Friday, April 1, 2016

The Audacity of Privelege

In school I generally detested writing and in high school I struggled with writing..   I still sometimes struggle to translate the thoughts I see so clearly in my mind into words on a page.    It is maddening.  My solution has too often been to throw more words at the idea in a "Dennis Leary" style stream of consciousness.  Too rarely is the synthesis concise, too rarely is it clear to the point of easy understanding.  Would that it were.

By contrast, sometimes we all engage in conversation which is unclear on purpose, in writing or in person.  Sometimes we  dissemble.  We say things which are opaque and so can be construed to mean one thing or another.  I think most will admit that dissembling isn't something we admire nor is it something to which we should aspire to engage in.  It's kissing cousins to sophistry, it's lying in a subtle way, but it is lying.

In our society today we have few candidates for President who didn't come from a privileged background or who, like President Obama, didn't attend a top tier school.  They were steeped in an education which carried a requirement to speak and write well, to speak and write with purpose.  To be successful in business I can speak with some authority that clear communication is an absolute requirement.  Lack of clarity, especially by a leader, leads only to chaos and uncertainty.   It leads to inefficiency and it leads to failure.  Many articles by CEOs name clear communication and integrity as the two greatest keys to their own success, so if you don't want to take my word for it, take theirs.  My education was comparatively pedestrian, yet I learned that stating things with clear purpose and intent was essential in school, and I learned later that it was essential in life.  My education wasn't at Oxford, I didn't learn to be so eloquent and clear in my expression that my words are going to go down in history as profound, in fact maybe only children and theirs will remember any of them.

But how should we evaluate a presidential candidate?  How should we judge someone seeking to be the top executive of our government?  Should we think of someone who has made a habit of speaking only in generalities, in making no detailed or substantive policy statements as ready? What would the world think of such a person?  Would they find him/her trustworthy.  In a world where every word the President says is examined and scrutinized, what would be the reaction to someone who says one thing one moment and quite often something very different the next, be?  What would they think of someone who said he or she would not honor prior promises and would casually violate treaties which had been struck?  Could they trust them, would they trust us, as a nation, ever again?  Even more, how do we evaluate a candidate whose words are such a jumble of incoherent incomplete sentences that it's difficult to know what he or she meant to say or would do?

Donald J Trump attended some of the top schools in the United States.  He attended the New York Military School, a private preparatory boarding school (not West Point, let's be clear).  He then started at Fordham University but transferred to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, an ivy league school, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in  Economics. Wharton, is considered one of the 3 best institutions for Economics in the country.  When someone says they wen to Wharton, everyone understands what was meant.  Mr. Trump had to express himself in complete sentences, probably even eloquently, to perform his college coursework and receive his degree from Wharton.

Over the past couple of decades Mr. Trump has weighed in on various political topics despite recently claiming he was "not a politician prior to 6 months ago."  That statement is false of course since he ran for President in 2012 and made similar overtures before that.  When expressing his opinion he has done so using language which was so vague as to be virtually meaningless.  If you read a transcript rather than heard him speak, seriously, you would struggle to know what he was trying to say.  He also has made comments which so extreme that they were immediately divisive and  unbelievably offensive.  He wanted to sound like he stood for something extreme, seemingly because it attracted followers and made him "look strong." Yet, nearly every time he spoke, he then would make a statement which allowed him to claim he didn't mean it or didn't say it.  Such as when he sarcastically called John McCain "a hero" but then said he wasn't really one because he'd "only been a hero because he was a prisoner."  When he was called out on it he said, "But I said he was a hero."  Sure he did, in a mocking questioning tone.

Mr. Trump is clearly a clever and bright man.  He has to know this is dissembling, he has to know it's lying.  Is this conduct some sort of reflection of the arrogance the privileged sometimes show toward those they see as their lessers or simply the arrogance of Trump himself?  If you think that's an unfair statement, please read on.  Mr. Trump's audacity is incredible, just in this one story, but that's my opinion, judge for yourself.  That the man capable of being clear but now opts to speak as if he were a third grader, lacking clarity, consistency or structure, seems prima fascia evidence that he knows better but respects his supporters so little that he feels he can lie to them bald-faced and won't get caught or at least won't be held accountable.  They claim he's "a straight shooter" but when told he lied seem not to care.

So, for them I offer one example, of Mr. Trump's fatuous self-aggrandizing pomposity. It speaks volumes about this man's unreadiness to be our commander-in-chief.  If you don't like Trump because he's made openly bigoted statements, good; you shouldn't.  But if you like Trump because you think he "tells it like it is" and sticks to his guns, read the following and then try to reconcile rationally this example against your emotions in response to Trump.

The gist of this story is simply this.  Trump said three things about Iraq.  The first, before we invaded he said in 2002 when he said we should invade Iraq.  The second, again before we invaded was said in early 2003 where he said if wee were going to do so we should go in and stop equivocating.  He was less committal but did say Bush was doing a "great job", a statement he later contradicted by saying the administration did a terrible job.  The last was said months after the invasion and war had started, not before, in the early fall of 2003.  He didn't tell Bush "not to go" or "don't go", he said after the fact, that it was a mistake.  It was typical Trump hindsight, claiming to be brilliant after the fact.  He said it was a mistake only after it turned out it wasn't going to be the cake-walk others predicted, presumably including Trump himself by saying we should go in 2002.  Now he says he said we shouldn't have gone in, he "slips" and says he said "Don't go" implying he said it before the war started when he didn't, when he really means to be saying is that he said "you shouldn't have gone in" after it had started to fail.  He was an early Republican of those saying this, but hardly the only one saying that in the late summer of 2003 as there were MANY Democrats saying the same and many others were questioning our actions when our forces failed to find any active WMD programs and/or large caches of usable WMD munitions. 

