Thursday, August 30, 2018

For the love of golf

The slacker Obama played golf 306 times over the 8 years he was president. (Other tallies are a little higher.) That's 38 times per year.

During the campaign, Trump savaged Obama over his golfing profligacy. "I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf," Trump promised.

No, of course not. Trump suggested that if elected president, he'd never leave the White House. Why would he? Too much important work to do.

And work is the thing. Trump tweeted in 2012: "Don't take vacations. What's the point? If you're not enjoying your work, you're in the wrong job."

Obama's vacations were another of Trump's constant complaints. Through early June of this year, Trump had spent almost a third of his presidency at one of his Trump-branded properties. What a great way to not take vacations.

So far in his presidency Trump has had 141 golf "outings" to courses he owns. He has played or has "likely" played on 115 occasions. Additional others not in that count are rated "maybe". Not counting the maybes, that comes out to 74 times playing golf per year, about double the Obama rate.

So who cares?

Exactly. Because nothing Trump says means anything, it's hard to actually care about anything he says.

I'm not suggesting that what Trump says shouldn't mean anything—only that you can be pretty sure, on matters large and small, that it never does. No time for golf? Means nothing.

That's by design. When nothing has meaning, everything is possible, and reality becomes whatever the great leader needs it to be. The connection between past and present becomes tenuous, as do all other gauges of reality. The way to inure oneself against charges of hypocrisy is to be continually hypocritical. Flood the zone. Exhaust the opposition.

Meaninglessness as normalcy goes for subjects far more important to the country than golf. To pick just one example among many, when Trump said that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat, after a single summit in which no solid commitments were made, he was peddling a made-up reality that had no basis in fact. And indeed, the subsequent talks have been unproductive and sometimes hostile to the point of falling apart. So far, not a single genuine accomplishment—even in the form of an actual but as yet unaccomplished agreement on any concrete matter—has been achieved. Few persons who understood the situation expected otherwise. Yet somehow North Korea was once a threat but now isn't.

Consistently saying things that have no meaning ensures we reach a point where nothing ever has meaning: There is no objective reality (but plenty of Rex Tillerson's "alternative realities"), no expectation of continuity or consistency, nothing for which to be held accountable, no foundation on which to lay a larger understanding of how things are. George Orwell wrote extensively about this.

When Trump publicly said in early 2017 that he would deliver health insurance that was better and cheaper and universal—everybody would have great health care—you did not need to be a health care expert to understand that he was spouting meaningless nonsense. He might just as well have proclaimed he'd invented a perpetual motion machine, or cold fusion. But he charged forward with his ridiculous claims. Over the intervening time, Republican-controlled government in both the Congress and the administration has been working to reduce access to health care and reduce the quality of coverage for many.

When Trump said recently that during a two-day summit he'd forced NATO countries to honor and even increase their financial commitments, that too was a fabrication. The commitments had been agreed to years ago, and member nations were on pace to meet them by 2024 as agreed. Nothing changed over the course of two days.

Authoritarian and especially totalitarian governments require that reality be under control of the state. Freedom and democracy—which are in global decline—require that reality be both objective and discernible by the populace. A free and principled press, which Trump denounces as "fake news", is crucial.

With respect to the simple matter of golf, you might sincerely expect that if Trump earnestly said he'd have no time for it, he really wouldn't have (much) time for it. You would not expect that he'd double the rate of his predecessor's golfing, about which he himself was so scathingly critical, and do it so shamelessly.

 Copyright (C) 2018 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved

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