January 3, 2017

"To read Trump correctly, it’s probably best to dig up old French deconstructionists like Jean Baudrillard..."

"... who treated words not as things that have meanings in themselves but as displays in an oppositional power struggle. Trump is not a national leader; he is a national show. If this is all true, it could be that the governing Trump will be a White House holograph. When it comes to the substance of actual governance, it could be that President Trump is the man who isn’t there."

David Brooks is back from vacation and ready to cogitate for your delectation.

Deconstruction! Holographs!

The Coen Brothers made a movie "The Man Who Wasn't There":



I haven't seen the movie but that trailer begins with a close-up of barbering and a voice-over naming various hairstyles, ending with "the executive contour" (at 0:13). That brought back a dream I had last night. I was advising Donald Trump to restyle his hair. It shouldn't come forward over his face. I saw him with the new hairstyle. It was — it seems now — The Executive Contour.

But "The Man Who Wasn't There" is more familiar as an old poem, "Antigonish" (from 1899 by William Hughes Mearns):
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd go away...

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door...

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away...
That poem was cited by Justice David Souter in the Supreme Court case about voter I.D. laws:
The State responds to the want of evidence [of the kind of fraud that the law would remedy] with the assertion that in-person voter impersonation fraud is hard to detect. But this is like saying the “man who wasn’t there” is hard to spot....
The Man Who Wasn't There should not be confused with The Man Who Never Was, an invented persona assigned to a real human corpse and used to trick the Nazis in WWII — otherwise known as Operation Mincement:
To reinforce the impression of Martin being a real person, Montagu and Cholmondeley provided collaborative details to be carried on his person – known in espionage circles as wallet or pocket litter. This included a photograph from an invented fiancée named Pam; the image was of an MI5 clerk, Jean Leslie. Two love letters from Pam were included in the pocket litter, as was a receipt for a diamond engagement ring costing £53, 10s 6d from a Bond Street jewellery shop. Additional personal correspondence was included, consisting of a letter from fictitious Martin's father – described by Macintyre as "pompous and pedantic as only an Edwardian father could be" – which included a note from the family solicitor, and a message from Lloyds Bank, demanding payment of an overdraft of £79 19s 2d.
Here's the delightful "Pam":

64 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

"The Coen Brothers made a movie "The Man Who Wasn't There"..."

Great Coens film, one of the last of their truly quirky ones.

But of course I remember it best for a young Scarlett Johannsen attempting to give Billy Bob Thornton a blow-job in a moving car.

"'Heavens to Betsy no, Birdie!"

Of course I remember that.

I am Laslo.

traditionalguy said...

Wow! Wishful thinking by Brooks who wants the old days back when DJT leading everything at once was not there. Back when a candidate with his own 757 did not do 6 major rallies in one day in 6 different States before the anointed Dem woke up screaming at the Secret Service.

Unfortunately, the need for Trump to be ignored and not be there will always there. And then Kellyanne comes out does her dance on all the Nets and cable, and no one can take their eyes off her praising the Man Who Is Not There.

The Dems only hope is impeachment. The criminalizing of politics is their best path forward. The man's family has Hotels and does business deals with wealthy people. And Tillerson's Oil Company does business with the largest country on earth. Criminalizing Business Success is the answer. That is something the Media, outside of the old Fox News, needs never fear.

rhhardin said...

Trump is just displacing the final editorial say of the MSM.

It does no good to refute it, you have to displace it.

traditionalguy said...

OMG, Brooks is bringing up Obama's lack of a real birth certificate or any college records. That is so bad. It must be criminal.

Laslo Spatula said...

Trump will be too much, or he will be too little. Words will be stretched, hollowed, and turned-upside down so that both of these narratives can coexist.

Deconstruct unto porridge.

And the various erudite Goldilocks will never find a porridge that is “just right.”

“The Media That Wasn’t There” has returned.

I am Laslo.

rehajm said...

Jeez, if Brooks had made a resolution not to wet his pants anymore in the new year he'd have failed already.

