Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, the 44th man to hold the title and responsibility, is an asshole. A rich and powerful asshole. This has served him in good stead throughout his life; most of his obstacles in life were solved through bullheadedness, bullshit, and bullying. He would exhaust his opponents, dazzle them with garbage, and/or threaten them into submission, or at least acquiescence. Bluster, bluffs, and bravado have successfully carried him through multiple business successes, multiple business failures, divorces, careers, and now successfully through the most arduous political campaign of the 21st century so far.
Trump is also however, something of a one-trick-pony. From his career in show business to his real estate empire to his many Trump-branded sales ventures to his divorces to his presidential campaign, The Donald doesn’t stray too far from his playbook. He’s a dick and he’s a flatterer and he’s a conman; sometimes one at a time, sometimes two or more at once. But those are all the plays he has or at least the only ones he uses, which is functionally the same thing.
Now, I’ll give credit where it’s due,-although we seem to be making no progress at this point and it is still distinctly possible (some might say likely) that any plans for detente between the Koreas will end in disaster. But the Trump Doctrine has also started a global trade war and is swiftly upending long-held alliances (I grant the possibility that this may be, for what the fuck ever reason, intentional on his part).
As an asshole, President Trump doesn’t consider the possibility that his strategy will not be effective in all cases. Nor does he ponder the potentially horrific consequences of using this strategy on a nuclear power. It a near certainty that he thinks he won the election purely on his own merit and that the repeated, egregious, and frankly amateur mistakes of his opponent weren’t a huge fucking factor (. Hillary was defeated by her own arrogance as much as by anything Trump ever said or did. If she would’ve spent one weekend each in those states, the results may have been different).
He’s already learned that his strategy has extremely limited returns in the capitol; getting shit done in DC requires much more finesse and refinement than his bulldog on a bulldozer routine is capable of, thus far at least. You can see that he’s already functionally given up on passing any legislation. His attempts at legislative negotiation have backfired at every turn and. All he’s signed are and his so-called tax reform bill was anything but an example of an administration working successfully to shepherd their legislation through the congress.
So when President Donald J. Trump says something demonstrably stupid like ‘relations between the United States and Russia have never been worse’ we are supposed to assume 1) that he knows it’s not true; 2) that we know what he actually means: relations haven’t been this bad since the fall of the USSR; 3) that this we should accept this as a hyperbolic rhetorical flourish; 4) that whether or not any of the preceding is true or false is irrelevant anyway as the facts don’t matter during a negotiation.
Negotiations for the 45th President of the United States are about dicks; whose is biggest, who swings it the furthest, who sucks it the best. Because that’s how assholes think. Arguments are not won, or even conducted, on the facts; deals are not sealed through compromise – winning is about leverage, attitude, and maneuvering. And there is pragmatic validity to this philosophy, ruthlessness is second to no other trait in political negotiations. If all you care about is immediate results that is and you don’t care about governing after the fires have gone out. If you don’t consider the potential global ramifications of the whole world thinking you’re an-out-of-control narcissist, being an asshole is an effective strategy. But in the meantime we all look like assholes too.
I understand why many people call him a racist, sexist, or xenophobe but I don’t find these or any other explanations of his behavior as plausible as the Asshole Hypothesis. I see many other potential hypotheses but none that have the same predictive power regarding Trump’s actions or statements and none that integrate all of the facts and characteristics of the man. I freely acknowledge I could be wrong; he was a typical Manhattan democrat his entire life until about 10 years ago, Trump has reinvented himself many times and we could be witnessing chrysalis right now. We’ll see but I don’t see any convincing evidence that he is other than exactly what he appears to be. Depth does not seem to be a word easily ascribed to Donald Trump. I call him a bully because of a well-established pattern of behavior throughout his life, careers, campaign, and now presidency.
Critics are quick to point to Trump’s established pattern of lying, defenders are equally quick to demonstrate that lying is part of the job description. I’m sympathetic to both arguments but I don’t see much material difference between the lies of this president and those of his predecessors. The only consequential difference I see, and this is why I understand never-Trumpers to a large degree, is that the lies of traditional politicians are more predictable. The lies of Trump are strange, you can’t see them coming and we can only guess at the reasons or motivations for them. Obama and Clinton type lies fit a traditional narrative better, they’re easier to understand. Bill wanted to keep his job so he lied. Obama wanted to pass a massive bill so he lied. To a certain extent, this is a more stable pattern of lying, better the devil you know…which is the rationale many never-Trump Hillary voters gave: I know what I’ll get with Hillary and she’s enough of a corrupt centrist that it is reasonable to assume she won’t go crazy with a liberal agenda. Same reasoning many centrists and conservative democrats made with George W.
