Tuesday, July 28, 2015

You're fired!

15 Love not the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that's in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of thereof; but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 Jn 2:15-17).

Thus far I've avoided saying anything about Donald Trump's presidential bid. Indeed, I've avoided reading about it. I have only a glancing awareness of it. A few quick observations:

i) Back in the olden days, movie theaters used to have double features, with an intermission. And before the first feature there was a news reel plus cartoons. The objective of all this was to sell popcorn and candy. These were literally popcorn movies. 

We're in the popcorn phase of the presidential campaign, before it gears up in earnest. Trump is the cartoon. It's summer entertainment for restless pundits before things get serious. "News" filler. So they head for the concession stand. 

ii) He got the same buzz during the last presidential election cycle. That fizzled. 

iii) I'm guessing this is his last hurrah. He's already 69. Will he try it again in 4 years? Even if he does, interest will dwindle. If you run too many times, you become a running joke.

iv) Trump is the stereotypical New Yorker. The in-your-face demeanor. All elbows. 

I'm not saying that's representative of New Yorkers. I'm not qualified to say. Everything I know about New York I learned from movies and TV dramas. But he certainly fits the stereotype. 

v) Trump is a shameless self-promoter. There are two reasons for this. To begin with, he's monumentally egotistical. In addition, it's good for business. He's made "Trump" a brand name. Irving Berlin once said, "The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success."

That's the challenge for overachievers like Trump. Running for president is just another way to make headlines. And for a businessman, there's a relationship between the headline and the bottom-line. As Neil Gaiman says, "Notoriety wasn't as good as fame, but was heaps better than obscurity."

vi) Another reason Trump is such a loudmouth is because there are lots of oversized personalities in New York. Lots of competition. You have to keep your elbows sharpened. Stainless steel elbows. 

Indeed, by New York standards, Trump isn't that big. Compare him to Michael Bloomberg. In addition to being the three-term mayor of the Big Apple, Bloomberg's net worth is around $35 billion, give or take. According to Forbes, Trump is worth 4 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal, his assets tally at 1.5 billion. When you're smaller, you have to be louder to get attention. 

vii) Trump is not only a rich man, but the son of a rich man. His father was nouveau riche, which makes the son old money. That gives him a fearless quality. Growing up, there was only one person in life he had to please: his dad. Due to his wealth, he's never been in a position to feel threatened by anyone else. So he's not afraid to speak his mind. His personal fortune insulates him from reprisal.

Fearlessness isn't the same thing as courage. You can be a fearless coward. Trump's fearlessness has never been put to the test. 

viii) In addition, if you don't expect to win, that's liberating. If you don't expect to win, you are free to say whatever you think. That's something he and Huckabee share in common. 

ix) Theoretically, a debate match-up between Hillary and Trump might be refreshing if he turned his bulldozer personality on her. But they have so much in common ideologically that he can't really take advantage of her views. A better debate match-up would be between Hillary and Fiorina. As another woman, she wouldn't be deferential to Hillary. She's far more accomplished than Hillary. And she's maintained her completive edge. (Mind you, I'm not recommending Fiorina.)  

Hillary has a reputation for toughness, but she usually plays to a sympathetic, hand-picked audience.  

x) Right now he's an annoying distraction. I hope he goes away–like last time.

For all his pampered existence, Trump is a pitfall man. Like other ambitious men who live for mundane glory, he kicks and claws his way to become king of the dunghill. But worldly rewards are ephemeral. It's a short reign, like all who came before you, and all who come after you're gone. 


  1. He claims to be a Christian (Presbyterian), yet when asked whether he's ever asked God for forgiveness, he says he doesn't think in those terms. [chuckle]


  2. Trump is getting far more support now than he got in the past. He sometimes gets about a quarter of Republicans or more in polling. There have been threads about him at National Review that have gotten thousands of comments. He gets far more positive coverage than he ought to from influential sources like Rush Limbaugh. Then there's the desire of some people to jump on a bandwagon. Once Trump becomes popular, some people want to follow the crowd, even if what the crowd is doing doesn't make sense.

    It looks like a lot of the most uninformed, misinformed, desperate, and irrational Republicans are converging to support Trump for a large number and variety of reasons. Among other things, he's a protest candidate people can define and redefine with a lot of elasticity. His short temper attracts other people with short tempers. One of his first supporters I heard from, a woman calling into Michael Medved's program some weeks ago, said that she likes Trump because the other candidates are too intellectual, and Trump appeals to her emotions. I suspect that's true of a lot of Trump supporters, though most wouldn't admit it on national radio like that woman did. In some cases, people have valid concerns that Trump addresses at some level, such as how the Republicans have been too weak on immigration and how weak and defensive they've been in general.

