First Up On Anti-Trump Sunday: An Unethical Quote Of The Month

“No more politicians for President!”

— A Donald Trump supporter, on a conservative web site today.

Bizarro has an observation to make...

Bizarro has an observation to make...

I have been reading and periodically shooting down the comments of Trump supporters on a series of websites in my continuing and desperate quest to find a single, substantive, intelligent, informed argument for why anyone should support Donald Trump for President. I’m only looking for one. You would think there would be one. Yet so far, my research hasn’t yielded any more valid that the unethical quote above.Why is it unethical? It is unethical because it shows that the speaker is incompetent at citizenship, and has failed the basic responsibility of those who live and benefit from democracy: understand how the government works, and what leadership in a democracy requires.

No, “He can beat Hillary Clinton” does not make the grade.  First of all, he can’t, for the simple reason that if someone like me, who knows Hillary Clinton’s record and character well, rates ethics and character as prime qualifications for President, and who regards her as approaching Richard Nixon as the most dishonest and flawed individual ever to run for the office (but without his talent and skill), would still vote for her to avoid the disaster of Donald Trump, he can’t beat Hillary. Second of all, it is a Rationalization #22,  “It’s not the worst thing” excuse, and that’s all it is. It is, to evoke “Jurassic World,” like releasing the T-Rex because you want to stop the Indominus. (Actually it is Trump who is the Indominus, the unnatural monster.)

The quote—I could name the writer, but he is no more deserving of special embarrassment than every fool who has voted for Trump so far, and less so than the venal hacks at Breitbart, fanatics like Ann Coulter, and disgraces to their office like Chris Christie—is at the core of the Trump phenomenon, and epitomizes the civic ignorance that brought us to this precipice. Equivalent statements are…

“No more computer nerds for IT!”

“No more athletes for NFL quarterback!”

“No more career military officers for the Joint Chiefs of Staff!”

Only someone who literally has no idea how the government, politics, leadership, legislation, foreign affairs, diplomacy, indeed the world works could believe such nonsense or be willing to express it in public.

How stupid and ill-informed is the quote? Let’s limit the list to five, in the interest of brevity.

ONE: It is used to justify supporting Trump, yet the only shred of an argument for Trump is that he understands some aspects of politics. Those who know what they are saying when they say “no more politicians” should be voting for the ridiculous Ben Carson, who really believes that no relevant experience or skills for the most difficult job on the planet is an asset. Amazingly, as unfit for the office as Donald Trump is, he is better qualified than Carson because he has some political skills. What do people think Trump is talking about when he speaks of “deals”? He’s talking about persuasion, negotiation, compromise, quid pro quo, threats, bluffs, promises and pay-offs, all of which are political skills. Business, the military, the arts, all of these require politics, but the variety of politics is materially different in each sphere, and they do not easily transfer from one to the others. It they did, we would have had other tycoon Presidents in two and a half centuries and maybe a music industry mogul or two.

TWO: Governing and leadership demand the most careful and skillful politics of all, and the longer an individual has practiced it, the better he or she is at it, though, as in all things, some individuals are more naturally gifted than others. The transparently ridiculous fact that “anger” at the failed Obama administration is driving people to Trump shows how little these voters understand Obama or Trump. Obama has failed substantially because he was not an experienced politician, and has no talent for the substantive politics that accomplish things. It isn’t that he is a politician that has caused the mess the U.S. is in, but that he isn’t a skilled or effective one, except when it comes to campaigning.

THREE: Washington, D.C. is a world inhabited by politicians, and the President must live, work, persuade and thrive there. For all the mythology about outsiders and idealistic amateurs, an alien personality with non-governmental skills has no chance of being effective, and a frightening chance of causing chaos, both because of political incompetence and because of the contempt of professionals towards arrogant amateurs. The closest the United States has had to true Washington national political virgins in the office of the Presidency are the generals: Washington, Taylor, Grant and Eisenhower. Even though Grant was smart–about twice as smart as Trump—he found military politics didn’t translate well to Washington politics, and he was eaten alive by the pros and crooks in his own party. George Washington is an anomaly for obvious reasons; Jackson’s not on the list because he had experience in elective office; Taylor died before he could crash and burn (though he was on his way), and overseeing World War II in Europe required Ike to deal with military, international and Washington politics simultaneously. He was a fast learner. Business politics, where Trump’s skill lie, are even farther removed from national leadership than being a general. The United States has never had a President with such a deficit in relevant political experience, and for a good reason: up to now, voters have been smarter than that.

