The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Qualifications for president

Via Fallows, I'm now reading the transcript of Donald Trump's recent meeting with the Washington Post editorial board. It's...I don't even know how to describe it. He makes no sense. Example, from early on:

[Fred] HIATT [WaPo editorial page editor]: The root of many people’s unhappiness in Baltimore was the perception that blacks are treated differently by law enforcement. And the disproportionate – do you think it’s a problem that the percentage of blacks in prison is higher than whites, and what do you think is the root of that situation?

TRUMP: Well I’ve never really see anything that – you know, I feel very strongly about law enforcement. And, you know, if you look at the riot that took place over the summer, if that were stopped – it all, it mostly took place on the first evening, and if that were stopped on the first evening, you know, you’d have a much nicer city right now, because much of that damage and much of the destruction was done on Evening One. So I feel that law enforcement, it’s got to play a big role. It’s got to play a big role. But that’s a pretty good example, because tremendous amounts of damage was done that first evening – first two evenings, but the first evening in particular. And so I’m a very strong believer in law enforcement, but I’m also a very strong believer that the inner cities can come back.

HIATT: Do you see any racial disparities in law enforcement – I mean, what set it off was the Freddie Gray killing, as you know. Is that an issue that concerns you?

TRUMP: Well, look, I mean, I have to see what happens with the trial. I—

HIATT: Well, forget Freddie Gray, but in general, do you believe there are disparities in law enforcement?

TRUMP: I’ve read where there are and I’ve read where there aren’t. I mean, I’ve read both. And, you know, I have no opinion on that. Because frankly, what I’m saying is you know we have to create incentives for people to go back and to reinvigorate the areas and to put people to work.  And you know we have lost million and millions of jobs to China and other countries. And they’ve been taken out of this country, and when I say millions, you know it’s, it’s tremendous. I’ve seen 5 million jobs, I’ve seen numbers that range from 6 million to, to smaller numbers. But it’s many millions of jobs, and it’s to countries all over. Mexico is really becoming the new China. And I have great issue with that. Because you know I use in speeches sometimes Ford or sometimes I use Carrier – it’s all the same: Ford, Carrier, Nabisco, so many of the companies — they’re moving to Mexico now. And you know we shouldn’t be allowing that to happen. And tremendous unemployment, tremendous. They’re allowing tremendous people that have worked for the companies for a long time, they’re allowing, if they want to move around and they want to work on incentives within the United States, that’s one thing, but when they take these companies out of the United States. Other countries are outsmarting us by giving them advantages, you know, like in the case of Mexico. In the case of many other countries. Like Ireland is, you’re losing Pfizer to Ireland, a great pharmaceutical company that with many, many jobs and it’s going to move to Ireland.

What...the...fuck is he talking about? Incoherent doesn't seem strong enough a word. The lack of thought, the lack of knowledge, the lack of any ability to discuss a real problem in a real way should be completely disqualifying.

But after the Republican Party has spent 50 years hammering into people the idea that coherent, reasoned, informed thought doesn't get the job done (and by extension, education is worthless and fast-talking liberals are trying to win one over on you), this was kind of inevitable, wasn't it?

Trump's woman troubles

Skipping Mitt Romney's dig that Trump's wives have been foreign-born because "there are jobs that Americans won't do," it's becoming obvious that Trump has a problem with women mocking him. New Republic's Jeet Heer explains:

An old-fashioned sexist boor, Trump tends to divide the world into a simple binary: men are rivals to be bested and women are potential sexual conquests. When he’s confronted by a strong, assertive woman outside the mating arena, his synapses tend to short-circuit, leading him to odd and often self-destructive behavior. Before Carly Fiorina’s presidential bid fizzled out, she was the only Republican who had managed to faze Trump at all. He walked back his initial attempt to insult her looks and found himself booed by the debate audience on November 10 when he snapped, “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?”

If the presidential contest does become a battle between Clinton and Trump, Clinton is likely to enrage Trump in much the way previous women have. This suggests a strategy of using the red cape of gender to enrage the bull-headed Trump—the better to get him to make mistakes that will prepare him for the slaughter. 

