Don Pesci: P.T. Barnum, Trump and Connecticut politics

  Likeness   of showman and Bridgeport Mayor P.T. Barnum on the  Bridgeport centennial half dollar commemorative   coin ,  minted in 1936 to celebrate the  centennial  of the incorporation of the city. 

Likeness of showman and Bridgeport Mayor P.T. Barnum on the Bridgeport centennial half dollar commemorative coin,  minted in 1936 to celebrate the centennial of the incorporation of the city. 

President Trump does not like the press he is receiving. The press – we now call it the media, because bloggers and ideologues with knives in their brains have been folded into it – convinced of its moral rectitude, begs to differ. Trump’s press notices would be very much different if he were the media, and his Twitter activity has been taken by some as an attempt to offset this lamentable deficiency.

Trump has been setting the day’s press calendar by tweet-twerking. He is, his Democratic and Republican opponents insist, the presidential equivalent of the-guy-in-a-bathrobe-in-his-mom’s-cellar turning the world upside down by loosing upon it nuclear-tipped declarations. To Trump, tweets may be no more than a new colorful crayon in his box of tricks. To the contra-Trump media, they are a threat that must be disposed of, as the Sixties radicals used to say, “by any means necessary.”

The anti-Trump media so far has been successfully baited. The New York Times and the Washington Post have been so unforgivingly anti-Trump that they appear to Americanus Ordinarius to be purposefully unhinged, confirmation that Trump’s relentless opponents are either disappointed establishment congressional timeservers, part of the D.C. swamp  that Trump has pledged to drain, or reporters and editors longing for a return to the balmy days of President Obama, an interregnum that allowed them to snooze at their keyboards while the president performed cosmetic surgery on the face of Mother America.

Throughout the first year of the Trump Presidency, which already feels ancient, bruised Democratic and Republican opponents were rubbing their sore noggins and wondering groggily, as Hillary Clinton did in her most recent book, What Happened?

Ya’got mugged. That’s what happened. And, as the majority of Americans who did not buy Lady Clinton’s latest book suppose, you perhaps deserved it. Since he first stepped out of the cradle, self-advertising has been Trump’s business. He has been compared to President Andy Jackson, the hero of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s  biography The Age Of Jackson. Before Jackson was devalued a decade ago by squeamish Democrats, the seventh president rightly had been considered the father of the modern Democratic Party. Others think that Trump is the 21st Century’s reincarnation of P.T. Barnum, who was, people tend to forget, a pretty savvy state legislator and mayor of Bridgeport, Conn.

Energetic and forward-looking, Barnum was an early abolitionist. He protested against the city’s saloons, pushed for prisoners to have work, and modernized Bridgeport’s utilities. Barnum certainly would not have been pleased to learn that Bridgeport politics has become something of a two-ring felony circus: Current Mayor Joe Gamin, now exploring a run for governor, spent years in prison for corruption, and  Ernie Newton, having spent more than four years in prison, is returning to his roots in Barnum’s old haunts, which Mr. Newton served in the state General Assembly.

Trump’s name has been invoked by leading Democrats and some media analysts as a cautionary tale that Republicans in Connecticut would do well to heed. According to some Democrats, presidential toxicity will infect Connecticut Republicans in the state who perversely refuse to denounce the nominal head of the national Republican Party. The  Republican leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives, Themis Klarides, already has been reproved for supporting the nominal head of her party.

Voters in Connecticut will be asked during the upcoming 2018 race, if only indirectly, whether they believe a president or a governor wields more political influence in Connecticut. The correct answer to the question is: Governors play a more decisive role in state government than presidents, however toxic.

Oddly enough, the upcoming elections in Connecticut will in large measure be a contest between two politicians not running for office in the state: Gov. Dannel Malloy, who has lame-ducked himself, and Trump, who is at best a moving target.

Both Connecticut U.S. Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy have taken turns thwacking the Trump piñata.  In recent remarks, Murphy has suggested that Trump may be batty and therefore impeachable. "We are concerned that the President of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests," said Murphy, who often dashes in where even devils would fear to tread.

Impeachment and salacious behavior in the post-Harvey Weinstein period, some political watchers suppose, could be a touchy matter for Democrats, many of whom, including Connecticut moral avatars Blumenthal and Murphy, have enthusiastically supported impeached President Clinton and his wife, co-President and First Lady Hillary Clinton, who has only recently discovered the moral impropriety of married men sexually mauling women. The late political provocateur Christopher Hitchens wrote a whole book about this titled No One Left To Lie To that probably did not sell as many copies as What Happened?

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based political and cultural essayist.