Thursday, July 21, 2016

Donald Trump and The Boy Who Cried Wolf

In 1964, Fact magazine published an article whose headline was "1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater Is Psychologically Unfit To Be President." It included a variety of detailed and unflattering diagnoses of the Republican candidate for president by psychiatrists none of whom had actually examined him or, so far as one could tell, met him.

In 2010, Christine O'Donnell, a Republican candidate for the Senate, was widely mocked as the "masturbation hating candidate." So far as I could discover, the basis for that was a comment she had made in an MTV program on masturbation some fourteen years earlier:
"The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust."
Both, I think, correct statements. 

That same year, another Republican senate candidate was reported as saying that he opposed the principle of separation of church and state. What he actually said was "The idea that church and state should be separated is fine with me. The idea that there should be no interrelationship between the two is not fine with me."

Those are particular incidents that struck me when they occurred–the two links above are to blog posts I made at the time. But the pattern is a general one. Center left writers and media routinely accuse candidates on the right of being ignorant, stupid, racist, and/or crazy. Most of the time it isn't true.

Donald Trump is, in my view, less  qualified to be president than any major party candidate in my lifetime. But after being told more or less the same thing about every candidate seen as right of center for the last fifty years, why should voters, especially voters right of center, believe it?
P.S. (the day after the election).

A commenter on Facebook provides a link to Bill Maher  admitting what I wrote above--that they cried wolf with previous Republican candidates who really were not all the terrible things they claimed. But this one, he says, is different.

He also makes a testable prediction–that Trump will seize power and remain in office for the rest of his life. Eight years from now I want to see him explain that one assuming, as I do, that it will prove false.


Jay Maynard said...

Not only that, but Trump has one virtue no other Republican candidate for president has had: he's willing, ready, and able to take the press on on their own terms. After all these years we've been attacked by the press, it's about damned time someone actually fights back. That alone has endeared him to a whole hell of a lot of people.

Craig J. Bolton said...

Yes, there is ABSOLUTELY no evidence that Donald Trump is a kneejerk xenophobe. None at all. How could anyone think such a thing !

David Friedman said...


Some evidence, but not much--what we know so far is what positions he believed would get him the nomination.

No evidence, however, that you read the post you responded to. The worse Trump is, the stronger the point I made.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Great article.

However, in danger of sounding polemic I disagree about the masturbation statement.

I would only mention this, because as someone that has been in religious communities all my life I know these kind of distinctions can be important and have surprisingly consequential implications.

Among other things I would cite except my pre-pubescent experiences in this matter. In which masturbation did not involve any sexual imaginations whatsoever. However, I realized the correlation between lust and masturbation is obviously quite high in at least the majority of cases.

The said within Christian circles the difference between intrinsically sinful actions and conditional sinful actions could be the difference between parental leniency or permissiveness, and unreasonably authoritarian actions. And within a 'Christian nation’ in the right circumstance could be the difference between legislation and inaction on the part of government.

Simon said...

And here is Ezra Klein claiming that "Donald Trump’s nomination is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid." Hahaha, nice try :-D

Unknown said...

I was making a point to some friends recently about extremist language leaving you nowhere to go.

If you called Mitt Romney a fascist, what do you call Donald Trump?

If you call Donald Trump a fascist, what do you call Recep Erdogan?

This also goes in the other direction. I believe one of the biggest reasons for Bernie Sanders's surprising popularity this election was that Republicans worked so hard to (inadvertently) destigmatize the word Socialist by constantly saying that Obama was one.

Anonymous said...

I myself have been guilty of labeling Trump as stupid, dishonest, evil, and crazy. Meaningless words without context. The most effective way to criticize Trump is to simply quote him. That's why I love Hillary's "the children are watching" commercial.

BC said...

"But after being told more or less the same thing about every candidate seen as right of center for the last fifty years, why should voters, especially voters right of center, believe it?"

Voters actually don't have any reason to "believe it" if coming from center left for exactly the reason that David highlights. In the case of Trump, however, many on the *right* have said that he is unfit for office. That's what makes Trump different from previous Republican nominees. Of course, during the primaries, voters may have dismissed such center-right critics for similar boy-who-cried-wolf reasons. That may explain in part why the "Establishment" was unable to defeat him.

Also worrisome is the relative absence of center left commentators denouncing Hillary Clinton's unfitness for office due to her ethical and character shortcomings. There may be a boy-who-cried-wolf aspect to denouncements from the right, but the absence of denouncements from the center left now creates a boy-who-*wouldn't*-cry-wolf effect. If center-left writers won't even acknowledge Hillary Clinton's disqualifying conduct, then how can any future defenses from those center-left writers about future center-left candidates be taken seriously? To paraphrase Donald Trump, if Hillary Clinton were to shoot someone on 5th Ave, would her supporters still keep supporting her?

