Weekend Open Thread: How Trump Normalizes Cannabilism




Trump was guided and encouraged in his adoption of cannibalism by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

First I should clarify that so far as I know, President and Chief Mafioso Donald Trump is not a cannibal.  Personally, I would not bet more than $1 that on whether this is true or not; I’m just saying that I have no evidence for it.

Cannibalism is being used here as an instructive metaphor for something that, while it is illegal, is more strongly prohibited by social norms.  There are laws against speeding, yet anyone who has been on the freeways knows that speeding is pervasive.  Cannibalism — save for the auto-cannibalism chewing off a hangnail or kissing the small bit of blood from a pin-prick — is not, so far as I can tell, pervasive in our culture.  (If you’re going to write in and contend otherwise, be prepared to offer up your real name, because this newly refurbished comments section is simply not going to be allowed to become “Cannibalism Anonymous.)”

Specifically, cannibalism is being used as a metaphor for … well, gee, when talking about Trump, the possibilities are almost endless, aren’t they?  But what I have in mind is a President soliciting help from a  foreign government to find dirt on a rival candidate.  I don’t know that this actually rises to the level of “taboo” because most of us — with the exception of the Founding Fathers — have never even thought of it before this administration, but the reaction to its specter being raised in the Mueller Report  suggests that there was a broad consensus, at least prior to the end of this past summer, that this was something unthinkable over which a President should not even be accused.  Like, you know, cannibalism.

The key word there is “was.”  It turns out this past week that it was pretty thinkable after all.

The most fascinating thing about this quick and abrupt change in social mores — among the Republican Congressional leadership, I mean, not so much everyday people — is how Trump has gone about normalizing it.  It is as if, over a couple of weeks, has gone from saying “it’s fake news to say that I would ever consume human flesh!” to actually eating one of Chris Christie’s drumsticks on television.  Don’t buy the metaphor?  How else do you go from denying that he had ever tried using the powers of the Presidency to get the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on Joe Biden (or at least his son Hunter) to going on TV to say that China should investigate Biden as well?

Just as he would if he were trying to normalize cannibalism by eating a new piece of human flesh on camera every day until people just accept that this is the New Normal, Trump may now go down the list of countries asking any of them to produce some dirt on Biden — or Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Yang, Williamson, Weld, Sanford, or Roseanne — if they can find it.  After a while, it’s: “taboo?  What taboo?”  And, because impeachment of a President is really about him or her engaging in acts that are intolerable beyond the norms of acceptable presidential power — which is why the leading article against Nixon was characterized as “Abuse of Power,” as will likely be the case against Trump as well — the only real answer to such a breach is impeachment.

I could give you a rundown of why trying to recruit foreign intelligence agencies into doing one’s political oppo research is a bad idea — they have an incentive to lie, they gain a basis for blackmail, it erodes our standing among nations, it privatizes what should be public gain from good foreign relations, etc. — but you shouldn’t really need that.  If you do, well, call out for help in comments.  It just isn’t done, ok?   You don’t need a laundry list of reasons — just like you don’t for not eating human flesh.  You. Just. Don’t. Do That.

And the more that Trump tries to normalize this by doing it again and again, the more we have to resist being inured to it.  The calls to impeach have to grow louder — and redder in hue.

Much of why a President shouldn’t do this is because of the immense (but not plenary!) power that they hold to reward and punish foreign states.  Trump seems to relish this sort of power: as a businessman, he likes having every advantage, fair or foul, in negotiations.  But what he doesn’t get — except perhaps in the vague sense that he finds it attractive — is that this power really does put him in the position of a mob boss who need do no more than hint at consequences to have given a serious threat.  And he’s blind to when and how he’s compromised.  He’s no Vito or Michael Corleone — he’s part hotheaded Sonny in Godfather 1 and mostly outclassed and self-indulgent Fredo from Godfather 2.  But either way, his foreign rivals know that he can unleash holy hell on them based on a whim — and Trump is chock full of whims.

He was essentially telling Ukraine’s President to cooperate with his personal attorney to come up with dirt on Joe Biden — and, wackily, on Hillary, still — or else.  “Or else” what?  Or else it would not have the weapons it wanted to deter a foreign invasion of its eastern provinces by Russia.  Who does that?  Someone who doesn’t care about means or the quality of evidence produced — only results.  (Moreover, the real question is “who does that in the name of their country?”  We’re going to be living with other countries’ justifying their own cannibalism-equivalents with reference to Trump for generations.  THAT, itself, is the best argument for impeachment: we want to be able to answer future cannibals by saying “yeah, but at least we tried to do something about it!” rather than looking guilty and saying “ok, good point, go ahead and eat your civil rights protesters.”

I feel sorry for those Republicans who have not yet extricated Trump’s ideological meat hook from their sides, because they’re going to be dragged to some terrible places.  I get it: I went through this in 1998, trying to defend irresponsible horndog Bill Clinton — a task so unpleasant and daunting that it has driven both his wife and his daughter nuts.  It’s not fun.  I recommend making a clean break and being the self you will have to live with for the rest of your life.

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Respecting our social mores better than the President does, go do your WOT thing.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)