In poker, a “tell” is a passive, generally unintended gesture by one player that reveals how he or she is about to play his or her hand. Last week, President Trump’s Tulsa and Phoenix rallies were full of not-so-subtle tells that reveal a lot about how he plans to play his hand leading up to the high-stakes November Big Ugly.
The Tulsa and Phoenix tells also reveal the hands President Trump is not going to play. Expect no serious policy initiatives and no inspiring message to the American body politic. President Trump’s Tulsa and Phoenix tells speak mostly of a campaign of personal ridicule and demagoguery that will underpin the Trump campaign. Sleepy Joe, Creepy Joe, Demented Joe, Slow Joe, and every other adolescent slur will flow from the Trump campaign like so much rhetorical offal. School-yard slurs will pass for campaign strategy, and personal insults will define the President’s encounters with his opponent. We know that because he is road-testing the strategy at each rally.
The rioting and looting that marred many of the peaceful demonstrations presented an ideal opportunity for the President to tap into the very genuine disgust most Americans felt watching thugs set buildings ablaze and, with complete abandon, loot stores of their merchandise. So, the President has been quick to describe himself as the-law-and-order President, and he has dusted off Richard Nixon’s Silent Majority playbook, assuring us all that the Silent Majority is alive and well. Expect to hear that often in the weeks and months ahead. His Tulsa and Phoenix tells made clear that President Trump plans to hammer away at the notion that the arsonists and looters will find a friend in Joe Biden. The Trump campaign will sublimate to the arsonists and looters the peaceful but frequently marred demonstrations that took place throughout the country and, indeed, the world.
Even Richard Nixon, our previously most flawed President, during the height of the Vietnam War had a sense of the moment when, before dawn, he traveled unannounced to mingle and chat with anti-war demonstrators on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The demonstrators hated him, and he knew they hated him, but he went to talk with them. The students had come to protest in the immediate aftermath of the Cambodian incursion and the Kent State massacre. And there was President Nixon, who many of the demonstrators held indirectly responsible for the carnage, sitting with them on the steps of the Memorial doing his best to assure the students that he shared their determination to end the war.
Flash forward to June 1st, 2020, when President Trump had Lafayette Square aggressively cleared of peaceful demonstrators so that he could strut through a cordon of riot-equipped federal police to St John’s Church to pose with a bible for a photo op, and then strut back to the White House.
Expect to hear pointed references, as we did in Tulsa, to the Kung flu and the Wuhan Virus or the Chinese Virus—anything but the Coronavirus, the toll from which has been enormously driven by the failures of the Trump Administration. History will be brutal in its assessment of the Trump Administration’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. That has become inescapable, his congratulatory self-assessment notwithstanding. The President’s Coronavirus braggadocio has worn thin, fooling no one other than those who are willing to follow his lead like Brothers Grimm victims in Hamlin following another of history’s pied pipers.
Concerning the Administration’s Coronavirus response, President Trump intends to bluff like a seasoned player at one of his now-defunct casinos. America maintains a substantial investment in health and human services in general and infectious-disease response in particular. Yet, we have managed, rather spectacularly, to lead the world in pandemic response ineptitude. President Trump telegraphs (tells), over and over again, his intention to portray as spectacular how he has played the Coronavirus hands he has been dealt since last December.
He leads by example, which is why millions of his supporters refuse to wear masks—the consequences be damned. He has referred to himself as a wartime Commander-in-Chief fighting the invisible Coronavirus enemy. So far, in the last 120 days, we’ve lost more Americans than were lost fighting in the Korean War, or the Vietnam War, or World War One and the equivalent of roughly a quarter of all the American war dead in World War Two.
He even makes the case that testing is a double-edged sword because the more we test, the more we discover Coronavirus. He doubles down on the notion that, maybe, we should test less so that the level of (reported) infections will be lessened. And, to emphasize the point, he says he’s not kidding about the disadvantages of testing.
He has a point. Perhaps, we should curtail cancer screening as well.
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Thanks, Hal, for a wonderfully incisive and comprehensive account of what is taking place with our leadership since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. It is with some trepidation I await the not-so-novel routine responses from your more conservative readers.
Stephen this is one of Hal’s as you put it, “more conservative readers”. Before you cast slings and arrows at those of us who have a more enlightened view of the world then apparently you do, perhaps it would be best to study your grammar. I doubt that Hal takes too kindly to your describing his article as being “indecisive”. Once you’ve brushed up on that subject perhaps you’ll be better prepared to judge our responses which are hardly routine and are certainly far more novel than the drivel emanating from many so-called libs.
I believe the word you’re both looking for is “incisive”.
While I am no admirer of the POTUS I believe he is more
capable of leading as many of us realize his message is
quite better than the messenger. With Biden we get the
unknown especially when it comes to his cabinet and his
unknown mouthpiece. With Trump you get it all.
Sure he is boastful,makes mistakes, doesn’t back down, but
he is still the only one to maintain any kind of a true come
back in 2021 should a cure for the virus be found. Neither will
be successful if we are all still quarantined.
Hal are you able to think of any things that the President did that benefited you, or America or my homeland Israel since he was elected the President of my country
Response to ELIEZER BENJAMIN AKA LEONARD SHERMAN: Of course, and I have commented on them in these essays.
