Trump, Unsportsmanlike Conduct; Establishment, Piling On – Penalties Cancel

By | August 31, 2020 | 0 Comments




American football can be a rough game, as recent statistics on concussions demonstrate. Politics can be a rough game, too, as we are being made increasingly aware. But there are key differences.

In football, there are officials to make sure that the rules are followed, at least insofar as the officials can enforce them. In politics, on the contrary, there are no officials. It is up to us, the voters, to decide whether the rules are being followed – and if not, what to do about it. But even more, unlike football, there are no written rules. There are only the standards of behavior on which we all agree – or at least, we used to agree.

Still, in an attempt to compare football to politics, let us consider the three referees’ signals noted above. First, we have the spread arms of unsportsmanlike conduct, a rather loosely defined infraction that incurs a 15-yard penalty. Here we may fairly place Donald Trump, with his disparaging references to his Republican opponents. Remember “lying Ted” and “little Marco”?

We might overlook these insults as part of the rough-and-tumble of politics. But can we overlook Trump’s disparagement of John McCain as a “loser” for having been shot down and suffering five and one-half years of torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese? And this was not waterboarding but real torture, which severely impaired McCain’s use of his arms. I can’t overlook this undeserved insult.

And what about Trump’s Tweet comparing his beautiful wife, a former model, to Ted Cruz’s wife? Melania Trump was in a carefully posed photo, and Heidi Cruz in an impromptu shot with her mouth open. Yes, Trump explained that this was in retaliation for a Cruz surrogate posting a semi-nude photo of Melania Trump, one taken years before she married Donald. But is this “he started it” more suitable for a middle-school playground than a presidential campaign?

Nevertheless, many voters are impressed that Trump is not a guy to be messed with – unlike the previous occupant of the Oval Office. International politics is not a carefully scripted contest under the Marquess of Queensbury rules. It is an alley fight with potentially lethal consequences. Many voters feel that a tough fighter is what we need, one who learned to handle aggressors by hitting back harder, not by bowing to them.

Trump supporters hope that potential enemies – North Korea, Iran, China, Russia, and radical Muslim terrorists – will hesitate to attack us for fear of infuriating Trump. However, we must keep in mind that tough words do not necessarily predict tough actions.

Granted, “unsportsmanlike conduct” is somewhat subjective. But many people, including some Trump supporters, would agree that Trump’s behavior meets reasonable criteria for this violation. So first, the referee spreads his arms and then points to Trump’s goal line.

“Piling on” represents a type of unnecessary roughness, specifically several players jumping on top of a runner who has already been tackled by another player. This also incurs a 15-yard penalty. The referee raises his hands above his head and strikes one wrist with his other hand. The idea is that one tackler is enough, and that the other players are attempting to injure the runner. Is this not what the mainstream (that is, liberal) media are doing to Trump? Is this not what Democratic pundits are doing to Trump?

Trump is a boor, Trump is uncouth, Trump isn’t a real conservative, Trump is an ignoramus, Trump knows nothing about foreign policy, Trump knows nothing about military policy, Trump knows nothing about domestic policy, Trump knows nothing about trade policy, Trump can’t win against Joe and Kamala – but Trump is too stupid to know it.

There is some truth in these accusations. Trump has been a major participant in lowering the level of political discourse. But each time I hear or read another of these pundits running Trump down in similarly hurtful words, I grow less angry at Trump and more angry at his army of detractors. I can’t help wondering if their chief complaint against Trump is not what they are saying, but really: “We, the Republican establishment, can’t control him, and that frightens us.”

This reminds me of the 1948 presidential election. Southern Democrats deserted the Democratic candidate, Harry Truman, because of his strong stand on civil rights for African Americans. Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, a leader of the segregationists, was asked why he opposed Truman when he had supported Franklin Roosevelt, who had a similar position on civil rights. Thurmond replied, “But Truman really means it.”

Could this be the real reason that establishment Republicans are so vehemently opposed to Trump? Republican politicians are in the habit of making many promises before elections, and then rarely doing what they promised. Could the opposition to Trump have the same basis as the opposition to Truman? But Trump really means it.

So second, the referee raises his arms and strikes one wrist with his other hand, then points to the establishment goal line, indicating piling on. And finally, he lowers his arms and repeatedly crosses them, indicating that the two penalties cancel each other, and the game can go on. At least that’s how I see it.

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