Wednesday, February 20, 2019


The New Yorker has just published Isaac Chotiner's interview of Victor Davis Hanson. Hanson, a classics professor and hack fluffer of Trump at National Review and elsewhere, is peddling a new book called The Case for Trump, in which he portrays the president as a tragic hero. Here's a quote from the book:
What makes such men and women both tragic and heroic is their knowledge that the natural expression of their personas can lead only to their own destruction or ostracism from an advancing civilization that they seek to protect. And yet they willingly accept the challenge to be of service ... Yet for a variety of reasons, both personal and civic, their characters not only should not be altered, but could not be, even if the tragic hero wished to change ... In the classical tragic sense, Trump likely will end in one of two fashions, both not particularly good: either spectacular but unacknowledged accomplishments followed by ostracism ... or, less likely, a single term due to the eventual embarrassment of his beneficiaries.
Hanson is arguing that Trump "seek[s] to protect" our civilization, even though he realizes that the struggle to do so will lead to his "own destruction," or to "ostracism" from the very society he seeks to shield from harm. How selfless of Trump!

But that's the problem -- apart from Kool-Aid-drinking fanboys, no one has ever written the sentence "How selfless of Trump!" non-ironically. Even many of his admirers realize that the man has never done a single selfless deed in his life.

Yet here's Hanson in the interview:
I think Trump really did think that there were certain problems and he had particular skills that he could solve. Maybe in a naïve fashion. But I think he understood, for all the emoluments-clause hysteria, that he wasn’t going to make a lot of money from it or be liked for it.
Yes, we all know how willing Trump is to sacrifice money and the praise of others for a Higher Cause.

Reading the interview, you can tell that Chotiner is straining not to say what he really believes, like a Daily Show interviewer, in the hope that Hanson will hang himself. I wouldn't have had the restraint. I would have at least had to ask when in Trump's pre-political life he had ever known Trump to put others' interests ahead of his own. Trump's charity didn't even give money away in return for glory, like every other rich man's charity. Trump just isn't capable of generosity, even with strings attached.

Hanson cites Achilles as an analogue to Trump:
Achilles has elements of a tragic hero. He says, at the beginning of the Iliad, “I do all the work. I kill all the Trojans. But when it comes to assigning booty, you always give it to mediocrities—deep-state, administrative nothings.” So he stalks off. And the gods tell him, “If you come back in, you will win fame, but you are going to end up dead.” So he makes a tragic, heroic decision that he is going to do that.
Yes, the late 1960s draft dodger who called avoiding sexually transmitted diseases his "personal Vietnam" sure seems like someone who'd pursue heroism at great personal cost.

Hanson can't possibly believe any of this, can he? But he likes the way people he doesn't like get roughed up by Trump -- immigrants, Barack Obama, and also, um...
... if you go back and look at the worst tweets, they are retaliatory.

What he does is he waits like a coiled cobra until people attack him, and then he attacks them in a much cruder, blunter fashion. And he has an uncanny ability to pick people that have attacked him, whether it’s Rosie O’Donnell, Megyn Kelly—there were elements in all those people’s careers that were starting to bother people, and Trump sensed that out. I don’t think he would have gotten away with taking on other people that were completely beloved. Colin Kaepernick. People were getting tired of him, so he took him on. All that stuff was calibrated. Trump was replying and understood public sympathy would be at least fifty-fifty, if not in his favor.

No, I mean, if you are going to attack a woman as ugly you want to make sure you at least have public sympathy on your side.

I think so. There are certain women that may be homely.
Hanson likes Trump. He likes Trump's boorish anger=. And while he surely knows that the Trump he describes bears no resemblance to the real thing, he knows no one else can class up Trump flackery the way he can, with all those fancypants classical allusions. He knows the deplorables will believe anything about Trump, and so, in his area of specialization, he'll tell them anything they'd like to hear.

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