FOUR: Trump has already made one amateurish political gaffe after another that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be dysfunctional in the White House and rapidly self-destruct. The only reason these haven’t sunk him is the Bizarro World logic expressed by the quote: the fact that he makes mistakes that a professional politician would never make proves that he isn’t a politician, and thus is qualified to be President. Or, in the words of Bizzaro I: “Me be going now, Hello!”

This reasoning is the equivalent of someone who believes that MDs shouldn’t be heart surgeons pointing to a series of dead patients from botched operations as proof that an amateur doctor is ready to do a quadruple by-pass.

FIVE: Leadership requires skill; political leadership requires political skills; professionals usually have superior job skills to amateurs.

Meanwhile, the search for a persuasive—oh, never mind persuasive, I’ll settle for non-idiotic— argument for Donald Trump continues.

 

22 thoughts on “First Up On Anti-Trump Sunday: An Unethical Quote Of The Month

  1. A year ago I thought there was some kind of hope for 2016. The GOP bench was deep, while the Democratic bench was…Hillary, who was swimming against a fairly powerful historical current trying to get a third term for one party whose popularity had faded in a second, as is often the case. The GOP would offer statesmen, while the Democratic party would offer…a political underachiever whose chief selling point was her gender.

    Donald Trump was an amateur who wouldn’t last, and the political marketplace would take care of him as substance would win out over celebrity. I was thinking President Walker or President Jeb Bush, as strong executives asserted a new direction after eight years of the wrong one. Both those men, and four other qualified governors, are history, leaving only two senators, both with flaws, one governor who simply tut-tuts and adds nothing of substance, and an amateur who sounds like he is on barbiturates, to stand in the way of the nomination of Trump. The confident assertions that it won’t be him, that he will flame out, that he will overreach, and so on, are beginning to ring hollow, just as the assertions that Mitt could win in 2012 or that the race was closer than it appeared started to ring hollow as the polls said otherwise.

    This morning I read articles saying that attempts to unite those Republicans opposed to a Trump nomination behind one candidate have twice come to nothing, and those Republicans in the Senate that face tough fights have been greenlighted to attack him in the campaign, in effect giving up the White House to save their own political skins. A schism that would tear the party apart after 152 years looms, that was unthinkable a year ago.

    The Vietnam era classic “The Sand Pebbles” ends with a fatally wounded Jake Holman’s last words “what the hell happened?” before he falls dead next to the corpses of polar opposites Lieutenant Collins and missionary Jameson. It can be interpreted as either Holman is that dumb that he still wonders what exactly happened to lead him to this point, or an expression of frustration that everything around him could go so wrong and he could do nothing to avoid it until now. Given his one attempt to take decisive action a few moments before by asserting he was going to walk away from the Navy to be with the girl he loved and protect her come what may, I think it’s the latter, but that decision came too late to matter.

    So, here we stand on the cusp of Super Tuesday, and it appears that the decision to accept Trump as a real threat and take decisive action to prevent him from becoming the nominee comes too late. We in the GOP are faced with some very stark choices. We can fight, and risk tearing the party apart and changing the political landscape of this country, and not for the better. We can try to stay aloof, and risk handing the White House to Hillary over almost no objection. The final choice, like it or not, is to unite behind whoever the nominee turns out to be and try to keep this nation from 4 years of rule we really cannot afford.

    How did we get here? I think we got here the same way we got to Obama, and to Carter, and to Warren Harding. For the past few weeks I have been saying that people are generally biased, partisan, arrogant, lazy, hateful, and immature. All of that comes into play in an election. People are also fairly easily angered, and fickle. They know this country is in a difficult spot, and they all know whose watch it happened on.

    All three of those previously mentioned presidents exploited that anger at the bad place the country was in and promised to fix it. Warren Harding promised a return to normalcy. After two terms of Woodrow Wilson’s attempt to remake the world in his own image, that sounded very good. Carter promised the country he would never lie to the people. After the existential disaster that was Watergate, of course that sounded very good and the country bought into it. After George W Bush led this nation into the won war and lost peace that was Iraq and the economy cratered, Obama’s promise of hope and change sounded very good also.

    The fact of the matter is that none of these great promisers delivered on their promises. Harding allowed a huge amount of corruption to flourish, leading to the Teapot Dome scandal, in which appointed officials openly used their power to stuff their own pockets. Carter turn this nation into a pathetic helpless giant. I won’t repeat what’s gone on over the past 7 years, we’ve all read the news.

