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A conversation with Gavin Newsom: Part 2

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In Part 1, California Lieutenant-Governor Newsom reacted to the hacking hearings in the Senate, began analyzing the results of the election, and speculated on the enormity of the challenges facing American institutions, including the two major political parties. Today, in Part 2, we begin with Trump’s victory.

GN: I mean, all of us were shocked. It was hardly a mandate; it wasn’t historic, except for the fact you had a historically naïve candidate in Donald Trump, who is unqualified to assume the Presidency. Beyond that, there was nothing particularly historic about it. He was below the mean average in terms of electoral victory.

SH: And Hillary got more votes, and a greater percentage of the popular vote, than any losing candidate in history.

GN: So when these guys [Trump] talk about it in historic terms, there’s many ways to analyze it, but clearly, he should be more cautious in terms of the takeaways, and the possibility of overreach is pretty self-evident.

SH: Caution is not part of his—

GN: No. It’s ready-fire-aim with these guys. So we need to be prepared for that. And, you know, there’s the old adage—people talked about it in the campaign—some people took him seriously but not literally, some people took him literally but not seriously. I am of the opinion you have to take him literally and seriously until further notice. And so I am particularly concerned about the prospect of him doing the kind of damage that he promoted during the campaign.

SH: So where do Democrats go from here? Conventional wisdom is that 2020 is wide open.

GN: I think the biggest mistake is thinking about 2020. We’re so fixated on the Presidential that we’ve missed the entire point, which is that we’ve been shellacked. This party is bankrupt. This party has gotten crushed in municipal elections, gotten crushed in statewide elections for years. In some ways, it’s the best thing that happened to our party, because that’s finally been exposed. Had Hillary Clinton succeeded, we would still have been in denial. Now, we have to wake up to the reality that over two-thirds, close to three-quarters of the State Houses, the legislative and gubernatorial ranks, are in the hands of Republicans. And we have prospects that are very dim that we will take back the Senate, let alone the House. We’re so fixated on top-down politics, not bottom-up, that we’re our own worst enemy.

SH: So what do Democrats do?

GN: Gotta focus on grass roots. Gotta focus on bottom up. Gotta focus on municipalities large and small: rural, suburban communities. You gotta get your base activated to support school clerk candidates, city administrators, boards of supervisors, city councils and other electeds. That’s where we’ve been off-base for far too long. But that’s a deeper conversation that just the national conversation about a national message.

SH: Let’s follow up on that. I understand that six million fewer people voted Democratic in 2016 than in 2012, and nine million fewer than in 2008. A lot of those people bailed on the Democratic Party because they say it’s as corrupt and under the heel of Wall Street as the Republicans—Hillary and Bill got rich, and all this kind of stuff. How do you win them back, especially the Millennials, when they say “A pox on both your houses”?

GN: Well, something deeper is happening. Institutional apathy, institutional atrophy. Institutions of all shapes and sizes, private and public, are collapsing. We’re going from something old to something new; we’re in a hinge moment, economically, demographically, technologically. The industrial economy has run out of steam. So we’re at a profound inflection point in our history. And I think we’re missing the larger narrative, where I.T. and globalization have detonated at the same time, changing everything, the way we live, work and play. And as a consequence, you’ve seen it in the private sector, large top-down hierarchical institutions are collapsing, and something new is taking shape. And government is on a collision course with that same future. And I think that was demonstrable in this Presidential campaign, was the distrust of institutions, distrust of government, and the consequence of that was “A pox on both houses.” And there were two candidates who took advantage of that narrative and understood it: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And it wasn’t surprising, the crowds and energy around them. And, of course, with Sanders out, Trump in, Hillary trying to take the mantle of some of that energy, she wasn’t able to capture that, and she wasn’t necessarily able to communicate it. And I think we have to come to grips with that. It’s not just about better policy or better strategy of communication, it’s understanding the world we live in.

SH: Well, along those lines, let me read you something from this morning’s [Jan. 5] New York Times. Two guys in Iowa, blue collar—

GN: — Oh, is that the one someone sent me?

SH: It’s an amazing story.

GN: That’s what they said, you have to read this, it’s amazing.

SH: “They’re hard workers, they wash dishes, sweep the floors,” blah blah. Now one is a welder and—

GN: [holding up cell phone with article] Is this the same?

SH: Yeah, yeah! Because this is what you’re talking about. “They’re conservative, believe in hard work, family, the military and cops, and they know abortion and socialism are evil, that Jesus Chris is our savior, and that Donald J. Trump will be good for America.” Governor, what do you say to them?

