Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."




Total Pageviews

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

WHY IS TRUMP DOING WHAT HE IS DOING?


I am eighty-four years old.  For most of those years, I have been observing other people and making judgments about why they behave as they do.  There is nothing remarkable about this fact.  Everyone in the world does the same thing, and always has.  It is the way we humans live.  All of us are remarkably good at assessing and interpreting the behavior of others.  We have to be to survive.  Some of us, of course, are better than others, and a few are so good at it that they seem to have supernatural powers.  I would estimate that I am about average when it comes to figuring out why other people are acting as they do.  In this post, I am going to offer an opinion about why Donald Trump is doing what he is doing.  Do I have inside information?  Of course not.  Is my opinion admissible in a court of law?  A silly question.  Am I some sort of expert on human motivation?  Hardly.  I am just a person, which is to say I am someone who, like everyone else, has spent a lifetime interpreting the behavior of others.  Feel free to disagree.  But please, do not appeal to conspiracy theories or anti-Main Stream Media or ideological considerations.  If you think my explanation is wrong, then as another human being, which is to say as someone who has spent a lifetime making sense of people’s actions, tell me why you think Trump is doing what he is doing.  Remember, generally speaking, your judgment is as good as mine.

Let me give you my conclusions first, so you know where I am going with this.  I think Trump is being paid by Putin to conform American foreign, economic, and military policy to what Putin thinks are Russia’s interests.  This is not the only possible explanation for Trump’s behavior, but it seems to me the most plausible.  The principal items of evidence on which I am basing this conclusion are Trump’s trade war, his efforts to undermine NATO, his acceptance of Russia’s reabsorption of Crimea and effort to control Ukraine, his scuttling of the Iran nuclear deal, and somewhat more atmospherically his efforts to rehabilitate Putin as a respected player on the international scene.

Now, please do not protest that NATO is an evil arm of American imperial policy and ought to be undermined.  Perhaps so, but that is irrelevant.  I am not offering an opinion about the wisdom, virtue, or defensibility of America’s geopolitical stance.  I am offering an opinion about what is motivating Trump.

Here are three alternative explanations, together with my reasons for believing they are wrong.

First:  Trump has a coherent, thought-out geopolitical view about America’s proper role in the world, a view that conflicts with the consensus view that has ruled American policy in a bipartisan fashion for the past seventy years.  This is certainly possible, but it seems to me to be in conflict with what I know about Trump from my observation of him.  He is, in my judgment as an average human observer and interpreter of people, ignorant of world affairs, uninterested in world affairs, either unwilling or incapable of learning about world affairs, and temperamentally unable to focus his mind on such matters long enough to formulate anything resembling a geopolitical position.

Second:  Trump is being guided by his advisors, who are, in Lenin’s immortal phrase, using him as a useful idiot to advance their own carefully thought out policies.  This would make a good deal of sense, save that it flies in the face of the evidence.  Trump’s trade war defies everything that Larry Kudlow has believed for years.  Trump’s pro-Russia tilt and attack on NATO is the exact opposite of Bolton’s hawkish neo-con leaning.  Neither Mattis nor Kelly is, so far as I know, an opponent of the basic alignment of America’s military policy.

Third:  Trump’s policy choices are being determined by what he conceives are the interests or prejudices of his political base.  This comes closest to being plausible, and certainly suffices to explain his anti-immigrant policies and some of his mercantilist economic choices.  But it completely fails to explain his bromance with Putin.  There is not, and never has been, any deep groundswell of pro-Russian sentiment among White non-college educated men in America.  The traditional loyalties of German-Americans in Joseph McCarthy’s state may have explained his willingness to accept the claim that Russia, not Germany, was responsible for the Katyn massacre.  But there are no pockets of Russian-Americans yearning for the steppes of the old country [save perhaps in Brooklyn, but that is not the locus of Trump’s base of support.]

Well, why then?  Taking everything we know about Trump and his business dealings, the most plausible explanation seems to me to be money.  If public reports are correct, Trump’s repeated bankruptcies put him in a bad way financially twenty years or more ago.  Banks would not lend to him.  Russian oligarchs proceeded to bail him out by lending him money and using his real estate holdings as a vehicle for money laundering.  It really looks as though Trump is deeply in hock to Putin and Putin’s circle.  The most plausible explanation for Trump’s assault on the North Atlantic alliance is that he is doing Putin’s bidding for pay.

