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Cracking Trump

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Remember that scene in the movie “Predator” where Arnold asks the alien “what the hell are you?” and the Predator repeats it back to him? Yeah, that. The world outside President Donald Trump’s immediate family has the same reaction. From Tony Schwartz (co-author of “The Art of the Deal”) to Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, everybody’s got a take on cracking Trump.

The latest is from Jonathan Chait, who posited “Social Darwinism is what truly guides Trump.” I was intrigued by his twitter post claiming “instinctive social Darwinism,” to which I responded I don’t even know what that is. Social Darwinism is a belief that cultures and social groups are subject to the same “survival of the fittest” natural selection that Darwin observed in plant and animal species.

Social Darwinism is a mostly discredited philosophy in its conclusions, which favor the rich and dismiss the poor as outworkings of inferior moral or character traits. Trump has always attributed his own success as something ineffable, an “it” that one either has or doesn’t have. Chait quotes Trump from a 1990 Playboy interview:

“The coal miner gets black-lung disease, his son gets it, then his son,” he told an interviewer. “If I had been the son of a coal miner, I would have left the damn mines. But most people don’t have the imagination — or whatever — to leave their mine. They don’t have ‘it’ … You’re either born with it or you’re not.”

I am familiar with that interview, because I used it in my own hot take at cracking Trump, written back in February, 2016, where I too asked “what the hell are you?” and received the question back as an answer.

And this is where Chait’s attempt at the Gordian knot of Trump’s mind fails. Trump said he didn’t want a poor person in an advisory role dealing with the economy. I happen to agree with this logic. A poor person, upon winning the lottery, will most likely spend it all and have nothing. A rich person will be much more likely to invest some, and save most, because the rich are more interested in building and preserving wealth than the poor.

But do I want a rich person to be my military chief? Or my spiritual adviser? Almost certainly not. And Trump hasn’t picked millionaires for every key position. But in White House politics, those with access to the Oval Office do tend to be–well, rich. So what’s Chait’s point here?

Social Darwinism is the tissue connecting this shady conduct with the Republican Party’s highest policy priorities. Conservatives believe programs that tax the rich and benefit the poor illegitimately meddle with the natural and correct distribution of wealth produced by the marketplace. The Republican health-care bill — both what passed in the House and what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has brought to the Senate — confers a nearly trillion-dollar tax cut that overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy. That appears to be its sponsors’ primary consideration. Secondarily, it strips away an equal amount in Medicaid and middle-class insurance tax credits.

His point is that Social Darwinism isn’t just Trump’s issue, it’s the GOP’s as a whole. In other words, Republicans are bad people because they don’t believe that “the poor” as a class should be given everything social progressives see as a “right.”

Here I call B.S. Because all of Chait’s little jaunt into Trump’s mind is to support this one statement.

The best explanation for this grand act of self-sabotage (beyond his simply not understanding the policies he endorses) is that Trump, like much of the Republican Party, is an instinctive social Darwinist.

Trump is many things, in fact he is a walking contradiction depending on where the light catches him, but he’s not a Social Darwinist. Chait wrote that Social Darwinism “is the intellectual scaffolding, constructed by writers like Ayn Rand and various Austrian economists, behind the vision of conservatives like Paul Ryan and David Koch.” That’s also demonstrably false.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy was “objectivism” where happiness, productivity and objective reason were the measure of a man, mankind, and everything. Therefore, all would simply find their place in life’s Pachinko board, some of it from inherent ability, some from attitude, and some from sheer luck.

I don’t think Trump believes in this way. He believes that great people can inspire, and that the power of positive thinking (the title of his erstwhile pastor, Norman Vincent Peale’s book) can help anyone achieve their dreams. If anything, Trump sees himself as a walking example of this philosophy. He is his own hero, and therefore accountable to no one, especially writers, reporters and bloggers trying to crack his cerebellum.

