I confess that I started to watch the Leslie Stahl “60 Minutes” interview with Donald Trump and his newly-named running mate Mike Pence, but I abandoned ship almost immediately. It was too horrible. Watching Trump (I have a similar reaction to watching Hillary) just makes me depressed, furious, and confused. As John Adams sings at the musical climax of 1776, does anybody see what I see?
Well, I know millions do, but not nearly enough, soon enough. This Republican National Convention is a part of a national tragedy. The only question is how great the tragedy will be.
Now that I have read the transcript, I realize that I bailed shortly before the smokiest smoking gun of the many in the whole interview. This exchange, more than any other in the segment, compels the question to any Trump supporter: How can you possibly want to hire a guy like this to be your leader? Perhaps it is more appropriate to pose a different question, to pose it to the staggering party gathering in Cleveland to nominate this fool: How could you allow this to happen?
I wouldn’t hire someone who speaks and reasons like this to work for me in any capacity, however lowly, requiring trust, judgment or intelligence. It is signature significance as a whole, and in its parts. An intelligent, trustworthy, ethical person could never give such an interview, not in private, not in public, certainly not on national TV.
Here is the jaw-dropping exchange; I’ll mark the important sections A-K for exposition:
Donald Trump: Now look, we are going to get rid of ISIS, big league. And we’re going to get rid of ’em fast. And we’re going to use surrounding states. We’re going to use NATO, probably. And we’re going to declare war. It is war. When the World Trade Center comes tumbling down, with thousands of people being killed, people are still– I have friends that are still–(A)
Lesley Stahl: But we did go to war, if you remember. We went to Iraq. (B)
Donald Trump: Yeah, you went to Iraq, but that was handled so badly. And that was a war– by the way, that was a war that we shouldn’t have entered because Iraq did not knock down–excuse me (C)
Lesley Stahl: Your running mate–
Donald Trump: Iraq did not–
Lesley Stahl: –voted for it.
Donald Trump: I don’t care. (D)
Lesley Stahl: What do you mean you don’t care that he voted for?
Donald Trump: It’s a long time ago. (E) And he voted that way and they were also misled. A lot of information was given to people. (F)
Lesley Stahl: But you’ve harped on this.
Donald Trump: But I was against the war in Iraq from the beginning. (G)
Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but you’ve used that vote of Hillary’s that was the same as Governor Pence as the example of her bad judgment. (H)
Donald Trump: Many people have, and frankly, I’m one of the few that was right on Iraq. (I)
Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but what about he–
Donald Trump: He’s entitled to make a mistake every once in a while. (J)
Lesley Stahl: But she’s not? OK, come on–
Donald Trump: But she’s not–
Lesley Stahl: She’s not?
Donald Trump: No. She’s not. (K)
Lesley Stahl: Got it. (L)
Okay, I just threw up a little in my mouth re-reading that, and now I’m ready.
A. I recently read an essay about how Trump never provides any details at all. It is true that he has been rewarded for this by both his GOP opponents and the news media, who have let him get away with it. Nonetheless, this is con-man-speak. Actually, that is too kind. It is blatantly faking it. It reminds me of the incompetent college choreographer at MIT who unwittingly convinced me to start doing my own choreography as a student performer. He was supposed to stage a number I was in, and he kept saying, “Well, you should do a little dance!” I asked, “What “little dance”?” and he answered, “You know. A little dance.” Only a fake and an idiot assumes responsibility for a job and relies on such useless vagaries. It is signature significance. Doing this says…
- I am lazy, and didn’t prepare.
- I am faking.
- I don’t appreciate the difficulty or importance of the job I am seeking, and
- I don’t have any respect for those listening to me or relying on me.
B. Just an aside here: Stahl’s question is shameless partisan hackery. There was a war as a result of the Twin Towers and Pentagon attacks, and it was against Afghanistan and Al Qida. The canard that President Bush had the United States invade Iraq in response to 9/11 is a direct and intentional lie perpetuated by Democrats for political gain. The news media’s job is to deny and reject such lies, not to endorse them.
Here is the official U.S. rational for the Iraq War, delivered to the United Nations on February 5, 2003. There is but one mention of the attacks of 9/11, and it is the most tangential imaginable: once, Powell refers to a “post-Sepember 11 world.” There is no hint that retribution for the terror attack has any relevance to the rational for the Iraq War.
This is also signature significance. An ethical journalist wouldn’t raise Iraq in this context, and an ethical news department wouldn’t allow it to air if she did. My best possible excuse for Stahl: she was eager to hit Trump with the ensuing Iraq contradiction, and used a cheap and false segue to get there.
