Understanding Donald Trump

I’ve been trying to understand Donald Trump ever since he appeard in politics, without success.

Here is a very interesting new analysis. Not sure I agree with it, but it may have the answer, or a big part of it.

I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts about this.

I agree largely with that analysis, especially with regards to how he came across the 3 judges. Trump doesn’t know judges qualified for this, of course he was fed them. If anything, I think that writeup underemphasized McConnell’s role in the whole ordeal. Delaying Obama’s nomination months and shoving through Trump’s final judge will be his greatest legacy and people will study his Machiavellian leadership of the Senate for years to come.

Given his performance as Attorney General, Merritt Garland had no business on the Supreme Court. He is one more Democrat hack with zero integrity. Like his left wing brethren, he advocates selective enforcement of the law.

If he had any principles, he would enforced the law and cracked down the demonstrators at the Supreme Court justices’ houses BEFORE it reached the level of one them looking to be an assassin.

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What do you (plural) think of Twilight Patriot’s analysis of why Trump acts as he does?

I agree heavily, he absolutely comes off spoiled, which is part of why he was so terrible globally.

Our allies laughed at him behind his back and our enemies walked all over him, content to have the leader of the free world sucking up to them.

Well … probably everyone who is going to read the first post, and have a look at the TwilightPatriot’s analysis, has done so … so let’s divert it!

You say our enemies walked all over him. Could you provide an example? Afghanistan, perhaps?

More generally, what do you think our foreign policy should be? Trump appeared to have what I would call a ‘realist’ impulse, although not thought out. (That last phrase could be added to any policy of his.)

That is, he was not happy with what has been the American outlook on foreign affairs since the end of WWII, which is: we are not just one nation among many, not even one powerful nation among several … we are the world’s “indispensable nation”, the one destined to bring liberal democracy to all the others.

We must strive for hegemony, since the other potential hegemons are unpleasant dictatorships.

This clear involves a huge military budget, 400 bases all over the world, helping other countries get decent governments – or at least governments we support. (Fifty years ago this meant approving the overthrow of democratically-elected leftwing governments and their replacement by grim military dictatorships. Now it means helping Ukrainians who didn’t like their democratically-elected president to overthrow him, invading Iraq to bring them democracy.)

It means having an ‘Africa Command’ in the military, all busy … well, I guess they’re helping Africans to fight Islamists? And so on.

Without having a worked-out alternative, Trump seemed not to like this. But his understanding was very uneven … he took John Bolton into his inner circle! [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bolton]

Biden’s team seem to have returned to the Clinton-Bush-Obama norm. Thus poor Ukraine was seduced into poking the Russian bear. The outcome is predictable, of course. Ukraine will be lucky to get to keep some of its territory. In Washington they’ll sigh, and check their diaries for the next cocktail (or cocaine) party. I don’t think this would have happened under Trump.

There seems to have been an inversion of values between Left and Right. When I was growing up, it was the Right who were effectively against free speech, the Left who were for it. It was the Right who were most aggressive in foreign policy, the Left who were critical of ‘the kinetic solution’ in foreign affairs. Now everything has swapped over.

Anyway, I’d be interested in your views about what American foreign policy should be, and if they differ from the Washington consensus.

Not seeing where; Iran and China both had their position checked, because they couldn’t figure him out or predict his administration next move.

Germany wasn’t laughing; they were being told cutoff Russian oil & pay for your defense.

Israel got what they wanted after years of lobbying.

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Personally I think the biggest failure was Iran. That’s not to say he didn’t try to put on a tough face and strike them, but in terms of outcomes it seems he empowered and emboldened them.

Pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal was such a dumb move. He was right it wasn’t perfect, but at least we could monitor and limit progress under it. Ostensibly, it was his intention to renegotiate a new nuclear deal with them that would better limit their ability to manufacturer nuclear weapons. However, that never happened. I guess he just moved on? Anyway, they have massively accelerated their nuclear weapon production and here we are today:

I kind of agree with that, but I hesitate to call Obama-Clinton-Biden “the left.” As I see it, we have 2 conservative parties and the only elections that really matter for me are the primaries.

