Brett Stephens of The New York Times was on a cable news panel this week. The subject was Trump’s base of supporters and the swill they’re willing to swallow from their messiah. Brett summoned his best “Captain” (Strother Martin, who played the southern prison boss) for a play on the famous quote from the 1967 Paul Newman movie “Cool Hand Luke” and drawled, “What we’ve got here is failure of epistemology.” I know. It was a stretch. But Stephens’ heart was in the right place. Epistemology, the study of knowledge, is under attack. Facts are under attack. To Trump’s base, facts are the epistemological enemy, or at best, optional. Later in the panel discussion, New York Times reporter Nick Confessore pushed back on Stephens’ metaphor. He pointed out that Trump-supporting pundits clearly know what the facts are. They just lie. Touché. (scroll down for full article)
— RECENT HEADLINES –
“GOP Sens. Grassley, Johnson, Graham Seeking Obama, DNC Ukraine Materials” (11/22/2019)
“Intel. Community Releases Report Saying Russia Engaging in Yearslong Effort to Frame Ukraine for Interfering With 2016 U.S. Elections; Putin Has Fed This Lie to Trump Personally in Their Meetings; Senate Has Been Briefed but GOP Senators Continue to Spread Lie, Blame Ukraine” (11/22/2019)
“Fed. Judge Releases Scathing Opinion Rebuking ‘absolute exec. privilege,’ Says Fmr. WH Counsel Don McGahn Must Obey Subpoena, Testify to Congress; WH Will Appeal to Supreme Court” (11/25/2019)
“Trump Reinstates Navy SEAL Convicted of War Crimes; Secretary of Navy Resigns” (11/25/2019)
“Probes Expanding for Trump Personal Lawyer Rudy Giuliani, at Federal, NY State Level” (11/25/2019)
“Confirmed: Trump Knew About Whistleblower Complaint Before Releasing Ukraine Aid” (11/26/2019)
“Trump Is Distancing Himself From Rudy Giuliani, Says He Didn’t Order Rudy to Ukraine” (11/26/2019)
“OMB Official Mark Sandy’s Testimony Released by Congress: 1) Mulvaney Directed Ukraine Aid Hold for Trump; 2) Political Appointee Brought in to Sign Doc.; 3) Only Heard a Reason 2 Days Before Sept. 11 Release: ‘burden-sharing’; 4) 2 OMB Officials Resigned Over Trump’s Illegal Holdup of Aid” (11/26/2019)
“Top State Dept. Official Philip Reeker’s Testimony Released by Congress: 1) Sondland Said He Had a ‘script’ for Ukraine’s Pres.; 2) Illegal Quid Pro Quo Was Obvious to Him, Others in Office” (11/26/2019)
“House Judiciary Cmte. Announces 1st Open Hearing Dec. 4, Invites Trump, WH Lawyers” (11/26/2019)
“Giuliani Sought Payment From Ukrainian Prosecutor While They Jointly Dug Biden Dirt” (11/27/2019)
“DOJ IG Report: FBI Did NOT Spy on Trump Campaign, Undercutting Trump’s 3-Yr. Lie” (11/28/2019)
Mercifully, impeachment news has slowed this week. Oh, sure, we got the release of a few more closed-door testimony transcripts from a few more midlevel administration officials confirming a few more pieces of evidence proving our president is a crook. Blah, blah.
Word came down that President Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint before he finally released the illegally held up Ukrainian military aid. Tell us something we don’t know.
We got the story that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had talks with a corrupt Ukrainian former prosecutor guy to represent the guy for lots of money while the guy was helping Rudy dig phony dirt on Joe Biden and CrowdStrike. Yada, yada.
And we heard the president tell former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that he never directed said personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine “to do anything.” Donald told Bill, “I know that he was going to go to Ukraine … but Rudy has other clients, other than me.”
In other words, “Rudy who? I don’t know the gentleman.”
Failure of Epistemology
Brett Stephens, opinion writer for The New York Times, was on a cable news discussion panel this week. The subject was Trump’s base of supporters and the swill they’re willing to swallow from their messiah. Brett summoned his best Captain (Strother Martin, who played the southern prison boss) for a play on the famous quote from the 1967 Paul Newman movie Cool Hand Luke and drawled, “What we’ve got here is failure of epistemology.”
I know. It was a stretch. But Stephens’ heart was in the right place. Epistemology, the study of the nature of knowledge, is under attack. Another way to slice it: facts are under attack. To Trump’s base, facts are the epistemological enemy, or at best, optional.
Later in the panel discussion, New York Times reporter Nick Confessore pushed back on the failure-of-epistemology metaphor. He pointed out that Trump-supporting pundits clearly know what the facts are. They just lie. Touché.