Trump’s problem with women is not just personal, of course, but political. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, half of American women have a “very unfavorable” view of him, which has led The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman to argue that Trump could face “the largest gender gap in history” in his race against Clinton.

That's a problem with running a campaign on instinct, and with a narcissism bordering on delusion (but on the other side of the border than most people). It shouldn't be too hard to goad him into a "self-destructive rage that will destroy his presidential aspirations," as Heer says. He's already come close enough.

During a four-hour WebEx session...

Stuff to read later:

OK, conference call is ending. Time to perambulate the pooch.

Turning mental illness into a nomination for President

I think we can all agree that Donald Trump believes everything he says. Either he's a genius bullshitter or he has narcissistic personality disorder. It doesn't really matter in the end, but James Fallows still tries to sort it out:

A reader makes what may by now be an obvious point but is still worth reckoning with. He was responding to the post in which I noted Trump’s combination of masterful TV performance and near-total ignorance of the actual job and challenges of being president.

Imagine going through life with the conceptual framework that you simply cannot be wrong. Facts would cease to matter, and education would largely be irrelevant, because you're the one who determines what is and isn't true. In fact, people who claim to have expertise would become the enemy because they would provide information that would exist outside of yourself. If everything you say is the ultimate, universal truth, than anything that exists outside of yourself must be deception.

I think that Trump earnestly believes every single thing that comes out of his mouth, and that the reason his beliefs seem to change is because his reality is fluid.

Sounds about right. But then again, Scott Adams could also be correct. Either way, having this man so close to becoming president scares me more than any of the usual knaves and rogues the GOP has nominated would have.

And there's this:

Articles to read while waiting for my next online meeting

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won their respective Illinois primary elections yesterday. And in other news:

Time to write some documentation. Whee.

When the steaks were lower

Think Progress grinds through the history of Trump Steaks™:

Reporters from Home magazine, Gourmet magazine, People, New York Daily News, and Every Day with Rachael Ray showed up to the launch, which featured speeches by both Levin and Trump. Trump took the opportunity to boast of the steaks’ quality, telling reporters that the product was going to be a boon for the company, equivalent to Trump Vodka, which had launched just a year earlier.

The steaks were only available for mail order, and ranged from the Classic Collection, which cost customers $199 for two filet mignons, two cowboy bone-in rib-eyes and 12 burgers, to $999 for 24 burgers and 16 steaks.

But despite the rash of media attention, [Sharper Image CEO Jerry] Levin said, the steaks just didn’t sell.

Not all reviews of Trump Steaks were bad. Sharon Dowell, former food editor for the Oklahoman, called the steaks “tender, juicy and absolutely among the best-tasting steaks I’ve cooked on my home grill.” The New York Post gave them a 7.5 out of 10, noting that it was “an undeniably good steak” — but still three times the price of another steak that they gave a 7 to in the same taste test. Gourmet, in their taste test, were less effusive, calling the steaks “edible, but not particularly good.”

Martha Stewart, however, had perhaps the most unique response to Trump Steaks. In an interview with Joan Rivers, the lifestyle mogul and former Apprentice contestant replied “Too bad!” when Rivers said that the steaks weren’t actually from a slaughtered Donald Trump.

This person is the front-runner for leadership of the Republican party.

How Trump behaves in private Chicago business deals

Not surprisingly, he behaves like a dick:

Though Trump is pitching himself to voters as a dealmaker who wins, the 12-year drama of the Trump International Hotel & Tower offers a more complicated narrative. While it reinforces his preferred image as a bold risk-taker and consummate salesman, it underscores his darker reputation as a bullying businessman willing to back out of deals and trash the competition when it's convenient. And that big TRUMP sign on the front of the building fits perfectly with the caricature of the developer as a narcissist and braggart.

Altogether, buyers of 43 condos—32 residential units and 11 hotel units—took advantage of [a 10% discount "friends and family"] deal, a group that included attorneys at DLA Piper, Trump's law firm, and architects at Skidmore Owings & Merrill, which designed the skyscraper. Some buyers demanded that Trump honor his original deal, and Trump backed down. Others were unwilling to jeopardize a valuable business relationship and simply accepted Trump's new terms without a fight.

