Sunday, April 1, 2018

348. Must We Hate the President? Trump, the Clintons and Obama

For two poems of mine, click here and also here.  Awful stuff.

In the Offing:

A pioneer in female erotica who had two husbands and kept a "lie box" with lists of lies so she could keep her two lives straight.


What they've said about New York:

"No urban night is like the night there.  Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will."  Ezra Pound

"One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years."  Tom Wolfe 

"I'm from New York.  I will kill to get what I need."   Lady Gaga

Must we hate the President?

         No, I don’t hate the Donald.  I dislike and deplore him as president and think him at times a fool and a child, but I don’t hate him.  I’m thinking of the visceral hate that the Far Right has felt for Obama and both Clintons.  Hillary has been accused of murdering her husband’s deputy White House counsel, Vincent Foster, and of ordering the murder of others.  And the GOP candidate Ryan Zinke, when campaigning in Montana for a House seat in 2014, actually called her “the Antichrist.”  (And where is Zinke today?  In Trump’s cabinet as Secretary of the Interior.)  When her name came up at pre-election Trump rallies in 2016, that hate was well expressed by Trump’s moniker “Crooked Hillary” and his followers’ vehement cries of “Lock her up!”  And this from supporters of a candidate now under scrutiny for possible pre-election misdeeds of his own.  What gives?

File:Bill and Hillary Clinton at 58th Inauguration 01-20-17 (cropped).jpg
The Clintons at the Donald's inauguration.  Amazingly, they could smile.

         Let’s start with Hillary and her recently published election memoir What Happened (note the absence of a question mark).  This post was inspired by a review of the memoir by Annette Gordon-Reed in the New York Review of Books of February 8, 2018.  I haven’t read the memoir, but the review, entitled “Female Trouble,” raises many relevant questions.  The Founding Fathers who wrote our Constitution – all men, of course – never specified the qualities needed to fill the office of President.  Nor did it ever occur to them that a position meant to be a symbol of the nation might be filled by a black man or a woman.  The Fifteenth Amendment gave the vote to newly freed black men in 1870, but women, significantly, didn’t get the vote until the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.  And the first black man  became president in 2008, eight years before Hillary became the first woman to try for the office backed by a major party. 

File:Hillary Clinton - Caricature (34835118960).jpg
Hillary caricatured.

         There are many reasons why Hillary failed to be elected, but significant among them, Annette Gordon-Reed emphasizes, is the fact that Hillary is a woman.  Hillary’s memoir notes that it is easier for a woman to rise to the top in a parliamentary system, where the candidate is chosen by the party, than in a presidential system, where a woman candidate has to deal more directly with voters’ sexism and stereotypes.  A segment of the U.S. population, both male and female, disrespects and even hates women in public life and cannot take them seriously when they act outside of traditional roles.  For them, hating Hillary as a politician cannot be separated from hating her as a woman.  This animosity may be unconscious, but it is virulently present and helps explain the hate of Hillary as a candidate and helps also explain, in part, her loss.

         I have to agree with this appraisal by the reviewer, who endorses the views of Hillary the candidate and author.  But besides being a woman, Hillary is clearly of the establishment, and American voters in 2016 were so angry at the establishment that many of them embraced Trump, the outsider.  Criticized for getting a hunk of money for talks to various interest groups, including Goldman Sachs, Hillary explained that “everybody does it.”  What everybody does was precisely what voters were tired of and aggressively denouncing.  Her unawareness of this further inflamed their anti-establishment mood and reinforced her image as the darling of Wall Street.  Worse still, she refused to release the text of the Goldman Sachs talk to the public, a gesture that might have somewhat allayed the suspicion that she had something to hide. 

         Hillary isn’t warm and outgoing, lacks her husband’s charisma and love of campaigning, his ability to mix with people.  Diligent and serious, she can come off as detached and icy, an impression accentuated by her rather shrill voice.  Rarely has she ever let go emotionally in public and spoken from the heart.  Furthermore, she has always appeared to voters as not quite honest, just a bit too clever, too slick.  I confess that I have been of this persuasion, recalling vaguely the complicated Whitewater real estate deal in Arkansas that, like most people, I couldn’t understand.  Likewise I recall how some significant documents – I don’t remember what – mysteriously disappeared from her law firm and then, two years later, just as mysteriously reappeared.  All of which seemed suspect – not quite criminal, but not on the up-and-up. 

