Hillary’s Character is Questionable, but Trump is Worse. Much Worse.

(NOTE:  This is a particularly long post.  You might want to grab a drink before reading it, or put it off to when you have a few extra minutes.)

I’m not all that religious but at this point I have to wonder whether God is going to punish us with a Trump presidency.  While I have thought the election would be tighter than the polls had been showing, I felt that Hillary would win.  In a battle of two questionable characters – or as Michael Gerson puts it “one candidate stale and tainted, the other “vapid and vile” – I, like Gerson, see Trump as worse.   Much worse.

Since he announced his bid for the presidency, Trump has always had the advantage of offering something new and different to a people who are tired of the same ‘ol same ‘ol and who give no weight to how complex things are these days, i. e. there are no easy answers to any major problem because the interconnectivity of the world has grown so great.

Even I who can’t stand this childish, vindictive man am attracted to his being something  interesting and really different.  Even if awful, a Trump presidency would be really different.  And no doubt interesting, unless it reaches the point of scaring us to death.

We must understand that our political values have been infiltrated and made subservient to those of entertainment.  That is the undercurrent that has propelled Donald the reality TV star into his present position.  Potentially the first TV reality president.  In the world of entertainment sensational is very good and boring is very bad.   And Donald J. Trump regularly makes news saying something sensational (often outrageous), while he is seldom boring except when momentarily following a script devised by others to make him seem less dangerous.

Given the wide spread hunger for change the big question is how many voters out there have been waiting for a sufficient excuse to go with the “vapid and vile” danger man Trump over the “stale and tainted”  and boring Hillary (the degree of the taint is debatable, but she is no Bernie Sanders).  Now that FBI director Comey has decided to reopen an investigation on Hillary, those hidden Trumpsters might have the excuse they’ve been longing for.

With the election only a week away the Comey probe, no matter how unsubstantial  it may prove to be later, may turn out the straw that breaks Hillary’s back.  I can imagine some in those private voting booths thinking:  What the hell.  Let’s take a chance on the business man who is a proven winner.  Let’s shake things up in Washington.

The thought of having a hand in big changes gets the blood going, doesn’t it?  In such a situation one’s vote really feels like it counts.  Voting for the possibility of incremental improvement can’t hold a candle to that when it comes to enthusiasm.

Someone summed up Trump’s followers as wanting to punch Washington in the face.  And no one represents Washington more than Hillary, the ultimate insider.  I share the sentiment at times but for President Trump it would be his golden rule.

He would get involved in a number of fights with just about everyone, but besides making many of his followers feel good about his taking down those big wigs a peg or two, what’s that going to solve?   Who’s that going to help?   Who will be willing to work with him?  He will be an elected president, not an elected dictator or monarch, unless things really go awry.

Sure Washington is a classic example of SNAFU (a military acronym for  “situation normal all …..”    you know the rest.)  But the idea that Donald Trump will be able to fix anything is sheer fantasy.  It is clear from studying his past that his primary drive has been to get attention, or aiming higher “adoration” as the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has put it.   Trump has been amazingly successful at that, but tell me the last president who has been adored by a majority of Americans for more than a few days here and there, if ever.  At various times they were all vilified by the press and much of the public.

Does anyone believe Trump will handle vilification well?

Along with Trump’s genius for getting attention goes a blister-thin skin which prompts him to strike back at anyone who criticizes him.  He views every caustic comment as life threatening.  Since he has a complete disregard for the truth, he doesn’t mind lying in his defense and then telling bigger lies to defend his previous ones or to distract us from the original issues.

After a number of women came forth (11 at my last count) to say Trump did to them what Trump bragged he did to women on those Access Hollywood tapes, he first said he didn’t know any of them, and when it was proven he had known at least two, he called them all liars.  To take attention away from their accusations he dismissed them as agents of a media conspiracy against him, which grew to international proportions including bankers and anyone else profiting from the present rigged system that Trump promises to do away with.

I am the Donald hear me roar.  Drowning out all efforts to hold him accountable for anything.

