Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Have You Ever Been Conned? (If You’re a Trumper, No Need to Answer)

We have all been conned at one time or another, and it’s a terrible feeling when you realize you’ve been conned.

The fact that Donald Trump still has as many supporters as he does must make him the most successful con artist ever. But no con artist lasts forever. Joseph McCarthy conned Americans into thinking actors, journalists and professors were communists, but eventually he fell. Donald Trump will fall too, and it’s interesting to see that he’s now employing the same technique of communist fear mongering as McCarthy did. As I noted in my Talking Turkey column on April 9th, Trump’s first and greatest mentor was Roy Cohn, who served Senator McCarthy in his 1950s witch hunt.

The original con of Trump is that he’s a successful businessman. As detailed in numerous books, not just Mary Trump’s, he is, in fact, a serial failure, filing numerous bankruptcies. When he conned banks into lending him millions of dollars which they then lost, he conned them into continued support to avoid their own embarrassment. We still have much to learn, thanks to the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump Organization in New York, especially with regards to Deutsche Bank.

A good example of this ongoing con was an email I received this Tuesday morning from Bob D.  It forwarded an urban legend titled “A Man With a Good Heart” Here it is:

The 14th of June, 1946 is the birthday of a boy born in the Jamaica district of Queens, NYC. In 1995, his car has a flat tire. A black man walking by notices it's owner is wearing a suit. So he fixes the flat. "How can I repay you?" asks our birthday boy. "My wife has always wanted some flowers" A few days later, the black man's wife gets a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a note saying, "Thanks for helping me. By the way,....the mortgage on your house is paid off." A USMC Sargent spends 7 months in a Mexican prison for a minor charge. He is beaten. The man from Queens sends him a check for $25,000 "To get you started." A black bus driver saves a suicidal girl from jumping off a bridge. Our Queens man sends him a check for $10,000. A rabbi's critically ill son needs to get from NCY the California for specialty care. No airlines will fly him. The generous man pays for a private flight for the child. This kind man from Queens commits many other "quiet acts of random kindness." A wise man once said "If a man's heart is good,....Nothing else matters. And if a man's heart is bad,....Nothing else matters." Who is this kind man?...???.Trump. Donald J. Trump,....a man with a good heart.

When I replied to Bob D. with a Snopes link about this urban legend, he replied as follows, which says so much about the victims of Trump’s artistry:

Comrade, Who is trying to 'con' who with your propogandist pap?  Your case of TDS (Trump Degenerative Syndrome) is the worst I have seen! Get over it! Trump won, commies lost!”

A con survives in darkness. As it is unraveled by those who see it, those who don’t see it are told that the truth is not the truth, and not to read or watch those news sources that say otherwise. That strategy is abetted by conservative TV and radio talk show hosts who lend credibility to the con over and over.

To do that, these enablers of the con depend on conspiracy theories, and Donald Trump gives as good as he gets. The Netflix documentary “The Confidence Man” is an excellent documentary about Trump's addiction to conspiracy theories, starting with the "birther" theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

When I responded to another discredited line with a Snopes link, the writer replied simply “Snopes=Soros.” That’s not true either, but it allows the propagators of disproven stories to dismiss the single best non-partisan source of fact-checking.

George Soros, if you don’t know, is a wealthy backer of Democrats.)

What amazes those of us who see Trump for the con artist he is, is how he has been enabled by Senators and Congressmen who do know that it’s a con, but choose to perpetuate it for their own political gain. This will change when continuing to support Trump more clearly spells re-election defeat and/or when Trump is out of office, hopefully in January.

I know Sen. McConnell and his co-enablers know the truth but choose to ignore it, because clearly every Senator and Congressman does read the Washington Post and the New York Times and does watch CNN and the broadcast networks, because that’s virtually required when you’re an elected official.

From the very beginning, we’ve been waiting for “moderate” Republicans to turn on their “dear leader,” but that’s regrettably still in the future — hopefully, for our nation’s sake, in the near future.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

“I’m More Fearful of the Radical Left Than I Am of Donald Trump.”

