Friday, September 4, 2020


 A couple of days ago my friend Harriet Zeitlin, an artist of long-standing. sent me the image of a doorstep sculpture she had put together, satirizing the image of the man I am reluctant to even name, the one who occupies our White House and our Oval Office. It was good for a chuckle and a nod of the head, if not for a piece of extended art criticism—which I’m sure she had not intended. 

The letter that came in response to her email and image surprised me. A point-by-point justification for a vote for, um… that man, it was signed by one Peter (not this Peter!) and accompanied by a link that led me to the website of Red Heiffer Press (which publishes for “a significant ‘underground’ of independent, discriminating readers, hungry for excellent, thoughtful writing that challenges conventional thinking, current fashion and unofficial censorship.” Sounds good, right?) The publisher is Peter (yes, the letter-writer Peter) Gimpel, the son of the internationally-renowned pianist Jakob Gimpel whom I had the privilege to meet on one occasion at the home of my now deceased in-laws, in the company of the distinguished conductor Zubin Mehta. He was a charming and jovial character, as I recall, and tinkled merrily and without pretension on the very modest piano in my in-laws' living room. But that’s an aside.


At first I thought the letter had to be a joke. It is (I will quote from it liberally as I go) “a short version of why I will vote for Donald Trump as President.” I lost sleep over this letter and determined, on waking, that I needed to respond and that I would take it point by point. So here goes:


1. "I respect his great courage,” writes Mr. Gimpel, “under constant, unremitting withering fire from what used to be the Democratic Party (and I used to be a Democrat).” I myself do not see his constant petty, paranoid, other-blaming and invariably insulting tweeting as a sign of “great courage.” The Democratic Party (it is still the Democratic Party, even if Mr. Gimpel, for whatever reason, has abandoned it) has properly directed its “withering fire” at the shameless corruption and transparent, self-serving abuse of power practiced by this president. It was willful Republican see-no-evil, hear-no-evil intransigence that let him off the hook.


2. “I support his economic programs which reinvigorated the economy and made it strong enough to withstand even the current pandemic; and I support his brilliant renegotiations of trade and financial relations with Canada, Mexico, China (ongoing in spite of various diplomatic conflicts) and NATO.” He's joking, right? The economy that Mr. Gimpel so highly praises may still be working well for the privileged few protected by their wealth; but working (and no longer working) Americans, small businesses, the poor and the disadvantaged might disagree with him. There are millions of Americans, children even, who go to bed hungry; and millions more who, absent adequate insurance, lack needed medical attention or are crippled by debt. The "current pandemic" that Mr. Gimpel mentions in passing has wrought havoc on the economy for them, and Trump has been unable or unwilling to listen to what’s needed to stem its spread—the knowledge and experience of medical specialists, public health officials and scientists. He has chosen to ignore facts and data in favor of his own uninformed gut reactions. We have, now, more than 180,000 dead and as yet no significant national plan of action other than a prayer for a vaccine. How is it that almost every other country has managed to address the virus and start to restore its economy, and not the United States? We have the brains. We have the resources. We lack the leadership and the vision.


3. “I support his foreign diplomatic initiatives which most recently engineered an historic rapprochement between Israel and United Arab Emirates; moved our Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; defused a near catastrophic crisis with N. Korea; withdrew the US from the insane Iran Nuclear Deal; I support his notable efforts to bring home our troops from Syria and Iraq and to negotiate with the Taliban.” No argument from me on anything accomplished with the goal of reducing tensions in the Middle East, but the abandonment of the “insane Iran Nuclear Deal” was, in my view, no step forward in achieving that goal. Nor was his abject abandonment of our Kurdish allies. He “defused” a near catastrophic crisis in North Korea? No, despite his exchange of love letters with the tinpot despot there, he fell just short of causing one. Negotiations with the Taliban? They still have the upper hand and continue to gain strength. He was played by them, as by seemingly every other smart participant in the game of international chess.


4. “I support the great restraint Trump has shown in confronting and quelling the violent riots that afflicted several US cities.” “Great restraint” seems to me an odd way to describe his unasked-for interference and his fanning the flames of discord with rhetoric that reliably sanctions right-wing violence and hatred and castigates those who demonstrate for justice.


5. “I support the long-overdue criminal-justice reforms he has promoted and approved.” Namely? This has not been a notable feature of his agenda.


6. “I support his immigration policy which aims at curtailing unsustainable illegal immigration, and the flow of illegal and harmful drugs into the US.” An “immigration policy” that seizes children from their parents and imprisons them in despicable circumstances is not one I can support. The connection between illegal immigration and the drug traffic is tenuous at best. I do not contest that this country—as does, indeed, the world—needs to address the growing problem of migrating populations, driven by population explosion as well as by climate change and its consequences (hunger, famine, dwindling resources of all kinds). But Trump's nationalistic isolationism is not the way to do it.


