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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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Politics

Sen. Dean Heller is a perfect manifestation of the Trump conservative

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As we learned in the aftermath of Rep. Mark Sanford’s (SC) GOP primary loss to Katie Arrington after he was targeted for elimination by Donald Trump for having the audacity to criticize him while being “unhelpful” to his campaign, conservatives are being systematically snuffed out, politically speaking, from the Republican party and are being replaced by a re-branded version of conservatism where unconditional loyalty to Trump has replaced principles.

The fallout from this reality is twofold. First, it severs all ties the GOP once had with Reagan-styled conservatism where it was understood that government can never be the solution to our problems because government is the problem. Second, it opened the door for Trump’s Nationalist Populism to fill the void created when the GOP abandoned the conservative ideals of limited government and free-market capitalism, along with watering down fiscal and social conservatism.

While there are many examples of what this looks like, there is perhaps no greater example of re-branded conservatism than Sen. Dean Heller (NV), the GOP establishment candidate endorsed by Trump.

When Heller made his decision to run for re-election last year, he proved to be the epitome of what a Trump conservative looks like when he defended Planned Parenthood during an appearance at a local town hall, saying:

“I will protect Planned Parenthood.”

“I have no problems with federal funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Since his primary victory—a job made easier after Trump conservative Danny Tarkanian dropped out to run for Congress at Trump’s request—Heller has been doubling down on his Trump loyalty pledge. For example: with Trump’s trade war heating up, Heller recently appeared on FOX News Trump TV to declare that he would give Trump “a wide berth” when it comes to imposing tariffs, which means he will put Trump ahead of his Constitutional responsibilities.

In his TV appearance, Heller also pledged to run on Trump’s tax cuts because, according to him, it has meant $2,500 more a year in Nevada paychecks, despite a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing that average wages are down since the tax law was passed. The tax cuts have proved to be a windfall for corporations, however, so maybe Heller can run on that as we get closer to November.

As I wrote earlier this week, this embrace of Trump’s faux conservatism has given us casualties outside of the Republican party, and Heller once again proves my point. Despite his current pro-abortion position—I say current because he’s been on both sides of the abortion issue depending on how close he is to an election—Heller recently received the full endorsement of the National Right to Life.

The only “conservative” part of the Trump conservative is the use of the word, proving once again that the GOP is no longer home of the conservative movement.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

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Culture and Religion

Is Mike Pence too political for church?

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There have been a lot of talk lately about Mike Pence speaking at the SBC. Many complained claiming it was divisive and political. Jonathan Leeman wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition criticizing the very idea of Mike Pence speaking. I will address this article in greater detail on the points that I agree and disagree with. But first, let me answer the very question I posed: Pence isn’t too political to address a congregation, but his speech was.

In short, Mike Pence’s address offered zero substantive theological content. It was merely about his privilege as serving as Vice President. While acknowledging this privilege merited a short section in the beginning, it needed no more continuation. Instead, Mike Pence droned on and on about his experiences and the administration’s accomplishments.

I think there’s only one way you can sum up this administration: It’s been 500 days of action, 500 days of accomplishment. It’s been 500 days of promises made and promises kept. 

Pence’s address followed a pattern of praising Trump with loosely intertwined references to God and praising his hosts as guest speakers often do. The intertwined religious language while praising the accomplishments, not of God, but of the President is the briefest summation of Pence’s speech to the SBC that can be offered. The only biblical passage cited was Psalm 126 in reference to a story that served as praise to the Trump administration. God wasn’t working though Trump in Pence’s speech. Instead, Trump was working. At the end of his speech, Pence did offer a superficial message about praying for America with a quoting scripture.

Mike Pence had an opportunity to address the leaders of many churches. He blew it. But would all politicians do the same?

Politicians Should Be in the Pew, Not the Pulpit?

Jonathan Leeman’s article for The Gospel Coalition draws this conclusion. He has five reasons for not allowing politicians to address a church event.

  1. No reason to give attention to a politician’s words over a plumber’s or an accountant’s, at least not in our assemblies or associations.
  2. Having a political leader address our churches or associations of churches tempts us to misconstrue our mission.
  3. Undermines our evangelistic and prophetic witness.
  4. Hurts the unity of Christ’s body

Reason one is most certainly true. However, I believe we ought to separate the person from the profession. On the basis of spiritual maturity and calling should a politician or any notable guest address an assembly. This first reason is the one I believe to have the most merit in regards to the situation at hand. Inviting a politician to address a Congregation is wrong if the only reason is that they are a politician. However, if the politician is a member of the church, what is wrong with having a fellow member speak?