The above quote really sums up the attitude of those who say they will be voting for Trump in November. That’s my conclusion from reading the large number of emails I’ve received in response to this column — and it’s a direct quote from one of them.
Virtually every Trump supporter admits that the president is seriously flawed, citing the same characteristics which the rest of us cite as reasons to vote against him. “It’s a terrible choice we have this year, but I’ll accept Trump for his flaws rather than let socialists, communists and Marxists take over,” to paraphrase the common theme I am hearing from them.
Democrats are portrayed as tolerating the violence and destruction “in Democratic controlled cities” like Portland, and Fox News is happy to feature that violence on every broadcast.  Trump is clever to send in federal agents, knowing that doing so will further escalate the violence, furthering a narrative that is central to his campaign.
“Defunding police” is an unfortunate term that is portrayed by Trump and Fox as abolishing law enforcement completely — another reason (if it were true) to fear a Democratic win in November. Even when acknowledging that Biden himself opposes defunding the police and is not a socialist or communist, the pitch is that he is senile and will be a puppet for his communist followers represented by AOC and “the squad.” These women of color “hate America” and, according to Trump, should “go back to the shithole countries they came from” — although, of course, they are all Americans. It’s a dog whistle to the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) racism of his core supporters.
What is it about AOC’s and Bernie Sanders’ “democratic socialism” that is so scary to Trump supporters? The right has come to support Social Security and Medicare, government programs attacked as socialistic when they were created.
And what is communist or Marxist about the Green New Deal? It’s about marshaling the resources of free enterprise and government to stem the warming of our planet which is causing increasing worldwide disruption and destruction. Free enterprise is already on board, fortunately, with solar and other green industries booming.
There has been talk recently, fueled by the president himself, that Trump might not accept the results of the November election if he loses. A bigger fear is that his well-armed militia supporters won’t accept it — especially if a Democratic win is considered a Marxist takeover — and we’ll have armed conflict instead of a peaceful transition of power. We can only pray that this doesn’t happen, but the signs are there and the justification for it is being amplified daily by the president.
As a former journalist myself, I am most disturbed by the attacks on the media and the dismissal of solid reporting unfavorable to Trump as “fake news.”  This is a core strategy of authoritarians, to have their followers get all their news from “official” sources and to dismiss anything said by others. What makes it so effective, of course, is that there’s a TV network or two (Fox and OANN) to give credence to the “company line.”  I honor the broadcast networks and CNN for soldiering on and reporting in the face of the verbal attacks, arrests and even death threats.
You can find an excellent summary of this thesis by Fareed Zakaria  (link) on last Sunday's Global Public Square (GPS) program.  In his hour-long documentary, viewable on CNNgo, there’s an excellent and frightening explanation of the Qanon which underlies the right’s readiness to dismiss the growing number of former Trump administration officials, generals and advisors (examples below) who have written books and op-ed articles saying a second Trump term could destroy America. Also check out Frontline’s “United States of Conspiracy," (link) which aired this Tuesday but which you can now watch online. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

It’s Useful to Know the Arguments Trump Supporters Make About Their Man

Researching and writing this column has given me an insight which many readers don’t have into what Trump supporters believe to be true about their candidate and what they are being told about Joe Biden. In addition to sampling Fox News (the primary diet of Trump supporters), I get lengthy emails from readers who are under the president’s spell — and who will remain under his spell no matter what the president says or does between now and the election on Nov. 3rd.

I have identified three principal themes to the Trump campaign strategy — and those themes will continue to work for his unquestioning and sheltered “base.” These themes are reinforced and given legitimacy by the base’s sources of information and opinion — the president’s tweets, Trump-promoting media like Fox News Channel, and emailed memes and narratives which are forwarded unquestioned by millions of Trump followers.  Here are some of them:

The three themes I have identified are: First, that Donald Trump, the “very stable genius,” has kept his campaign promises, revived a stalled economy inherited from Obama, and has been wrongly attacked (and spied upon illegally) from even before he took office. Second, Joe Biden is senile, can’t put two sentences together, and will be a puppet to supporters who are socialists/communists/Marxists (who “hate” America). Third, the country is under attack from out-of-control looters and rioters in Democratically-controlled cities. This third theme is reinforced daily by Fox News, which consistently focuses on this violence and especially on the injuries sustained by police officers. Anyone watching their reports would think this violence is far more widespread than it is and would naturally applaud Trump for sending unidentified federal officers in unmarked vehicles to, in effect, kidnap demonstrators, who they immediately release because they can’t charge them with a federal crime.

Regarding theme #1, I have a few observations. How anyone can buy that Trump is a genius, on a par with Einstein, is beyond reasoning. He says he know more than the generals, more than medical experts, more than experts in any field. He doesn't need or respect scientists on such topic as climate change. Economists have verified that Trump inherited a healthy economy from Obama and that his Tax Cut and Jobs Act (what jobs?) was unnecessary to stimulate the economy and only enriched the wealthy.  Economist Elliot Eisenberg told me, "The Trump years since he took over from Obama were roughly the same at 2.1% growth.  The only difference is that in 2018, growth was better due to the tax cut. Now Trump did some deregulation and that probably helped boost growth but not that much.  Trump’s policies helped a bit at the margin but nothing big."  

