Lies, Damned Lies, and Tweets


Continuing to explore an issue I have addressed with morbid fascination these past months, Dana Milbank writes, Trump’s not a liar. He’s a madman.

I find Milbank’s conclusion curious. It seems to me that evidence is mounting that Trump’s lies are often conscious and strategic. Recent examples: the claim that the Democrats are responsible for separating children from parents at the border, and the assertion that there was an FBI “spy” in his campaign.

People who are actually successful have a number of techniques at their disposal, but Trump has only four: smarmy flattery, insults, threats, and lies. If you are the type of person whose behavior can be influenced by these techniques, then Trump has your number. If you are not affected by obviously insincere flattery, by verbal abuse, or by intimidation, and if you do not believe his lies, then Trump is flat out of luck, because that’s all he knows how to do.

Milbank cites evidence that the velocity of Trump’s lies is increasing at a dizzying rate. But the mere fact of lying is not in itself evidence of madness. It is instead evidence of desperation.

In addition, it seems that the lies are becoming so ludicrous that it’s like he’s just phoning it in.

As the dying cobra makes a last effort to defend itself from the mongoose by injecting more venom, it’s not crazy. It’s just ineffectual. ‘Cause the cobra has become immune to the venom.

Something like Shep Smith reacting to Trump’s venomous lies.

Explaining the Inexplicable: The Quest Continues

He’s Like Erdogan

Aardvark is pleased to share the astute observations of Freda Foxy, retired political scientist and fellow denizen of Happy Acres. Professor Foxy writes,

My analysis of Trump’s support is that the upper class is using populist appeals to lower-income groups in order to weaken the middle class, the class that traditionally supports democracy.

I know this is happening in Turkey.  The upper class, represented by Erdogan, has formed an alliance with the poor by building them needed housing.  The objective is to get the lower class, with its large numbers, to help do away with a free press and fair elections, elements of democracy that Turkey’s upper class allowed when they thought it would enable Turkey to get into the European Union, with all the economic benefits that would have brought them.

In an alliance of upper and lower classes, you know which class is dominant and in whose interest the alliance is operating.  I think a similar alliance is happening not only in the U.S. but in Hungary and elsewhere.

Democracy developed in stages as successive layers of people below the rulers pressured them for it.  The upper class historically resisted sharing power with people below them, often successfully, e.g. in Russia, the Tsar defeated the country’s nobles in the uprising that was comparable to the English uprising that wrested the Magna Carta from King John.

In the U.S., we have “bad” billionaires supporting Trump who is giving low-income people what he tells them they need, while implementing policies that are very harmful to them.  This is not to deny that Trump got help from Putin, who is also using nationalism and other populist appeals to roll back the steps toward democracy that occurred in Russia in the immediate post-communist period.

One could extrapolate from the situation in which the U.S. finds itself that the Democrats missed their chance to tie the poor to democracy through benefits like health care for all, free public college education etc.

He’s Like Elizabeth Holmes, Business Bamboozler Extraordinaire

In Grifters Gone Wild, Maureen Dowd writes,

Elizabeth Holmes shot to fame as the youngest female self-made billionaire after she dropped out of Stanford at 19 and then founded the company that became Theranos. She claimed to have created an easier, cheaper way to do blood tests, just by pricking a finger, but then it turned out she was a literal bloodsucker, defrauding investors of $700 million on a nonexistent technology.

As Maria Konnikova wrote in her book, “The Confidence Game,” “The whirlwind advance of technology heralds a new golden age of the grift. Cons thrive in times of transition and fast change” when we are losing the old ways and open to the unexpected.

We are easy marks for faux Nigerian princes now, when chaos rules, the American identity wobbles, and technology is transforming our lives in awe-inspiring and awful ways.

Trump voters allowed themselves to believe they had a successful billionaire who knew the art of the deal when he only knew the art of the con. They bought his seductive campaign narrative, that the system was rigged and corrupt and only he could fix it. After winning by warning voters they were being suckered, he’s made them all suckers.