War on Epistemology
You might have heard about President Trump’s fight against the “war on Thanksgiving,” which he trotted out at his rally Tuesday. Apparently riffing on a Fox News Fox and Friends segment about this truly disturbing new (made-up) conflagration, Donald said this:
“You know, some people want to change the name ‘Thanksgiving.’ They don’t want to use the term ‘Thanksgiving.’ And that was true also with ‘Christmas,’ but now everybody’s using ‘Christmas’ again. Remember this? But now we’re going to have to do a little work on ‘Thanksgiving.’ People have different ideas why it shouldn’t be called ‘Thanksgiving,’ but everybody in this room, I know, loves the name ‘Thanksgiving’ and we’re not changing.”
(Trump, Donald, R-Fla., U.S. president; campaign rally; Sunrise, Fla.; 11/26/2019.)
Fox News followed up:
“Trump Vows Not to Change the Name of Thanksgiving Despite Cries From the ‘Radical Left’”
(headline; FoxNews.com; 11/27/2019.)
Well let’s fight fire with fire by putting our burning money where our mouth is. In the name of all gallant resisters, I’m declaring a war on Trump World’s war on epistemology. (A double, self-determined clever metaphor to boot.) The truth will matter once again. Facts will be shared and acknowledged once again, not just at Christmastime but all year ‘round. Behold:
Trump is corrupt, incompetent, and amoral.
Trump did extort Ukrainian phony dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for military aid.
Trump did obstruct justice, many times.
Trump did invite the Russians to illegally help his campaign.
Trump does have small hands, and is really only 6” 2’ (not 6” 3’) with a BMI well over 30 (i.e., obese).
Trump is a narcissistic rat bastard, born on third base and thought he hit a triple.
So when the rubber meets the road to the dawn of a new era, we’ll gather our worker bees in opposition to the fish rotting from the top of those who have declared war on epistemology.
Or maybe we should declare a war on metaphor — or at least, a police action against banal metaphors of the mixed kind. ■
P.S.: This Thanksgiving holiday, I’m thankful for Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Justin Amash, all the Republican pundits who support Trump’s ouster, my wife, my family, my dog, and my good health.
Impeachment Timeline — This Week
[RECAP]: 11/20/2019 — CONGRESS HOLDS 7TH OPEN IMPEACHMENT TESTIMONY HEARINGS — witnesses: counselor for political affairs at U.S. embassy in Ukraine David Holmes; former Sr. director for Europe and Russia at NSC Dr. Fiona Hill: 1) Holmes relayed overheard call between Sondland and Trump in which Trump asked about Ukrainian Biden investigation; 2) Holmes relayed that Sondland told him Trump doesn’t care about Ukraine, he only cares about Ukrainian Biden, CrowdStrike investigations; 3) Holmes stated Sondland had a “direct line” to Trump, Mulvaney; 4) Holmes stated Trump and Giuliani specifically were demanding a Ukrainian presidential interview on CNN to announce Biden, CrowdStrike investigations, and Ukraine believed they “had to do it”; 5) Holmes stated aid freeze was only lifted after “significant press”; 6) Hill confirmed “diverging” Ukraine diplomatic channels between Sondland, Trump, Mulvaney, Pompeo — who were on a “domestic political errand” — and the “normal” national security channels; she predicted a “blowup — and here we are”; 7) Hill confirmed the attempt to trade, extort Ukrainian aid, White House mtg. for phony Ukrainian Biden, CrowdStrike investigations, i.e., quid pro quo, was common knowledge; 8) Hill said Sondland specifically stated that Trump put him “in charge of Ukraine” policy and often “name-dropped” President Trump; 9) Hill said Mick Mulvaney was highly involved in the quid pro quo; 10) Hill chastised Republicans for perpetuating Russia’s narrative that Ukraine interfered in 2016 U.S. election: “In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests. … These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.”
[IMPEACHMENT: DAY 59 — 11/21/19]
11/22/2019 — Intelligence Community releases report detailing Russia’s “yearslong” efforts to frame Ukraine for 2016 U.S. election interference; Senate had been briefed; GOP senators continue to support this conspiracy theory, which helps Russia, during impeachment proceedings despite warnings
11/26/2019 — Congress releases impeachment witness transcripts: top OMB official Mark Sandy: 1) White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney ordered Ukraine aid hold for Trump; 2) political appointee was brought in to sign document when OMB career official refused; 3) only finally heard a reason for holdup 2 days before Sept. 11 release of funds, ostensibly “burden-sharing” concerns; 4) 2 OMB officials resigned over Trump’s illegal holdup of Ukrainian aid
11/26/2019 — Congress releases impeachment witness transcripts: top State Dept. official Philip Reeker: 1) Amb. Gordon Sondland said he had a “script” for Ukraine’s President Zelensky to use to announce Biden/CrowdStrike investigations; 2) illegal quid pro quo — “arms for dirt” — was obvious to him and others in office
11/26/2019 — Congress announces 1st open Judiciary Cmte. impeachment hearing Dec. 4; invites Trump, White House lawyers to participate
Trump Corruption Chronicles — We Must Never Forget