That is my judgment, as an ordinary human being with eighty-four years’ experience figuring out why people are doing things.  If you disagree, offer an alternative explanation.  You too have spent your life trying to figure out why people are doing things.  Give it a go.

24 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Couldn't it just be that Trump is capricious, not particularly intelligent but very cunning, childish, inconsistent, inept at being able to see the long and even middle-term consequences of his decisions (as his failures in business show), good at dominating equally childish people (of whom there are many), a bully, in love with powerful males such as Putin (which does not mean that he is Putin's paid stooge)?

We've all known people who are incredibly capricious and irresponsible, who buy a new house and then decide that they don't like it and sell it at a loss a week later, who are ethical vegans one day and the next day eat a McDonalds, who are devout Catholics and then suddenly New Atheists, who get married one week and divorced the next, who do not learn from their mistakes, but somehow always find a new sucker to dominate, etc. Generally, that kind of person does not become president of a great power, but given the reality show nature of U.S. politics, one is now president.




s. wallerstein said...

In addition, Trump, like many teenagers, has a streak of perversity: if you tell them to be sure to brush their teeth, they'll not brush them to show how "independent and free" they are. In response to good and sane advice, Trump will change his course just to show that he is "free". That characteristic may even be charming and refreshing in a 16 year old (as long as he or she is not your child), but is disastrous in the chief executive of a country.

David Palmeter said...

I agree that the most plausible explanation is Putin/Russia, but I don't think he's being paid. Payments could be hard to conceal. My guess is that he's done many shady things and they have the goods on him. He's being told what to do or they'll share what the know with the world. Money laundering seems very likely to me. He might have done it in conjunction with them.

Another financial possibility, aside from money laundering, is that the Russian banks (effectively run by Putin and his kleptocracy), can put a financial squeeze on him for all the loans they've extended. They could threaten to bankrupt a large part of his real estate empire.

I agree that none of it is brought about by his public policy views. He has no public policy views apart, perhaps, from protectionism in trade. Policy views flow from values, and he has no values other than himself.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

David Palmeter, I accept your emendation as more plausible. I guess I unthinkingly included it under the rubric of being paid. I doubt it is something like the supposed tape mentioned by Christopher Steele, but who knows?

Anonymous said...

the second paragraph of s. wallerstein's first comment sounds a bit like plato's description of democracy in his "republic"

might that identify part of the problem?

Jerry Fresia said...

No conspiracy theories?

Derek said...

I'll offer an alternative, one that accords with your other observations but does better in other respects. My explanation is: Trump is five years old. Mentally speaking, that is.

I agree with you about Trump's ignorance. His idea of politics and global affairs is precisely that of a five-year-old on the playground. Power is the only thing, bigger people have more power (both literally and figuratively; recall 'little Marco' and his way of hovering behind Clinton in the second debate), and power is known only through ostentatiously showing it--by being obvious and aggressive (recall, again, the second debate, and Trump's constant need to respond to any criticism).

I agree that Trump is not listening to his advisors. This is explained by the above point; if he looks like he is taking orders from someone else, then in his mind he is not in power and is therefore weak. If he even feels this way, if he feels like he is being bossed around, he will get angry and feel threatened. The history of the last year and a half has been of advisors trying to steer Trump, and him resisting or not to various degrees until he finally gets tired of it and kicks them out (which has been the motifof the last few months).

As for the political base, Trump doesn't have any real perception of a political base, per se. He perceives whether people appear to love him or not. As an elderly man who is still at the maturity of a five-year-old, he desperately wants the approval of--well, ultimately his father, but since his father is not around the crowd will have to do. Policies barely matter, except insofar as they represent strength--i.e., trade, military, and borders, the only things he approaches consistency on outside of Russia. For the rest, he just wants people to like him.

So, what about Russia?

Why does Trump like, say, Kim Jong-Un? "US President Donald Trump has said that he would like US citizens to "sit up in attention" when he talks, in the same way North Korea's people do when their leader Kim Jong-un speaks." (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-kim-jong-un-us-north-korea-people-fox-news-a8400571.html) He's five years old mentally, but he has the experience of seventy years--he's not good at perceiving much, but he's extremely sensitive to displays of power. He respects--by which I really mean 'envies'--people who can succeed at such displays. That's why he talks so much about the military and 'his generals'. That's why he has an affection for dictators in general, and a general contempt for democracy (to him, the Presidency is not distinguishable from a kingship). And Putin--well, Google "Putin horse photo" and ask yourself what Trump will say.

