Monthly Archives: August 2017

Abby Normal

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Ah! Very good. Would you mind telling me whose brain I DID put in?
Igor: Then you won’t be angry?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.
Igor: Abby someone.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] Abby someone. Abby who?
Igor: Abby… Normal.
                     –  “Young Frankenstein,” (1974)

On August 30, 2016, the day after Gene Wilder died, the Washington Post published a tribute by cartoonist Tom Toles that shows Wilder, suitcase in hand, running up to St. Peter at Heaven’s Gate and exclaiming, “Tell him somebody put an abby normal brain into a presidential candidate!”  It was a heartful tribute to Wilder, as well as cunning political satire.  It was funny and easy to laugh at, since Hillary Clinton took a commanding lead in the polls just a week earlier and it seemed obvious she would trounce Trump in November and send him back to “The Apprentice.”  Then, lightning struck and the monster with the “abby normal” brain came to life and took up residence in the White House.

An “abby normal” brain is a lot funnier in a Mel Brooks farce than in real life.  The West Wing became the “abby normal” brain of the federal government, populated with odd characters like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka, and Mike Flynn.  Then there is Rich Higgins, whom Flynn brought into the National Security Council.  Higgins was recently shown the door along with Ezra Cohen-Watnick who, at the age of 31, was inexplicably chosen as Senior Director for Intelligence Programs by Flynn.  Both were fired by the new Chief of Staff, Retired General H. R. McMaster, who harbors the peculiar notion that the federal government should be run by competent adults.

Higgins was fired because he authored a memo that could only be spawned by an “abby normal” brain.  He advances a Manichean world view in which his hero, Donald Trump, faces “political warfare at an unprecedented level” from a vast conspiracy of evil forces, including mainstream Islamic advocacy organizations, which he labels as fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood.  He includes the UN, the ACLU, and Black Lives Matter, as well as “‘deep state’ actors, globalists, bankers, lslamists, and establishment Republicans.”  He claims the conspiracy is trying to enforce “cultural Marxism” through “political correctness” which he denounces as “a weapon against reason and critical thinking.”  He accuses the alleged conspirators of using the media – also part of the conspiracy – to “suffocate the vision of America that made (Trump) president.”  He does not limit his criticism of media to news outlets, but includes “the entertainment industry from late night monologues, to situation comedies, to television series memes, to movie themes.”  He concludes by stating, “the defense of President Trump is the defense of America.”  In Higgins’ view, if you watch Stephen Colbert, you’re a traitor. 

While McMaster was cleaning house, the Higgins memo wound up in the Oval Office.  According to Foreign Policy Magazine, which released the memo to the public, Trump’s eldest son, Donald the Lesser, “gave the memo to his father, who gushed over it, according to sources.”  The President didn’t know Higgins had been fired until his personal banshee, Sean Hannity, gave him the news.  A senior administration official told the magazine that Trump was “furious” to learn Higgins was gone and “is still furious.”

The Higgins memo, in its depiction of Trump and his supporters under siege from a global array of dark (and dark-skinned) forces, reflects a cultural pathology that informs the “alt-right” movement and its cousins in the white nationalist and white supremacist movements.  Trump’s Chief Strategist in the White House, former Breitbart Editor Steve Bannon, is an apostle for the alt-right.  The term “alt-right” was popularized by Richard Spencer, a white supremacist who organized last week’s demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia that attracted the KKK, neo-Nazis, and similar racist organizations and got three people killed.

The Charlottesville fatalities, including a young woman run down by a white supremacist who drove his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-demonstrators, led lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, to denounce the white supremacist movement and its supporters.  The President failed to do so.  Instead, he denounced “violence on all sides,” repeating “on all sides” for emphasis.  Following a barrage of criticism, he finally denounced the white supremacists on August 14th — but it was too late.  His earlier refusal to assign blame reinforced their belief they had a friend in the Oval Office.  “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room,” wrote a contributor to the Daily Stormer.  “God bless him.”

And God help the rest of us.  We have a President who caters to white supremacists and believes he is under siege by a “politically correct” Marxist conspiracy that includes international bankers, establishment Republicans, Muslims, and late-night talk show hosts.  It’s abby normal.

