I don’t like or trust the technique of cherry-picking quotes from famous people to make them sound stupid, venal, mean or distasteful. First of all, the technique has been abused by the news media, which uses it against people like Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle, but seldom digs up quotes to embarrass the leaders and political figures they like and support. Many liberal icons—Barney Frank comes to mind—talk so incessantly that it would be easy to make them sound like monsters or fools using the technique, but if it is done to these people at all, it is done by ideological blogs with minimal exposure. Second, those who make such lists often cheat, taking quotes out of context, or worse, making them up. Many lists designed to show that Sarah Palin is an idiot, for example (she is many things, but idiot is not among them) use lines actually said by Tina Fay while lampooning Palin.
Michael Kruse’s feature for Politico called “The 199 Most Donald Trump Things Donald Trump Has Ever Said”, however, deserves a bit more deference. After all, he appears to have waded through a putrid swamp of Trump interviews, books, and videos, which probably left him drooling and giggling in a corner some place; I’ll be relieved when I see evidence that he’s OK. That task took courage, dedication and endurance: attention must be paid. Moreover, this isn’t the usual list of ten or twenty quotes: you could make Stephen Hawking seem like a dolt in twenty quotes if you chose them maliciously. This is 199. Impressive.
Also horrifying. In selecting the 199 juiciest and most provocative quotes from any prominent American, wouldn’t you expect at least one that was articulate, thoughtful, wise or memorable? I’m not looking for Samuel Butler here, or even Barack Obama, but for someone who is at least for the nonce a “serious” candidate for the highest office in the land, it would be reassuring to find some evidence of wit, perspective, reflection, or a vocabulary beyond that of a typical 8th grader, and it just isn’t there. Has Trump read any literature? Has he ever seen a play? Is he capable of a relevant famous quote or a cultural reference (saying that Bette Midler is “grotesque” doesn’t count, though “grotesque” may be the most sophisticated word that appears on the list)? If so, there is no hint of it. Maybe Kruse intentionally left out quotes that would reflect well on Trump, and omitted utterances like “I suppose there’s a melancholy tone at the back of the American mind, a sense of something lost. And it’s the lost world of Thomas Jefferson. It is the lost sense of innocence that we could live with a very minimal state, with a vast sense of space in which to work out freedom” (George Will) or “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators” (P.J. O’Roarke) or even“Our political differences, now matter how sharply they are debated, are really quite narrow in comparison to the remarkably durable national consensus on our founding convictions.” (John McCain). I doubt it.
There are three Trump bon mots in the 199 that barely justify quoting, like #57:
“Show me someone without an ego, and I’ll show you a loser.” (Facebook, Dec. 9, 2013)
Now, it’s not accurate or true, and like many of Trump’s quotes, it’s self-serving. It doesn’t approach in perception or cleverness quotes on the same topic like those of Isaac Asimov—“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do,” or Ambrose Bierce—“An egotist is a person of low taste: more interested in himself than in me,” or Oliver Wendell Holmes—“Apology is only egotism wrong side out.” Still, it’s catchy, and that’s how Trump thinks. Consider: Bierce’s quote lampoons jerks, and Trump’s defines one…Trump.
Aother quotable line on the list is…
152. “I can never apologize for the truth.” (Fox News, July 5, 2015)
Unfortunately, it is also inarticulate and stupid. Does Trump mean that he can never apologize for the truth, or for speaking the truth? His inability to speak (or think) leads to this kind of ambiguity constantly (His infamous Mexican border comment is another example.) Either way, the statement is not true. For example, it is undeniably true that Trump is an embarrassing boor, and he can and should apologize for this until he learns not to act that way. As for speaking the truth, this is a disturbing thing for a potential President to say. Speaking many truths, such as military secrets, will cause tragedies if they are communicated recklessly. Does Trump really think it is never wrong to speak the truth, that he cannot be wrong, or just that one should never apologize? Whatever it means, the statement is idiotic and unethical. But quotable!
The final quotable quote is #195: “Some people cast shadows, and other people choose to live in those shadows.” (New York Times, Sept. 11, 2005)
It sounds profound, but isn’t. Trump is not intellectually capable of profundity, but he talks so much that he courts the odds of the million monkeys on typewriters who will eventually produce a Shakespeare sonnet.
Much of the list concentrates on showing Trump to be feckless and a hypocrite, like this set…
106. “The mind can overcome any obstacle. I never think of the negative.” (New York Times, Aug. 7, 1983)
107. “It’s been said that I believe in the power of positive thinking. In fact, I believe in the power of negative thinking.” (The Art of the Deal, 1987)
108. “A lot of people sit down and discuss their lives, things like are they happy, but it’s not like that with me. I don’t think positively, I don’t think negatively, I just think about the goal. But it’s not like I sit down and write goals. I just do things.” (Master Apprentice, 2005)
It’s a little like shooting fish in a barrel. Trump just lets his mouth run, and assumes that whatever he’s thinking at the moment is worth expressing. He’s a shallow intellect, so of course he contradicts himself. It has been said that Ben Franklin never had an unexpressed thought, but most of Ben’s thoughts were worth reading or listening to. Not Trump. (Imagine what Ben Franklin would have done with Twitter!)