Trump's love of over displays of stereotypical masculine power and incredible resistance to anyone telling him what to do (since it makes him look weak if he listens) are at least mostly sufficient, I think, to explain his behavior. He doesn't have to be paid to act this way. Trump is a man so easy to manipulate by those who actually understand the basic workings of his mind that, if you look powerful and act nice to him, your job is pretty much done for you.

I don't know if this account is true. I think it's very plausible, and fits very well with Trump as a person. I think there may be dirt as well, but it's not necessary that there be dirt in order to explain everything. Talking about money is unnecessary when you can talk about basic human desires, and the desire to feel strong and the desire to feel loved are two of the most powerful of those.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Derwek, this is very well put, and entirely believeable. Does it explain why his policies so cloely align with Russia's? I am not sure, but in the end, you may be quite right.

MS said...

Documents turned over to the Congressional committees investigating Trump's ties to Russia indicated that in 1998 the Taj Mahal casino, then owned by Trump, was fined $477,,000 for 106 violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, by failing to report activities involving the laundering of money by gamblers who cashed out $10,000 or more money in one day. It was the largest fine that the Treasury Dept. had ever assessed against a casino. It is believed that the gamblers in question were Russian mobsters living in Brooklyn who used the casino to launder ill-gotten gains. Whether there is some connection between Putin and the Russian mobsters has not, as of yet, been determined, but apparently is being investigated by Mueller.

Jerry Fresia said...

I'm probably missing something, but my reading of the Mueller probe has proven only one real collaborative relationship and that is with Israel:
https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-trump-russia-mueller-probe-the-israel-connections-1.6116639

Blacked out in US media as the G7 summit was meeting was the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in China (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan). As they grow, they inevitably covet western measures of having arrived. Toss in Saudia Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar and you will find billionaires building bridges to western billionaires and their various enterprises. Think Louvre Abu Dhabi: "an art and civilization museum, located in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The museum was established on November 8, 2017.[3] It is part of a thirty-year agreement between the city of Abu Dhabi and the French government....making it the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. The final cost of the construction is expected to be about €600 million. In addition, US$525 million was paid by Abu Dhabi to be associated with the Louvre name, and an additional US$747 million will be paid in exchange for art loans....(Wiki)

Think back to the Shah and "one of the odder aspects of the late Shah’s regime was its wish to buy modern Wester art, so as to seem “liberal” and “advanced.” Seurat in the parlor, SAVAK in the basement." - as the brilliant Robert Hughes characterize the relationship. So along comes The Donald who is feted by Israel, the Saudi's, and others anxious to compete with the Western hegemony. Marriages made in heaven.

The evil Ruskies have serious competition for The Donald's ear.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Jerry, you have not addressed the question I tried to answer. Why is Trump undermining NATO, the Atlantic Alliance, and the international capitalist economic order?

Anonymous said...

There was a New Yorker article about how one of the Russian generals came up with the idea of weaponizing information. He's been running the Kremlin's halls long before Putin and finally in Putin found a willing master to take the initiative to the next level. It did not go into overdrive until after the Crimea sanctions hit Putin's pocket directly. This general has had one or two people in every western country long before Putin's interest in undermining elections, for example. In short, the ground the was laid long before now.

Jerry Fresia said...

I think Professor, because he has no knowledge of the "internationalist capitalist economic order." The primary order that drives him is fame and fortune and the "East," if we may call it that, has a lot of plumbs to offer, including those dangled in front of him by Russia. Add to that his affection for authoritarian rule, militarism, and racism. I'm not saying that Russia is not in the mix, it is just that anything resembling a check on his power, in his mind, is disqualifying. The scene where he pushed ahead of the PM of Montenegro explains a lot. NATO, long standing alliances, where intelligent peers with knowledge of history and diplomacy are tedious, repulsive. He's a 9 year old who wouldn't want to attend the birthday party of others, just his own. So he has found partners who are unbelievably rich, authoritarian, and like to stare into a glowing orb. His cup of tea. Bottom line: he's the male version of Sarah Pelin.

