Sunday, October 30, 2016

No Time For Buts

Mr. Pesci,

I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but…

The choices for President this year are almost equally nauseating. I know you make it a practice not to endorse politicians for office, but I am going to ask you, point blank, whether you intend to vote this year for the rock or the hard place. I can only hope you will not retreat into the usual cowardly formula: voting is a sacred and secret right, like a skull and bones pledge, bla, bla, bla… It is a choice all of us MUST make this year, since we live in a time in which both indifference and cagey answers are impossible. Not to choose is to choose. So then, who is it to be, Hillary or Trump? Like the rest of us this year – a pivotal year in our politics, you say – you do not have the luxury of anonymous indifference. You MUST choose – no “if, ands or buts.”

Wishing you the best,

The Devil You Know.

Dear Devil,

When Bill Buckley ran for Mayor of New York in 1965, an enterprising reporter, probably from the New York Times, asked him – point blank, to use your expression – what would be his first act in office if he won, admittedly a remote possibility.

Buckley said he would hang a net below the editorial office windows of the New York Times building to catch the bodies as they fell towards the pavement below.

Both of us live in Connecticut, and so – depending mostly upon polls – nets may be necessary. The gap between Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican Party nominee Donald Trump is closing. A 15 year old crowbar, in the form of brief video showing Trump bragging about his past sexual exploits, was used by the Clinton camp to widen the gap, but then the gap was partly closed by a slew of emails that, among other things, showed Clinton operatives anxious to rub the noses of The Little Sisters Of The Poor in condom dust. When FBI Director James Comey sent to members of Congress a letter, almost immediately leaked, advising that new emails recovered from a stash under scrutiny impelled him to advise Congress that his criminal investigation of Clinton was not over – because the fat lady had not yet sung her swan’s song – the gap began to close.

I’m sure you are familiar with all these particulars, because you are the Devil We Know and very likely had a hand in this messy operation.

I take it that your invitation to me to slip my neck in the either/or noose and declare for either the rock or the hard place is not to be determined by anything so shabby and unreliable as a poll – or, worse, the cold political calculation that informs most newspaper endorsements. As we both know, press endorsements are govern mostly by a rough calculation of who will win, which is why most editorial boards endorse incumbents. What is the point, after all, in endorsing a losing candidate who in the future will not be able to supply you with news content? How does this advance the business of the press?

So, I accept your challenge. I will be voting for the rock, Trump, over the hard place, Clinton, not only as the lesser of two evils but – I’m sure you will appreciate this – as the Devil We Do NOT Know. Trump’s shallow experience in government means, at the very least, that he is educable. Clinton, pickled for years in the briny juices of leftism, will find it a struggle rise above her ingrained prejudices. Trump need not rise above his, since most of the man’s impulses are those of a somewhat disreputable businessman, and not those of an oleaginous politician, both of whose sides are slathered with insincerity. In any case, you cannot go far wrong by toting up the endorsements of conservative (in the bad sense) newspapers and casting your lot in favor of their losers.

Please, don’t stand on ceremony, call me…



Mr. Pesci,

Ah, but I love ceremony, particularly the ceremony of bad habits. Most people are convinced that the Devil is a revolutionist of some sort. Saul Alinsky, the subject of Mrs. Clinton Wellesley thesis, dedicated his own book, “Rules for Radicals,” to the Prince of Darkness, “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”  Alinsky thought Lucifer was a revolutionist. But in fact the Old Man, as we affectionately call him here, was conservative (in the bad sense). His whole effort was to prevent revolutionary change. He never quite forgave God for having made man in his image, and – always a sore point with the Old Man – given him the godly gift of free will. Lucifer, and Alinsky as well, who is at my elbow as I write, would much have preferred an acquiescing automaton. But let’s not drift into tangled theology here.

The rational part of me tends to agree with some of your points, but rationality only takes us so far. And both of us know the world does not turn on lucid thought, but on an axis of emotion, imagination and, most importantly, confusion, chaos and doubt. All the gardens of our un-Eden down here are sown with doubt. And, up there, refutation is no longer a path to knowledge; the most settled assumptions may be undermined by sprinkling doubt over them. Editorial offices, believe you me, are the Devil’s playground.

In any case, we will put your vote on our permanent, inexpungable record. Trump it is. God bless you, and the Devil take you, as the Irish say.

The Devil You Know
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