Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump's Big CON: 'Mine's Bigger/Better/Awesomer Than Everyone Else's'

UPDATE VII:  "President Trump has not been in office for a week, but already’s he wilting under the pressure. 'President Donald Trump is the first elected president in Gallup’s polling history to receive an initial job approval rating below the majority level,” Gallup reports. “He starts his term in office with 45% of Americans approving of the way he is handling his new job, 45% disapproving and 10% yet to form an opinion. Trump now holds the record for the lowest initial job approval rating as well as the highest initial disapproval rating in Gallup surveys dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.'

That reality — the rotten poll numbers, the low turnout at his inauguration, the massive turnout at worldwide protests, his widely panned appearance at the CIA and his press secretary Sean Spicer’s disastrous debut with the White House press corps on Saturday — seems to have thrown the narcissistic ex-mogul into an emotional tailspin. . .

[A]s events unfolded on Friday and Saturday 'Trump grew increasingly and visibly enraged.' We know two things from this: 1.) He’s an emotional train wreck before much of anything has happened and 2.) Those close to him already started spilling the beans, perhaps to exonerate themselves and perhaps to communicate to their boss through the media. Trump’s ire simply confirms what we already knew, namely that his insatiable need for approval and his rage when he does not receive it make for an alarmingly unpresidential demeanor. . .

The picture suggests an unhinged president, too many weak aides and an administration that cannot control itself, let alone coverage of its breakdowns. To repeat, nothing much of substance, certainly no major policy defeat, has yet occurred. One shudders to think what will happen when setbacks do occur.

Trump’s inability to acknowledge his own lack of support prompts him to seek refuge in 'alternative facts' — to lie to himself and others. . . 'Days after being sworn in, President Trump insisted to congressional leaders invited to a reception at the White House that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes … Two people familiar with the meeting said Trump spent about 10 minutes at the start of the bipartisan gathering rehashing the campaign. He also told them that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote.' The obsession with replaying the election and concocting a phony excuse for losing the popular vote reminds us that despite mockery for constant lying, Trump cannot help himself. He lies because reality won’t conform to his narcissistic view of the world."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s emotional tailspin was predictable.

UPDATE VI:  What a narcissistic con man!!

Read the Washington Post, Trump names his Inauguration Day a ‘National Day of Patriotic Devotion’.

UPDATE V:  "It matters that the crowd for the Women’s March on Washington was far bigger than that for President Trump’s inauguration. The new president often boasts of having started a great movement. Let it be the one that was born with Saturday’s massive protests.

If size is important, and apparently to Trump it is, there was no contest. The Metro transit system recorded 1,001,613 trips on the day of the protest, the second-heaviest ridership in history — surpassed only by ridership for President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. By contrast, just 570,557 trips were taken Friday, when Trump took the oath of office.

Those are the true facts, not the 'alternative' ones the administration wants you to believe. A president obsessed with winning began his term by losing."

Read the Washington Post, Trump inspired a movement, all right.

UPDATE IV:  "If America had a parliamentary system, Donald Trump — who spent his first full day in office having a temper tantrum, railing against accurate reports of small crowds at his inauguration — would already be facing a vote of no confidence. But we don’t; somehow we’re going to have to survive four years of this.

And how is he going to react to disappointing numbers about things that actually matter?

In his lurid, ghastly Inaugural Address, Mr. Trump portrayed a nation in dire straits — “American carnage.” The real America looks nothing like that; it has plenty of problems, but things could be worse. In fact, it’s likely that they will indeed get worse. How will a man who evidently can’t handle even the smallest blow to his ego deal with it?

Let’s talk about the predictable bad news.

First, the economy. . .

A second front on which things will almost surely get worse is health care. . .

On a third front, crime, the future direction is unclear. The Trump vision of an urban America ravaged by 'the crime and the gangs and the drugs' is a dystopian fantasy: Violent crime is, in fact, way down despite highly publicized recent murder increases in a few cities. Crime could, I suppose, fall further, but it could also rise. What we do know is that the Trump administration can’t pacify America’s urban war zones, because those zones don’t exist.

So how will Mr. Trump handle the bad news of rising unemployment, plunging health coverage, and little if any crime reduction? That’s obvious: He’ll deny reality, the way he always does when it threatens his narcissism. But will his supporters go along with his fantasy? . .

Mr. Trump made big promises during the campaign, so the risk of disillusionment is especially high.

Will he respond to bad news by accepting responsibility and trying to do better? Will he renounce his fortune and enter a monastery? That seems equally likely.

No, the insecure egomaniac-in-chief will almost surely deny awkward truths, and berate the media for reporting them. And — this is what worries me — it’s very likely that he’ll try to use his power to shoot the messengers.

Seriously, how do you think the man who compared the C.I.A. to Nazis will react when the Bureau of Labor Statistics first reports a significant uptick in unemployment or decline in manufacturing jobs? What’s he going to do when the Centers for Disease Control and the Census Bureau report spiking numbers of uninsured Americans?

You may have thought that last weekend’s temper tantrum was bad. But there’s much, much worse to come."

Read The New York Times, Things Can Only Get Worse.

