Sunday, November 20, 2016

Zakaria Interviews Kissinger

I've come to pretty much despise CNN. Its pre-election obsession with Donald Trump is no small part of the reason. It seemed that almost every time I tuned into CNN over the past umpteen months, they were talking almost exclusively about "TRUMP...TRUMP...TRUMP."

It was as though there were virtually nothing else, short of an occasional terrorist attack or natural catastrophe, going on in the world worth covering. To make matters worse, their coverage of Trump, as with almost everything else they sporadically touched upon, was shockingly shallow.

Rather than investigate Trump's past with due journalistic diligence or thoughtfully explore the ramifications of his policy proposals, such as they were, CNN chose to lightheartedly and nitwittedly dwell at mind-numbing length on "The Donald's" most recent petulant tweet in response to the latest SNL skit mocking him or on some other such trivial nonsense. They treated Trump like everybody's favorite clown, or, as NYT literary critic Dwight Garner semi-famously said, like a "dancing bear" who always has a chance to win when an election is turned into a "three-ring circus."

Indeed, if psycholinguist George Lakoff is right, this incessant attention from CNN and the rest of the so-called mainstream media, even when seemingly negative, boosted Trump's visibility and correlative popularity. I'm thinking it may well have been the decisive factor in Trump being elected.

But there's one CNN program that I still like. Well, actually, there are two. The other is Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown. But first and foremost is Fareed Zakaria GPS.

No doubt many, depending on where they fall on the political spectrum, would accuse Zakaria and his show of being either too liberal or too conservative. But I find every episode informative and thought-provoking even though I'd love to see a wider range of guests and opinions presented.

Fareed's first guest today was Henry Kissinger. Now say what you will about Kissinger--some consider him one of our greatest Secretaries of State while others think he's one of the world's most monstrous living war criminals--, this 93-year-old guy seems to have retained his smarts, and he said a couple of things today that stood out to me.

First, he said that Trump comes to the office with less "baggage" than any president-elect he could recall. I think he meant that Trump doesn't appear to be intransigently ideological and hasn't spent time in political positions where he's accumulated political debts to anyone. Once in office, he could do pretty much what he wanted provided it was constitutional and he could, when necessary, marshal requisite popular and congressional support.

When Zakaria asked whether Trump carried the baggage of policy proposals he made during his campaign, Kissinger cautioned against the press 'nailing' him to those positions and criticizing him for turning away from them, because there was a chance that if they did as Kissinger advised, Trump's pragmatism would prevail over destructive and dangerous ideology.

This morning, I saw a Saturday Night Live sketch where Adam Baldwin portrays President-elect Trump feeling overwhelmed by preparations to assume office and exhibiting resistance to carrying out some of his campaign pledges, such as rescinding Obamacare. And I thought this might not be so far from how it really is for Trump now that the campaign is over and it's time to dispense with the bullshit and face up to the crushing realities of being president of the world's pre-eminent nation. Maybe Kissinger is right that we can help him to handle reality more effectively by giving him some space.

Yet, what the sketch also showed was Trump delegating as many duties and responsibilities as possible to Mike Pence and his staff. And given the sensibilities and histories of Pence and others Trump seems intent on surrounding himself with, I fear that he'll be letting incompetents, fanatical ideologues, and ethical pygmies run this country while he largely retires to his gold-plated penthouse in Trump Tower between ceremonial functions in which he'll represent this country on the domestic and world stage with nothing approaching the impeccable intelligence, eloquence, and class our outgoing president unflaggingly demonstrated for the past eight years.

The second thing Kissinger said was that Trump's professed attitude toward Russia's Vladimir Putin may actually defuse some of the tensions between our countries that the condescension toward Russia and the aggressive expansion of NATO's military capabilities near the Russian border under the Obama administration may have gone far to arouse.

We shall see...

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