GN: Well, you know, people want to believe. I respect that. People are looking, I think unfortunately, for the wrong thing. I think we have this gravitational nostalgia for the guy or gal on the white horse to come save the day. And that world no longer exists.

SH: But what do you say to these two guys?

GN: I don’t know what to say to them, specifically, but the reality is, they’ll see demonstrably that Trump can’t deliver on his promises and [their] aspirations.

SH: Do you believe Trump will just—

GN: — I think he’ll leave them wanting. Unquestionably. And that’s the most ominous thing, is that Trump’s going to leave millions and millions of people wanting. And what becomes of them then?

SH: What does?

GN: And I worry about this country.

SH: So where do they go? Do they ping-pong back to the Democrats, or go third party, or—

GN: First of all, Trump was an invasive species. He took over the Republican Party. Bernie Sanders was an invasive species: he took over the Democratic Party. He’s not even a Democrat. Both parties are in turmoil. Both parties were gutted in this election. This notion of tribalism, Democratic, Republican, I mean, the fundamental framework needs to be questioned. These guys are not even versions of the old meme; they’re something completely new.

SH: And yet, you remain a Democrat.

GN: Yeah. I remember we went through this, the late 1990s, early 2000s, with Howard Dean’s ascendency, and people were jumping to the Green Party, people were walking away from Al Gore, and it was [Bill] Bradley, and they were sick and tired of both parties, they were both corporatized, bought and paid for by Big Labor, Big Business, two sides of the same coin. And people were jumping ship. And my point was, you’ve got to fight to change things from within. I’m not going to walk away [from the Democratic Party]. It would be like walking away from the rest of the country by having Cal-Exit. I mean, I’m not going to walk away. I’m going to punch, to fight.

SH: So you’re not in favor of Cal-Exit?

GN: No. You don’t secede. You lead.

SH: A lot of people are [in favor].

GN: Yeah, well, I think it’s naïve. The last time a State decided to walk away, there was a lot of bloodshed.

SH: The Civil War.

TOMORROW: Part 3


A conversation with Gavin Newsom, part 1

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Gavin Newsom is Lieutenant-Governor of California. Prior to that, he was Mayor of San Francisco. He co-owns wineries, and his PlumpJack Hospitality Group operates night clubs, wine stores, resorts and restaurants throughout California. As Mayor, Newsom shot to fame—some would say notoriety—by backing the issue of gay marriage; that will probably be the most salient part of his political legacy, which seems likely to include being elected Governor of California next year. He leads all his rivals, both Republican and Democratic, at this time in fund-raising and in the polls. Which leads to the inevitable question: Does he have his eye on the White House? When and if he is elected Governor, he will immediately become “Presidential timber,” as they say—a young, handsome, articulate visionary from the nation’s biggest state. We spoke yesterday (Jan. 5) in his office in San Francisco.

Full disclosure: I met Governor Newsom (the correct salutation for a Lieutenant-Governor) 26 years ago, when he was becoming involved in the wine industry and starting his first PlumpJack wine store. I liked him then; I like him now. Although I had a list of political questions, I began our conversation by asking him about the news, breaking that morning, of John McCain’s extraordinary hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on the Russian hacking situation.

SH: Let’s start with the McCain hearing today. We have this seeming split in the Republican Party between the establishment and the intelligence community, on the one hand, and Trump. What’s going on?

GN: It’s par for the course, exactly what one would expect; if the President-elect doesn’t like the conclusion, he tries to change, not only the conclusion, but the process that actually determined the facts. And he clearly is not interested in the evidence; he hasn’t even had the comprehensive briefing yet, because it’s not convenient for him, and undermines his, quote-unquote, “success and credibility” as President-elect.

SH: Did you see the Wall Street Journal this morning?

GN: No.

SH: Banner headline: Trump Plans Spy Agency Overhaul—he intends to “pare back the nation’s top spy agency” [Office of Director of National Intelligence]. This is full-scale war.

GN: It is extraordinary. There are a couple thoughts. Don’t forget, it was not that many years ago when the Democratic Party was almost unanimous in their condemnation of and contempt for the intelligence community, so we have to be cautious not to over-indulge in a critique of the President-elect because now he might now share a similar point of view. That said, when you have seventeen intelligence agencies all on the same page, that is quite unique, and that is—

SH: –and today, McCain specifically asked [the intelligence chiefs] “Are you more confident today than you were five, ten, fifteen days ago [that Russia was responsible for the hacks],” and every one said yes.

