Danielle McLaugh­lin

Scarier than Halloween? Try US pol­i­tics for starters

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - Danielle McLaugh­lin Lawyer, au­thor and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Danielle McLaugh­lin is the Sun­day Star-Times ’US cor­re­spon­dent.

All Hal­low’s Eve de­scends upon us all next Wed­nes­day. Halloween ex­pe­ri­enced in New York City is a vast cry from the neigh­bour­hood ad­ven­tures of my youth in New Zealand. First, it’s colder. Sec­ond, the cos­tumes are bet­ter (I suspect New York­ers con­trib­ute sub­stan­tially to the es­ti­mated US$9 bil­lion to be spent by Amer­i­cans on Halloween in 2018). Third, trick-or-treat­ing is mostly ver­ti­cal. My daugh­ter and her friends (likely a bub­bly car­a­van of El­sas from Dis­ney’s Frozen) will roam the cor­ri­dors and el­e­va­tors of our high­rise next week, plas­tic pump­kins clasped firmly in sweaty tod­dler hands. Apro­pos of the sea­son, it’s been a week of masks kept and masks slip­ping, of cos­tumes and of cover sto­ries. We’re still wad­ing through up­dated ver­sions of events from Saudi Ara­bia on the killing of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi as Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man (who may have or­dered the murder) vows to bring the mur­der­ers to jus­tice. The fall­out from Mas­sachusetts Sen­a­tor Elizabeth War­ren’s DNA test, osten­si­bly to prove her Na­tive Amer­i­can her­itage, has con­tin­ued. Sup­port­ers be­lieve she’s put the matter to rest. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump hasn’t stopped call­ing her ‘‘Poc­a­hon­tas’’. NBC morn­ing host Megyn Kelly stepped into a Halloween night­mare of her own mak­ing af­ter de­fend­ing black­face as an ap­pro­pri­ate choice for next week’s cos­tumes. In fair­ness, Kelly was talk­ing about her own child­hood, when kids didn’t know any bet­ter. But her com­men­tary should have ac­knowl­edged that black­face, first used in the min­strel shows of the mid19th cen­tury, was a de­ri­sive prac­tice whereby white ac­tors cre­ated stereo­types of African-Amer­i­cans – cast­ing the ‘‘black peo­ple’’ as in­fe­rior, stupid, or both. Halloween aside, it’s been a gen­uinely scary week. At the time of writ­ing, Florida res­i­dent Ce­sar Sayoc has been charged with send­ing 13 pack­ages con­tain­ing rudi­men­tary but func­tional ex­plo­sive de­vices, and in some in­stances, a white pow­der, to two for­mer US pres­i­dents and a num­ber of other high­pro­file Democrats, in­clud­ing for­mer vice-pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, for­mer CIA di­rec­tor John Bren­nan, and for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral Eric Holder. But in the midst of this do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism, the mask of one pub­lic fig­ure has not slipped – be­cause, de­spite a ca­reer built on brand­ing, the Trump pres­i­dency is very much ‘‘what you see is what you get’’ (which is, of course, why some peo­ple love him). The pres­i­dent is clearly in­censed that news of the at­tempted bomb­ings is prob­lem­atic for his party ahead of the midterm elec­tions. And he has vac­il­lated from call­ing wood­enly for unity from a teleprompter to un­var­nished tweets in which he blames the me­dia for acts of do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism, some of which were per­pe­trated against them­selves. Now that Savoc, a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can in pos­ses­sion of a van cov­ered in Trump and GOP paraphernalia, is in cus­tody, the next two weeks are go­ing to be full of fin­ger-point­ing and an­gry rhetoric. More fo­cused on the cam­paign than gov­er­nance, it is un­likely the pres­i­dent will do much to quell the un­rest. Af­ter all, the ‘‘them ver­sus us’’ game is how he main­tains his base of sup­port. Speak­ing of them ver­sus us, the car­a­van of trick-or­treat par­ents travers­ing my build­ing on Wed­nes­day will dread, like me, the post-candy col­lec­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions over how much our chil­dren can ac­tu­ally eat. They will also un­doubt­edly don their share of cos­tumes and masks. My daugh­ter has asked me re­peat­edly what I’ll be for Halloween. At nearly 38 weeks preg­nant, and with lit­tle that fits with the ex­cep­tion of black leg­gings and tank tops, I have as­sured her I’ll still have a cos­tume. ‘‘I’ll be the night,’’ I tell her.

It’s been a week of masks kept and masks slip­ping, of cos­tumes and of cover sto­ries.


Don­ald Trump doesn’t need a mask, be­cause he’s built his pres­i­dency on the idea of ‘‘what you see is what you get’’.

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