Schadenfreude and the New York Times
I am just back from Europe, where the Germans are preparing to sing a Christmas favorite, the “Make America Great Again” version of which goes: O Schadenfreude, O Schadenfreude, Du bringst ein schoen November. Which means, roughly: O Schadenfreude, O Schadenfreude, Thanks, pal, for the election result.
It’s a result that has made it fun to read the New York Times—at least for a while.
Paul Krugman, who spent “the Day After avoiding the news,” is suffering from “this terrible shock.” “Everyone,” he writes, “needs to face up to the unpleasant reality that a Trump administration will do immense damage to America and the world.” And not just for four years. “The political damage will extend far into the future too. The odds are that some terrible people will become Supreme Court justices.” Courage, man.
Contributing writer Timothy Egan is also traumatized by Trump’s victory. “It feels, in much of the nation, like the death of a loved one—the sudden, unexpected kind. I haven’t felt this way since the nuns told our second-grade class that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.” Grow. Up.
And Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote ominously:
But there are darker implications here, too. After all the lies he told, all the fantasy he indulged in, all the hate he spewed, and all the divisions he sharpened, he was rewarded with the highest office in the land. What does that portend for the politics of the next few years, for the kinds of congressional candidates we’ll see in 2018, for the presidential race of 2020? I can’t bear to think about the conflagrations to come.
For lighter fare, there is Vanessa Friedman’s Times column, “Is Fashion’s Love Affair With Washington Over?”
More than any other industry, fashion had pledged its troth to Mrs. Clinton. Vogue magazine formally endorsed her, the first time it had taken a public stand in a presidential election. The W magazine editor, Stefano Tonchi, declared his allegiance in an editor’s letter. Diane von Furstenberg, the designer and chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, had aggressively raised funds for her, during fashion weeks and beyond … In understanding how she could use fashion to ’express ideas’ — as Joseph Altuzarra, who made clothes for Mrs. Obama and contributed a T-shirt to Made for History, said—Mrs. Obama elevated the industry beyond the superficial to the substantive.
Dear reader: You are not going to believe how substantive. Mrs. Obama “framed clothing as a collection of values: diversity, creativity, entrepreneurship. Mrs. Clinton seemed primed to continue that trend. The Trumps, however, may not.”
Stop, Schadenfreude, stop. Please stop!
A calmer David Brooks writes: “Trump’s main problem in governing is not going to be some fascistic ideology; his main problem is going to be his own attention span, ignorance and incompetence.” Pop quiz: How many billionaires are ignorant and incompetent? “Trump’s bigotry, dishonesty and promise-breaking will have to be denounced. We can’t go morally numb.” But then, looking on the bright side, “the guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year.”
I discussed this issue back in January. Impeachment is possible. (In the next Congress, if every Democrat were to vote for impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate, only 25 House Republicans and 19 Senate Republicans would be needed to remove Trump.) Thus a President Trump will have to behave himself. The clue that he intended all along to behave was his selection of Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. The impeachment-insurance VP selection would have been Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The over-the-top frenetic reporting on the Trump election, here and abroad, has already been acknowledged to have been manifestly inaccurate. It followed years of over-the-top imputations and insinuations directed at conservative politicians and thinkers of all stripes. For some in the media, every Republican is “extreme.” In which case, why shouldn’t Americans, and Europeans too, conclude that the press’s reporting on, say, Marine Le Pen, the “far right” candidate for the president of France, is equally inaccurate? She may well be a new Hitler. (Her father, whom she has denounced, is a Holocaust denier.) But the progressive-liberal press has lost its credibility to make that case. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former center-right French prime minister, has warned that Le Pen could win the French election next year. If that’s a terrible outcome, the now patently irresponsible press will bear a large share of the blame.
And Schadenfreude will have to give way to more serious activity.
Daniel Oliver is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director of Citizens for the Republic, founded by Ronald Reagan in 1977. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of National Review.