Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Art of Idiocy

I have tried to wrangle the reasons behind the bizarre decision making of Trump since he entered the race. I have theorized that in fact he is in early dementia and that the gatekeepers have managed to protect him from his most dangerous impulses and in turn from others willing to exploit someone who has serious health issues affecting his mental health.

I thought that about Reagan and that in turn that inability to retain and have cogent thoughts affected much of his Presidency and while it does not excuse what transpired it shows what lengths people will go to to pursue an agenda, including exploiting and manipulating someone whose ego and emotional needs transcend their actual physical needs.  Reagan was a sad man whose history and professional pursuits failed and to be enabled or encouraged by the power brokers in order to finally receive the "greatness" he so needed to feel secure.  And that is at some level Donald Trump.

Worry really worry. Each day another revelation demonstrates how truly out of control the White House is.  There are no experienced gatekeepers, only family members with the true intent of protecting the family name.  So as we follow the daily disturbances in the White House it only further enables those whose intent is not about protection but about disruption more ways in which to attain their goals.  These are mutually exclusive and in turn deeply troubling for America and our Democracy.

We can debate the meaning of words and the concept of intent and it brings to mind the two Impeachment crisis I have been a part of and the reality of what "is" is and denials, the tapes and the cronies who were determined to protect their interests over all interests.  It opened doors for more willing participants to jump in and fill the void, to make deals and in turn jeopardize more programs and people in America.

In the Nixon years that was the Cambodian bombings, in the Clinton years it was NAFTA, Don't Ask Don't Tell, The Defense of Marriage Act, Welfare Reform and the growth of the Prison Industry.  What was sacrificed was health care in exchange.  I wonder if it was because a woman helmed that or that blow jobs just make men jealous. Funny all of the players in that game were getting plenty of them and not from their wives but this is not about "them."   But all of that led to jobs and growth but at what costs?   That was a decade of trade offs that gave us scandal after scandal and those players did not go quietly into that good night.  Many are are back swinging the same old clubs to try to get one hit in before finally packing it in.   Think of those players who should have retired and stayed in the clubhouse and ask what is their purpose or agenda and what or who does it serve?

And that is the true art of the deal - getting what is best for you and fuck the rest. And we are getting fucked here without dinner.


I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past.
The president's behavior, explained.

By Tony Schwartz The Washington Post May 162017

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive officer of the Energy Project, which helps companies tap more of people’s capacity by better meeting their core needs so they can perform more sustainably. He is the author, most recently, of “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.”

President Trump’s behavior hasn’t changed in decades. It probably never will.

Why does Donald Trump behave in the dangerous and seemingly self-destructive ways he does?

Three decades ago, I spent nearly a year hanging around Trump to write his first book, “The Art of the Deal,” and got to know him very well. I spent hundreds of hours listening to him, watching him in action and interviewing him about his life. For me, none of what he has said or done over the past four months as president comes as a surprise. The way he has behaved over the past week — firing FBI Director James B. Comey, undercutting his own aides as they tried to explain the decision and then disclosing sensitive information to Russian officials — is also entirely predictable.

Early on, I recognized that Trump’s sense of self-worth is forever at risk. When he feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others.

The Trump I first met in 1985 had lived nearly all his life in survival mode. By his own description, his father, Fred, was relentlessly demanding, difficult and driven. Here’s how I phrased it in “The Art of the Deal”: “My father is a wonderful man, but he is also very much a business guy and strong and tough as hell.” As Trump saw it, his older brother, Fred Jr., who became an alcoholic and died at age 42, was overwhelmed by his father. Or as I euphemized it in the book: “There were confrontations between them. In most cases, Freddy came out on the short end.”

Trump’s worldview was profoundly and self-protectively shaped by his father. “I was drawn to business very early, and I was never intimidated by my father, the way most people were,” is the way I wrote it in the book. “I stood up to my father and he respected that. We had a relationship that was almost businesslike.”

To survive, I concluded from our conversations, Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him: You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear or you succumbed to it — as he thought his older brother had. This narrow, defensive worldview took hold at a very early age, and it never evolved. “When I look at myself today and I look at myself in the first grade,” he told a recent biographer, “I’m basically the same.” His development essentially ended in early childhood.

Instead, Trump grew up fighting for his life and taking no prisoners. In countless conversations, he made it clear to me that he treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent of obliteration. Many of the deals in “The Art of the Deal” were massive failures — among them the casinos he owned and the launch of a league to rival the National Football League — but Trump had me describe each of them as huge successes.

With evident pride, Trump explained to me that he was “an assertive, aggressive” kid from an early age and that he had once punched a music teacher in the eye and nearly been expelled from elementary school for his behavior.

