I really, really, really didn’t want to talk about Donald Trump. I was going to write about the Houston debate, which was one hell of an ugly scene in which moderators begged the candidates in vain for some kind of order and sanity, but I have to face facts: the time has finally come for me to discuss this ridiculous person. I cannot express to you in words how much this is hurting me, like, physically hurting me, in ways that would crush the spirits of lesser men. There’s a sharp pain in my chest, every other breath is a wheeze, and it hurts when I pee. Fancy men with medical degrees tell me this has nothing to do with Trump, that my lifestyle choices and predilection toward unprotected sex has more to do with my physical ailments than Donald Trump and the American election cycle. I think that’s what they’re saying, anyway; my Japanese is not great on the best of days and it’s difficult to concentrate when a doctor is probing your genitals with what appears to be a Hello Kitty™ shrimp deveiner wired to a tricorder.
It goes without saying that I, like nearly everyone else in the world, underestimated his staying power by a significant degree. We told each other “just ignore him, he’ll go away soon enough”, and that might’ve even worked if anyone had actually tried to ignore him. But they didn’t. In fact, they did the exact opposite and allowed the awful bastard to dominate the news every week. And it’s extra infuriating when you consider the attitude that the press takes toward Donald Trump, which one of shocked indignation coupled with unamused disbelief, as though it wasn’t they who have been shoving him in our collective faces for the last six months and amplifying his voice exponentially.
HOW DID TRUMP HAPPEN?
Both my younger sister and my mother are registered Republicans, and both are continually shaking their heads in utter disbelief at what has transpired within their own Party. They repeatedly ask each other “How did this happen? Who is voting for this guy?” and my familial affection for them naturally elicits some pity. It’s that same familial bond that keeps me from pointing at them and laughing, or shaking them by their shoulders and screaming “you fools, you fools! Don’t you see??? We’re all to blame here, every single one of us! We’ve done this to ourselves!”
Here’s a fun fact about me: I literally worship the patron god of liars and thieves, and have done so since I was a little boy. As such, throughout my life I’ve learned a lot about lying — about when it works, about how it works, and most especially about when to use the truth in service of a larger lie. See, while there’s no doubt that Trump’s a liar and a con man, when he does tell the truth he picks the perfect truths to tell. He tells the truth almost exclusively when the other candidates, the media, and the Republican party itself, are most willing and ready to blatantly and unabashedly lie to themselves and us. When he jabbed Jeb Bush over his brother’s administration lying to get the United States into a stupid war it had no business conducting, I actually started rooting for Donald Trump until I came to my senses. When he talks about the need for campaign finance reform, it’s impossible for any clear-headed adult to disagree with him even though no other Republican candidate — let alone the Republican Party itself — wants to talk about it, because of course they don’t.
Matt Taibbi, writing for the Rolling Stone, expresses this eloquently in what is my favorite article about the election published this year, and probably my favorite since this ridiculous goddamn shit-show began (the emphases are mine).
He talks, for instance, about the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by insurance companies, an atrocity dating back more than half a century, to the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945. This law, sponsored by one of the most notorious legislators in our history (Nevada Sen. Pat McCarran was thought to be the inspiration for the corrupt Sen. Pat Geary in The Godfather II), allows insurance companies to share information and collude to divvy up markets.
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats made a serious effort to overturn this indefensible loophole during the debate over the Affordable Care Act.
Trump pounds home this theme in his speeches, explaining things from his perspective as an employer. “The insurance companies,” he says, “they’d rather have monopolies in each state than hundreds of companies going all over the place bidding … It’s so hard for me to make deals … because I can’t get bids.”
He goes on to explain that prices would go down if the state-by-state insurance fiefdoms were eliminated, but that’s impossible because of the influence of the industry. “I’m the only one that’s self-funding … Everyone else is taking money from, I call them the bloodsuckers.”
Trump isn’t lying about any of this. Nor is he lying when he mentions that the big-pharma companies have such a stranglehold on both parties that they’ve managed to get the federal government to bar itself from negotiating Medicare prescription-drug prices in bulk.
“I don’t know what the reason is – I do know what the reason is, but I don’t know how they can sell it,” he says. “We’re not allowed to negotiate drug prices. We pay $300 billion more than if we negotiated the price.”
It’s actually closer to $16 billion a year more, but the rest of it is true enough. Trump then goes on to personalize this story. He claims (and with Trump we always have to use words like “claims”) how it was these very big-pharma donors, “fat cats,” sitting in the front row of the debate the night before. He steams ahead even more with this tidbit: Woody Johnson, one of the heirs of drug giant Johnson & Johnson (and the laughably incompetent owner of the New York Jets), is the finance chief for the campaign of whipping boy Jeb Bush.
“Now, let’s say Jeb won. Which is an impossibility, but let’s say … “
The crowd explodes in laughter. “Let’s say Jeb won,” Trump goes on. “How is it possible for Jeb to say, ‘Woody, we’re going to go out and fight competitively’ ?”
This is, what – not true? Of course it’s true.
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