Trump can be both a con man and a racist

Scott Adams continues his sad descent into incoherence. Trump is clumsily attempting a general election pivot (a month or two too late), and Adams insists this is creating a “cognitive dissonance trap” for Trump’s critics. Because Trump says he wants to help black people (while grossly distorting and, yes, stereotyping their lives), he’s acting “non-racist” and thus ruining the mental models of those who have turned from him in disgust because he’s racist.
 
According to Adams:
 
“This creates a situation in which the pundits either have to change their self-images and admit they were wrong about Trump all along, or they have to reinterpret Trump’s clearly non-racist actions as racist actions in disguise. Cognitive dissonance happens when people are unwilling or unable to modify their self-image to match the observed facts. In this case, to protect their self-images as wise pundits, they are forced to default to pretzel-like explanations of their reality.”
 
He goes on to say: “The anti-Trumpers have two conflicting mental models of Trump now. Is he a racist or a con man?”
 
But Adams apparently never considered that Trump could be both a bigot and a con man, and that the con is what’s happening now, not what happened during the primary. We’ve seen the real Trump all these months: The Trump who disparaged a judge because of his Mexican heritage. The Trump who proposed a blanket ban on Muslims (even American citizens) coming into the United States. The Trump who attacked a Gold Star mom because of his misconceptions about her faith (“maybe she wasn’t allowed to have an opinion”). The Trump whose campaign assumes black people at his rallies are protestors (even when they’re high-ranking state campaign officials for Trump).

But now, as he’s in a polling free fall, Trump is attempting to project a softer image. (Adams even calls it “The Softening” — which, I have to say, from a “persuasion standpoint” is pretty devastating rhetoric for a 70-year-old man who is oddly obsessed about the size of his hands. Just sayin’.) Part of that softer image includes an explicit appeal to African-Americans — but one always made in front of Trump’s usual lily white audiences, and one made, as I mentioned before, using gross distortions and stereotypes of the black American experience. Not all blacks live in poverty. (Most don’t.) Not all blacks live in violent neighborhoods. (All neighborhoods are much safer from violent crime than they were 30 years ago.) Not all black teens are unemployed. (Too many are, but Trump’s 58 percent figure is grossly distorted; using his methodology, 50 percent of white teens are also unemployed.)

According to Adams, all this is supposed signal that those who saw Trump as a racist and bigot while watching him during the primaries (and, let us not forget, beyond) came to the wrong conclusion. He isn’t a bigot. If he was acting like a bigot, it’s because he was trying to win the Republican nomination (and, yes, that notion isn’t going to help the Republican brand much).

It’s been fascinating to read Adams’ blog and note all of his attempts (which I’m sure he believes are oh-so-subtle) to tweak how Trump is viewed by his readers. My favorite recent example is from the post where Adams attempts the argument that Trump won’t be a disaster because, essentially, he has no principles and will change his positions to match whatever the public tells him. Adams writes: “If you think a Trump presidency – guided by the kindness of the public – would be extra-dangerous, you have been hypnotized.”

No one wants to be hypnotized without knowing it, right? So I just have to rethink my notion that Trump would be dangerous — even though Trump has repeatedly demonstrated he absolutely lacks a presidential temperament and would, indeed, be an incredibly dangerous president.

Sorry, Scott. But your persuasion attempts are falling flat. Maybe you need some refresher courses.

Trump is Tommy DeVeto

Every time I watch Donald Trump give a speech, I’ve been reminded of someone, and trying to figure out who has been driving a little bit crazy. Was it Frank Pantengeli in Godfather 2? Was it one of the Three Stooges?

Then Trump appeared to throw a baby out of one of his speeches. It was astonishing:

Then, later, he claims he didn’t actually throw the baby out. It was a joke, he said, and a Washington Post reporter sitting nearby backed him up. Okay, fine. It didn’t play like a joke. Or if it did, it played like a mean one. What kind of man makes a joke about throwing a baby out of a rally. Well, a man like Donald Trump. But then something clicked in place. Another scene of a guy making a joke that no one could tell was a joke. Was he joking? Or was he serious? No one really knew, and that had life-or-death implications because this guy, well, he has impulse-control issues. Watch below (NSFW language).

