In a single post I can’t possibly cover all of the heroes, villains and fools who have emerged in the aftermath of the explosion of Trump’s latest hand-grenade tossed into the Presidential campaign. I have to start somewhere, though.
At the outset, I want to officially designate Trump’s campaign as an ethics train wreck, neatly paired with the Hillary Clinton Campaign Ethics Train Wreck (more from that later.) Do you sense that the number of Ethics Train Wrecks are proliferating? You are correct, and it is both a direct result and an indirect result of the Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck. When leadership is feckless, weak, dishonest, unethical and ineffective, a society’s ethical standards start to unravel.
Now on to the initial designations regarding Trump’s declaration that Muslims should be banned from entering the country.
Hero, Villain, AND Fool: Donald Trump. Trump is a hero in his own mind; in ethics terms, the status is accidental, an example of doing a good and courageous thing for all the wrong reasons. In his typical, bully-in-a china-shop way, Trump has forced the national debate to focus on nasty realities rather than operate from President Obama’s fantasy world, where radical Islamic terrorists somehow are not Islamic, and Hillary Clinton’s delusion/lie that terrorism has “nothing to do with Muslims, whatsoever” even after two Muslims, because they were Muslims, killed 14 citizens in a terrorist attack. Muslims who have been radicalized or who have ties to terror groups are a real and existential problem that requires a coherent policy addressed at the problem. Chanted nostrums like “This isn’t who we are” don’t get the job done. A frank debate is mandatory, and sometimes only a boor, a maniac or a boob with less than acute intellectual skills will have the guts to force such a debate. Clarence Darrow regarded nut-case John Brown as such a hero, arguing that some problems require someone whose disregard for conventional societal standards to “cut the Gordian Knot.” By Darrow’s definition, then, Trump is a hero.
He’s still a fool. Once again he told an interviewer (Don Lemon) that he’s “a very smart person,” channeling his inner Fredo. When asked about comparisons with Hitler, Trump instead argued that what he was proposing was more like FDR’s imprisoning Japanese-Americans, as if this was a rational defense. Trump, I have long noticed, literally cannot make an argument without citing a rationalization or six. He apparently thinks all of them are genuine justifications for unethical conduct. He can’t argue any other way, except that he sometimes throws in logical fallacies too, like constantly citing his poll numbers (Appeal to Authority) as validation of his positions.
His FDR rebuttal is Rationalization #32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing.” Then Trump followed up with a reminder that what he was proposing regarding Muslims wasn’t nearly as extreme as the Japanese internment, which is an invocation of Rationalization #22, “It’s Not The Worst Thing.” It takes a muddled brain of epic squishiness to use these two rationalizations to excuse the same position.
And he’s a villain. Trump’s proposed blanket ban of individuals based on their religion alone is the definition of religious bigotry, and he doesn’t appear to recognize it. Whether he sees it that way is irrelevant: he doesn’t seem to care that others will see it that way. Trumps’ evident rationale is “the ends justify the means,” which is the calling card of villains, and an unethical philosophy that has been used though human history to perpetrate murder, torture, unjust trials, all manner of crimes, war and genocide.
Smoking gun proof came in the comments of one of his spokespersons, for whose statements Trump is 100% responsible unless he immediately repudiates her words and fires her within hours, and he did not. Co-villain/fool Katrina Pierson was debating CNN house conservative S.E. Cupp on the ethics, practicality and legality of Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Pierson respnded that The Donald’s ideas were actually “nothing new.” (See? Trump’s mouthpieces also think rationalizations are legitimate arguments. This is just one of many variations on “Everybody does it.”) Next, she asserted that “never in United States history have we allowed insurgents to come across these borders,” which isn’t the exact issue. Cupp correctly answered, “No one’s talking about allowing insurgents. You’re talking about not allowing regular Muslims. That’s what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, from Arab nations,” Pierson said. “You know what? So what. They’re Muslim.”