Read also The New York Times, White House Pushes ‘Alternative Facts.’ Here Are the Real Ones. and ‘Alternative Facts’ and the Costs of Trump-Branded Reality.

UPDATE III:  "From his speeches to his tweets, Trump does not speak truth. Instead, he speaks in two modes. One, he says what his audience wants to hear, and two, he does his 'Art of the Deal' shtick, trying to put perceived enemies and negotiating opponents back on their heels.

Mode one is particularly easy to see; it’s what he does in front of crowds. He tells coal workers he’ll bring their jobs back. He tells those unhappy with their health insurance that his plan will provide more coverage for less money. He reassures the New York Times editorial board that he’s a moderate on climate change ('I’m looking at it very closely').

He can’t bring back coal jobs; he’s got no plan for better health insurance, in no small part because it’s impossible to provide more comprehensive coverage while spending less. Days after his meeting with the Times, he nominated Scott Pruitt, an avowed enemy of climate policy, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

His inaugural speech was full of populist rhetoric about helping those who’ve been on the wrong side of globalization and inequality. He boldly asserted that 'every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.'

How likely is that? . .

Mode two is obvious in tweet-shaming China, threatening to punish companies that offshore jobs, 45 percent tariffs, the wall that he still claims Mexico will pay for, and most recently, falsely accusing the press of dishonestly reporting the size of the crowd at his inauguration. The idea here is that when actual negotiations on these matters commence, his opponents, which clearly include the media, will already be playing defense. That may or may not be an effective strategy — my guess is that it gets old pretty quickly — but that’s what’s going on.

I don’t believe a word he says, and neither should you. . .

But how can we possibly figure out what he’s really up to?

For one, as alluded to above, you look at who he’s surrounding himself with, which, contrary to his populist campaign, are Wall Street bankers, education privatizers (Betsy DeVos), anti-safety-net advocates (Ben Carson), and business-oriented globalizers (Rex Tillerson). It’s unclear whether he’ll listen to them — for the most part, their unifying theme is that they’re really rich and were loyal to him during the campaign — but I have an easier time seeing this crew cutting taxes on the wealthy and regulations on business/finance than lifting the living standards of the working class. (And note that, thus far, their announced agenda is all the former and none of the latter.)

Read the Washington Post, Breaking news: You can’t believe what President Trump says.

UPDATE II:  "All White Houses spin and try to pressure the media into reporting stories their preferred way. But [Trump's obsession with the crowds size at his inauguration] looks like something considerably more: A concerted effort to erode the core idea that the news media is legitimately playing its role in informing the citizenry. If the media challenges or factually debunks the fabricated, Trump-aggrandizing narrative that is coming out of the Trump White House, it will respond by simply repeating relentlessly that the fabricated story-line is the truth. Needless to say, there cannot be any shared agreement on facts or reality, except on the ones that the Trump White House has validated. This is why the most important thing about Spicer’s statement is the word 'period.' When the Trump White House declares what the truth is, the discussion is over.

This is not a conventional dispute over the facts. It is not about 'relations' between the press and the White House. It is about truth and power. The message this is designed to send is that Trump has the power to declare what the truth is, and the news media does not. The Trump White House is maintaining this posture while telling enormous, demonstrable lies, but no matter — according to the new White House Ministry of Disinformation, the truth is what Donald Trump says it is. Bank on it: This will hold true even when Donald Trump contradicts Donald Trump.

Remember the larger context: For many months during the campaign, Trump not only told lies to a degree that was unprecedented in volume and egregiousness; his staff also mostly refused to engage fact checkers at all when they questioned his claims, showing he felt no obligation whatsoever to back them up. And then, even when they were widely debunked, he simply kept on repeating them. Then, and now, this was, and is, an assertion of the power to declare what the truth is regardless of what is empirically, demonstrably true.

Anyone who is not considering the possibility that this may be an outgrowth of Trump’s well-established authoritarian streak is missing what may be happening here. As libertarian writer Jacob Levy has written, Trump may be experimenting with a time-tested tactic, in which a leader 'with authoritarian tendencies' will regularly lie in order to get others to internalize his lies, as 'a way to demonstrate and strengthen his power over them.' It is hard to say how deep Trump’s authoritarianism runs and how it will impact his presidency. But this is something worth being prepared for. What’s more, all of this cannot be disentangled from Trump’s unprecedented conflicts of interest and lack of transparency about them. . .

Have we mentioned that this thin-skinned megalomaniac now controls the nuclear codes?"

Read the Washington Post, Dear media: The Trump White House has total contempt for you. Time to react accordingly.

Trump clearly has a little man complex, and I'm guessing that this does not end well for the country.

UPDATE: Of course, Trump's "alternate facts" are always 'bigger, better, more awesome'.

Read the Washington Post, The perfect meme for the ‘alternative facts’ era: #seanspicersays.

Part of Trump's con job is perpetuating the lie that his is bigger, better, more awesome than whatever comparison is being made.

And did anyone really think it would end after the election or inauguration?

Read the Washington Post, The traditional way of reporting on a president is dead. And Trump’s press secretary killed it.