He’s the Weasel of Oz

And Charles Blow draws yet another apt comparison:

The racism has become almost routine. Now it is the continued revelations of the degree to which Trump takes the presidency as a giant game, in which he is all-powerful, in which supplicants must come pleading, in which he has an unmatched ability to retain power by manipulating and deceiving the populace.

It’s like he’s playing the role of the Wizard of Oz, only this man is a weasel.

Aardvark Receives Severe Scolding from David Brooks


In a column headed Donald Trump’s Magical Fantasy World, David Brooks takes severe issue with the whole thrust of, writing,

The dangerous thing about Trump’s fantasy world is not when it dissolves into nothing; it’s when he seduces the rest of us to move into it. It’s not when he ignores the facts; it’s when he replaces them by building an alternate virtual reality and suckering us into co-creating it. …

The first problem is you can’t beat Trump at his own fantasy game. As Daniel Boorstin understood back in 1962, you can’t refute an image with a fact. Every pseudo-event “becomes all the more interesting with our every effort to debunk it.” Trump gets to monopolize attention ever more comprehensively and deepen his credibility as anti-establishment hero.

The second problem is that when you agree to operate within his fantasy, even if you are motivated by the attraction of repulsion, you’ve given the man your brain. Sometimes my Trump-bashing friends and I seem like puppets on his string. …

I miss people thinking about the world outside the gravity field of Trumpian unreality, and about the world after Trump — the world we should be building.

We’re in the middle of some vast historical transition, and it’s very hard to know what to believe in. The more time we spend on the Trumpian soap opera, the less likely we are to know where we are or what we should do.

Aardvark’s Animadversions

First of all, David, you are a good man. And because you are such a good man, you have difficulty understanding humanity. I applaud you for trying, though—and I hope and expect that you will keep on trying, and helping to enlighten the rest of us as you journey on life’s highway.

But you remind me of another good person: the character Guido Orefice in Life is Beautiful “who employs his fertile imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp.” That was a noble thing for Guido to do, but it didn’t solve the problem that father and son were incarcerated in a concentration camp.

That’s my first point. Your noble instinct is just to ignore the madness. But ignoring it won’t make it go away.

My second point is that madmen we always have with us. Trump’s madness is unusual, but not especially interesting in itself, unless you are a student of abnormal psychology, which Aardvark is not. What is interesting is that so many people supported him. That is what we need to understand and address. And we had bloody well better keep on trying to understand and address it.

If this crisis ever passes, we can all get back to thinking happy thoughts, and life will indeed be beautiful once again.

Yet Another Way Trump is Making America Great Again


2018 has already outpaced 2017 in K-12 school shooting deaths

In all of 2017, there were 44 shootings in elementary and secondary schools, resulting in 25 deaths and 60 injuries.

So far in 2018, there have been 28 elementary and secondary school shootings, resulting in 40 deaths and 66 injuries. With the year not even halfway over, 2018 already has more injuries and deaths than all of 2017 and appears to be on track to outpace 2017 in terms of overall incidents.


And What About Sarah Palin?

Pain and Trump

John McCain’s shocking concession on the Iraq War: it was a “mistake”

In his new memoir, McCain says he’s to blame for the war.

In his new memoir, McCain who is battling brain cancer, writes that the Iraq War “can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it,” as Politico reports.

McCain is among the most hawkish Republicans in the Senate and was an ardent supporter of the George W. Bush administration’s decision to go to war with Iraq and a later US troop surge. …

n 2005, when 66 percent of the country viewed the Iraq War unfavorably, McCain redoubled his commitment to the strategy:

“Securing ever-increasing parts of Iraq and preventing the emergence of new terrorist safe havens will require more troops and money,” McCain said then at an event with the American Enterprise Institute. “It will take time, probably years, and mean more American casualties. Those are terrible prices to pay. But with the stakes so high, I believe we must choose the strategy with the best chance of success.”

