H2O ManH2O Man's Journal
Goldwater is a nervous man. An impulsive man. A childish man. ...You want the real question answered, don't you? Goldwater has had two serious nervous breakdowns. Had to be taken off, taken out of the country, hospitalized. His wife wrote about it in full in 'Good Housekeeping...
President Lyndon Johnson; Oval Office conversation with C. Richard West, editor of the Dallas Morning News; September 21, 1964.
The above quote can be found in Michael Beschloss's Reaching for Glory (Simon & Schuster; 2001; page 39). LBJ is referencing an article by Mrs. Goldwater, published in the May edition of Good Housekeeping, in which she described the toll her husband's hard work had taken on him. The public discussion that followed resulted in what is commonly known as the Goldwater rule that mental health professionals should avoid trying to diagnose a public official (or candidate) whom they do not have first-hand clinical exposure to.
What is too often overlooked is that a attempting a specific diagnosis is distinct from commenting upon the dangers that an individual poses, if that person has the powers of a given office. More, the amount of information available in 1964 the combination of Senator Goldwater's position on using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, and his wife's comments in a magazine for housewives is relatively small when compared to the sum-total of information that the public has regarding Donald Trump and the threat he poses to our nation.
It is important, at least in my opinion, that we consider the history of mental instability and especially the dangers it has posed in the context of presidents in the post-World War Two world. This does not translate into an attack upon those who deal with mental illness, which is a legitimate human experience. Rather, it should focus upon the dangers posed when certain people have inhabited the most powerful position in the world.
One need look no further than LBJ for evidence of the toll that the modern presidency can take upon even a relatively stable man. Johnson was a legendary operative during his years in both the House and Senate, and on the surface would appear to have been capable of being a stable chief executive. He was confident in his ability to accomplish whatever he put his mind to in the Congress, and although he initially was uncomfortable with the manner he became president, the 1964 election put him firmly in the driver's seat.
If one focuses on his domestic agenda, LBJ was effective, nearing greatness. However, early in his presidency, he believed the United States could dictate its will in Vietnam. By the time he recognized that he could not and that the war was destroying his planned Great Society, including having Martin Luther King openly oppose him he began to have a series of psychotic breaks that his closest aides both feared and kept secret.
For a sympathetic view of this phase of his presidency, see Doris Kearns Goodwin's 1976 Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. For another view, see Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s 1978 Robert Kennedy and His Times. Both provide fascinating, and disturbing, evidence worthy of our consideration.
The downfall of Johnson led to the 1968 election of Richard Nixon. But, before we focus upon Nixon, let's take a brief look at his opponent in his 1972 re-election campaign. Democratic Senator George McGovern was, in my opinion, an honorable man. He had served the nation in WW2. And he was opposed to US military involvement in Vietnam.
The 1972 Democratic Party's primary was damaged by the series of crimes known collectively as Watergate. But the public was largely ignorant of the full scope of this at the time. The Nixon people had worked to destroy party unity among Democrats by the time of the convention. Thus, neither of the two powerful factions within the party were supportive of McGovern to begin with. More, numerous errors on the part of McGovern and his campaign helped.
The most remembered mistake involved his first announced choice for his vice presidential candidate, Thomas Eagleton. (He was far from McGovern's first choice; when others turned down the offer to run , Eagleton became the default option.) Neither McGovern nor his staff were really familiar with Senator Eagleton. They relied upon him to be fully honest when they vetted him. He was not. Shortly after he was announced as the VP candidate, it was reported that he had an extensive history of psychiatric hospitalization and treatment including electro-shock therapy. For more on this, see Bruce Miroff's 2007 The Liberal's Moment.
Nixon's victory had consequences that Tricky Dick never anticipated. Watergate would overwhelm his second term. Now, Richard Nixon had functioned well in the House and Senate. His time as vice president had exposed some curious personality quirks, for sure, but without Watergate, he would have been an effective republican president. But Watergate came to define him.
