Monday, November 21, 2016

Trump v Hamilton—Who Looks ‘Overrated?’

Anybody who knows me knows I’m not a fan of Donald Trump.

In fact, the president-elect has made almost uniformly abysmal choices for his new administration so far, and I’m not expecting a great four years. It took President Bush 8 years to bring the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse—I’m just hoping Trump isn’t such a “great” leader he can pull that trick off before mid-term elections, but I’m not betting.

Here’s hoping that there are no wars started during President Trump’s term.

So it may come as a surprise that I partly agree with The Donald, in that I think the cast of “Hamilton” went over a line. When Mike Pence, the vice-president-elect, attended the theater Friday night, he was a patron, a member of the audience. The play should speak for itself, and any statement a cast member or cast members wants to make should have been saved for another time—a public note to Pence thanking him for coming and expressing the fears that many Americans have, for example.

Still, the statement that was read in the theater after the play was a pretty tame affair. “We hope this show has inspired you to work on behalf of all of us.” As rude behavior goes, this was about as mild and polite as behavior can be. And it happened after the show was over, so it didn’t spoil anything for Mike Pence.

Indeed, Pence himself has been pretty mild about the kerfuffle. Not so Pence’s boss, the soon to be POTUS. He soon began unleashing his inner Tweets: “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

OK, I also found what the cast did mildly irritating, possibly bordering on rude, but “harassed?”

Trump was not done—in subsequent Tweets he said the theater must be a “safe and special place.” How, again, was it not safe or special? And then Trump started to give his thumbnail review, saying “Hamilton” is “overrated.” He also stated, in a Tweet that was deleted, that the cast didn’t memorize it’s lines (because Brandon Victor Dixon read the statement?).

The whole sequence of Tweets is disturbing on multiple levels. One is that I’m blogging about it, pretty much in the same news cycle when Trump settled a fraud lawsuit for $25 million (the next president of the U.S. is a shoddy, shady business person who runs fraudulent enterprises) and the other weekend dustup was the reaction to Sen. John McCain saying that torture can’t be authorized by President Trump because it’s not legal, while Pence says, however, it can.

Trump U and torture are much worse and more dangerous than being booed by a Broadway audience.

A POTUS has to recognize that many people, Broadway actors included, are going to say all kinds of things—some true, some less true, some fair, many unfair—about him or her. And that’s OK. It’s the nature of the beast. Besides freedom of speech, the First Amendment specifies we can “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Sadly, I think, given the mercurial character of the new POTUS, there will be a lot of grievances in the next four years.

When a president or president-elect wants to answer back, he or she can use the bully pulpit to make a point loudly and clearly. But Trump didn’t just call out the cast of “Hamilton,” he demanded an apology. Future POTUS, you can’t do that. Well, you can, but it makes you look churlish and small. And it makes you look like you oppose the people’s right to discuss you and your administration in open and often rough terms.

And didn’t someone send Trump the memo about what a VP is for? A VP is supposed to be the attack dog, and the POTUS is nice cop, in a normal administration. Yes, yes, I know, whatever the Trump administration will be, it certainly will be abnormal.

A CNN writer said that the “Hamilton” controversy is Trump’s “dead cat.” That is, it is a diversion from other issues. Maybe it is.

But in any case, Trump’s White House staff has a tough job: Find and hide the smart phone from the the crazy man with the orange hair—the petulant toddler who also has nuclear codes. Man. It’ll be a long four years.

That is, unless Trump manages to get himself impeached before then. Maybe he’s up to that. Communicating like a president? At that, Trump certainly is already overrated.


  1. Please note that Variety reports it was the audience that boo-ed Pence, not the professionals on the stage.

    The cast of Hamilton delivered their address to the Vice President-elect during the curtain call, after the performance.

    1. I realize that. I mildly object to a cast "delivering a message" to a politician who has come to see a play--but I get that what the cast did was post play, and in fact the cast shushed the booing, they did do it. My main objection is to Trump's over-reaction to the event.

    2. They "did NOT do it" ... key word missing in previous response.