Regarding "Obamagate" (the "spying" by the FBI on the Trump campaign), it was prompted by the routine taping of Russians' phone calls, and given their phone calls intercepted with the Trump campaign, of course the FBI should have followed that lead.  If Obama really wanted to put his finger on the scale during the 2016 election, he wouldn't have kept that intelligence secret. Given that Trump won the election, he probably regrets that he kept that intelligence private. 

To counter theme #2, I would like Joe Biden to request a town hall program on Fox News, and speak out if he is denied such an opportunity.  Pete Buttigieg was given that opportunity by Fox and did an excellent job of countering whatever negative narratives viewers may have had about him.  How could Fox justify denying the same opportunity to Biden? Since theme #2 is that Biden is senile and “doesn’t know he’s alive” according to Trump, a town hall meeting would be a perfect opportunity — better than a debate with Trump — to counter that narrative.

And then, of course, there are the conspiracy theories propagated online and in Trump’s tweets, which are too numerous to mention here. Click on that link. 

Although Trump supporters aren’t inclined to do so, I recommend Googling each outrageous claim sent to you, or go directly to www.Snopes.com to get the background and truth.  Whether it’s “too good to be true” or “too bad to be true,” it probably is not true.  

Consider, for example, the above meme about Bill deBlasio. Did he change his name from Warren Wilhelm, Jr.?  From Snopes I learned that, yes, he did, and for good reasons. His nickname was Will, and when his mother divorced his abusive father, she and he took her maiden name. My dad, born Abbott O’Brion, and his mother did the same after she divorced my grandfather, taking her maiden name of Smith. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Why Did Trump’s Top Republican Critics of 2016 Become His Top Apologists?

As John Bolton and others have explained, everything the president says and does is with re-election as his primary consideration. The same is obviously true for his Republican enablers in Congress when you revisit what they said about Donald Trump in 2016, as detailed in this excerpt from chapter 7 of the best-selling book, A Warning:

   New Jersey governor Chris Christie said the candidate lacked the credentials for the nation’s highest office. “We do not need reality TV in the Oval Office right now,” Christie lamented. “President of the United States is not a place for an entertainer.”

Senator Ted Cruz lambasted him as a “narcissist” and “utterly amoral.” Cruz argued that voters could not afford to elect someone so unfocused and social-media-obsessed. “I think in terms of a commander in chief, we ought to have someone who isn’t springing out of bed to tweet in a frantic response to the latest polls.”

Representative Jim Jordan, a leading conservative and one of the founders of the Freedom Caucus in the US House, wished Republicans in Congress had acted sooner to “avoid creating this environment” that allowed someone like candidate Trump to rise.

Texas governor Rick Perry labeled Trump “a cancer on conservatism” and a threat to the nation’s future. “The White House has been occupied by giants,” Rick noted. “But from time to time it is sought by the small-minded -- divisive figures propelled by anger, and appealing to the worst instincts in the human condition.” Perry said the businessman was peddling a “carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense” and that he was running on “division and resentment.”

Senator Lindsey Graham told American voters: “This is not about who we nominate anymore as Republicans as much as it is who we are.” He bemoaned that the party had not taken the long-shot candidate more seriously. “Anytime you leave a bad idea or a dangerous idea alone, anytime you ignore what could become an evil force, you wind up regretting it.” The senator said he would not vote for the man, who he called a “jackass” and a “kook.” Those who know Lindsay understand that he wasn’t using those words lightly. He meant them.

John Thune, one of the top-ranking Republicans in the Senate, expressed reservations throughout the race, but after the Access Hollywood scandal, he said the party no longer needed its candidate. “Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately,” he tweeted in the wake of the scandal, with only weeks until the vote.

Many other elected conservatives chimed in throughout the campaign, calling the Republican nominee a “bigot,” “misogynist,” “liar,” “unintelligent,” “inarticulate,” “dangerous,” “fraud,” “bully,” and “unfit” for the presidency….

[South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney declared Donald Trump is] [one] of the most flawed human beings ever to run for president in the history of the country”  Roughly twenty-four months later, Mick would become Donald Trump’s third chief of staff.

Last week I wrote that readers of this column who support Trump seem reluctant to answer the question, “How do you feel that the man you support is adored by alt-right extremists, white supremacists, etc.”  Three readers responded, but none of them actually answered the question. Here are excerpts, with uncorrected spelling and grammar:

 Tom H. wrote: "It seem to me your one of the left leaning Journalists, I could be wrong but!!! To answers your question: How I do I feel that Trump who I support is adored by people I consider deplorable — white nationalist, neo-Nazis, alt-right racists, and anti-semites.  First, I have absolutely no knowledge of those groups adoring Trump that you have mentioned.  I have never associated with any of those groups nor do I have knowledge of any American conservative having an association with those groups.  It seems perhaps you may have somewhat of an association with them by thinking or believing I or any conservative would.  These groups, after researching them, have very small numbers in their memberships.  My research found very little disruptive actions or behavior that even aroused the Fake News Media.  I believe your question is based on your personal hatred of Trump with no other meaning than to create your opinion and blemish the Conservative party.... Again to answer your question: It’s not the love of Trump but the love of our Country is why we love Trump."

