In many ways, President Trump behaves just how poor people imagine rich people do — with garish, ostentatious displays of wealth, imperiousness toward the common folk and disregard for the rules others must follow. He and his staff also act how dumb people imagine smart people behave. Trump talks in circles, repeating stock phrases so as to deflect any questions that might reveal his ignorance. (Heaven forbid someone should ask him what was in the House health-care bill). He says he has a very good brain, something people with very good brains never say….
Speaking of comical dunces, Anthony Scaramucci seems to have styled himself as a character out of “Goodfellas.” (Sweetheart, Sarah, fix the makeup. Love you press guys — bye bye!) He’s an imitation of a tough guy. (Goin’ whack those leakers — them or me.)
….This clownish performance is now a familiar one in Trump’s administration — arrogant man, well out of his depth, whose hunger for the limelight exposes his own stunning lack of judgment and gravitas.
I believe that most people are sharp (and that there are very few dull people), but Rubin has this right: Trump must be how dumb imagines smart, how ignorant imagines knowledgeable, and how vulgar imagines tasteful.
Adam Khan, writing at @Khanoisseur, has an answer for why Trump was able to prevail, despite myriad political & personal failings. Khan’s answer explains part of Trump’s success (and on the national front, I think he’s chiefly right):
Locally, however, in places like Whitewater there never was much investigative journalism, and newspapers became incurious boosters of small-town notables long before the Great Recession.
There’s something sad about local groups that believe (or at least pretend with apparent conviction) that adopting Babbitt‘s boosterism is a ‘visionary’ development. It’s an imaginative result only if one looks ahead believes that grandiose claims, dodgy data, an anti-market outlook, and nativist policies could possibly represent a hopeful future.
More than a few town notables in places like Whitewater paved the way for Trumpism. They made this possible. See, along these lines, The National-Local Mix (Part 2). Those of us in an implacable resistance have much work hard work, and likely many hard losses, before we prevail in opposition.
When we do, Trump will go, and Trumpism with him. More than that, however: the causes of Trumpism in places like Whitewater will go, too.
About eighteen months ago, thinking only of these earlier causes, I wrote in reply to a prominent social & political figure in town, predicting that ‘not one of those practices will endure to this city’s next generation.’
Whether she believed this, I don’t know, and candidly it matters not at all what either of us believes.
Hard to believe but true: the official White House Daily 1600 (a daily briefing @ https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600daily) touts a Washington Post satirical essay mocking Trump’s budget approach as though the essay were favorable (as of 11:37 AM ET).
Anyone who bothers actually to read the essay – anyone able to read English – would know that Petri’s work is a joke, and mocks the Trump budget plan.
Consider just a few sections from her slam of Trump’s budget:
This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate….
Agriculture Department: NO MORE OF THIS NAMBY-PAMBY “GATHERING” NONSENSE. We will be HUNTERS again. This is also why we are cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children: Let them FIGHT for their meat or have NONE…
AMERICA WILL BE STRONGER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN! Anyone who survives will be a gun covered in the fur of a rare mammal, capable of fighting disease with a single muscular flex. RAW POWER! HARD RAW POWER GRRRRRR HISSS POW!
It will be great.
Imagine hiring a White House staff so lazy or so incompetent that it places on the executive office’s own website paragraph after paragraph deriding the chief executive’s plans. They’ll take it down, to be sure; their problem is that they put it up in the first place. Trump declared that upon taking office he was “going to surround [himself] only with the best and most serious people.”
Frum draws a distinction between personal service to Trump and government positions that are removed from the president:
A law-abiding person will want to stay as far as possible from the personal service of President Trump. As demonstrated by the sad example of Press Secretary Sean Spicer spouting glaring lies on his first day on the job, this president will demand that his aides do improper things—and the low standards of integrity in Trump’s entourage create a culture of conformity to those demands.
After considering service at different levels within the government, Frum concludes with two questions for a potential applicant. They’re both important, but it’s the second one of the two that’s truly telling (my emphasis):
So maybe the very first thing to consider, if the invitation comes, is this: How well do you know yourself? How sure are you that you indeed would say no [to injustices]?
And then humbly consider this second troubling question: If the Trump administration were as convinced as you are that you would do the right thing—would they have asked you in the first place?
It’s tragically plain: what Trump expects of others a just man or woman would never do.
In a confirmation hearing, one might face tough questioning, and those tough questions might – understandably – trip up a nominee. What shouldn’t happen, to someone of normal ability and proper preparation, is to stumble over simple, straightforward questions.
That’s what happened to Trump nominee for secretary of education Betsy DeVos: she stumbled (indeed, almost threw herself to the ground) over direct questions that a capable nominee could have answered: (1) about her wealth, (2) about the difference between growth and proficiency, and (3) about guns in schools. A more capable nominee could have managed these questions easily; she’s not that nominee.
Sen. Sanders asks about DeVos how she became Trump’s nominee:
Sanders: “Okay. My question is, and I don’t mean to be rude. Do you think, if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?”