    This nation is understandably angry, and Trump has exploited that anger by vague promises to make America great again. What he has not done is produce any kind of specific plan for making this nation great again, other than pie in the sky promises that no one could possibly fulfill, like deporting 11 million people who are here illegally. The visceral reaction is to say yes, I want to make this nation great again.

    Average voters are tired of watching this nation get humiliated at every turn by Russia, by Iran, by Isis, by every nation who understands that the current administration will not take any kind of international action. Average voters are angry at the fact that the promise that they could keep their health plans and doctors turned out to be a bald faced lie, sold to the nation with lies. Average voters are angry that no one seems to be interested in doing even the smallest thing to keep anyone who wants to cross the border into this nation, whatever their purpose from doing that with so much as a cursory examination. The American people are tired of being told what they can and can’t say, can and can’t think, and can and can’t do, at the risk of being labeled a hater, and therefore a person with reduced or no rights.

    This is where the natural inclination to immaturity, laziness, and sometimes outright hate, comes into play. The American people want a solution to these problems, and they want it now, whatever it takes, and no matter who gets hurt in the process. They also don’t care if it is phrased in less than polite terms.

    In fact, because they are angry that political correctness has become such a burden the past few years, they almost prefer it to be expressed loudly, brashly, and bluntly, with a little bit of salty language added. To some degree this is a reaction to hearing Jeremiah Wright say God damn America, to hearing Dan Savage’s inability to finish a complete sentence without dropping an f-bomb, and other loud, brash, but successful voices on the left.

    Like it or not, Donald Trump touches all those buttons. Also like it or not, most of the voters he is reaching are not the kind of people you can persuade by complicated pros or even detailed factual analysis. They are visceral.

    The only way to pry them away is another form of visceral appeal, and the only good visceral appeal that will work at this point is probably fear. If they are made to fear the fact that they will be handing this nation over to the other side because their chosen candidate cannot possibly win, then perhaps some of them will peel away. Whether that is enough to change the complexion of the race remains to be seen. Unfortunately, the only way to produce that fear is to turn this campaign very very ugly.

    Mark my words, this campaign is going to get much worse before it gets better, and there is a distinct possibility that at the end of this year this nation will be more fractured than it was in the wake of the 2000 election.

    • 1. The only way to pry them away is another form of visceral appeal, and the only good visceral appeal that will work at this point is probably fear. If they are made to fear the fact that they will be handing this nation over to the other side because their chosen candidate cannot possibly win, then perhaps some of them will peel away. Whether that is enough to change the complexion of the race remains to be seen. Unfortunately, the only way to produce that fear is to turn this campaign very very ugly.

      This is why Rubio has stooped to calling Trump Mr. Poopy-Pants. Sad. But maybe necessary.

      2. Mark my words, this campaign is going to get much worse before it gets better, and there is a distinct possibility that at the end of this year this nation will be more fractured than it was in the wake of the 2000 election.

      There’s no doubt this is true already!

    • Hey, you guy, the one with the long post at the top of the Comments section: what have you done with Steve-O-in-NJ ? Not that I don’t appreciate the hi-jack, it’s brilliant (and real as shit) but, honestly!

      • Oh, I’m the real me. A right-wing attorney who is looking aghast at the direction his party is taking, indeed, is looking aghast at the direction this whole race is taking. Both parties are not only capable of doing much better than this, this country is in a place where they HAVE to do better, in no small part thanks to the current administration’s poor handling of literally everything.

        Yet the three most well-known candidates in this race are a reality TV show host with an ego as big as one of his hotels and no ability to be even minimally civil, a liar who thinks no rules apply to her and she’s entitled to be President for putting up with Bill and his gross deceit, and a nut who looks and acts like the corpse of William Kuntsler reanimated. None of them are the least bit interested in fixing the still sluggish economy, defeating tyrants abroad, or bringing order at home. They are interested in bending everyone to their will and their vision, no discussion.

        This can’t be allowed to happen. We didn’t go through everything in our history just to hand off to egotistical tyrants.

    • That’s a very incisive look at how this is happening.

      It’s not Bizarro-logic, but merely criminally sloppy thinking. Conventional wisdom holds that “politicians” lie to their constituents and accomplish nothing of substance in government because they can’t overcome each other’s opposition. Donald Trump presents as the opposite: He comes off as entirely genuine (At the risk of desecrating Abraham Lincoln’s memory I’ll apply the quote, “If I had another face, do you think I would use this one?”), and he intends to accomplish sweeping changes.