President Obama and Alternative Reality President Hilary Clinton are lauded as cutting edge innovators for utilizing social media, while Trump is a hologram, and an out of control one at that.

This morning while the rest of the MSM is (still) muddying the waters with conflation of Wikileaks, Russian hacking, hacking the election and the legitimacy of Trump, the president elect is discussing US-Mexican trade, Chinese trade, Obamacare, the Chicago murder rate. In other words, things Americans believe are important, not what lefties in MSM hope hope hope they can make important.

MadisonMan said...

When it comes to the substance of actual governance, it could be that President Trump is the man who isn’t there

Alternatively, I could just be talking out of my a$$ and this prediction will fail miserably.

(I didn't click -- is my follow-on sentence not really in the article?)

GWash said...

Step 1. get rid of common understanding of what words mean. Create your own language that needs to be interpreted, understood, what he really means to say, cast runes to see what he means, examine the entrails to see what the truth is, then tweet it so it is spongable... and DENIABLE, yes if all else fails deny having said it, tweeted it or meant it..
Step 2. Get rid of any official independent watchdog group that would hold you accountable for any lapses of ethics, like perhaps conflict of interests...
When are we going to wake up to the fact that it's not the media's reporting, it's the actions and words of the trump himself (and his gang of thieves)... newest addition, carl ichan featured in a super secret advisory role.. WATCH YOUR WALLETS, THE WOLVES ARE HERE...

PB said...

David Brook's article is an art-form of irony (I maintain that liberals lack the gene to detect or appreciate irony). He claims Trump's whole problem is that he's never been accountable to anyone and that the President serves the office and hence serves the process surrounding the office.

Doh! That's the whole problem in a nutshell there. Brooks doesn't understand that Trump has been accountable to the most important element in our society/economy every day, all his life - the consumer/customer! People buy his product or they don't because it's their choice. Not someone else's choice.

PB said...

Traditional politicians only have to face the consumer/voter's decision every 2, 4 or 6 years.

Darrell said...

Go to Hell, Brooks. Obama's CIA lie about Russia is coming undone. What have you to say about that?

Comanche Voter said...

It would probably be a blessing to the world if French deconstructionists were simply left to molder in the ground. And when it comes to effective governance, we are just getting rid of a hologram/empty suit/empty chair [you got that right Eastwood!]/and man who wasn't there.

As always, Brooks is eight years late and a dollar short.

Bob said...

Hmm, Pam looks just like my imaginary girlfriend. I wonder if it's her?

Kevin said...

Shorter version: make sure whatever you believe is not straight from the source but filtered through the media first.

You see that guy over there Tweeting? No you don't!

Amexpat said...

"The Man Who Wasn't There" is the Coen Brother's most underrated film. It has some flaws (the extraneous bit about extraterrestrials), but if has a lot going for it - Billy Bob's great performance and a clever take on film noir.

Clayton Hennesey said...

As one might expect, Salena Zito - remember her? Unlike David Brooks she correctly perceived and understood 2016 - is far more useful.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/article/2610573

I imagine Brooks actually spends most of his time running the edge of his thumb slowly and lovingly down the crease in his trousers.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I have actually started to read "The Art Of The Deal." I would not recommend it to Brooks because as a lifelong inhabitant of the "intellectual" class he would find it incomprehensible.

Trump comes right out and says the most important thing about his degree from Wharton was that it impresses other people. He decries credentialism (though he doesn't call it that.) He and his father bought and renovated a large apartment building in Cincinnati while Trump was still in college and Trump was in charge of supervising the renovations and management of the property. While working for his father Trump went with rent collectors to collect rent. The collectors told him to not stand in front of the door when knocking because it was dangerous to do so.

Trump's management style is in no way hands off. It is very much a "walk around" style. Also, he is not afraid to try new, innovative things. Whatever it takes to reach the goal. With multiple plans because you never know what can go wrong. Sounds to me like his time in military school was not wasted.

But Brooks has got to believe that nothing has changed. The status quo is still the status quo. Like Chuck he chooses to believe that wise advisors from the GOPe will restrain Trump from actually trying to fulfill his campaign promises.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Anyway, Trump is not lazy, nor detached.