C. Here is another example of Trump speaking like a dementia patient….a devious dementia patient. He starts with a deflection—how the war was executed has nothing to do with the decision to start it, then he cuts himself off, and doesn’t have the wit or knowledge to correct Stahl’s false characterization. High school debaters have to be quicker than this, and often are.
D. “I don’t care.” In other words, “Nyah, nyah, nyah!” This is the response of a child when caught red-handed with no defense. Have you ever heard a mature public figure respond “I don’t care!” when confronted with his own wrongdoing, lies or inconsistencies? It’s a purely emotional deflection: intelligent, rational grown-ups simply don’t say that, except under great emotional stress.
E. “It’s a long time ago,” interestingly, is another phrasing of the rationalization named after sociopath/ narcissist/ triple murderer Frank Underwood, the schieming President at the center of “House of Cards”: #50 A, The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past.”
As I have noted here before, Trump is incapable of making an ethical argument. He always, always defaults to one or more rationalization. Trump thinks rationalizations are ethics: Everybody does it, tit-for-tat, they had it coming, it’s not the worst thing, these are not ordinary times—he’s got an extensive supply of them that he relies on again and again.
Incidentally, based on the show, I would vote for Frank Underwood over Donald Trump in a heartbeat. (I’d vote for Frank over Hillary, too.)
F. More vague, detail-free, inarticulate blather.
G. It has been shown, via audiotape, that Trump’s first public statement on the war was to support it. Is he lying, or has he forgotten? When the contradiction of his “from the beginning” assertion was brought up to him a few moths ago, his reaction was “Whatever.”
H. Gotcha!, from Stahl. Is it possible that Trump and Pence never discussed this? No. Did they not expect this to come up? If not, they are idiots, and that itself is troubling. No, they had to know this was going to be raised by Stahl, and Trump, one has to assume from what comes next, said, “Don’t worry, I’ll handle it.” He then assumed he could fake and bluff and double-talk his way out of it. This is signature significance of narcissism and delusion. Trump really does think he’s smart. He thinks he’s smart despite hundreds and thousands of episodes in his life when he’s made an ass of himself, like he does here, because he’s not smart. Yet he still hasn’t learned.
I. TWO rationalizations, and self-contradictory ones, a neat trick. “Many people have “ is a variation of “Everybody does it,” and claiming that he was “right” is Rationalization #3. Consequentialism. Trump is only “right” because the WMDs weren’t found, the war was mismanaged, Iraqis proved corrupt and inept at governing, and Obama withdrew the troops before the country was stabilized, none of which Trump knew would happen when he says he “opposed’ the war. People who reason like this, retroactively judging whether decisions were right or wrong, good or bad, based on how they turn out rather than how they were made are ignorant people, and also people who believe that the ends can justify the means.
Meanwhile, how can “many” Iraq war critics blame Hillary for supporting the war, and Trump still claim that he was “one of the few” to say the war was a mistake “from the start”? Such obvious contradictions don’t faze him, because consistency and logic don’t matter to Trump. He’s just talking. He doesn’t know what he’s thinking until he hears what comes out of his mouth.
J. This is another another rationalization: 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
K. Trump is saying that Pence, who he has asserted is qualified to be President by choosing him as his understudy, should have his vote forgiven, but Hillary should not, without stating any reason for the distinction—because he can’t come up with one. His answer, therefore, is essentially, “So there!”
Again, this is a child talking, and a witless one at that. Even engaged in a hypocritical argument like this, an intelligent, quick-witted individual could come up with some distinction, some way to justify this impossible position. I would have said,
“No, because since that vote, Mike has been a state governor, and a fine one. He has learned from his mistakes, and honed his judgment. Not only has Hillary shown that she hasn’t improved in her judgment since 2003, she botched her responsibilities as Secretary of State so badly that the head of the FBI said she would have been fired if she hadn’t quit first. Mike wouldn’t make that mistake now. I see no indication that Hillary’s judgment isn’t as bad as ever.”
L. Stahl’s response shows that her assignment was to make Trump look bad, not that it’s a difficult one. If Clinton or Obama tangled themselves up like that, Stahl would have made every effort to help them extricate themselves.
There you have it. In one exchange lasting just a few minutes, Donald Trump showed himself to be lazy, inarticulate, dishonest, slow on his feet, illogical, irrational, juvenile and unethical, and there is no other way to assess his performance. No competent, trustworthy individual would be capable of giving such an interview, even once. It is res ipsa loquitur, definitive proof, signature significance, of a candidate who is unfit to lead in not just one respect, but many.
Pointer: Ann Althouse