    But though some of the Trump supporters' concerns have some legitimacy, why think Trump is the solution? From what I've heard from his supporters, they seem to give inordinate focus to what they like about him while saying so little about his weaknesses or how his strengths supposedly outweigh those weaknesses. When his weaknesses are acknowledged, I often see comments about how they're only supporting Trump temporarily, to send a message, or how they hope other candidates will improve in response to Trump's success.

    But what about the damage that's done in the process? For example, he probably won't run as a third party candidate, but why take the risk? The more he's supported now, even if some of the supporters only intend their support to be temporary, the more likely it is that he'll run as a third party candidate later. What Trump supposedly accomplishes as a candidate is far outweighed by the downside of his candidacy. He's not accomplishing much that's good, and his potential for running as a third party candidate, and thereby giving the Democrats the election, is by itself far more weighty than his positives. There are already people commenting on how they're not going to vote if Trump isn't the candidate. Why give him more time to build up even more of that sort of irrational commitment? Just so you can register a temporary protest? When you take these and other negatives about Trump into account, instead of inordinately focusing on the relatively minor good things he accomplishes, his candidacy is much more negative than positive on balance.

    I suspect that one of the problems a lot of Trump's supporters have is that they underestimate how corrupt the American people are. Often, the Republican leadership is weak on issues largely because the American people want weakness and will punish anybody who isn't weak. The character of the American people limits our options. You have to look for the candidate with the optimal balance of conservatism and electability. That's not Trump.

    Of all the years to argue that we need some alternative candidate like Trump, why choose 2016? This is the best field of candidates the Republicans have had in a long time. If people are concerned about conservatism and have little concern about electability, why not support somebody like Ted Cruz? Or if you want a better balance of conservatism and electability, why not support somebody like Marco Rubio or Scott Walker? Why Trump?

  3. If you're interested in Fiorina, Breitbart is running an "Ask Carly" column:


    They'll be doing the same with Carson as well.

    The thing that people seem to like about Trump is that he doesn't let anyone push him around. He stands up for conservative ideas and doesn't roll over and play dead every time a liberal challenges him on something. I like his positions on a lot of things, but I don't find him trustworthy. He has a long history of social liberalism and being chummy with the Clintons. Right now, he looks like he's just checking off a bunch of conservative talking points. Watching him try to defend traditional marriage in an interview was embarrassing. So there's no real incentive to believe that he'll do everything he says he'll do if he were to get into office.

  4. So there's no real incentive to believe that he'll do everything he says he'll do if he were to get into office.

    Pretty applicable across the board, I think.

    1. Not necessarily. My criteria for saying that is Trump's history of social liberalism. I don't think you could say the same of Cruz, Jindal, Fiorina, etc.

    2. My point was probably too oblique. I think candidates over-promise and under-deliver as a rule. It's practically expected. Like in advertising there's an allowance for "puffery".

      Even with the best of intentions and goodwill whoever wins won't (or can't) do everything they say they'll do, unless they under-promise and over-deliver, which to my mind is inconceivable.

    3. More to the point, is Trump trying to split the GOP vote?


  5. Here are some of my comments from a recent email exchange, in case anybody would find the discussion helpful:

    In past election cycles, especially 2008 and 2012, Steve and I interacted at length with Ron Paul supporters, third party advocates, and other people who have claimed that there's no significant difference between the parties, that we should support third party efforts, and so forth. The same principles are applicable here. I'll add the following:

    - In 2008, I wrote a post discussing the differences between John McCain and Barack Obama:


    Go to the same sources I mention there (American Conservative Union, Americans for Democratic Action, National Right to Life, etc.), and look at what they say about the individuals we're discussing in this 2015-6 timeframe. As much as people like Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio get criticized on various issues, I don't know how you can look at something like their American Conservative Union ratings and come away with the conclusion that they're not significantly better than people like Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton.

