Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Donald Trump-- A Truth-Free Zone... And Psychotic


Who would have ever thought David Brooks would be making more sense in the NYTimes than Paul Krugman? And we still have almost 5 months to go before we vote! Friday Brooks took on the GOP's Unity Illusion-- which is different from the Democrats' unity illusion, but just as threatening to the status quo, if not more so. Both parties' address disunity behind the two least popular candidates in history by appealing to the need to win Congress, despite their own awful candidate and because the other party's candidate is surely the greater of two evils. Paul Ryan asks himself and his wing of the GOP to suspend their disgust for Trump's racism and the rest of Trumpism. "Unity," he pleads, "will be good for the conservative agenda," wrote Brooks. "As a Wall Street Journal editorial put it this week: 'There’s no guarantee Mr. Trump would agree to Mr. Ryan’s agenda, but there’s no chance if Mr. Ryan publicly refuses to vote for him.'" Brooks' column is why Ryan's arguments "are philosophically unsound and completely unworkable."
For starters, this line of thinking is deeply anticonservative. Conservatives believe that politics is a limited activity. Culture, psychology and morality come first. What happens in the family, neighborhood, house of worship and the heart is more fundamental and important than what happens in a legislature.

Ryan’s argument inverts all this. It puts political positions first and character and morality second. Sure Trump’s a scoundrel, but he might agree with our tax proposal. Sure, he is a racist, but he might like our position on the defense budget. Policy agreement can paper over a moral chasm. Nobody calling themselves a conservative can agree to this hierarchy of values.

The classic conservative belief, by contrast, is that character is destiny. Temperament is foundational. Each candidate has to cross some basic threshold of dependability as a human being before it’s even relevant to judge his or her policy agenda. Trump doesn’t cross that threshold.

Second, it just won’t work. The Republican Party can’t unify around Donald Trump for the same reason it can’t unify around a tornado. Trump, by his very essence, undermines cooperation, reciprocity, solidarity, stability or any other component of unity. He is a lone operator, a disloyal diva, who is incapable of horizontal relationships. He has demeaned and humiliated everybody who has tried to be his friend, from Chris Christie to Paul Ryan.

Some conservatives believe they can educate, convert or civilize Trump. This belief is a sign both of intellectual arrogance and psychological naïveté.

The man who just crushed them is in no mood to submit to them. Furthermore, Trump’s personality is pathological. It is driven by deep inner compulsions that defy friendly advice, political interest and common sense.

It’s useful to go back and read the Trump profiles in Vanity Fair and other places from the 1980s and 1990s. He has always behaved exactly as he does now: the constant flow of insults, the endless bragging, the casual cruelty, the need to destroy allies and hog the spotlight. “Donald was the child who would throw the cake at the birthday parties,” his brother Robert once said.

Psychologists are not supposed to diagnose candidates from afar, but there is a well-developed literature on narcissism that tracks with what we have seen of Trump. By one theory narcissism flows from a developmental disorder called alexithymia, the inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. Sufferers have no inner voice to understand their own feelings and reflect honestly on their own actions.

Unable to know themselves, or truly love themselves, they hunger for a never-ending supply of admiration from outside. They act at all times like they are performing before a crowd and cannot rest unless they are in the spotlight.

To make decisions, these narcissists create a rigid set of external standards, often based around admiration and contempt. Their valuing criteria are based on simple division-- winners and losers, victory or humiliation. They are preoccupied with luxury, appearance or anything that signals wealth, beauty, power and success. They take Christian, Jewish and Muslim values-- based on humility, charity and love-- and they invert them.

Incapable of understanding themselves, they are also incapable of having empathy for others. They simply don’t know what it feels like to put themselves in another’s shoes. Other people are simply to be put to use as suppliers of admiration or as victims to be crushed as part of some dominance display.

Therefore, they go out daily in search of enemies to insult and friends to degrade. Trump, for example, reportedly sets members of his campaign staff off against each other. Each person is up one day and belittled another-- always kept perpetually on edge, waiting for the Sun King to decide the person’s temporary worth.

Paul Ryan and the Republicans can try to be loyal to Trump, but he won’t be loyal to them. There’s really no choice. Congressional Republicans have to run their own separate campaign. Donald Trump does not share.

Maybe Brooks had been inspired by Timothy Egan's column, Lord of the Lies from the day before, another psychological analysis of the "Mt. Everest of liars... Trump lies about big things (there is no drought in California) and small things (his hair spray could not affect the ozone layer because it’s sealed within Trump Tower). He lies about himself, and the fake self he invented to talk about himself. He’s been shown to lie more than 70 times in a single event."

