Not Lard Dump
“He (Donald Trump) is a good and honest man.”
– Larry Arnn (President of Hillsdale College)
“… I will never look at that fleshy pile of vanity, crudity, and deceit and say: ‘There’s a good and honest man.’ ”
– Jonah Goldberg (senior editor of National Review)
Fairly regular readers will note that I’ve pretty much avoided politics for quite some time. I’ve ventured slightly into that area occasionally; for instance last month I risked a brief walk into the mine field, touching on the issue known as “Citizens United”. [We are all citizens, not united]
Discussing politics turns people off; drives readers away. So I only dabble in that arena. And then Donald Trump happened.
I was searching for the right words to describe The Donald. I had an overly long list going: boorish, crass, braggart, childish. He’s … he’s … and then I came across an essay by Jonah Goldberg with the words in the header. [Jonah Goldberg will not “come around” to supporting Trump]
“Fleshy pile of vanity, crudity and deceit.” Concise, descriptive and complete. That’s why Goldberg is the professional writer, and I am not.
I have no horse in this race. I could go off on Clinton, Sanders or Cruz ad nauseum with facts – chapter and verse – to justify my loathing.
Yet, I’m aware that each of these candidates has loyal followers who are decent people; who can rationalize their support. Yes, the rationale ranges from shallow and simple to deep and profound. In fact, a good reason to support any one of them is that they are not the other three. I generally don’t criticize other citizens for whom or for what they support; but I feel completely authorized to analyze and criticize candidates, parties and issue positions.
This one is for Donald Trump. Sure he’s smart. He’s rich. He’s slick and irreverent. To some extent I “get” the support for him (which I see as rather similar to Sanders’ support): people are angry. But, as Goldberg writes: “Let me ask you something: How many times have you been justifiably angry in your own life yet still let your anger lead you to a bad decision?”
And it is, indeed, justifiable anger. The “system” has not worked. Blue collar jobs are waning. Average is synonymous with mean. And average wages are mean: adjusted for inflation mean wages have decreased for the middle class (and below) over the last 25 years. Virtually all of the Fed’s Quantitative Easing money has ended up with the 1%, with the banks and financing mergers. Banks are bigger than ever.
And there’s confusion, and frustration, and complexity. The world is complex. The economy is complex. There’s creeping evil and chaos in the world. Trump (and Sanders) offers catchy slogans for responses (although few valid solutions). For Trump: Let’s Win! I’m smart and rich; trust me!
Looking at the larger world milieu, we can see that Trump is not unique. In a world context, the “right wing xenophobic reactionary anger” that Trump seems to represent is on the rampage, like Rommel racing across the open fields of France. In Germany and Austria the xenophobic “Alternativ” parties are very vocal (AfD and AfÖ). In Great Britain, it’s the anti-immigration Euro-skeptic UKIP. In France, it’s the National Front (FN). Netherlands? Geert Wilders leads the xenophobic nationalistic Party for Freedom (PVV).
Not to be outdone, such parties have not just come to prominence; they’re running the country in Poland and Hungary. And more: populist right wing xenophobic parties are running countries from Finland to Macedonia, from Switzerland to Norway, from Estonia to Norway.
So, Trump and the US are not unique here. Accepting that Trump is rich and smart, and accepting that he is a clever media-playing populist, let’s go just a bit deeper.
Going a bit deeper we find, as Gertrude Stein famously said: “There is no there there.”
Insofar as intellectual depth, intellectual breadth and even intellectual curiosity are concerned – I submit that Trump is a lightweight. A self-loving, bombastic, emotional simpleton.
I submit three examples.
- I’ve watched a majority of the debates and town halls. [Yes I have a disease.]
In a recent CNN Town Hall Trump was asked: what are the 3 most important duties of the federal government?
This is a classic “softball question.” It is the sort of question that any thoughtful person – and especially a candidate for any national office (let alone President) – will always have a ready answer for.
Here’s what happened. Via my paraphrasing Trump said “the most important thing the government can do is protect its citizens. So security is number 1. It’s so important, that the top three duties are security, security and security.”
Good start. Security. Then … completely feeble.
Anderson Cooper tried to help him. “Is there anything else the government should do?”
Trump: “Well there’s Health Care and Education, and you go on from there….”
You go on from there? Is he a statist? At this point, Trump has clearly knotted the noose, tied it to a branch, climbed up on a stool, and stuck his neck into the loop – at least to any thinking Republican voter.
Cooper tried to help him again. “So you’re saying that the Federal government should be more involved in Health Care and education?”
Trump then kicked the stool over: Yes. What’s being done now isn’t right. We can do better. Security, Health Care and Education.”
For the next 30 minutes Trump continued to display ignorance and lack of thought. He pouted and smiled. He has more facial expressions than Jackie Gleason. And more one liners than Henny Youngman. He swayed gently in the breeze, hanging from the tree.
As a populist Republican, Trump could have said something like:
“Every nation must protect itself and its interests. Every citizen of every country has a reasonable expectation of safety to be provided by their government. So priority #1 is security. It’s the only ethical and common reason for any government to exist since the beginning of time.