Response to Paul Silverstein: Surely, as one with a self-proclaimed “more enlightened view of the world,” you can do better than criticize an obvious typo of another commenter.
At the risk of proving Mr. Prover’s point, I must express my grave disappointment in this column Hal. At a time when the country desperately needs balance and sanity from people like you with the power of the pen you choose to take up the tired mantra of “Trump Derangement Syndrome”.
During these critical times where is your voice condemning the violent acts of the past few weeks?
• Were you not disgusted by the mob rule taking place in Seattle and the ceding of official police establishments to anarchists in two major American cities?
• Were you not offended by the tragic scenes of rampant arson and looting of hundreds of American businesses – both large and small?
• As a legitimate historian are you not dismayed by the left wing lunatics who wish to erase our past with the wanton, criminal destruction of our statues and monuments?
During this period of insanity, Senator Tim Scott tried diligently to introduce comprehensive police reform legislation to address some of our nation’s ills. The democrats would not lift a legislative finger to support this effort, exposing the fact that their concern goes only to winning the next election – not the healing of our country.
Hal, you have a highly-respected and powerful voice in American political matters. Please avoid the temptation of simply adding that learned voice to the chorus of whining anti-Trumpers and instead directly address the catastrophic events that are causing all of us so much angst.
Response to Roberta Conner: Stay tuned.
Re Qua’s comment, “With Biden we get the unknown” The Unknown is far better than the known.
Hal, “I think I smell a rat!” Since I wrote my comment at 9 AM and when I last checked your blog, you or another editor altered Stephen’s comment changing his originally written word, decisive to now say incisive.
I didn’t know that this is how your blog operates! This smacks of control of the views according to the whims of the editor and whatever best suits their views and purposes.
The policy for this and all other fair-minded blogs should remain what is written and posted shall remain intact. If it was, as you characterize it, an obvious typo I didn’t see Stephen asking publicly for a retraction, which is typically how such a circumstance is handled in an open and fair fashion.
Response to Paul Silverstein: We do routinely edit obvious grammatical and spelling errors when we catch them, and all reputable and conscience publications do. Do you actually know of a credible publication that doesn’t?
RESPONSE TO PAUL SILVERSTEIN:
Actually Paul I did write to Hal privately concerning my “typo”.
Thank You for your constructive criticism. Let me ask you a question. How do you feel about Donald Trump’s tendency to engage in petty, deranged ad hominem attacks against those individuals with whom he disagrees… Take your time…. (GOD I hope my grammar is satisfactory)
I don’t know Roberta Connor, but she nailed it. Polls don’t count anymore and the Silent Majority will be there in November and voting for Trump.
This mass mailing of ballots is a hoax. In the past four years, probably 20-30% of the electorate have moved or have different phone numbers, so when these ballots are delivered to incorrect addresses, who knows what individual is signing and returning that ballot. Regular ballots by mail are fine, but mass mailings are not. No one goes through the voter records and purges those who died , moved on, changed parties, etc. Polls need to be cleansed every two years.
I don’t know how Mr. Silverstein will respond to Stephen Prover’s question to him about “Donald Trump’s tendency to engage in petty, deranged ad hominem attacks against those individuals with whom he disagrees…” but I know MY response.
I absolutely hate that aspect of his behavior. .. among others… BUT America is not looking for Donald Trump to be its spiritual or morality leader. We want him to be our Commander in Chief and steer us to continued economic and military security.
Yes, I wish he had Kennedy’s charisma and Reagan’s ability to inspire but we got no choice. The alternative is unacceptable.
Dr. Prover I apologize if I criticized your original post but I took umbrage in how you characterized the responses of conservative readers. Of course, I dislike how President Trump at times comports himself. But there is saying that comes down to how I judge him. The saying is ” Don’t just listen to his lips, also watch his feet.” Words can sometimes be empty, meaningless, or even cruel. The real test of anyone, president or not, is how they abide by their promises and if their promises comport with principles, that in this case will make our country a stronger better nation. I truly believe he is striving to maintain and improve the strength and viability of the USA. He has confronted many issues, such as our relationship with China, that many of his predecessors were afraid to face and were allowed to fester.
Hal, as to editing. I’m sure you’re aware of the now current major flap of Jack Dorsey of Twitter wanting to edit posts, especially of Pres. Trump. Just a reminder. Not that I’m accusing you of this but editing is a slippery slope and can be used to bias or even distort the news.
Response to Paul Silverstein’s additional comment:
Responsible editing is never a slippery slope. It is a basic responsibility in publishing.
I do believe that the President has painted himself into a corner for his re-election. His remarks on camera and his tweet storms are often off the mark, contradictory to previous remarks made on open mic, and frequently simply false. These have alienated the suburban college educated population, women and people who are not of European extraction. He is now depending heavily on his most loyal base: older whites living outside of large urban centers and evangelical Christians. (The people most likely to hate me for being the son of illegal immigrants, non-white and a born-again atheist.) But here’s the rub, that’s half of the American population.
When re-reading the responses to Hal’s essay re: The Tells” of Tulsa, I find it pathetic that readers can be so small minded regarding the misspelling of the word incisive.
For those of you that have a linguistics major and a grammarian with you at all times, good for you. Otherwise the pettiness of those comments are pathetic.
Focus on something productive.