CSotD: Dr. Johnson’s Defence

A lady once asked him how he came to define ‘pastern’, the knee of a horse: instead of making an elaborate defence, as might be expected, he at once answered, “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance.” — Boswell’s “Life of Samuel Johnson”

Sometimes the best defense is no defense at all, but for an arrogant egotist like Johnson to simply admit he had been wrong was surprising enough that Boswell recorded the moment.


Such self-effacing modesty would be even more stunning coming from Dear Leader, as Clay Jones points out.

Granted, Jones is no fan of our current president. Then again, it’s not like he has to look in corners or under rocks to find sources for his mockery.

Check out this summation of “alternative facts” from last night’s town hall. (Skip ahead to the 1:45 mark)

His colleagues are laughing, but, unlike the Jones cartoon, it’s not a case of gallows humor. He’s simply listing what he calls “lies” and I hope they are lies, because I’d rather have a deliberate liar in charge than someone who genuinely can’t tell objective facts from self-serving fictions.

I mean that honestly. I first ran into the psychiatric concept of narcissism in reading “Fatal Vision,” Joel McGinniss’s book about Jeffrey MacDonald, who murdered his wife and daughters and yet seems utterly convinced to this day that his cover story is true.

And, just as Trump has defenders who will insist that he is telling the truth, McGinness’s book touched off controversy and lawsuits, because that’s how the world works and OJ Simpson isn’t the only person who thinks he was innocent, either.


Jimmy Margulies mocks the president’s analysis that the wildfires ravaging the west are caused by poor forest management, his point being that good leadership is needed and we have none.

But Trump is more than dead wood, because he has the power to be a leader or to let his ignorance hinder progress and seems to have deliberately chosen the latter.

Eisenhower didn’t know squat about being president, but he knew that, and so he surrounded himself with experts.

Even presidents who approached the office with decades of experience have had not just the modesty but the common sense to find, and listen to, people who could fill in their gaps.


Jeremy Banx offers a view of forest management that is only somewhat more ludicrous than what the president actually said. 

It’s hard to differentiate the potentially honest mistake of blaming dead leaves for fires in a region where deciduous trees are not a major factor from the utter bleating nonsense of stating that European countries criss-cross massive forests with 50-yard wide firebreaks as a preventive measure.

And then there’s this:

When trees fall down, after a short period of time — about 18 months — they become very dry.  They become, really, like a matchstick.  And they get up — you know, there’s no more water pouring through, and they become very, very — well, they just explode.  They can explode.

The ones that might explode are the ones with “water pouring through them,” or, as we call it, sap, though I suspect it’s the resin in pine trees that could make them explode.

Except that they don’t.

People list Jimmy Carter as a failure, but at least we didn’t elect Billy.


It is the job of the press to fact-check our leaders, but they shouldn’t have to work alone, much less under active opposition.

I particularly like the way Kevin Siers notes the lack of accountability on the part of Trump’s own party for keeping him within the guardrails of reason.

The spotless suit, the shiny shoes and the upraised pinkie epitomize the moral distance between these plutocrats and the people they are supposed to be serving.

And let’s not forget that before Trump entered politics, the GOP had openly declared that their policy was to make Obama a one-term president and then proceeded, over eight years, to frustrate the proper flow of bipartisanship that had been a keystone of our system for two centuries.

Trump is a feature, not a bug.


Matt Davies uses Trump’s deliberate breaking of the law as a focal point to point out the far wider hypocrisy inherent in his calls for “Law and Order.”

It starts with the aforementioned dismissal of bipartisanship, not just in the halls of Congress but throughout the system: Trump has made it clear that he is the president of his supporters, not of the entire nation, threatening to withhold federal aid from states that supported Hillary Clinton.

And it’s clear that he’s willing to forego the law to impose order on his own terms: He has defended, even implicitly praised, the 17-year-old vigilante who killed two people in Kenosha, but declined to back off from his declaration that the younger teens known as the Central Park 5 were not only guilty (despite their exoneration) but deserved the death penalty.

“We all do stupid things at 17,” his son said.

Sure. If they let you live that long.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Kal Kallaugher)


(John Deering)

Two different approaches to the issue of presidential credibility.

Whatever the merits of the Steele Dossier, which apparently mixed researched facts with gossip, we’ve gone beyond airy “I wonder what they’ve got on him” speculation and made it a more serious inquiry.

Kal suggests that, whoever or whatever is doing the manipulation, Dear Leader is a puppet, while Deering mocks a familiar cartooning sequence of famous quotes, ending not with a foolish bit of Trump bathos but with a chilling reminder that, whatever he says, he is not his own man.

The question “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” takes on new levels of significance when what he knows seems tainted by who tells him what to think.

This song came up on my playlist the other day, and it occurred to me that, back in 1966, they had to cobble together stories from a wide time frame.

Today, you could just grab a daily newsbreak at random.

4 thoughts on “CSotD: Dr. Johnson’s Defence

  1. Trump’s son (you didn’t specify whether it was Don Jr or Eric who said it) is still doing stupid things –

  2. I think distinguishing between which of Trump’s sons is doing stupid things would be not perhaps the best use of time.

  3. Trump said that the virus would “disappear” because of “herd mentality.” My guess is he was thinking about his re-election strategy at the time.

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