“Moving on we have to consider what makes us unique as Americans. So #2 you have the defense of individual rights. We can start with the enumerated rights of the Constitution’s Amendments, especially the Bill of Rights: freedom to assemble, freedom to worship, speak, … and legal rights like fair legal processes. And, for #2, we expand to rights that we’ve come to expect that are not in the amendments. We have a reasonable expectation of privacy, to travel, to conduct commerce, … Because really, this is a beautiful country. I love this country. And it’s often called a free country. The 9th Amendment basically states that rights of people not listed in the Constitution are still rights. So #2, we protect the citizens’ rights from government.
“And now #3, which is consistent with the spirit of American expression. Government must do all that is practicable to ensure a level playing field. All individuals have gifts, skills and intellect; and it’s in our DNA to desire to grow these, to use these, to contribute these gifts to the greater good of society, the good of ourselves , the good of our family, and for our posterity. If a bright hard working young man in Detroit can’t have a reasonable path to individual actualization – similar to a young lady, say, from Beverly Hills – then we are all being cheated. That young man is worse off. Detroit is worse off. America is worse off. We are all worse off when all of us – in all of our diversity – do not have as level a field as possible to aspire, grow, contribute.
“So the top 3 responsibilities – and not by any means all government responsibility – are security, rights and a level playing field.”
Trump recently fielded a hypothetical question from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews about abortion (Matthews is hard left and always eager to trap any Republican). It is mind-boggling that any candidate – especially a Republican candidate for national office – would not be well-coached and well-prepared for such a question.
The paraphrased question was: If abortion becomes illegal, should the woman be punished?
Trump’s simplistic answer (which he made several attempts to walk back later): Yes. You need to have some punishment.
Matthews actually tried to help him! What punishment? 10 cents? 10 years?
To which Trump had no answer other than: I don’t know. It’s complicated.
Really? Complicated? This was such an easy trap to avoid. If he gets the party nomination, this video will haunt every Republican candidate come November.
Let’s start with Trump’s own words and try a better response.
“Abortion is complicated. It’s because life is complicated. Look, reproductively speaking, it’s unfair that woman carry the burden – literally – of carrying a baby to term. Of giving birth. And since life is complicated, pregnancy is complicated. I’m sensitive to the myriad stressful and inconvenient circumstances that could lead a woman to consider abortion. Really, I am sensitive. I’m sympathetic. My heart goes out to them.
“Look, this is a hypothetical question. Right now the law of the land has been established by Roe v. Wade. And that says woman have the right to confront life’s complications armed with the option of abortion. As president I will enforce the law of the land.
“If and when abortion becomes illegal, I would never push for any punishment for the woman who’s made that choice. In many cases, most cases I’ve been told, she will likely carry a psychological burden for years, if not the rest of her life. That’s punishment enough.
“Do I like abortion? No. It is a violent option. It ends a beating heart. That’s why I support so many wonderful organizations – not Planned Parenthood – organizations that help women struggling with problem pregnancies. They’re encouraged to carry the baby to birth. We give them financial and health resources. Sometimes they abort; mostly the don’t. They baby is adopted – there are so many loving couples who’d love to adopt. Sometimes she keeps the baby to raise as her own. We provide more financial and health resources so that the child can grow up in a healthy and loving environment.
“Chris, there are no easy answers. We do what we can. Even though I said I’d enforce the law as chief executive, I’d never enforce punishment on a woman who decided that abortion was the right option for her unique situation.”
Number 3 is a bit shorter. In a recent interview with the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame), Trump predicted that we’d soon have a major economic meltdown. The system is screwed up. Fair enough.
But he went on to say that if he’s elected president, the federal debt of $19 Trillion (a truly mind-boggling amount) would be eliminated in 8 years. HA!
In the shadow of disaster he’s going to eliminate a debt that took almost 90 years to amass? [Here, I’m dating back to the dawn of the Great Depression].
When pressed how he’d eliminate the massive debt (let alone the annual deficit, which is currently running at one-half trillion dollars per year, and projected to run at least that high through 2020) Trump said simply that he would re-negotiate all of our trade agreements. Citing an annual balance of payment trade deficit with China of about $500 Billion, Trump offered no other explanation, except “I’m a great negotiator.”
[Actually our entire worldwide trade deficit is about $500 Billion ; our deficit with China is about $360B ]
Evidently Trump seems to think that if the trade imbalance were removed – trade that occurs between corporations and individuals and has little to do with the government – all of that money would somehow end up in the federal treasury. And that wouldn’t even extinguish the annual deficit, let alone the Everest-sized total debt.
And how in the world could this be achieved in an atmosphere of imminent financial doom?
Trump may be a genius in real estate, media manipulation, reality TV, getting people riled up, and bankruptcy law. But he is not intellectual or thoughtful or careful enough to be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office and the Executive reigns of power.
The more he talks, the stupider he sounds. Keep talking.
Joe Girard © 2016
Note: the subtitle “Not Lard Dump” is an anagram of “Donald Trump”. Of the many options, I did not use “Damn Turd Pol” or “Dump Lord Ant.”