We don’t have enough press to disprove all the B. S.  that he and his surrogates, which I like to think of as minions, churn out and perpetuate daily.   A special shout out to you Kellyanne Conway, Trump handler in chief, to the extent you can, and the whirling dervish of political spin.

Trump as president would spend much of his time counter attacking all those who would criticize or challenge him while contriving all sorts of falsehoods about them.   Worst of all to me are those falsehoods pumped up to full blown conspiracies.  Since he has absolutely no regard for the truth, he would not hesitate to make up conspiracies or develop baseless attacks as he did with such success to his primary opponents, e. g. “lying” Ted the Canadian with a father who might have been involved in the Jack Kennedy assassination.

Trump saw that last implication in The National Enquirer, obviously a source as trusted as the slab with the 10 commandments.

In short, while all politicians pollute our national discourse (such as it is) with the way they spin events to make themselves look good and their opponents bad, Trump is the biggest polluter of all, the coal industry of political pollution.

Years from now many  of our descendants will still believe President Obama was born in Kenya because Trump created his political career spewing that lie often for about five years.  The Republicans welcomed any attack on Obama, and the press never forced the issue, allowing much of the public to believe it and teaching Trump how easy it can be to create a false reality and convince others of its validity.

How many other grand lies would the presidency give Trump the opportunity to foment and infest us like a virus?   Until the notion of truth itself loses the little meaning it has left in politics.

 


P. S. – I can imagine a Trump supporter pointing out that several weeks ago Trump indeed did state that Obama was born in the United States, a one sentence statement tucked into a Trump rally late that he conned the press into covering like a major announcement.

To continue the coal analogy, five years of spewing coal dust all about and then in one sentence he tells the truth and acts as if all the damage done had been rectified, as if he were a pope announcing an encyclical.   That was the truth then.  This is the truth now.

Or to try another analogy, there is Trump on the front page accusing  Obama of lying about his birthplace for five years and then one day, on page 55, he inserts one sentence of truth as if the two balance out.   As if one sentence of truth equates to five years of lying.

BEING PRESIDENT TRUMP

While I think I have a sense of what either Hillary or Bernie would do or at least try to do as president, I have no idea when it comes to Donald Trump, other than he will try to build a wall on the southern border, because that is one of the few concrete proposals he has made.  I believe he has blown the issue way out of proportion, one of the tricks of a demagogue, but successfully enough that I actually might be in favor of building the stupid wall just so we can stop arguing about it.

While there is much that concerns me about Trump as president, right at this moment I feel most uncomfortable about the Donald’s need to win as a way of continuously building up his ego.  It is as if he needs to continue to notch wins lest he will start shrinking like the wicked witch of the west when doused with water.  Criticism is Trump’s water.

My concern is:  How will he define being a winner as president?  In business winning is to make money and then make more of it.  Winning either a primary race or the presidency (or a game of TV survivor) is even more clear cut.  You win the contest or you are a loser.

But being a winner as president is really a matter of opinion and subject to never ending debate.   Obama takes pride in the nuclear deal with Iran;  Republicans call it a terrible deal.  Trump calls it the worst ever.  Years after the fact historians look back and judge presidents as more or less a winner than they were judged in their time.  And those judgements keep changing over time, too.

There are few clear cut presidential wins like the surrender of Germany and Japan.

Of course, Trump would always act like he is a winner, but since there are no simple ways of keeping score, I think that would unnerve him.   As you may have noticed, he doesn’t react well to criticism.  It takes the gloss off his shiny sense of self.  Last week, for example he did a four western state campaign swing which could have been a victory tour, but because he is a vindictive sort, it was more of a “grudge tour,” as a Washington Post article described it.

He spent much of his time attacking a number of people who as the Post put it, had”done him wrong.” Among the malefactors were Republicans who have yet to endorse him, like “low energy Jeb” and the female Republican governors of South Carolina and New Mexico, Nikki Hailey and Susana Martinez.

The last named happens to be chair of the Republican Governors Association in addition to being a Latina, a backer the self-proclaimed party unifier could particularly use.  But in his unique way of courting support he told a crowd in New Mexico their state was in trouble and their governor needed to do a better job.