Original Mike said...

I hope Souter couldn't resist being cute rather than thinking he was making an irrefutable argument.

My Mon loved that poem and recited it to me frequently when I was a kid.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

By the way, that column by Salena Zito is the reason I decided to read "The Art Of The Deal."

Big Mike said...

I clicked and ran headlong into a paywall.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Ordinarily I have no interest in the memoirs of someone who is a pop culture phenomenon, but since Trump is soon to be POTUS he has transcended that identity.

Guildofcannonballs said...

I think the scene with the most funny is the cops acting annoyed they have to tell BBT "tough break," that his wife was picked up for murder.

It reminds me when I am in traffic that is slow after an accident that I could be the sorry, sad-ass son of a bitch in the accident and not merely delayed by it.

The great Green Bay native Tony Shaloub shines as Freddy Reidenshcnieder too, one of Tinseltown's best lawyers ever.

"I'm a lawyer, your a barber, you don't know anything."

Quaestor said...

David Brooks is back from vacation and ready to cogitate for your delectation.

News indeed. Brooks has been on vacation a long, long time. One observes all that rest and relaxation hasn't improved his cogitation. The last time he checked in for work he concluded Obama would be an exemplary Chief Executive based on the crease in his trouser leg.

Bob Boyd said...

If you gave Brooks a stack of Obama and Trump trouser crease photos, would he be able to tell which was which?
How about his ass and a hole in the wall?

traditionalguy said...

GWASH @ 8:02...rings in right on time. He righteously demands to criminalize politics if successful, men and women are in office making America Great Again. He wants to arrest them and appoint instead a Jesuit Globalist who prays as he takes the wealth, and maybe re-distributes some, except of course for the first 90% of the wealth that is to be kept in the Marxist/Green Party's Ruler Du Jour's secret Swiss accounts.

The Clinton Crime Family understood this so well. Maybe DJT can hire them as consultants like the FBI hires the best hackers to teach us how to catch the others. They would be worth the hundreds of millions they charge for their skills, paid 500K per day.

Fernandinande said...

To read Brooks correctly, it’s probably best to avoid advertising companies which have the words "New" and "York" in their names. "York! York!" said the Yorkie.

Michael said...

GWASH

The "watch your wallets" sign off you have adopted is, at best, a non sequitur. What on earth do you think Trump is going to do to get in the wallets of our commenters? Lower their taxes? Eliminate headwinds to the stocks in their 401Ks and IRAs? Give us, if you will, a more specific warning about how Trump is going to financially hurt the commentariat. Just a tip or two would do instead of the repetitious and stupid watch your wallets.

GWash said...

trad guy, i think thou doth protest too much and wildly exaggerate what i said... his orangemess needs no help in defrauding, cheating or selling to the highest bidder anything...
check out the dreaded charity kerfluffle... clinton was SELLING access to the highest offices in the land - for shame... and declaring it all in the tax forms... what was the donald doing?.. collecting working stiffs donations to his charity and spending it himself and family.. no tracking in fact they (NY) is closing to shutting down the charity as a FRAUD.. income inequality is the highest point in my life time... this is NOT GOOD for the country as a whole... when trumpster says make america great again... he means for him and his gang of thieves... they don't care about you beyond what you can contribute to THEIR welfare...
Where is his tax documents, why can't we see where his money is... possible conflicts of intersests... this is how it begins without any objective examination of reality...

tcrosse said...

It looks like Brooks is trying to explain the discrepancy between the Trump that lives in his head and the one that lives in Trump Tower.

Sebastian said...

The commentariat here was way, way ahead of Brooks on this one. He said gloatingly.

Of course, O led the transvaluation of values, as an intellectual without an intellectual record, a peace prize winner who did not make peace, a bullshitter who believed his own bullshit, a president who played more golf than president, the empty O full only of self-satisfied O-ness, O and nothing but O. Jean B. would have understood.

But I'll take Harry Frankfurt over Jean Baudrillard for Trump.

If he wants to go full Jean, Brooks should do a column on the way the left fakes fake news.