Egan proposes that, "given the scale of Trump’s mendacity and the stakes for the free world," the debate moderators should fact check everything Trump-- and presumably Hillary-- says and denounce them as lies in real time. He writes that we need a "debate referee" because "the debates are meaningless without a neutral party screening the garbage."
Professional truth-seekers have never seen anything like Trump, surely the most compulsive liar to seek high office. To date, the nonpartisan PolitiFact has rated 76 percent of his statements lies-- 57 percent false or mostly false, and another 19 percent “Pants on Fire” fabrications. Only 2 percent-- 2 percent!-- of his assertions were rated true, and another 6 percent mostly true. Hillary Clinton, who is not exactly known for fealty to the facts, had a 28 percent total lie score, including a mere 1 percent Pants on Fire.

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker has dinged Trump with 30 of its Four Pinocchio ratings-- lying 70 percent of the time. Trump cares so little about the truth that when the Fact Checker reaches out to him for an explanation, he never responds, the paper noted.

Trump got his start on the national political stage as a liar, playing to the birther fantasies of Barack Obama’s worst haters. One of the questions he might be asked in the three fall debates is what, exactly, he discovered when he claimed his investigators “cannot believe what they’re finding” in Hawaii five years ago.

With Trump University, he created a business model built on a house of lies. An executive called it “a total lie,” and a sales manager said it was a “fraudulent scheme” designed to bilk vulnerable clients, according to court testimony. It was that class-action lawsuit that got Trump into his present caldron of lies-- calling the Indiana-born judge in the case a “Mexican.” By that standard, Trump is a German, with a grandfather from Kallstadt.

Some of Trump’s lies are the everyday speech of a charlatan-- trade talk. At a bizarre news conference in March, he called Trump Winery “the largest winery on the East Coast.” Not even close, according to PolitiFact. Last month he said he had more employees in New Jersey “than almost anybody.” Not a chance. There’s a word for this kind of person, the guy who spits on your tie and then tells you he likes your sheen, but the New York Times does not allow me to print it.

...Sadly, a lot of voters don’t care if a candidate is a pathological liar. But most of us should. It’s up to the debate commission, as they set the rules for the fall, to ensure that truth has a place on the stage.

In a NY Times column Monday, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, delineated the series of lies and manipulations that made up Trump's latest speech on Orlando, a speech that was not off-the-cuff, but carefully read from a teleprompter, pointing out that it was "rife with the sort of misstatements and exaggerations that have typified his campaign."
He repeatedly stretched the facts, for example, in describing the United States as overrun by dangerous migrants. He claimed the country has an “immigration system which does not permit us to know who we let into our country,” brushing aside the entire customs and immigration enforcement infrastructure. And he asserted that there was a “tremendous flow” of Syrian refugees, when just 2,805 of them were admitted into the country from October to May, fewer than one-third of the 10,000 Syrians President Obama said the United States would accept this fiscal year.

Mr. Trump described the gunman in the Orlando shooting as “an Afghan,” though he was born an American citizen in New York City to parents who had emigrated from Afghanistan to the United States over three decades ago.

Mr. Trump assailed the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, accusing her of favoring immigration policies that would invite a flood of potential jihadists to the United States, which he warned could be “a better, bigger, more horrible version than the legendary Trojan Horse ever was.”

...Trump’s speech amounted to a rejection of the conventional wisdom that he must remake himself for the November election as a more sober figure and discard the volcanic tone and ethnic and racial provocation that marked his primary campaign.

Yet Mr. Trump has showed little interest in assuaging those concerns. He used the hours after the Orlando massacre to claim prescience about the attack and to demand Mr. Obama’s resignation. Then, in a television interview on Monday morning, Mr. Trump darkly suggested that the president was sympathetic to Islamic terrorists.

...Some Republicans said Mr. Trump’s determination to play to his hard-line base was undermining his standing as a general election candidate.

...It is enough to convince senior Republicans that talk of an eventual pivot is folly-- that he is unwilling or incapable of being reined in.

“Everybody says, ‘Look, he’s so civilized, he eats with a knife and fork,’” said Mike Murphy, a former top adviser to Jeb Bush. “And then an hour later, he takes the fork and stabs somebody in the eye with it.”
The GOP should just cancel their July convention and announce that they won't be fielding a presidential candidate until 2020. Have you checked out our nice new #NeverTrump page?
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At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I especially took note of this: "By one theory narcissism flows from a developmental disorder called alexithymia, the inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. Sufferers have no inner voice to understand their own feelings and reflect honestly on their own actions."

I think Trump chooses perpetual anger as his one emotion of choice. He can feel the intensity of his blood boiling, and that is about the only feeling he can differentiate. That's why he's always angry or working up an anger episode. That's truly all he knows and recognizes. Among loyal sycophants like family, a more tender acceptance of them can develop because they do his bidding and don't make waves. Otherwise he would unleash his anger at them and disinherit them. If only Americans would be good little sycophants/supplicants and obey Trump's every whim, then he might learn to accept all us stupid losers.


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