If president, given Trump’s diaphanous skin when it comes to criticism, he should be glowing red and seething under the hot light of the 24/7 coverage that comes along with the presidency.  And criticism might eventually sprout from his present true believers who at some point seem likely to feel let down once again by a politician.

The kinds of changes Trump has promised could only be carried out if he were elected king.  At a time when a gridlocked Congress elected by a polarized populace hinders changing much of anything, at what point do King Donald’s subjects begin to question his reign?

Sure he would blame everyone else for getting in his way, but after all he did say to a crowd just last week that “Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing…. I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”

Being the “only one” doesn’t leave him much room for excuses.

At what point do some of his ardent fans look behind the curtain of the all powerful Oz and see a little man at the controls projecting a phony awesome image?


P. S. – The Washington Post article mentioned above can be found at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/even-in-victory-donald-trump-cant-stop-airing-his-grievances/2016/05/29/a5f7a566-2526-11e6-8690-f14ca9de2972_story.html?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_headlines

Dilbert Predicts Trump will Win Election in a Landslide

Not Dilbert actually.  He’s a comic strip character as you probably know.  It is his creator, Scott Adams, who is predicting a Trump landslide and he has been making this prediction for months on his:  blog.dilbert.com.  I just learned of his political punditry watching one of the Fox programs this Sunday morning.   His blog seems well worth following through the election as you are likely to judge from the March 4 post below.

Let’s just say he has made a strong argument for the possibility of us waking up in November  to see Donald J. Trump as our president.

“The FOX News debate moderators annihilated Donald Trump last night. They highlighted huge problems with his budget plan, showed inconsistencies in his policies, and hammered him for his Trump University “scam” as some would call it. It was Trump’s first bad debate night.

And when I say FOX annihilated Trump, I mean they guaranteed a Trump landslide. People don’t like the establishment, in case you haven’t heard.

We’re past the question of whether our politicians are lying to us. That’s a given. The system forces them to lie to get elected. I’m not sure the voters care at this point.

A good way to judge the persuasiveness of these debates is to sleep on them and see what sticks in your mind in the morning. The few moments that you remember are the things that matter. The rest of your memories got flushed while you slept. So Here’s what I recall from last night.

1. Trump’s penis is more than adequate, he says.

2. Trump’s immigration plans are his first offer, subject to negotiation, as I have been telling you for months. (Because all things are subject to negotiation.)

3. Trump has no good defense for the Trump University “scam” accusation. But voters probably don’t care. They heard it was a contested legal situation – a boring one – and that was probably enough for people to ignore it.

4. Trump’s budget plans are ridiculous, just like the other candidates’ plans. But voters probably know that already. No one believes a budget plan from a candidate.

5. Trump looked sweaty and flustered at one point. That’s the first we have seen it. But he still came off as powerful in general.

6. Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich were also on stage. I can’t remember if they talked.

7. FOX seemed to be piling on Trump, but that could be the front-runner effect. You expect them to go after the leader and frame questions around the leader’s positions.

Overall, I doubt this debate moved the needle much on the polls. People who watch debates at this point in the election cycle probably made up their minds before they turned on the TV.

If you are wondering how to make a decision in light of the fact that all the candidates appear to be either deeply flawed or toothless, I’m here to help. I suggest you use this simple trick: Assume all the accusations about everyone are 100% true. Then vote.

For example, assume Donald Trump has changed positions on some things and plans to negotiate on other things. Assume he has a ridiculous budget plan. Assume he has insufficient policy details. Assume his taxes have some ugly surprises and that Trump University seemed a scam to its students. Assume he has several notable business failures. Assume he has offensive thoughts about women and minorities and he will say more offensive things in the future. Assume he is a narcissist too. Assume all of it to be true.

But also remember that Trump has never offered himself to be the country’s role model. And I don’t believe anyone is questioning his patriotism or love of country. As far as I can tell, Trump is treating this more like an extended job interview. He’s offering to put his talent for persuasion (which you might call his flaw of being full of shit) in the service of the country.

A Trump presidency would be messy. It would certainly introduce a new type of risk that we have not seen before.

Do you want more risk?

