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What does Trump mean by “unpredictable”?



One of the first things I learned when I started blogging and engaging on social media was to avoid C.U.I., or “commenting under the influence.” We all know that people get into trouble when their judgment is impaired and they say and do stupid things online. Anthony Weiner is a good example. But there’s a new poster boy in town for C.U.I. and his name is Donald Trump.

I couldn’t say whether or not Trump’s tweets are influenced by drugs. (I believe he doesn’t drink alcohol.) There have been rumors about cocaine, which make sense, given his fitfulness, but that may just be his type-A New York personality. But if he’s not doing drugs, nonetheless he really should have someone by his side—Kellyanne Conway?—to keep him from tweeting when he would be better off keeping his mouth shut.

Look at all the trouble he’s already stirred up, and he’s not even sworn in. From Electiongate to his ridiculous claims of an electoral landslide to his lovey-dovey suckup to Putin to his frightening remarks about a nuclear arms race to his insults of a sitting President to his dismissive remarks about NATO to his lie that millions of people voted illegally in the election to his interference in the Middle Eastern peace process, Trump has been acting like a stoner, impulsive, angry, provoking, totally unreflective about the consequences of his actions, just flashing out hormonal kneejerks. He probably thinks very highly of himself, and is relying on his trusted intuition, when in reality most observers—including senior Republicans—are terribly upset by his utter lack of thoughtfulness. But Repubs can’t really say anything because they’re afraid of him.

Trump likes to say that he wants to be unpredictable, but I don’t believe that. I think he stumbles from one bizarre position to another, often contradicting himself halfway, because he hasn’t studied issues, and doesn’t understand them, and doesn’t want to take the time to understand them (hence his refusal to read his daily intelligence briefings). Trump himself is sensitive to criticism of his ignorance, which is why one of his reassurances has been that he’ll surround himself with smart people.

Well, considering the people he’s surrounding himself with, that’s not terribly reassuring. But I want to explore further this notion of “unpredictability” because, while I consider it absurd and dangerous, many of Trump’s followers cite it when they declare their allegiance to the man.

They like the notion of unpredictability because they, themselves, have very little understanding of big issues of war and peace, diplomacy, energy, budgets, trade agreements and so on. Because they know so little, they are intellectually incapable of crafting intelligent solutions to America’s problems. But they feel like they know it all, and they believe that their own angry instincts are good enough guides to policy decisions, as does Trump. So when they see Trump—in whom they’re so personally invested—flailing around and saying contradictory things, they make a series of conceptual assumptions to rationalize his erratic behavior. “I, myself, have no idea what he’s talking about. But he must know something I don’t, because he will Make America Great Again. Moreover, these foreigners also don’t know what he means. Trump will keep them guessing—which is good, because most of them are America’s enemies, and we don’t want to give aid and comfort to the enemy.”

Well, so much for red state thinking. As far as Trump goes, it’s convenient for him to pretend that his “unpredictability” is actually a strategy he adopted after careful thought. If I may be so bold as to insinuate myself into his thinking process, it goes like this: “I really have no idea what I’m talking about half the time. But that doesn’t matter, because my fans don’t care one way or the other, as long as they feel I’m strong and I ‘say it like it is.’ Besides, the predictability of past American administrations hasn’t worked out so well for us, so maybe it’s time for the world to think the U.S. President is a madman.”

Hitler had pretty much the same approach to geopolitics. He was aware that most of the world considered him insane, and he used that to his advantage, to keep nations on their toes and on the defensive. But that’s a double-edged sword: an edgy country may be more easily bullied by a confident country, but edgy countries are also more dangerous, because they’re apt to do silly things if they feel threatened. Hitler liked for other leaders to think him a madman; but he really was mad. And Trump? Stability is the most important thing in the world right now.  Trump’s impulsive behavior is about to make the world incredibly unstable, just as Hitler did in the 1930s.

  1. Bob Henry says:

    “He [Trump] probably thinks very highly of himself, and is relying on his trusted intuition, when in reality most observers — including senior Republicans — are terribly upset by his utter lack of thoughtfulness.”

    Any leader — in or outside of politics — would do well to read Stanford professors Jeffrey Pfeffer’s and Robert Sutton’s work on “evidence-based management.”

    Decision-making based on intuition is bad management.

    Topic introduction:


    The absence of evidence got us the trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1633 for his support of heliocentrism.

  2. Bob Henry says:

    Just to be clear with my comment awaiting moderation:

    “The embrace of geocentrism — and the rejection of heliocentrism — got us the trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1633.”

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