CSotD: Madmen with sticks

If a madman were to come into this room with a stick in his hand, no doubt we should pity the state of his mind; but our primary consideration would be to take care of ourselves. We should knock him down first, and pity him afterwards. — Samuel Johnson

Jeff Stahler gives the most succinct explanation I’ve seen yet of the difference between Nixon and Trump.

Nixon was a sad little man whose ambitions revolved around wanting to be liked.

Apparently, he didn’t have a bad personality but he just didn’t connect terribly well, and however he handled it earlier in life, the moment that sticks with me is the night following the Kent State shootings,  when Washington was full of young people protesting the Cambodian Incursion.

Nixon snuck out of the White House with a minimal number of Secret Service people following and went over to the Lincoln Memorial to engage young people in conversation, initially about the war but mostly about football.

That link is worth following, and your response may be a measure of your own heart, because, while it’s funny and weird, it’s also intensely sad.

Nixon himself described the event:

I hoped that their hatred of the war, which I could well understand, would not turn into a bitter hatred of our whole system, our country, and everything that it stood for. I said, ‘I know you, that probably most of you think I’m an SOB. But I want you to know that I understand just how you feel.’ ”

He didn’t get it. He never got it. But at least he wanted to get it.

My guess is that his years on the football team at Whittier College had given him a taste of friendship that he was never quite able to replicate.

Which is armchair psychology, yes, but can you imagine Donald Trump reaching out like that?

Trump not only doesn’t get it, but he doesn’t know there’s something he’s supposed to get.

Like Johnson’s madman, both types threaten the nation and should be knocked down first and pitied later.

Still, Nixon had a sense of honor and, though he authorized crimes and authorized bribes to hide those crimes, it always seemed there might have been another way to deal with him.


Pia Guerra suggests how Nixon might have responded to the Watergate burglary, if he had Trump’s sociopathic personality: Not with denial or by ducking responsibility, as he did, but by lying about the nature of the event and daring anyone to prove otherwise.

If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.

The White House Tapes not only proved that Nixon had authorized the crimes, but that he knew what he had done was criminal.

Whatever Trump said to the Ukranians, I would be willing to believe he saw nothing wrong with it.

And, as Guerra suggests, he could look into the camera and tell the American people just that, not in order to feed them a self-serving lie but to simply explain his actions.

It would be better if he deliberately lied.


As Matt Wuerker points out, he’s says whatever it takes, he’s done it before, he’s doing it now, so the question is what anybody is going to do about it?

He reminds me of a 17-year-old I talked to once about a burglary, who said he hadn’t stolen the bike. He had simply held the door open so his buddy could steal the bike. This was the same kid who, sentenced to six months in the county jail, asked when the bus would come to take him to school each day.

Which is kind of funny, but what isn’t at all funny is the suspected murderer I interviewed who denied the killing but, in the course of our conversation, explained that he had been tossed back in prison once on a parole violation.

It seems he learned his girlfriend had cheated on him while he was in the joint, so he had to beat her up, a necessity that rolled off his tongue as routinely and naturally as if he were telling me he had to put a new clutch in his truck.

They were both sociopaths. Tommy was a kind of innocent, funny sociopath, a lifelong loser, and Jeff was a hardcore psycho, but they were both devoid of the basic emotional empathy that allows people to successfully live in groups.

I had moved away before Jeff finally came to justice, but my understanding is that he beat up his current GF once too often and she finally dropped a dime on him, which brings us to a discussion not of sociopathic criminals but of the enablers who shelter them.


Ann Telnaes ably demonstrates the metamorphosis of Rudy Giuliani and it is also sad and bizarre.

Something did happen to him, because, while it was his leadership during 9/11 that earned the “America’s mayor” title, Rudy had been a good mayor even before the disaster, and, when he was slated as the GOP’s senatorial candidate to go up against Hillary Clinton, it promised to be one helluva race, with her carpetbagger status tempting NY Democrats — and not just the NYC crowd — to choose Rudy.

Then the sumbitch exploded. Officially, he dropped out for health reasons, but he also announced his pending divorce to the media before he announced it to his wife, and, well, things just kind of spiraled down from there.

For a long time, people simply pitied the state of his mind, but now here he is waving a stick around and so I guess we should probably knock him down, too.


However, Rudy is simply the funny one who rages and raves on television. Bill Barr is the dangerous enabler, as RJ Matson notes: Rudy provides spin, but Barr provides conspiracy.

We’re getting into John Mitchell territory, but here’s the thing:

Back then, I wouldn’t have known that Baker and Weicker were Republicans or that Talmadge was a Democrat, based on watching the committee hearings.


But, as Jim Morin notes, the definition of “loyalty” has changed.