Editor’s Note: Trump is a buffoon. Unfortunately, Americans don’t really mind buffoons all that much. The fact that he’s a buffoon isn’t what’s most important and most scary about him. He’s also a racist, misogynistic, corrupt, opportunistic and unpatriotic, as well as unqualified for the office. We need to concentrate on this latter points, and not let the buffoonery get in the way.

Keeping an Eye on the Ball

I keep hearing liberals say they feel sorry for Sean Spicer. The Donald’s press secretary needs to be articulate and fast on his feet, but he’s neither, and Melissa McCarthy’s spot-on impersonation on Saturday Night Live makes it hard to take “Spicy” seriously. However, his bigliest hurdle is being the voice of a president who makes Tricky Dick sound like Honest Abe.

He needs to be not just a willing liar, but a believable one, or he’ll end up like Kellyanne Conway, whom discerning newsmen don’t even want to talk to anymore. Like their boss, Spicer and Conway are sufficiently sociopathic to pass the lawyers’ “giggle test” (i.e., they can lie outrageously without laughing out loud), but their listeners are the ones who have trouble keeping a straight face.

Spicer has also unfavorably compared Bashar al-Assad with Hitler, crediting the Nazi for not having used poison gas. This flew in the face of Chris Christie’s advice that it’s never a good idea to invoke Hitler in any metaphor. Not surprisingly, Spicer was factually wrong — the Nazis used lots of poison gas in the death camps — although he probably meant that, unlike World War I, the Germans didn’t use it on the battlefield. Nonetheless, Trump’s detractors pretended to misunderstand, implying Spicy might be pro-Fuehrer.

With Trump purposely damaging the country, playing “gotcha” with his PR flacks’ misstatements is frivolous. Democrats need to avoid faux outrage each time a steaming pile of contradictions emerges from the White House. With a corrupt, anti-democratic president who’s more comfortable around autocrats like Putin and the Saudis than he is with European democrats, Spicer’s mumblings about a long-dead Nazi are trivial.

Hillary Clinton once wrote a book entitled “It Takes a Village,” which stressed the role of the community in raising children. Deceitful conservatives used it against her, citing a nonexistent quote from the book that the state’s primary role is to “teach, train and raise children. Parents have a secondary role.” This outright lie probably wouldn’t have galvanized the Right as much had the book’s title not been an African proverb, or if the word “church” had been substituted for “village.”

Critics knew what “it takes a village” meant, but feigned indignation anyway. Similarly, conservatives characterized Obama’s “You didn’t build it” comment about personal accomplishment as an attack on capitalism and individuality, even though they surely knew that it merely recognized that prosperous individuals owe at least part of their success to America’s village — its culture, infrastructure, institutions and rule of law. If Obama had had an (R) after his name, the Right would have called his observation “patriotic,” but, as a (D), he was purposefully misrepresented.

Earlier, the GOP had accused Al Gore of pretending he’d invented the internet. He never made such a claim, but his mention of having participated in government initiatives that supported its initial development was twisted by Republicans intent on embarrassing him.

Similarly, no one really believes Trump invented the phrase “prime the pump,” as he recently claimed. It’s as trivial as whether he had two scoops of ice cream when everyone else had only one. What the latter event says about his character is nothing we didn’t already know. It’s a gotcha that made for an amusing 30 seconds during an SNL sketch, but it’s no more relevant than a Facebook posting.

George W’s language usage gave rise to the term “Bushisms.” “Misunderestimated” statements such as “we look forward to hearing your vision,” “I talk to families that die,” and “our enemies never stop thinking of new ways to harm our country and neither do we,” weren’t taken terribly seriously during those less-partisan times. We didn’t always know what W meant, but most of us concede that, unlike Trump, he probably meant well.

Bush was following in the garbled lip prints of Dan Quayle. In those more-innocent days, we were more amused than incensed by Quayle’s, “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind” and “I stand by my misstatements.” Was it significant that Quayle misspelled “potatoe”? It mattered as little as the meaning of “covfefe,” which merely shows that Trump is as inarticulate on Twitter as he is with a microphone.

Grasping for a metaphor to describe his position during the 2016 debates, Gov. John Kasich told Bill Maher that he was as “far out to the side as a Ugandan Olympic swimmer.” Maher, no stranger to the problems caused by inconvenient truths and uncomfortable metaphors gave him ample opportunity to explain his mildly non-PC comment, which Kasich did, unnecessarily, since it was obvious he’d meant no offense.

At a time when we’re breaking up with Europe to start a bromance with Russia, how important is any of this? The only check on our corrupt and dangerously underqualified president are spineless opportunists like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who put party ahead of country and conservatism ahead of patriotism. In the face of an effete and ovine Republican party that supports Trump’s assaults on a free press, the environment, science, civil rights and women’s rights, while salivating at the prospect of widening the gap between the billionaires and the rest of us, liberals shouldn’t focus on the trivial.

We need to follow neocon pundit Bill Kristol’s advice concerning Trump: “Let him play golf. Don’t criticize or mock. It’s good for the country if he golfs, compared to what else he could be doing.” Liberals will need to pick their battles. When an arsonist is torching your house, you don’t waste time complaining how bad the kerosene smells.

Click here to return to the Mark Drought home page.