Archive for the 'President Trump' Category

Shakespeare Anagram: Twelfth Night

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Let’s call it the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and President Hyde.

It all started last weekend, when a coalition of white supremacist organizations staged a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. The idea was that the different alt-right factions, including the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, could come together and present a unified front for nationalism and racial purity. With swastika flags, burning torches, and chants such as “Jews will not replace us,” they presented an unambiguous message of anger and hate. Counter-protesters showed up to resist their message, and one particularly disturbed individual drove his car into them, injuring many, and killing Heather Heyer, age 32.

Before we go on, it should be clear that this is not in any way a left vs. right thing. This has nothing to do with Republican or Democratic ideology. Everyone in America should be against this, regardless of how you feel about the tax code or health care reform. And indeed, many prominent Republicans immediately spoke out against this protest and its message of hate. We should expect no less.

But on Saturday, as the events were still unfolding, President Trump came out to read a prepared statement, in which he stated that “we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.” He then stopped reading, looked up, and added “on many sides… on many sides.”

Deflection is a common rhetorical technique, used by politicians and their supporters, mainly when they are losing the argument and want to shift the focus of the conversation. Push a Trump supporter (or President Trump himself) too far, and you’ll get an earful of Benghazi or Hillary’s e-mails. And, yes, we do it too when our back is against the wall. (Sure, Obama used drones, but Bush did it too!)

So there’s nothing unusual about deflection, and it’s easy to call it out when it happens. But why on earth would President Trump use such a technique, or any technique at all, to defend the white supremacists? Sure, you can use deflection to shift focus onto the counter-protesters if you want to. But why? It only makes sense if you see the alt-right as “your side.” Is that what the President was signaling?

Needless to say, many were left feeling unsatisfied with this statement on Saturday. Pushback against his comments became so ubiquitous that he was forced to issue another statement last Monday. This time, he said all of the things a President is supposed to say, decrying racism as evil, and naming the various hate groups as well as the name of the woman who died in the protest. Some said he looked like a hostage being forced to read a statement against his will. Others criticized him for not speaking out sooner. But he said everything we asked him to say, and if he had left it there, the issue would have been closed.

He did not leave it there.

The next day, he was making an announcement about infrastructure. But when he took questions, they were not about infrastructure. This time, the President, finally freed from the oppressive shackles of prepared statements written by his more thoughtful policy advisors, doubled down on his deflection away from the white supremacists. He never explicitly said both sides were equally to blame, but that seemed to be his attitude. He coined the term “alt-left” as though people who want to raise the minimum wage and implement a single-payer healthcare system were on the same moral plane as Nazis. He also implied that it was the counter-protestors who were physically attacking the alt-right, when all of the evidence I’ve seen is to the contrary. He also felt the need to point out that the white supremacists had a permit, while the counter-protesters did not. (Seriously, he said that.) This was a new low for the Trump presidency, and that’s no easy bar to clear.

But then, this past Monday, he gave an address laying out a foreboding agenda in Afghanistan. Content aside, he was calmly reading from the teleprompter, just like a real big-boy president. He was measured, dignified, and – dare I say it – uncharacteristically presidential. He began with an eloquent call for unity against division. Had he not already relinquished all moral authority to make such a statement, it would have been beautiful. And when he talked about Afghanistan, he projected strength and resolve. There was the occasional reference to the previous administration’s blame and more than a little unearned braggadocio, but he didn’t trip over the podium or light himself on fire, and I caught myself hoping to see more of this president moving forward.

It took exactly one day to burst that bubble. At a campaign rally (!) in Arizona on Tuesday, he gave a completely unhinged performance, telling an alternate-universe version of the story above, and attacking the media as fake news outlets out to get him personally.

At the moment, it feels like we have two presidents, and when he speaks, we don’t know which one we’re going to get. But let’s not be under any illusions about which one is the @realDonaldTrump.

From Twelfth Night:

One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons;
A natural perspective, that is, and is not!

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

I see two presidents: one, a non-factual peevish scab; another can pivot, read notation.

Shakespeare Anagram: The Taming of the Shrew

Friday, August 18th, 2017

From The Taming of the Shrew:

And awful rule and right supremacy

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Uh… Trump defends an ugly racial war?

Here is the video of Tuesday’s press conference. I recommend you watch the whole thing, if you haven’t already. Future generations will be watching this in their social studies classrooms.


Shakespeare Anagram: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

This week, President Trump was caught lying about receiving phone calls from the leaders of Mexico and of the Boy Scouts, both to pay him compliments they would be unlikely to deliver.

