Monday, April 24, 2017

Trump Derangement Syndrome

The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik has all the answers. He might not have the questions, but he does have the answers. If you don’t believe me, just ask him. He pretends, for a paragraph or so, to ask whether Trump Derangement Syndrome is a thing, that is, a clinical condition that mires people so deeply in their own hatred that they are blind to reality. But then he continues to show us what TDS really looks like… when he shows off his own.

Since Gopnik seems to be a master of New Yorker group think—recall that the magazine’s editor David Remnik saw in Barack Obama a long-awaited Messiah—he decides that the only Trump Derangement Syndrome worthy of the name is the one suffered by Trump himself. Since he does not base his opinion on any professional qualification, he entertains us with a rant against Trump, an attack that is short on facts and long on bias. And then he says that Trump is deranged. His superior knowledge of psychology leads him to suggest that if people are deranged about Trump they have good reason to be so: it’s the rational reaction to someone who is deranged.

Somewhere along the line Gopnik forgot about the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. For him, it’s: Do unto others as others do unto you. Which is, truth be told, the law of  the talion, a primitive system of justice that settles scores by taking an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Allow Gopnik to speak for himself:

We’re told by many wise and well-meaning people that it is a huge and even fatal mistake for liberals (and for constitutional conservatives) to respond negatively to every Trump initiative, every Trump policy, and every Trump idea. There are bound to be—in an Administration staffed not by orcs and ogres but for the most part by the usual run of military people and professional politicians—acceptable actions, even admirable initiatives, and we would do ourselves and our country a huge disservice by simply responding to them all with the same reflexive hatred. This may be especially true if that reflexive hatred, however unconsciously, mirrors and mimics the reflexive hatreds of the Trump White House itself. We owe it to our country and to our sanity to go on a case-by-case basis, empirically evaluating each action as it takes place, and refusing to succumb to the urge to turn politics into a series of set responses—exactly the habit, after all, that we so often deplore in Trump and the people around him.

So, Gopnik has created a caricature of Trump-- a New York Democrat turned populist nationalist-- and is using it to rationalize his own inability to think straight, to think rationally, to offer anything cogent about the Trump administration.  After all, Trump has shifted positions on various issues— pragmatically-- and has filled his administration with people who are not going to be pushed around. Those who think that Trump is an autocrat will need to explain whether Tillerson, Mattis and McMaster will be Trump’s puppets. If not, they throw out the notion that Trump is ruling like an autocrat. After all, he has not even been able to keep the Republican House caucus together.

If you were expecting Gopnik to be thoughtful and rational and dispassionate you were expecting too much. He thinks that there are two equally plausible sides to the question of Obama’s responsibility for the catastrophe in Syria, but only believes that there is one side to  the unmitigated insanity of Trump’s bombing a Syrian air base.

As for Obama in Syria, no less an Obama supporter and a Trump detractor as Roger Cohen of the New York Times grasped the reality far better than Gopnik:

Syria will be the biggest blot on the Obama presidency, a debacle of staggering proportions. For more than four years now, the war has festered. A country has been destroyed, four million Syrians are refugees, Islamic State has moved into the vacuum and President Bashar al-Assad still drops barrel bombs whose shrapnel and chlorine rip women and children to shreds.

For a long time, those who fled waited in the neighborhood. They wanted to go home. They filled camps in Turkey and Jordan and Lebanon. When it became clear even to them that “home” no longer existed, nothing could stop them in their desperate flight toward the perceived security of Europe. The refugee crisis is the chronicle of a disaster foretold.

Cohen continued:

American interventionism can have terrible consequences, as the Iraq war has demonstrated. But American non-interventionism can be equally devastating, as Syria illustrates. Not doing something is no less of a decision than doing it. The pendulum swings endlessly between interventionism and retrenchment because the United States is hard-wired to the notion that it can make the world a better place. Looking inward for long is a non-option for a nation that is also a universal idea. Every major conflict poses the question of how far America should get involved.

You get the point, offered by someone who has the moral sense to place blame where blame is due.

As for Trump’s bombing of Syria, no less than Obama administration stalwart Anne-Marie Slaughter, cheered the Trump action. Gopnik, who thinks he is not deranged, disagrees.

Gopnik explains himself:

It was, as best as anyone can understand, simply a reaction to an image, turned into a self-obsessed lashing out that involved the lives and deaths of many people. It was a detached gesture, unconnected to anything resembling a sequence of other actions, much less an ideology. Nothing followed from it, and no “doctrine” or even a single speech justified it. There is no credible evidence that Trump’s humanity was outraged by the act of poisoning children, only that Trump’s vanity was wounded by the seeming insult to America and, by extension, to him.

One likes the rhetorical flourish— “as best as anyone can understand”—but it is merely a lure to trick the gullible. Gopnik does not understand it because he does not want to understand it. He does not care to understand how political leaders engage in gamesmanship. Vladimir Putin understood perfectly that Trump was signaling that America was back in the game and was going to take charge—a necessary gesture after Russia and its allies did not include the Obama administration in the last round of peace talks. And readers of this blog understand that, given Putin's loss of face, Trump does best now not to rub it in.

