April 5, 2018

Grifter in Chief

Sam Smith - As I was continuing to puzzle over why it was so easy for me to see Donald Trump as a lying con man while millions of Americans still don't understand it, I happened to pick up an old Raymond Chandler novel, Big Sleep, featuring detective Philip Marlowe. As a teenager I had seen the movie which starred my hero Humphrey Bogart  but I had never read the book.  

If you grew up in a time before television made its full impact on America, such films were quite influential. Now we see a couple of thousand ads a day, listen to constant hype, and are lectured by those who shout and wave their arms as they talk.

I still don't move my mouth much when I talk because Bogart taught me not to.  The other thing his character, Philip Marlowe, educated me about (along with numerous other private detective books and movies) was that you were a sucker and not a real man if you let yourself be hustled by a grifter, which is to say, a con man or a hustler. It was an essential part of growing up strong and on the right side. 

A couple of excerpts from the Big Sleep give the feel:
"Geiger was dead and Carmen would have to find some other shady character to drink exotic blends of hootch with. I didn't suppose she would have any trouble. All she would have to do would be to stand on the corner for five minutes and look coy. I hoped that the next grifter who dropped the hook on her would play her a little more smoothly, a little more for the long haul rather than the quick touch."
"Agnes must have something I didn't notice," says Marlowe later on. The guy he's talking to replies:
"She's a grifter, shamus. I'm a grifter. We're all grifters. So we sell each other out for a nickel. Okey. See can you make me." He reached for another of my cigarettes, placed it neatly between his lips and lit it with a match. 
Donald Trump thought he could sell all America out for a nickel. He hadn't figured on having to deal with a Philip Marlowe type character named Robert Mueller. 

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