Anonymous said...

" Why is Trump undermining NATO, the Atlantic Alliance, and the international capitalist economic order? "

Maybe, 1, because his notion of how it may better be defended differs from the one which has governed it for a long time now--he wasn't the only proponent of capitalism who thought that neoliberalism joined with liberal interventionism was problematical, was he?

Maybe, 2, because he's a national capitalist, not an international one?

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

That imputes to him knowledge and purpose that he has shown no evidence of possessing. Do you actually believe that is his motivation, or do you think that could be the motivation of someone you agree with? Not at all the same thing.

MS said...

I believe the comments that have been posted underestimate how cunning Trump is. No, he is not an intellectual. He has not read Tolstoy or Proust; he does not know, or care, who Hobbes or Locke were. What he knows is how to manipulate a certain mentality - and he does it very well. And there are a lot more people in this country with that mentality than we realized. Does he admire Putin - Yes. Is he indebted to Putin for something; probably. But that is not what is motivating his policy stances. All of his positions are part of his strategy to appeal to the mentality of those who support him. He appeals to the forgotten American, the American who feels exploited and ignored. He is Howard Beale from Network,shouting, "I'm mad has hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." His beef with NATO is that the European countries are purportedly not paying their fair share for their defense. The exploited Americans are being taken advantage of. I don't believe it has anything to do with aiding Putin and Russia. The same with his stance on tariffs - your job was sent overseas because prior administrations did not adequately protect your interests against the foreigners. Well I'm going to kick them in the ass for you. On immigration - foreigners are invading this country, committing crimes, exploiting our benevolence, taking your jobs and not paying their taxes. I am going to protect you from these barbarians.

Calling him a juvenile, a five-year old underestimates his native cunning. Damn it - he became President against the odds and the scoffing of the pundits. And He is very dangerous. Who else had this native cunning - dare I say his name? Hitler was no intellectual; he threw childish tantrums. Those in power deemed him a dunderhead, and refereed to him as such in private. They thought they could use him to their advantage. But Hitler understood the grievances of the average German and knew how to exploit them. Is Trump an eloquent speaker - No. He does not use elegant language. But have you seen his rallies? He knows what language to use to drive his supporters into a frenzy. If he is so stupid and immature, how has he managed to make his esteemed, well-educated Cabinet appointees grovel for him? We are dealing with a phenomenon unprecedented in American history, and we scoff at his intellectual deficiencies at our peril.

Anonymous said...

MS - right on. I think by this point we should all at least understand that Trump is not someone to be underestimated - moron though he may appear to be, much of the time.

As for Trump "undermining the international capitalist economic order" - how exactly is he doing this? Tweeting and slapping on some extra tariffs hardly undermines capitalist order. Most of the international capitalist class, which has a lot of capital in the US, is celebrating Trump's tax reductions. That is the single issue for many of those voters and funders of campaigns.

Certain media are of course acting in a frenzy over a possible trade war, but the analysts at the big banks don't expect one and point out that we still have lower tariffs overall than all of our trading partners. This is just another Trump negotiation tactic. Capitalists are happy that their tax burden is reduced, unemployment is down, people are borrowing and spending more, etc.

Franz said...

Let me second MS's comment and add that Trump's goal is to enrich himself and his family, along with his cronies in the cabinet and "business". To that, he follows Putin's example and subverts democracy at every opportunity. Putin and his oligarchic friends are certainly aiding Trump since his success supports their argument to the Russian people that democracy is a sham. See Timothy Snyder's The Road to Unfreedom. Trump doesn't need Putin's money. He does need Putin's interference on our democracy.

Derek said...

I certainly agree that Trump is cunning. But I also think that five-year-olds can be extremely cunning--if you've ever engaged in an extended argument with a five-year-old determined to win, you know I'm not overstating this. Being cunning and being incredibly ignorant are totally compatible, and I think that's exactly the case here. In fact, I think it's fairly common. Con men don't have to be geniuses, and as I recall the boys who best negotiated the world of girls in high were not the Honors students. Those who approach everything intentionally and intellectually tend, if anything, to be rather short on cunning--For an example see: Clinton, Hillary.

