Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Following the passage in the United States Senate of the much vaunted Republican tax reform bill and with the precision of an autocracy, the White House administration of President Donald J. Trump treated the American public to a vulgar and nauseating display of sycophantic behaviour by its Congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence.  One by one they groveled on a public podium in the immediate presence of President Trump and before national television to sing with what at times approached religious fervour the praises of President Trump as a president, leader and man.  What made the entire production outrageous was that many of the same people (such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) had more than once disparaged the President even to the extent of calling him a "fucking moron".  It must be owned that President Trump has reciprocated the verbal abuse on many occasions.  All of which combined to make the ring-kissing and knee-bending utterly preposterous and vapid.

sycophant:  a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage; synonyms:  yes-man, bootlicker, brown-noser, toady, lickspittle, flatterer, flunky, lackey, spaniel, doormat  stooge, cringer, suck, suck-up

"I thoughts you wanted a competent assistant, not a nodding sycophant

The traditional view is that the opprobrium against sycophants was attached to the bringing of an unjustified complaint, hoping either to obtain the payment for a successful case, or to blackmail the defendant into paying a bribe to drop the case. Other scholars have suggested that the sycophant, rather than being disparaged for being motivated by profit, was instead viewed as a vexatious litigant who was over-eager to prosecute, and who had no personal stake in the underlying dispute, but brings up old charges unrelated to himself long after the event. Sycophants included those who profited from using their position as citizens for profit. For instance, one could hire a sycophant to bring a charge against one's enemies, or to take a wide variety of actions of an official nature with the authorities, including introducing decrees, acting as an advocate or a witness, bribing ecclesiastical or civil authorities and juries, or other questionable things, with which one did not want to be personally associated. Sycophants were viewed as uncontrolled and parasitic, lacking proper regard for truth or for justice in a matter, using their education and skill to destroy opponents for profit in matters where they had no stake, lacking even the convictions of politicians, and having no sense of serving the public good.

Calling out politicians is fairly easy hunting.  Applying the same strict principles to ourselves is not always quite as much fun.  There are many instances where private individuals engage in what might similarly be characterized as toady behaviour, whether at office gatherings, birthday parties or merely personal communications.  Whatever the occasion I am always mindful of the adage, "Flattery is a net before another man's feet". This stark observation naturally competes with the more charitable recommendation to encourage others in what they do.  But when appreciation crosses the line from complimentary to sycophantic, the stomach churning begins; and the element of gratuity in the compliment quickly evaporates.

Being a sycophant is dangerously close to being a parasite - specifically one who clings to a person of wealth, power or influence - or who is useless to society.  Not exactly a good alternative. Frequently the two are commingled.  Being a flatterer or a maligner is oddly similar in that in both cases the proponent submits to or stands on others to advance himself. In either instance there is a pay-off in view.  Therein lies the inherent warning of flattery.  If you're the one being flattered it may take time before you feel the bite, but it will come. Some of the more accomplished bootlickers - like Vice President Pence - attempt to disguise their sycophantic conduct with the same veneer they have disguised themselves which in Pence's case is a direct-line to God.  It is nothing short of stomach-churning to hear Pence conducting what sounds like a prayer for a man (Trump) who is by his own admission a stalker, who has supported an alleged pedophile, who vilifies minorities for no reason other than their minority, who pretends to be religious and who has denigrated the country's heroes. Not to mention that Pence's pretence at being a Christian is a fabulous mockery of its precepts. And then there's the little matter circulating that Pence is eyeing the Presidency for himself.  That's the reward.  Considering Trump's turmoil surrounding the Russian collusion investigation it is increasingly foreseeable that Trump will be impeached (even if he is too blunt to acknowledge the burgeoning possibility).  Small wonder Pence is Flatterer-in-Chief.

It is arguable that in the gritty world of politics it doesn't make sense to say anything which is calculated to do you harm.  By extension it does make sense to say something which is calculated to do you good. In the realm of politics we have learned to tolerate calculated behaviour.  There are arguably many good reasons to excuse apparent lack of truthfulness if the object is for example a greater legislative objective.  This logic effectively imports into the analysis an exculpatory theme founded upon a purportedly higher view that the end justifies the means.  In fact many times we're inclined to overlook what has been called in the retail vernacular "mere puffery"; that is, we urge upon the examination a gloss that no one really takes that stuff seriously.  Really?

This gets things entangled in another aphorism; namely, that if you hope to be a good liar, you'd better have a good memory.  You see it isn't much of an inductive leap to go from "mere puffery" to lying.  The tolerance for cheating is at a much lower threshold than it is for exaggerated or false praise. In the context of Robert Mueller's investigation into collusion with the Russians, all these
bombastic assertions are beginning to create factual inconsistencies and outright falsehoods.

Given the persistent division between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, alt-right and alt-left, it could be taken as forgivable that the governing party succeeds to enact legislation which addresses the promises made to its electors. Trump's tax bill is the most egregious example of the failure of the Republicans to meet the needs of its voters.  As the reality of the tax bill evolves the so-called "deplorables" will have to face defeat on that score.  Regarding Trump's promise to "drain the swamp" it is now apparent that Trump is the swamp and that his platinum-plated cabinet haven't the least interest in the welfare of the middle class.

As the sycophantic groveling of the Republicans proves, the Republican party has allowed itself to be taken in so thoroughly by Trump that they now have everything to lose if he does.  They have to stand by him.  But it may be too late for the remedial effect of applying the oil.  Trump's deceitful tax bill (including its removal of millions from health insurance) along with the spectre of his impeachment and the lowest level of support in history are melding into one big mess for the Republicans.  Meanwhile Democrats are making stunning headway in every state and municipal election. Joining the chorus of revolt against Trump and his failing administration are the majority of world nations who object to Trump's recognition of Jerusalem at the capital of Israel.  It is common knowledge beyond the borders of the United States that President Trump is considered an embarrassment if not indeed a palpable threat to world peace.  There is a very, very serious groundswell of activists in the United States leading a movement to restore the United States to its erstwhile upright axis.  The picture of the United States of America as strictly white, Christian and Rockwellian is unbelievably repugnant not to mention out-of-touch.  Mostly recently the thesis being advanced is that vengeful Trump has so much dirt on his own congressmen that they have accordingly fallen into line, sheepishly and obsequiously.  They'll probably all end up going down on the same ship.

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