Generally speaking, you want to avoid risk when things are going well and accept risk when things are totally broken. If you think the country is doing well, and will continue to do so, Hillary Clinton is an excellent choice on the left, as is Marco Rubio on the right. They will keep things mostly the same.

But if you think government is rigged against your interests, and unlikely to improve on its own, you want a bloodless revolution. And the candidate you hire for the revolution is likely to have rough edges.

Here I remind you that I’m not endorsing Trump or anyone else. In fact, I disavowed Trump exactly because of the rough edges. I don’t want to be in the splatter zone with any of the accusations I mentioned.”

The Wizzard of Trump: Peering Behind the Curtain

Two friends of mine were lambasting me last night for appearing to become a fan of Donald Trump.  I tried to defend myself by saying I’m not a fan of the man, but just fascinated by his political success.  But they would have none of that.

“He’s racist. He’s sexist.  That’s what you should be pointing out,” said one.   As if that were news to anybody.  What’s interesting to me is how in  acting like a crass, prejudiced jerk he only gets more popular.

Truth is, I don’t know who Donald Trump is.  He’s praised for speaking his mind, or from his heart, portrayed as being authentic like Bernie Sanders.  I think only some of that is true and it is hard to sort it out because fundamentally Trump is a showman, so what we see is mostly what he wants us to see to keep the show fresh and entertaining.

Do you think he’s not consciously being unpredictable?   That’s not authenticity, that’s an act.

Or some of it is and some isn’t, hard to know.  But this morning I decided to see if I could find some insight as to the man as opposed to the showman and I hit a goldmine in an interview in the Daily Beast with a woman named Barbara Res, who seems likely to know Trump about as well as anyone.

Trump hired her as the top engineer in the construction of Trump Tower in the 80s and she still worked with him in the 90s when “he only escaped financial ruin because the banks decided to leave the super self-promoter with enough to maintain the illusion of an empire.”

Trump asked her to take on the Trump Tower job when she was only 31, a position that probably no other woman in the world had.  And, though she had seen Trump be abusive to others who worked for him, he had always treated her with respect .

He “was the least sexist boss I ever had as far as trusting me and viewing me equally with all the men we encountered in our mutual dealings,” she reports. “He wanted me to be him on the job. He said I would be like a ‘Donna Trump.”

That’s the good part, though not surprisingly she won the respect by standing up to the many men she worked with.   “He told me I was a killer,” she recalls. “That’s important to him. Apparently, he thought that was a compliment.”

While Trump values the killer instinct, Res reveals when it came to firing people, he had trouble doing it himself.  “When somebody had to be fired, Donald laid the job off to an underling,” ironic given his “Your fired.” line being his tough guy trademark phrase in his show The Apprentice.

Res sheds light on a number of Trump traits, such as the anger shown is real, while the charm is a put on, and of course he seldom blames himself for any work that fails or falls short.  And he has no shame.  He showed that in the way he handled a scandal with a mistress and in his outrageous comments about anyone or group he feels anger towards.  “The more he gets away with, the more he does,” she says.

Not surprisingly, she says his biggest skill is self-promotion and that were it not for the image he promoted of having “the Midas touch,” prompting a number of banks to keep him afloat while he was hundreds of million in debt his financial empire would have collapsed years ago.

But the empire did not collapse and he became very rich and even more famous, but something changed him in the process.   “The humanity unfortunately faded as Donald’s star brightened,” Res says.   And while clearly a progressive before Obama’s second term, he trademarked  Make America Great Again a few days after the inauguration and became a conservative demagogue.

According to the interviewer:  “For all her experience with the old Trump, she had trouble discerning what was actual in the new one.” 

A Hillary supporter, Res follows the new Donald’s campaign from afar.  She saw the coverage of him saying that he wanted to punch a protester in the face.

“I would be laughing, but I’m crying,” she says. “He’s just such a bully. A typical bully.”

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P. S. – Res published a book in 2013 about her life in the construction industry available on Amazon, while the Daily Beast article can be reached by cutting and pasting:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/02/25/donald-trump-s-tower-boss.html

In the article Res provides a much fuller portrait of Trump than I have alluded to here.

