Paul Moser, author of “Inside the Flavor League” and prominent amongst Napans as a Trump resister, writes to explain what this extensive resistance is all about (“What are we resisting,” June 8).
I am grateful for his efforts on this score because I have, since November, been puzzling over that very question.
Near the close of his explanation, Moser presents a quotation from Alexander Hamilton about “a man unprincipled in private life” who eventually undermines a republic and assumes tyrannical control of the state. I won’t torment your readership by quoting the whole passage here. But I will point out a few things about Hamilton’s sentiments, supposedly on “the danger of Trump.”
First, I don’t buy the image of a scholarly Paul Moser poring over the works of the Founding Fathers — so that, when Trump appeared on the political scene, Moser was immediately able to summon out of his voluminous memory the appropriate prophetic passage. This passage was posted with reference to Trump on the “Democratic Underground” website on March 12 of this year and afterward reposted in a variety of adaptations, some of which altered it in a recognizable way and for a recognizable reason.
The original passage read, “... a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour...,” and so on. But one chain of current Democrat adaptations omits the phrase, “having the advantage of military habits,” because it doesn’t seem to apply to Trump, who is not a military man, although he did attend military school. Moser omits the same phrase. According to accepted principles of textual criticism, it is reasonable to conclude that Moser is quoting someone from this chain.
Of course, it is possible that Moser’s source is the March 12 post at “Democratic Underground,” and that he decided on his own to omit the objectionable phrase. Great minds think alike. However, it is certain that Moser is not directly quoting Hamilton himself. Moser doesn’t even mark the omission with an ellipsis, which a careful scholar would do automatically if he had the original source before his weary eyes.
The curious thing about the omission of this phrase is that other phrases in the passage apply to Trump even less than the one about “military habits.” Trump is not “desperate in his fortune.” He is much better off than the average member of the political class. His name is a synonym for wealth and ostentation. He goes to Saudi Arabia, and the plutocrats there treat him with elaborate adulation, in marked contrast with the way they regarded his predecessor in office. Trump may be crass, but he is far from desperate.
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And it’s hard to see how the gaggle of leftists to which Moser belongs can acknowledge that Trump is “possessed of considerable talents.” Is Moser acknowledging that point?
There’s a good reason why these phrases don’t apply, or don’t seem to apply, to Trump as Moser understands him. The passage itself was intended to apply to two actual targets. The first, of course, is mentioned in the passage itself: it is Julius Caesar, whose heir, Octavian, received the title Augustus and remade the entire Roman state.
The second is generally acknowledged to be Aaron Burr.
As Hamilton viewed him, Burr met all the criteria listed in the passage. Unlike Trump, he was considered “desperate in his fortune” at various times during his life. Unlike Trump, he served in the military — as an officer in the Continental Army. Given certain presuppositions, it was perfectly reasonable for Hamilton to think of Burr as the Julius Caesar of the age.
Burr shot and killed Hamilton in a duel in 1804. This event effectively ended Burr’s political career.
In one way, Trump clearly differs from Caesar and from Burr. Both actual targets of Hamilton’s criticism followed the course of political honors available in their times. Caesar became military tribune, quaestor, praetor, imperator, consul, and so on. Burr served in the military, in his state assembly, as attorney general, as U.S. senator, and as vice president. Trump has not followed such a course. As a private citizen, he jumped right into the presidency — because a whole lot of people were sick of the political class.
Trump cannot be the Caesar of our age, Mr. Moser. I suggest that you keep looking.