Like so much about Trump, who knows whether that story is true? What’s clear is that he has spent his life seeking to dominate others, whatever that requires, and whatever collateral damage it creates along the way. In “The Art of the Deal,” he speaks with streetfighting relish about competing in the world of New York real estate: “They are some of toughest, and most vicious people in the world. I happen to love to go up against them, and I love to beat them.” I never sensed from Trump any guilt or contrition about anything he’d done, and he certainly never shared any misgivings publicly. From his perspective, he operated in a jungle full of predators who were forever out to get him, and he did what he must to survive.

Trump was equally clear with me that he didn’t value — nor even necessarily recognize — the qualities that tend to emerge as people grow more secure, such as empathy, generosity, reflectiveness, the capacity to delay gratification or, above all, a conscience, an inner sense of right and wrong. Trump simply didn’t traffic in emotions or interest in others. The life he lived was all transactional, all the time. Having never expanded his emotional, intellectual or moral universe, he has his story down, and he’s sticking to it.

A key part of that story is that facts are whatever Trump deems them to be on any given day. When he is challenged, he instinctively doubles down — even when what he has just said is demonstrably false. I saw that countless times, whether it was as trivial as exaggerating the number of floors at Trump Tower or as consequential as telling me that his casinos were performing well when they were actually going bankrupt. In the same way, Trump sees no contradiction at all in changing his story about why he fired Comey and then undermining the explanatory statements of his aides, or in any other lie he tells. His aim is never accuracy; it’s domination.

Trump derives his sense of significance from conquests and accomplishments. “Can you believe it, Tony?” he would often begin late-night conversations with me, and then go on to describe some new example of his brilliance. But the reassurance he got from even his biggest achievements was always ephemeral and unreliable — and that appears to include being elected president. On the face of it, Trump has more opportunities now to feel significant and accomplished than almost any human being on the planet. But that’s like saying that a heroin addict has his problem licked once he has free and continuous access to the drug. Trump also now has a far bigger and more public stage on which to fail and to feel unworthy.

Any addiction has a predictable pattern — the addict keeps chasing the high by upping the ante in an increasingly futile attempt to recreate the desired state. From the very first time I interviewed him in his office in Trump Tower in 1985, the image I had of Trump was that of a black hole. Whatever goes in quickly disappears without a trace. Nothing sustains. It’s forever uncertain when someone or something will throw Trump off his precarious perch — when his sense of equilibrium will be threatened and he’ll feel an overwhelming compulsion to restore it. Beneath his bluff exterior, I always sensed a hurt, incredibly vulnerable little boy who just wanted to be loved.

What Trump craves most deeply is the adulation he has found so ephemeral. This goes a long way toward explaining his need for control and why he simply couldn’t abide Comey, who reportedly refused to accede to Trump’s demand for loyalty and whose continuing investigation into Russian interference in the election campaign last year threatened to bring down his presidency. Trump’s need for unquestioning praise and flattery also helps to explain his hostility to democracy and to a free press — both of which thrive on open dissent.

As we saw countless times during the campaign and since the election, Trump can devolve into survival mode on a moment’s notice. Look no further than the thousands of tweets he wrote attacking his perceived enemies over the past year. In neurochemical terms, when he feels threatened or thwarted, Trump moves into fight or flight. His amygdala gets triggered, his hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary axis activates, and his prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that makes us capable of rationality and reflection — shuts down. He reacts rather than reflects, and damn the consequences. This is what makes his access to the nuclear codes so dangerous and frightening.

The Trump I got to know had no deep ideological beliefs, nor any passionate feeling about anything but his immediate self-interest.

Over the past week, in the face of criticism from nearly every quarter, Trump’s distrust has almost palpably mushroomed. No importuning by his advisers would stand a chance of constraining him when he feels this deeply triggered. The more he feels at the mercy of forces he cannot control — and he is surely feeling that now — the more resentful, desperate and impulsive he becomes.

Even 30 years later, I vividly remember the ominous feeling when Trump got angry about some perceived slight. Everyone around him knew that you were best off keeping your distance at those times, or, if that wasn’t possible, to resist disagreeing with him in any way.

In the hundreds of Trump’s phone calls I listened in on with his consent, and the dozens of meetings I attended with him, I can never remember anyone disagreeing with him about anything. The same climate of fear and paranoia appears to have taken root in his White House.

The most recent time I spoke to Trump — and the first such occasion in nearly three decades — was July 14, 2016, shortly before the New Yorker published an article by Jane Mayer about my experience writing “The Art of the Deal.” Trump was just about to win the Republican nomination for president. I was driving in my car when my cellphone rang. It was Trump. He had just gotten off a call with a fact-checker for the New Yorker, and he didn’t mince words.

“I just want to tell you that I think you’re very disloyal,” he started in. Then he berated and threatened me for a few minutes. I pushed back, gently but firmly. And then suddenly, as abruptly as he began the call, he ended it. “Have a nice life,” he said, and hung up.

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