So far as I’m concerned we have no true left and the right owns neocolonialism.

I think Trump’s “America first” outlook was misguided because it was so absolute and focused on “fairness”

Yeah it sucks we’re in a lot of bad deals and positions, but that’s the consequence of positioning ourselves as the world police for a generation. It may be wrong, and I agree it is, but a sledgehammer approach is likely only going to make things worse.

For a comedic take on Trump’s presidency that I think isn’t entirely out of step with TwilightPatriot’s writeup, see John Mulaney’s “horse in a hospital routine”

Don’t worry, it still means that! Although we’ve become better at replacing with instead of military dictatorships, more moderate puppet governments subservient to our regional interests. See Haiti (several times), Yugoslavia, Libya (to a degree), Kyrgyzstan.

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True. Partly because John Bolton wanted to escalate things and bomb them, and nearly got us there.

Operation Prey Mantis 2.0 was probably in his playbook.

And to be clear; they’ve had the capability to do this for years. Likely as far back as 2014.

They don’t bother, because creating a nuke doesn’t outright improve the geopolitical outlook for them.
It would likely backfire, and push the Arab powers to also get nukes; possibly from Pakistan.

Then they just have parity with their neighbors, whereas in the current proxy war they’re all but winning.

So the goal for them is just to have a negotiation chip with us, and advance their own nuclear power needs. Which are real.

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I won’t call North Korea one of his successes. And as far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on Iran. He waffled on that airstrike, and called it off after the planes were in the air; that projects indecision.

Very interesting responses!!!

I never knew what to think about the Iran deal. If they could be – not ‘trusted’, but ‘verified’, to use a phrase of Reagan’s when dealing with the Soviets – I would support it.

But I don’t have a feel for the inner life of the regime – how smart are they? Smart enough to have an all-ready-but-for-the-assembly atomic bomb arsenal, hidden from inspectors? They’re certainly not smart enough to hide their intentions towards the Israeli’s, whom they promise to ‘wipe off the face of the earth’ from time to time.

A very stupid thing to do, since the Israelis are not nice kind liberals where their own survival is concerned. (There are many wonderful historic artefacts in Iran. If I were an Iranian, I would be advocating moving all that could be moved to some place way outside the blast range of a nuclear weapon.) And now that they’ve got a de factor alliance with the Sunni powers … I wouldn’t want to live in Iran at all.

Anyway, I hope they’re as rational as Alaska_Slim believes they are.

You say ‘the right owns neocolonialism’. Could you define the latter term, and explain what you mean by saying we ‘own’ it? Certainly the Left, as you define it … i.e. people from The Nation wing of American liberalism on out … is ‘anti-colonialist’, in the sense of not wanting to see Western countries controlling Third World countries.

Otherwise, they’re mainly indifferent to what happens in the Third World, like almost everyone else in the advanced countries is. In particular, they don’t want to think about the great economic progress that has been made there over the last few decades, thanks to nasty old capitalism, and this despite the fact that when the whites left Africa, these countries did not become democracies, but fell into the hands of their incompetent kleptocracies, with plenty of inter-tribal bloodshed to make things exciting.

A for Latin America … I don’t think the policies of the 70’s and 80’s of the US towards Latin America are still just the same today. There is now more emphasis on restraining the bloodthirsty military, perhaps just for PR reasons, but it’s real.

Then, there was great fear of Communism spreading in Latin America, and the US had an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend attitude towards the rightwing dictators who exterminated the Left in their countries – the same attitude everyone in the Free World had towards Stalin during WWII (although many on the Left then did not see Stalin as an ‘enemy’).

Things changed with glasnost and perestroika. Now the US presses for these regimes to be at least nominally democratic. I think it’s also wrong to call most of these regimes, in Europe or Latin America, ‘puppet governments’. “Client states” is perhaps closer to the mark.

