Saturday, August 8, 2015

Still Defending Trump?

Many people have been defending Donald Trump because he has brought certain important political issues into the campaign. Without Trump, it is said, no one would be talking about immigration. Besides, his presence was a boon for Fox News’s ratings.

And yet, along with the message comes the man. Many people thrill to the bravado and braggadocio, to say nothing of the beautiful women and the massive fortune.  But, there is more to Trump than that. Surely, the absence of humility is not a good sign.

Begin with Trump’s self-serving shading of the truth. Even though Trump proudly declared that he had donated to Rand Paul (and most of the other candidates), he had not. Of the top tier Republican candidates, he gave $10,000 to Scott Walker and $500 to Jeb Bush. That’s it. Nothing to Rand Paul or to any of the rest. So says the Washington Post.

Anyway, Megyn Kelly’s first question in Thursday’s debate ostensibly addressed Trump’s insulting remarks about women. I recognize that some people believe that saying obnoxious and stupid things about women is guaranteed to undermine political correctness. Excuse me if I disagree. The alternative to political correctness is good manners, not boorish vulgarity.

Kelly was asking whether Trump had the temperament to be president. Did he have the strength of character to be calm and collected under fire? Could he handle a crisis without flying off on a rant? Could he deal with foreign leaders when he could not impose his will on them?

The answer did not lie in his words, but in his behavior. Especially, in his continuing post-debate attacks on Megyn Kelly.

Now we know that the great Donald became undone when faced with big, bad Megyn Kelly. Keep in mind, as long as Trump is leading the Republican candidates in the polls, whatever he says reflects on the Republican Party.

Clearly, Kelly got to him. She got under his skin. She provoked an appalling rant, which did not subside after Trump got some rest.

Yesterday on CNN, Trump said this:

But, certainly, I don’t have a lot of respect for Megyn Kelly, she’s a lightweight. And she came out there reading her little script, and trying to be tough and be sharp. And when you meet her, you realize she’s not very tough, and she’s not very sharp. She’s zippo.

Kelly might not have been very tough, but she was tough enough to threaten the Donald. If he cannot deal with someone who is a "zippo"--presumably, he was talking about the lighters-- how could he deal with someone of substance. He was so threatened and so disarmed that he started lashing out, irrationally. I suspect that no woman has ever addressed him with such disrespect. As is his wont, Trump responded with a disgracefully indecent remark:

And you know, you can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever, but she was, in my opinion, she was off base.

When you can’t answer the question, you attack the messenger. It is not a sign of toughness or of strength. It signals weakness. It shows that Trump can be easily manipulated. Those who think that Trump is a tower of strength should revise their opinions. Trump is more bluster than strength; more boasting than leadership. One should be able to tell the difference.

As you know, the remark got Trump disinvited from the Red State conservative confab today. Host Erick Erickson invited Megyn Kelly in his place.

Do you all think that Trump’s attitude and temperament are still defensible? Do you still believe that whatever he has added to the political debate is worth the price? And keep in mind, this man justifies his bullying threat to run as an independent by saying that he just wants people to be nice to him.

[Addendum: Jonah Goldberg makes the same point here.]


SociallyExtinct said...

Enough of Megyn Kelly. Let's talk about that great political "zippo," John McCain.

The trivialities that Trump spends his time bloviating about leads me to believe that for him, politics is an egomaniacal pastime not a noble mission.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart wrote: The alternative to political correctness is good manners, not boorish vulgarity.

For clarity, here's Trump's original quote from the transcript:
TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.

I've been challenged by so many people, and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness. ...

And frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it's fun, it's kidding. We have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don't like it, I'm sorry. I've been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn't do that.

So Trump's rationalization is that when he says unkind things about other people, he's not being serious. He's having fun, he's kidding, he's teasing, he doesn't think people should worry so much about joking around.

Incidentally on FB yesterday, I saw a quote from Neil Gaiman on the same lines:
...I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase “politically correct” wherever we could with “treating other people with respect”... I know what you’re thinking now. You’re thinking “Oh my god, that’s treating other people with respect gone mad!”

So Stuart says "alternative to political correctness is good manners" and I can almost see that, but I'm not 100% sure it is so simple.

So "political correctness" apparently says some subjects are off limits because of special conditions, while "good manners" says some subjects are off limits (i.e. sex, politics, and religion) because they are divisive and can alienate people or make people uncomfortable. But in both cases there's some intentional censorship.

But also be that both depend on context, so subjects off limits for PC and good manners in one context might be acceptable in another one.

In regards to "boorish vulgarity" of immature humor, one rule of thumb might be "Never say something about someone behind their back that you wouldn't also say to their face. Another rule might be if someone takes a "just for fun" remark too personally, apologize immediately, and make it clear it is a joke.

But even with these sorts of rules you can still get into trouble. At least some people will visibly react when they feel attacked, when they're taking it personally, while others (especially with lower status), may visibly try to laugh and pretend its funny, even when they don't find it funny. And maybe that's where PC defenses start arising, being unable to speak up on a case-by-case basis against aggressive language, they want to categorize all aggressive language, humorous, teasing, mean, cruel, all together as the same thing, all categorically offensive in all cases, even if there's a good reason, for example the truth is sometimes cruel, but better faced than not faced in the long run.

So maybe "good manners" means "only gossip about people when you're sure they'll never hear back" and then you can make all the fun you like at someone else's expense, and no harm done, or unless a tattler is present anyway.