Richard Ober Hammer said...

Could you tell, David, since Trump is "less qualified to be president", what you would regard as adequate qualification to be president?

Joseph said...

Aren't there actual conservatives also criticizing Trump? Maybe this is limited to right-of-center voters who haven't been paying attention.

There used to be a put-down of right-of-center voters: "Don't understand William F. Buckley but agree with him." It looks like the people in question weren't following Buckley and similar people at all.

Anonymous said...

I have seen some free market anarchists and anarcho-capitalists cheereing for Trump and others hating and fearing him and almost praying that Hillary Clinton wins.

I wonder, if Trump wins and everything gets better (less wars, less taxes, less wellfare state accompained with and improvement of the living conditions of the poor, and less cronyism), then under what rock would Hillarite-anarchists run out of shame? If everything gets worse, I could ask an equivalent question directed at Trumpian-anarchists.

I think Trump will get shot if he is serious.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to why you think Trump is the least qualified to be President. I'd probably agree with you for all candidates prior to this year (though Barak Obama hardly brought a glistening resume), but I am wondering why you think he is less qualified than his democratic opponent. Certainly she has been unelected first lady (her record their being that she failed to do the one thing she wanted, and enabled a serial philanderer, surely setting back the cause of women's rights), or she was, effectively, appointed a senator (since the democrats always win in NY, and during her time as a senator she achieved essentially nothing) or was appointed Secretary of State, during which time the most charitable interpretation was that she achieved nothing (though one might fairly pin the disasters in the middle east during her tenure in part on her).

So I am curious as to why you think she is more qualified than Trump? To be clear, I think my gardener is probably better qualified than both of them, but my gardener isn't running...

Anonymous said...

Yes, Mr. Friedman;

I made the same comment recently with friends: now that they have used every possible epithet and insult for George W. Bush, or Romney, or Palin, or whoever Republican, pundits look quite stupid when they try to comment on Trump.

The plagiarized speech is a case in point: Trump's support didn't bulge by an inch when they tried to cry scandal. I saw a headline claiming "The plagiarized speech reveals the cracks in Trump's campaign." Nonsense: he doesn't give a damn. Moreover: it seems to me that the more they pile on, the more he gets support.

Anonymous said...

Trump simply knows how to play the media in his favor. Charles Krauthammer, Fox News contributor, who Trump doesn't like, commented about Trump's DNC emails comment and Russia.
Basically, he said the Clinton campaign walked into a trap, because if there isn't a national security issue (remember Hillary and emails in general), the reaction from the campaign shouldn't have been so hysterical.

The US media in general donates more to the Democratic party according to here:

cinc210 said...

Never liked Trump, its the Pat Buchanan anti-immigrant and anti-trade fraction that pushed him. He has a big mouth-Trump and does not know when to shut it up, if he loses the Pat Buchanan fraction will go back to the third party right wing parties that they were involved in before Trump.

Seth said...

The Daily Beast had the same idea, but comparing rhetoric around Trump to that around Romney:

It is interesting that Mr. Markowicz uses the same language about "crying wolf."

The Skip Bureau said...

I'm no Trump supporter; I voted for Johnson. However, were my state (Texas) likely to swing to Hilary, I would have voted for Trump. Not because I support Trump, because it's pretty obvious to me there's no way to predict how a president will be, given how few campaign promises the last two have kept, but simply because 'those sorts of people' hated him.

Trump didn't get elected because of Trump or because of his policies. He got elected because the right sorts of people hated him. The Republican rank and file are not happy with the Republican leadership so they nominated Trump because he wasn't part of the Republican establishment.

Then Hilary was a simply horrid candidate, and was anointed by the DNC, so many of the centrist and quite a few of the far left Democrats voted for Trump in response. As a result, I don't think Trump has a broad mandate.

He dose have ardent supporters due to his personal charisma, but it seems to me most people are just hoping that someone who isn't part of the establishment might be able to make a difference. His tenacity and will are legendary, as is his ability to make a deal, so he does have skills pertinent to the job. He also tends to be a bit of a buffoon. I really don't know how he will turn out.

As to the question of competence, I don't know if anyone is competent to the job. However, compared to George W Bush and Barack Obama, I really don't believe either of them are more competent than he is. Hilary may be more competent, but she's also mostly used her competence to advance her personal interests. I don't think there's ever been a politician with more public evidence of corruption who is not already in jail.