         These many impressions fed the hate of her critics, who during the 2016 campaign even accused her of running a child sex ring in the basement of a Washington DC pizzeria.  Such accusations are patently false, and the hate behind them I cannot share.  I may distrust Hillary and deplore her unawareness of the mood of the voters, but I simply cannot hate her.  I liked the idea of a woman becoming President, but had to acknowledge that this woman came with too much baggage.  She aroused in me suspicion and regret, but never hate.

File:Barack Obama and supporters, February 4, 2008.jpg
Obama besieged by supporters in the 2008 campaign.
Sage Ross

         And how about Barack Obama?  When he became a presidential candidate in 2008, he impressed many voters as a new guy in town, someone fresh and exciting.  Far from being a symbol of the establishment and the status quo, he brought a promise of hope and change.  But the Far Right wasn’t convinced.  His Ivy League background and perceived elitism alienated many.  They labeled him a scheming opportunist, a secret Muslim, an immigrant with no right to be president (until he produced his birth certificate, and some expressed doubt even after that), a bungler, a socialist, a criminal.  As with Hillary, I don’t ask why such criticism, since all presidents get criticized, but why such hate?  If hatred of Hillary often masks a deep-seated and perhaps unconscious hate of women in public life, the attacks on Obama surely masked a deep-seated and perhaps unconscious hate of blacks.  For many, Obama was an uppity golf-playing black who had no business in the White House.  Like Hillary, he was a challenge to the stereotype of the typical American leader as a righteous, dynamic, and patriotic white male.  Obama inspired fear and hate in whites who saw him as representing the browning of America, the undermining of white privilege by the growing number of minorities, especially immigrants.  What we fear and feel threatened by we come to hate, and from the very start this intruder from Kenya was hated, and hated passionately.

File:Bill Clinton.jpg

         And Bill Clinton, who was neither a woman nor black?  Certainly the Monica Lewinsky affair motivated his critics, even to the point of attempting to impeach him, but their hate of him long preceded it.  They saw in him an irresponsible, self-indulging Baby Boomer, a child of the 1960s to whom success had come too easily, a man whose lax personal morality – evident in his many affairs – they found deplorable.  He was “Slick Willie,” a proverbial liar, and for genuine conservatives his lies and philandering – and his ability to get away with it – debased the presidency.  Yet in researching this post online I found far more articles on the Far Right’s hate of Hillary than on their hate of her husband.  Maybe they can let go of Bill, but even now, with the 2016 election a thing of the past, they can’t let go of Hillary.

         The only president I disliked personally was Richard Nixon.  I sensed in him a meanness and an inability to laugh at himself, but my antipathy  never reached the level of hate, and I always recognized that much of what he accomplished, both in foreign and domestic affairs, was good.  I opposed almost every policy decision of Baby Bush (meaning “W,” as opposed to Papa Bush), but the man himself was rather likable.  He could take a joke at his expense, and videos of him clearing brush on his ranch in Texas -- which may well have been carefully stage-managed -- showed the public a down-to-earth guy they could identify with, as opposed to John Kerry, his challenger in 2004, whose windsurfing in flowery shorts off Nantucket struck many as distant and elitist.  

File:Former U.S. President George W. Bush at his and First Lady Laura Bush's 1,600-acre ranch, site of the "Texas White House" during their visits there during the Bush presidency, near Crawford in LCCN2015630516.tif
On his Texas ranch.  Just one of the guys.

           If my dislike of any recent public figure ever approached the level of hate, it was inspired by Dick Cheney, Baby Bush’s vice-president, who throughout his career has had his fingers in every profitable pie.  Beside this shrewd opportunist, whose flag-bedecked official photo shows a self-satisfied smile, Bush Jr. looks almost innocent.  But Cheney was never president.

File:Richard Cheney 2005 official portrait.jpg
As V.P., 2003.  With not one flag, but two.

