CHEB is a flimsy response to an important issue. CHEB is a discipline I am going to try to follow as a way of referring to President Trump.  It stands for Current Head of the Executive Branch.
I called it a flimsy response, and so it is. But it is a response to what I am coming to see as the issue that needs to be addressed and nothing in my previous way of considering the presidency prepared me for this, so I am prepared to be tolerant.
I began my trip toward this destination while watching an episode of The Mentalist. Patrick Jane, who has done his share of onstage magic, asks why it is that magicians are accompanied on the stage by beautiful young women in skimpy outfits. The reason he gave is that the more time the audience spends looking at the assistant, the more leeway the magician has for managing his feats of illusion without being caught at it. The presence of the young woman means that the “eyeballs,” in the current phrasing, are going to be over there while the things the magician cares about are over here.
And that is the way I see the outrageous behavior of CHEB.  He tells demeaning jokes and directly criticizes people with handicaps and calls for an evenhanded approach to proponents of white power and black power. It is really hard to ignore those things—they are the attractive assistant—and to look instead at the illusions the magician is perpetrating. The direction of the CHEB response, flimsy as it is, is to call for consistent and critical attention to the illusionist, leaving the attractive assistant alone.
This strategy is resisted for some very good reasons as well as some bad ones. One of the good reasons is that adopting a strategy of not noticing and not responding simply allows truly egregious behavior to succeed. And not only to succeed, but to be unopposed. I have the persistent feeling that I would be complicit in allowing that to happen. In my judgment, one of the worst of these is CHEB’s remark, “You had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” I think that is outrageous. I was, in fact, outraged.
But let’s look at it using the “attractive young assistant” model. CHEB changed the topic from the violence against blacks to whether Robert E. Lee should be revered as a patriot (Virginia, his highest loyalty) or decried as a racist and a traitor. Similarly, CHEB changed to topic from the rising militancy of the White Supremacy movement to “a clash of forces” in which both sides—remember that is the pro and anti Robert E. Lee “sides”—have honorable people. As horrible as those statements are, they are the assistant. What is the magician doing while I am gazing spellbound at the assistant?
Doesn’t it stand to reason that if I fall for that old trick—if I rise in indignation to each new deplorable remark—that I am complicit in all the things the magician does while I am attending to the assistant? The State Department is being hollowed out and I don’t notice; the Middle East is being inflamed and I don’t notice; the needed actions to slow global warming are being delayed and denied and I don’t notice. If it is really true that you can’t pay attention to the illusionist and the assistant at the same time and if it is true that the illusionist’s tricks will not be noticed if we are watching the assistant, then I am also complicit in acts of state that I deplore.
So…the CHEB strategy is thin, as I say, but if it reminds me from time to time to pay more attention to the actual tricks and not to be distracted by superficialities, then maybe it is worth doing. I am confident in my sense of what is going on. I am reasonably well satisfied with the illusionist/assistant metaphor. I have to say honestly that if I am going to be complicit in evildoing either way—different evil deeds, but equally complicit—then I would rather allow the boorish remarks than the destructive policies.
 I have been referring to him as “President Trump,” trying to preserve some of the dignity attached to the office just in case the next incumbent is a person who would deserve to be respected. I think that was a pretty good idea for that stage of the issue. I think we are into a new issue now and the old solution doesn’t fit any more.
 Not entirely. I already knew that he did outrageous things that his base would love because they would be disapproved of my the people his bases hates. That would be people like me.