    - How much should we hold somebody like Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal responsible for what's done by, say, Mitch McConnell or John Boehner? They're all part of "the Republicans", "the Republican leadership", etc., but that isn't saying much. They're still largely independent of one another. Imagine you're somebody like Walker or Jindal. Or Ted Cruz. You don't have much influence on people like McConnell and Boehner to begin with, and those two men aren't nearly as bad as they're often made out to be by critics who are so selective (and sometimes wrong) in what they do and don't analyze. Then, because McConnell and Boehner have such a bad reputation in some Republican circles, people choose to support Donald Trump rather than you in the 2016 presidential campaign. Notice all of the leaps of illogic. Why think McConnell and Boehner are actually so bad to begin with? And why blame people like Walker, Jindal, and Cruz for it? And why let your concerns about Congressional leadership so much determine how you vote in a presidential campaign? And why think a former liberal with newfound conservatism, like Trump, one with no political experience, such poor electability, etc., is a preferable alternative? If somebody had asked you in 2012 or 2013 what you'd think of a Walker, Jindal, Cruz, or Rubio presidency, would you have said something like "no, I'd rather vote for Donald Trump, vote for a third party candidate, or not vote at all"? This is such a ridiculous situation. Trump should never have gotten to even one percent in the polls. We ought to be glad to have people like the other four I just mentioned to choose from. Candidates like Walker and Rubio are far more conservative than the average American. To be so close to electing somebody like that (especially with Hillary Clinton off to such a bad start in her campaign), yet choose instead to do something like not vote, vote third party, or vote for Trump, is deeply irrational and, frankly, suicidal. It's snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    - Even though Republican Supreme Court selections sometimes turn out to be moderate or liberal, the fact remains that it's highly probable that a Republican president will choose much better judges than a Democratic president will. There are two liberals, one moderate, and one conservative on the Court who are near death or retirement. The next president could have a major impact on the Court.

    (continued below)

  6. (continued from above)

    - [Name of one of the individuals I emailed] mentioned how much his view of Cruz changed after Cruz called McConnell a liar. That has some significance. But not much. Cruz and McConnell remain much closer to each other on the issues than, say, Cruz and Hillary Clinton, and calling McConnell a liar doesn't accomplish much of substance over the long run, even if it's justified.

    - We should be angry. Some of that anger should be aimed at some of the Republican leaders (only some of them, not all of them). But most of the anger should be aimed at the American people. Conservatives have a long history of thinking too highly of the American people and flattering them. That tendency should have been dead and buried after Obama got elected once and even more so after his reelection (among many other reasons for lowering our view of the American people). Since individuals like McConnell and Boehner are much more conservative than the average American and are often constrained by what the American people will let them do, we should be a lot less angry with them than we are with the American people. Let's focus on changing the American people while trying to elect the best leaders they'll allow us to elect.

    1. What's the old saying? "Politics is downstream of culture." Given that, Jason has nailed the problem, which is the character of the electorate. Mainstream media don't help much,though, since they cheerlead on the wrong side of so many issues and ignore or dismiss matters or perspectives that don't fit their limited perspective. I shudder to think that so many Americans get their political and policy views from entertainers such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

  7. Based on the shallow reasons why most Americans vote, I think Marco Rubio has a good chance at winning in the general elections since:

    -He's young and can appeal to the younger generation. He won't be looked upon as coming from a bygone era.
    Being young he's probably got less skeletons in his closet. Because of his youth he might be considered inexperienced. But that didn't stop Obama from winning. Plus he probably has more experience than Obama had when he was elected and that can be pressed over and over against Democratic opponents.

    -He's got a good personality. He's likeable.

    -He's articulate.

    -He's relatively handsome and photogenic.

    -He's "ethnic" rather than the typical male White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) Republican that Democrats love to attack. His Catholicism, while a negative for Protestants, is neutralized by the fact that in a general election moderate Catholics and Latinos would consider voting for him. Making him more electable. Besides, many Protestants now are ignorant of the important differences between Catholicism and Evangelicalism. Those who do, if they're informed enough will know it shouldn't make that much of difference since we're not electing the national archbishop, but the PONTUS.

    -Because he's non-white the opposition will have to be more careful in their criticisms just like the republicans had to be regarding Obama for being black.

    -He's got a good background story of him and his family rising from difficult circumstances.

    -He can appeal to the fellow non-whites. Especially the growing Hispanic/Latino community.

    For the deeper non-surface reasons:
    -He's genuinely conservative on balance. He's intelligent. He's media savvy. Again, He's articulate and probably can hold his own and go toe-to-toe with someone in a verbal debate. He speaks Spanish.