I notice you didn’t reply on the question of Free Speech, where I believe the Left and the Right have exchanged their traditional positions. What’s your own view on it? Do you think it’s right to shout down conservative speakers on campus, or attack our parades and rallies? Do you think AntiFa are basically good people, doing what they can to stem the fascist tide?

So far as criticizing Donald Trump over his outreach to North Korea, my response is no American president has been able to deal with them successfully, at least since the days of Bill Clinton, if not before then. The reasons are that it is despotic regime, which is economically unstable and will always be in need to blackmail the west periodically with nuclear weapons to stay afloat.

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This is the problem. No one has a solution to a nuclear-armed state led by a nutcase … except for a devasting First Strike that turns the place into a glazed desert. We just have to live with him.

I’d explore the idea of possibly improving our balance-of-payments by doing the following:

Quietly talking with the Chinese, and saying, if you don’t replace the maniac in North Korea with a rational dictator … well, we’re getting tired of being the world’s policeman. So we’re going to supply a nice set of nukes [both the bombs and the delivery systems] to both South Korea and Japan, and then go home. Your choice.

You forget that Xi, the leader of China is also a nutcase. He is a bit more rational that Kim, but his goals are the same as Kim’s.

It makes one long for the days when the Chinese were coming to Nixon to get him to counter Soviet aggression. They kept using the term “hegemony”

I was thinking exactly of the Chinese desire to draw us into a war with the Soviets, after Nixon went to China.

We disagree on Xi vs Kim. Xi is the head of a great nation, one which will almost certainly be the leading nation of humanity by the end of the century, if we can avoid a big stupid war.

He’s a rational Chinese nationalist. He’s not about to let happen to his country, what happened to the Russians. He knows the West, led by the US, would love to see China dismembered, on its back, weak like Russia. He knows his history.

I believe it’s a huge shame that he doesn’t believe that the road to Chinese greatness lies in transforming the country into a liberal democracy, like the Western nations, Japan, South Korea [Heck, I’d even accept Singapore as a model for them, at least for a while] … but maybe he knows his country better than I do, and believes this is not possible.

That guy in North Korea seems to me to be a different kettle of fish. He seems to think the US and its South Korean client state are straining at the bit to invade him. Unless he knows something I don’t, he’s wildly wrong. His internal problems are the result of his stupid socialist economic system.

He doesn’t need nuclear weapons, unlike the Chinese. (Who would protect him from an American invasion anyway.)

We certainly do disagree about Xi. I view him as a modern day Hitler or maybe Stalin. He runs concentration camps; he kills and maims his perceived opposition and he’s building military bases to threaten his neighbors. Like Stalin, he’s ready to take over any piece of territory that is left unguarded and turn it into another of his dictatorships. Hong Kong is the latest example. Formosa will be the next.

I think that Xi’s strategy is stupid because he could get what he wants, world domination, though economic means alone. With the U.S. destroying its economy with climate change excesses and a move toward socialism, Xi will be the dominate power within a generation. The current strategy send off alarm bells to American conservatives. Quietly taking economic charge, which is what China has been doing over the last 20 years, does not.

I view Putin as Xi’s Mussolini. He’s was going to show how tough he is by taking Ukraine, like Mussolini took Ethiopia. The trouble is, it has not worked out for Putin in the short run, but I think he’ll get what he wants eventually. It remains to be seen if Putin wants to start War War III by attacking a NATO country. He’s crazy enough to think the west will back down and not keep its commitments, which might be possible under a corrupt weakling like Biden.

North Korea has used “The west is about to invade us” card for many years. It’s the way they keep their population loyal and forever concerned.

North Korea was a creation of Stalin, and it is still in the Stalinist mode. Unlike Castro in Cuba, they have had generations of dictators who have remained in charge. If the little fat punk kicks the bucket because his eating habits, his sister is supposed to be smarter and even more ruthless.