Even more so than LBJ, Nixon became isolated in the bubble of the White House. And unlike LBJ, he even became isolated from most of his staff within that bubble. This increased his already substantial tendency towards paranoid thinking. He saw enemies everywhere. In time, he began to increase his consumption of whiskey while sitting up, alone, late at night, stewing. His staff, like LBJ's, came to realize that his mental instability put the nation at risk; they took steps to insure that he could not initiate a nuclear strike on his own, as is detailed in numerous quality books on his presidency.
From Ford to Obama, our nation has had presidents who have been mentally stable. Three were arguably incompetent in terms of ability (Ford, Reagan, and Bush Jr.), and Reagan's mental abilities took a sharp decline in his second term. Yet, the sum-total of their risk factors could not compare to that of the current president on any given day.
Bandy Lee's 2017 book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (St. Martin's Press), is therefore required reading for all citizens concerned with the severe risks he poses to our nation. And once read, it requires us to take steps to insure that Congress removes him from office.
A couple of months ago, in an essay that I posted on DU:GD, I noted that a number of the people associated with Trump were setting the stage for a violent reaction to efforts to remove him from office. I note that there were no responses to my claim. Today, on Morning Joe, that very topic was discussed, and I'm pleased there people are paying attention.
That shift in attention may be because most people consider Fox News to be and I hesitate to use this word more mainstream than Alex Jones or Roger Stone. But I would suggest that forum members instead focus upon two things: the overlap between these two news sources, and particularly the audience that is being targeted with the coup message.
Let's start with the groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as posing a threat to our society. Consider what politician speaks their language. Is there a political figure that the Nazi-KKK-types believe reflects their interests? Shares their belief that President Obama, that atheist Muslim, was born in Kenya?
The 2016 republican presidential primaries was the first time this group participated in a meaningful way since 1964's republican primary season. And they were not coming out from under the rocks to support Jeb Bush, or any other mainstream republican candidate. Rather, they were excited by the candidate who gave voice to their hatred.
These are, of course, the same people who listen to Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, and Roger Stone. They are convinced that the deep state is attempting a coup. When Trump spouts nonsense, such as that the investigation into the Trump-Russian scandal is just the Democrats being sore losers, this audience is incapable of processing that the FBI's counter-intelligence investigation started when most people were certain that Clinton was on the road to an easy victory.
This, of course, is central to the Trump-Fox News effort to denigrate the FBI. While Democrats and others on the political left are wary of the FBI generally for its past history among that agency's many duties is coordinating with state and local police departments. As Democrats, we know that historically, those state and local police agencies especially in specific regions of the country have long contained members who are at very least sympathetic to those who believe the Bannon type of paranoid conspiracies.
And this creates the potential for violence. Keep in mind that the FBI (and some other federal agencies) do respect the SPLC. Thus, for good or bad, the response to the right-wing militia in a western state over cattle grazing on federal lands, was handled more delicately than, say, a demonstration outside the republican national convention.
We have a president who has not only called for the arrest and prosecution of his political enemies, but he has openly endorsed police violence against suspects. What would one expect from a guy who borrowed Nixon's infamous law and order banner during his campaign?
Donald Trump had but two goals in running for president. He wanted to change the tax laws to benefit his family and friends. And he wanted to be a historic figure, the most powerful man in human history. Things such as his dislike of foreigners (re: non-white human beings) was secondary. But his advisers, such as Bannon, want to burn the forest. Hence, their appeal to the arsonists on the right-wing fringe.
These people are not capable of accomplishing their wild designs, of course. They aren't going to lead a revolution. But they are dangerous, in the context of running over a women at a counter-protest, and other, similar cowardly acts. As we recently witnessed, these are people who supported a creep that preyed upon teen-aged girls, over a good man who prosecuted the murderers who bombed four little girls in a church.
As William Faulkner noted, The past is never dead. It's not even past. We are entering a tense period in America. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. It's good to be aware of what the opposition is up to, and why they are doing it. One of our greatest advantages is that most of them aren't very smart. Another thing we have on our side is the law. And the Constitution.
Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects.
On Thursday evening (December 14), the internet had a buzz about Team Mueller being prepared to file indictments on Friday morning. A curious guessing game took place: would it be Jared? Or perhaps Donald Junior? Such speculation was even found on DU:GD. And, not surprisingly, the morning passed without incident.
This raises the question of how and why this type of thing happens. The first factor, of course, is that many people recognize that Trump & Co. conspired and coordinated with Russian intelligence (and organized crime) to steal the 2016 election, and want these criminals held responsible. Mr. Mueller first indicted two members of the Trump campaign, and secured a guilty plea from a third. Then, Mr. Mueller flipped General Flynn. Thus, the increasing fury of the right wing republican attempt to derail the investigations including in the House and Senate, as well as Mr. Mueller's.
Malcolm X used to say he knew he was right when his opposition squawked the loudest. Common sense suggests that the White House and their rabid supporters are aware that the Mueller investigation is getting very close to Trump and his closest associates. A good person could reasonably conclude the volume of their noise is because they believe more indictments are being prepared.
However, an informed person would remember that there was no warning before the first two indictments and the guilty plea were filed. Mr. Mueller does not leak to journalists. The information regarding General Flynn reported before he pleaded guilty came from Flynn's legal team. This is important, as Mr. Mueller had requested that no information be made public, before his team was able to verify literally every claim Flynn made, and every document he had produced.
From that time until now, Mr. Mueller's team has been interviewing people such as Hope Hicks, who had to decide if she should confirm what Flynn said about various campaign and White House meetings, or try to outsmart Mr. Mueller. She is not the only other witness the investigators have interviewed. And one can only speculate who, if anyone, has recently testified in front of the grand jury.
In the coming weeks, Mr. Mueller's team will request interviews with other people close to Trump. And Mr. Mueller will present more witnesses to the grand jury. It is likely that at least four of these will invoke their 5th amendment right to not answer questions. But it is equally likely that at least two others will spill their guts. And it is certain that Mr. Mueller's team, having already had some contact with the legal representatives of all seven, are fully aware what each will do. But their lawyers are not going to leak anything that Mr. Mueller has requested they remain silent about.
It is possible even likely that there may be some fascinating leaks from members of the intelligence community in the upcoming weeks. There is a system that was set up for this long ago, as everyone who has paid attention since the early 1970s knows. And this system is capable of putting groups and individuals outside of the White House in check.
And so now we come to those who started or spread rumors about a new indictment. The majority are probably good people, who sincerely want to see the Trump administration removed from power, and incarcerated. Younger people in particular might be prone to wanting things wrapped up immediately (compared to older folks who remember Watergate and Iran-contra).
Still others might be internet journalists who got ahead of themselves with their predictions. They know that there is a storm brewing, and can be forgiven for thinking that today would bring fireworks. But keep in mind that none of the corporate journalists had predicted anything for today.
Finally, be aware that there are rat-fuckers, intent upon creating confusion and worse. This includes those who purposely spread false rumors on the internet, because they know it can be like a penal institution, where any rumor twice repeated is accepted as fact. Their purpose can include getting good people's hopes up, thus causing disappointment with Mr. Mueller when the anticipated indictment fails to be filed.
Lastly, I should again recommend that people listen closely to Malcolm Nance. Recently, he said he expects things to unfold by March. (This is not unlike when, in a recent OP, I said that the DU community will find February to be a rewarding month.) There may be good things happening between now and then, too. For Mr. Mueller is a conscientious historian and prosecutor,
Mrs. Moore's comment about having a Jewish attorney reminded me of something that happened a quarter-century or so ago. Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman and I had successfully prevented a cemetery, circa 800 AD from being mined for gravel in an upstate village. As part of the cemetery had been excavated by both professional and amateur archaeologists in the late 1950s and early '60s, Paul tasked me with seeing if I could locate the human remains and burial goods for re-interment. Most were in the basement of an area NYS University museum.