If Trump's cunning is 'native', as MS says, that just demonstrates my point--Trump operates on instinct and feeling. He to be very good at it, but it's not magic. Countless reporters who have watched his rallies have observed that, when Trump finds the audience cooling off, he will suddenly engage in a call-and-response or invoke a familiar slogan, even if it's totally irrelevant, to get them going again. That's cunning joined with instinct, not intelligence or understanding. He knows not what he does, but he does it well. This distinction matters a great deal because it means that, cunning as he is, Trump is extremely vulnerable to manipulation and being out-maneuvered. His typical response to any challenge is to try to whip people up again until he can drown it out; it's unclear how long that will continue to work, but it since it is operating on a Republican propaganda campaign dating back to the Southern Strategy and the Silent Majority, it could potentially hold out for a while.

-----

As for the Cabinet and staff's falling in line, do you refer to such luminaries as Betsy DeVos and Ben Carson? Or do you mean those who were systematically browbeaten and threatened while trying to do their actual jobs up to the moment they were fired (Tillerson, Priebus, etc.)? Or those clearly angling for their own power base, potentially at Trump's expense (Pruitt, Pence, etc.)?

It's important to remember that the election went as it did for many reasons; Trump has not yet proven himself a world-historical man. (He's a Silvio Burlusconi or a Kaiser Wilhelm II, if you want a real historical analogy.) It's also important to remember that people still hold a special feeling for the presidency, and hoped that he would as well. For at least a year people hoped Trump could be controlled or moderated, and in reality it worked (though not consistently) for a while, which fact we need to recall. Trump could, until a few months ago, often be brought around to accepting something or not going over the edge if he was told it would be a win, if he was just ignored until it went away, etc. Trump backed down on trade wars, didn't actually press his wall demands, didn't meet with Putin (and straight-up lost on the question of sanctions), or endorsed someone like Luther Strange. His resentments built each time, though, and in the last few months he's pushed all those people away--and all at once, all these things come to the fore. This isn't the work of a brilliant mind, but it is the work of a man who takes himself for one.

s. wallerstein said...

I share Derek's psychological analysis of Trump and he (Derek) says it much better than I ever could.

Let me add one point to what Derek says and to what I said more clumsily (than Derek) above.

Trump is incredibly resentful. He tried to make it (in the 80's) as a member of the Manhattan liberal elite, but he was too vulgar, uncouth, openly greedy (you have to be more subtly greedy), openly misogynist and poorly educated to fit in. That, I believe, produced a lasting hatred of the liberal elite, the New York Times, the guys from Ivy League schools at Wall St., the corporate lawyers who read serious book and can talk about John Rawls, etc. So one of the chief motivations behind Trump's rancor against the liberal elite and all the institutions they admire (NATO, the free trade agreements, globalized capital) is that rejection which he will never accept and never get over. By idolizing Putin and other strongmen (Duterte, Kim, etc.), Trump gives the finger to the liberal elite, who, while far from leftwing, reject outright macho demonstrations of power as uncouth, primitive, etc.

Marc said...

Derek,

I am not sure of the point you are making. The original question posed by Professor Wolff was what was motivating Trump's policy decisions regarding NATO, trade, immigration, etc. He suggested that his policy positions are related to a debt that he owes Putin/Russia for past financial assistance that Putin provided to sustain his financially troubled business enterprises, payments that Trump feels indebted to him for. There is speculation that such payments have occurred and that Trump therefore feels beholden to Putin. I suggested an alternative. Yes, he feels indebted to Putin for some reason, and that is why he praises Putin so excessively. But I suggested that is not the impetus for his policy decisions. His policy decisions are intended to satisfy the yearnings of his supporters. In doing so, he maintains his power, thereby enhancing the success of his business enterprises and feeding his outsized ego. It has been reported that he and his family are using their influential positions to line their pockets - Ivanka's request for trademark protection in China; Jared Kushner's obtaining enormous loans from the United Arab Emirates to pay for loans on his properties in New York; diplomats visiting the White House paying for lodging at Trump's hotel in DC; etc. Trump can only continue to reap these benefits as long as he sustains his power as President, and to do so he will say and do anything to allay the emotional insecurities of his supporter.