For Gopnik what matters is not policy but ideology. He does not care about tactics and strategy, but about ideology. He is seriously torqued that Trump does not seem to have an ideology or even a doctrine. Trump does not seem to have a dogma which one might or might not believe. He does not see the world through the blinders of ideology, as a fiction that an author can rewrite.

Obama’s ideology was weakness and cowardice. But wait, those are not ideological commitments; they are character flaws. When Obama consistently sided with Iran against Israel and against Sunni Arab states, minds who are deranged about Trump had nothing to say. Was Obama manifesting an ideological commitment to the Iranian Revolution? Surely his actions suggested as much. Do we know what the Obama doctrine was, beyond leading from behind? What was the Obama doctrine in Benghazi: ducking under the covers?

We do know that Obama projected weakness around the world for eight years. And we know that no American president is going to make the nation a player on the world stage overnight. One suspects that Gopnik is looking for someone to worship and something to believe in.

Anyway, Gopnik continues to insist that what really matters is ideology:

People who have acts and actions that add up to some coherent plan—or even to an evil scheme—tend to have an ideology. It possesses them, or they are possessed by it. With Trump, it is perfectly clear that he only has a series of episodic wounds and reactions—it’s all fears and fits.

Leaders tend to have plans but not ideologies. They have strategies and tactics, but not ideologies. What was Dwight Eisenhower’s ideology? Presidents who have ideologies, I have long since claimed, tend to have no sense of reality and no real competence. They retreat to the fictional world defined by their ideology because they are lost in the real world. The fact seems to describe Obama well. It does not fit Trump very well.

Gopnik concludes about Trump:

… the one appetite that he does have is for announcing his authority through violence, a thing capable of an unimaginable resonance and devastation. 

As opposed, one imagines to the pusillanimous Obama who ducked the fight in Syria, who removed Qaddhafi in Libya and then went home, who pulled out of Iraq because he could not or would not negotiate an agreement to stay and who announced his departure from Afghanistan months in advance… the better to help the Taliban to plan.

Gopnik is terrified of a few Tomahawk missiles sent as a message to Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. He has nothing to say—for example—about Trump’s effort to  build an alliance with Chinese president Xi Jinping and to deal with the North Korea problem--created by Bill Clinton’s deal with that nation, and left unresolved by both Bush and Obama. But, building an alliance with the President of China would not fit in Gopnik’s slightly hysterical rant about violence and devastation, so he chooses not to mention it.

Normally we expect much better from Adam Gopnik. He should have kept his Trump Derangement Syndrome to himself.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

This Trump apoplexy is humorous. It's like watching a two-year-old come to the terrifying realization that the rest of the world doesn't feel everything the same way they do. Screams, shrieks, all at a glass-shattering pitch. I feel like an adult standing there, amused, waiting for the poor little child to get it out of their system. Yet these are adult toddlers who got high SAT scores.

The same people who wail about Trump are the same as those who use scolding tones about how unequal our society is. Yet these same people benefit disproportionately from government action. Student loan programs, Climate Change fraud, tax loopholes, transfer payments, free rides on government jets, gourmet pork products, butter mountains, setasides, affirmative action, "women's health" services, education taxes and so on, and so forth, and so much waste. It's an inside game, and now this orange-headed beast has been elected president and you'd think he was some Vichy-like installation of a foreign invader. The same emotional excess and whiny brattishness that is so peculiar in that these same people who want to say in their next breath how smart they are and how smart the people who agree with them are. Methinks something clarifying is afoot, as these people do not seem intelligent, wise, learned, experienced, transformed or mindful at all. "Deranged" seemed like a restrained term. Indeed, they seem lunatic... toxically sentimental.

Yes, this has been a clarity moment. We know who the enemies of adulthood are and what they stand for. They prove daily how globalization really works and who it benefits. Same for the environmental aggrandizement movement. Same for the investnent bankers. Same for the _____ Studies departments at our universities. Same for Washington, District of Columbia and its surrounding ZIP codes. Same for the technology executives, who are creepily obsessed with robots and moonshots. Same for the ______ Lives Matter movements. Et cetera...

I'm just glad Remnick's Messiah will be back today, making his re-entry into the public policy game less than 100 days into his successor's presidency. Talk about klassi. That's what you can always count on from the Obamas: lots of sophistication. The Iranians loved Obama, why shouldn't we?

Lastly, there is nothing more striking to me than the Leftist bent of the Wall Street Journal's newsroom. Sure, their Editorial group is famously libertarian, but the front page of the WSJ these days is vomit-worthy in its endless headlines, stories and What's News bits about how Trump is effectively the Antichrist. Like so many other mainstream outlets, they are not even trying to be fair or balanced in coverage. I am embarrassed for them. I'd cancel my subscription if I thought they'd care. But the "Quotable & Notable" piece on A17 mentions that the internals of the much-vaunted polling on Trump's low approval numbers also shows that he still would beat Hillary. Amusing. Hillary was such an awful candidate, and remains an awful person. All that aside, the Congressional Republicans should take note: Trump is still the only person who could've beat her. He's no Messiah (there is only one, after all), but I suspect his pragmatism will serve him well. And Gorsuch, of course.