And there it was. That association I’ve been searching for all year: Trump reminds me of Joe Pesci, playing Tommy DeVeto, the unhinged mobster who could be baited into violence at the drop of a hat.

This, like the revelation that Trump was only joking about the baby, is not really comforting.

The Republican Party can still walk away

nbc-fires-donald-trump-after-he-calls-mexicans-rapists-and-drug-runnersNot long after Donald Trump clinched the nomination, I wrote a blog post encouraging Republicans not to support him. I wrote:

There have been a lot of Republican leaders who go on and on about how unacceptable Trump is, what a disaster he would be as president. But, then, when asked if they’ll support him if he’s the nominee, they meekly say yes.

If Donald Trump actually becomes the nominee, that has to stop. Republican congressional leaders — who know how awful Trump is — should refuse to endorse him. The party apparatus should refuse to support him. Super PACs loyal to the party should refuse to fund him. Take the lead of the Koch brothers, who have indicated they’ll pour their resources into trying to blunt the down-ticket damage of a Trump candidacy.

Apparently, the Republican establishment is beginning to understand why I suggested that. Trump has proven to be every bit the steaming dumpster fire of a candidate that many predicted. He’s insulting the parents of a war hero who gave his life to save his men because they had the gall to speak out against his unconstitutional policies. He’s refusing to endorse Republican Speaker of the House in a fit of pique worthy of a three year old. He kicked a baby out of a recent rally. He suggested “Second Amendment people” might be able to do something to stop Hillary Clinton’s judges. He accepted the Purple Heart medal offered by a supportive vet, then said, “I always wanted to get the purple heart. This was much easier.”

In other words, Trump has been Trump: Thin-skinned, narcissistic, petulant, childish, boorish, dangerous.

Republicans are actually starting to hope he drops out, though as Josh Marshall pointed out, that wouldn’t really improve the situation all that much for the Grand Old Party.

But some party allies are reportedly trying to stage an intervention to get Trump back on track.

That’s a foolhardy endeavor. Trump is Trump, and he isn’t going to change now. He’s tried before to pivot to the presidential. Each attempt lasts a day or two, then he is compelled to let his inner Trump screaming out on stage.

So I come back to my pre-convention advice: Republicans may be stuck with Trump as their nominee, but they don’t have to endorse him. The party apparatus doesn’t have to support him. Super PACs don’t have to fund him. Trump has said he could do this on his own. Let him try. Salvage what’s left of the Republican brand and sever all possible ties. Paul Ryan can return Trump’s favor and unendorse him. Other Republicans who have bemoaned Trump’s words but begrudgingly maintained their support of the nominee, like Sen. John McCain, should sever their relationship. Let Trump stand or, more likely, fall on his own.

Yes, there will be collateral damage to the party. But that’s inevitable at this point anyway.

The Republican Party is locked into an abusive relationship with Donald Trump.

It’s time to walk away.

 

Scott Adams jumps the shark

13606924_10154405463673588_6014692515529747999_nI continue to be dismayed by the descent of Dilbert creator Scott Adams into a particular brand of alt-right asshole wingnuttery.

He’s turned into a Trump cheerleader (all the while assuring everyone he doesn’t really support Trump, but is just AMAZED by his persuasion skills, but his posts show him to be fully onboard the Trump Train).

And that would be fine. I mean, I’d lose all political respect for him, but I’d still be able to laugh at Dilbert, which has never really been about politics.

But his pro-Trump posts are becoming ludicrous, as I’ve mentioned before. In his latest, he worries that the Democratic National Convention is forcing his testosterone levels down.

The celebration of the first female major party nominee isn’t just a celebration of the advances women have made, Adams argues. If you’re a man, it is a “celebration that your role in society is permanently diminished.” Watching Alicia Keys sing her anthem, “Superwoman” — which, contrary to Adams, does not tell America that women are the only answer to our problems — Adams writes, “I’m fairly certain my testosterone levels dropped as I watched, and that’s not even a little bit of an exaggeration. Science says men’s testosterone levels rise when they experience victory, and drop when they experience the opposite.”