GWash said...

michael, if time permits i will find links to the court cases where he has cheated and defrauded working stiffs like the commentors here... the assessment of folks that ran against him in the primaries and those that know him are valid... he is a con, a fraud and a grifter (i picked up that word here - usually pertains to hilary)... he is a man without honor, if he has ever said he will lower your taxes, i would hold on to my wallet more closely... this is just more of a transfer of wealth to the really wealthy... we are moving to real class society where the middle is disappearing... everything he has said or promised is open to interpretation... that's his business MO.. if you have concrete promises that you expect him to live up to let me know and we can track them as time goes on... i think, based on his history, you will be disappointed...

Amadeus 48 said...

David Brooks is on his own psychic journey for real--but it isn't going to tell us much about the rest of us. Good luck, David. I hope you enjoy the trip. Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth...

Gusty Winds said...

David Brooks has yet to realize he is one of the reasons Trump was elected. People are sick and tired of people like him.

He's a prick.

Can anybody stand that guy?

Roy Jacobsen said...

Brooks hasn't apologized for predicting Obama would be a great president based on the crease in his trousers, has he? Why should anyone give a fig for what he thinks?

Bob Boyd said...

"he is a con, a fraud and a grifter ... he is a man without honor"

Nobody's perfect.

damikesc said...

I guess his creases didn't make Brooks orgasm or something.

EMD said...

"get rid of common understanding of what words mean."

Like racism?

rcocean said...

Operation bullshit = David Brooks.

Richard Dolan said...

Brooks: "The crucial question of the Trump administration could be: Who will fill the void left by a leader who is all façade?"

Well, that's the crucial question for all those who wrote Trump off as a fraud and a con man. But Brooks never comes to grips with all the evidence contradicting his "all façade" picture of Trump. Trump has proven himself to be a talented if unconventional politician, during the primaries and even more spectacularly by winning an election that Brooks and every other Ivied pundit said he couldn't win. Time for Brooks (and the NYT) to drop the narrative and deal with what's staring them in the face. But for that crowd, the narrative is always going to win out.

This post complements nicely today's other Trumpian exercise, about how even the President sometimes stands naked. Trump will be forced to show what he's made of when the unpredictable crises, foreign and domestic, come his way, as they surely will. If past is prologue, his advisers will be divided and Trump will be the decider, as the president always is. That's more nakedness than most people can stand. Brooks imagines that Trump will be absent in those moments, but I expect he will be proven wrong again, like everyone who has written Trump off as a complete failure even before his inauguration.

hstad said...

Brooks knows the answer to his question, "....Who will fill the void left by a leader who is all facade?" Trump - the "facade" President is/was Obama! Brooks is such a light weight that's why only the NYT and NPR shows any interest in his comments.

readering said...

Brooks knows how Washington works a hell of a lot better than Trump does.

Earnest Prole said...

I remember it best for a young Scarlett Johannsen attempting to give Billy Bob Thornton a blow-job in a moving car.

I first saw The Man Who Wasn't There on a flight to France, and that scene had been trimmed to show her hand on his leg and then a mere hint of implied motion leading directly to the car wreck (oops — spoiler alert!). To my mind the edit made the scene far stronger and far more believable as a Noir. And I wish I could take an x-acto knife to the film’s alien subplot, which occupies only about 90 seconds of running time in a failed effort to lighten the movie with some magic realism. With those two edits I think the film would be a modern masterpiece.

damikesc said...

The crucial question of the Trump administration could be: Who will fill the void left by a leader who is all façade?

What hidden depth did Obama have? He was an empty suit.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Brooks knows how Washington works a hell of a lot better than Trump does.

As I said up-thread, I have been reading "The Art Of The Deal."

In his twenties Trump was dealing with the byzantine bureaucracy and politicians of New York City working on multi-million dollar building projects.

Brooks? Not so much.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ooh, I haven't clicked: is this the article where David Brooks agrees he's not only wrong about pretty much everything but is in fact useless--that he's not even valuable in an "everything he says is exactly backwards, so whatever he recommends we ought to do the opposite" way since his output is so often dishwater-thin conventional "wisdom" with no factual content?