To my mind, the difference in how they lie is the underlying stability those lies represent. Clinton and Obama lied for a political purpose, Trump lies…well, we don’t know why, we can only guess. The Asshole Theory seems to fit the facts. Trump is mercurial and passionate. His lies appear to be more personal, less strategic. Seriously, what advantage could he possibly gain from that crowd size bullshit? I see no advantage politically, it doesn’t excite the base (they’re tuning that crap out and cheering for his judicial picks and tough trade talk) and doesn’t further his agenda at all. The question is, which lies do you fear more? Which lies leave more damage to the country and your trust in the president’s ability to deliver on his campaign promises? To his credit, Trump is delivering like very few politicians ever have – I’m just not sure yet if concluding that he is trustworthy is warranted.
I understand that for many voters Trump lying is A) not exactly something new either from the man or the office, B) not reported accurately by an untrustworthy media demonstrably hostile to Trump. Lord knows the breathless, hyperbolic, and reactionary coverage of Trump by the media and the left at large (but I repeat myself) is enough to turn the most credulous political and media observer into a cynic. However, we should be wary of becoming just as reactionary. We cannot excuse his obvious prevarications just because his opponents and the media (but I repeat myself) are lying themselves.
Donald Trump. Is. A. Liar.
This is beyond doubt. And very, very well-documented.
I watched the debates live, he had no idea what the nuclear triad was. I watched several press conferences with Sean Spicer and I follow the president on Twitter, he and his staff repeatedly lied about the size of the crowds. I heard him on the radio many years ago talking about the necessity of gun control, I do not believe him to be earnest about defending the second amendment. I heard him on the Howard Stern show back in the 90s talking about how important abortion rights are, I don’t believe him to be sincere in his pro-life stance.
No, he never called Mexicans criminals. But he did call for a religious test for immigration into the country, I watched him say that. No, he has not assaulted women. But he did pardon Joe Arpaio, referring to the former sheriff as a ‘defender of the constitution,’ something which is utter, undeniable horseshit (for Christ sake, I saw Arpaio on TV many years ago mocking the 4th amendment, that it doesn’t restrict him from stopping, searching, and seizing people who have not been charged with a crime). No, Trump is not colluding with Russia (whatever the hell that even means). But I did watch him live on air saying that Americans have the highest tax burden in the world, which is so very wrong it’s difficult to know how to address that; either he’s blatantly lying or doesn’t care about the truth enough to fact check.
Trump’s opponents are ruthlessly selective in their outrage and deliberately deceitful in their portrayal of the man. But Trump goes out of his way to bolster their point of view. This could be OODA. Getting into the mind of your adversary is a legitimate tactic and he is no doubt a skillful master of the technique; Trump lives in his opponent’s excitable minds, they seem to have a reflexive need to be close to him, and he’s doing much of that quite deliberately.
His utilization of outright falsehoods and half-truths may indeed be tactical, another attack on the stability of his opponents, and it is working as evidenced by the ceaseless pearl-clutching and self-righteous indignation of his adversaries. His half-truths elicit further half-truths from the media and the democrats. His lies engender and justify their lies.
Bottom line is this: the media, the democrats, and Trump’s opponents at large all conspire to make him look as bad as possible, truth be damned. They use half-truths, de-contextualized statements, and outright lies to further their anti-Trump agenda. However, Donald Trump does the exact same things. The fact that Nancy Pelosi is a liar doesn’t mean Trump is not. I judge people like Obama harshly because I looked at their lives, combined with their record, and conclude that I can’t trust them. I have done the same to Trump. Dinesh Dsouza was right about Obama’s upbringing: the man surrounded himself by communists, domestic terrorists, and his preacher hated this country. His was the anti-colonialist presidency. Trump has surrounded himself by sycophants, yes-men, and he has 50 years of public statements and documented actions that lead me to comfortably conclude that the man is dishonest at heart, a bully, and has no guiding philosophy and vision for the country he’s leading. It’s possible that he does have a plan and that he’s interrupting his enemies, getting them to do what he wants. However, based on the sum total of his life, the things he’s said and done, the company he’s kept, the manner in which he speaks, the unreliable statements he continually makes, his failures and successes in business, and the rotating woodchipper that is his White House staff (if you are constantly revolving through your employees, the problem ain’t the job or the workers, it’s the boss) I hope my fellow conservatives and libertarians can understand why I have a deficit of trust that the president is not addressing.
I don’t trust the media. At all. I don’t trust Donald Trump. At all. And for the exact same reasons.