And while this is neither the first lie nor the worst lie from this president, in a way, this kind of casual lying for no real reason is even more disturbing than the big stuff. I believe it was Shakespeare who put it best…

From The Merry Wives of Windsor:

I do despise a liar as I do despise one that is false, or as I despise one that is not true.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

O, the President said a lie!

It is not so seditious to assess if a leader phoned a praise.

Shakespeare Anagram: Macbeth

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

From Macbeth:

Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love; now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
Upon a dwarfish thief.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

The Mooch shamed, even cudgeled, loyal men on behalf of hog Trump, who thinks of his administration as a television elimination show.

No! Be gone!

Shakespeare Anagram: Henry V

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

After months and months of indignant denials, the Trump administration is finally being made to confront hard evidence of their campaign’s collusion with the Russians. To be clear, there’s not any evidence that they colluded in the Russians’ election-tampering, but there was definitely ongoing communication between the Trump people and the Russian government, and about the election.

Donald Trump Jr. was forced to reveal that he met with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 because he wanted campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton. The suspicious nature of the revelation was exacerbated by a string of lies and omissions surrounding this meeting. But the important thing to remember is that he was told in advance that this meeting was part of the Russian efforts to help the Trump campaign. There’s just no way to get around that.

And now we learn that the meetings that Jeff Sessions held with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were about the campaign after all, despite Sessions’ repeated insistence to the contrary, and this only after the secret meetings were revealed in the first place.

We really do need to let Mueller finish his investigation before we jump to any conclusions, but it’s not looking good for the Trump team. I don’t know; what do you think, Shakespeare?

From Henry V:

Their faults are open:
Arrest them to the answer of the law;
And God acquit them of their practises!

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Where Russian attachés offer to approach little frat squirt Don, and he’s eager to meet with them.

And I have send a special shout out to the brilliant Randy Rainbow, who’s like a modern-day Schoolhouse Rock for grown-ups.

Theatre: Measure for Measure (TFANA)

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the production of Measure for Measure at the Polonsky Center in Brooklyn, performed by Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA). It was a good production; I would even say very good. It didn’t come close to the two other productions I saw in the same space: Pericles and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But that’s an unfairly high bar to set, so let’s just say it was very good. The acting was strong across the board and the play was well communicated. There were some creative choices made with the text, and it was very entertaining to watch from beginning to end. They didn’t seem affected much by the recent controversy of a Trump-like Caesar at the Public Theatre. The Duke was a dead ringer for Justin Trudeau and Angelo was channeling Richard Nixon, and yet I saw no protesters from Canada or the 1970’s.

The director wanted to create an immersive experience for the audience, and to that end, we were brought into the theatre through a “brothel” that was set up on the ground floor. Mistress Overdone greeted me with a sultry “Hello Papi, welcome back. It’s good to see you again.” We walked past displays of adult toys and various rooms where implied sex acts were being performed behind plexiglass walls. It was gimmicky, sure, but I liked it. It made me feel like I was complicit in the decline of Vienna at the start of the play; I had just come from a brothel, after all.

My main complaint was that the production was a little too cute. It relied too much on jokey gags where the play itself could have sustained the comedy in a much more compelling way. Not always, but too often. In fact, the best scenes in this production were the ones that featured two actors alone on a bare stage communicating with each other using the emotion from the text. These scenes were truly explosive, and were actually the immersive experience the director wanted. “Trust the text” is a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason: it works. And it worked here. I’d have liked more of it.

Also, there’s an actor’s trick where you take one of Shakespeare’s more poetic turns of phrases and pause just before it, delivering the expression as though it were a polite euphemism for what you were really about to say. It’s usually good for a laugh, and I like the trope. But as one can desire too much of a good thing, this production used the device again and again and again. It’s just too cute.

I had a directing professor in grad school who was fond of the expression “Strong, but wrong.” I always appreciated the way it turned a criticism into a praise, and there were several aspects of this production where I would bestow such a praise.

One key example was the choice to show the Duke shooting up heroin at the beginning of the play. Here’s why that’s strong: The Duke is motivated by the fact that he is responsible for allowing vice to spread unchecked throughout Vienna. Having him actually be part of the debauchery makes him all the more driven to correct the fault. Here’s why it’s wrong: the play only works if the Duke has the moral authority to skulk around incognito, pulling secret strings and passing judgment “like power divine.” And I suspect that, for this production, that’s a feature and not a bug, but you have to admit that it does undermine to some extent the Duke’s comic scenes with Lucio. How can he be indignant about being called a drunk when he’s actually a junkie?

