It seems there’s no end to the public debate we can have about the relative weight of racism and authoritarianism that go into driving Donald Trump vs mere ego and narcissism, a grinding maw of appetite and self-gratification. Of course, we don’t really have to decide. It’s both. But today’s stunt does give us some reminder of the true pecking order.
Mike Pence travelled to Indianapolis today to watch the Colts play the San Francisco 49ers with the pretty clear knowledge that at least some 49ers players would take a knee in silent protest during the national anthem. (The 49ers are Colin Kaepernick’s old team.) After some did, Pence made a great show of walking out on the game and tweeting out his outrage at the players and commitment to the flag, America, the anthem, soldiers and unity.
The Vice President’s press office followed up with this statement …
I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem. At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.
The pretty transparent upshot of all this was that the White House feels it needs to keep the ‘ungrateful black players won’t honor our flag or our military’ storyline going for yet another week. (Pence flew last night from Las Vegas to Indianapolis for this and is about to fly back to California for a fundraiser, a whole almost cross country trip just to make this stunt possible.) It is conspicuous how Pence preaches the need for national unity while he and the White House continue transparently to exploit what they believe is the political value of heightening division.
But even here, Trump couldn’t help but jumping in to make clear that he told Pence to do this, relishing stamping Pence as the toady he no doubt is.
I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017
If you were to plot it as story dialog it reads …
Pence: I took this step based on my firm conviction …
Trump: I told my boy Pence to do this.
It’s such classic Trump it’s reminiscent of this iconic moment from the NATO summit.
Admittedly, for Pence it serves as a minor cosmic justice. It reminds us what we already know. In Trumpland, everyone gets hurt. No one emerges with any dignity intact. He’s that ravening maw of ego and appetite and above all else unquenchable need and he has the country by the throat.