      On its own, that actually sounds alright, but the sloppy thinking is necessary to overlook two damning points: 1) Most, and possibly all, of what Trump intends to accomplish is a terrible idea and he has no finesse which would mitigate the damage, and 2) as president, he would not legally have the power to accomplish all that he promises, even as good at “dealing” as he is. Not that that deterred Obama, who is terrible at dealing.

        • Granted; either he doesn’t know how the government is spending money and that the deficit will take hard work on everyone’s part to fix, or more likely, he’s lying. I don’t think he’s sloppy when it comes to money. That said, he still appears to be genuine, because he’s an “outsider”, not corrupted by Washington’s duplicity. Corrupted by greed, hubris, and wrath, sure, but not duplicity.

  2. Those times when you find yourself agreeing with everything Steve-O says. Everything. Will wonders never cease. 🙂

    Steve is indirectly raising a question for you, Jack. It’s the need to distinguish between the search for pro and con arguments for candidates, and the empirical reality of what’s actually happening.

    You (Jack) are on record as predicting that there’s no way that either Hillary or Trump will be nominated. I think you are most likely – probably – going to be proven wrong about both those prognostications.

    I’m guessing you got there (predicting) because of your passion for issues like the subject of this post – the search for a compelling argument, any argument, in favor of Trump or Hillary. It’s easy to shift from what ought to happen to having strong feelings about what will happen. But, as Steve-O points out so eloquently, the “ought” argument has lost the day – there’s almost no way that your predictions are going to happen, at least not because of those arguments.

    There are, however, explanations. An explanation is not a justification. Hitler happened, and explaining why and how he happened is not the same thing as justifying it. Ditto for this case. We certainly need explanations.

    What’s needed is more understanding, like what Steve-O is doing; trying to grok what the hell is going on, and what we should all be doing about it. The time for rational argument against him is over – as he points out, nobody’s changing their minds about Trump – or rather, they’re not about to change their minds based on ethical argumentation.

    So, more broadly – if the polls and the Vegas and Ladbrokes oddsmakers are right – what’s an ethicist to DO about it?

    • Regarding Hillary: I’ll concede after I am certain she won’t be indicted. All of my sources in the intelligence community say that they want her hung by her heels, and if Lynch and Obama run interference, they will go public. She broke laws, and intentionally.

      Regarding Trump: I hope, and to some extent think it’s better than 50-50, that the GOP won’t let Trump be nominated.

      So I’ll withhold more until I know what happens. The risk that Trump will win is also a good reason for the Democrats to find someone better than Bernie as an alternative.

      • I of course don’t know your intelligence community friends, and it’s also my understanding that the military and law enforcement communities are not her biggest fans. That said, I don’t think it will ever come to an indictment because the DOJ is in Obama’s pocket and they may have just enough input into the forthcoming report to nudge it to 51% against recommending one. I also think anyone in any of these communities who intimates he is going to “blow the whistle” on Hillary stands a very good chance of waking up to kiddie porn on his computer or one two many zeroes in his bank account and the equivalent of internal affairs already looped in by an anonymous informant.

        • “Those times when you find yourself agreeing with everything Steve-O says. Everything. Will wonders never cease”

          Not just agree, but nominate for post of the day.

    • Jack, on the morning after Trump became the presumptive nominee, I wonder what your thoughts are on this thread of just two months ago?

      The Trump victory in Indiana is being trumpeted (well, on Morning Joe anyway) as a defining moment, a turning point, an historical inflection point, and not just for the GOP but for American politics. I’m inclined to agree. It has upended a lot of formerly-held beliefs, ranging from the power of 30-second ads and oppo research to the role of experience, the beliefs of the ‘base,’ and the role of money.

      The capitulation of Cruz – the final ‘old’ candidate – doesn’t obviate any of your ethical arguments against Trump, but it does raise the practical question again in an even more pointed way – what’s an ethicist to DO about it?

  3. I agree with most of the above analysis… depressing though it is.

    To Jack’s observation regarding the question of Hillary Clinton’s indictment, I have no inside information directly from the IC. But from what I read, there can be little doubt that were it not Hillary Clinton… former First Lady… former Democratic U.S. Senator… former Secretary of State… current favorite to be the Democratic Party nominee for the presidency in 2016… and holder of the keys keeping locked up safe the Obama legacy… she would already be indicted and pending trial.