Hero: Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump was getting ready to go to Israel to meet the Israeli Prime Minister, when Netanyahu sent out a tweet stating, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims.“ So much for the theory that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Hero: Andrew McCarthy. While a disturbing number of conservative pundits were bending over backwards to either find a reason to defend Trump or to protect the Republican Party by reflexively attacking him for religious bigotry, the National Review writer explained that Trump had “stumbled upon” an important dilemma: Islam isn’t a typical religion, Sharia law can reasonably be viewed as a threat to U.S. law and culture, and the questions raised by Trump’s rhetoric need to be thought about seriously and considered. He also neatly pinpointed why Trump’s proposal is inherently unjust and un-American:
[I]t is simply a fact that many Muslims accept our constitutional principles and do not seek to impose sharia on our society. They have varying rationales for taking this position: Some believe sharia mandates that immigrants accept their host country’s laws; some believe sharia’s troublesome elements are confined to the historical time and place where they arose and are no longer applicable; some think sharia can evolve; some simply ignore sharia altogether but deem themselves devout Muslims because they remain Islamic spiritually and — within the strictures of American law — culturally. For those Muslims, Islam is, in effect, merely a religion, and as such it deserves our Constitution’s protections.
Villains: Fox News and others who have made the dishonest comparison between Trump’s Muslim ban and Jimmy Carter’s ban on Iranians entering the U.S. during the hostage crisis. Here’s Daniel Greenstein on the Fox site:
“Trump is a monster, a madman and a vile racist. He’s just like Hitler. Or Jimmy Carter. During the Iranian hostage crisis, Carter issued a number of orders to put pressure on Iran. Among these, Iranians were banned from entering the United States unless they oppose the Shiite Islamist regime or had a medical emergency.”
This is either a smart person trying to fool ignorant people using deceit, or a stupid pundit seeing a parallel where no exists. Diplomatic retaliation is a necessary weapon in international conflicts. Religions aren’t countries. Carter was using the ban to pressure Iran to release American citizens. Snopes.com performs the debunking of this nonsense nicely.
Villain: Josh Earnest, White House Spokesman. Fire him. His comment on Trump’s proposal (remember whom he’s speaking for, now…fair is fair):
“The Trump campaign, for some time now, has had a ‘dustbin of history’-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering, to the outright lies; even the fake hair.”
For the White House to engage in ad hominem attacks—what difference does Trumps hair make in assessing his position?—is a new low, even for this amateur-hour, petty, arrogant and inept President. How is this different from Trump mocking the hand gestures of a disabled journalist, or calling Carly Fiorina homely?
Hint: It isn’t.
It’s hard to make the case, as I have, that Trump’s boorishness, lack of dignity and obnoxious personal attacks render him unfit to lead the nation when the current leader behaves similarly. Go ahead, Mr. President, go full asshole; you know you want to. Call Rush Limbaugh fat, and Marco Rubio a shrimp; call Carly a dog and Megyn Kelly a bimbo. Then the GOP can mock Hillary’s legs and Bernie Sanders’ wrinkles.
[ One more thing, slightly off post: For President Obama, of all people, to call any presidential candidate unqualified achieves a new vistas in lack of self-awareness.]
Sources: The Week, Mediaite 1, 2, Washington Post,
25 thoughts on “Heroes, Villains And Fools In The Latest “Donald Trump Candidacy Ethics Train Wreck” Disaster”
“Go ahead, Mr. President, go full asshole; you know you want to.”
This campaign went full asshole a long time ago. Frankly I think this COUNRY is pretty close to going full asshole on both sides of the aisle.
Inevitable when one of the primary tools on the left side of the aisle is division and animosity between the divisions. Painfully inevitable.
Also inevitable when ordinary folks on both sides of the aisle regularly go full asshole at each other on social media and cheer on those who go mega-asshole.
Meh, those are the results. Not the cause.
“Meh, those are the results. Not the cause.”
I think my patience tank is depleted by the iPhone.
That is EXACTLY what I was talking about when I said below “Trump is fully engaged in using the worst of the worst campaign tactics and he’s put them on a continuous IV stream of steroids.” It’s as if we are seeing a Democrat using Democratic tactics on steroids running as a Republican. It’s freaking weird.
