NOTES ON A DICTATOR

In 1961, Esquire asked Saul Bellow to comment on Nikita Khrushchev's antics during his second visit to the United States. The Russian's first trip in 1959 was a source of merriment for everyone involved, a two-week carnival with Nikita K as its grinning, mugging star. His second visit was limited to New York City and was spent mostly in the headquarters of the UN, highlighted by K's infamous shoe-banging incident. Bellow wrote of the chaotic man in control of a massive nuclear arsenal with global reach (original article behind paywall):

Masked in smiles and peasant charm, or exploding in anger, the Russian premier releases his inner feelings and if we are not shaken by them it is because we are not in close touch with reality.

That seems relevant today for some reason.

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29 Responses to “NOTES ON A DICTATOR”

  1. satrap Says:

    I think the majority of Americas disconnected from reality a good while ago. 9/10 of the people you encounter on a daily basis have traded it in for nebulous concepts like Freedom, and the dream that they will somehow become wealthy if the "Other" who is mooching off their success is appropriately dealt with. The wife has dual citizenship, and the implications of that become more attractive, by the day.

  2. Markd Says:

    When he made his speech at the Republican convention, I thought his tone was like Fidel Castro, speaking at the UN in the 60's

  3. disgusted Says:

    If the US and especially Congress does not stand up for the right and moral we are headed for a dictatorship. It is time for them to stop enabling the Liar-in-chief and to put a halt to this chaotic mess of a government.

    Edmund Burke "'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (women) do nothing'

  4. Brian M Says:

    Hey, Ed et al. You (and we) have been dissed pretty badly.

    This guy is….interesting. He hates everybody, including himself.

    https://muricaderp.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/institutionalization/

  5. schmitt trigger Says:

    Trump is Hugo Chavez redux.

  6. schmitt trigger Says:

    Brian;
    I attempted to read thru your link, but less than halfway thru, I just felt. Wanting to throw up my stomach. Disgusting.

  7. democommie Says:

    @ Brian M:

    Unfortunately he doesn't hate himself enough to put a gun in his mouth and put himself out of our misery.

  8. democommie Says:

    I'm beginning to run into more people who openly support Trumpligumaygdala, every day. The fact that he's still there seems to have emboldened them.

    All I really want to say to them is:

    "If you're under 65 you're already fucked, if you're over 65, your turn is coming. Your schadenfreude will be shortlived.".

  9. mago Says:

    I blame it all on opiates.

  10. Major Kong Says:

    "He [Bismark] was was aware of William's impulsive self-confidence, his frenetic energy, his craving for flattery and applause."

    "He also knew that William had an elevated view of his station in life and grandiose opinions as to his own qualities."

    "William, born and bread in the authoritarian, militarist traditions of the Prussian Court, had been encouraged in his inclination towards autocracy."

    Robert K Massey describing either Kaiser Wilhelm II or some contemporary world leader.

  11. geoff Says:

    Point taken, but Kruschchev (and Eisenhower and Kennedy) didn't blow up the goddamn world. And he (they) certainly had the opportunity.

  12. quixote Says:

    Americans still don't seem to get Khrushchev, even with the benefit of hindsight. (I grew up in a Russian family, it was my first language, etc., etc., etc.)

    Khrushchev was extremely shrewd and totally loyal to what he saw as the good of the USSR. He managed to quash most of the remnants of Stalinism, which were strong when he started out. And he was the first wave of liberalization after Stalin. (Ultimately, Gorbachev carried that forward.)

    So far, he shouldn't sound much like Drumpf at all, who's intensely loyal only to his own hair weave. And maybe Putin.

    As for Khrushchev's "impulsiveness," no. The histrionics were to throw people off balance, something he'd used in his career in general. And mostly it worked. The shoe-banging incident certainly looks like a miscalculation, but that's not the point. The point is that he was calculating. He wasn't just farting crap in all directions because he had no self-control.

    tl:dr; 45 is a 70 year-old toddler who isn't even toilet trained. Khrushchev was an enemy of the USA who was actually much better for the USSR than what came before and who had a damn good idea of what he was doing. No comparison.

  13. Major Kong Says:

    Khrushchev had a hard time "reading" the US.

    He never knew if he should try to make friends with us or try to scare us so we'd leave them alone.

    He was afraid that if we found out just how weak the USSR really was we would attack them.

  14. Brian M Says:

    Major Kong: Nah. Having an all powerful boogieman does wonders for military budget and the associated pelf peddling.

    Still true today. Why was Washington the only metro area which did not really crash after 2008?

  15. Brian M Says:

    democommie: I find him….very interesting….sometimes.

    The problem I have with his position (when you can actually find a position amidst the random circling and class baiting and self hatred is that he buys into the idea that Trump really offered something real. He ignores the reality that when "buying" something one needs to be educated about it. Anyone who looked at what Trump was selling knew he was a snake oil peddler extraordinaire. Allowing someone to "talk to" you does not absolve one of the blame for being ripped off.

    I do like his sneers towards the self regard of neoliberals and lefties. But the idea that voting for Trump made sense is ridiculous. Ultimately, his position is MORE derogatory towards the "working class" than sneering liberals: "These poor salt of the earth folks hate pointy headed liberals and yuppies, so they were correct to choose a con artist who quickly turned to screwing them worse. Besides, Carrier plant jobs (only a few). Ford (jobs now going to China). And Dr. Macgillacuddy promised me the arsenic balm would work after those yuppie doctors told me they couldn't cure my cancer."