 

Our Trump Infatuation: Are We Amusing Ourselves to Death?

“I’m digging Trump. …his campaign has been entertaining as sh_t.”

Trump supporter Kid Rock in a Rolling Stone interview.

After initially laughing at his candidacy last summer I have become in awe of Donald Trump’s success in this race prompting a couple of Trump non-fan friends to question whether I have gone over to the dark side.  I have to admit its tempting as thus far he has been the perfect demagogue for our age. He plays our fears, resentments and hopes like a virtuoso a Stradivarius.  I sometimes think of him as Hitler-lite.

True, to many he plays off key, creating shrill sounds.  Sure he stretches the truth or generalizes it out of existence, is crass in speech and action but he is supremely confident that he can  make America  great again and that confidence is contagious.  Being entertaining and projecting strength seem to trump all other virtues in the contest.

The best the others can promise is to just make America better.  Kind of lukewarm in comparison.

In that interview Kid Rock also emphasized that nothing good seems to change in government no matter which party is in power and he’s tired of the same ‘ol same ‘ol.  Why not give the business guy a chance to shake things up?

So, besides being a good entertainer Trump prompts excitement about the possibility of seeing new things happen in Washington with him as chief.  His lack of any real plans, his occasional brutish ways and his penchant for unpredictability only adds to that excitement, even the scary parts.  After all horror movies sell, too.

Since the Trump show seems likely to be playing well for months to come, we’ll have plenty of time to think about his curious achievement in turning politics into show business and cash in on what I would argue has become, if not our foremost value, in contention at least:  Being entertained.

We have become addicted to being entertained and technology offers us more and more entertainment each day, hundreds of TV channels, big movie special effects, video games and all of the social media one could ever want.   In America, there is no excuse for being bored anymore.

We want to be entertained in every which way and Trump has made politics entertaining.  Sure, he pushes a lot of our emotional buttons but most importantly, he does it in an entertaining way.

Trump is cashing in on our collective addiction to entertainment.  He rides this wave like no one else, well enough to appear a shoe in for the Republican nomination for the presidency and making me wonder if his entertainment value will carry him to the presidency.

Putting aside for the moment the fears he may inspire along with whatever personal distaste you have for the man, wouldn’t a Trump presidency be the most interesting to watch unfold?  Just like in his campaign we’d never know what he might say or do next.

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P. S. – Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business is a book by Neil Postman published in 1986.  While we tend to think of political oppression coming from an outside source, such as big government – hence the emphasis of the right on the right to bear arms – Postman postured a bigger danger coming from our wanting to be entertained to the point that what we desire will ruin us.

Postman’s warning seems to be prophecy coming to fruition in the form of Donald Trump.  I will return to the book at various times as the race for the White House continues, as I think entertainment value will remain a crucial factor.

Here’s a taste of the book:

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”  

The Syrian Calamity: Small Progress, Huge Obstacles

It has been a week since I mentioned the international talks on Syria in Munich noting “there is a ray of hope now regarding a cease fire in Aleppo, the delivery of humanitarian aid to thousands and a continuation of talks aimed at an eventual peace deal.”

As for a cease fire in Aleppo, there has been none.   Syrian governmental troops and Russian planes are still pounding that city and there seems no reason to believe that will halt.  Syrian president Assad and the Russians call any forces that fight the regime terrorists, including rebels we support, so any peace deal is hard to imagine working.  Also, Assad recently said he planned to fight on until all of Syria is brought under government control again, another nail in the coffin of peace prospects.

The most positive outcome of the Munich talks is that humanitarian relief has begun to reach thousands of people trapped and starving in various pockets of Syria.  Though those reached will be a fraction of hundreds of thousands in such situations, it is one positive outcome from the talks.

I could add that there are plans for further talks in Geneva by the various nations represented in Munich, most notably ourselves and the Russians, but ones scheduled today in Geneva have fallen through, for no clear reason and even with differing reports as to whether they have been cancelled or just postponed.

Check out this article in the Washington Post for more on that curious front.