         All right, if we must hate, let’s hate Trump; certainly he invites it.  But don’t hate the majority of his supporters.  Instead, find out why they voted for him, the only candidate who seemed to speak their language.  In this regard, I speak as a child of the Midwest, well aware that Midwesterners – certain segments of them – gave the election to You Know Who.  They aren’t all bigots, racists, and homophobes (though some are).  In this post-industrial world we now find ourselves in, they feel ignored, disdained, and desperate, looked down upon by coastal elites.  Like most of us, they voted their gut feelings, their hurt.  Whether the Donald can really help them, I doubt; time will tell.  Meanwhile many are hailing him – prematurely, I grant -- as the worst president we have ever had, threatening to dethrone such contenders as James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Andrew Jackson, and others, each of whom has had his defenders and detractors.  One thing is sure: unlike Millard Fillmore, William Henry Harrison, Chester Alan Arthur, and (my favorite) Franklin Pierce, the Donald won’t soon be forgotten.


All books are available online as indicated, or from the author.

1.  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World (Mill City Press, 2015).  Winner of the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  All about anything and everything New York: alcoholics, abortionists, greenmarkets, Occupy Wall Street, the Gay Pride Parade, my mugging in Central Park, peyote visions, and an artist who made art of a blackened human toe.  In her Reader Views review, Sheri Hoyte called it "a delightful treasure chest full of short stories about New York City."

If you love the city (or hate it), this may be the book for you.  An award winner, it sold well at BookCon 2017.


"If you want wonderful inside tales about New York, this is the book for you.  Cliff Browder has a way with his writing that makes the city I lived in for 40 plus years come alive in a new and delightful way. A refreshing view on NYC that will not disappoint."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Bill L.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

2.  Bill Hope: His Story (Anaphora Literary Press, 2017), the second novel in the Metropolis series.  New York City, 1870s: From his cell in the gloomy prison known as the Tombs, young Bill Hope spills out in a torrent of words the story of his career as a pickpocket and shoplifter; his brutal treatment at Sing Sing and escape from another prison in a coffin; his forays into brownstones and polite society; and his sojourn among the “loonies” in a madhouse, from which he emerges to face betrayal and death threats, and possible involvement in a murder.  Driving him throughout is a fierce desire for better, a persistent and undying hope.

For readers who like historical fiction and a fast-moving story.


"A real yarn of a story about a lovable pickpocket who gets into trouble and has a great adventure.  A must read."  Five-star Amazon customer review by nicole w brown.

"This was a fun book.  The main character seemed like a cross between Huck Finn and a Charles Dickens character.  I would recommend this."  Four-star LibraryThing review by stephvin.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

3.  Dark Knowledge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2018), the third novel in the Metropolis series.  Adult and young adult.  A fast-moving historical novel about New York City and the slave trade, with the sights and sounds and smells of the waterfront. 

Browder - Cover - 9781681143675-Perfect - 2
The back cover summary:

New York City, late 1860s.  When young Chris Harmony learns that members of his family may have been involved in the illegal pre-Civil War slave trade, taking slaves from Africa to Cuba, he is appalled.  Determined to learn the truth, he begins an investigation that takes him into a dingy waterfront saloon, musty old maritime records that yield startling secrets, and elegant brownstone parlors that may have been furnished by the trade.  Since those once involved dread exposure, he meets denials and evasions, then threats, and a key witness is murdered.  Chris has vivid fantasies of the suffering slaves on the ships and their savage revolts.  How could seemingly respectable people be involved in so abhorrent a trade, and how did they avoid exposure?  And what price must Chris pay to learn the painful truth and proclaim it?

Early reviews

"A lively and entertaining tale.  The writing styles, plot, pace and character development were excellent."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by BridgitDavis.

"At first the plot ... seemed a bit contrived, but I was soon swept up in the tale."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by snash.

"I am glad that I have read this book as it goes into great detail and the presentation is amazing.  The Author obviously knows his stuff."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by Moiser20.

New release; available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

4.  The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series, tells the story of a respectably raised young man who chooses to become a male prostitute in late 1860s New York and falls in love with his most difficult client.

What was the gay scene like in nineteenth-century New York?   Gay romance, if you like, but no porn (I don't do porn).  Women have read it and reviewed it.  (The cover illustration doesn't hurt.)


"At times amusing, gritty, heartfelt and a little sexy -- this would make a great summer read."  Four-star Amazon customer review by BobW.

"Really more of a fantasy of a 19th century gay life than any kind of historical representation of the same."  Three-star Goodreads review by Rachel.

"The detail Browder brings to this glimpse into history is only equaled by his writing of credible and interesting characters.  Highly recommended."  Five-star Goodreads review by Nan Hawthorne.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

                *                 *                 *                  *

Coming soon: Life in a Supertall High-Rise

©   2018   Clifford Browder


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