Robert L. wrote: "I would imagine that YOU might likewise be 'adored' by people whom both you and I find not to our liking.  You, too, have little control over their liking or disliking you. I do not question you because of who likes you. Rather, I question you for developing  such an inane theory by which others are berated."

    Tom B. wrote: Your challenge to Trump supporters to justify their support of him in view of the far right extremists who also support him is a false dilemma.  One does not have anything to do with the other.  Just as support by communists and socialists and extreme leftist loonies who support Democrats does not preclude you from also doing so.  Nor does it imply that you identify with or would associate with those groups.    This is not a case of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' I think that the reference to 'deplorables' by Trump and those self-identifying as such is for the most part a mocking and taunting of Hilary Clinton who was beaten by those she so insulted."


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

There’s One Question That Trump Supporters Don’t Want to Answer

Because of this column, I have been blessed with a flood of correspondence (mostly emails) from people who love President Trump.  I respond to every email, resulting in a few continuing exchanges by email with many Trump supporters.

Frequently, when replying to emails from those who defend Trump, I ask the following question, which is universally ignored when and if they do reply.  My question is, “How do you feel that the man you support is adored by people who you probably consider deplorable—white nationalists, neo-Nazis, alt-right racists, and anti-semites?”

Trump supporters accept Trump in spite of his crudeness, his misogyny, his adulterous past, his associating with people like Jeffrey Epstein, his slandering of our allies and praising of murderous dictators like Vladimir Putin, but they decline to comment on how he elicits support from those Hillary put in his “basket of deplorables.” 

I find it interesting that Trump himself, according to multiple reports, refers to his fringe supporters as “the deplorables,” as if he accepts and courts them. But how does that make his non-deplorable supporters feel? They won’t tell me. (Maybe their emails following this column will give me a clue.)

Is it possible that Trump’s non-deplorable supporters secretly like those statements and policies that excite the deplorables?

Could it be that supporting the incumbent president — typically an honorable thing to do — is a socially acceptable way for them to express feelings and beliefs that they wouldn’t otherwise share?  To many people. “Make America Great Again” sounds a lot like  “Make America White Again.”  That is, it seems, what Trump’s opposition to all forms of immigration — legal and illegal — is about. Recently he suspended the granting of work permits to all foreigners for all kinds of jobs, not just for picking our fruits and vegetables. 

He expressed it clearly in January 2018 when he said that Norwegians would be more welcome to move to the United States than immigrants from “shithole countries” such as Haiti or African nations. Such language is abhorrent — unless you actually agree with it.

In a previous column, I described how a fellow Realtor supports Donald Trump because his policies — specifically his tax cuts — have benefited her. (She has accepted the spin that it was a “middle-class tax cut,” when those cuts were really just a cover for a vast giveaway to the wealthy.)

I have heard from others who agree with her. Apparently, statements by Trump such as the one above aren’t enough to outweigh favorable opinions of the man based on self-interest.  I prefer to think that persons like my Realtor friend overlook rather than approve of Trump’s racist comments.

I don’t believe that anything, including this column, will convince anyone to stop loving Trump. Their biases and support based on self-interest run too deep.  We can only hope that what the polls tell us is true, that, despite the mud that will be thrown about Joe Biden — “mob boss of the Deep State” — there’s enough revulsion toward Donald Trump, the person, and enough opposition to his racist attitudes, that he will not succeed in winning for himself another term.

As John Bolton has said, our great country can survive one term of Donald Trump, but I’m worried about its ability to survive a second term.


Thank you for your support

Some readers have asked how this column has affected my real estate business. A few Trump lovers have said they will never use Golden Real Estate because of the “venom” I spew. Thankfully, others have said they will now definitely use our agents for their real estate needs. Thanks!


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Brave Psychiatric Professional Diagnoses the Mental Condition of President Trump

It’s easy for non-professionals, journalists and anyone with eyes and ears to label President Trump as a narcissist and pathological liar, but what do mental health professionals have to say about him?

A reader sent me a fascinating 32-page academic paper by Vincent Greenwood, PhD, executive director of the Washington Center for Cognitive Therapy, with the catchy subtitle, “The Substance Behind the Assertion the President Has a Serious Psychiatric Condition.”  Click here to view the full 32-page document, or click here to read a shorter 12-page version of it. It’s worth checking out, whether or not you’re a supporter of President Trump.