DeVos: “Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility. I’ve worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last almost 30 years to be a voice for students and to empower parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, primarily low-income children.”
How she should have answered: Avoid answering with ‘would be that possibility’; begin with a detailed list of accomplishments in the very first words of her reply, e.g., “There are x contributions that I’ve made to education in this country, and I can list and describe them all, in order, to you now…”
Sen. Franken asks DeVos about the difference between growth and proficiency (where proficiency is hitting a benchmark and growth is about progress from one level of ability to another):
DeVos: “I think, if I’m understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would also correlate it to competency and mastery, so that each student is measured according to the advancement they’re making in each subject area.”
Franken: “Well, that’s growth. That’s not proficiency. I’m talking about the debate between proficiency and growth and what your thoughts are on that.”
How she should have answered: DeVos should have known – and made clear she knew – the difference between the two ways to measure progress; contending that she was just clarifying Franken’s question doesn’t mitigate the obvious truth that she didn’t see the distinction between the two. (Franken clearly does understand the difference, so she’s not clarifying his words, she’s making her own error). She either truly doesn’t know the difference, or lacks the intellectual ability or composure to comprehend a question in a formal setting.
Sen. Murphy asks about guns in schools:
Murphy: Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?
DeVos: That is best left to locales and states to decide. If the underlying question is—
Murphy: You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?
DeVos: I will refer back to [Wyoming] Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wapiti, Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.
How she should have answered: Anything but this. Referring to a senator’s remark about wildlife doesn’t help here. Candidly, she would have been better off contending that guns were useful to defend against Martians: at least she might have been able to later say that she was joking.
Contending that guns in schools are needed to defend against wildlife is world-class buffoonery. A defense, if any, would have to talk about human threats and emphasize limitations to assure those possessing guns were well-trained. The problem here is that there are very few parents who will accept that well-trained means someone other than a police officer. She would have been better off to advocate for more police; even then, there are legitimate concerns about the quality of police training in communities that hire poorly and skimp on training costs.)
Her position is a hard political one to hold in any event, but talking about grizzlies is simply embarrassing.
Trump promised America that he would hire the “best people“; in DeVos he’s picked someone either too dim or too lazy to represent herself adequately, to a level that the vast majority of her fellow citizens easily meet each day.
Donald Trump insists that he uses ‘the best words‘ and that he will only hire ‘the best people.’ Turns out, some of those best people have found the best words not of their own expression, nor even of Trump’s, but of third parties from whom they have liberally plagiarized:
Monica Crowley, President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s pick for a top National Security Council job, plagiarizednumerous passages in her Ph.D. dissertation, Politico Magazine has found.
An examination of the dissertation and the sources it cites identified more than a dozen sections of text that have been lifted, with little to no changes, from other scholarly works without proper attribution. In some instances, Crowley footnoted her source but did not identify with quotation marks the text she was copying directly. In other instances, she copied text or heavily paraphrased with no attribution at all.
We’re early in this new political era, with a long time ahead of us, and there’s a need to get a sense of one’s bearings. (The sound way to approach the new politics that has overcome America through the three-thousand-year traditional of liberty to be found in many places, the Online Library of Liberty being only one. But that’s the reading and study of a lifetime; there are essays contemporary to us that are both useful and readily distilled.)
These recent essays and posts consider, or a useful to understand, the incipient authoritarianism of America’s next administration. They are a good basis for a beginning, for a distillation of one’s thinking.
if Trump is having trouble finding Latinos willing to serve in his administration, for fear of being labeled an “Uncle Juan” or a vendido (sellout), he has only himself to blame. His rhetoric has made his persona, brand, and administration toxic to many Latinos. An Associated Press review of the Trump Organization found few Latinos or other minorities in senior leadership roles. Trump refers to Latinos as “The Hispanics” and his idea of Latino outreach during the presidential race was tweeting a picture of himself eating something called a “taco bowl.”
Maldonado is the latest in a parade of names Team Trump has floated for USDA, a chaotic process that I last updated here. In California politics, Maldonado is seen as a fallen prodigy. His political career peaked in 2009, when then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed the then-state senator as lieutenant governor. Less then a year later, Maldonado’s campaign to retain that office failed miserably. Since then, he has made unsuccessful bids for a seat in the US House and governor.
In 2016, Maldonado reportedly pitched himself as a potential reality TV star. Here’s The Sacramento Bee:
A video compilation that has rocketed around the Internet recently opens with an apparent working title: Meet the Maldonados. In it, the former state legislator and unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate can be seen drinking wine with his daughter, asking his son about having a condom and laughing after his wife informs their daughter that “we watched porn when you were conceived.”
At one point, a horse starts relieving itself in Maldonado’s house. “Yeah, Sacramento’s better than this,” a flustered Maldonado mutters as he cleans up.
Still, Trump has jobs to fill, and so he’s gone from promising only the best people to searching among the tares to see what he can find.