GN: Now, don’t get me wrong, on the history of intelligence in this country, we have been wrong on many, many occasions—

SH: –WMD—

GN: –even with that degree of confidence. But, look, it seems compelling. I haven’t been privy to the intelligence briefings—none of us have—nor has Obama today and the President-elect as of tomorrow, so we’re taking the word of folks that are right more often, it seems, than are wrong. But that said, it’s interesting to watch this and try to be objective. But it is rather remarkable, in such a public way, the President-elect is critiquing the intelligence community, and that is demoralizing to any organization.

SH: [James] Clapper (DNI chief] said this morning at the hearing, “It’s one thing to be skeptical about the intelligence community. It’s another thing to disparage it.”

GN: Disparage, overtly undermine, and reduce public trust in intelligence gathering. And by the way, it creates vulnerability for American intelligence, because those are things that are easily exploited by foreign governments. These are things we would exploit if intelligence was being questioned in other countries.

SH: I’m sure we have.

GN: And we are experts in all of these things, including undermining foreign elections.

SH: One of the Republican Senators on the committee who was trying to defend Trump said he’d read that the U.S. has interfered in something like 89 foreign elections.

GN: Eighty-nine, yeah. We all read that same article or analysis.

SH: But that doesn’t excuse Russia—

GN: No, just because we did it doesn’t make it right. Of course, we’re sovereign, we have the right to protect ourselves and criticize others who would undermine this republic.

SH: Okay, well, let’s get into politics!

MONDAY: Part 2: The election, Trump, the Democratic Party’s future, how to win back disaffected voters, and California’s resistance to Trumpism.


AIDS, Gays, Trump–and the Coming Battle?

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A friend mentioned the 1987 book And The Band Played On the other day, and since I had it on my bookshelf I grabbed it and showed it to her; it surprised her that I had it. That book is, of course, the late reporter Randy Shilts’ story of the early days of the AIDS epidemic; Randy, who was gay, wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle, and during the Eighties he was the only American journalist covering the story fulltime.

I told my friend that I knew a great many of the people mentioned in the book, since I was living in San Francisco at the time, in the Castro District. I’d first read it a long time ago, but decided to re-read it, since any good book is worth multiple reads. I was about halfway through, yesterday, when I was searching through HBO looking for a good movie and inadvertently came across the documentary The Battle of AmFAR, which tells the story of the founding of the American Foundation for AIDS Research by Dr. Mathilde Krim and Elizabeth Taylor. I’d seen that documentary, too, years ago, but, with those far-off days fresh on my mind, decided to re-watch it.

The book and the documentary both made me cry, the latter especially, since the visual images and the sound of Dr. Krim’s and Elizabeth Taylor’s voices are so powerful; and if you went through the epidemic as I did in San Francisco, the emotional memories are seared into your brain. Both those two women, Dr. Krim and Elizabeth, were extraordinary. Elizabeth was absolutely ferocious in battling AIDS, in raising money and consciousness among both healthcare professionals and the general public, and in calling out the Reagan administration for its shocking ignorance of the disease—and I use the word “ignorance” in a dual capacity, for Reagan was both unknowledgeable about AIDS (because he didn’t care) and because he ignored the epidemic throughout his presidency.

As I was watching the documentary I felt that, somehow, there was a connection between all of this and the current situation our country is undergoing, in which a Tea Party-dominated Trump administration is about to take office. There has been a good deal of concern in the LGBT community that Trump is going to be unfriendly to LGBTs. Trump’s surrogates have pointed out, correctly, that he didn’t make an issue of gay marriage during the campaign, and that he actually said he thought transgendered people in North Carolina should be able to use whatever bathroom they preferred.

I am impressed by that, but we have to look beyond Trump’s words to his actions and be on our guard. Whom did he just nominate to head the Department of Health and Human Services? Tom Price, a Republican congressman, who is also an orthopedic surgeon. (Trump initially offered HHS to Dr. Ben Carson, and thank God Carson turned it down; he is a vicious homophobe who’s on the record as claiming that gay marriage will “lead to polygamy…and on from there,” an echo of Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum’s slur that gay marriage will result in humans marrying animals.)

But who is Tom Price, really? He is a Christian, a Georgia Republican whose record on health issues is not reassuring. He is, of course, anti-abortion, and would go so far as to grant “personhood” rights even to zygotes. He’s against federal funding of stem cell research. On LGBT issues, he has a perfect rating—zero—on the issues from the Human Rights Campaign, the leading LGBT organization in the country. When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, Price said it was “a sad day for marriage.” Price has displayed a Falwellian insanity when it comes to gays, as for instance when he blamed Super-Storm Sandy on New York State’s marriage equality laws.

