There’s a Soviet-era sci-fi book by the Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov called The Day Lasts More Than A Hundred Years. I really liked it as a book (though it has been like 18 years since I’ve read it), but love it as a title. It’s a truism every day, of course, the long pace of a day, with each individual tumbling thought taking up its own space, elongating the day beyond memory. But it is especially true in our moment of nitwit authoritarianism, when we’re so consumed with the daily thrum of horror and inanity that time itself is distorted.
All of this is a long way of saying that a whole lot happened since Friday. Let’s do a quick breakdown of the hits (we’ll have a standalone post on the Arpaio pardon).
Farewell, Seb Gorka. We Knew You Way Too Well
Seb Gorka, Special Advisor Guy Or Whatever To The President, was pushed out on Friday as part of Chief of Staff Kelley’s purges. There was general rejoicing, as Gorka had taken on the reputation as one of the primary villains in the administration. Partly for good reason: he was a literal fascist and an angry, violent little man. It’s good that he’s gone! But it also isn’t really that big a deal.
For one thing, his reputation was a bit outsized. There is absolutely no evidence that he had any influence or any sway in any policy. His big contribution was yelling “SAY RADICAL ISLAM” over and over, but that’s something Trump was already prepared to do. Gorka wasn’t the creator of recklessly racist policies. He didn’t influence Trump in that direction. He didn’t really do anything.
See, because we keep hearing how Gorka was a “fiery defender” of Trump, and an “outspoken controversial nationalist” and all that, what he really was is dumb. Just a big, dumb, idiot, the kind of guy who has to set alerts on his phone to remind him to breathe. That Trump (or Bannon) hired a racist who was also an idiot really captures the two main characteristics of this admin’s horrorshow, but Gorka being gone doesn’t make a material difference. There are 1000 people incubated in Young Republican petri dishes who can take his place, and they’ll all be smarter. As long as Trump is President, this will be a white nationalist administration.
And now Gorka is back at Breitbart, which should also give lie to the idea that Steve Bannon is some kind of genius. And while it is maddening that this doofus is always going to have “Former White House Advisor” in his credentials, it is nice to know he’s always going to be the dumbest fake-smart guy in the world.
“[I]t’s like the last scene from ‘Star Wars.’ Do you remember what Obi Wan Kenobi said to Darth [Vader]? ‘If you strike me down, I will be more powerful than you can ever imagine.’ The left thinks they’re winning,” Gorka told Breitbart’s political editor, Matt Boyle.
Tillerson Sets His Distance
I don’t think you can overestimate how remarkable SoS Tillerson’s comments to Chris Wallace about racism yesterday really were.
Asked if such remarks made it harder for him to represent America abroad, Tillerson said: “I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the American government or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.”
“And the president’s values?” asked Chris Wallace, the Fox news anchor. Tillerson replied: “The president speaks for himself.”
“The President speaks for himself, meaning that, when it comes to race relations and civil rights, or rather, when it comes to the way America presents itself to the world, we shouldn’t listen to the President. He doesn’t represent America. In a way, that’s true, or at least how it should be. But realistically, that’s nonsense. The President is the face of the country. If Tillerson is saying that the POTUS is so reprehensible that he betrays our values simply by opening his mouth, and is urging the world not to listen to him, that means something. It means that no one is lying to themselves about the scope of this catastrophe.
I go back and forth on whether or not they should all just resign. We need a SoS, and if Tillerson leaves, someone far worse will replace him. But in every public utterance, people near Trump are practically begging Congress to save them, and save the rest of us.
Water Always Wins
It’s too early to tell how the response to Harvey has been at the political level, though I don’t believe it is gauche or tacky to look into that. Politics are how we act as a society; any decisions or indecisions are political. But I can’t tell yet, and in the meantime, there are a lot of ways that you can help out as an individual.
What I do know for sure is that we are massively unprepared for the era of catastrophe we’re entering. Our infrastructure is falling apart, and even the Admin’s big plans involve building new roads, not repairing dams and levees and pipes. The Trump administration has also rolled back Obama-era regulations that said new federal building plans had to take into account the impacts of climate change, impacts like 500-yr flooding in major cities.
As we’ve talked about, the climate is unconcerned with GOPers protecting their right flank from a primary challenge. Water doesn’t care who is in the White House. Water erodes and surges, insists itself upon our fantasies of permanence, and ebbs back out with pieces of our houses and our ideas of dominance. Water always wins.
Ted Cruz, one of the leading climate deniers (and certainly the smuggest), has said that he’s “never seen anything like” the flooding in his state. And he’s probably right. The combination of the intensified storm with the amount of building in the Gulf lowlands make this nearly unprecedented. But it is going to keep happening, no matter how many phony-baloney hearings Cruz holds about millionaire playboy scientists.
This is going to keep happening, and not only are we unprepared, but one of our parties wants to make us actively less prepared. It will take years to heal Houston, and that’s assuming we don’t have another one of these in the next few years. But the waters are coming. They’re rising, and they are getting closer. They are eroding our illusions. Unfortunately, it seems illusions are the one thing our idiot politics are willing to rebuild.