    Ultimately, his arguments, while interesting (and sometimes amusing) make no sense. Given how f%%$#ed up he has made his life, I guess we can expect no better.

  16. Loyal to the Group of Seventeen Says:

    Or perhaps both events were bits of political theater? Nixon pretended to be a madman on the international stage too. The difference between them being Nixon would have gladly dropped nukes if his handlers allowed it. Khrushchev on the other hand, well his bluff was called during the Cuban Missile Crisis wasn't it?

    My favorite story about Khrushchev concerns the war years when he served as commissar. When the red army was encircled at Kharkov, senior commanders were called to Moscow to account for their mistakes. Khrushchev was visibly shaking when he was brought to Stalin's office. After all, Stalin had men killed for far less.

    Stalin told Khrushchev that it was the custom of the ancient Romans to anoint a defeated general with ashes. Stalin then tapped his smoking pipe out on Khrushchev's bald head and sent him back to the front.

  17. Prairie Bear Says:

    @quixote Americans don't seem to "get" any foreign leaders very much, or anything foreign. There is a simple-minded duality where any position our own government expresses at any given time is good, while anything varying from that — not only positions diametrically opposed, but even differing slightly — is bad. Same for the leaders; they are either with us or they are thugs, dictators, etc.

    Interesting comments about Khrushchev. I was in kindergarten when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened and I was scared out of my wits without really knowing what was going on. My later impressions of the guy were something like yours, that he was maybe attempting a liberalization of sorts. There were even MSM voices here and there who had a more nuanced evaluation of him and suggested that as a possibility. I have even heard it suggested that he was the "grownup" in the Cuban standoff, backing down and saving face for JFK, preventing us all from getting vaporized and paying for it with his career. I'm sure others disagree.

  18. democommie Says:

    There's a tune, "Nikita the K" which I co-wrote with a guitarist friend, 40 some years ago.

    It is dated at this point but it was fun back in the day.

  19. mojrim Says:

    @demmocommie: Share!

  20. Katydid Says:

    @Prairie Bear; I counter that there are huge swaths of Americans who very well can see shades of gray and are interested in world events and leaders. They're always being assaulted by the Rill Murkkkuns and derided by the MSM as "elitists" but they do exist. Some of them post right here.

    @democommie–yes, SHARE!!!

  21. democommie Says:

    @ mojrim & Katydid:

    Perhaps later–believe it or not, there are (c) issues and they sorta hamper release. I also need to do a little edit or two to reflect historical accuracy in a few areas.

    @ Prairie Bear:

    A lot of people, back in the 60's, were completely unaware of the fact that the U.S. was positioning warplanes and missiles in Turkey and other european "allies" territories. The Russians were, understandably, terrified of a 1st strike.

    It's undoubtedly true that intelligence agencies on both sides of the conflict were actively fomenting unrest and distrust for their own selfish reasons.

  22. Glen Tomkins Says:

    How dare you tar Khrushchev with the brush of Trump!

  23. Major Kong Says:

    The Soviets were very scared when we were going to deploy the Pershing 2 missile in Europe in the 1980s. It would have given them very little warning time.

    Their system was so centralized and top-down that they worried we would try to "decapitate" their leadership with a first strike.

  24. democommie Says:

    @Major Kong:

    I could be mistaken, but I think that ALL autocratic regimes have the same Achilles Heel* in the form of "Top down" managment. There may be unit commanders up to the level of very large groups that have autonomy in their areas of responsibility but people that have the ability to make prudent command decisions of the nature requiring deployment of nuclear weapons are weeded out by party ideologues, in most cases.

    * In the case of Trumpligulamygdala it's more of an "Achilles Shitheel".

  25. Tom Says:

    The problem with accepting vague innuendo like this is that it let's your pretend that your thoughts have any clarity or value.

  26. democommie Says:

    The problem with reading:

    "The problem with accepting vague innuendo like this is that it let's your pretend that your thoughts have any clarity or value."

    is that it doesn't make any fucking sense,

  27. doug Says:

    Was Tom in the right room?

    Happy Independence Day/weekend/week

  28. waldoh Says:

    No, Tommy strayed.
    This is the best quote evah. H/t Charles Pierce:

    Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered, greedy of popularity as well as arbitrary in disposition, veering in his mind as well as fixed in his will, he unites in his character the seemingly opposite qualities of demagogue and autocrat, and converts the Presidential chair into a stump or a throne, according as the impulse seizes him to cajole or to command. Doubtless much of the evil developed in him is due to his misfortune in having been lifted by events to a position which he lacked the elevation and breadth of intelligence adequately to fill. He was cursed with the possession of a power and authority which no man of narrow mind, bitter prejudices, and inordinate self-estimation can exercise without depraving himself as well as injuring the nation. Egotistic to the point of mental disease, he resented the direct and manly opposition of statesmen to his opinions and moods as a personal affront, and descended to the last degree of littleness in a political leader, — that of betraying his party, in order to gratify his spite. He of course became the prey of intriguers and sycophants, — of persons who understand the art of managing minds which are at once arbitrary and weak, by allowing them to retain unity of will amid the most palpable inconsistencies of opinion, so that inconstancy to principle shall not weaken force of purpose, nor the emphasis be at all abated with which they may bless to-day what yesterday they cursed.
    E.P. Whipple's assessment or Andrew Johnson 1866

  29. democommie Says:

    @ Waldoh:

    Huzzah, Sir! Huzzah!!