Now, when I say “Falwellian insanity,” here’s what I mean: Jerry Falwell, one of the most pathologically reactionary and theocratic politicians in U.S. history, said that AIDS was “God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”

And so, you see, we’ve come full circle—back to AIDS, to Reagan’s ignorance of it (in both senses), back to a time of Republican domination, with evangelical intolerance, and back to this impending Trump administration. I don’t give a damn what Trump said or didn’t say about LGBT issues during the campaign (when he told so many lies, you didn’t know what to believe). I care about the people he is appointing to run his government. With this Price nomination, Trump is showing every indication of applying his famous vindictiveness to bludgeon the LGBT community, or to allow religious fanatics who hate gays to determine policy. I can guarantee him that, if he does, the community will fight back, using any means necessary.


Trump: “Nobody knows what’s going on” and “Anyone who didn’t vote for me is my enemy”

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Over the New Year’s weekend, Trump made two statements. Both reveal conjoined facets of his personality. Both are deeply disturbing, and call into question, once again, his mental fitness to be President.

The first, concerning #Electiongate—which Trump still denies had anything to do with his BFF, Vladimir Putin—was: The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.” This is very telling, because it implies Trump’s worldview that, since factual knowledge no longer exists (if it ever did), then the interpretation of reality is a spectator sport in which Truth is the first casualty. This is what we would expect from a person who has based his political career on lies. “Nobody knows exactly what’s going on.” That is so Trumpian. If nobody knows what’s going on, then when Trump says he won an electoral landslide, maybe it’s true (even though it was a lie). If he said Obama was born in Kenya (even though that was a lie), maybe it really is true; if nobody knows what’s going on, then anything is possible. If he said he won the popular vote except for “millions” of illegal voters in California—another massive lie–that too may be true in some parallel universe, if nobody knows what’s going on. So we shouldn’t be surprised that Trump loves a world in which “facts” are as mythical as unicorns. He thrives in such a world, which he cohabits with (let’s face it) ignorant people who, like him, don’t believe in truth, or in any valid external reality. This is Trump as propagandist, spinmeister, deliberate obfuscator. This is also the incoming President of the United States: a man who can’t tell the difference between truth and falsehood or, if he can, doesn’t care. Our response should be: Actually, Mr. Trump, many of us do know what’s going on. And we are going to make sure the Age of Trump is mercifully brief.

His second statement, via—what else?—Twitter, was made on New Year’s Eve. It followed an earlier remark he made in which he called for unity following the divisive election: “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together…I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.”

Very inspiring! Very Lincoln-esque, for those who missed the reference to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Whoever had the chutzpah to associate Trump with Abraham Lincoln–Kellyanne Conway?–is truly living in an alternate universe! Or maybe they were just being perverse.

But a little while later, sitting (coked up?) in front of his computer, Trump just couldn’t resist the impulse to let his vindictive, mean self emerge. Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

Suddenly the spirit of “binding wounds” is shoved ruthlessly aside, and Trump’s dark Nixonian streak crawls out. Enemies! Wow. I thought the enemy was Islamic terrorism. But, no, in Trump world it’s the 66 million Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton—3 million more than voted for him. He isn’t even sworn in yet and already he’s calling Americans who disagree with him his “enemies.”

I don’t know how that makes you feel, but for me, it’s frightening and highly discouraging. Any hope we might have had that this was going to be a decent Presidency is disappearing by the second, with every stupid tweet, every ongoing lie, every revelation that at the core of Trump’s consciousness is a black lump of resentment and anger. (Of course, those are the very factors that turned his voters on, because they share them.)

I believe that our initial confusion in the immediate aftermath of the election—“OMG, what do we do now?”—is quickly clarifying into resolution. The #NotMyPresident and #TheResistance movements are gathering steam. Multiple counter-inaugural activities are scheduled for Jan. 20-21. The entertainment industry is giving him the finger; Trump is unable to find any entertainers for his big inauguration, except for the white supremacist has-been Ted Nugent and the rockin’ Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Meanwhile, a massive counter-inaugural event, “We the People,” is taking shape that could be one of the biggest shows since Woodstock. Donald Trump surely is aware that more Americans hate and fear him than ever before for any incoming President in modern history. A decent, morally-moored POTUS—a Barack Obama—would be deeply troubled by this, and would be searching his soul for ways to reach out, reconcile, change hearts and minds (as, indeed, Obama did when he was elected, and never stopped trying to do).

Instead, we have a Trump whining about his “enemies.” As he himself might tweet, #Pathetic.


Two classic examples of Republican false narratives

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Did you ever read an op-ed piece that made you so angry, you wanted to rip it up and flush it down the toilet? I did, yesterday—not once, but twice.

