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H.L. MENCKEN was a 20th-century journalist who specialized in acerbic writing that’s still a delight to read. I don’t always agree with Mencken’s view, but I savor his expertise with the English language.
One of my Mencken favorites: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
The Mencken model of acerbity is alive and well on today’s op-ed pages. I’ve been collecting favorites; I confess they lean in one political direction, primarily because the opposition seems confined to repeating, “He won; get over it!” and “Fake News!” It’s as though they’re saying, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
But, regardless of political sentiments, I hope you’ll enjoy these acerbic tidbits.
David Brooks wrote of “The Trump Administration Talent Vacuum,” The New York Times, May 19, 2017: “Nobody is going to want to join a self-cannibalizing piranha squad whose main activity is lawyering.… As the British say, the staff is jumping ship so fast they’re leaving rats gaping and applauding.”
Rick Wilson suggested in “If You Work for President Trump, It’s Time to Quit,” Chicago Tribune, May 18, 2017: “Trump’s fumbles have left many members of Congress ducking town hall meetings as if they’re in the Witness Protection Program.… When regimes collapse, dead-enders are the most fascinating to watch—the ones who end up with the profitable concessions and sought-after mistresses. You know already, though, that’s probably not you.”
Frank Bruni composed “A Prayer for Donald Trump,” The New York Times, May 19, 2017: “Given the mess that he’s in and the martyrdom that he hallucinates, it’s only fitting that Donald Trump would turn toward God.… I’m especially eager for his communion with Pope Francis, an entry in the annals of odd couples that ranks somewhere just above Oscar and Felix, and below Mork and Mindy.”
Gail Collins advised “Watch Out World, Trump’s Coming,” in The New York Times, May 20, 2017: “The bar is so stupendously low these days that if Trump makes it clear he knows what country he’s in, it’ll be a triumph…. After all, one stop on the trip is Belgium, which he once referred to as ‘a beautiful city.’ ”
Collins summed up: “Trump has spent his entire political career warning Americans that ‘the world is laughing at us.’ But now it really, really is.”
Paul Krugman wrote “It’s All About Trump’s Contempt,” The New York Times, May 26, 2017: “To make this concrete, let’s talk about West Virginia, which went Trump by more than 40 percentage points, topped only by Wyoming…. Coal isn’t coming back; these days, West Virginia’s biggest force of employment is health care and social assistance. How many of these jobs would survive savage cuts in Medicaid [29 percent of WV residents are on it] and disability benefits?”
Krugman conceded, “Now, to be fair, the Trump budget would protect West Virginians from the ravages of the estate tax, which affects around 20—that’s right, 20—of the state’s residents each year.”
And last, another analysis from Gail Collins; this one, about “Going Beyond Bad Trump,” The New York Times, May 27, 2017: “Don’t let Montana spoil your weekend…. The story began with the incumbent congressman, Ryan Zinke, being appointed Secretary of the Interior. You will remember that Zinke was the cabinet member who rode to his new job on a horse named Tonto. In the list of bizarre things done by Trump appointees, this did not even make the top 100.”
Then came Greg Gianforte’s disagreement with reporter Ben Jacobs. Collins wrote, “It was the kind of hysterical response you might anticipate if a gang of journalists were surrounding him, yelling, ‘What about that pole dancer?’ But Jacobs just wanted to know Gianforte’s ever-evolving position on the Republican health care bill.”
The outcome? Collins wrote, “You’ve got a thug of a candidate who’s now facing a misdemeanor assault charge, attached to a president who’s on track to inspire more investigations than the entire ‘Law & Order’ franchise.”
Collins also shared a comment from Representative Duncan Hunter of San Diego: “Attacking a journalist was ‘not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it.’ ”
She concluded, “Hunter is currently under investigation for campaign finance fraud, involving everything from jewelry to private school tuition to flying the family rabbit on a plane. But we’re sure he’s not bitter.”
I must confess I am enjoying today’s op-eds every bit as much as researching H.L. Mencken’s acerbic comments. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017
You are and have been one of my favorite writers, combining wit and technical expertise. I get that you are upset at our current president. Many of your readers would have been equally upset if the election had gone the other way. You would do us a favor to avoid politics.
Lighten up, Tom Phillips. Most Trumpers would live in a state of permanent apoplecty if Hillary won and did the least of the DT missteps. You did it for eight years of Obama. Besides, half of these remarks were from conservatives (actual ones.) Try reading George Will for some slices worthy of a plastic surgeon.