What the Michael Cohen hearing shows us about real and faux American values according to some
|Mar 1||Public post|
vol. 1 issue 2
Hello American Mind Mappers:
You collectively made the inaugural issue of this newsletter such a success! Thank you everyone who clicked the links, forwarded the newsletter, and gave me feedback. More compelling avenues of thought for you to travel are still to come, with April being a month to look forward to for expanded content.
Meanwhile, I have updated the about page to include a short and a long version, thanks to your feedback. Please be sure to read it if you haven’t already, as it sets forth the raison d’etre for creating this community of curious and critical thinkers about American culture.
Now, on to explore insights into the mind of the Baby Boomer thanks to the Michael Cohen v. Trump hearing coverage, RIP Andre Previn, and a golden lab’s take on the breathless political news reportage these days.
Keep reading and forwarding to others.
My best to you,
Unpacked: Michael Cohen, Mark Meadows, and the Mind of the Baby Boomer
Among the opening fusillade of Michael Cohen’s Congressional hearing this week was his declaration that Trump is a racist. This salvo led to an interesting exchange that handily demonstrates the difference between being outraged vs. being enraged, and questions the maturity of some Baby Boomers.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), glowering at Cohen from beneath a poster sporting the flames of hell licking Cohen’s image and the words “Liar, Liar, Pants on FIRE!”, countered Cohen’s accusation, in part by gesturing to Lynne Patton, a black woman and former employee of the Trump organization, now a staffer at the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, standing silently next to him. Meadows claimed Patton had averred previously that as the daughter of a man from Birmingham, Alabama, she would not countenance a racist boss. This, he declared, was evidence of Cohen’s mendacity.
Hours later, when so much had been revealed in the hearing that Meadows’s clumsy agitprop likely was no longer top of mind for viewers, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a first-generation Palestinian American, identified herself as a woman of color and finished her time on the floor by stating in Meadow’s direction, “The fact that someone would use a black woman as a prop in this committee is alone racist in itself.”
Meadows erupted, cited his affection for the black members of his family, and prevailed upon Committee Chairman, Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who also is black, to defend him as anything but a racist. “You and I have a personal relationship that is not based on color,” he beseeched Cummings.
“You are one of my best friends,” came part of Cummings’s reply, as he restored order. Here’s the video of the entire exchange, with Cummings’ admission at 4:56.
This was among the most memorable moments of the hearing for me. To think that Cummings, whom I consider fair-minded, would not only brook the silliness of a man who would post playground taunts around an official chamber (there were at least two such signs) and not understand the offensive stupidity of running a version of the “I have a black friend” play, but that he would count him among his bosom buddies, intrigued me.
Meadows chairs the House Freedom Caucus, a group of roughly three dozen self-described “agile and active” Conservative activists with deep roots in the Tea Party. He was also considered as a replacement for White House Chief-of-Staff John Kelley, thanks to his avid support for Trump. In short, he is an avowed ideologue.
The only way ideologues of any stripe can be satisfied is if they are right, or to say it differently, if they get their way. For them, compromise is unthinkable. Meadows is reported to have been Trump’s chief strategist for the government shutdown over the border wall, for example. If the attempt to all-or-nothing their way into the wall had not been spearheaded by Meadows et al, there would have been more funding for the wall and no shutdown, which goes to show that the means really do matter as much as the ends. Unless you’re an ideologue.
Meadows and fellow Freedom Caucus member, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), fulminated throughout the hearing. They raised their voices often. They interrupted, gesticulated wildly, made faces when Cohen spoke.
They were enraged.
I turned the sound off several times when these men spoke and it looked like two baby men having silent temper tantrums. No one party has a lock on brattiness; I have seen some pretty crap behavior from many Democrats on the Hill. What I am interested in is what the outsized emotion masks.
The hearing was meant as an opportunity to ask questions about Trump. If Cohen was presenting evidence and making claims that committee members deemed false, it should also have been a forum for the committee to refute Cohen and if so inclined, defend their man with facts. Instead, the only defense of Trump was the lame attempt at dispelling any claims of racism with the hiring of one black employee. For what it’s worth, does a rapist or wife beater get a pass for his behavior if he is married? He obviously finds women are good enough for committment; does that nullify his violent urges? What a crass thing Meadows did. And why Patton, who has a history of making her own power plays, acquiesced to it, I can only guess she has much to lose if she does not, and favor to gain if she does.