The full-length paper is so long because it’s incumbent upon the author to justify his attempt to diagnose someone without a personal interview. Normally, that would be hard to justify, and would be considered a violation of Sec. 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics, which states that it is unethical to offer a professional opinion on a public figure who has not been personally examined and where consent has not been obtained.

Dr. Greenwood, however, cites a 2017 paper which argues that a diagnosis is possible and reasonable when there is substantial information available from the subject himself, from informants and from archival data such as “speeches, tweets, taped interviews, autobiographical efforts, court records, real-time observations, etc.,” which is certainly the case with President Trump. Although Dr. Greenwood doesn’t say it directly, one could surmise that the APA opposes diagnosis of public figures at a distance because of the damage it could do to the reputation of the mental health profession.

In his paper, Dr. Greenwood describes at length the instrument he used to diagnose the president, something called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist Revised, which he describes as a “reliable instrument that yields a valid diagnosis, but also spells out a rigorous process for how to go about making a possible diagnosis. This process involves the collection, integration, and interpretation of multiple sources and types of information. The process is comprehensive and detailed and strives to go well beyond just citing examples of Trump’s more outlandish behavior as definitive proof of a psychiatric disorder.”

So how does President Trump score on the 20-point checklist for psychopathy?  I don’t have the space here to relate Dr. Greenwood’s thorough documentation of each of the 20 items on the checklist. I encourage you to click on the link above for either the 12- or 32-page paper and see how persuasive his reasoning is. Suffice it to say that Dr. Greenwood concludes that the President “is a clinical psychopath (in the moderate to severe range).”

Personally, I was shocked at the severity of the diagnosis, although convinced by Dr. Greenwood’s analysis. Previously I had been convinced of an alternative diagnosis, that of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). On page 26, Dr. Greenwood describes “the low-hanging fruit of narcissism,” noting that many of the nine criteria of NPD “seem to be written almost with the President in mind” and that only 5 of the 9 criteria are needed to warrant the diagnosis. However, Dr. Greenwood writes, “To highlight Trump’s narcissism is misleading because the psychopathic elements of his personality are more central to who he is and how he operates.”

Another and related must-read is A Warning, liked by 83% of Google users.  It is described by Wikipedia as “a 2019 book-length exposé of the Trump administration, anonymously authored by someone described as a ‘senior Trump administration official.’  It is a follow-up to an anonymous op-ed published by the New York Times in September 2018.” It provides countless additional “datapoints” to support Dr. Greenwood’s diagnosis, and is reinforced by what former National Security Advisor John Bolton has written in his best-selling book, The Room Where It Happened.  It is liked by 80% of Google users.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Trump Appears Uninterested in Winning Others Over, Content to Energize His Base

In previous columns, I have shared my belief that Trump supporters are unreachable. (They have been labeled “Cult 45.”) One could conclude from watching Trump’s rally in Tulsa that either he believes he can win over the rest of us or, more likely, that he sees electoral success in further demonizing us and thereby energizing his base to turn out for him on Nov. 3.  What he doesn't seem to realize is that his words energizes his oponents to turn out, too.
Rita and I watched his full speech at the Tulsa rally, fascinated as always at how he appeals to that base. But that base may be shrinking. He was understandably furious about the poor turnout, filling only 6,200 of 19,000 seats, but that was an improvement from how he boasted that attendance at his inauguration was the largest ever. (It was in defense of that claim that Kellyanne Conway made her famous statement about “alternative facts” on Meet the Press two days later, setting the tone for his entire presidency.)
We continue to be intrigued by how Trump supporters are able to overlook his lies, dog whistles to the “deplorables,” scorning of allies and flattering of dictators, obscene language and generally despicable behavior. How would you feel if someone you supported (or just liked) was adored by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, racists and the like? (I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s now-famous September 2016  “deplorables” speech last week, when this column appeared only on this blog.)
Like me, you probably know respectable, college-educated professionals who say they like Trump, and I enjoy conversing with them to figure out why. What I usually find is that they like how his tax cuts benefited them financially — as they did Donald Trump himself. 
One such supporter is a friend of mine, a highly successful Realtor whom I’ve known and admired for over a decade.  She said she supports Trump because his tax cuts have benefited her personally. (She’s far more successful that I am, with 59 closings, two of them over $1 million, in the past 12 months.)  She told me she is willing to overlook his negatives because of that, which I find disappointing.
    There’s another group of non-deplorable Trump supporters that surprises me, because it is in our local Rotary club, to which Rita and I both belonged.  I love and appreciate Rotary for  its “Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do,” which Rotarians recite at every meeting following the Pledge of Allegiance.  It goes like this:
  •  First, is it the truth?
  •  Second, is it fair to all concerned?
  •  Third, does it build goodwill and better friendships?
  •  Fourth, will it be beneficial to all concerned?