Most Republicans believe some of Trump’s core philosophy, as do Democrats. Where most differ is in Trump’s unyielding belief in self, his shifting moral relativism, and his mistrust of those not unfailingly loyal to him. Therefore when we ask of Trump “what the hell are you?” we tend to get the same question back.

Chait cheated and begged the question of how Republicans think, using Trump’s mirror ball to support his pretext.

That kind of cheating will leave us all exactly where we started. We don’t know anything new about President Donald J. Trump. We don’t know anything new about Republicans, other than Chait believes they are bad people.

Ultimately, Trump is guided by his own instincts, which are neither some form of “noblesse oblige” nor some innate superiority of the rich over the poor. He is guided by winning, defeating those who oppose him, and getting the upper hand in that struggle by any means possible for which he will suffer the least consequences.

In three words: Don’t get caught. The codicil: Have an excuse.

The ironic part about that philosophy is that both Bill and Hillary Clinton share it. Trump is just better at it than Hillary (but not necessarily better than Bill). How easily do intellectuals like Chait forgive one side’s addiction to self and power but attribute the other side’s use of the same to evil.

I suggest we all stop trying to crack Trump–which leads to headaches–and simply judge him on his actions and results.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Susan Malouff

    July 2, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    It has been proven that the teachings of Norman Vincent Peale are not only false but dangerous as well. Although he used other words to describe his methods of self empowerment they are, in fact, methods used for self hypnotism. Using self hypnotic methods consistently can lead to mental illness, Borderline Personality Disorder to be precise. Thus, you are mistaken, as Trump’s beliefs are clearly a combination of Prosperity Gospel and Social Darwinism, with both “religious” beliefs negating Biblical teachings and the true meaning and understanding of Christianity. Make no mistake, Trump has followed these beliefs throughout his life, as his father’s belief in Social Darwinism left a lasting effect on him as well as the beliefs and teachings of Peale, whom he refers to as “his pastor”. That being said, due to his behavior it is clear that Trump has been using Peale’s techniques consistently for years because he is, in no uncertain terms, showing signs of severe mental illness which makes him very dangerous to the United States and American people.

    • Steve Berman

      July 3, 2017 at 5:04 am

      Come now. Let’s not disparage the president or the dead. But you have proven my point and even acknowledged that I’m right. I’m not mistaken at all. Let’s assume Trump has BPD and look at some of the most common symptoms (I am not a psychiatrist, are you?).

      • Markedly disturbed sense of identity
      • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment and extreme reactions to such
      • Splitting (“black-and-white” thinking)
      • Impulsivity and impulsive or dangerous behaviours
      • Intense or uncontrollable emotional reactions that often seem disproportionate to the event or situation
      • Unstable and chaotic interpersonal relationships
      • Self-damaging behavior
      • Distorted self-image
      • Dissociation
      • Frequently accompanied by depression, anxiety, anger, substance abuse, or rage
      • I believe Trump has at least 7 out of 10 of these to some degree. Trump integrates some elements of the Prosperity Gospel but without the Gospel part. I don’t see Social Darwinism as integrated into his teaching. Social Darwinists do not say “I love all people” as a general rule. They focus on who in society isn’t pulling their weight. Trump never talks about that.

        The man is “me” all the way down. I actually think he is a well-adjusted sociopath who has learned emotional responses and mimics them as well as he can. His one-time friend and mentor Roy Cohn said (before he died) “Donald pisses ice water.”

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Immigration

Tijuana protesters chant ‘Out!’ at migrants camped in city

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Tijuana protesters chant Out at migrants camped in city

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Hundreds of Tijuana residents congregated around a monument in an affluent section of the city south of California on Sunday to protest the thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived via caravan in hopes of a new life in the U.S.

Tensions have built as nearly 3,000 migrants from the caravan poured into Tijuana in recent days after more than a month on the road, and with many more months ahead of them while they seek asylum. The federal government estimates the number of migrants could soon swell to 10,000.

U.S. border inspectors are processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at Tijuana’s main crossing to San Diego. Asylum seekers register their names in a tattered notebook managed by migrants themselves that had more than 3,000 names even before the caravan arrived.

