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The Times Firing on All Cylinders

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The New York Times was on quite a roll last weekend. One after another, Times columnists went ballistic, but eloquently so, on the subject of our president, Donald Rump, who has recently done a brilliant job of exposing himself — yet again — as a charlatan. My Saturday morning began with “The Crisis of the Republican Party,” signed collectively by “The Editorial Board”: “Compromise by compromise, Donald Trump has hammered away at what Republicans once saw as foundational virtues: decency, honesty, responsibility. He has asked them to substitute loyalty to him for their patriotism itself.” And this: “Mr. Trump still feel so well-protected his party that he has just named his own golf resort for the next Group of Seven Summit in 2020, a brazen act of self-dealing.” Rump later decided, after bipartisan condemnation, to scrap this lamebrained — not to mention illegal — plan.

It only gets better. Here’s Roger Cohen: “Europeans shrug when they don’t laugh. The consensus used is the United States has lost it. There’s nobody home. A child-president in the Oval Office writes a letter to the Turkish leader who appropriately throws it in the garbage. That’s where we are this week. Next week is anybody’s guess. Trump and uncertainty are synonymous. A rough compass indicates presidential derangement is pointing north.” And my favorite: “Still, Trump’s abandonment of the Kurdish forces that died by the thousands fighting the Raqqa ISIS caliphate in Northern Syria ranks high for sheer perfidy.... Even the plankton [!] known as the Republican Party were so appalled that some lawmakers developed sufficient backbone to protest.” Perfidy is such a fine word. According to the dictionary, it means treachery, duplicity, deceit, disloyalty, infidelity, faithlessness, betrayal, treason, double-dealing, dishonesty, and untrustworthiness. They ought to add a picture of Rump as an illustration.

Meanwhile, Bret Stephens compared the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to the bumbling Inspector Clouseau of “Pink Panther” fame, describing his infamous news conference as “hallucinat­ory.”

Nicholas Kristof wrote that “Trump doubled down by saying that the Kurds “were no angels” and compared the fighting in Syria that he unleashed — with hundreds dead and 300,000 displaced — to a couple of kids fighting in a vacant lot. Trump’s own former special envoy, Brett McGurk, responded on Twitter:‘This is an obscene and ignorant statement.’”

Out gay columnist Frank Bruni called the Rump administration a “jaw-dropping, brain-exploding phantasmag­oria.” Nice one Frank!

But my favorite of all was reporter Peter Baker on Rump’s 1001st day as president: “It was a day when he boasted of saving ‘millions of lives’ temporarily stopping a Middle East War that he effectively allowed to start in the first place, then compared the combatants to children who had to be allowed to slug each other out to get it out of their system. It was a day when he announced without any evident embarrassment that officials of the federal government that answers to him had scoured the country for a site for next year’s Group of Seven Summit meeting and determined that the perfect location, the very best site in the whole United States, just happened to be a property he owns in Florida. It was a day when he sent out his top aide, and advisor who has served as acting White House chief of staff for nearly 10 months without ever being granted the respect of earning the title outright, to try and quell the whole impeachment furor, only to have him essentially admit the quid pro quo the president had so adamantly denied.”

I like the rhythmic repetition and the building sense of absurdity mixing with an aura of childlike wonder at the whole spectacle. I even like the accompanying photograph showing scores of grinning human cows, aka Rump supporters at a rally in Dallas.

“‘Big Mouth’ is the Queer Childhood I Wish I Had” is the arresting title of an op-ed piece by Charles Dunst, also in The Times last weekend. Fans of the dirty animated Netflix series (hairy, disembodied penises appear frequently) are already familiar with the show’s main characters, Matthew, a flamboyant and obviously gay teenager, chief among them. Matthew is out to everyone at school, a state of mind and being completely alien to me. I could no more imagine being out in high school than I could imagine walking on the moon. I take that back. I can easily imagine walking on the moon, having watched the moon landing on television in July 1969.

It was the summer between eighth and ninth grade. I had already reached puberty, the central subject of “Big Mouth.” I’d jerked off to fruition for the first time the previous summer during the Republican National Convention. I know this because I turned on the rabbit-eared TV in my room to cover the telltale noises I imagined myself making. Thus I came for the first time as Richard Nixon was being nominated for the presidency.

But I digress. “In Season Three, which premiered this month,” Dunst writes, “Matthew (voiced by Andrew Rannells) even pursues his first same-sex romantic relationship, with Aiden (Zachary Quinto), who is the same age. Matthew frets about Aiden with Maury the Hormone Monster — a character who embodies each child’s confused pubescent impulses — but the pair eventually become, well, a pair. Their relationship is quite sweet: Awkward courtship takes place over FaceTime; the two kiss for the first time after Matthew coyly yet confidently slides his hand into Aiden’s while an unimportant movie playing on a nearby laptop fades into the background.”

According to Dunst, this is not just wish-fulfillment; more and more kids are coming out much earlier than I did. As he explains, “I’m a gay man in my early 20s, so Matthew’s story line caught my attention, namely because his experience differs so substantially from my own lived analog. My queer friends and I all came out in our late teens or as adults and openly pursued our first same-sex relationships only in adulthood. This, queer people will tell you, is fairly standard. For LGBTQ adults, Matthew’s subplot offers a glimpse into the childhood we didn’t have. But for those queers who will follow us, Matthew evinces hope.”

That such hope is played out on the filthiest show on TV only adds to the fun.

Updated 12:29 pm, October 24, 2019
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