It should be noted, however, that a number of knowledgeable observers are sharply critical of the talks, seeing them as just an ongoing excuse for the U. S. doing little while the Syrian government continues to strengthen its position aided by Russia and Iran.

A more aggressive policy by the U. S. raises the possibility of our conflicting militarily with Russia and the potential for unforeseen, world shattering consequences.  Our present course of muddling along is hard to embrace as well.

For myself, the presidential candidate I think might best serve to guide us though these troubled waters is the one I’ll likely vote for.

For casual observers as most of us are, it is difficult just to sort out the various fighting factions and where they are in Syria.  An article in the The Guardian from the UK describes the initial humanitarian efforts while showing a map of Syria useful in trying to get a grasp of this nearly incomprehensible situation fraught with international consequences.

I tried to link you to it, but cannot, so you will need to apply the cut-and-paste method.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/17/syria-humanitarian-aid-convoys-madaya-zabadani

 

 

The Siege of Aleppo: From Chronic Crisis to Catastrophe?

The presidential primary results in New Hampshire Tuesday did nothing to diminish interest in the ongoing races in both parties.  This would seem a positive sign about our democracy were it not for the fact most of us are more TV consumers intrigued by a new version of “the great race” than active citizens.  Trump and Sanders being big winners in New Hampshire, unthinkable last June, give legs to this “reality” TV series.  It should entertain us for months to come.

Oh, by the way, while the cable TV stations spend most of their time examining what has happened so far in the great race and speculating on what is to come, a catastrophe seems imminent in Syria.  The word “crisis” is so overused these days I needed to search for a more powerful word, especially as Syria has been in a state of chronic crisis for years.  When crisis is the norm it ceases to feel like a crisis, unless you are living in its hellish circumstances rather than watching it on TV as we so often are.

Here’s a rough approximation of what is going on and why it is so bad and why it could get much worse.

Since the Russians began to directly intervene in Syria in September, under the guise of joining the fight against ISIS, they have spent most of their efforts attacking the conglomeration of more moderate rebels that we have more or less backed.   They hide that fact in their propaganda accusing all rebels fighting the government of being terrorists, including the ones we tend to like.  With the help of largely state controlled media, they hide it well enough most Russians seem to believe they are primarily fighting ISIS, and it receives support because it is sold as a religious war.

Our response to Russian forays has been to avoid clashing with them in joint fly zones and to put our hopes in peace talks among various concerned countries to reach an agreement, but these talks have produced nothing, while allowing Bashar al-Assad’s Russian and Iranian backed forces to regain ground lost earlier.  Russian intervention came when it appeared Assad was losing the fight.

Recently Assad’s forces and Russia planes have launched an attack on Aleppo, a rebel stronghold in northern Syria forcing 40,000 or so refugees to flee towards Turkey, but Turkey won’t accept them.   In recent bombings in the city some 500 people have been killed and many others are dying of starvation both in Aleppo and in other areas attacked by Assad.

Because of these events talks have reconvened in Munich today in search of a cease fire, but chances don’t look good.  For one thing Russia denies recent bombings of hospitals in Aleppo, accusing us of doing so.  And while we want an immediate cease fire they talk of a cease fire beginning March 1, which would give them more time to slaughter the opposition and strengthen their bargaining position.

In short, if the talks fail (and that seems likely), the situation borders on the uncontrollable and we are caught in a position of either confronting Russia in the form of a no fly protection zone, or losing further credibility in the area.   The Turks, the Saudi’s, France and various other nations are pushing us to do more, and that “more” seems to be a no fly zone.  A pair of scholars have written a piece calling our failure to set up that no fly zone “moral bankruptcy.”

Of course, Russia has indicated it opposes that.  After all its planes are using that area to bomb “our” rebels.   The situation seems to be heading towards either a military confrontation of some sort between ourselves and Russia or a further loss of our credibility as a military power if we essentially do little or nothing.

This is the big story of today, but it only is receiving slight mention on the cable TV stations, focused as they are on the great race.

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P. S. –     If you want the latest news on Aleppo and the peace talks, google Syrian Peace Meeting In Munich Thursday or simply Aleppo, or both.  They offer somewhat different sources.