I said, “It’s as if we are seeing a Democrat using Democratic tactics on steroids running as a Republican.” I think it would better represent my opinion if I said, “It’s as if we are seeing a Democrat (or whatever the heck he is) using Democratic tactics on steroids running as a Republican.”
Trump was a Democrat. For the longest time I thought that his campaign was a stalking horse to split the vote on the right, and I’m still not convinced that it isn’t…. But another possibility is that the left just got too toxic for him, and so he shifted right and adopted Republican talking points, while not being completely able to shake off where he came from.
Lots to think about in that post; time to ponder it a bit.
What’s clear to me is that Trump is fully engaged in using the worst of the worst campaign tactics and he’s put them on a continuous IV stream of steroids.
As it has been pointed out by other bloggers and some in the media, Trump has every symptom of a narcissistic personality disorder as defined by Mayo Clinic and Trump’s true end game is unclear to me.
DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:
• Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
• Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
• Exaggerating your achievements and talents
• Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
• Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
• Requiring constant admiration
• Having a sense of entitlement
• Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
• Taking advantage of others to get what you want
• Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
• Being envious of others and believing others envy you
• Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
I think we can look through history and easily point out some of the classic narcissists and show what they do when they assume the leadership role in a powerful nation.
Just what this country needs back-to-back narcissist administrations. The name of the party in power will make virtually no difference in the outcome for the country. As Alicia would emote: :::sigh:::
We could have had Romney. Awe should have had Romney. Whatever else he could be accused of narcissism isn’t it.
But we made history!
Possibly one of the reasons people are showing interest in the alt-right positions – extreme and odd as they are – is a result of what I myself feel when I reflect on what looks evermore like political impossibility. Meaning, insolucionability. Today, after reading this post, I thought: Everything is simply too complex to fathom. One can’t come to any conclusion because one can’t possibly have enough information to make a judgment. In the face of what is not ultimately intelligible, the mire of the impossible, a person can only retreat. To one’s ‘little world’ as an unnamed individual recently intoned. The only response is pessimism. (Though it might still be possible to hold to optimism of some sort depending on the level of one’s faith, essentially, in this Reality).
Is this not overt and developed decadence? Cultural and political decadence from which there is, in the order of things, no betterment? Is it possible that in the life of the nation some point of no return has been passed? It is true that Trump is a political omen, an omen of the bad. He does seem to tap into popular sentiment – but myself I’d be pretty terrified of that populous, and their sentiments. But isn’t that part of it? Is it not that the mass-man, the extreme and vulgar man, has far too much power and relevance, and influence?
Some have written – nostalgically it seems – about a longing for the iron spine, which means to iron fist, which means (as I interpret it) an authoritarian decisiveness. One would hope it would be of a high-minded sort, but this is impossible: The country is divided. The liberal faction will resist any level of ‘rightish’ authoritarianism as it would resist a visit by Satan himself. And the conservative faction cannot bear the thought of another liberal (what is the right word?) regime and begins to tear out their hair.
I’m certainly not expert enough in historical understanding to predict what will come from this, but extreme decadence – as seems to be presenting itself in evermore clear form – usually prefigures crisis.
Nope. I’m out!
Other Bill: Can you at the very least provide an outline of what Beth was called to say and backed away from? Was it to offer more critical writing helpful hints or perhaps something more ideological?
Curiously, there is an article in today’s NYTs: ‘Voter Insecurities Feed Rise of Right-Leaning Populist Politicians’. Not too bad of an article, though the editorial thrust of the Times will have, eventually, to come out with heavier ideological armaments, because the ideological structure of these right factions are ideologically opposed to the ideological position of a paper like the Times. It opens with this encapsulation:
“Mass shootings by Islamist militants. Migrants crashing borders. International competition punishing workers but enriching elites.”
Hmmm. This is not quite it. The ‘alt right’ that I am aware of describes a cultural situation in which ruling mercantile elites, building their giant international ‘connected’ corporate world, who have no substantial link to place, nor to specific people, yet are vitally interested in vast markets, and so have very good reasons to decimate communities of persons who identify themselves locally and organically, are completely shocked that their leaders – their managers – have opened the gates to ‘mass immigration’ which, in relation to the above identities and communities, is DESTROYING their cultural community. I’d say that is the primary resentment, and what is being reacted against locally.
