off today with the central issue our country is facing: Donald Trump and his minions are promoting a cult of personality.

For those who only know the term through rock music, “Cult of Personality” emerged as a political term in 1956, when Nikita Khruschev took power in the USSR and began attempting to diminish the personal imagery of Joseph Stalin that had built up around the place.

His secret speech to a Communist Party Congress was leaked and caused widespread consternation, including this, from Wikipedia:

The speech was a major cause of the Sino-Soviet split in which China (under Chairman Mao Zedong) and Albania (under First Secretary Enver Hoxha) condemned Khrushchev as a revisionist. In response, they formed the anti-revisionist movement, criticizing the post-Stalin leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for allegedly deviating from the path of Lenin and Stalin.

I quote that because Mao and Hoxha also ruled under a cult of personality, so it’s not surprising they’d object to Khrushchev trying to move away from that sort of individual dictatorship.

Khrushchev was a tough guy, no doubt, but he was proud of his peasant background and, while he endlessly promoted the Soviet Union, he didn’t puff himself up a whole lot.

But here’s the other thing to bear in mind: For all the millions murdered and/or permitted to die, by Stalin, there were many million more who looked up to him not simply as head-of-party but, as Khrushchev charged, a larger than life character and a sort of father-figure.

A czar who didn’t wear an actual crown, but a czar nonetheless.

And the further into his administration Trump gets, the more he acts like the dictators he admires: Xi and Kim and Duterte, and it’s not that his opponents mock him as “Dear Leader” but that he invites the comparison himself, giving his children cushy jobs, enriching himself with golfing vacations for which his entourage and security detail pay tourist rates with taxpayer dollars, and even issuing statements about reopening the country that are advertisements for his own private businesses.

 

And, Toles further notes, nothing is ever Dear Leader’s fault. Just as Stalin’s Five Year Plans often failed but were never his fault, Trump has compiled a long list of other people’s screwups.

The biggest of which is blaming Dear Leader.

As Steve Brodner points out, woe betide any whistleblower or even finder-of-fact who dares to note problem areas in Dear Leader’s world:

 

And, yes, “tonight” is accurate on that last one: Perhaps Dear Leader thought he could sneak one through on Friday’s traditional slow-news-day wrap.

Well, he didn’t sneak it past Brodner, and now he hasn’t snuck it past you, either.

Unlike Stalin, the people Trump purges don’t end up dead or in gulags, but the fact remains that bad news ends careers and the people around him are the ones who have mastered Happy Talk, a hallmark of the cult of personality approach to governance.

 

And it helps, as Ruben Bolling points out, to have a Ministry of Justice dedicated to protecting Dear Leader.

Nixon made the mistake of appointing good, qualified people with a love of country, perhaps a hangover from the Kennedy/Johnson practice of surrounding the President with “the best and the brightest.”

In the end — and it was the end because it was so shocking — he ended up having to fire attorneys general one after another because they wouldn’t bend to his will and abandon their ethics.

There will be no “Saturday Night Massacre” in this White House because the best and the brightest either failed to sign up in the first place or left as soon as they saw which way the wind was blowing.

And those who thought they could stay and make a difference are being picked off, one by one, much more below the radar.

 

Meanwhile, Fox News has proven more loyal to the GOP than to the President, which is often a distinction without a difference but has led Dear Leader to twitter-trash the network on occasion and to prefer OAN, which makes Pravda and Der Sturmer look like paragons of neutral reporting.

His latest sally is “Obamagate,” and Rick McKee isn’t buying it.

So far, Obama’s terrible crime for which he should be locked up is that, when there were reports of Russian interference in the election, he had someone look into it.

 

In fact — brace yourself — his administration even shared the name of the person who was apparently coordinating with the Russians, a horrendous act that, though legal, only happens nine or ten thousand times a year, and now more often than under Obama.

 

Though, as Mike Lester points out, if you get bogged down in the minutiae of what “Obamagate” actually consists of, you miss the important part.

 

Meanwhile …

There are still cartoons pointing out the Joe Biden isn’t Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, and that Tara Reade, a woman of uncompromised integrity, has accused him of things nobody knew were happening.

Matt Wuerker simply notes that it appears he can do pretty well simply by avoiding getting down in the mud and wrestling with the Personality.

 

Which brings us to Jen Sorensen’s analysis of the USPS kerfuffle, in which Dear Leader wants to shut the place down because his cronies could make money doing that and, besides, Jeff Bezos who owns the Washington Post makes money shipping things to people through the USPS.

I got this letter from one of my senators the other day, which reminds me that, whoever ends up in the White House next year, the laws will be made by whoever ends up in Congress.

Such that you might want to focus some of your energy on those races, which you have a better chance of influencing.

Think of it as betting the field: Your presidential choice might come in second, but if you’ve put down money on a half dozen legislators, you’re likely to walk away a winner.

 

Only vaguely connected but a helluvan earworm:

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
May/16/2020
@ 9:32 am

Lester’s cartoons are usually only figuratively full of that. I never really thought about it much, but I see that if there’s a place where he’ll draw the line and say “Oh, come on. REALLY?” to one of the cardboard ‘conspiracies’ DFT and Fox News and 0AN want to drum up, this isn’t it.

#2 gezorkin
May/16/2020
@ 1:02 pm

“whoever ends up in the White House next year, the laws will be made by whoever ends up in Congress.”

If Trump wins, HE, along with Barr, will make the laws. Including those governing future ‘elections’.

