CSotD: President Caligula

Jeff Danziger teases today’s musical Moment of Zen, and I’ll forgive him for saying “What’s that noise?” instead of “What’s that sound?” because when Buffalo Springfield released the song, he may have been on the other side of the world in Vietnam, and, even if that wasn’t the exact timing, you get my point.

As someone who did not suffer from heel spurs, Danziger has standing to criticize not only Trump’s failure to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, but his attack upon it and his expressed desire to overthrow it.

Specifically, Dear Leader does not recognize Article II, Section 4:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Or the 22nd Amendment

Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice …

Again, again, again, the question comes: Is he a knave or a fool? Is he consciously dishonest or simply insane?

Prompting another question: What the hell difference does it make?

Suetonius was a most unreliable historian, though an entertaining gossip, and his classic “The Twelve Caesars” is better read for amusement than for education.

It is, for instance, unlikely that Caligula genuinely proposed making his favorite horse a consul.

Still, I was struck by this observation:

What most of all disordered him was want of sleep, for he seldom had more than three or four hours rest in a night; and even then his sleep was not sound, but disturbed by strange dreams … Being, therefore, often weary with lying awake so long, sometimes he sat up in his bed, at others, walked in the longest porticos about the house … To this crazy constitution of his mind may, I think, very justly be ascribed two faults which he had of a nature directly repugnant one to the other, namely, an excessive confidence and the most abject timidity.

The Roman Senate eventually stood up to Caligula, apparently working with the Praetorian Guard to cut short his reign (quite literally) after three years and 10 months.


Little danger of that in this case, as Tim Eagan suggests.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Mike Marland)

(Bill Bramhall)

We have long-since established that the White House staff has an ongoing policy of simplified briefing papers for a president who does not read, larded with his name to entice him to focus, and couched in Happy News terms to avoid upsetting him.

We now find that sensitive information is kept from him because he cannot be trusted to keep it quiet, either including it in public speeches or divulging it to foreign governments.

And when his own pollsters suggest he may be trailing certain Democratic rivals in key states, he fires them.

Marland is right that his concept of truth is utterly delusional and self-serving, and, while Bramhall is hardly the first to invoke The Emperor’s New Clothes, he puts the fable to more direct use, even bringing in Dear Leader’s famous catch phrase, which is more chilling in this context than it was as part of a farcical television show.

It is genuinely difficult for satirists, commentators and cartoonists to make Dear Leader appear more irresponsible, absurd and unbalanced than he makes himself.


Suetonius and popular culture suggest that, as they swept Caligula and his seed from the Earth, the Roman Senate spared Claudius because he was a useful idiot who would serve their purposes, while more formal historians suggest that he actually agreed with their goals, but, whichever the case, it seems the Senate moved forward with far more authority than they had enjoyed under Julius Caesar’s lineage.

And Drew Sheneman suggests some different but compatible, even congruent, goals shared by Trump and the GOP.

People refer to the “Cheney Administration” to suggest that W was a pawn in the hands of his vice-president and a cabal of neocons, but they at least had the dignity to remain behind the throne.

Mitch McConnell has no such sense of decorum, having announced his intention to bring the nation to a grinding halt throughout the Obama administration, including violating all precedence to avoid letting the president appoint a Supreme Court justice and admitting — bragging — that he would go the opposite direction if Trump were in a similar situation.

Yesterday, he denounced the prospect of admitting Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to statehood as “socialist.”


Juxtaposition of the Day #2

(Nick Anderson)

(Drew Sheneman)

What on earth statehood has to do with socialism is a mystery, until you consider the demographics of those two places, at which point you realize that “socialism” is a GOP dog whistle.

It’s bad enough for the GOP to condemn as “socialism” any plan to share tax money with the common people, or to spend it for the common good.

To use it as a means of stirring up those “very good people” the President and his party rely on is, as I have suggested many times before, Orwellian, but more along the lines of the simpleminded “Animal Farm” fable than the more complex and sophisticated “1984.”

“1984” is a demonstration of how a clever and well-organized government can impose its will on a population.

“Animal Farm” is more a fable about how easily fools can be manipulated by bullies.

That’s literally an academic issue: Suitable for argument by pipe-smoking people in tweed jackets.

It really doesn’t matter whether Caligula wanted to make his horse consul, any more than it matters whether George Washington really chopped down his father’s cherry tree or whether the immigrant question on the Census is intended to preserve voter rights.

What matters is that fabulists like Suetonius or Parson Weems or Sean Hannity capture the imagination of a public that wants simple stories with good guys and bad guys, not the complicated, challenging lessons of real history and authentic politics.

They crave, and accept, and echo, easy answers couched in memorable catchphrases, like “MAGA” or “Four legs good, two legs better.”



One thought on “CSotD: President Caligula

  1. And yet there are still millions of people out there who believe he’s the best suited for the office, as un-freaking-believable as that might be. I know a few, and their tortured logic continues to elude me.

    Ah well, reason 154,027 Why I Am Glad To Be Canadian (and yes, I will be smug about it)

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