Soundtracking the Resistance - Trump Comes in Last in New Ranking of Presidents

Plus America Responds to Another School Shooting, Mark Kozelek Writes a Song About It, and Bon Iver's Manager Runs for Congress

Feb 23, 2018 Web Exclusive By Stephen Mayne Bookmark and Share

This week the dear beloved leader fails to score well in a presidential poll, America continues to deal with atrocity in Florida, the Russia investigation refuses to stop, and Wye Oak sing.

The Big Event

Now he's ascended to the highest political office in the country, is Donald J. Trump feeling isolated? It's often said to be lonely at the top after all. This week begs a different question though: is it lonely at the bottom? According to the 2018 Presidents and Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey of 170 members of the American Political Science Association, that's where Trump currently sits after a year in office.

As far as the rankings go, that means he's losing to everyone, and we all know he doesn't like losing. He's ahead (or should that be below?) the likes of Tricky Dicky who actually managed to get himself kicked out of officea goal to aspire to perhapsand LBJ, who insisted on going all the way in Vietnam.

It means he beats Gerald Ford and his gum chewing/walking problems, and the hand of God himself, George W. Bush, who took his orders straight from the almighty (and Dick Cheney), and focused on those two perennial Republican favorites, debt and security, running up one and running down the other in Iraq.

He has a head start on his old pal trail-of-tears Jackson, and that destroyer of unions James Buchanan. Even William Henry Harrison can't beat him to the bottom, and he only lasted a month before dying in office, evidently keen to adopt the do no harm mantra by ensuring he could do nothing.

Here's the bit where it's worth pointing out judging the success of a president is a tough business with ever-shifting criteria and partisan bias playing into the picture. Trump has also been in office barely over a year, leaving plenty of time left to arrest his fall. It's not like he's done some of the things listed above either, though that might be because he's constantly distracting himself with Twitter and Fox News. No doubt he thinks it's all deeply unfair. It's the kind of thing to leave him standing in the Rose Garden shaking both fists at the sky.

But that's enough of the Trump positivity. The mean-spirited, incurious, thin-skinned, deceitful gentleman currently sitting in the White House hasn't done anything particularly useful in his first year either. He's proposed a lot of unpleasant policies but not been competent enough to put many of them into legislation.

He's also overseen a chaotic White House, constantly irritated allies, given succor to enemies, and done an awful lot to lower the level of debate domestically and internationally. In his paranoid world, everyone is out to get him, from government agencies to the press, politicians (in both parties), and people all over the world. And then there's Russia, which is another very large story in its own right. If his presidency can sometimes feel like an administration under siege, much of the besieging seems to come from Trump and his family.

That's why 170 political scientists rated him so low he came last in the survey. When asked to assign a score for each president out of 100, he achieved a princely 12.34. Not quite up there with Lincoln's 95.03. Not that anyone, with the possible exception of Trump himself, would compare the two on anything like an equal footing of course.

Perhaps in years to come we'll be marveling at how one of the all-time great leaders turned around a poor start and cemented a place in history. Or perhaps we'll simply be glad it's all over. If we make it through unscathed that is.

What's Going On 

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 presidential election rolls on and on. Last week he handed down indictments to 13 Russian nationals accused of working over a long period of time to influence the vote in favor of Trump. Now new charges have piled on top of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates. Mueller's fresh charges accuse both men of lying on income-tax returns and conspiring to commit bank fraud to get loans. Trump sure surrounded himself with upstanding people.

It's been just over a week since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, with 17 students killed, and the atrocity is continuing to be felt. While the standard response is to offer thoughts and prayers and little else, the surviving students themselves have been making the case for action to stop these senseless deaths from guns. Maybe this time people in power will listen. The NRA is on the defensive, as are politicians in their pay. Even Trump has indicated some change (admittedly of a very minor nature) might be on the way (as well as suggesting teachers arm themselves). Now's the time to do the right thing.

Over the other side of the world the Winter Olympics are heading towards a conclusion. In amongst all the gallant sporting endeavors, we've also had the standard doping scandalRussia again, they just can't keep out the newsand a bout of undiplomatic grandstanding from Mike Pence at the opening ceremony when he brought a pot-stirring guest and refused to stand when the unified Korean team entered. Hats off to small and wintry Norway, managing to top the medal table in the sports part of the event.

Speak Up!

We're always looking for that space where politics and music meets, but it doesn't normally meet quite as concretely as this. Bon Iver's manager Kyle Frenette is running for Congress in Wisconsin, going up against Trump supporting Sean Duffy. Here's his campaign video with Bon Iver's "Wisconsin" (what else are you going to play) in the background.

Mark Kozelek has responded to the Florida school shootings with the release of a new 15-minute track. "Day in America" attempts to deal with the attack, grappling with gun control, the Republican Party, and what it's like trying to process yet another high school shooting. The song is available to download for free on the Sun Kil Moon website.

Bands will sometimes take controversial positions, but it seems Australian electro synth poppers Empire of the Sun can't agree amongst themselves. A tribute to evangelist Billy Graham (who died this week) appeared on the duo's social media accounts, only for one half, Nick Livermore, to respond negatively, commenting "not all of us are interested in celebrating the life of a bigot #fyi."

God bless the great Billy Graham.

A post shared by empireofthesunsound (@empireofthesunsound) on Feb 21, 2018 at 5:43pm PST

Song of the Week: Wye Oak - "It Was Not Natural"

Wye Oak has a new album out on 6 April. Until then we must make do with the occasional release to whet appetites. In her own words, Jenn Wasner describes the latest such example as a song "about exploring the space between the things that we are socialized to believe about ourselves, and the actual truth of our naturelearning how to push the limits of the systems we've put in place to help ourselves make sense of chaos."

In a time that seems awfully chaotic, it's helpful to try and find a way navigate through it all.

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