If your testosterone levels can’t handle a song by Alicia Keys, I’m pretty sure you’ve got medical issues. And enabling and empowering women to do jobs they are fully capable of doing doesn’t diminish men — unless they can’t keep up.

Again, I keep hoping this is some sort of blog-based performance art, something akin to Joaqim Phoenix’s rap career.

But I think Adams actually believes his nonsense.

Two Americas

The Democratic convention has been far more substantive than the Trump Show. There’s been a lot more talk about actual policy and ideas to make life for the average person better, and a lot less, “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!”

But beyond that, what strikes me is this: These are people who are having a good time. They’re laughing, sometimes at themselves, like Howard Dean. Sometimes at Donald Trump, like Elizabeth Banks. They’re joking. They’re having fun.

And they’re doing it without calling for Trump’s jailing or execution, or chants of “Lock him up!”

We’re getting a very different vision of what America can be from these two conventions.

One is a dour, forbidding place where few minorities, aside from a few on-stage tokens, can be seen, but where a suffocating fear of The Other hangs over everything like a dark cloud. Where paranoia reigns, and the frightened masses look to one man, a savior who promises that he alone can fix everything.

The other is bright and sunny, where people work through real differences and past transgressions, leading to compromises and genuine reconciliation. Where the focus is on what makes America great right now, and how we all together can work to make it even greater. And this place looks like America, from the genuine diversity onstage to the genuine diversity within the crowd.

I know which America I live in now, and which one I’d like to continue to live in after November.

Trumpism is a drug

No spoilers please, but my wife and I are about eight episodes in to the current season of Orange is the New Black. (So, okay, spoiler alert, if you’re not that far along.)

Nicki and Red just had a touching moment in the shower. Not THAT kind of touching moment, you pervert. Nicki is all sorts of strung out on drugs. Red doesn’t know what to do.

Nicki blearily says something along the lines of, “Bring it on. Blame me. I was always a lost cause. Nothin’ you could do. It was always going to end this way. Tell me how awful I am. Tell me how much I’ve disappointed you. Whatever.”

Red breaks down in tears. She’s got nothing left. Nothing she can say to make Nicki see what a self-destructive, awful path she’s heading down. Red just cries, anguished moans of despair escaping her as she tries to blame herself. She failed Nicki, just like she failed another drug dependent inmate who ended up in an early grave.

That’s how I feel about my conservative friends who, despite all evidence, are backing a mad man for president. They know how bad it is for them, and for us. They know they’re on a self-destructive path they can’t break from. But they can’t stop. And every word I say only feels like its pushing them further into the arms of this despotic madman.

And I want to break down in tears.

I like these friends.

I respect their intellect (except where it’s been blinded by the fear Trump so competently packages and sells). They are compassionate, feeling people, numbed by the drug of hate administered by Donald Trump.

I know they are better than that.

But I know they seem lost. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do or say to get them back on track. Even trying may push them further onto the path of destruction. It is like dealing with a person in the grips of addiction, but instead of addiction to drugs or alcohol, they are addicted to fear: Fear of the brown hordes (that really aren’t) flooding across our southern border. Fear of the radical Islamic refugees swarming from Syria (even though it’s a trickle of well-vetted refugees escaping the Islamic radicals). Fear of the cop-killers (even though far fewer cops have been killed in the line of duty this year than last; and far more innocent civilians have been killed by cops than innocent cops killed by civilians).

So, yes, I want to break down like Red did. And I want to reach them, the way that display of emotion appears to have reached Nicki, who promises Red at the end of the episode that she’s going to get clean.

But (no spoilers!) I kind of doubt that story has a happy ending. I hope it does; but I doubt it.

I’ve got much more faith in Donald Trump losing than I do in Nicki making it to the end of this current season. And his defeat will be a good thing. But it won’t be an ending. Just as Orange Is The New Black will be back next year, so will Trumpism, though it may take a different form, most likely in a different guise.

But America is best when it doesn’t give in to hate and fear. When we concentrate on the things that unite us rather than those that divide us.