I’ve lived in New York City for the past twenty-five years, so I’ve become accustomed to “color-blind” casting. But in the shadow of recent events, not the least of which is the acquittal of the police officer who killed Philando Castile, color has become an increasingly harder thing to be blind to. In this production, Angelo was played by a white man, while Isabella and Claudio were black. I don’t know if the choice was deliberate, but it highlighted the entitlement Angelo feels in having control over each of their bodies. When Isabella asks “To whom should I complain?,” we could not understand her more clearly. When a man wrongs you, you can appeal to the system. When the system wrongs you, what recourse do you have?

Cara Rickets was a fantastic Isabella, bringing a lot of personality and humor to a character that often lacks both. Johnathan Cake (Duke), Thomas Jay Ryan (Angelo), and Leland Fowler (Claudio) helped her carry the production with strong characterizations and solid performances. But the real standouts of this production were the bit players, particularly those who doubled and tripled up. January LaVoy as the strait-laced Escala (a female Escalus) was completely unrecognizable from the Mistress Overdone who had flirted with me when I arrived. Kenneth De Abrew was always engaging to watch, whether he was playing Froth, Abhorson, or Friar Peter. And Zachary Fine absolutely stole the show – I mean, just absolutely stole it – as Elbow. Then, he did it again as Barnardine.

Measure for Measure runs through July 16.

Shakespeare Anagram: Much Ado about Nothing

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

Well, so much for politics stopping at the water’s edge.

Speaking in Warsaw, while on his way the G20 summit in Hamburg, President Trump was asked about Russian hacking, and he used the opportunity to go after President Obama, the American media, and our own intelligence community.

And now that he’s in Germany, he’s using Twitter to attack the media and, bizarrely, John Podesta.

From Much Ado about Nothing:

There’s not one wise man among twenty that will praise himself.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Man, he still posts a whiny tweet from anger while nations meet?

Shakespeare Anagram: Henry VI, Part Three

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

This week, former FBI director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

I’m not here to provide an analysis of that testimony. The current level of discourse is so far beyond facts and logic being relevant that you probably saw exactly what you expected to see. So did I.

But I do think that even those who are willing to suspend logic to support their ideologies should at least have a consistent internal logic to their arguments. That is, your statements should hold up against one another. This was not the standard reached by the Trump administration’s response to Comey’s testimony.

After I’d heard enough, I posted the following to social media on Thursday night:

We are now to understand that Comey’s testimony 1. demonstrated there was nothing wrong with what President Trump did, 2. established that President Trump didn’t do it, 3. was completely false, and 4. constituted an illegal leaking of confidential information. Any questions?

I wanted to make the point that the defense his people were mounting was full of internal contradictions, though I admit I was a bit verbose in doing so. But President Trump himself was kind enough to help me out by tweeting the following on Friday morning:

Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!

Thanks, Mr. President!

The problem is that Comey was under oath at the time. Which means that the president’s claim that Comey made “many false statements” is an explicit accusation of perjury. And this, according to Slate, could land him in a lot of trouble:

If the Trump administration truly believed that Comey had committed perjury, the Justice Department would, at a minimum, consider investigating his alleged crime. (It won’t.) If Trump himself really believed Comey had slandered him before Congress, he could set the record straight by rushing to go under oath as well. On Friday, he said he would agree to rebuke Comey under oath if asked. We’ve seen Trump make and break this kind of promise in the past; for now, it suffices to say that until Trump goes under oath, Comey’s narrative will essentially stand as the official public record.

Commence breath-holding in three… two…

From Henry VI, Part Three:

And there’s for twitting me with perjury.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Trump interfering with threats? We’d joy.

Shakespeare Anagram: Troilus and Cressida

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

This week, President Trump announced that he is withdrawing us from the Paris Climate Accord.

Now, in all likelihood, Trump is using this as a starting position for a renegotiation. That doesn’t mean we won’t actually pull out of the accord, as it seems unlikely such a renegotiation will be possible.

What this is really about is President Trump trying to show up President Obama. In his mind, he’s the greatest negotiator who ever lived. In reality, how good is he? He couldn’t even talk Republicans into repealing Obamacare.

What’s really scary about this is that, despite the unprecedented international coordination that went into making the deal, experts agree that it didn’t go nearly far enough to slow down the warming of the planet. Further action will still be needed, and that is going to be extremely difficult politically.

But what we definitely don’t want to do is move in the opposite direction, which is what this president is threatening to do. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to undo the damage that is done, and future generations may just look that this as the moment when we passed the point of no return.

Anyway, enjoy the anagram.

From Troilus and Cressida:

Paris is dirt to him.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Idiot rips; it harms.

Shakespeare Anagram: Henry VI, Part Two

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

The hits just keep on coming this week, but I suppose the top story is President Trump leaking classified information to the Russians in a meeting held in the Oval Office.

From Henry VI, Part Two:

This tongue hath parley’d unto foreign kings

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Russia got thy unhinged leak for nothing, pet.