Trump took on another group—his financial backers. Unable to pay off a maturing construction loan from a bank group led by Deutsche Bank, he sued them in 2008 for more time, citing a “force majeure” clause in his loan agreement. Such clauses are designed to give borrowers relief in the case of unforeseen, cataclysmic events, like floods or wars, but Trump argued that the financial crisis qualified. He also sought $3 billion in damages.

That a good 25% of American voters support this guy turns my stomach. But evidence about how he behaves, and how he repeatedly tries to screw his counterparties on deals, actually boosts his standing among those voters. Regardless of the outcome of this election—I'm hoping for something like the Whig implosion of 1852—it speaks poorly of our country that he's got this much support.

Authoritarian, phony, and probably going to win

Esquire's Charles Pierce is glad Trump is looking after "shitkickers like you," but he worries that stopping Trump will take more than just a moderate Republican:

The only way to stop He, Trump is not, as the Boston Globe so tragically suggests today, to have unenrolled people pick up the Republican ballot and vote for John Kasich. I can't think of a more impotent suggestion than that. In the general scheme of things, Kasich is worse off than either Cruz or Rubio and, also in the general scheme of things, no thinking Republican believes that the Commonwealth (God save it!) is important in any way at all. It's like a Democratic operative suggesting that his voters finagle with the results in, say, Mississippi. Come November, the Republicans could put up Zombie Abraham Lincoln Christ and still lose Massachusetts.

No, the only way to stop He, Trump is to give up on the twin fictions that have given him life—that government is something alien to us, instead of being the political manifestation of the popular will, and that elections are purely entertainment. The only way to stop He, Trump is to re-engage as citizens of a self-governing republic again, to realize that politics matter and that voting is more than an excuse for the PTA to run a bake sale. It is not time to make America great again. It's time to make America America again. 

Meanwhile, his brand of authoritarianism keeps building followers:

Trump’s base of white working-class authoritarians is scared of what they view as a “new” America, one in which they believe that the psychological and material wages of Whiteness will not be as great. A combination of the brain structures and cognitive processes of conservative-authoritarians, socialization by family and community, and disinformation from the right-wing “news” entertainment complex, reinforce those anxieties while also ginning up deep feelings of racial resentment toward non-whites.

Donald Trump is not necessarily the prime instigator or cause of those fears; he is just the Republican candidate who is most adept at manipulating them. Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is a direct promise to restore a world where white folks are central to all things in the United States (to the degree that they are not), and their dominance, privilege and power are uncontested.

The worry I have, of course, is that people who aren't conservative authoritarians will vote for him in November. Because it seems obvious that he'll be the Republican nominee. And that's not a guy I want anywhere near real power.

How Trump is leading, and how he will fail

Dan McLaughlin, writing for the conservative Federalist, examines the 2016 Republican primary race in terms of military strategist John Boyd's philosophies:

Boyd’s core insight was about the interactive and disruptive nature of speed on human decision-making: success in conflict can be rapid and dramatic if one can “operate inside the OODA Loop” of the opponent. Operating inside the opponent’s OODA Loop means presenting him with a constantly shifting battlefield that keeps him off-balance and disoriented so he is unable to process information and make and implement sound decisions before the situation changes again.

So, what does this all have to do with Donald Trump? Quite a lot. Few candidates in recent political memory have been so effective at altering the reality around them in a way that crashes their opponents’ OODA Loops.

As a major-party nominee, moreover, Trump would lack the ambiguity he has deployed against Republicans, and in a two- or even three-candidate race, he could not exploit the collective action problems and Hobbesian scramble for free media that have enabled his rise. Indeed, few of the factors that have allowed Trump to trigger fear in his Republican opponents would even apply in a general election, and Clinton’s team would have plenty of time to prepare a counter to the things he has been doing so far.

That’s not to say that Trump’s celebrity and attention-grabbing power would present no opportunity to win (he would only be the nominee if he’d already figured out how to solve the low-turnout proclivities of his natural base), but ultimately, he could not deploy the same approach without major adaptations. Trump would have to prove himself flexible and open-minded enough to the dynamic general election system to attract the necessary 70 million voters. His ability to do so remains very much unproven.

I don't always read the Federalist, but this analysis made a lot of sense to me. It's a long read—and worth it.