I learned that one set of remains was located in the village's high school. The science department had a display, featuring the skeletal remains of a mammal, a Native American, an amphibian, and a reptile. I called the superintendent's office, to inform them that, as they received federal aid, they needed to return the remains for reburial. The superintendent called me back, and began our conversation by telling me that as a college student, he was friends with an Oneida woman.
Not able to help myself, I responded by saying that one of my college roommates was a Caucasian. He replied, Really? Then I believe he realized I was being rude. He was ignorant, while I was crude. I later learned that he and his wife were liberals, though we never really hit it off after that. Too bad, since that school might have been a good place for Paul and I to speak.
Mr. and Mrs. Moore, on the other hand, are not good people. They are unnatural toxins, gurgling to the surface of American culture. I watched some of Roy's supporters, singing church hymns and praying for God to perform a miracle after it was announced that Doug Jones had won the election. As if the universe needed to set things straight in Alabama after the voters already had.
Religion can be nice, of course, but not when religious people want to deny others their human rights. It is good to see people like Senator Cory Booker noting that what took place in Alabama was a movement. And it is exactly the type of movement we need in every state, primarily (but not exclusively) for the 2018 elections. We need that type of movement to insure those very rights that Roy Moore wants to deny people.
In a thread last week, friend democrank noted that Donald Trump is a forest fire, supported by arsonists, and that we need a united effort to stop him. I like that. It reminds me of something Carl Jung said about Hitler being the mouthpiece for the collective unconscious of the Germans circa WW2. The same is true of Trump's relationship with the radical right and the christian right (which overlap).
Trump had contacted Bush the Elder in 1988, offering to serve as vice president. In the years since, he was focused on identifying a path to the White House. When President Obama humiliated Donald at the correspondences' dinner, he became o0bsessed with revenge. Trump was already invested in the birther nonsense, to solidify his political base. Soon he would seek to expand upon this.
In his early speeches in the republican presidential primaries, Trump experimented with various lines, to measure his audiences' responses. This allowed him to identify which hateful code words he would continue to emphasize in future speeches. In that sense, like a Hitler, it is clear that Trump is no genius of communications, but rather, a common hate-monger planting poison seeds in the gutters of American society.
His perverted version of making America great again was a simplistic appeal to the common hatreds and prejudices of those who want the United States to return to a place where non-white citizens knew their place, where law and order was maintained by police brutality, and women were obscene but not heard. A place where a True Detective's season one southern judge could run for the US Senate, as part of a religious crusade. A place where pathetic people such as Mrs. Moore would be okay with the Ku Klux Klan's efforts to protect her brand of christianity. Where the president serves as a Freudian wizard of Id. And Trump has purposely thrown a match on the Volatile Organic Compounds that have seeped to the surface; hence, democrank's wildfires.
The movement in Alabama showed exactly what is needed to put this nightmare in check. It requires that conscious people invest the hard work, on a steady basis, to bring the majority of people into an effort to make this nation live up to its promise. And the Democratic Party has the duty to help lead the way.
Over the fourteen years that I've been a member of the DU community, a number of my essays have made use of various models from psychology and sociology that I find helpful in understanding politics. Today, I thought it might be interesting to consider a variation of the model developed by Ralph Potter, of the Harvard Divinity School, for understanding ethics. Potter himself created this variation, in an attempt to illustrate how an individual in the United States was likely to identify in the world of politics.
To begin with, I want to make it clear that I was never fortunate enough to sit in Potter's classroom. My interpretation comes from but one page of notes I scribbled down during one of Daniel Sheehan's lectures. Older forum members will remember Sheehan, a Constitutional lawyer, from his work on the Karen Silkwood and the Greensboro massacre cases. Younger members may be familiar with his efforts to protect Lakota lands from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Sheehan was a student of Potter. Hence, if this makes sense, all credit goes to Potter and Sheehan; only the mistakes belong to me.