Meadows stuck to one script: how could Cohen be trusted if he was a liar before? That seems a reasonable question at first, until you consider what Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said: if known liars are to never be believed, no RICO case would ever be tried and no Mafia crime rings would ever be busted. As Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) put it to Cohen, as though reading an Aaron Sorkin script: “They are upset not because you lied, but because you have stopped lying for Mr. Trump.”
What the Freedom Caucus members say they want is a “return to American values”. Jordan summarizes it as border security, less government spending, an end to abortion rights, and a strong national defense. Trump is the first leader in any federal chamber not only to lend them an ear, but to also let them dramatically impact policy: his acting chief of staff is former Congressman and Freedom Caucus founder, Mick Mulvaney. If Trump’s tenure is threatened, Meadows and Jordan are threatened.
That to me explains the histrionics. This hearing for them was not about defending Trump as the standard bearer of their values, which they failed to do, but attacking the man who could pull the plug on their power tool. Arguably, they failed to effectively prevent this, too, since the hearing has led to a trove of new leads into potential illegalities committed by Trump.
All that flapping around in high dudgeon was supposed to distract us from their fear, not direct us toward the higher truth of our American values somehow being attacked.
Since the hearing, Meadows and Jordan have asked Attorney General William Barr to investigate Cohen for perjury at that hearing. It is yet another end run around the Constitutional due process of committee hearings and compromise, and an abdication of their duty, since such an investigation is already under their purview as committee members. But Barr does not have to defer to dissenters from the Democrats on the committee.
Contrast this behavior to Cummings. He also raised his voice. Once. It was to invoke greater things than the succor of egos: Destiny and Civility. “We are better than this!” he declared. He stated what he hopes will come of this trial is not scorn for Known Liar Michael Cohen, but a better Michael Cohen. A better Donald Trump. A better United States. A better world.
He was outraged.
Outrage is naked. There is nothing behind the mask; there is no mask. It is the impulse that calls a person to act on behalf of a higher order. It speaks through wisdom and discernment, not sing-song rhyming put-downs. Outrage is what compelled Cummings to call upon his committee members to collaborate in service to the office of the president, not the man currently in that office.
Meadows has been elected to four consecutive terms in office, so his constituents know what they are getting. Who does Meadows represent with his immaturity? In fact, the US Census says his district is almost 100 percent white, evenly male and female, and are predominately aged 55 and over, who purchased their homes within the last two decades. Short hand: he largely represents Baby Boomers who’ve retired to the idyllic mountain town of Ashville where taxes are low.
In supporting Meadows’s incumbency, they demonstrate their willingness not to uphold American values, but to circumvent what is actually, truly, uniquely American – our system of due process borne of respectful collaboration – to keep what they think is their rightful stuff.
Whether or not there is merit to the “mine” mentality is not at the heart of my argument; the inauthenticity of the rhetoric is. Meadows’s enraged peformance masks the hypocrisy inherent in his role. Keep an eye out for this as the hearings and investigations continue: Who is yelling the loudest and pointing the finger the sharpest? That person and the group he or she represents is probably trying to distract you from their own stinking hot pile of sin.
For Meadows and his voters, the lie is that the good fight is about American values, when what he and his people actually want is to get their own way without taking responsiblity of what being American in this case actually means: collaboration according to the law.
If Meadows is capable of Cummings’s respect and admiration, Cummings must apparently think Meadows is capable of discerning the difference between being outraged and enraged. If so, perhaps Cummings can help his friend see that power is ephemeral, but truth endures and is worth protecting.
It would be interesting to see if Meadows were to absorb and communicate this sentiment to his electorate. Would they keep him in office or elect another baby man?
RIP Andre Previn
This week we lost American musical polymath Andre Previn. Known for so many things, running the gamut from directing the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, to the many Hollywood film scores he arranged and conducted. He also composed original works, including one completed just before his death, with librettist and playwright Tom Stoppard, that explores Homer’s The Odyssey from Penelope’s point of view. It will be premiered this season at the Kennedy Center.
My personal love of Previn’s work is his sometimes jazzy, always sensitive piano treatments of the American Song Book. Here he is playing along with American soprano Sylvia McNair in this sweet version of Jerome Kern’s The Land Where the Good Songs Go.
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That’s it for this issue of docu-mental. Happy March, happy Friday, and don’t let the news subsume your joy. Here’s Charlie’s view of all that talking head nonsense: