Greg Dennis: Antidotes for the daily Trump-aches
In almost every conversation with friends these days, there comes a time when we have to decide the same question: Are we going to talk about Trump?
The man’s actions are so outrageous that they sometimes demand a response. So we spend a few minutes fulminating about the latest outrage — Trump’s alienating allies we need in a dangerous world; bailing out of the Paris agreement to combat climate change; lying about even the most obvious facts.
So what to do when the president stands next to Vladimir Putin and refuses to acknowledge what every responsible U.S. agency has long since concluded? Russia tried to undermine our elections and undercut the foundations of our democracy. And intends to do so again.
Instead of speaking in defense of our nation, the president said Monday that “both sides” were to blame for the problem. He refused to criticize Putin. Then he attacked the FBI, the Democratic Party and the Justice Department.
As Republican Sen. John McCain put it, “Trump seemed not only unable but unwilling to stand up to Putin.”
Two days earlier, Trump had again called the media “the enemy of the people” — borrowing a phrase used by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
But we can’t endlessly obsess over Trump if we want to live a normal life with a modicum of peace of mind. So here are some recommended coping strategies to ease what my neighbor calls “Trump-aches.”
Denial: This is one of my go-to strategies. After a few minutes of listening to friends tear their hair out over the most recent outrage, I’m inclined to ask if anybody thinks the Red Sox will win the World Series this year.
Teeth grinding and tongue biting: This tactic is familiar to anyone who’s endured a bad marriage or a bad boss. You think awful thoughts about a person but you try not to say them. It’s often unproductive and can lead to ulcers and heart attacks.
Historical perspective: This is another of my favorites. “Nixon and Watergate were worse,” I tell everybody. “And we survived him. We’ll survive Trump.” While the usual rejoinder is that Nixon had some good domestic policies, I remind my friends that not only was Nixon corrupt, he expanded an immoral war beyond Vietnam into most of Southeast Asia, extending the slaughter that resulted in a total of over 2 million deaths and the loss of 55,000 Americans.
At least Trump hasn’t started a war. Yet.
Comedy: If Trump weren’t such a serious threat, he could be occasionally hilarious. I wish I could see him as just a cosmic joker, the somewhat likable rogue who, wink-wink, sleeps with hookers, pals around with gangsters, and gets away with it. It’s all farce, right? He’s just acting out the collective id, saying and doing the things we don’t dare say or do.
If nothing else, give Trump credit for the telling nicknames: Little Marco Rubio. Lyin’ Ted Cruz. Crooked Hillary.
So when Trump makes spastic fun of a reporter, calls criticism of the British prime minister “fake news” the day after he’s on tape with that criticism, and says “trade wars are easy to win” — well, that’s just Donald being Donald.
It’s a version of kayfabe, that willing suspension of disbelief common to professional wrestling. A kind of soap opera, giving its fans a cathartic expression of genuine emotion over a spectacle that everybody knows is fakery.
It’s Trump’s version of that photo of Vladimir Putin riding shirtless upon a horse. And like pro wrestlers, Trump never breaks the fourth wall, never turns to the audience and says, “You know this is all make-believe, right?”
Wallowing in it: This is my other favorite tactic. When Trump kisses Putin’s ring and a body part that shall remain nameless, I take to Twitter and CNN for a healthy dose of outrage. I got the habit during Watergate — Cronkite and Sevareid every night, followed by another astonishing revelation in the next day’s New York Times — and these days it’s hard to resist going back for more hits.
It’s especially gratifying to read the GOP Never Trumpers. Michael Steele, former head of the Republican National Committee, said of Monday’s performance by Trump, “That’s how a press conference sounds when an Asset stands next to his Handler.” Or as Bill Kristol, founder of the conservative National Review, put it, “Trump attacks an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department while standing next to Putin. Even for 2018 — unbelievable.”
One expects MSNBC to torch Trump. But it’s especially fun to watch CNN. The network spent a couple years trying to be straight-faced and “objective” about Trump but has now finally decided to call a spade a spade.
Manu Raju, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, tweeted this: “Rather than calling out Putin, Trump completely undercuts the view of the US government that Russia interfered in the election.” Bemoaning Trump’s performance in Helsinki, Wolf Blitzer was on the verge of shaking his head so hard that it seemed in danger of severing from his neck and plummeting to the floor, out of camera range.
Temporary defeat: A dangerous strategy that’s a cousin of denial, a sense of loss sometimes seems the only available solace. We can’t help but wonder what has become of the country we love, and how long it will be until the hurting stops.
Grab him by the midterms: This is the most patriotic approach I know. There’s an election in less than four months. Along with the Rise For Climate rallies on Sept. 8, it will provide voters a chance to repudiate the embarrassment that is our current president. Ultimately for those of us who cannot abide Trump, the political process of donating to candidates we support, of voting and activism, can be the healing balm.
As the saying goes, action is the best antidote to despair.
Gregory Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @greengregdennis.
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