But the truth was that Trump was convinced, like Bush, that we should invade in 2002.  He didn't say "Don't go", he said "invade" and then he said "invade or not, but stop wasting time." When that became an inconvenient truth Trump did what he always does.  He spoke out of both sides of his mouth, trying to have it both ways.  That is dishonest, that is deliberate deception too.   He wasn't "right" about Iraq any more than he was "right" about President Obama having been born in Kenya.  He may have been "right" after the fact but  he wasn't right when it mattered, he wasn't right at the time. 

He wants to re-write his own history, he wants to rewrite our national history.  He flip-flopped on one of the most important foreign policy actions of the modern age.  He's no great military mind, he's no strong leader, and worst of all, he speaks in lies and confusion to delude his supporters.

This is not unique to the topic of Iraq, this is the modus operandi of Trump on every issue.  Trump makes dangerous statements about nukes, about our allies, about our treaties, about abortion and religion.  And then as he finds it convenient, he pretends otherwise.

Trump has made many such claims over the years from his birtherisms which he walked back and said "I don't know" once the evidence showed him to be a fool, to claiming incorrectly that an American General shot a prisoner with bullets coated in pig dung (which would have been an illegal act).  He made that claim as part of claiming it was a successful tactic to deter Muslim fighters. Not only was it NOT, as proven in India when done by the Brits, it proved to be wildly inflammatory making the situation worse.  No matter, to one Donald J. Trump, if it sounds good and tough, that's all that matters.  If it fails or you get caught and called out, well point to something else you said and say it wasn't true that you hadn't said it in the first place.  This is not a man the world will trust, it is certainly not a man the world will respect and absolutely not a man the world will agree to "make deals" with or sign treaties with.  He's untrustworthy to his core, what he says one moment he'll deny the next.  He talks about tearing up treaties others have made, why not his own if inconvenient, but most disturbing of all, his grasp of the world and of the military realities within it is equally immature and fluid.  One day he'll support an ally, the next seeming, he'll abandon them.  If you want to know the kind of President he'll be seen as, there is one word, utterly and supremely dishonest.

Children have little patience for lies.  They have a rudimentary but very black and white sense of justice, it's why they so often utter the obvious truth even when doing so is embarrassing.  They don't like sophistry or dissembling because they don't understand it.  I think children would call Trump a big fat liar, the question for his supporters is this.  If a child can see his dishonesty, why can't you?


  1. There were prior occasions where Trump was pursuing a run for president before 2012.

    Here is an excellent timeline of those previous years of interest as well as an actual attempted candidacy. Drumpf has clearly flirted with the idea often.

    1987-1988: Trump considers a run for president, while simultaneously juggling large debts stemming from his purchase of the Taj Mahal casino.

    2000: Trump enters the presidential race as a Reform Party candidate and receives more than 15,000 votes in the party's California primary.

    2003-2004: Trump begins hosting the reality show The Apprentice on NBC, which he also executive-produces. He again mulls a run for president, but ultimately decides not to join the race.

    March 2011: A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Trump leading all presidential contenders, including Mitt Romney.

    April 2011: Amid more research polls indicating that he would be the preferred Republican presidential candidate among voters, Trump repeatedly calls for President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate, questioning whether Obama was actually born in the United States. (Obama eventually complies and releases the birth certificate.)

    May 2011: Trump officially announces that he will not run for president.

    February 2012: Trump endorses Republican candidate Mitt Romney for president.

    2013: Trump forms a presidential exploratory committee and, despite a strong backing from Republican voters, announces that he has no interest in running for governor of New York in 2014.

    February 2015: Trump decides not to renew his Apprentice contract, fueling speculation that he's mulling a run for president.

    June 2015: Trump formally announces that he's running for president in a speech delivered from Trump Tower in New York City. Almost immediately, corporations and individuals that have partnerships with Trump - including Macy's, NBC and Univision - begin to sever ties with the mogul because of disparaging comments he made about Mexicans in the speech announcing his candidacy.

    July 2015: Trump comes under fire after revealing Republican rival Lindsey Graham's phone number of live TV and criticizing John McCain for being a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

  2. I believe that not only Trump but other Republican candidates were perhaps never entirely serious about expecting to be the nominee, but rather sought other financial advantage in simply running.

    This is consistent with the statements of one of his former employees who left insisting that what Trump was striving for was to be second, not to be the nominee.

    Don't sell short how well you write, Pen. But it is worth mentioning that more than your ability to be clear and articulate, I value as your blogging partner your exceptional personal integrity.

    Something I also value in Laci.

    I like writing, and for me it has always come easily to do so. I wish I had your math skills, on the other hand. That, while IQ testing said I had good math ability, has always been more of a struggle to do competently.