Monday, December 10, 2018

Dumb or Dumberer? Pondering Trump

I was carpooling to a game of ultimate last night, and my teammate asked me whether Trump is really as dumb as he appears to be.  This is before he tweeted about there being no smocking gun.  The example I used to illustrate Trump's, um, intellectual limitations is that he fired his Chief of Staff without having a replacement lined up.

Now people might say, sure, Trump is not a details guy, that he is ignorant about many things, but he is really quite clever.  He did win a presidential election!  He is a billionaire!  He can't be that dim.  I will agree that Trump has some talents:
  • self-promotion--he has always been good about establishing a brand even if, well, it is toxic
  • applause-lines--he figures out what works and hits that applause line again and again.  
  • hiring arsonists--he has an uncanny instinct to hire people who like to burn down their agencies.
  • destruction--he sure has an ability to lay waste.  Using nicknames to diminish his opponents, ripping people off, etc.
I would say that his success says more about the system than the man.  Trump won because of timing, much help (both legit and not so much), and many other factors explored here.  But let's consider  how he has President-ed.
  • Trump has no big achievements despite his party controlling both houses of Congress and with much party discipline (unlike when the Dems have both houses).  
    • His party got to shove through a wildly unpopular tax cut.  Not his idea.
    • He got two SCOTUS seats filled because GOP kept an opening and then another one (GOP) retired.
    • He rebranded a bunch of things that did not change things much but were costly to negotiate (NAFTA 1.07/USMCA).
  • Trump has not expanded his popularity beyond his base.  It is always easy to play to one's base--it takes smarts, effort, and strategery to get support beyond it.  With the help of Fox and heaps of koolaid, Trump doesn't even have to persuade his base since they buy the lies due to a distorted reality.
  • Turmoil in staff might not be a bad sign if it was productive.  But what has multiple chiefs of staff, three National Security Advisers.
I am going to have to re-think my D&D attributes scores for Trump as he may really be dumber than I thought.  No, typos are not built into this calculation as I have many twitter types, even if no covfefes or smocking guns.  Just that he does not think--he just reacts from his gut. Yeah, it says something bad that he has blundered his way to the top, but that is not new for him.  His businesses failed, yet his brand went on.  Mostly, I think, because society needed a crass 1970s moron to make fun of. 

So, is Trump dumb or is he just clever enough to fool folks?  The old SNL skit of Reagan does not apply, I am sorry.

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