Sunday, August 6, 2017

How Does Trump Compare to My Expectations?

At least it pissed of liberals
I often read articles by an author saying that he or she has opposed Donald Trump for President and believed he would be a disaster, but now he has turned out to be even worse than expected.  Do I agree?

Well, yes and no.  If truth be known, I never tried too hard to game out what a Trump presidency would look like.  Some things are just too horrible to contemplate.  But I suppose I could consider what I dreaded in Trump and see if it came true, and what I did not dread in Trump that came true anyhow.

Well, for starters, I commented that Trump appealed to people who equated obnoxiousness with principle.  In fact, Trump wouldn't know a principle if it bit him in the ass, he was merely obnoxious. Still, I said, if obnoxiousness is the primarily quality one is looking for in a President, Trump was perfect.  Otherwise I couldn't thing of a single good thing to say about him.  That has proven true, with one exception.  Trump's followers have gone from supporting him because they equate his obnoxiousness with principle to supporting obnoxiousness for its own sake.  I didn't foresee that.

But if I didn't give too much thought to what a Trump Presidency would be like, what did I think of him that made him so completely unfit to be President, and how has it played out?

Well, I thought that Trump was utterly ignorant of policy and unlikely to care to learn anything about it.  And given that he has been pushing for any repeal of Obamacare and not even caring about the contents, that has been true.

I expected that Trump would be corrupt with a different kind of corruption, an inability to make any distinction between the public good and his private fortunes and an inability to understand why there would be anything wrong with using his office to enrich himself.  That has been true.

I expected Trump to be utterly incompetent in terms of managing that job.  That has certainly proven to be true.

I expected Trump to be temperamentally unfit to lead, to make his decisions through sheer personal caprice without any serious thought to the consequences.  That has also been true.

I expected Trump to be vindictive and resentful, more than willing to use the powers of the federal government to wage feuds against his personal and political enemies.  That has been about half true -- he has been supremely vindictive, waging feuds through Twitter, threats, and (apparently) through attempted blackmail.  But thus far the "deep state" has prevented him from turning his resentments into actual use of federal power to harass his enemies.

I expected Trump to be a bunch of hot air, making a lot of noise, but utterly ineffectual in actually doing anything.  True, true and utterly true!

I also expected Trump to be the sort of person who in times of crisis we would desperately want his staff to handcuff him, stuff something in his mouth, and lock him in the closet until it was over.  What I failed to understand is the extent to which having a crisis is a matter of choice.  A different President might have made a crisis over North Korea shooting off missiles or Saudi Arabia and its allies blockading Qatar.  Trump has chosen not to.  Trump is proving too self-centered to have a crisis because crises draw attention off of him and onto something else.  So my fear of Trump in a crisis has (thus far) proven unfounded.

So, up to now almost as bad as I feared, but not quite.

But there are two things about Trump that I absolutely did not anticipate.

One was his affiliation with Russia and growing evidence of actual collusion in the Russian hacks and strategically timed leaks of information.  I suspected Trump of many bad things, but being Putin's poodle never one of them.

The other had to do with all the crazy conspiracy theories he spouted, from birther beliefs that Obama was born in Kenya to accusations that Ted Cruz's father somehow had something to do with the Kennedy assassination.  I saw these as cynical ploys to appeal to the base.  It never occurred to me that Trump might actually believe that crap.  But I think the evidence is becoming ever stronger, that, yes, he really did believe that Obama was born in Kenya and that Cruz's father was somehow involved in the Kennedy assassination and other nonsense that appears on Infowars.  So, which do I prefer as a President, a knave or a fool?  Or father, given that Trump is so obviously both, a cynical demagogue who pretends to believe conspiracy theories to manipulate his gullible followers, or one who actually believes them himself?

And it would appear that I prefer a knave to a fool.  One who lies and merely pretends to believe that claptrap is at least sufficiently grounded in reality to take it into account when necessary.  One who actually believes it is off in a fantasy world that can become a serious problem next time he is called upon to deal with actual issues in the real world.*

So, in short, I avoided as much as possible having specific expectations about Trump because some things were simply too horrible to contemplate.  To the extent that I did have expectations, he has mostly met them.  I have been pleasantly surprised in his ability to avoid disastrous crises, at least so far.  But he he has proven even worse than I feared, both in his affiliation with Russia and his apparently genuine belief in a lot of nutty conspiracy theories.  And now for the disturbing part.  It appears those two things are closely related.

*Of course, he is also quite good at stopping believing those things when they cease to serve his political purposes.

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