    1. Ben Carson seems to be too quiet and his expertise is a totally different field (medicine). He's not assertive enough. Unlike Alan Keyes who was overly assertive/aggressive. Bush seems like an intelligent and nice guy but his last name will make it difficult to get him elected. I love the fact that he's fluent in Spanish and married a Mexican. So, he can't be perceived as a racist (or at least not a complete one). Ted Cruz seems effeminate (regardless of whether he is or not). That makes him less electable. Christie is a RINO and is so overweight one can't help but think he's undisciplined and can't control his appetites. I'd hate to think what would happen if his coffee and doughnuts got spilt on the nuclear football. Fiorina's an unknown woman, so unelectable in the current state of the Republican party. Lindsey seems like a nice guy but also too effeminate and doesn't really exude presidential power and authority. He seems like he's be a pretty great uncle. Jindal's too ethnic for most Republicans and so unelectable. Fact is, there are many racist whites in the Rep. Party. Pataki is too unknown, old and white and so is vulnerable to democratic attack. Rand Paul isn't as articulate, accomplished or as intellectual as his father even though he holds to similar views that are too radical for most Republicans. So, not electable. Rick Perry has the reputation for being intellectually weak. He embarrassed himself in his last run for POTUS. I suspect in most minds the fact that he's running again just proves something wrong with him mentally *g*. Santorum has a similar reputation for mental weakness (or at least simplicity) with the added reputation for being a kind of hick, and Democrats hate his conservatism. Therefore, it'll motivate/mobilize them that much more to keep him out of the White House. Trump is just a joke. Though, I'd consider voting for a candidate who choose Trump's hair for Vice president. The PONTUS always needs a good attack dog. I like Huckabee. He's got many of the positive attributes of Rubio, but his age, whiteness and past cancer scare makes him less electable than Rubio. His media visibility though is a real advantage to him. Everyone knows he's a likeable guy with a great personality. Even most Democrats will agree. He can think on his feet and knows how to rub shoulders with the average guy. He's not too haughty.

      Those are my quick and mostly uninformed impressions of the Republican candidates. I wouldn't mind seeing Huckabee & Rubio running for Pres. and Vice Pres.

    2. I kept typing PONTUS for POTUS. I was just typing my thoughts as quickly as I could.

    3. I'm not racists against whites (male or female). I'm just dealing with the fact that being a while Republican candidate is automatically a handicap in our politically correct and liberal world. A non-White Republican candidate will not automatically cause Democrats to rise up and oppose him. It'll make the Democrat think rather than just react. Maybe enough not only to not vote against him, but to possibly vote for him. At the very least it might lead many Democrats not to vote at all. Which will be beneficial to that non-White Republican candidate.

    4. In politics (as in other fields) perception is reality. That is, it's taken as reality. The Republican party is seen by many both outside and inside as a racist white man's country club. I don't think it is, but whose going to deny that there are Republicans who are white racists (whether, strong, weak, conscious or unconscious)?

      Some Republicans will not support a non-white candidate regardless of the possibility that a specific non-white candidate might have a great chance of election than a white candidate. The racism felt in the GOP by non-whites is partly why many non-whites voted for Obama. Just to stick it in the eye of "The Man" (AKA Whitey, AKA Mr. Charlie, AKA Honky McGee). Which is absolutely stupid. Many blacks are willing to admit that they voted for Obama for a second term even though it was bad for the country 1. out of spite towards Whites and 2. out of black pride. It's so stupid, yet even black Christians have admitted it. sigh.

      When Obama was first elected, one white Italian friend told me (in apparent bitterness) that blacks should stop being SO proud of a first black president because (get this) he's only HALF-black. He's partly white. While that's true, the fact is he'll forever been considered black by everyone since perception is (or is taken as) reality. That's despite the fact that that very friend, who's Italian, admitted to me the hushed secret that a percentage of Italians have black ancestry. How ironic.

      The point I'm making is that since the GOP has to fight a negative perception of racist, why not just back up a non-white candidate like Rubio or Jindal? That is, if Republicans REALLY want to win.


      I agree with a lot of what you've said, and my reasons for preferring Rubio at this point are similar to yours. Walker or Jindal would be a good running mate for Rubio.

    6. I got to look into Walker.

      Another advantage of a non-white candidate is that 1. he won't be perceived as coming from generations of white privilege.

      2. Republicans can use the Race Card against Democrats like the Democrats did with criticisms against Obama. I think there's a legitimate and moral way to use the Race Card. At the very least the fear of being perceived as racist will keep the Democrats, Hollywood and political comedy shows like The Daily Show hesitant and careful in their criticism.

      It's sad to say, but the fact is many voters vote based on the kind of "reporting" they watch on shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and late night shows with Fallon, Kimmel, O'Brien etc.

    7. Carson may be less assertive and mouthy, but that could help offset the stereotype of Republicans as loud, brash blowhards who speak before they think.

    8. I like Carson as a person, though disagree with his Adventism. I'd want him to be my surgeon, but not my president. Democratic opponents will eat him up for dinner on account of his meekness and mildness. In a townhall debate, it'll be a case of "Ben in the Lion's Den."