As Rita and I joined in reciting the Four-Way Test every Tuesday, it occurred to me after Trump took office, that our president’s thoughts, words and deeds would fail that test. We will never forget when a visiting Rotarian leader gave a talk about the Four-Way Test early in Trump’s reign.  During the Q&A part of the meeting, I thought it appropriate, despite the unspoken rule about avoiding politics, to ask the speaker how we as Rotarians should relate to a president who consistently violates all four tenets of the Test.
The following week, I was told by the club president that “several” Rotarians had complained about me asking that question — although not to me directly. The following week four female members of the club, including Rita, all resigned in protest. I stayed on, but only for another year. I believe in my heart that the vast majority of Rotarians are good people who reject Donald Trump’s leadership or lack thereof.
I considered submitting an article to Rotarian magazine raising this issue, but I never did.  I decided — hopefully wrongly — that it would not have been published, because Trump’s 30% base probably includes many Rotarians, and the organization can’t afford to offend them.  I’m happy to raise the subject in print here for the first time. 
I’m disappointed that any Rotarian thinks the Four-Way Test need only apply to them and it’s okay to support others who blatantly violate it, as Trump does every day.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Thanks, Mr. President, for allowing your supporters to test how contagious Covid-19 is

I hope Trump's supporters appreciate his willingness to subject them to a contagion as a service to the rest of us who believe in White House guidelines about protecting ourselves from transmission. They are truly patriots!

Two weeks from now we should have the results of this human experiment being conducted by our all-knowing president who some accuse of using the rally only to feed his narcissism. It turns out that he knew only his followers would be so naive as to participate voluntarily in this test!

Thank you, Mr. President, for sacrificing the lives of what you hope will be only a small percentage of your voters!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Let's Revisit Hillary Clinton's 'Basket of Deplorables' Remarks About Trump Supporters

Read this and tell me if this doesn't have the ring of truth.  Hillary was pilloried for her "basket of deplorables" comment, but we need to remember the full context of her comments. She didn't say all Trump supporters were deplorable, but who can deny after witnessing three-plus years of Trump's dog whistles to alt-right white supremacists in Charlottesville and elsewhere that enough of his supporters are truly deplorable and that they provided the margin of victory in an election where he only won in the Electoral College? 

Does the rest of America have any remorse for liking a candidate who is adored by racists, white supremacists and other people who the average American would indeed consider deplorable?  

Read what Hillary said two months before the election, taken from a Time magazine posting online, and see for yourself if it doesn't ring true in hindsight:
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well."
Right there is the explanation for why Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and thereby lost the election.  She knew Trump appealed to those voters, but she didn't even campaign in those states, taking those working class, mostly Democratic, voters for granted.

"And there’s so much more than I find deplorable in his campaign: the way that he cozies up to white supremacist, makes racist attacks, calls women pigs, mocks people with disabilities — you can’t make this up. He wants to round up and deport 16 million people, calls our military a disaster. And every day he says something else which I find so personally offensive, but also dangerous. You know, the idea of our country is so rooted in continuing progress that we make together. Our campaign slogan is not just words. We really do believe that we are stronger together. We really do believe that showing respect and appreciation for one another lifts us all up."


Here's another excerpt from Hillary's speech that resonates:

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Trump’s Worst Legacy May Be Modeling His Communication Style to His Followers