Potter taught that there were five general groups of voters in our country, and that by using the box model, one could identify which group an individual belonged to. First, let's consider the five groups, from left to right on a graph: the left system, the left marginal, the neutral marginal, the right marginal, and the right system. In this context, the systems groups believe in radical change, and the marginal groups believe in moderate change to improve the social-political reality in America.
Potter's box remains, as in the ethical model, a four-pane window, but the factors in each is different. In the top left pane, we have the universe, specifically how did it come into being? In the top right, we have the question of why it exists, and how it is unfolding? The bottom left asks how did consciousness arise, and is it unique to human beings? The bottom right asks about our ability to understand the universe, and if that understanding is limited to our five senses?
From the answers to these questions, one can identify with relative accuracy if one is a utopian (left system), a reactionary totalitarian (right system), or one of the three more moderate (marginal) groups in between on the graph.
Where an individual is located depends upon the factors that result in the person's answers to those four questions within the box. These include life experiences, including economic status and educational background. The person educated in a strict creationist religious context will generally hold very different views than a person who has a background in science, for example. A white man will have distinct experiences from a non-white woman. And there are many other factors.
As a general rule, no single answer to a specific box determines where the individual is placed upon the graph. However, it is safe to say that a rigid world-view predisposes a person will tend to be on the right. Yet, it remains important to remember that each individual has opinions they believe to be true, even if these beliefs are clearly errors in thinking and/or understanding. And that the more entrenched these beliefs are, the less likely facts are to change their level of understanding. Hence, for example, attempting to reason with a nazi is futile.
Now, Potter believed that the goals identified with FDR's New Deal represented the most sane, fair construct for our society at that time. He recognized that the tensions between those who demanded that these be fully institutionalized, and those who believed they could only take place by way of compromising with the right wing, was essential to our understanding of the problems we continued to face. Attempting to institutionalize the goals fully risked a right wing (military) coup; compromising resulted in allowing the seeds of social dysfunction to remain, and to surely grow into new variations of old problems. And, if one appreciates some of the social-political cycles in America, it brings us to LBJ's Great Society, and the same general dynamics. We could also consider President Obama's health care program, to bring us to more current times.
Perhaps some of you know exactly where I'm going with this. I wish that you'd remind me, because at my age, I'm easily confused. Instead, I'll use this for an awkward transition to my limited understanding of some of Sheehan's philosophy. But let's use Putin's Russia for our model now, rather than the United States.
Putin, and all those he employs, believe in social Darwinism. They hold to the theory of survival of the fittest. They recognize both the dangers and advantages of life in the crumbled empire. They define fitness in terms of the economic and political power that the elite class holds in their society.
They are not stupid per se. (The Trump family being an exception to this rule.) They do not limit their views to the immediate future, or simply their own country. They understand issues such as global warming, with the rising coastlines, will cause mass migrations from some of the most populated parts of the world within a couple of decades. They understand the economic implications of society's addiction to fossil fuels. They realize that economic collapses do happen. They appreciate the limits of resources in even good times.
As corporate elites, what might they be expected to do? Let's think hard. Perhaps gather as much power and wealth as they possibly can seems one possibility. They are hoarders, preparing for the worst case scenario, thereby insuring the worst case scenario. And who is their natural ally in this? What type of individual is happy, even eager, to have a strong leader speak for them? Think for them? Steal from them? Yes, the reactionary totalitarians on the far-right. Those that we cannot reason with. Those who are no more capable of changing their minds, than your lawn-mower is.
These strong leaders know what every tyrant throughout history has known: that in order to control a large population even for a time it is essential to divide groups, instill fear, and create a climate where the reactionary totalitarians hate some identified group, so that they blame their low level of being on the enemy. And they will become willing to dehumanize that enemy, be it Jews, Native Americans, immigrants, or gay and lesbian people.
