Dear Partners in thought,
Having been born and raised in Paris in the land of Descartes, I like to think things always came naturally with some degree of clarity and logics to me (I hear some laughs), even if I was likely delusional and some of my countrymen arguably could not spell the philosophers’ name at various points of our history. As such, I thought it would be good to draw up a clear and Cartesian list of what most “men and women of good will” would object with DT as President of what is still and not fully yet was the leader of the free world. Strangely enough, while we are subjected daily to a deluge of DT news, usually worrying, I found very little by way of a summary that would show a full picture of why DT does not work for America and the world. Here is an attempt at a list that would have the merits of simplicity and clarity.
There are obviously two main “issue” areas to look for: personal and professional but as the two are rather intertwined in that type of role you will forgive me for doing just one list that will include both.
In order to be fair, I think it is good to state DT’s positive features (or perceived as such), that are very key to his core electoral base:
- He is very clear, using simple, common, language and as such his voters and supporters understand him, probably better than they would the usual politicians. Even if what DT mainly wants is to be heard so he can please rather than to convey anything that is meaningful for America or the world, this preferably to ensure that his voters will keep backing him. He has the means without the ends.
- He does what he says he will, this being the most crucial test of being a great politician for his base and which he passes with flying colours. The contents and outcomes of policies come second and those are not very well understood in any case. However a man who does what he says he would is a true leader for many and is a political rarity which is invaluable to most.
- He showed he won against all odds, this being a pet theme of the “left outs” be they in the Rust Belt or passed for promotion time and time again on Wall Street or in Big Tech. “Losers”, some very good but unlucky people, some squarely undeserving of success, unite behind Trump as he gives them free and easy hope. DT is proof that when “one wants, one can”, all the more slaughtering on the way the obviously rigged system. And if he has done it once, he will do it again, also showing the world his mettle.
- He is actually lucky. The U.S. economy is showing strong developments, especially on the job fronts and DT can boast that he is responsible even if those developments are global and the result, for a good part, of pre-Trump policy decisions. Luck indeed favours the audacious and he has plenty of that blended with some good NY chutzpah.
- He has a great hairdo. OK I wanted to make sure you were reading.
To be fair I am now at a loss to find other key redeeming features, hoping I do not fall into any partisan mindset (a hard one for sure considering the subject at hand…)
Looking at the negatives, the list sadly is a bit longer and heavier in substance:
- No role model.Stormy Daniels, the Playmate of the Month, the bus tape – just for illustration – all speak for themselves in terms of image as an individual. Respectable father and husband is arguably a bridge too far. Father of the nation he cannot be. He promotes no admirable values to the younger generations. He is a destroyer of Western and any values. He is the chief reducer of America’s standing in the world. He is transforming America into a continental island with limits aplenty. Nobody wants to be Trump. He is a killer of the American Dream. And fewer and fewer want to become American or even study there as leading graduate school enrolment shows since the 2016 election.
- Leadership no more.
- The opposite of a leader, he attacks allies and cajole enemies, destroying the system set up by America for America and the Western world as we know it. Who needs enemies when you have friends like DT? While international trade ensured countries did not make war, tearing it down and ultimately hurting Americans, has become great (in a short term MAGA kind of way, though wear the cap) as many of his voters like those war cries as if it were a soccer game where their team was “back” at long last. Instant gratification matters, forget about the rising tax cut-driven budget deficit that is too far down the road and we won’t pay for.
- Putin forever. Time and time again, DT has professed admiration for the Russian leader, going out of his way to promote Russia, lastly at the G7 in Canada in forgetting Crimea, eastern Ukraine and the recent developments involving the resurgent Western foe. He is, unwittingly or not, the “useful idiot” (expression of another time, Soviet that one) aggressively helping Putin’s Russia to the surprise of his baffled but otherwise compliant party leadership too many of whom sold their soul for reelection. While one may understand why keeping a line with Russia has merits, DT’s over-the-top Russian drive is giving strange credence to the Manchurian candidate scenario and the existence of some file crafty people at Dzerzjinsky Square may have on him post-Moscow Universe pageant 2013. And it is hard to blame Russia not to enjoy the benefits of a friend in high Western places.
- Poor language on steroids. As Timothy Snyder would agree, he is naturally aggressive very fast, using a style of language that demeans the political discourse and makes it gradually more acceptable societally. The latest post-G7 Tweets are clear examples. He casually abhors facts and actually makes them up, preferably using Twitter that allows for outbursts but not structured thought. What matters is not the message but his base as if the end was to feed them a daily dose of reassuring Trumpism in the appropriate and direct tongue and style, that does away with café society ways and shows that he is still manning the parapet for all of them at all time.
- Incompetence as badge of honour.He does not know much about anything, which stresses he is no “expert” – very bad word in populist land and times – stressing his experience in real estate as his magic tool box as in “The Art of the Deal”. He does not listen much to advisers who by and large are (those who remain) not first rate (Yes, Larry Kudlow, his Chief Economist Adviser, whom we wish a prompt recovery, does not have any economics degree nor any graduate one and please do read his partner, hell raiser Peter Navarro, if you can and enjoy fiction). It would be fun to actually review DT’s grades and cursus at Wharton (also junior/senior college years and not an MBA by the way), if there were any traces left of his stay there, but then that check would be too elitist while emphasising the benefits of education and why it matters.
- Erraticism as tested tactics He says one thing and changes his mind, to come later to his previous stance. It is a way of negotiating. He also displays uncertainty so the other side does not know where they stand, foes and friends alike. Being an ally has little value as it depends on which matter while being a rival, even a foe, gives better status and strangely consideration (maybe with the exception of Iran, the only true Evil Empire in DT’s world, which by the way is hard to reconcile with his Russian propensities but I am probably and unfairly thinking too much here).
- Institutions matter sometimes.DT shows his little understanding of the institutional process and tolerate it only when it serves its purposes, flying hot and cold, depending on the week with the Mueller investigation, now promoting its lack of relevance and validity mainly for his core base, then ensuring that sacking he will not, but forgiving himself he could do technically, not caring about the impact on America and the world.
- Actual results don’t matter. A really good result is when a document is signed with Kim whatever the contents and whether it is clear or not as long as it shows they talked and agreed on broad and noble goals. This Singapore outcome exemplifies what matters to DT: action more than substance, especially when well-timed after a less than positive G7, which was almost crafted that way for the likely benefit of Kim and ensuring he would not be another Justin Kim. Even if Kim gets a great deal with exposure and recognition (NK is no longer crazy) and concessions (no war games) for actually…what? The list of pet projects with no results that come up and down with the news is actually not small. Think the Wall or NAFTA. When we see results they usually are negative for all parties like the trade wars and the establishment of tariffs.
- Unhinged and counter-productive ego. His outsized ego gives DT his drive – and some like that – while landing him into an appreciation of domestic and international developments in which he takes part mostly tainted by his role in having shaping them. The oddity for a President, who presumably would have little to prove, is that he has no problem stressing that he shapes events, something again more important than their substance or outcome. To be topical, think the Nobel Peace Prize he shouted he should get well ahead of any Kim meeting or listening to DT post Singapore Summit that Kim told him that he was the only President who could have made their summit a success. Again (his) form over substance is what matters.
It’s so good to review those points and, let’s admit it, frankly therapeutic. The list, though it claims to be definitive, may not be complete even if a good attempt at capturing the full picture. I have also tried to be fair and am aware that I can only come across as hard on DT. There must be a reason would surely say…Descartes.
Serge Desprat- 31st July, 2018 (Prague)