Kruse also includes Trump’s trademark gratuitous insults (he uses “loser” with the same frequency Paris Hilton—who, Trump says, aroused him when she was 12—used to say “hot”) to Rosie O’Donnell (of course), Arianna Huffington, Angelina Jolie, Karl Rove, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, Cher, George Will (a “moron”), Chuck Todd, Chuck Hagel, Megyn Kelly, Michelle Malkin, Brian Williams, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, and George W. Bush. This is Trump’s boorishness, incivility, immaturity and pettiness on display. I’m also impressed that he loves insulting people but has never come up with a single insult that was insightful, clever, or that would seem out of place on a junior high school playground. Even George Costanza’s sad “The jerk store called: they’re out of you!” would go to the top of the list of Trump’s jibes.
But I digress…
Here are the 40 quotes Kruse found that inform us about Trump’s ethics and values:
2. “I am a really smart guy.” (TIME, April 14, 2011)
3. “I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.” (Fortune, April 3, 2000)
150. “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest — and you all know it!” (Twitter, May 8, 2013)
These are a set. People who tell other people they are smart, besides not being smart (Fredo Corleone: “I’m smart!”), lack modesty and prudence, as well a sufficient respect for others, manifested by arrogance. Most of all, however, these statements—there are others like them among the 199, demonstrate Trump’s narcissism, and absence of trustworthiness.
5. “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.” (Albany’s Talk 1300, April 14, 2011)
9. “I have black guys counting my money.… I hate it. The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.” (USA Today, May 20, 1991)
13. “Who the fuck knows? I mean, really, who knows how much the Japs will pay for Manhattan property these days?” (TIME, January 1989)
Trump is a particular brand of bigot: the ignorant kind. He really believes in stereotypes and group identification. It’s not meant to be insulting or degrading; he just thinks this is how the world is, and everything else is “political correctness.”
16. “Jeb Bush has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife.” (Retweeted and then deleted on Twitter, July 4, 2015)
Trump makes decisions because of bias, so he assumes everyone else does too. This allows him to attack the legitimacy of any position he doesn’t agree with as based on personal bias. People who base their assessments on bias are untrustworthy.
22. “I will be phenomenal to the women. I mean, I want to help women.” (CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Aug. 9, 2015)
23. “Oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, ‘Can you believe what I am getting?’” (Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life, 2008)
29. “When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass—a good one!— there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left.” (Vanity Fair, September 1990)
34. “There’s nothing I love more than women, but they’re really a lot different than portrayed. They are far worse than men, far more aggressive … ” (The Art of the Comeback, 1997)
44. “You know, it really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” (Esquire, 1991)
As with blacks and different nationalities, Trump’s attitudes towards women are rooted in stereotypes, disrespect, bigotry and bias. A woman is a “what,” a “piece of ass” and “worse than men.” It’s misogyny, a breach of fairness and respect.
35. “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” (Twitter, April 16, 2015)
To Trump, the way to diminish a woman is to insult their ability to satisfy men, their job, as far as he can see. This is the essence of sexism, and shameless sexism. He doesn’t even think saying these things should be regarded as offensive. To him, they are self-evidently true.
36. Women? “You have to treat ’em like shit.” (New York magazine, Nov. 9, 1992)
Signature significance for a sexist, a misogynist, a bigot, and someone who doesn’t believe in respect and fairness. Or manners. Such a statement raises the rebuttable presumption that Trump does in fact treat the women in his life “like shit,” which is certainly not rebutted by his three divorces. If he does treat women “like shit,” that shows a lack of caring—benevolence, generosity, kindness, and empathy.
61. “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” (Fortune, April 3, 2000)
75. “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich.” (ABC’s “Good Morning America,” March 17, 2011)
76. “I’m really rich.” (New York City, June 16, 2015)
79. “I look very much forward to showing my financials, because they are huge.” (TIME, April 14, 2011)
80. “I have a total net worth and now with the increase it will be well over $10 billion, but here total net worth of $8 billion. Net worth—not assets, not liabilities—a net worth. … I’m not doing that to brag. Because you know what? I don’t have to brag. I don’t have to. Believe it or not.” (New York City, June 16, 2015)
91. “Let’s say I was worth $10. People would say, ‘Who the [expletive] are you?’ You understand? They know my statement. Fortune. My book, The Art of the Deal, based on my fortune. If I didn’t make a fortune, who the [expletive] is going to buy The Art of the Deal? That’s why they watched ‘The Apprentice.’ Because of my great success.” (Washington Post, July 12, 2015)
Another set. Trump wants us to know that he values money above all. This isn’t surprising given his background and narrow experience, but it demonstrates a shallow, materialistic, anti-humanist orientation. Wealth is a non-ethical objective. This is also part of his narcissism: Trump regards wealth as the standard for human value and success, and must tell everyone by his words and conspicuous consumption that he meets this standard. You cannot trust narcissists.