What We Have Come To


No matter what ludicrous charge Trump makes, the entire political system reacts as though it might be true. If tomorrow the president said that “Robert Mueller” never existed and the person claiming to be him is actually Nancy Pelosi in elaborate makeup, we’d all find ourselves debating whether Mueller is a real person while House Republicans angrily demand that he produce a DNA sample.  …

At this point, Trump has earned the presumption that everything he says on the topic of the Russia investigation is offered in bad faith and is almost certainly false, until proved otherwise. So we should treat his statements the way we do press releases from the North Korean state news agency. They may be newsworthy in that they show what the regime would like people to believe, but we don’t assume that they have any relationship to actual facts. When they claim that Kim Jong Un could drive at age 3 and win yacht races at age 9, or that his father Kim Jong Il wrote 1,500 books while at university and once sank 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf, we don’t set about to determine whether they’re true.

Well said.

Megadoses of Geritol


People of a certain age will remember those Geritol commercials on television. An iron supplement, touted as a cure for “iron deficiency anemia,” Geritol, it was implied, was an infallible remedy for, um, lack of energy, if you take my drift. If you don’t take my drift, look carefully at the illustration, and I think you will get the point.

My Uncle Herbert evidently suffered from lack of, shall we say, vitality. Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, Uncle Herbert reasoned that if taking the recommended dose of Geritol would do you a little good, then taking three or four times the recommended dose would be sure to do you a lot of good. The consequences were unfortunate.

I wish to draw an analogy between Uncle Herbert’s flawed reasoning, and that of Trump and his Trumplet politician imitators. In 2016 they discovered—indeed, all of us discovered—that slinging rampant bullshit was enough, in certain circumstances, to gain a majority of the Electoral College.

Having drawn the lesson that a high level of bullshit could lead to electoral success, like Uncle Herbert, they concluded that slinging unlimited quantities of bullshit would forever be the cure for all their problems.

This morning’s recommended reads address the failure of that reasoning as to immigration and foreign policy, respectively.

The Chinese have a nice idiom for mindless repetition of a tactic that once accidentally proved successful: 守株待兔, “guard tree await rabbits.”

Please enjoy this explanatory movie:

Ignorance is Strength, Première Partie

Thanks to the indispensable Vasari for calling our attention to

Five basic things Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wouldn’t — or couldn’t — answer at House hearing

For example,

1) DeVos could not explain the mission of the department’s Office for Civil Rights.

Then there’s

2)  DeVos did not provide a single detail about any plan she might have to promote inclusivity and access to an appropriate education for students with disabilities. And she wouldn’t commit to pushing Congress to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, which requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities.

Read ‘em all at the link.

Every Hand’s a Winner, and Every Hand’s a Loser

Jonathan Chait:

Trump has no poker face, no chill. The closer the investigators get to incriminating evidence, the more intensely he rages. He resembles a suspect at a crime scene screaming at the police not to go into the attic. And now that attic is looking awfully interesting.

Heather Long, China is winning Trump’s trade war:

It was easy to miss the U.S.-China trade statement that the White House released Saturday, right in the midst of royal wedding mania. But it’s hard to hide that China looks as if it’s winning President Trump’s trade skirmish — so far.

David Sanger, Trump Grappling With Risks of Proceeding With North Korea Meeting:

Mr. Trump’s aides have grown concerned that the president — who has said that “everyone thinks” he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts — has signaled that he wants the summit meeting too much. The aides also worry that Mr. Kim, sensing the president’s eagerness, is prepared to offer assurances that will fade over time.

Moreover, Mr. Trump’s decision this month to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal raises the stakes for the North Korea negotiation. If he emerges with anything less than what President Barack Obama got, which in Iran included the verified shipment of 97 percent of all nuclear material out of the country, it will be hard for Mr. Trump to convince anyone other than his base that the negotiation was a success.