Hence, it is essential flipping back to the USA from Russia that we not allow fractures to grow, and divisions to become entrenched, between the left-systems and the left-margin groups (re: Democratic Left and Democratic Party). Or between the young and old, the various ethnic groups, etc. For as those divisions take place, it serves to insure those worst-vase scenarios. The election of Trump is a glaring example.
When the left-systems and left-marginal groups are united, they become capable to reasoning with some among the neutral-marginal and even right-marginal groups. And that, and only that, can prevent the rise of a fascist totalitarian state (and/or remove a strong leader), and to open up the potentials for dealing with the very real and growing crises that human beings face in the years to come.
The ends justify the means.
Ovid's Heroides; 10 bc
The above quote is generally attributed to Machiavelli's The Prince, though the phrase is not found there. It has, however, been found in the actions of empires and mob families. And we witness that mindset in America today, in both the republican party and especially in the Trump administration.
Other historical figures have held that the means are ends. Perhaps most famously was Mahatma Gandhi. In our nation's past, the most outstanding example would be Martin Luther King. More recently, in the context of social-political conflicts, Michelle Obama noted that when they go low, we go high.
I believe that they were right. Sometimes, it's difficult for me to keep that Truth in mind, for two reasons. First, I'm imperfect, and second, the social-political reality is frequently frustrating. On a few recent nights, I've walked outside and looked up at the stars, and thought that while no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should, things seem pretty screwed up here on earth.
It's easy for me to identify republicans in general, and specimens like Roy Moore and Donald Trump as toxic. That's not only okay, it's accurate. Nothing wrong with that thinking. Much of what they do is beyond disgusting. And so it can, at times, be a struggle to not feel hatred for them.
I have been a registered member of the Democratic Party my entire adult life. Still, there have been individual democrats on the local, state, and federal levels that I didn't have much respect for. The overall numbers are relatively small, of course, but they have always existed. And when I've felt that they have betrayed democratic principles, it is easy to feel contempt for them.
Today, I read through a number of OP/threads from DU community members on the case of Senator Al Franken. There are, of course, a wide range of opinions. I feel no need to express my own, as it is of no more value than anyone's here. But I will say that in the larger context of what our nation is confronted with today, as individuals at the grass roots level, we should remember Ms. Obama's words: When they go low, we go high.
In my opinion, the most important issue facing the country is the Trump-Russian scandal. It is an ugly example of mobsters who believe that the ends justify the means. And that means they would do anything to access the power to enrich themselves, to the detriment of the nation. They are indeed the lowest of the low ever to inhabit the executive branch.
At the same time, we are seeing Mr. Mueller's team investigating the Trump mob. And while we all would prefer that this unfolded at a more rapid rate, the fact is that it actually has been going faster than previous investigations of executive crimes. Two indictments have been made public. Two guilty pleas, as well. More, the case is picking up steam, and by the end of February, forum members will be pleased.
Hence, as I stood outside tonight, looking up at the stars, I knew that much of the responsibility for how the effort to revive and heal our constitutional democracy is firmly on the shoulders of the grass roots. In a sense, that's no different than with the social issues regarding sexual harassment: it's a social dysfunction that is not going to be cured by politicians in Washington, DC. No, the legislative branch has long been infected by this disease. Far too long to deal with it on their own. It can best be dealt with by the grass roots, by socially conscious people who engage in the political system, especially at election time.
And this means that we all can benefit from asking ourselves if we really believe that the means are not distinct from the ends. If Michelle Obama's advice is something that we hold on to when things are tough. If we do, then we don't continue to serve up the rancid bacon of refusing to forgive and work with democrats who supported a different candidate in one of the previous presidential primaries. No, that type of nonsense is only found at the lowest potentials for the Democratic Party. And we need to go much higher.
We have urgent issues to be focusing on right now. And we have a lot of important elections coming up in 2018. I'm hoping to do my best. That includes attending a local committee breakfast on Saturday. It involves organizing for dealing with current issues. And it is all connected with preparing for 2018, which is almost here.
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