7. “I support his refurbishing of the US Military in the face of serious strategic and techno-military threats from China and Russia, not to mention N. Korea and Iran, and I support the honor and respect he has shown to our soldiers, living and dead.” As far as I understand these things, the US Military was depleted by the country’s wasteful and unnecessary wars in the Middle East. While I personally would be happy to see funds diverted from the bloated, overly powerful military to much-needed social programs, the “refurbishing” had already started under the previous administration. As for the “honor and respect he has shown to our soldiers, living and dead,”—oh, please! The absurdity of this claim has just in the past two days been exposed by a well-substantiated article in The Atlantic. Out here in the real world, we know that Trump thinks of those who serve and have served our country—including heroes like the late John McCain—as “losers” and “suckers.”


8. “In general, I have great respect for the calibre (sic) of Trump’s cabinet and administration. As a lawyer, I respect the calibre of the judges and justices he has proposed and appointed.” Mr. Gimpel refers here, I assume, to the Swamp. Trump’s cabinet and administration have been reduced to sycophants and yes-men (yes, men, mostly) whose absence of qualification for their jobs has left many of them in an acting capacity because they could not meet the approval of even a servile, acquiescent Senate. The corruption of many of his appointees has been widely documented—and ignored. His judicial appointments, many of them qualified only by their right-wing credentials, have been rammed through by Senate Leader McConnell over the reasonable objections of the Democratic opposition. I give you… Bret Kavanaugh.


“As a former Democrat," Mr. Gimpel continues, "I have seen no realistic, constructive programs offered by a Democratic Party Candidate.” Then, Mr. Gimpel, I’m sorry, you have simply closed your ears to anything that candidate says, or the platform on which he stands. (It's notable that Republicans declined to come up with a platform at their convention, other than uncritical and enthusiastic support for Trump.) “I am appalled by their desperate ruse of nominating an incompetent candidate"--Biden, a man of tempered competence and well-known decency--"and soon to be replaced, if elected, by an unelectable radical VP who doesn't even understand the Separation of Powers…” If there’s anyone who doesn’t understand the separation of powers, it is surely Mr. Gimpel's Trump!

Further, “I am appalled by the tactics of lies, slander, public insult”—does this sound like anyone you know?—"groundless impeachment”—I’m personally of the opinion that there were far more grounds than the Democrats brought up—”and legislative obstruction”—how dare he, after the implacable obstruction of everything Obama attempted!—”employed by the Democrats in the House and Senate, and by corrupt officials in the FBI and Justice Dept.” Hmmm. If you’re speaking of Barr, no argument from me!


“I understand that Trump's style offends many people who have been accustomed to lawyer talk and politician talk. Frankly, I don't give a damn.” And there’s the tell. There are many of us, Mr. Gimpel, who do give a damn. Who think that “style” is a measure of character. Who believe that words count, as does behavior. Who are appalled by the stream of demonstrable lies (20,000 of them!) that issue from this man’s lips and from his tweeting fingers. Who find it impossible to tolerate, let alone forgive his boorish, bullying demeanor, both in person and on the world stage. Who find his willful ignorance and his administrative incompetence at once deplorable and dangerous. We do give a damn about those who are suffering in consequence. We give a damn about the future of a planet further endangered by his scorn for science; about the future of our grandchildren. Do those who “don’t give a damn”, like Trump, think only of themselves?


Mr. Gimpel concludes: “There are millions of decent, hard-working, intelligent, morally conscious and socially responsible people who support Trump." Who have, in my view, been taken in by the brazenness of the Trump con. "If you demonize Trump, you demonize us, too.” 

But I don’t need to demonize Trump, Mr. Gimpel; he does a good enough job of that all by himself.





Marie Smith said...

Bravo Peter. I couldn't agree more. This latest about Trump’s thoughts of the military, the war dead, veterans and on and on is not surprising but he continues to shock me.

Peter Clothier said...

Surprising, isn't it, that we can still be shocked? You keep thinking, it can't get worse. And then it does...

Rene de Loffre said...

Do you still recall, Peter, bumping into that rascal Franciscan friar William of Ockham at Cambridge when he babbled to you " Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessiate"? Did you ever end up taking his class? I fear you might have been too busy writing long letters home at the time.

Anonymous said...

This kind of Trump-siding is appalling, if even true. Remember the schoolyard bully that was bigger and meaner than the rest? A name caller. Would you want children growing up to be like this! This one today is breeding more of the same and must be stopped. Too short of time to impeach now, so he must be voted out of office and into jail for criminal actions, tax avoidance, etc. I only wish those that wish for him could have him for a house guest for a week or worse. What would he call Gimpel?