It was La Rochefoucauld, a pontificator from 17th century France, who once observed that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.

Today we should be less concerned by hypocrisy than its absence.

Some hypocrites don’t feel shame, but at least they formally acknowledge that there are things about which one should be ashamed. (The norms the other guy is violating.)


The Trump administration operates on a different, shameless plane.

There’s been real hypocrisy in American denunciation of authoritarian dictators and killers.

But that hypocrisy was itself an acknowledgement that America aimed to do better.

The public expected and elites tried to deliver a government that could claim the moral high ground.

Trump’s shrug (“What… Do you think our country’s so innocent?”) abandons that striving idealism.  Why bother to have standards?  Why bother to treat political killings as even worth criticizing?

In his comments, he seems to give up on the idea that there is such a thing as wrong-doing at all.

Trump either doesn’t think truth matters or doesn’t think it exists!


Think of Kelly Anne Conway and her abrupt
Reversal of the election season pledge
That Trump would release his tax
Returns once they were audited.

“He’s not going to release his tax returns!”
“People didn’t care.  They voted for him!”

The audit excuse was a bad one
But at least it was an excuse.
It paid lip service to the norm
Of presidential transparency.

Abandoning the excuse, treating the election
Victory as a substitute for the norm
Is a way of saying that the norm
Doesn’t bind at all.

Compared to that nihilism
Hypocrisy is a vice well
Worth cultivating

The underlying principle
Behind America’s place in the world
Used to be:

Pay any price… Bear any burden.

Today, it appears closer to:

What have you done for me lately?

He tries to imagine Alexander Hamilton
Or Tom Jefferson warming up
To Mr. Trump
It is a dystopian odyssey
With little in the way of an endgame

Building brands through braggadocio and bullying
Is not how we got to where we are today
As a nation
As a society
As an enveloping culture
Of inclusiveness

He stirs up a Kevorkian-like
Cocktail of brutality, numbness
And willful ignorance
All in the name of making
Either America great again
Ot his tribe a few schedules
Down the road


There have been Trumps in our past
There likely will be Trumps in our future
That we listen, accept and promulgate
His vile, alligator-infested swap rhetoric
Says more about what we were
Than what we may in fact become


As Tim O’Brien wrote in his biography
Of Donald Trump:

“The new president conjures up an image of a guy on a pogo stick in the Rose Garden bouncing around with a TV remote control trying to decide what to respond to in the next 30 seconds
on Twitter.”


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