Editor's Note: Starting today, Cognoscenti contributor Tom Keane will round up the week in local and national news and offer assorted observations, conundra and miscellanea about all of it.
It was the week before everything changed.
- Short-fingered. All hail the Vulgarian-in-Chief! The term was invented by the late, lamented Spy Magazine, the 1980s humor publication that, three decades ago, so aptly described the real estate mogul (the full moniker was “short-fingered vulgarian,” an observation GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio seized upon with little success). What was true then – the crass and sexist behavior, the obsession with wealth and its trappings, the unparalleled egotism – is even more true now. So too, Trump back then was endlessly fascinating and newsworthy. Same today.
- Flush. Washington, DC, was on edge this week, awaiting the inauguration and the massive demonstrations promised as its accompaniment. Everywhere one could see the two sure signs of any large-scale event: rows of temporary security fencing and lots and lots of porta- potties. Amusingly enough, the supplier of one, Don’s Johns, found its name being taped over, ostensibly by event organizers. One Don Trump, apparently, is wary of the association and, more importantly, the inevitable wordplay. Dump Trump, anyone?
- BFFs. City councilor Tito Jackson says he’s running for mayor of Boston, but I’m wondering if he really means it. At an MLK Day breakfast, he appeared with incumbent Marty Walsh, and the two were grinning and hugging. Tito, Walsh averred, is a friend: “We’re friends in the beginning. We’re friends in the end.” Hmm. Real friends don’t try to take other friends’ jobs, which leads to the suspicion that Jackson may be the political equivalent of a false flag, a ruse that gives the illusion of a fight while sparing the incumbent any risk of loss. We’ll see. If a year from now a victorious Walsh rewards the newly unemployed Jackson with a job at City Hall, it won’t be because he’s magnanimous. It’ll be payback.
- Mayor for life. One reason for Walsh’s confidence is the economic wind at his back. His “State of the City” speech was chock full of wonderful ideas, all of which cost money. No problem. The city’s in the midst of a building boom; every new tower means more taxes in city coffers. And when you’re in a position to hand out money, people – read, voters — like you back.
- All wet. I’m pretty sure this week was the first time ever that the term “golden showers” has ever been used in the national political discourse. May it be the last.
- Working 9 to 5. The inauguration may be Friday, but Trump has said “day one” of his administration “is gonna be Monday.” He just got the job and already the guy is taking off weekends? Didn’t anyone tell him it’s 24/7/365?
- Fake medicine. The Massachusetts legislature just passed legislation licensing the quackery known as naturopathy, and despite pleas from the real medical community – which feared a license was tantamount to an imprimatur — the normally rational Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill. And why not? After all we already license fortunetellers. Indeed, why not license astrologists and exorcists as well? It’s easy to mock the anti-science views of Trump and conservative Republicans but, as Massachusetts just proved, et tu.
- Manchurian candidate. On one matter, Trump is right. BuzzFeed’s decision to release the unexpurgated 35-page dossier of Russian kompromat on the president-elect was shameful, a “total political witch hunt.” The report was almost certainly false, seemingly a blatant smear by the intelligence community jabbing back at a tormenter. I was as outraged as any that the document was posted verbatim. So of course I immediately went to the website and read it in its entirety.
- Desperate gestures. It once was the case that companies were boycotted for supporting apartheid. Now it’s for supporting Donald Trump. Such was the plight of LL Bean after Bean heiress and board member Linda Bean donated $60,000 to a Trump political action committee. The outdoor clothing maker is in good company, however. GrabYourWallet.org — the organizer of the action against LL Bean — is also urging boycotts against a host of businesses, including Amazon, Macy’s and TJ Maxx (they sell Ivanka’s accessories!), Kawasaki and Welch’s (they advertise on Celebrity Apprentice!), and People Magazine (reporting on Trump “normalized” him!). Good news, though. GrabYourWallet says it’s still okay to shop at bookstores that sell pro-Trump books – as long as they also sell anti-Trump books. It’s stuff like this that makes the left so easy to mock – and, ahem, vote against.
- In with the…. As the new year dawned, many professed to be happily rid of 2016. As 2017 wears on, that may be worth a rethink. Just compare Trump’s first press conference to Barack Obama’s last. Perhaps 2016 was less annus horribilis and more the last of a string of golden years, our new president's taste for gilt notwithstanding.
This column was first published by Cognoscenti on January 20, 2017.