Reasons two and three are certainly tied together in there logic. I believe these reasons hold merit for Pence’s sacrelidgious speech but are not inherently true of all politicians who accept such similar offers. Reasons two and three open a multitude of separate issues both independent and dependent on the circumstances. Meaning, yes this could happen, but the degree in which we can mitigate the temptation are limited for Satan is the tempter. In the case of Pence, reason three was definitely true. Many would see that the SBC tied itself to Trump. But that is not the fault of the SBC per se. But that is Pence’s fault for giving a campaign rally speech instead of a message. If Pence gave a theologically sound speech there should be little temptation to misconstrue the mission. The third reason is inevitable. Since the beginning, Christians witness has been undermined by the lies of Satan. The original Christians were thought to be cannibal and even atheists. We can’t always prevent these lies, but it would be good not to validate them which Pence did.

Now hurting the unity of the body of Christ is a weak point. Leeman’s fourth point is basically saying that Pence is too polarizing, because Trump is… Trump, on a National level to address a church. Pence is polarizing, but he was polarizing before Trump. The polarizing premise is true but, assuming Pence is indeed a follower off Christ, this would be the result of living a Christian life. Here’s another polarizing figure: Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop. Would polarity disqualify him from speaking? If we are to apply national likability to our church speakers, we’re going to end up with a lot of TV personalities who don’t comprehend dyophysitism.

Like Jack Philips, Pence has taken a lot of flak for being a devout Christian. Isn’t this the kind of person who may have a good message to the assembly? Seemingly so. Again Pence under-delivered. To be fair, Leeman clearly states he doesn’t blanket outlaw politicians from speaking.

I can envision a few circumstances where there is some measure of mission overlap that could justify it. Maybe a group of Christian college presidents asks the secretary of education to address them. Or a Christian conference on work asks a Christian congressman to talk about working as a Christian on the Hill, so that attendees can apply the principles to their own settings.

But while it’s not an outlaw, such an unwritten policy places constraints on the church that are not inherently necessary. Leeman supposes some similar justification was used when The Gospel Coalition had Ben Sasse speak. In 2017, Ben Sasse addressed The Gospel Coalition and gave a theological speech. He was noted for sounding more like a pastor than a politician.

To me only two things matter:

  1. Theological substance
  2. Correct theological substance

On these two requirements I think the body of Christ would remain unified with a clear picture of its mission.

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Democrats

Family separation battle will save DACA and lead to citizenship for illegals

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The latest outrage du jour by the Washington Establishment comes from the news that children are being temporarily separated from their parents as they try to enter the country illegally.

In her latest presentation of the gospel according to Nancy Pelosi, the part-time Catholic and full-time idiot, blasted “all people of faith in our country” for depriving DREAMers of the “respect they deserve” and for “taking babies away from mothers and fathers.” Meanwhile, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) issued his call for an end to family separations at the border.

In the Senate, GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) called for an end to the “zero tolerance” immigration policies. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats rushed to the border to grab a handful of election-year photo ops to document what former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro called “state-sponsored child abuse.”

Melania Trump, in addition to four former first ladies, shared how they “hated” to see families separated and called on America to “govern with heart.”

The outrage over family separation is coming from both sides, but it’s fake. These reactions are nothing more than election-year grandstanding by politicians in both parties who have no interest at all at fixing the immigration problem.

As I wrote last week, the GOP-controlled House is already working on an immigration bill that makes DACA permanent and provides a pathway to citizenship for approximately 1.8 million DREAMers. House Speaker Paul Ryan made sure to point out that this legislation also includes a provision ending family separation.

Yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced that he will introduce a bill that ends family separations at the border, which in an amazing bit of coincidence comes at a time when his Democrat opponent for the US Senate, Beto O’Rourke, also called for the separation policy to end. Cruz’s proposal enjoys the unanimous support of Senate Democrats.

For the record, this “for the children” approach to illegal immigration is how we ended up with DACA in the first place. Also note, as this article shows, that Trump is lying when he blames Democrats for the family separation fiasco.

The family separation issue is being used as a primer for the eventual surrender on immigration. And for those who believe that Trump won’t support this surrender, consider this: he allowed Melania to openly oppose his immigration policy, and he recently announced that he’s open to anything that Congress puts on his desk, even if it means doing the opposite of what he promised to get elected.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

Follow the Strident Conservative on Twitter and FacebookSubscribe to receive podcasts of radio commentaries: iTunes | Stitcher | Tune In | RSS

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