I do not contest that Trump is entirely ignorant and academically unenlightened. You indicate that being cunning and being ignorant are not incompatible. I never said otherwise. But he is not just, as you put it, a cunning five-year old. Cunning five-year olds, aside from their chronological incapacity, do not have the self-discipline to run a campaign and become President. Trump is intellectually lazy - he does not read books, he has intelligence reports read to him, etc. But in terms of feeding his ambition, he is very self-disciplined. What concerns me about your response is that it displays a certain smugness, a conviction that, because Trump is an idiot, he will ultimately fail, that his cunning is not sufficient to maintain his position of power or get him re-elected. I find this complacency disturbing. Actually, his poll numbers have been rising. You say he backed down on his trade wars. The news I have been reading indicate otherwise - he has increased tariffs on Canadian and Chinese goods. You say he did not press his demand for constructing a wall, yet the bills that the House failed to pass included funding for the wall.

Regarding his appontees, we can all agree that Betsy Devos is a political hack and an imbecile. Ben Carson for all his political naivete, is an accomplished neurosurgeon, with outstanding academic credentials. John Kelly is a decorated general and no intellectual slouch. You may dislike his politics, as I do, but that does detract from his IQ. Wilbur Ross was a successful investment banker. Jim Mattis was also a decorated general and a recognized military historian. You may deplore Steve Mnuchin's venality, as I do, but he established a very successful hedge fund. Mike Pompeo, the former head of the CIA; Dan Coats, national security adviser; etc. These people are not dunderheads. They all answer to Trump and do his bidding. You assert that Trump is easily manipulated. Yet those who don't tow the line are gone.

You say that Trump has not yet "proven himself a world-historical man," he is more like Kaiser Wilhelm II. My recollection is that Kaiser Wilhelm's decisions wreaked considerable havoc on the world. Give Trump time.

In sum, my concern is that you underestimate the damage that Trump's instinctual cunning can cause to this country and to the world. He will say and do anything to mollify his supporters in order, in turn, to solidify his position of power. There is no telling what he would not do should he sense that his hold on power is threatened.

Hey Man said...

I find it hard to believe that Trump is easily manipulated, at least over an extended period of time (getting him to say something off the cuff might not be hard, I admit, but he'll forget that an hour later). He seems to me too inconsistent, unpredictable, and unreflective to be manipulated by a single party over the course of years. Many people close to him have tried to use him, and except for family members, they all seem to get kicked aside in disgrace with nothing to show for it. To manipulate someone properly, the target needs to be reliable, following certain rules and obeying certain limits. This allows the manipulator to anticipate likely moves and take advantage. I don't think Trump is such a target. This makes it hard for me to think that Putin is manipulating (e.g., blackmailing) him. Just my conjecture, of course.

Derek said...

I never said Trump wasn't a threat. As you are noticing and as I referenced indirectly in my comment, Kaiser Wilhelm was one of the main factors behind WWI. Any child, if given an army and a nuclear button, could be harmful (to keep my original theme, which you appear to be taking as literally as possible). And if the standard for 'world-historical' is causing catastrophic harm, surely he could yet meet that threshold. But rather than talking about that, I stuck with the original question, which was about Trump's motives and where that puts him in the current political context.

Nor do I think Trump will necessarily fail. You seem to assume that I think people who don't read big books with big words are all failures who can never accomplish anything. I'm not sure why, since I never said that, never implied it, never gestured at it, and in fact implied the exact opposite--the point of the reference to Hillary Clinton in my last comment. Slow down a bit before you assume I'm in my ivory tower, corn-cob pipe clenched firmly between teeth as I sneer at the unwashed masses.

Read without assuming so much and you'll notice, for instance, that I said this: "Trump backed down on trade wars, didn't actually press his wall demands . . . . His resentments built each time, though, and in the last few months he's pushed all those people away--and all at once, all these things come to the fore." I'm not sure, for example, why you think I don't believe he's moving forward on trade wars, unless you think 'these things' has some mystery referent. Feel free to question my interpretation of Trump, but if you do, do so based on the words I actually use, not your preferred version of them. Doing so will answer most of your other concerns as well.

Jerry Fresia said...

One can tally the linkages/quid pro quos between Putin and Trump but unless the linkages between the Saudis, Israel, and others
are also tallied and examined in a similar manner, we run the risk of fomenting another Cold War, augmenting the war makers, and harming the left, to say nothing of corrupting the analysis.