Tag Archives: banana republic


Sometimes, political reality is so bizarre, all you can do is laugh– and Dana Milbank is one of the funniest political commentators around.

You’d think that We The People would be accustomed to the GOP’s steady retreat from seriousness and sanity. There’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, who opposes solar energy because we won’t have electricity after the sun goes down. Louie Gohmert has continued to protect his reputation as the dumbest mammal to enter a legislative chamber since Caligula’s horse. Lauren Bobert wants all citizens to pass a test on the Bible…The litany of idiocy could go on for hours.

What set Milbank off was an even more recent example: one of Trump’s endorsed congressional candidates–a North Carolina  Republican nominee named Bo Hines– “weighed in recently on all the talk about the United States becoming a banana republic, one of those nominal democracies where the rule of law is shaky. But Hines, a former college football player, spoke as if everybody was referring to Banana Republic, the clothing retailer.”

“A lot of people have likened the situation going on right now, is, you know, they say we’re in a Banana Republic,” he told radio host John Fredericks. “I think that’s an insult to Banana Republics across the country. I mean, at least the manager of Banana Republic, unlike our president, knows where he is and why he’s there and what he’s doing.”
Hines’s campaign retroactively labeled this “a joke.” Ha! I nearly split my pleated chinos.

Sorry, but that excuse is a total Lululemon. Misunderstanding a universal idiom, particularly while maligning President Biden’s mental acuity, suggests Hines is just not very PetSmart. On an intelligence scale of 1 to 10, he’s Five Below.

I wonder how many Trump Republicans would understand Milbank’s references…let alone laugh…

The column also has fun with the ongoing joke that has been Dr. Oz’s campaign for Senate in Pennsylvania. Among other gaffes, the noted quack distributed a video showing him shopping at a Redner’s supermarket.  Not only did he misidentify the grocery as “Wegner’s,” he filled his arms with broccoli, asparagus, carrots, guacamole and salsa, leading Milbank to note that supermarkets have these things called carts. The point of the video was to blame President Biden for the high price of the vegetables, which he called crudités, a word unlikely to be used by average guys going to the store for their wives. (The Democratic candidate, John Fetterman, who has had what looks like a lot of fun trolling Dr. Dense, tweeted that people in Pennsylvania “call that a veggie tray.”)

Milbank had fun with several other GOP candidates, but he outdid himself when he came to Hershel Walker, Georgia’s Senate candidate. (Granted, it’s hard NOT to laugh at Walker. I know it’s not kind to make fun of people who are mentally disabled, but typically those individuals aren’t running for the U.S. Senate.)

Leading this confederacy of dunces is Herschel Walker, GOP Senate nominee from Georgia. He took the position that there are 52 states and asserted that the theory of evolution is wrong because, “If that is true, why are there still apes? Think about it.”

Then think about Walker’s thoughts on the futility of fighting air pollution: “Since we don’t control the air, our good air decides to float over to China’s bad air. So, when China gets our good air, their bad air … moves over to our good air space.”

Cleanup in the crudité aisle!

Milbank then returned to the Banana Republic gaffe, and noted that the retailer is

all about encouraging sedentary Americans to pretend they are 19th century explorers in safari tents or sailing ships, wearing “pieces inspired by our history, a story of daring vision and imagined journeys.” Its clothes “wink at our heritage.” 

Given the current devolution of the GOP, Milbank had some suggested “winks.”

  • The White-Nationalist Linen Line. Yearn for the days when White men alone ruled America? Then put your wardrobe through a Great Replacement and return to the hoop skirts, bodices and tail coats of yore.
  • Stasi Style. As you report to the state on the activities of teachers, journalists and those who seek abortions, show your fashion sense by wearing the jackboots, baggy trousers and belted military jackets popularized by the East German secret police.
  • The Dezinformatsiya Line. Russian state television reports that it is “worried for our agent Trump.” Share the worry, visually, with a clothing line inspired by classic Cossack hats and babushka headscarves.
  • The Giuliani Collection. As Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani becomes a target of a criminal investigation, his chief financial officer prepares for a guilty plea and top-secret government files are found in Trump’s home, wear the crisp pinstripes and bold orange jumpsuits that define prison chic.

If we don’t laugh, we’ll cry…As Hershel Walker would say, “Think about it.”

Those “Mexican” Countries

It’s no wonder Donald Trump loves Fox News. In the annals of stupidity, they are fellow over-achievers.

Paul Krugman’s recent newsletter referenced the most recent evidence (as if we needed any) that Fox is not a legitimate news outlet:

Social media had a field day after “Fox & Friends Weekend” opened its show with a banner reading “Trump cuts off aid to three Mexican countries.” It was a stupid error, but also revealing: Clearly, a lot of the staff at Fox think all them brown people are the same.

And meanwhile, Trump is trying to cut off aid to a fourth Mexican country — one that happens to be part of the United States, home to three million U.S. citizens.

What that Fox banner was about was Trump’s order to the State Department to cut off all aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, countries that have recently been the source of many would-be migrants to the U.S. Leaving aside the reality that the “border crisis” is a figment of Trump’s imagination, what, exactly, is this aid cutoff supposed to accomplish?

The cutoff will, after all, make the conditions that have led some central Americans to flee their homes even worse, increasing their incentive to try to move north. So what are the governments of these nations supposed to do? Erect barriers to keep their people in?

The insanity of Trump’s approach was highlighted by an email I received from a friend. Dick Patterson is a  retired academic who used to live in Indiana, and who wrote about his recent trip to those “Mexican” countries.

In January, 2018 I joined an Indiana Audubon Society birding trip to northern Honduras. We flew in to San Pedro Sula, a small city in the north. I had never before heard of San Pedro Sula, but it was an attractive small city. Little did I know that it was a hotbed for gang violence and was soon going be the starting point for columns of migration north.

The view from the airplane of the ground below was of square miles of banana plantations, followed by more square miles of what I learned were pineapple plantations…  I was told that the plantation hires local people as laborers, but don’t provide permanent jobs because the company does not want to pay benefits. The jobs are in the tropical sun and the workers are exposed to toxic chemicals.

Honduras has more than bananas and pineapple plantations. Palm oil, cacao, sugar cane and coffee are also grown. The plantations take up most of the good farmland, with Chiquita and Dole taking up 60%.

In 2018 president Hernandez ran for a second term. Despite the fact that the constitution allows only one term, he won. Our birding guide, an extremely intelligent civic-minded man, just shrugged his shoulders, and said he just had to get on with his life.

In summary, a corrupt banana republic.

Is it any wonder that the best job available is to join a gang that extorts money from local businesses? Or that hordes of people see no future there? And now Trump wants to cut off foreign aid because they can’t keep everybody home in these conditions.

We could help by pressuring the American fruit corporations to clean up their act. Cutting off foreign aid will only make a bad situation worse.

Making a bad situation worse might just be the mantra of American foreign policy. How many times, in how many situations, have we pursued what State Department naifs conceived of as our short-term advantage only to find that we had undermined our long-term interests?

With the “election” of a man who has zero understanding of geopolitics, who sees every interaction as a zero-sum game and every country other than Russia as either a competitor or an enemy, we have abandoned even the pretense of a rational foreign policy. We now have a “Christian warrior” as Secretary of State, a President who is incapable of understanding cause and effect, and a Republican propaganda machine that labels all countries south of the border as “Mexican.”

It’s an embarrassing time to be an American.