It's interesting what "open-minded" has come to mean today, courtesy of the institutional insurgency of the Ctrl-Left. Open-mindedness is decidedly ideological -- open to one side, and hermetically-sealed from all other points of view. Precious, coddled, deranged snowflakes... regardless of age.

Sam L. said...

Forget it, Jake; it's NYTtown.

IAC, good to see you're using Ctrl-Left.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

I owe it all to you, Sam L. Love it!

James said...

IAC, Sam,
What's Ctrl-left?

Ares Olympus said...

I try to see Scott Adam's perspective, that Trump is just a great performer, and people want to be entertained. At least there's some sense there.

Like I heard recently Trump's mentor, fake-news king, Alex Jones had to go to court to protect access to his children, and his defense is that his on air personality isn't his real one, and he's actually a caring sensible guy off air.

And we can recall that Jones' promotion of a conspiracy theory that a DC pizzeria was a front to a child sexslave trade, lead of course by Hillary Clinton, and leading to a would-be hero bringing his gun there to sort things out.

You'd think Trump would denounce InfoWar's participation in this "fake news", but I don't think Trump cares, being a great performer, seeing another great performer just doing what they do best.

And yet with a straight face, Trump wants to call out mainstream media as the source of "fake news", since the more MSN is demonized, the more dependent people will become to online fake news like Jones' sells for his living.

So Trump is defender of honest news, calling MSN the enemy of the people, categorically, not even naming-names, but just a vast conspiracy to keep his people ignorant, but as long as people read his tweets, they can know the truth.
And I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody.

I mean, who use its more than I do? But the First Amendment gives all of us -- it gives it to me, it gives it to you, it gives it to all Americans, the right to speak our minds freely. It gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.

And many of these groups are part the large media corporations that have their own agenda and it's not your agenda and it's not the country's agenda, it's their own agenda. They have a professional obligation as members of the press to report honestly. But as you saw throughout the entire campaign, and even now, the fake news doesn't tell the truth. Doesn't tell the truth.

I do recall back when Trump got in trouble for retweeting neonazi quotes that black people are responsible for 90% of white murders, even the now fired Bill O'Reilly tried to tell Trump that he can't just repeat tweets without checking, and Trump lamely said he also heard it in many places, and asked "Am I supposed to check every tweet?" And Bill said "Yes, you have to."

But now we know Bill was wrong, and Trump was right. People don't care about Truth. People want performers to tell them things that demonize others who they don't care about, and who ideally can be punished, and if you are a good performer, you can get 46% of a national vote based purely on repeating things you heard, said by someone else who repeated things they heard, and started by some alt-right racist trying to start a race war, or whatever.

And this mental fog where we distrust all checked sources, and instantly believe any random outrageous thing we hear on the internet is good for performers.

The secret isn't to be a truth teller, but tell people you're a truth teller. It's a great trick!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

James, I cannot steal Sam L.'s thunder, in good conscience. He was commenting here long before I, and in much more witty, pithy ways.

Sam L., the stage is yours, sir...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

There is Trump Derangement Syndrome, and then there is something much more real: Trump's cerebral property ownership scheme, where he purchases significant collateral interests in the brains of Leftist and liberal persons worldwide. It is a frighteningly effective strategy, with each victim's full consent! For FREE!

Ares Olympus is a perfect example. Ares' brain is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America.

What a lovely view from Ares' palatial mind, so high above the skyline, above the mere shallow minds of so many, my own included. So high! So High! Soaring like a kite, blissfully dancing in wild ecstasy above all! Behold all... the unparalleled cranial prowess of ARES OLYMPUS!!!

James said...

I hope to hear from Sam. When it comes to technology I feel alot like the monkees In "2001 Space Odyssey" when they woke up and found the obelisk. It's not that I don't ............excuse me, I need to go get a banana.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

James, I totally understand. To lift some of the suspense, you may have heard Ares and hid radical compadres talking of ominous threats from the "Alt-Right". If you look on your keyboard, there's another key... which the mighty Sam L. will explain the mystery of, in terms of its connection...

However, in the meantime, don't think any of this pales in comparison to Russian hackery, Fox News, or "fake news," because those are all the food groups that make up a fortified Leftist meal.

Nighty-night, my friend...

Walt said...

You don't have to like everything about Trump (or, for that matter, to DISlike everything about Obama) to see that the meat of this blog is right on, I applaud its author for writing so many interesting essays on a variety of subjects and on such a frequent basis.

Dennis said...


When one has Ares one has and example of TDS and a Google scholar to pontificate to us lowly peons. I loved The juxtaposition (?) of Sam L's usage.