Actually, President Trump will have many “worst legacies,” but the one that’s most present for me at this time is how he has emboldened ordinary people to think it’s okay to communicate like him. That’s what presidents do, after all. They become role models for Americans who look up to them.
Let’s look at the role model being demonstrated day in and day out by our current president.
I received a hand-written letter just this week from a reader, who wrote as follows:
Dear Mr. Smith,
I enjoy your column and wanted to say my piece.
Being 89½ years old and a retired R.N., I’ve seen much in my lifetime but nothing like Mr. T. His Narcissistic Personality Disorder disturbs me most. Each time he speaks, all the symptoms come forth: Profound arrogance, hypercritical, public ridicule, no sympathy, a bully.
It is a mental illness and is untreatable. Were he my child, he would have been put in time-out long ago. As you said, his supporters are unreachable and that is baffling. Look forward to reading your thoughts. 
Sincerely, Mrs. Vivian S.
Yes, Vivian, one wonders whether his supporters would tolerate those same “symptoms” in anyone else. Who among them would like a person displaying “profound arrogance," being hypercritical, using public ridicule, evidencing no sympathy, and being a bully?  I doubt any of his supporters like those traits in another human being — any human being — but they accept them in Donald Trump. Worse, they are adopting those traits for themselves.
    Unless your circle of friends includes Trump supporters, you may not witness those behaviors much, but, thanks to this column, I receive emails every day from them, evidencing such language.
    Here’s a recent email from Steve M.:
    You are a lousy journalist.  You cant even spell my name correctly.  No wonder you cant earn a living doing journalism. So you resort to petty name calling and a completely lame attempt to sell real estate.  You or your parents wasted a lot of money at MIT.” (The writer went on at length -- too long to share here.)
Trump supporters, while they admit he’s crude and rude (“but gets things done!”), they deny those symptoms.  One, however, admitted the narcissism this way:
The potus is a narcissist?  Not really startling news! Btw, bho’s picture is featured in the DSM-5 manual in the section defining a narcissistic personality? Trump simply took a page from bho’s book? Why doesn’t bho’s narcissism bother you?
(“bho” is Obama, referred to by another Trump supporter in emails only as “B. Hussein O.”) 
The president also is a role model for lying — even when it’s not necessary. While he said, metaphorically, that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any supporters, it’s just as likely that he could say the earth was flat (okay, metaphorically) and his supporters would accept it as the truth — and Fox News would promote it! 
It’s one thing that supporters don’t think Trump lies, despite repeated evidence of it, but, worse, he’s made bending the truth acceptable by modeling it.
Parents of bullies and the bullied alike have decried bullying in our schools, yet millions of American have learned from “Mr. T.” that bullying is acceptable in adults. This is nothing less than hypocrisy, unless they now accept bullying among school children.
The same for ridicule. Who thinks that ridiculing others is acceptable discourse? Again, it’s being normalized by this president in virtually every tweet. I expect to receive emails ridiculing Vivian S. for her letter above. That’s what they've been taught — by example.
Would Trump's supporters like anyone other than Trump criticizing and ridiculing a newly deceased war hero, as Trump did Sen. John McCain because he opposed Trump politically?
Maybe the tide will turn, now that we are seeing the generals speaking up. And what will we learn from Steve Bannon’s book, due this month or next?
Speaking of books, I’m currently reading A Warning by “Anonymous, A Senior Trump Administration Official,” available for as little as $3.99 on eBay with free shipping. It’s an insightful and scary look inside the Trump White House.  I consider it a must-read!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Washington Post Fact-Checker Staff Publishes Book on Trump's Lies (19,000 to date)

I'm looking forward to reading this book and using it as a reference document.

Here's the write-up from today's Fact-Checker newsletter from the Washington Post:

President Trump has surpassed 19,000 false and misleading statements, according to the latest update of our database, covering all of his presidency through May 29.

The number may seem daunting, but our new book debunking the president’s greatest deceptions in his first three years in office provides a great road map to the universe of claims.

“Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth,” published by Scribner this week, methodically debunks a host of statements and tweets the president has made on the economy, immigration, foreign policy, his impeachment, the Russia probe, the coronavirus pandemic and more. It’s available in print, e-book and audiobook.

We talked about the book and took questions from readers this week in an online video chat hosted by the Washington bookstore Politics and Prose. Catch up on YouTube with a recording of the event here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Trump's "Enemy of the People" Rhetoric Led to Police Assaults on Reporters

Maybe you have seen the footage of TV reporters and their crews being targeted and even arrested while covering the demonstrations and rioting which followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

I'm waiting for someone to suggest that assaults by police officers on reporters displaying press credentials is the logical and inevitable result of President Trump's declaring that the mainstream media are the "enemy of the people."

As a long-time journalist myself, the CNN program "Reliable Sources" (Sunday at 9 a.m.) is a must-watch for me, and their nightly email newsletter is a must-read.  You can subscribe to it here

Here's an excerpt from the Tuesday, June 2nd, Reliable Sources newsletter:

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker says it has counted 211 "press freedom violations" since the start of the George Floyd protests, which in some cases have led to riots. The group's records show "33+ arrests, 143 assaults (118 by police, 25 by others), 35 equipment/newsroom damage."
This huge total # of infringements is partly a reflection of the sheer scope of the unrest... but it also an indication of something sinister at work. Many of the affected journalists have said they felt targeted. Tuesday's letter to Minnesota authorities addressed that: "In every case that we are aware of, there are strong indications that officers knew the journalist was a member of the press."

Words matter, especially from the President of the United States.  Since 32% of the general population is Trump's "base," which accepts as truth what their "great leader" says, it only makes sense that 32% of police officers, more or less, are part of his base, too, and have blindly accepted Trump's statement that journalists (except from Fox News, of course) are the enemy of the people.  It makes sense that some of those pro-Trump police officers would feel justified in attacking a journalist who embeds himself or herself in a demonstration. It only makes sense that a paramilitary officer would feel justified in attacking or arresting an "enemy of the people." 