On Sunday, displeased Tijuana residents waved Mexican flags, sang the Mexican national anthem and chanted “Out! Out!” in front of a statue of the Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc, 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the U.S. border. They accused the migrants of being messy, ungrateful and a danger to Tijuana. They also complained about how the caravan forced its way into Mexico, calling it an “invasion.” And they voiced worries that their taxes might be spent to care for the group.

“We don’t want them in Tijuana,” protesters shouted.

Juana Rodriguez, a housewife, said the government needs to conduct background checks on the migrants to make sure they don’t have criminal records.

A woman who gave her name as Paloma lambasted the migrants, who she said came to Mexico in search of handouts. “Let their government take care of them,” she told video reporters covering the protest.

A block away, fewer than a dozen Tijuana residents stood with signs of support for the migrants. Keila Samarron, a 38-year-old teacher, said the protesters don’t represent her way of thinking as she held a sign saying: Childhood has no borders.

Most of the migrants who have reached Tijuana via caravan in recent days set out more than a month ago from Honduras, a country of 9 million people. Dozens of migrants in the caravan who have been interviewed by Associated Press reporters have said they left their country after death threats.

But the journey has been hard, and many have turned around.

Alden Rivera, the Honduran ambassador in Mexico, told the AP on Saturday that 1,800 Hondurans have returned to their country since the caravan first set out on Oct. 13, and that he hopes more will make that decision. “We want them to return to Honduras,” said Rivera.

Honduras has a murder rate of 43 per 100,000 residents, similar to U.S. cities like New Orleans and Detroit. In addition to violence, migrants in the caravan have mentioned poor economic prospects as a motivator for their departures. Per capita income hovers around $120 a month in Honduras, where the World Bank says two out of three people live in poverty.

The migrants’ expected long stay in Tijuana has raised concerns about the ability of the border city of more than 1.6 million people to handle the influx.

While many in Tijuana are sympathetic to the migrants’ plight and trying to assist, some locals have shouted insults, hurled rocks and even thrown punches at them. The cold reception contrasts sharply with the warmth that accompanied the migrants in southern Mexico, where residents of small towns greeted them with hot food, campsites and even live music.

Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum has called the migrants’ arrival an “avalanche” that the city is ill-prepared to handle, calculating that they will be in Tijuana for at least six months as they wait to file asylum claims. Gastelum has appealed to the federal government for more assistance to cope with the influx.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry said Saturday that the federal government was flying in food and blankets for the migrants in Tijuana.

Tijuana officials converted a municipal gymnasium and recreational complex into a shelter to keep migrants out of public spaces. The city’s privately run shelters have a maximum capacity of 700. The municipal complex can hold up to 3,000.

At the municipal shelter, Josue Caseres, 24, expressed dismay at the protests against the caravan. “We are fleeing violence,” said the entertainer from Santa Barbara, Honduras. “How can they think we are going to come here to be violent?”

Some from the caravan have diverted to other border cities, such as Mexicali, a few hours to the east of Tijuana.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who sought to make the caravan a campaign issue in the midterm elections, used Twitter on Sunday to voice support for the mayor of Tijuana and try to discourage the migrants from seeking entry to the U.S.

Trump wrote that like Tijuana, “the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it. They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. Go home!”

He followed that tweet by writing: “Catch and Release is an obsolete term. It is now Catch and Detain. Illegal Immigrants trying to come into the U.S.A., often proudly flying the flag of their nation as they ask for U.S. Asylum, will be detained or turned away.”

___

Guthrie reported from Mexico City. Associated Press writer Julie Watson contributed to this story from Tijuana.

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Federalists

What Stacey Abrams gets right about moving forward from the Georgia election

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What Stacey Abrams gets right about moving forward from the Georgia election

Democrat Stacey Abrams possesses some pretty radical political ideologies. I completely disagree with her far-leftist rhetoric or the agenda she hoped to bring to Georgia as governor. Republican Brian Kemp is the next governor, which even Abrams admits.