That is the spirit Barack Obama called to eight years ago when he took office. And that is the spirit I pray will prevail this year, and every year after in these United States.

Trump is a drug. Trumpism is a drug. But it’s a habit I know America can break. We are better than that.

The real significance of Melania’s plagiarized speech

 

So this happened on the opening night of the Republican National Convention:

This probably won’t be a long-lasting scandal, but it does say several significant things — none of them, it should be noted, about Melania Trump, who did a fine job of reading the speech prepared for her. (I don’t think anyone was supposed to believe her when she said she wrote it herself with as little help as possible.)

First of all, this is a sign of stunning incompetence by the Trump campaign. This speech should have been vetted at multiple levels, and at one of those levels, someone should have thought to go back and compare it to Michelle’s speech, not to check for plagiarism, but just to see what the last successful presidential candidate’s wife had to say at his first convention. No one did. So, don’t just fire the speech writer. Fire whoever checked the speech writer’s work.

Second, Paul Manafort went on CNN the next day and denied there was any plagiarism. “To think that she would do something like that, knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night, is just really absurd,” he told Chris Cuomo. It is absurd — see point No. 1. But it’s more absurd to look at those passages and deny the plagiarism took place. The Trump campaign really does think his supporters are stupid, apparently.

So with this incident, the Trump campaign proved its incompetence, its willingness to lie even when the lie is blatantly obvious and its utter contempt for the intelligence of the American people.

That is an opening night.

From practical jokester to master manipulator?

Dilbert creator Scott Adams has lost a fair amount of credibility and respect in recent months with his strange embrace of Donald Trump. He swears, repeatedly, he doesn’t support Trump politically, but respects his “persuasion techniques.”
 
Whatever. He still comes across as an enthusiastic Trump shill.
 
But I recently came across this post from Trump’s last flirtation with a presidential run. Back then, Adams thought it was all a big practical joke:
 
“This is not a man who thinks he might someday debate serious politicians in a public forum. This is a man who is winking at the camera and daring you to see the obvious.”
 
Considering how the Republican presidential debates went, it’s fair to say that Trump hasn’t yet debated serious politicians in a public forum.
Adams also had this to say: “Trump is smart enough to never admit that his presidential aspirations are no more than marketing. To admit the trick would damage his brand. But he has no need to ever expose the prank. Trump, the magnificent bastard, has figured out a way to have his cake and eat it too. The people who are in on the joke find it entertaining. The people who will never know it’s a joke have raised their opinion of him so much that he’s the leading Republican presidential contender. And his TV ratings are up, so from a marketing standpoint it’s working.”
Which leads to the question that many have asked: Did Trump go into his current run taking it seriously, or was it another practical joke that has gotten way, way out of hand.
And another question: Is Adams in on the joke?

The GOP’s Trump problem

nbc-fires-donald-trump-after-he-calls-mexicans-rapists-and-drug-runnersSo, you’re a once-respected national political party — the party of Lincoln, the party of Eisenhower, the party of Reagan.

What do you do about Donald Trump?

After his sweep of the latest round of primaries, it is a near-certainty that he will go into the convention with the delegates needed to win on the first vote. There will not, as establishment Republicans have hoped against hope, be a second vote or a brokered convention.

So, what you do? Accept Trump? Accept a man so clearly and monumentally unprepared to serve as Commander-in-Chief, to sit in the Oval Office, to represent America at home or abroad?

Do you suck it up and support the nominee, even if it’s obvious he will lose in November, and probably hand Democrats the Senate and possibly even the House in the process? Or worse, he’ll somehow defy expectations yet again and win? Donald Trump in the Oval Office would be a disaster for America. A disaster for the Republican Party. A disaster for the world. He has no coherent philosophy, much less a coherent conservative philosophy. He has no understanding of the intricacies of governing or foreign policy or foreign trade — and no apparent desire or capability to learn them. He is all bluster and bully, and he would disgrace the party and the nation that elects him.

So, what do you do?

I say, if you’re the GOP, you do whatever you can, anything you can, to deny Trump the nomination. Even if he goes in with a majority of the delegates.

