Commodore – A Novel

A novel portraying the extraordinary life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

With the right spin Trump could turn this Khan controversy on its head


By now it’s obvious that  the Trump phenomenon is worth undertanding.  Despite his stupidity, he is appealing to millions of Americans. What is his secret?  The answer isn’t complicated.  He is defying political correctness, which makes him a hero. 
 Doesn’t matter how outlandish what he says is, or isn’t.  The media will do a number on him, which he usually handles poorly, but that doesn’t matter.   Like Rocky, he will get up and fight back again and again.  Apparently many people love him for this.  And perhaps they should.  Enough to make him president?  That’s an entirely different issue.  But we are making  a good start if we try to get a handle on the phenomenon.
Why is political correctness so infuriating? Primarily because when it rears its ugly head, those meting out punishment speak to the sinner as if he is trampling on holy ground.  They act as if they are in Church and blasphemy is being loudly shouted during mass.
In the current narrative, Khan’s father and family should be treated like they are saints.  They have lost their son.  He was a hero, which places the family somewhere in the territory of Mother Teresa.  If she were  alive she would be pounding the lectern with the Constitution, demanding decency from the man.  She would, as Captain Khan’s father did, remind us of his sacrifice.  The script is familiar.  True believers, not wanting to misbehave on holy ground, or more likely inspired to action by the decency of those making their complaint, would demand “off with his head.”  Sinners deserve no better.
Donald Trump appears to be the only public figure who again and again stirs up the outrage of political correctioneers and doesn’t go down.
At this point I cannot vote for the man.  He’s simply too dumb and unpredictable, but I don’t know if he is any stupider than establishment figures who not only don’t put their foot in their mouth, they won’t venture a toe.  Their career could be over in a flash if they stray from the expected sentiments.
The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was banned for life from the NBA for telling his girlfriend in private to cool it. Sterling was irritated over a photo Stiviano had posted on Instagram, in which she posed with Basketball Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson  Sterling told Stiviano: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” He added, “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want”, but “the little I ask you is … not to bring them to my games”.
Sterling has many black friends and associates, who he has treated with respect and given respect to him until his girlfriend, who his wife was suing for millions of dollars at the time, recorded that private conversation.
To his credit, Trump has steered clear of controversies about black people, but perhaps it is only a matter oft time.
Of course it isn’t only NBA owners and sports figures that can be brought to their knees.
In March , two members of Bowdoin College’s student government faced impeachment proceedings. What heinous transgression did they commit? Theft, plagiarism, sexual assault?
Nope. They attended a party where some guests wore tiny sombreros.
It was  a birthday party for a friend. The email invitation read: “the theme is tequila, so do with that what you may. We’re not saying it’s a fiesta, but we’re also not not saying that :).” The invitation — sent by a student of Colombian descent, which may or may not be relevant here — advertised games, music, cups and “other things that are conducive to a fun night.”
Those “other things” included the miniature sombreros, several inches in diameter. And when photos of attendees wearing those mini-sombreros showed up on social media, students and administrators went ballistic.
College administrators sent multiple school wide emails notifying the students about an “investigation” into a possible “act of ethnic stereotyping.”
In 2013, commentary on the broadcast of the Bowl Championship Series national title game between Alabama and Notre Dame included words like “creepy,” “awkward,” “uncomfortable” and “heteronormative.”
The subject was not Alabama’s 42-14 victory, but comments made during the game by the ESPN play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger regarding the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A J McCarron. In the first quarter, ESPN showed McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, who was sitting near his parents. Musburger called the 23-year-old Webb, a former Miss Alabama USA, a “lovely lady” and “beautiful,” and said to his broadcast partner, Kirk Herbstreit, a former quarterback at Ohio State, “You quarterbacks get all the good-looking women.”
“A J’s doing some things right,” Herbstreit replied. Musburger, 73, then said, “If you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with Pop.”
Almost immediately, Webb’s name began trending on Twitter and her account added nearly 100,000 followers within hours, including athletes like LeBron James. Meanwhile, Musburger’s comments, which some saw as harmless fun, struck other observers as off-putting.
“It’s extraordinarily inappropriate to focus on an individual’s looks,” said Sue Carter, a professor of journalism at Michigan State. “In this instance, the appearance of the quarterback’s girlfriend had no bearing on the outcome of the game. It’s a major personal violation, and it’s so retrograde that it’s embarrassing. I think there’s a generational issue, but it’s incumbent on people practicing in these eras to keep up and this is not a norm.”
ESPN planned in advance to mention that Webb, an Auburn graduate, is dating McCarron. But when Musburger’s gushing over her went too far, some staffers in the production truck at the stadium “cringed.” Soon after, John Wildhack, ESPN’s executive vice president of production, told Musburger through the announcer’s earpiece that he had to “move on,” according to a person briefed on the conversation.
The network apologized for Musburger’s comments but that was it for Brent Mussberger.  For decades he had been the voice of ESPN for national events.  He was relegated to broadcasting local events in the South.
For her part, Webb did not seem to mind what Musburger said.
“It was kind of nice,” Webb told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I didn’t look at it as creepy at all. For a woman to be called beautiful, I don’t see how that’s an issue.”
So why does Donald Trump get himself in trouble again and again.  Certainly he is pugnacious.  In his self image he is a macho kind of guy. He doesn’t mind a good fight and maybe even relishes the opportunity to not back down.  From a different perspective,  he’s, too sensitive.  He goes on and on, defending his pride, long after most people would have moved on.  In short he is like a lot of people at home who carry on about issues, even if they know in public they should drop it.
Also, like a lot of people, Trump sees  the world as treacherous and only trusts his family and a small group of  friends.  The average politician has five, ten, twenty advisers, all filling their ears with different spins.  Whatever they might believe personally, before speaking publicly  they first want to hear what these ten or twenty people have to say. They eventually develop good cautious habits even without specific instruaction. Hillary emailed her daughter describing what had happened in Benghazzi, but for public consumption, Obama was playing down the growing danger from terrorists. So her story in public adhered to Obama thinking.  The problem was, she claimed, an offensive video, not terrorism. 
This doesn’t make her a liar, it is what politicians must do, have always done, read the tea leaves of public opinion, and the spin being expected from those with power,  and respond accordingly.  They would never tweet, during a moment of passion, during this era where  political correctness rules.  Although people have come to expect a certain degree of this kind of calming moderate statements, it’s also the reason that people believe very little that politicians say. I don’t love most of what Trump has to say.  I hate most of it, but I love him for taking on the media.  I wish he would hire a bunch of advisers.  This article is a perfect example of the spin he could focus on if he had a bunch of clever analysts working for him. Until that day, he cannot be taken seriously for president, but then he wouldn’t be Donald Trump if he did hire them.  There would be no one taking on political correctness, which like a malignancy, is  spreading and contaminating our public discourse.

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