Well, we’ll just have to disagree about Xi.

Formosa and Hong Kong were always part of China. The US recognizes that Formosa is part of China. True, the people in both places wish they weren’t. But nationalism is a very powerful thing.

The Chinese have done some dumb things from their own point of view. Invading Vietnam was an example … welcome to the club! They ought to make a generous settlement with India over that border dispute, just as they settled the one they had with Russia a few years ago. They ought to propose turning that stupid island they’re squabbling with Japan about, into an international gay whale sanctuary supervised by the UN.

Of course they’re going to get a big military. They’re nobody’s fools. If they’re smart – as I hope they are – they won’t use it, except in self defense.

As for Xi being a dictator, of course he is. I don’t think he’s as bloody and horrible as the dictators America supported in Latin America not too long ago, but any dictatorship is bad.

However, he’s not an unpopular dictator. The Chinese Communist Party has provided the people of China with two of the three things people want (in order): First, security and second, prosperity. But not liberty.

China was a giant cake, being eaten up by the West and Russia and, at the end, Japan. Its stupid rulers – the Dowager Empress at the end – did like other stupid rulers (the French monarchy, the Russian one) and resisted change. So down they went. But the people who came after in China couldn’t unify the country, couldn’t defend it, were corrupt and incompetent. So the Communists came to the head of the national movement (it’s the only way they can take and hold power with popular support – they never claim to want support so they can implement communism ).

The US actually had not really taken part in the gobbling up of China, other than helping put down the Boxer Rebellion [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxer_Rebellion#Seymour_Expedition] and was looked upon relatively favorably by Chinese nationalists, including, believe it or not, the Communists.

But we threw away any chance we had to make Mao and Chou En-Lai Asian Titos. Finally Richard Nixon partially repaired the situation.

They’re nationalists. They love their country just like we do. They don’t trust us, and they’re right not to. We act in our national self-interests, not in theirs.

We have to get along with them. We need to undermine the Communists from within, by, among other things, encouraging as many young Chinese to come to the West to study. And we ought to send our young people there.

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Their young come here to study so that they can steal our technology and use it against us for economic and aggression purposes. China put down their democracy revolt years ago and kept it down.

I do not share your rosy optimism about Xi. All I see is a brutal dictator who uses Hitlerian and Stalinist tactics. There are few Democrats here who would like to immolate him. Justin Trudeau, of Canada, has already said much.


Who understands this?

Well… we have to disagree about Democrats wanting to emulate Xi.

I’m not an optimist, rosy or otherwise. If I had to bet on it, I’d bet on there being a big stupid war – ie nuclear – in the future, and also on the collapse of the US … maybe the two will be related.

I’m a “pessimist of the intellect, optimist of the will”.

To become a democracy of any sort, a country has to have an educated middle class, and one that feels relatively secure. The economic development of China is creating that. The same thing has happened in Iran although their circumstances are very different… Ignorant peasants will tend to support their government, so long as it doesn’t totally ignore their needs. A kid who has a degree in engineering, who has travelled abroad, who has seen ‘forbidden’ sites on the internet … not so much.

Of course we probably won’t see a massive uprising, with street fighting. When Xi dies, we must hope his successor is a Chinese Gorbachev. There have always been relatively ‘liberal’ forces within the Chinese Communist Party – when they feel they have the popular wind in their sails, as Gorbachev did, then we’ll see them emerge. (But only after Xi dies.)

Of course Chinese students who come here will pass on to their government anythng they learn that could be of use to their country. They’re patriots. Our students who go there should do the same for us… Of course that assumes we have any secrets worth passing on. How to turn a man into a woman, or why algebra is racist, will probably not count.

If we can’t keep our secrets, if any, hidden from an 18-year old, we really are pathetic. What we want is for those Chinese kids to return home with an image of what a free society is like … and right now, our Leftists are doing their best to make that a pretty repulsive image.