This is, I’ll admit, a horribly undemocratic idea. But the GOP’s primary voters have failed the party — and those voters are really only a small subset of Republican voters. (Though, yes, the party itself, having fed the angriest, least informed portion of its base a steady diet of anti-Obama red meat for the last seven and a half years bears its share of blame.) If the idea of the Republican Party is to mean anything moving forward, the party has a responsibility to itself to not allow Donald Trump to be its standard bearer.

Because of the way delegates are selected, even if Trump has won a majority of delegates, there’s no guarantee that a majority of the delegates themselves support Trump. In fact, it’s highly unlikely. And the rules governing a convention and how delegates select the nominee are fluid. The delegates could sit down before the first vote and release themselves to vote for anyone, not just who primary voters preferred. A fly in that ointment is that about 95 percent of delegates are bound by state party rules or state law to vote as they were assigned during the primary or caucus on the first vote. Who knows? Perhaps the margin will be thin enough that the 5 percent of unbound delegates can prevent Trump from winning the first round, releasing all the delegates. Or maybe one of those smart elections lawyers who helped secure George W. Bush’s victory in 2000 could figure out a way around the bound delegate problem.

However it worked, it would be a messy process that could anger a lot of voters and seriously undermine the party well into the future. But, guess what? A Trump nomination will also seriously undermine the party well into the future.

But if this doesn’t work — or the party doesn’t have the guts to even attempt it — then what? Donald Trump becomes the nominee.

Then what do you do?

This is when serious Republicans have to decide whether they will vote for anyone with an R after his name, or if they want their party to have some minimum standards.

There have been a lot of Republican leaders who go on and on about how unacceptable Trump is, what a disaster he would be as president. But, then, when asked if they’ll support him if he’s the nominee, they meekly say yes.

If Donald Trump actually becomes the nominee, that has to stop. Republican congressional leaders — who know how awful Trump is — should refuse to endorse him. The party apparatus should refuse to support him. Super PACs loyal to the party should refuse to fund him. Take the lead of the Koch brothers, who have indicated they’ll pour their resources into trying to blunt the down-ticket damage of a Trump candidacy.

donald-trump-has-surged-to-the-top-of-2-new-2016-pollsThe burden is not just on the Republican leadership, such as it is. Serious Republican voters need ask themselves if that is the face of the Republican Party they believe in and support. As much hatred as there is for Hillary Clinton on the right, serious Republican voters will need to consider either voting for her or, if that’s a bridge too far, staying home on Election Day.

I am not a neutral observer, I admit. I think the Republican Party has already fallen far. Congressional leadership has earned its 11 percent approval rating. The rank Republican obstructionism and refusal to govern if it meant cooperating in any way, shape or form with a duly elected president has done much to poison our political system. The fact that Republican leaders came this close to tanking the economy and faith in the U.S. to repay its debts by refusing to raise the debt ceiling earned them, in my estimation, a generation in the political wilderness.

But, liberal that I am, I do want to see a functioning, functional and coherent conservative party in the United States.

Such a party does not nominate Donald Trump, or support his candidacy if he does somehow win that nomination.

The Republican Party may not be able to save itself, in the end. But it can save America and the rest of the world from the disaster of a Trump presidency.

Really, America?

“This is not a long shot. This is something that is going to be really amazing … We’re going to have a lot of success, and everyone’s going to enjoy it.”
 
This is real video of Donald Trump launching a multi-level marketing scheme in 2009. (Youthful indiscretion is not, in other words, a valid excuse.) These are almost always scams (which is why when you type “multi-level marketing” in Google, it autocompletes “multi-level marketing scams”). He promised great things, but now his attorney says his role was limited to licensing the ‘Trump’ brand and providing motivational speeches. In other words, he lied about his involvement in the scam. Er, scheme.
 
He lied then; he’s lying now. Wake up, America. You are THIS close to nominating a man who would make snake-oil salesmen blush in shame as a major-party candidate to be PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
 
Stop it. Go home. Sober up. Think about changing your life. If this isn’t a wakeup call, I don’t know what is.