Is Donald Trump a Political Genius or a Clown Irrestibly Driven by His Vile Impulses?

I just said the talking heads talk this morning of two silly questions. And the question posed in the headline above is, of course, the second of these. It is occasioned, of course, by the fact that yesterday’s vile tweetstorm took place before Trump’s announcement, in the afternoon, that he was going to replace the competent Director of National Intelligence with a boot licking sycophant, someone inclined to enable Trump more effectively to fulfill his mission as a Russian intelligence asset.

Those focusing only on the vile tweetstorm picked “clown irrestibly driven by his vile impulses.” But other talking heads, looking at the two things together, thought that “political genius” might be the better choice.

The question is silly because the dichotomy is false.

six blind men

The poem tells us that the six blind men were not unintelligent: in fact, they were “to learning much inclined.” Feeling the elephant’s tail and “seeing” a rope was not an act of “genius,” but neither was it evidence that the blind man grasping the rope was a “clown.” What happened, simply, was that each of the six, familiar with only part of the evidence, drew a reasonable but incorrect conclusion from the limited evidence within his grasp.

Donald Trump sees and understands that a large portion of our population are stone cold racists. Because he has no moral limits, and because he, himself, is a stone cold racist, Donald Trump correctly understands that he can maximize the political enthusiasm of those who think like him—by maximizing the vile, racist tweets and the mob chants.

So far, so bad.

But, metaphorically “blinded” by his incapacity to understand the non-racists and anti-racists among us—or, indeed, to count them—Donald  Trump erroneously thinks his race-baiting strategy is the way to win reelection.

And what should progressives do? Progressives should take a lesson from Brer Rabbit. We should take every occasion to shout, “Please, Donald, o please, please don’t throw us into that racist briarpatch!”

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A Stable Genius

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A friend from across the sea is moved by this article—Trump on climate change: ‘People like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers.’—to remark thusly,

You have one of a kind up there. When you think he cannot get more idiotic, he does. My condolences.

In that vein, my friend, and the rest of you, might enjoy The Russia scandal was a bumbling conspiracy. But it was still a conspiracy:

Now let’s step back from these details. The story coming from Trump and his defenders all along has been that there was no collusion, nobody did anything wrong, and any actions that might look questionable were in fact perfectly ordinary. But if that were true, why did so many people involved lie about what they did when it first came to light, whether it was to investigators or to the public? President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Corsi — all have been caught lying about what they did with regard to some part of this scandal. That’s not how innocent people act.

Of course, if it was a conspiracy, it worked — after all, Trump is president. The Russian government can be rightly proud of what it accomplished: For a modest investment of resources in gaming Facebook and hacking Democratic emails, they helped nudge the election in Trump’s direction and throw the American political system into the kind of chaos we could expect when the president of the United States is the kind of clown who replaces the head of the Federal Reserve because he thinks she’s not tall enough for the job.