The aides are also concerned about what kind of grasp Mr. Trump has on the details of the North Korea program, and what he must insist upon as the key components of denuclearization. Mr. Moon and his aides reported that Mr. Kim seemed highly conversant with all elements of the program when the two men met …

But aides who have recently left the administration say Mr. Trump has resisted the kind of detailed briefings about enrichment capabilities, plutonium reprocessing, nuclear weapons production and missile programs that Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush regularly sat through. …

[W]hen reporters asked Mr. Trump about Libya, he managed, in one stroke, to contradict Mr. Bolton and misconstrue the importance of the trade of the nuclear program for economic rewards. …

Wrong Way Williams Deports Himself to North Carolina

wrong way

PowerPost provides abundant illustrations of its them that Immigration is tearing Republicans apart. I don’t know whether this is true, but I certainly hope so.

Among the examples given in the article, my favorite concerns a candidate in the Georgia Republican primary who evidently cannot spell and who thinks Mexico is located north of Atlanta:

Also on Tuesday, a Georgia state senator who is running for governor launched what he’s calling a “Deportation Bus Tour” in the run-up to next week’s GOP primary. Michael Williams, who co-chaired Trump’s campaign in the Peach State, said his tour aims to “shine a light on the dangers of sanctuary cities and the overwhelming problem of illegal immigration.” His campaign bus has been painted gunmetal gray and is now labeled “Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molestors, and other criminals on board.” (The campaign misspelled molesters.) “Follow me to Mexico” is painted on the bumper, and “PRO-TRUMP” is painted on the side.

“We’re not just going to track them (and) watch them roam around our state. We’re going to put them on this bus, and send them home,” Williams says in a commercial.

Williams has been languishing in the single digits in a five-way race, so this is a Hail Mary pass, but it is also the sort of stunt that just a few years ago would have led to widespread condemnations from national Republican leaders, who used to be much more concerned about the party’s standing with Latinos.

This Evening’s Guest Blogger: the Honorable Kim Kye Gwan …

Dear Leader

… First Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

This is said to be the official translation of Vice-Minister Kim’s remarks:

Kim Jong Un, the chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, made a strategic decision to put an end to the unpleasant steps for peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the world.

In response to the noble intention of Chairman Kim Jong Un, President Trump stated his position for terminating the historically deep-rooted hostility and improving the relations between DPRK and the U.S.

I appreciated the position positively with an expectation that upcoming DPRK-U.S. summit would be a big step forward for catalyzing detente on the Korean peninsula and building a great future.

But now prior to the DPRK-U.S. summit, unbridled remarks provoking the other side of dialogue are recklessly made in the U.S. and I am totally disappointed as these constitute extremely unjust behavior.

High-ranking officials of the White House and the Department of State including Bolton, White House national security adviser, are letting loose the assertions of so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment, “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” “total decommissioning of nuclear weapons, missiles and biochemical weapons” etc. while talking about formula of “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards.”

This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue. It is essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers.

I cannot suppress indignation at such moves of the U.S., and harbor doubt about the U.S. sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations through sound dialogue and negotiations.

World knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate.

It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial state of nuclear development.

We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feelings of repugnance towards him.

If the Trump administration fails to recall the lessons learned from the past when the DPRK-U.S. talks had to undergo twists and setbacks owing to the likes of Bolton and turns its ear to the advice of quasi-”patriots” who insist on Libya mode and the like, prospects of upcoming DPRK-U.S. summit and overall DPRK-U.S. relations will be crystal clear.

We have already stated our intention of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States.

But now, the U.S. is miscalculating the magnanimity and broad-minded initiatives of the DPRK as signs of weakness and trying to embellish and advertise as if these are the product of its sanctions and pressure.

The U.S. is trumpeting as if it would offer economic compensation and benefit in case we abandon nuke. But we have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in future, too.

It is a ridiculous comedy to see that the Trump administration, claiming to take a different road from the previous administrations, still clings to the outdated policy on the DPRK – a policy pursured by previous administrations at the same time when the DPRK was at the stage of nuclear development.

If President Trump follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, he will be recorded as more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors, far from his initial ambition to make unprecedented success.

If the Trump administration takes an approach to the DPRK-U.S. summit with sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations, it will receive a deserved response from us. However, if the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit.