The Mask That Orange Man Wears

Trump Mask

Maureen Dowd writes,

The fact is that Donald Trump has been wearing a mask for a long time, like Eleanor Rigby “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door.” He studied larger-than-life titans like George Steinbrenner and Lee Iacocca and invented a swaggering character called Donald Trump with a career marked by evasions, deceptions and disguises.

The young builder was intent, as T.S. Eliot wrote, to take the time “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” Early on, Donald locked in his costume for the masquerade, the look of a C.E.O. in the ’80s. His body armor was a dark suit, white shirt and monochromatic silk tie. His hair was a blond helmet, his war paint was orange.

“He is the most vaudevillian performance artist who ever inhabited the White House,” says his biographer Tim O’Brien. “He has a consuming desire to always be center stage, yet he never wants to reveal who he really is. He masks his finances, his taxes, his friendships, his ongoing family conflicts of interest, his ignorance and his inadequacies. He’s constantly making up areas of expertise he doesn’t have.

“He doesn’t read the Bible and he doesn’t live as a Christian and love thy neighbor. But he is demanding that the churches be reopened because his evangelical base will love that. Everything he’s doing right now is to stave off a loss in November.”

Governor Doug Bergum (R-N.D.) Would Like the Your-Mask-Smacks-of-Socialism Crowd to Just Get a Life

***

Yesterday’s readers came from Belgium, Canada, China, India, Portugal, Slovenia, and the United States. Quite a few from Portugal, for some reason. Dr. Aardvark and I definitely want to visit Portugal, but we are going to have to wait a while. (And, not to slight anyone else, we greatly enjoyed Belgium, Canada, China, and India, and we made it pretty much to the Italian border with Slovenia.)

If Orange Man Were Sane, He Would Still Be Evil, But He’s Not Sane, and We’re Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Approach the question abstractly. You know someone whose name is Al. Al faces some life choice. He can choose Course A, the course of action that is, objectively, in his own best interest. Or he can pick Course B, the exact opposite of Course A, which no one in Al’s position would pick if he were not delusional. Al picks Course B.

If that happens just one time, you might say of Al, well, everybody makes mistakes, and sometimes they are big mistakes.

But the same thing happens the next month. Faced with a choice between A and B, he once again picks B.

And it happens a third time, and a fourth time, … and a twenty-second time.

What conclusion do you reach? The conclusion you reach is that Al suffers from delusional thinking, and that Al is badly in need of a checkup from the neck up.

My main point is that many of the pundits are still attributing Orange Man’s behavior to some kind of evil but rational strategic behavior. They still think that Trump is consciously putting his reelection prospects ahead of massive human suffering and loss of life. What I say is this: if Trump understood himself to be facing that choice, I am confident he would pick the massive suffering and death alternative in a New York minute. But that is not the choice as he understands it. Because he labors under two overarching delusions.

Overarching delusion number one is that he understands war better than the generals, economics better than the economists, and medical science better than the medical scientists. He says this all the time. And his actions can only be explained by positing an actual believe on his part in his world-historical genius.

Overarching delusion numero dos is that any information that conflicts with his genius, or that (he thinks) makes him look bad, is a hoax concocted by his personal enemies. Incapable of good faith himself, he is incapable of grasping that others, acting in good faith, are using their professional expertise to understand objective reality.

Some examples from today’s news.

Item: The swing states are being hit very hard by unemployment and state tax revenue loss, but

Trump appears dead-set against [new relief], even though it’s often argued he does not share the same ideological aversion to government help for the economically devastated that many conventional Republicans and conservatives do. So holds the mythology of his “economic populism,” anyway.

Why is Trump dug in? He and his advisers insist that the economy and jobs will roar back quickly. “The states are opening up,” Trump says. “It’s a transition to greatness.”

Maybe Trump is so convinced he can dramatically ramp up the economy again through sheer force of will and tweet — even though he’s failed to scale up robust testing, making it less likely people feel safe to resume activity — that he doesn’t want to even act as if urgent new infusions of aid are needed.

Item: Trump claims that medical scientists at two respected institutions are acting solely out of political motivation when they find that his miracle cure is in fact harmful.

Item: Trump is encouraging the religious to crowd together in church tomorrow, even though, as surely as God made little green apples, some of the congregants will be asymptomatic superspreaders.

Item: Current data show that “24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread.” And the big fool tweets that everybody must now transition to greatness at the risk of their lives.

No, ladies and germs, these are not the words and deeds of a sane person. They are not even the words and deeds of a sane but profoundly evil person.

It is well past time to sweep the mental illness under the rug.

Pandemic Tribalism

Jesus Trump mask

Thomas B. Edsall, When the Mask You’re Wearing ‘Tastes Like Socialism’: The partisan divide over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic has deepened over the past few weeks

Mr. Edsall’s piece of May 20 cites and summarizes a large number of social science studies on what I suppose we might call the social psychology of idiocy. I will not attempt to summarize his summary; please read it for yourself if you want to find your way deeper into the social science.

He ends by quoting a U.C. Irvine psychologist for the proposition, “In 21st century American politics, truth is tribal,” followed by these observations of his own:

In other words, the pandemic has become another example of Trump’s mastery over his most loyal subjects, his ability to manipulate them into violating their own instincts. It is this power over a substantial bloc of the electorate that has put him in the White House — and continues to make him so dangerous.

But, as many recent polls are teaching us, the my-mask-tastes-like socialism-crowd is only a part of the core Trump base—around 10 to 15 percent or so of the total population.

Georgia as a Petri Dish

The point is born out, for example, by Steve Rattner’s charts of this morning. With Georgia having officially shut down late and opened up early,

  • the good news is that so far covid-19 hasn’t sparked
  • but that’s mainly because behavior in Georgia has closely tracked behavior throughout the country—and Georgians by and large have stayed home, rather than obeying the governor’s ideologically driven commands, and, as you would expect
  • Georgians are not stimulating the economy with high levels of consumer spending, and business distress and unemployment remain high.

It’s the Delusion, Stupid

Trump is running around encouraging the nutjobs to take their AK-47s and storm the legislature. He is demanding that people fill church pews this coming Sunday. Many attribute this approach to desperation. But that, friends, is not the right term.

When you are losing money on every sale but think you can make it up on volume, that is not a strategy, that is a delusion.

Likewise, when you practice wedge politics by driving a deeper and deeper wedge between 15 percent of the country and everybody else, that is not a coherent strategy to win. That is delusion, rising to the level of psychosis.

Up, Up, and Away!

It was May 14 when we last looked at fivethirtyeight.com’s weighted poll of polls. On that day, Trump disapprovers outnumbered approvers by 8.4 points.

As of today, the comparable number is 10.5 points. That’s apples to apples, looking at the data set for “all polls.”

When we look today at the narrower, and perhaps more accurate, weighted average of polls limited to “likely or registered voters,” the number in 10.6 points.

Orange Man is twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.

The Lord of Misrule Ramps it Up One More Notch

Lord Misrule

As multiple reports surface of efforts to cook the books on the covid stats, at the state and level, Trump once again tried to own the libs by claiming he is taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic. Charlie Sykes mourns the death of satire:

Keep in mind that the supposed—but unproven—benefits of HCQ are as a therapeutic for people who have COVID-19, not as a prophylactic to prevent you from contracting the virus.

Also keep in mind that it’s an open question as to whether or not the president of the United States is

    • Taking an unproven and unnecessary medication which the medical establishment has warned is dangerous in the context of COVID-19, or
    • Lying about taking this medication.

Satire despairs.

This clusterfork came two days after one of the president’s grown-ass sons, Eric, claimed that the novel coronavirus which has killed, officially, more than 90,000 Americans will “magically vanish” after the November 3 election, freeing the country to reopen.

Why will it vanish after November 3? As Eric explained Fox’s Jeanine Pirro there is a “cognizant strategy” by Trump’s enemies to use COVID-19 to thwart his father’s ability to hold his trademark rallies. After daddy’s glorious reelection, the Deep State Fake News Whatever will no longer need this phantom threat, so it will simply vanish.

Aardvark’s Animadversions

If Orange Man wants to take a drug that is likely to cause his heart to fail, and if he takes it and his heart fails, then so be it.

And if Orange Man think’s it’s all a hoax, and if he wants to revive the Nuremburg rallies, there’s no need whatsoever to be deterred by the media. No need at all. Let Trump revive the Nuremburg rallies, and let his followers come in droves, coughing, spitting, and high-fiveing, and let the consequences be what the consequences will be.