We saw this same dynamic at work earlier in Trump's reign.  His anti-immigrant and anti-minority "dog whistles" emboldened white supremacists and other alt-right members to come out of hiding and participate openly and blatantly in such demonstrations as the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, where they carried torches and chanted "Jews Will Not Replace Us!"  These people always existed in society, but it was only when the President of the United States started "speaking their language" that they felt comfortable making their feelings known.

I mentioned the Charlottesville rally in last week's "Talking Turkey" column and got several emails and a few letters from Trump supporters, one of whom made a point of defending Trump's statement that there were "many fine people" among the alt-right and white supremacist demonstrators.  Here's a paragraph from Jane W.'s email:

When you refer to the statement about “many fine people” during the Alt right and Antifa demonstrators’ in Charlottesville what do you think these peoples’ “day jobs” were?   These demonstrators may have carried around their “torches” when they were demonstrating – but probably were wearing business suits and holding very important positions and jobs in their communities (fine people to those that work with them and know them-they probably don’t know their “dark” side)?  I would bet that among these demonstrators there were upstanding citizens in their communities, maybe they were leaders, business men, church goers, PTA officers, teachers, city council members – fine people respected by their communities when they are living their daily lives. (Remember the democrats KKK when very prominent men would dress up and terrorize and kill colored people – wearing hoods, of course so they were not recognized, but undoubtedly considered “fine people” when their robe and hood was off.)

Yes, and some of them may have been police officers -- very fine police officers, when among fellow white people.

And that's the problem, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Forgiveness Is an Important Trait, and Trump Supporters Get to Practice It a Lot

I have detected a common theme in the writings of Trump supporters, one that is also present in his campaign advertising.  It goes something like this: “Yes, the man is crude, rude, and even obscene, but he gets things done.” As good Christians, which most of his supporters are, they forgive him his flaws and, after all, Jesus died for his sins, too. You’ll recall that one reader whom I referred to as “Mary” compared him to Einstein, noting that all geniuses (even stable ones like Trump) have flaws.
Donald Trump certainly does exercise his innate flaws, giving his supporters plenty of opportunity to practice forgiveness.
They forgive him — if not praise him — for saying that there were “many fine people” among the alt-right demonstrators in Charlottesville who marched with torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” even though one of them killed a young woman by driving his car into a crowd of people protesting those “fine people.”
They obviously have forgiven him for the Access Hollywood tape and for getting his fixer, Michael Cohen, to pay off a porn star — and then forgave him for lying about it.
They forgive him — or perhaps believe him — for saying that he knows more than the generals about military matters and more than all 17 intelligence agencies about Vladimir Putin.  They also forgive him for having Michael Cohen negotiate a Trump Tower Moscow during the 2016 campaign, which probably explains why Trump never criticizes Putin.  And, oh yes, they forgive him for attacking many of our allies while praising many dictators.
They forgive him, I guess, for having a one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki with only an interpreter present and then confiscating the interpreter's notes. What did they discuss?  Real estate?  And why haven't the Democrats made more of an issue of this?
They forgive him for being a compulsive liar — or, worse, think he always tells the truth. All politicians lie, they say, so you have to forgive him for misstatements. They say that Obama lied too, but, coincidentally, every one of them cites the very same lie from Obama that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”  Find some new ones!
They forgive him — even like him — for using  “locker-room language” to describe those who don’t like his policies. If he were a U.S. Senator and spoke like that in a chamber where Senators still address each other as “the gentleman from Texas” or “the gentle lady from Minnesota,” he’d be censured or even expelled, but his Senate enablers instead praise Trump, lest he endorse a primary challenger.
They forgive him for his constant and ongoing bullying on Twitter.  I wonder whether Melania Trump, who has made online bullying her issue, forgives him. We'll probably only know after Trump leaves office. 
After writing several “Talking Turkey” columns about the unwavering support President Trump enjoys and concluding that members of his base are “unreachable” through logic, reason or the recitation of facts, I have received many emails from Trump supporters who resent that conclusion and contend that we who oppose Trump are the unreachable ones who ignore facts and believe lies.
All of this has taken me back to school, it seems. I have been reading about “confirmation bias,” an academic term which Wikipedia defines as “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or supports one's prior personal beliefs or values.” Everyone, it seems, suffers from confirmation bias, so the question is what are one’s “personal beliefs and values.”  Fox News and talk radio feed the confirmation bias of Trump supporters. 
Currently I’m reading The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, a 2012 social psychology textbook by Jonathan Haidt.  It is very enlightening but also very discouraging, in that I’m learning exactly how easy it has been to divide America and how hard it will be to bring us back together. The first part of the book is filled with academic details which I found difficult to follow at times, but his explanation of confirmation bias made sense. Wikipedia’s entry is much more readable!