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The Depth of Trump’s Intellectual Well

Howell Hurst Presidential Election
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Several people who read my occasional Blog have faulted me on how “moderate” my criticism of Donald Trump has been. Why, they ask, have I written that we should watch him in action as president a few months before beginning to pass final judgment? OK, permit me to explain.

I have never liked Trump. The few times I watched his TV show, I felt nothing but disgust at his Tough-Guy-Watch-out-or-I’ll-Fire-You attitude. He brazenly admires power; he loves wielding it. His unrestrainable arrogance is the opposite of such a philosophically bold figure as Gandhi. I don’t ask a U.S. president to be a Gandhi, but I do expect some enhanced degree of introspection from a president: some degree of empathy, some sensitivity for the human condition, some ability to see the other guy’s side of things.

I have always been disgusted by Trump’s lack of humility. The truly wisest people of history have commonly tempered their egos with this admirable trait. They may have had focused ideas they wanted to forward; however, their ideas demonstrated that they had carefully considered them. And that they had done so without consciously targeting a narrowly-define group of people they knew were susceptible to a specific pitch. Gandhi did not segment political market niches. He strove for more universal truths.

Trump never allows the concept to exist that he may ever misperceive situations and make mistakes. He is a simplistic salesman. His personality type is similar to a Ted Turner, to cite another free-wheeling American capitalist who in his career gained the title of The Mouth. Trump is The-Mouth-Expanded-To-Absurd-Proportions. He clearly spouted in his campaign what he knew would draw in his envisioned constituency. That is what salesmen do. They understand that the repetition of simple solutions offered to resolve the fears of a simple target will sell. He has a blood instinct to find the emotional jugular of insecure people.

His mouthed religious conviction rings ridiculous in light of his exposed value system, personified by the facts that attest to his several past conscious business and moral misdeeds. It amazes me that any group of alleged religious voters could not see through his salesman’s pitch, that they do not see the massive contradictions of his spasmodic rhetoric. However, that is the historically most prominent talent demagogues possess to hypnotize a naïve constituency. Trump owns a lot of it.

In my value system, he strikes me as having acquired most of the worst possible character traits of the stereotypical high-rolling American captain of capital. He of course measures most things in terms of dollars or dominance. He seems incapable of speaking of philosophical adversaries in terms of exactly how they disagree with him on any subject. Instead, he has one strategy and one strategy only: He attacks his opponents. He states as fact that they are all inferior to him. He abuses them. He humiliates them. He kicks them.

Now that this strategy has gotten him the prize, he has begun to soften his many volatile statements, while appointing advisors to carry out his more rancid strategic goals. The theory of many pundits is that he simply gave us the rough stuff to get elected, but will now miraculously exhibit the innate wisdom, compassion, and statesmanship necessary for a world leader. I question that premise.

I find it sad that the very weakest Americans in terms of education and economic status have grasped him to themselves as their potential savior. The issue now becomes, does he possess personal convictions so sound that he can and will actually deal with his base constituency’s needs?

That remains to be seen. But it is the one reason I withhold any final judgment on him until he has shown us – in actual office by his decisions and actions –  how he reacts to the many political, philosophical, and economic forces that will confront him, and actually attempts to solve his followers’ needs. Now that he must step beyond the cheap circus show-business clown act that our presidential elections have become, will he demonstrate the concrete ethical ability to actually lead people?

In short, is there at the bottom of his intellectual well any clean water whatsoever under all the rancid sludge he shoveled out to his followers during the campaign?  Time is on our side. Let us calmly use it by observing him closely for a while. Truth has a way of coming out.

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