Rankings and superlatives are endlessly subjective. What does "best" or "most important" mean? Bear that in mind when I describe Barbet Schroeder's Idi Amin Dada: Autoportrait (1974) is the best documentary ever made. Is it the most enjoyable? The most technically accomplished? The funniest? The most informative? No. But it's the Best.

If this seems like a random thing to bring up, I'm doing it at this moment because the Trump cabinet meeting on Monday looked like a scene taken directly from that movie. In fact there is an extended scene of a cabinet meeting and many other settings in which subordinates are forced to praise him effusively, even comically. I saw video of the Monday meeting and read the quotes the various secretaries were forced to offer up and the similarities were more than a little eerie.

As difficult as it is to believe, the depiction of an illiterate, violent, charismatic, psychotic dictator in his own words (the film has about 50 words of narration total, and the director lets his subject speak for himself) feels topical here in the United States in 2017. Now, let's not go overboard. Our current president doesn't murder and torture his enemies by the hundreds, if only (primarily?) because he couldn't get away with it. But within the framework of institutions that constrain him – something conspicuously lacking in 1970s Uganda – it's essentially the same person. If Amin can't read and Trump can but refuses to, what's the practical difference?

The idea of a nation being run by a large, violent child who requires constant ass-kissing and obsequious praise to teeter back toward something approaching sanity and away from another temper tantrum is not new. Nor will the consequences of it in the United States be as brutal and severe as they are and have been in many countries around the world. But if you've been waiting for a Smoking Gun to prove that our president has the classic narcissistic Third World Strongman personality, you can rest your case now. A person who is not severely maladjusted is embarrassed by fawning praise by obviously insincere lackeys. Trump apparently can't function without it.

On the plus side, we all know what happened to Amin.

31 thoughts on “DADA”

  • Willing to bet five bucks Trump is going to fire Mueller within a week and the GOP will do literally nothing about it.

    Either Dems take back the House next year or we're facing seven more years of this fucking disaster of a presidency.

    Then again, World War III may prevent that.


  • I wouldn't make too much of the made-for-CSPAN show that Trump put on to promote his brand. The majority of the comments of the cabinet appointees were single paragraph blurbs cut-n-pasted from the republican agenda – not actual accomplishments. However I'm hoping there will be a leaked video of Kellyanne Conway or Reince coaching the cabinet before the start of the video on how each of the presenters were to mention the president and express their gratitude for his leadership. That would be golden.

    I've worked on federal projects, and was always amazed how easy it is to get sucked into upselling your project to the administrators. Everyone wants to hear about the grand designs and prospects for success. Buzzwords and optimistic memes are bandied about without critical thought. Nobody wants to hear about failure or complications – especially when you are trying to get funding for another year. You leave the meeting wondering if you just tasted the kool-aid or actually swallowed. Eventually the truth is told in final reports, even though everyone (administrators included) has known of the shortcomings for years.

    If there is anything positive to come from this POS presidency and identity politics it is that we have become more aware of mankind's unlimited capacity for self delusion. All "reality" is filtered, and contrary to popular opinion we are not all "wired" the same.

  • Monkey Business says:

    Everyone at the top likes a little ass-kissing. It makes them feel good. However, the level of ass-kissing done during that meeting does Trump a genuine disservice.

    If any member of that cabinet were willing to speak truth to power, they might actually get something done. As of right now, the entire Trump Presidency could be erased by a light afternoon of Presidenting with enough time for golf before dinner.

    That's not to say I want him to succeed. I want him and his ideology to burn in the ashes of history. Just saying, if he were even slightly competent, he'd be much more effective.

  • It is a tragicomic spectacle, but also one I don't expect to last. Still, it is one of those "once you've seen it, you can't unsee it" affairs – and that's a video clip that is probably going to haunt some people who could probably do with a good haunting.

  • S/Oh please Periscope, please explain the evils of identity politics, and how class explains everything and race and gender are just distractions from the great unifying force of the true left. I so want to hear more./s

    Ed could we get a sarcasm don't like LGM has?

  • S/Oh please Periscope, please explain the evils of identity politics, and how class explains everything and race and gender are just distractions from the great unifying force of the true left. I so want to hear more./s

    Ed could we get a sarcasm don't like LGM has?

  • Well, Ed, I LOL'd at your punchline, assuming that Amin had been killed in a military coup by his own "guys". Nope.

    For those of us who weren't paying much attention to African politics in the 1970's, Amin's rule in Uganda only lasted about 8 (brutal, sure, but he wasn't exactly Pol Pot either) years, before he pushed Tanzania too far by invading it. He was soon forced to flee Uganda for the more forgiving climes of (wait for it)… Saudi Arabia, where he lived in exile for 25 years. I guess that's the REAL joke, right?

  • Dear Mark:

    Each and every one of your comments is more stupid than the last.