The first was called “Does a ‘Never Trumper’ need to be forgiven?” and was in the National Review. It was authored by Jonah Goldberg. A rightwing Republican, Goldberg was not for Trump during the campaigns. He admits upfront he was “wrong” in believing Trump could not win the nomination, or the election if he were nominated—which puts him in the same category as a lot of us. He admits also that his chief concern was Trump’’s “character,” which he describes as “unrestrained ego, impoverished impulse-control and contempt for policy due diligence…Character is destiny,” he warns.

Okay, so far, so good…right track, Jonah!

But then, Goldberg goes off the rails. Just when I thought that maybe, just maybe there’s hope for a Tea Party radical to occasionally stumble into the truth, Goldberg undermines his own argument by stating that Trump’s “Cabinet appointments and policy proposals [are] reassuring.” Trump, he claims, “has surrounded himself with some serious and sober-minded people who will try to constrain and contain the truly dangerous aspects of his character.”

How’s that again? After assuring us of Trump’s dangerous character, he tells us, Hey, Trump may be psychotic, he may be a lunatic with his finger on the nuclear codes, but not to worry, because he’s surrounded by sober-minded people–like Newt Gingrich? The religious extremist David Friedman? Rick “Ooops” Perry? Doctor Ben Carson, who doesn’t believe in evolution? Jeff Sessions, the former Ku Klux Klansman? Steve Bannon, the white supremacist? Rex Tillerson, who makes his money off bromancing Putin? I suppose some “good Germans” convinced themselves in the 1930s that Hitler, who everyone knew was mad, couldn’t do much harm because he surrounded himself with “sober-minded people” like Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering and Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Look Jonah Goldberg, if you had the awareness to discern Trump’s mental sickness, then nothing gives you the right to predict everything will be okay because he’s surrounded by sober-minded people. You knew during the campaign that Trump was unfit to be President. You know he still is. You’re either fooling yourself with these lame excuses, or you’re hoping to earn your way into his good graces so you’ll get invited to press conferences and state dinners. But then, consider the source: Jonah Goldberg is the son of Lucianne Goldberg, who in the 1990s was one of the nastiest rightwing activists in the country, a spy who infiltrated McGovern’s campaign to discredit it, and the woman who talked Linda Tripp into bringing her Monica Lewinsky tapes to the abominable Kenneth Starr. Jonah, her son, was raised in this poisonous atmosphere of sexual obsession and hatred for liberal democracy; he worked alongside his mother to bring about Clinton’s impeachment, and now is a denizen of the worst rightwing rags in the country. This is clearly a man who isn’t running on all cylinders; one feels almost sorry for him these days, having alienated himself from his own party and, apparently, from his own conscience. As Trump might tweet, #Pathetic.

The other article—even worse—is by the foremost Clinton and Obama hater of our generation, Karl Rove. It was in the Wall Street Journal and was called “A Preview of Obama’s Post-Presidency.” When I saw the headline, I thought, this could be interesting. Perhaps Rove will speculate, in a genuinely historical way, about what Obama might do, comparing him to other former Presidents, like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (both admirable ex-POTUSes) and George W. Bush, who seems to do nothing but hang out in Crawford and occasionally give a paid speech.

But no, Rove just can’t get that lump of hatred out of his sphincters. Instead of something intellectual, in the very first sentence Rove calls Obama “whiny, self-justifying, and bursting with excuses.” And that’s just for starters. In the last sentence, Rove predicts Obama will be “a carping, persistent presence in our nation’s capital.” As for the nonsense inbetween the opening and closing sentences, it’s nothing but a screed of vile insults.

All I will say is that President Obama’s job approval rating in the third week of December, according to Real Clear Politics, was 53.6%, higher than both Ronald Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s when they left office. (And let’s not forget Michelle Obama, another frequent target of Rove’s character assassinations, whose approval rating was much higher than her husband’s, an amazing 66%.)

Rove knows, I know, and you know (although Trump may not) that Obama is going to go down in the history books as a major President—and Republicans will be vilified for their obstructionism and racism. If history records Rove at all in some footnote, it will be as a partisan attack dog of the far right who developed the skills (since mastered by Trump) of lies, innuendo and disinformation, from his first political campaign to the dirty work he did for George W. Bush, who Rove also knows will be ranked by historians in the lowest tier of U.S. Presidents. The last thing Rove wants is an articulate former Democratic President, particularly a black man, having a voice of influence in coming years, who is trusted by wide majorities of Americans. That, I would argue, is exactly what we need–and there is no better person to fulfill it than Barack Obama.


What does Trump mean by “unpredictable”?

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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.


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