They simply do not want any part of the ‘enriching multiculturalism’ which is ‘our great strength as a nation’. Jared Taylor writes pretty incisively about this in ‘White Identity’. Naturally, the SPLC immediately notes that positions against racial blending and cultural chaos – apparently desired by the overlords and simply unwanted by anyone else – applies the brand of ‘racist’: the dirtiest word now in political and social discourse. So, if you do not accept the multiculturist idealistic platform, if you choose not to want to live in a world designed by mercantile elites interested – and active – in establishing obedient blocks of faceless consumers in a globalized ‘village’ – you certainly must be a ‘racist’. Racism and racist are terms that are handled and used ONLY by one faction to describe another and the purpose of terms like that is to destroy the possibility of discourse by destroying, at the outset, any credibility of the one speaking.
The NYTs lead makes it sound as if it is these recent mass shootings that are at the center of concern of the alt right, the suppressed right, the ‘dangerous right as I would label it but not pejoratively but because they are dealing in real themes, in difficult issues, but on their own terms, not terms mediated by a rhetorical machine. But this is not true. The concerns of this suppressed rightist movement have to do with the decimation of cultural regions and the transformation of cultural areas in Western Europe into multi-cultural zones.
This article certainly made a truthful statement when it said that Trump seems not to be informed by any political or philosophical discourse or ideology. But isn’t that a general fact among many American figures generally? I read that American conservatives generally speaking are ‘anti-intellectual’, and I took that to mean that they reason from common sense positions. This seems to be true but I do not quite understand why this is so, nor what exactly informs these people – aside of course from a noticible and a sheer emotionalism, which I have noticed among some of the men-folk who offer up their advice and opinion – so very freely – round these parts. What idea structure, what philosophy and ideology inform these folk? I can’t discern it.
However, the European right that I am aware of is anything but ‘anti-intellectual’. It is exceedingly intellectual. It connects to genuine European philosophical positions that are valid and considerable. The NYTs article, naturally, makes it sound as if this right-leaning perspective arises our of irrationalism, and is a disease that will abate when the difficult circumstances abate, like a rash. It also makes the inevitably association between right-leaning populism and Hitlerism, and once you establish that connection you naturally can control all of the discourse: To think in these terms is to reveal that you are, in fact, a Nazi. Yet what numerous folks on the alt-right talk about is how these narratives are used, propagandistically, to cow intellectuals away from defining certain positions, and they also link an entire Western narrative to a propaganda position (on could mention Orwellian notions of use of propaganda) to keep intellectuals, and people generally, from developing critical positions against the post-war, American-led, and America-defined, cultural and economic situation. To think in THOSE terms requires venturing into dangerous zones, in my opinion.
It all seems – ideologically – to extend out of discourses that tie back to the last great war. According to Jonathan Bowden it is exactly this self-inflicted, self-defeating, self-hating movement that has to be challenged and reversed. Our self-hatred allows a sort of masochistic undermining of our own interests and our capacity to define ourself and to assert ourself. A good deal of the philosophy of the alt right deals on strengthening ‘identity’ and thus is defined as ‘identitarian’.
This video, which is a selection from a longer speech called ‘Western Civilization Bites Back’, encapsulates some of the ideas and concerns of the European right, and since I mentioned Bowden more than once I thought some might find it interesting. It is only 13 minutes long. The soundtrack ads a sort of spooky element and a sense of danger and subversion. The video has become somewhat popular. A friend in Scotland sent it to me a few weeks back but I’d already the essay.
This seems to fit in, at least in a certain sense, to an aspect of the topic of this post, and of course the NYTs article on rightist movements in Europe. I suggest that it is interesting to anyone who is interested, for whatever reason, in understanding populist rightist sentiments.
“Goose-Steppers in the GOP”, an editorial in today’s NYTs.