#3 Mary McNeil
May/16/2020
@ 3:56 pm

“Bad Reporter” from yesterday is a perfect complement to Tom the Dancing Bug

https://www.gocomics.com/badreporter/2020/05/15

#4 Michael Rapaport
May/16/2020
@ 3:59 pm

Bottom line is this: if you still support the Orange Lowlife you are either paid off or missing some screws in your head. Sad to say but Trump only cares about himself and if it means racism is okay then it doesn’t matter.

#5 Mike Peterson
May/17/2020
@ 4:34 am

gezorkin, I’d be interested in your theory of how Trump would be able to override a Congress in which the Democrats held both houses, assuming RBG holds out until the new Senate is in place.

#6 phil von neupert
May/17/2020
@ 8:02 am

Anybody ever notice that Trump’s approval rating is 43%, which is the same percentage as those who watch Fox? It was the same for W, and when Fox stopped promoting him in 2008, his approval rating dropped, eventually settling down to 24%. Fox News can’t get a broadcasting licence in Canada, because it’s illegal to lie on television there. We should do that here.

#7 Froederick Coopersmith
May/17/2020
@ 8:30 am

https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2014/jul/14/facebook-posts/fox-news-banned-canada/

#8 phil von neupert
May/17/2020
@ 9:36 am

Hah! Go figure. It still doesn’t change the fact that Fox News lies constantly, or serves as a GOP propaganda network. I stopped watching them about 2006, after tiring of their phony “Terror Alerts.” When Tom Ridge at Homeland Security was asked where they were getting their information, he said “It isn’t from us.” The only correlating factor was either a Republican scandal, or W’s approval rating taking a dive. I contend that Fox News can maintain ANY Republican President’s approval at 40% or better, no matter HOW bad they are! It may be legal to lie like that, but it shouldn’t be. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, either.

#9 Carl Buick
May/17/2020
@ 10:37 am

Re: USPS Cartoon.

Washington State and others vote by mail. Anybody in the US, or working abroad (Say the Military) won’t be able to get their ballots (which are mailed out) and won’t be able to send their ballots in, if the USPS shuts down its operations in September when it runs out of money.

#10 phil von neupert
May/17/2020
@ 11:02 am

Mike, there is a way Trump can get around a Democratic House and Senate. It takes 67 votes in the Senate to remove a sitting President. The D’s probably won’t get that many, so any impeachment will be a repeat. Even with RBG on the court, it’s still 5 to 4 against. The Barr DOJ will simply refuse to prosecute any one who poses a threat. Sadly, the Dear Leader will be so emboldened by a second “victory” that I fear he may be unstoppable without armed conflict. Seriously. Get out and vote, (even if you have to hold your nose) because our future truly depends on it!

#11 Charles Bosse
May/18/2020
@ 2:45 am

Haha, do you really think Republicans won’t find the post office? Can you imagine.what that would actually do? Can you imagine representatives with no way to reach voters by mail?

No. The plan is clear. Complain and bluster long enough to push the vote to the edge then give the house a bill full of sewage that they either have to sign or be raked over the coals for delaying.

Democrats need to act now to pass a bill that is public and concise, go on every late show and news panel they can get on and tell people the full text of the bill is available at easylink.here and then call on the Senate to move quickly (but give them a few as much time as possible, hopefully over a month). This backs Republicans into a corner. When the bill doesn’t pass (see, I’m a real optimist) then it’s time for round two of beating the drum, making sure every night to remind voters that the only thing standing between them and a working postal system (in our time of need) is Republicans obstructing. Keep a timeline at the top of easylink.here that clearly marks funding running out.

There isn’t room to mess around on this.

On the state side, State Attorneys General need to begin sueing to get a guarantee that postal workers will be able to deliver ballot materials and absentee ballots even if it means shutting down other post office functions early. We should also begin quietly designing proxy vote by mail e-vote systems that we can unveil in the worst-case scenereo that mail is disrupted long enough to impact elections (this would have a staggering economic effect, but we can’t put anything past these snakes).

The irony of all this is that I would love, LOVE to get 80%-95% less mail. I pay all my bills electronically but still get paper receipts bank notifications, and of course spam from retailers. Most of what actually lands in my mailbox is immediately trash or trash after de-identifying. A fair chunk of the rest is of questionable utility. As an environmentalist it hurts me almost as much to get all that mail as to use toilet paper made from virgin forests in public restrooms (yes, follow me down that rabbit hole – it’s flush with misuse of logs…). So yeah, if the mail just stopped, I would pretty much only care a few days a year. However even as “that guy” I still think this whole postal debauchle is rotten.

#12 Mike Peterson
May/18/2020
@ 4:40 am

Phil, you’re talking about impeachment. I’m talking about legislation. He can sit and twiddle his thumbs for four years, and he can veto everything that comes down the line, but he can’t pass laws without a legislature. And if the Senate won’t let him pack the Supreme Court with compliant justices, his executive orders may not stand up, either.

#13 phil von neupert
May/18/2020
@ 7:08 am

You’re right Mike, legislatively he would be at a stand-still. But as the last 3 years have shown, he can do an awful lot of damage without the consent of Congress. Trump hasn’t gotten much done legislatively. He has spent most of his time corrupting our institutions and consolidating power. Should he decide to ignore the Supreme Court, and resort to military action, we’d be in big trouble. It would take our military leaders to revolt, creating the coup that he has already mentally prepared his supporters for. Many people in this country don’t take Trump’s rhetoric seriously. His heavily armed supporters do, and we should too. We already have armed militants protesting at state capitols, with his support. That’s how it starts. I really hope I’m wrong, and our Constitutional democracy is strong enough to survive this, but we would not be the first one to fail. All I’m saying is, whether he wins or looses this fall, be ready for it to hit the fan. The far right is more frightened, angry, and motivated than most people realize.

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