Golly I hope in this new year David Brooks finds time to go fuck himself.

HoodlumDoodlum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Winkleheimer said...

The fact is, Sarah Palin had far more relevant experience to be President than Obama ever had. Hell, people openly admitted to that when they talked about his "superior temperament."

And Hillary Clinton had zero actual achievements and just lost the presidency to Donald Freakin Trump. A billionaire real-estate developer and reality TV star.

So forgive me, but I'm somewhat underwhelmed by complaints regarding Trump's qualifications and insistence that he lacks the ability to accomplish his objectives.

So far he has, against overwhelming odds, won the Republican nomination, and then the general election. Why, suddenly, should Trump be full of the fail at this point? His track record would seem to indicate that he does, in fact, know what he is doing.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Has anyone checked Trump's suit pants? How are his creases?!

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ron Winkleheimer said...The fact is, Sarah Palin had far more relevant experience to be President than Obama ever had.

Uh, excuse me, Ron, President Obama's executive experience came from running a winning campaign for President. Obviously. Denying Obama gained vital, deep experience from "running" his campaign...well, that must be racist, Ron, and you're better than that.

Remember?! Gee, I remember that argument. It seemed so self-evidently silly at the time, but somber, important elite-type people in the Media made it with straight faces.
For some unknown reason I haven't really heard that argument lately (that Trump has all the executive experience he needs by virtue of running a winning campaign for President) but I probably haven't been listening closely enough.

Standards! Too funny. What do you mean Obama's part of why we "got Trump?" Unpossible!

Fred Drinkwater said...

So Brooks thinks Trump uses words, not as things with meanings in themselves,but as oppositional tools?

And that this makes him different from the pro politicians who've been running DC?
Brooks is wrong about the first,but even if he were right it would still be an idiotic argument.

rebel deuce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mccullough said...

Brooks uses the wisdom of the dead as a self help book. He should probably try yoga or astrology.

It must be excruciating for him to find out that his world view is wrong, that he is not smart, and that his outlook isn't a result of the distillment of received wisdom and experience. Reinhold Niebuhr is dead. He's with O'Leary in the grave.

Michael said...

GWASH

Don't think he'll be bringing any lawsuits while president and don't think he will be stiffing subs who did not perform. Unless, of course, some of our commenters are working on his projects now in which case I would make sure I didn't trim.

The rest of your explanation is ad hominem. I see nothing that would require me to "hide my wallet" If he does not lower taxes then I am where I was before and no worse off. If he does lower them I am better off. If he lowers corporate taxes but raises mine I may still be better off as an investor.

I would drop that little tag line were I you because it is meaningless and makes you appear less than smart.

Jon Ericson said...

appear
Lol

Joe said...

RE: The notion that Trump is "all façade"

What I find interesting is how much he actively exploits this view.

Ironic that Obama and Hillary are genuinely "all façade."

(Also funny how David Brooks has turned into a parody of himself and seems so unaware of that fact. He and George Will should hold a self-parody party.)

JaimeRoberto said...

Is that cogitation or mental masturbation? At best it's cogibation.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"It must be excruciating for him to find out that his world view is wrong, that he is not smart, and that his outlook isn't a result of the distillment of received wisdom and experience."

"It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous."

Robert Benchley

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/r/robert_benchley.html

Luke Lea said...

You are really on a roll, Ann. Blogging at its finest.

Earnest Prole said...

I would recommend The Man Who Wasn't There to you if for no other reason than to meet Big Dave Nerdlinger, played by the late James Gandolfini. As for The Man Who Never Was, the film is marred by a contrived tick-tock plot device that is nowhere to be found in the fascinating and charming book. And “Pam” is indeed a delight, though I do worry about the state of her English teeth even then.

Big Mike said...

David Brooks and George Will are two people who have outlived their time and they don't get it yet.

Lem said...

I loved that movie. The man who wasn't there. A barber.

Jim S. said...

Deconstructionists never deconstruct deconstructionism.

rebel deuce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.