68. “I think if this country gets any kinder or gentler, it’s literally going to cease to exist.” (Playboy, March 1990)
Arguably out of context, but especially in light of other comments, #68 is telling. Trump, a bully and a thug by nature, equates kindness with weakness, and this creates an inclination to cruelty, a breach of the duty of caring.
73. “I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people. Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them—they are there for me.” (Republican presidential debate)
I flagged this one in an earlier post. It expresses approval for the quid pro quo strategy using money to corrupt and manipulate others, buying loyalty, and bribery. Since Trump sees nothing wrong with this (and must not, since he is so open about it), he can also be bought. He is thus untrustworthy.
78. “My attitude is if somebody’s willing to pay me $225,000 to make a speech, it seems stupid not to show up. You know why I’ll do it? Because I don’t think anyone’s ever been paid that much.” (New Yorker, May 19, 1997)
If someone offers you $225,000 to make a speech, it is irresponsible to take the money unless you have something to say that is arguably worth that fee. This is irresponsible.
98. “Fighting for the last penny is a very good philosophy to have.” (Esquire, January 2004)
Fighting for the last penny, as an absolute proposition that makes no distinction regarding whether one is owed the penny, needs it or whether the person one is fighting with to get it should justly have the penny instead shows Trump’s lack of proportion, charity, fairness, and responsible values. It’s a despicable philosophy, but Ebenezer Scrooge would approve.
101. “I’ll do nearly anything within legal bounds to win.” (The Art of the Deal, 1987)
The law isn’t ethics. Lying is legal, bullying is legal, deception is often legal, cruelty is legal, betrayal is legal, all sorts of awful behavior is legal. Anyone who says this and means it is untrustworthy. (Trump claims he never lies.)
103. “I’ll do what I have to do.” (Atlantic, April 2013)
This is an endorsement of “the ends justify the means.” It is irresponsible and untrustworthy.
111. “For many years I’ve said that if someone screws you, screw them back. When somebody hurts you, just go after them as viciously and as violently as you can.” (How to Get Rich, 2004)
The sentiment speaks for itself. Viciously? Violently?
112. “The way I see it, critics get to say what they want about my work, so why shouldn’t I be able to say what I want to about theirs?” (The Art of the Deal, 1987)
The way Trump “sees it” is infantile ethics, which is to say not ethical at all. The Rationalizations List would explain “why,” if he would read it.
113. “Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.” (The Art of the Deal, 1987)
The confession of a bully…
117. “Rosie’s a person that’s very lucky to have her girlfriend. And she better be careful or I’ll send one of my friends over to pick up her girlfriend. Why would she stay with Rosie if she had another choice?” (“Entertainment Tonight,” Dec. 21, 2006)
It’s not worth the trouble to analyze all the ways this is a black-hearted statement, other than to say that no one ethical, decent or savory would ever say it or think it.
118. “Probably I’ll sue her. Because it would be fun. I’d like to take some money out of her fat-ass pockets.” (“Entertainment Tonight,” Dec. 21, 2006)
Again, these words add up to signature significance for a hateful, cruel, mean, nasty, vindictive and untrustworthy individual.
148. “It is an ability to become an entrepreneur, a great athlete, a great writer. You’re either born with it or you’re not.” (Playboy, March 1990)
An ugly un-American sentiment and the calling card of a pompous elitist. In Trump’s case, it also shows stunning lack of self-awareness. Trump’s success is the result of being born with millions of dollars waiting for him as soon as he was old enough to take it. One cannot expect empathy, caring or fairness from the author of that sentence.
151. “… of course, it’s very hard for them to attack me on looks, because I’m so good looking.” (NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Aug. 9, 2015)
168. “I want five children, like in my own family, because with five, then I will know that one will be guaranteed to turn out like me.” (Vanity Fair, September 1990)
This is narcissism by definition.
155. “I do love provoking people.” (BuzzFeed, Feb. 13, 2014)
Translations: “I love upsetting people” and “I hurt people for the fun of it.” Unfair, disrespectful, irresponsible.
Another translation is “I’m an asshole.”
165. “People are too trusting. I’m a very untrusting guy.” (Playboy, March 1990)
166. “I believe that, unfortunately, people are out for themselves.” (Playboy, March 1990)
Those who can’t trust are usually untrustworthy.
170. “The hardest thing for me about raising kids has been finding the time. I know friends who leave their business so they can spend more time with their children, and I say, ‘Gimme a break!’” (New York magazine, Dec. 13, 2004)
172. “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?” (Vanity Fair, September 1990)
173. And Marla, wife No. 2? “I was bored when she was walking down the aisle. I kept thinking: What the hell am I doing here? I was so deep into my business stuff. I couldn’t think of anything else.” (TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald, 2005)
Trump is speaking in this selfish, callous and dismissive way about his alleged loved ones. If he meant what he said, he’s sociopath.
Did I mention that Trump says he never lies?