This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.
In 2013, ExxonMobil CEO and future secretary of state Rex Tillerson -- the man who called the president who would fire him a "moron" -- summed up our world with eerie accuracy in a single question. Speaking of climate change and ExxonMobil's role in producing carbon emissions, he asked that company's shareholders, "What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?" What he clearly meant was: "What good is it to save the planet if ExxonMobil and its shareholders suffer?" On that, if not the moron comment, President Trump continues to agree with Tillerson (and his administration has acted accordingly).
Given the future that seems to be in store for us, our children, and our grandchildren, there may, in fact, be no more important news than this: a president elected by almost half of American voters is ensuring that ExxonMobil, its shareholders, and he himself won't suffer, even if civilization does. Still, the most essential news on that very subject -- carbon emissions rising at a startling clip, the oceans warming with unexpected rapidity, insect and other populations being decimated, the planet's great masses of ice melting down, temperatures at record levels globally, Australia broiling, you name it -- is easy enough to miss these days.
Faced with an ego the size of the Ritz, the mainstream media deluges us, as TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich makes clear today, with Donald J. Trump and his doings. Everything else, no matter how crucial, takes second (third? fourth?) place to that. President Trump's overblown self-image and over-the-moon sense of vanity might be the world's least-well-kept secret. Otherwise, why would Poland's president have promoted the idea of an American military base in his country by preemptively dubbing that future post "Fort Trump" on a visit to the White House? Of course, you don't have to live in Poland to sense what we're dealing with. You just have to watch the talking heads of cable news to know that never has an ego been stroked this way (even by those who loathe the man) to the obliteration of so much else.
After all, given our obsession with DJT, how much attention has the most inspirational and timely movement of our century gotten? I'm thinking about the arrival of the "climate kids" to tell us that our "house" is quite literally "on fire." Let Andrew Bacevich, then, plunge you deep into TrumpWorld, as he considers how news about war, American-style, has, like climate change, gone remarkably unnoticed and unattended in the world of Fort Trump. Tom
Lost in TrumpWorld
War in the Shadows (of You Know Who)
By Andrew Bacevich
The news, however defined, always contains a fair amount of pap. Since Donald Trump's ascent to the presidency, however, the trivia quotient in the average American's daily newsfeed has grown like so many toadstools in a compost heap, overshadowing or crowding out matters of real substance. We're living in TrumpWorld, folks. Never in the history of journalism have so many reporters, editors, and pundits expended so much energy fixating on one particular target, while other larger prey frolic unmolested within sight.- Advertisement -
As diversion or entertainment -- or as a way to make a buck or win 15 seconds of fame -- this development is not without value. Yet the overall impact on our democracy is problematic. It's as if all the nation's sportswriters obsessed 24/7 about beating New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
In TrumpWorld, journalistic importance now correlates with relevance to the ongoing saga of Donald J. Trump. To members of the mainstream media (Fox News, of course, excepted), that saga centers on efforts to oust the president from office before he destroys the Republic or blows up the planet.
Let me stipulate for the record: this cause is not entirely meritless. Yet to willingly embrace such a perspective is to forfeit situational awareness bigly. All that ends up mattering are the latest rumors, hints, signs, or sure-fire indicators that The Day of Reckoning approaches. Meanwhile, the president's own tweets, ill-tempered remarks, and outlandish decisions each serve as a reminder that the moment when he becomes an ex-president can't arrive too soon.
Hotels in Moscow, MAGA Caps, and a Nixon Tattoo
Ostensibly big stories erupt, command universal attention, and then evaporate like the dewfall on a summer morning, their place taken by the next equally big, no less ephemeral story. Call it the Michael Wolff syndrome. Just a year ago, Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House took the political world by storm, bits and pieces winging across the Internet while the book itself reportedly sold a cool million copies in the first four days of its release. Here was the unvarnished truth of TrumpWorld with a capital T. Yet as quickly as Fire and Fury appeared, it disappeared, leaving nary a trace.
Today, 99 cents will get you a copy of that same hardcover book. As a contribution to deciphering our times, the value of Wolff's volume is about a dollar less than its current selling price. A mere year after its appearance, it's hard to recall what all the fuss was about.- Advertisement -
Smaller scale versions of the Wolff syndrome play themselves out almost daily. Remember the recent bombshell BuzzFeed report charging that Trump had ordered his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie about a proposed hotel project in Moscow? For a day or so, it was the all-encompassing, stop-the-presses-get-me-rewrite version of reality, the revelation -- finally! -- that would bring down the president. Then the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced that key aspects of the report were "not accurate" and the 24/7 buzz created by that scoop vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
Immediately thereafter, Rudy Giuliani, once "America's mayor," now Trump's Barney Fife-equivalent of a personal lawyer, announced on national television that he had never said "there was no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russian authorities in election 2016. Observers on the lookout for the proverbial smoking gun quickly interpreted that odd formulation as an admission that collusion must, in fact, have occurred.
The headlines were thunderous. Yet within hours, the gotcha-interpretation fell apart. Alternative explanations appeared, suggesting that Giuliani was suffering from dementia or that his drinking habit had gotten out of hand. With the ex-mayor wasting little time walking back his own comment, another smoking gun morphed into a cap pistol.