    Here's a pro-tip; think before you type.

    Non-pro-tip; fuck off, troll.

  • wetcasements: oh, I think we are well and truly fucked beyond even 7 years. The Republicans are actively destroying this country as we speak. Honestly don't know what the hell is going to happen. I have lost any and all optimism, now that I see the Republicans lining up to attack Comey and Mueller.

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    On the plus side, we all know what happened to Amin.

    Yeah, but it happened in a way that 1) often happens to Third World dictators but 2) is impossible in the United States: He picked a fight with another country (Tanzania) and lost.

    We saw this in Greece, Argentina, Zaire and other countries around the world. Dictators start to think they're bad hombres because they can push around their (unarmed) citizens, so they start a war, and holy shit, those people have guns and they're shooting back!

    It can't happen in the U.S. because we're the world's most powerful nation, at least militarily. I'm just cringing to see which unfortunate nation Trump will pick a fight with to satisfy his ego. At least Reagan had the good sense to pick on a flyspeck like Granada.

  • @MK, I unfortunately agree. However, if we've (we USians) been unable to pacify a prostrate Iraq after 15 years (and at least 10 before that of war and sanctions) I don't know how anyone seriously thinks we have ANY kind of a shot at doing anything to Iran, short of using nuclear weapons. It's really gonna suck when they shut down the Persian Gulf (hmm, why's it called that?) to tanker traffic.

  • The entire meeting reminded me of a movie way back when called Soapdish staring Sally Field and Kevin Klein. She is a has-been starlet and every time she is feeling "unloved" Whoopie Goldberg drags her to the mall for adulation where "common" people swarm around her and tell her she is loved.
    I almost lost my lunch after watching the fawning that took place during the meeting. I was wondering how supposedly smart, talented, and grown men and women could demean themselves so thoroughly.
    Chuck shummer however was hillarious.

  • @geoff

    Oh I never said I thought attacking Iran was a good idea. I think it's one of the dumber things we could do at this point.

    Unfortunately I also know just how deranged the GOP is when it comes to Iran.

    To the point of cheering ISIS (you know, the worst people on the planet) when they conduct terrorist attacks on Iran.

    That's the kind of people running US foreign policy these days. Even Mattis, who seems like one of the saner ones in the bunch, is utterly fixated on Iran.

  • "To the point of cheering ISIS (you know, the worst people on the planet)"

    ISIS is utterly vile, of course. But let's compare body counts and the number of countries destabilized or even destroyed by the bipartisan FREEDOM program of our great nation.

    Especially given that we helped spawn ISIS. I wonder if the Holy Peanut Farmer/Submariner thinks that building a few Habitat for Humanity houses will make up for the still reverberating impacts of his foreign policy decisions?

  • Brian M; I think you're confused. It was St. Ronnie Raygun who funded "those nice young religious men" who later became the Taliban.

  • @MK, yep, I understood : ) Fortunately, Flynn, who seems to have been the most nutty of the ant-Iran crew, didn't last too long. On the other hand the president's new buddies in Saudi Arabia are pretty down on the Iranians too. (And to be fair, every US President has sucked up to the Saudis; Obama certainly did.)

    @Katydid, the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and Carter's National Security Adviser "Big" Zbig Brzezinski initiated the US' "let's fund Islamic extremists to confront the Soviets" policy. He was so proud of the results that he bragged (paraphrasing), "what's a little terrorism compared to the destruction of the Soviet Union?"

    (PS, I would not be surprised if you're skeptical of the source. Also, please pardon me if I'm being too goddamn pedantic. Zbig's recent death is what really brought this to my attention.)

  • @Brian, I doubt Jimmy The C has many illusions about what his and Zbig's policy wrought. Fortunately he's born-again, so it's all good. (Yes, sarc.)

  • @Geoff, I stand corrected; thanks for educating me about the mujahadin. I remember reading about them in Newsweek articles, circa 1984, and the breathless praise of Reagan for funding the religious young men who were going to…do something, I dunno. Beat the Russians?

  • A lot of things that Reagan gets blamed for, like deregulation of the airline industry, actually happened during the Carter administration.

    Not that Reagan doesn't have plenty to answer for as well.

    Carter was not nearly as liberal as people think he was.

  • The Mujahideen were ALWAYS in Afghanistan (although often by some other name). There have been bands of implacable assholes using religious beliefs (conveniently cherry picked from laundry lists of stupid shit that they all seem to hold sacred) in places like Afghanistan forever. If they weren't fighting us, or some other invader, they'd be fighting each other–both sides calling the other apostates.

    Carter and Bizgonnoreah certainly gave them aid and comfort. Reagan, however, gave them a lot more of it–and used the conflict in SW Asia to full political advantage to negotiate concessions from the democrats.

  • The worst part of Drumpf going full Idi Amin: when he eats people, he's going to insist on "well done with ketchup".

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