But she refuses to concede that she actually lose the election. She’s clear that Kemp is the governor-elect, but she falls just short of saying that his victory is illegitimate.

That’s all political theater. Here’s what she gets right. Georgia and many states need to clean up their election practices. Laws should be passed. Other laws should be removed. Ballot access for American citizens must be protected and the process must be made as easy as possible without jeopardizing accuracy or opening the doors to fraud.

Most importantly, this must be done through a combination of the legal system and the state legislature. At no point should she or anyone else try to turn this into a federal issue.

People on both sides of the political aisle seem to be leaning towards fixing election problems at the national level. This would be a huge mistake. The states must clean their own houses. The residents of the states must be the catalyst. Keep DC out of it.

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Entertainment and Sports

Theismann ‘turned away’ after seeing Redskins QB Smith hurt

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Theismann turned away after seeing Redskins QB Smith hurt

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Alex Smith seemed to know immediately this was bad. Really, really bad. He covered his face with both hands, then a white towel, before his fractured right leg was placed in an air cast and he was carted off the field.

One of his predecessors as quarterback of the Washington Redskins, Joe Theismann, was at Sunday’s game and sensed the same — all-too-familiar with what a season-ending broken leg looks and feels like.

Exactly 33 years to the day after Theismann’s gruesome injury during a nationally televised game , Smith went down with breaks to his right fibula and tibia midway through the third quarter of Washington’s 23-21 loss to the visiting Houston Texans on Sunday and was replaced at QB by backup Colt McCoy. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Smith would have surgery “right away.”

“I saw a pile of people go down, and then I saw Alex’s leg in the position it was in. And I turned away after that. It brought back vivid memories,” said Theismann, hurt when hit by Lawrence Taylor during a Redskins’ victory over the New York Giants on Nov. 18, 1985.

“This date has always been a day in my life that I’ll never forget,” Theismann said in a telephone interview.

“My immediate thought was that my heart went out to him. I feel so bad for him. I know the road ahead. We’re somewhat similar in age (when the injuries happened). He’s not 25 or 26 years of age. I was 35; he’s 34. How long will it take to come back? What is the severity?” Theismann added, saying he sent Smith a text message of support. “I worry less about Alex and his football career than I do Alex and wanting to be able to do the things in life he wants to do.”

Smith was in his first season with the Redskins after arriving in a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs. He had thrown two first-half interceptions Sunday, one returned 101 yards for a TD by Texans safety Justin Reid, as Washington fell behind 17-7.

McCoy helped Washington score a pair of TDs, including on his 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed on the backup QB’s first pass in a regular-season game since 2015.

Now Gruden will have a short week to help McCoy make his first NFL start since 2014: Washington (6-4) plays at Dallas (5-5) on Thanksgiving Day with first place in the NFC East on the line.

“I’ve still got to knock a little rust off,” said McCoy, who went 6 for 12 for 54 yards passing and ran five times for 35 yards after replacing Smith.

McCoy tried to lead the Redskins to the go-ahead points, but their last drive stalled, and Dustin Hopkins tried a 63-yard field goal that fell well short.

The injury came when Smith was first hit by cornerback Kareem Jackson, then by defensive end J.J. Watt. Before Smith was driven off the field, players from both teams left the sidelines to offer well wishes. He waved to spectators as he was taken away.

“We’re all gutted for Alex,” Watt said. “I feel absolutely terrible for him. It sucks. It’s the worst part of the game.”

With Smith headed to injured reserve, McCoy is the only QB on Washington’s roster, so the team will need to find a backup somewhere. Gruden said he hoped to have someone signed by Monday.

McCoy hasn’t worked with the first-team offense for the past few years, but Gruden said he still thinks his new starter at quarterback has a “great comfort level, I believe.”

“He hasn’t played a whole lot. So we’ll see how he does,” Gruden said. “But I have confidence in Colt. Always have.”

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter.

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