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“Fire and fury”

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Stupid words. Bluster, sword-rattling, macho nonsense from a man so personally insecure despite his wealth and power that he has to have his staff hand-deliver positive news about himself, not once a day, but twice.

Some of us warned all along this is not a person whose stubby little fingers you want on the nuclear trigger. Now, here we are. When I woke up yesterday morning and got my San Francisco Chronicle, the headline on page 1 jolted me. “How would S.F. react to attack by nukes?” it read. Not well, I thought, and was involuntarily plunged in my mind back decades, to the 1950s, when as a schoolboy in New York City I would participate in “duck and cover” drills. The newspapers used to publish graphic maps showing the area of total devastation, depending on the megatonnage of the hydrogen bomb, if Russia dropped something on midtown Manhattan. Even then, it made no sense to us kids to seek safety underneath a little wooden desk: if New York went up in a mushroom cloud, desks wouldn’t protect us. Still, I suppose, from the point of view of the adults, to do something was better than doing nothing. Perhaps they thought we urchins would be reassured. (We weren’t.)

Donald J. Trump, was born on the same day, in the same year, in the same city, as I. He no doubt also participated in “duck and cover,” although I’m pretty sure his private school had fancier desks than Public School 35, in The Bronx, which is where I went. Now, we have a brand new “nuke scare” in America. The media roll out their charts of how many bombs we have versus Russia, China, North Korea and so on. They put up maps showing how long it would take for an ICBM from North Korea to reach Guam, Honolulu, Anchorage, San Francisco. We haven’t seen projected kill rates yet, but I’m sure they’re coming. It’s all so drearily familiar from the height (or depth) of the Cold War.

Perhaps Trump welcomes this. There’s always been a way out for him, a theoretical device he could use to keep himself in power no matter how unpopular he gets, and that’s to wag the dog. This is where a politician will manipulate an event that so scares the public that they support him, rather than his opponents, even if they have doubts about him. American Presidents have long been accused of wagging the dog. When Bill Clinton bombed Afghanistan and Sudan, Republicans said he wagged the dog to distract attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Whether Clinton did or didn’t wag the dog, I think a lot of us predicted Trump would do it, if and when he felt the need to do so, which we suspected would come sooner rather than later. We didn’t know if it would be North Korea, or Iran, or Syria, or some other country, but we knew it was coming. It’s also been common, over the last seven months, for pundits to warn that Donald Trump has lied so often, and so blatantly, that when a real national crisis arises, the country, or large parts of it anyway, would not believe him. George W. Bush lost the popular election in 2000, and was widely disliked by Democrats, but he never developed the reputation as a liar and a cheat; so when Sept. 11 happened, the nation—including virtually every Democrat—rallied around him.

Trump won’t be so lucky. If he does something stupid against North Korea, a cadre of tea party/evangelical/military/white nationalists will stand by him, but large segments of the American populace will suspect that he has manipulated the Korean thing to divert attention away from RussiaGate and his other failures. There is ample justification to think so. He is a cornered rat. The Mueller walls are closing in; time is running out. What is a narcissistic, guilty authoritarian to do? Bomb something, cross your fingers, and hope that American patriotism will prevail. It will not. Trump’s self-vaunted political instincts, we now know, are vastly overrated. The voices in his head that he prefers to listen to, over those of senior military and diplomatic advisors, are fantasies. He is a sick, troubled man, and we need to get rid of him now.

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    P.S. 209 in Queens. Same era, same “duck and cover.” Every time a news flash came on TV I worried it would be announcing the beginning of a nuclear war. Now I have to worry again, although this time no TV.

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