As best I am able to discern the idea presented is that any venture toward asking critical questions (of current policies touching immigration, race and many other things) instantly causes classification as a Nazi. This seems to support Bowden’s idea that the ‘European grammar of self-intolerance’ is an ideological tool turned against self-defitnition and perhaps also ‘self-protection’. Additionally, and once again: ‘It all seems – ideologically – to extend out of discourses that tie back to the last great war’.
The Left, to speak quite generally, constructs a discourse which arises out of and resolves into so-called Frankfurt School Marxist ideology, and thus has a literal connection, even if revised, with Communist states.
Yet the Right (if I am correct), constructs a discourse out of various nationalistic strains of idea and IS connected – whether one likes to see this or not – directly with ideology and intellectual notions with links to fascism, or fascistic definition. The ‘new right’ seeks not to deny the continuity but to explore it. It is as if they are told ‘To think these thoughts is evil, and to entertain such ideas is to sponsor Nazism’. But this has the effect on one hand of suppressing ideas and sentiments which are real (though the editorial focusses on the ‘white lower-middle-class status’ of this GOP political base and notes they have little education beyond high school), but also causing an exploration of the ideology and idea that will not be admitted. Curiously, if one disallows sentiment and thought which one has deemed ideologically inappropriate, one drives it down into lower regions where it seems to fester and boil. Thus the denial provokes in certain ways an eruption.
From the editorial:
“It’s a very ugly political moment, but there it is: The Republican Party is now home to millions of people who would throw out the Constitution, welcome a police state against Latinos and Muslims, and enforce a religious test for entry into a country built by people fleeing religious persecution. This stuff polls well in their party, even if the Bill of Rights does not.”
Having read numerous of the discourses to which he is referring (‘White Identity’ by Jared Taylor is one which expolres directly a substantial counter-argument to the classic radical liberalism of, say, the Times and a general strain of idea which is prevalent all around), I am quite certain that it is indeed ‘an ugly moment’ but I am inclined to understand that it is such an ugly moment because the policies over many years which have allowed an over-abundance of legal and illegal immigration, and which are radically transforming cultural realities, may be said to be very bad policies. Now, the effect of these bad policies is showing up.
Does this all turn into an Information War or a Narrative War with each group, holed up in its tendentious but basically lying narrative, flame each other’s position and render things so confused and chaotic that no one can sort it out?
Curious, isn’t it? To take a position of ‘white identity’ is immediately to involve oneself not quite in illegality but quite definitely in thought-criminality. And I find it interesting, at least, to consider Bowden’s thesis that ‘we are our own enemy’ and the issue is internal and part of the structure of our thinking. Break ranks with ‘accepted parameters of thought’ and you find yourself instantaneously on the outside.
[Beth I have had great fun lately in copying my posts to docs and then having Siri read them back to me! A robot reading a robot. My favorite flavor of voice is the Irish-sounding Siri. They don’t have an Indian-sounding one (like Apu) but imagine this:
‘It all seems – ideologically – to extend out of discourses that tie back to the last great war’
Spoken by Apu!]
No Muslims from the Middle East should be allowed to immigrate to the West. Christians and Jews should be allowed to immigrate. I have absolutely no respect for Islam. It’s an evil religion. I liken it to Nazism. I wouldn’t advocate Nazi immigration either. Call me a bigot. When it comes to Islam, extreme measures are required. I could care less about Muslim civil rights when my Christian brothers and sisters are being exterminated throughout the Islamic world.
“Call me a bigot.”
You are a bigot.
I’m fine with being labeled a bigot. When it comes to evil, whether in politics or religion I will always speak out. Islam is no different than Nazism in its destruction of human life and freedom. My Christian brothers and sisters are enduring genocide under Islamic rule. I will not be silent like the nations of the world when the Jewish people were slaughtered. Those are Christian lands stolen by Muslims. They raped and pillaged in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, etc. I judge a tree by its fruit. I don’t hate individual Muslims, but I hate Islam.
“Call Rush Limbaugh fat, and Marco Rubio a shrimp; call Carly a dog and Megyn Kelly a bimbo.”
And, of course, don’t forget calling Chris Christie FAT for the 10,000th time.