© 2017 by Mike Tully


Welcome to the Pence Presidency

 The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.
                     – Danny Kaye, “The Court Jester,” 1955

“Laughable and absurd.”  That’s how Vice-President Mike Pence described a report in the New York Times that he was conducting a shadow presidential campaign focused on the 2020 election.  He denounced the Times article as “disgraceful and offensive to me, my family and our entire team.”  “The allegations in this article are categorically false,” he protested, “and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration.”  Suggesting the Times information was – you guessed it – “fake news,” he tweeted, “my entire team will continue to focus all our efforts to advance the president’s agenda and see him re-elected in 2020.”  He wrapped up with what passes as a rhetorical flourish on Planet Pence: “Any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.”

He is, of course, lying.

With cratering polls, major political embarrassments, a pattern of increasingly bizarre behavior and the hot breath of Robert Mueller’s bloodhounds bearing down on him, Trump’s presidency has the shelf life of yesterday’s pico de gallo.  It would be political malpractice for Pence not to be making preparations to replace Trump by 2020 — or sooner.  The Times also reported that Pence is not the only ambitious politician visiting primary states, meeting with donors, and raising money.  Ohio Governor John Kasich never quit running.  Two young too-young senators, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, are positioning themselves to make a run.  U. N. Ambassador Nikki Haley recently hired her long-time pollster, according to the Times.  Since when does the U. N. Ambassador need a pollster?  Toss in her habit of foreign policy free-lancing and she’s clearly in.  The cherished campaign debate tradition of the “Kids’ Table” is guaranteed to continue in 2020!

But none enjoy the profile or the mega-rich contacts of Pence, who has courted donors and luminaries from Koch to Coach (Calipari).  While it makes sense to woo the Koch Brothers, as well as Tony Perkins and Kentucky coal magnate Joe Craft, what does John Calipari bring to the effort?  Oh, yes; Coach Cal is the acknowledged champion of “one-and-done-ers,” kids who play for their school for a year, then take off well before the expiration of the standard four-year term required to earn a college degree.  Pence has a personal and professional interest in people who fail to complete four-year terms.

Mike Pence, unlike Donald Trump, has an ethos.  While he may be a bit fuzzy on what century he is living in, he leaves no doubt about what he believes.  Pence has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”  Donald Trump, on the other hand, lives in a magical world centered on the Wonderful Wizard of Himself.  One of these days the Wizard’s hot air balloon will float him out of the Oval Office and Pence knows the knot on the tether is getting looser.

Pence has another advantage:  his Presidency has already begun.  When you look at what the Trump administration has actually accomplished, it’s the Pence agenda.   Pence is a cultural warrior who opposes marriage equality, voted against anti-gay hate crimes, supports using religion as leverage against civil rights laws, and enjoys a 100% rating by the Christian Coalition for his alleged “pro-Family-Values” voting record (which, ironically, includes an anti-Family-Values vote against paid parental leave).  He is strict on immigration, supports a ban on Syrian refugees and wants to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities.”  Like his ideological soulmate, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, he strongly opposes the legalization of marijuana.  And, speaking of Sessions, many of his close associates and colleagues wondered why he did not resign when the President recently used him as his personal piñata.  The reason may be that Sessions is gritting his teeth and biding his time, waiting for Trump to get the bum’s rush from Congress once Mueller’s investigation opens the door and makes the unofficial Pence presidency the real thing.  We are already witnessing the budding of the Pence-Sessions administration.  It is likely to bloom once Trump is off the scene.

That is a troubling prospect for those who loathe Trump, but fear Pence.  While Trump is the most cringe-worthy Chief Executive in history, he at least is relatively ineffective, like a sprinter who preps for the race by tying his shoe-laces together.  For most Americans, Trump’s greatest benefit is that he is too incompetent to create, pursue and implement an agenda.  Of course, the downside is that his clumsiness might trigger a nuclear war – which is probably the most persuasive argument for a Pence presidency:  cultural war instead of nuclear war.

Pick your poison.  There is no “brew that is true.”

© 2017 by Mike Tully


The Scaramucci Putsch

             Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
                                        – Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” 1975

Anthony Scaramucci (“The Mooch”) was either the most obsequious sycophant since Waylon Smithers, Jr., or a stealth assassin.  While the former is harmless, albeit a bit sad, the latter may be the reason new White House Chief of Staff, Retired General John Kelly, ushered him out the door before the stains of his tenure had dried.

If Donald Trump’s head split open and his id jumped out, it would look and sound like The Mooch.