    This is the problem I see. President Obama has no good choices. He can stand out of the way and let the DOJ do its job and eventually indict Hillary Clinton, thus probably killing any chance for the Democratic Party to retain the White House, and kissing good buy any chance of burnishing his legacy in the coming years. Or alternatively he can kill the criminal referral, no matter how damning the evidence, stop in its tracks any indictment of Hillary Clinton and hope that with the help of a sympathetic media she will defeat a horribly flawed Republican candidate (Donald Trump). As bad as the second choice would be, I am not aware of any legal way to stop Obama from exercising this bad option. It would be a Presidential discretionary call.

    Of course, if Obama kills the criminal referral there will be adverse consequences and no doubt there will be leaks and loud protests coming from the professionals in the DOJ. But if the media chooses to ignore or down play the obvious unethical interference, it really won’t matter. The story will fade and Hillary Clinton will likely defeat Donald Trump in November. Hillary will become the historic first woman president in American history.

    Maybe if Trump gets the Republican nomination, somebody else should do exactly what Trump has been threatening to do and jump in as an independent candidate. If ever an Independent candidate would have a chance to win, it will be under these horrible circumstances.

  4. >b>Politician: 1. One versed in the arts of government; one skilled in politicks. 2. A man of artifice; one of deep contrivance.

    ~Samuel Johnson, 1755

    • POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.

      –Ambrose Bierce

      • Yeah, well your dictionary may be wittier than mine but mine is more sedate, more godly …. um, way more expensive.

  5. While I acknowledge that the presidency is important, there are other avenues of change available to the country, and what troubles me most is that these pathetic candidates are merely a symptom of how those other avenues are dysfunctional.

    The bad news is that whoever becomes president next will probably not be able to improve the socioeconomic problems in this country. The good news is that we could never really expect them to anyway, because that ability can only come from within the socio-economy. (I’m still waiting for a presidential candidate to say, “You want me to fix the economy? You are the economy, all of you!”) The economy isn’t a big pool of money, it’s people and their ability to help each other get what they want. If we want it to get better, we need to make good things and stop bad things. It’s no more complicated than that, and no simpler either.

    Politicians draw not only their power but also their opinions from the people. Most of them aren’t actually leaders, but servants, as it should be. The problem is that their masters are helpless and credulous. In order to get politicians to actually do something, the people have to make it clear that they won’t fall for or accept charades. The only way that will happen is if people are shown how to see through deception and are confident enough in their ability to reject any politician they want, because they aren’t counting on the politician to save them from anything.

    That would be true even if we weren’t looking at a blatantly shameful lineup right now. In a way, it’s better that we have a rallying point for those of us who can see the intellectual depths to which the public has sunk.

    When we change the world, it won’t matter so much who is president, because they won’t be able to stop positive change with mere laws or the low-quality emotional manipulation they’ve been using.

    I’m curious: If we elect Clinton, can we subsequently impeach her for mishandling her emails, and if so, how long do we have to endure whomever her vice president is before we can have another election?

    • I am surprised that many more people in many media have not already been talking much more loudly about whom Hillary will select for her VP.

      One speculation is California Governor Jerry Brown, if for no other reason than to have another character on the on-deck circle like Obama’s Crazy Uncle Joe (Biden). Brown is old, and needs to get out of the way so that Gavin Newsom can climb another rung up the ladder. Another speculation is Julian Castro, formerly mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and current HUD secretary. That would be an obvious maneuver to lock up Latino and Hispanic voters for the Democrat Party at levels of near unanimity like the lockstep-marching zombie droid “Africans,” they of the long indentured servitude on the party’s ever more corrupt plantation. But I suspect that Latino and Hispanic voters will not fall so compliantly into lockstep. They’re a growing demographic that will eventually dominate both parties (should one wish to keep saying there are two parties, per conventional wisdom).

      Hillary will never be impeached, nor will she be indicted. But I will hedge on my prophecy there: If she is indicted, Trump will be indicted also.

      “No more ethics standards for thought leaders!”

  6. If Gen. David Petreaus couldn’t get indicted for giving classified information to his adulterous lover, how on Earth do you justify indicting HRC? I get it that he’s the Hero of the Surge and all that – but of all people he had to know better.

    It’s really hard to get indicted for mishandling information in this country – unless you go wiki leaks. Even then it’s controversial. Not justifying it, just noting that waiting for an indictment is not a high end strategy b

    • You have it backwards. What Clinton did exposed secrets and intelligence to foreign powers. It was worse–every experts I’ve talked to thinks so. Also, a double standard was in place with Petreaus, but he WAS indicted, and had a sweetheart plea deal.

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