So anyway, I accept Trump's defense "That's just PC talk, and I was just having fun" is a fair defense in the general case, but not in any given specific case. So apologizing in the general case is lame anyway, while apologizing to a real person in a real case is more important. So we don't really know under what conditions he'll apologize for his "fun gone wild".

Anonymous said...

Kelly should tell little Donald Trumpy her trademark phrase: Toughen Up Buttercup!

According to the timeline in this article:

Rosie O'Donnell criticized Trump's morals in 2006 which triggered him to call her a variety of names and justify his behavior - much like I remember from grade school.

I don't watch Megyn Kelly very often. However I saw the show described in this link where she compares college students to little cupcakes and uses the phrase, "Toughen Up Buttercup:"

Ares Olympus said...

Anonymous @9:32 AM, I hadn't directly heard Megyn Kelly's phrase "Toughen Up Buttercup", but I guess I heard someone mention it.

The similar phrase I heard from the running community, women runners at least, is T-shirts saying "Suck it up, buttercup". (I always pictured it is what you tell a puppy who has just vommited, but they usually don't need to be told.)

Oh, here it is:
"One of the best things you can say to someone who has dug themselves a nice, deep hole, and has fallen right into it."

Either way, it doesn't seem appropriate to a person in denial via their own grandiosity.

Hubris is the standard pagan word for arrogant behavior, and according to Greek tragedies, it is self-correcting. Do the Fates read Twitter these days?

It would be ironic if Trump's net wealth was based on Obama and the Federal Reserves easy money policies that reinflated the property bubble, and which is about to pop again.

Net worth is a tricky business, so who knows what he'll be worth before this election cycle is complete.

It does make me curious how a billionaire president would avoid self-interest in propagating short term policies that helped him gain his paper wealth in the first place.

But maybe Trump's legacy will be noble in the end, as he admitted he's not above bribing politicians for access to power, regardless of party. Maybe Citizen's United ruling will ultimately be struck down by those inspired to outrage from Trump's brutal honesty?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Do you all think that Trump’s attitude and temperament are still defensible?"

No, I do not. And I never did. However, I found it curious how well his approach neutralized the media in terms of getting certain issues out there and explaining them with simple language. If it was crude at times, that can be remedied by another candidate. But he was clear, and he was able to get over the media and present a narrative without accepting the mainstream media narrative. I find this useful and instructive. Republicans have to stop defending themselves.

"Do you still believe that whatever he has added to the political debate is worth the price?"

Yes, I do. The man has shown himself to be a buffoon. His hand-raise at the beginning of the debate showed the world he never was a Republican, reserved the right to not be one if he didn't win, and therefore their whole Donald Trump escapade should not be attributed to the Republican Party. We have it on film. So I would ask, "What price did we pay?" The Republican debate had the largest audience for any debate in history. Is this not useful? It is quite instructive, and quite useful. He offers a salient path through the PC nonsense, and gave 9 of his challengers a huge audience. And he's shown he's not a Republican. Where's the damage? What's done is done. Let's make the best of it!

Again, the only reason Trump was ever in the lead was the same reason Gilmore is in last: name recognition. Let's catch our breath and build from here.

Bizzy Brain said...

I don’t think Donald Trump is weak because of his reaction to Megyn Kelly. She is an unserious airhead who tried to take Trump out with the liberal BS brainwash of the fictitious “war on women.” He reframed the misogyny accusation against him as a judgment on Megyn Kelly’s emotional instability. He titty-twisted her and then cracked some walnuts on her quivering manjaw. She posited herself as Trump’s enemy, and Trump puts the heads of his enemies on pikes and shows you how to be an alpha male.

Anonymous said...


In her book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, Alice Miller writes, "Grandiosity is the reverse of depression within the narcissistic disturbance." I think Trump is pretty immune to depression but he appears to get some psychic payoff by splitting-off his own experience of the loser and instead verbally taunting Rosie O'Donnell who is prone to discuss her own challenges with anxiety and depression. When Kelly says the phrase "Toughen Up Buttercup" I think she is quoting her personal trainer from college, but also, expressing a bit of her own psychic defense mechanism. I don't think telling Trump or any grandiose person to toughen up would actually make him or her much tougher in the face of criticism or moral judgment. However it seems to me a tougher version of Trump would react less aggressively to specific criticisms.

Larry Sheldon said...

I find it interesting that so many people are enthralled (I know what that word actually means, do you?) by Trump.

I have said and still say that I would probably not vote for him in a Primary, but almost certainly would against anybody the Democrats might put up in the General. (And if he is a "third party" candidate, against most of the people the GOP thinks acceptable.)

If the next go-around is like most of the recent ones, if it comes down to an establishment "Republican" Democrat, or a Democratic Democrat, it doesn't much matter which one you vote for--we get 8 more years of unmitigated disaster.

Might as well stay home, but if there is a good candidate on a third-party ticket, why not be intellectually honest and vote for her or him?

ECM said...

With all due respect, Mr.Schneiderman, you have no idea what you're talking about:

Again, we get it: you hate Trump. Just say you hate Trump, but please stop trying to spin media talking points--we expect far, far better from you.

Larry Sheldon said...

ECM, I applaud your ability to speak frankly.

One of the aspects of this thrall is that there seems to be no recognition of the "there is no such thing as 'bad press'--only 'no press at all is to be feared'" rule.
(I probably did not quote it accurately--I'm too lazy and sleepy to look it up.)

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Larry Sheldon speaks the truth.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

And I hope to hear no more of (or from) Rosie O'Donnell. Ever. About anything.... anything about her, anything from her. I've never understood why anyone on the planet thought she was funny, interesting or relevant enough for an audience beyond her family dinner table.