Posted at 11:51 AM in American Politics, Books, Current Affairs, Environmental Issues, Foreign Policy and National Security, Political Commentary and Analysis, Public Diplomacy, Public Policy Issues, Think Tanks, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: alt-right, autocracy, conservatism, democracy, Donald Trump, electoral college, Federalist Papers, GOP, illiberalism, liberalism, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, populism, presidential election
“However, Mr. Ullrich offers a fascinating Shakespearean parable about how the confluence of circumstance, chance, a ruthless individual and the willful blindness of others can transform a country — and, in Hitler’s case, lead to an unimaginable nightmare for the world.”
Earlier this week, the New York TImes’ Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michiko Kakutani reviewed the first of a two-volume scholarly examination of Adolf Hitler — “Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939” — by the distinguished German historian and journalist, Volker Ullrich. If you missed this review, we recommend reading it. Now.
As you peruse Kakutani’s review, you might give thought to Mark Twain’s dictum,“ History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” and George Santayana’s axiom, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Now, to Kakutani’s review.
Now, to the American presidential election and the choice (sic) offered.
In five weeks from Tuesday, the country will hold an election fraught with as much consequence as any in its history, perhaps more.
That bears repeating: the country will hold an election fraught with as much consequence as any in its history, perhaps more.
This isn’t another of those ‘lesser of two evils’ elections. It isn’t a ‘Catch 22.’ And it isn’t ‘Morton’s Fork.’
This is ‘Hobson’s Choice.’
This judgment will come as no surprise to readers of TMR who have followed the arc of Donald Trump’s ill-considered, ill-tempered campaign from his opening gambit at Trump Tower in June 2015 right through to his current juvenile Twitter-tantrum about a former beauty queen.
Having observed behavior far beyond the forty-yard lines of American political campaigning, we take seriously the observations of multiple board-certified clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who have concluded that Trump presents with a narcissistic personality disorder, and for those who need a refresher on what this means, here’s the Mayo Clinic’s definition:
“Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and other areas of their life, such as work or school.
And from the American Psychological Association’s, DSM-5, the symptoms include — grandiose sense of self-importance; preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love; belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions; need for excessive admiration; sense of entitlement; interpersonally exploitive behavior; lack of empathy; envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her; demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes.
It’s important for voters to understand the distinction between a narcissist and person with a narcissistic personality disorder: it’s the difference between someone who has the capacity to control behavior when it counts and one who cannot. That incapacity is the single most salient characteristic of Donald Trump, and is the reason he keeps doubling down in situations like Monday night’s debate, the morning after, and the morning after the morning after. It’s the reason he’d rather Tweet than sleep.
He can’t help himself. And he surely can’t help us. But he could do great harm.
Fortunately for the republic, many ardent Republican and conservative individuals and organizations have understood the implications of Trump’s inveterate pathology.
When news organizations like the Arizona Republic, Dallas Morning News, Cincinnati Inquirer, USA Today, and others to follow, risk their customer base and revenue streams on political endorsements and recommendations that break with decades and decades of endorsement policy, you know something more than the standard ‘blood-sport’ tribal battles of American politics is at stake.
“There is only one serious candidate on the presidential ballot in November. We recommend Hillary Clinton.
“We don't come to this decision easily. This newspaper has not recommended a Democrat for the nation's highest office since before World War II — if you're counting, that's more than 75 years and nearly 20 elections.
“Resume vs. resume, judgment vs. judgment, this election is no contest.”
“The Enquirer has supported Republicans for president for almost a century – a tradition this editorial board doesn’t take lightly. But this is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times. Our country needs calm, thoughtful leadership to deal with the challenges we face at home and abroad. We need a leader who will bring out the best in all Americans, not the worst.
“That’s why there is only one choice when we elect a president in November: Hillary Clinton.”
“Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.
“This year is different.
“The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.
“That’s why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.
“The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting.
“Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not.
“Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Donald Trump does not.”
And from USA Today:
“In the 34-year history of USA TODAY, the Editorial Board has never taken sides in the presidential race. Instead, we’ve expressed opinions about the major issues and haven’t presumed to tell our readers, who have a variety of priorities and values, which choice is best for them. Because every presidential race is different, we revisit our no-endorsement policy every four years. We’ve never seen reason to alter our approach. Until now.
“This year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates — Republican nominee Donald Trump — is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.
“From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.”
At this point, we could agree that ‘everything has been said, but not every one has said it.’ However, we should anticipate more editorial endorsement surprises for the Republican nominee, and continued erosion among the ranks of business, civic, political, and professional leaders who would otherwise be supporting the Republican and opposing the Democrat, and particularly Hillary Clinton.
Whether and to what extent that will influence the popular vote and the electoral college outcome is anyone’s guess. Ask the Brits who thought Brexit would fail. And ask any of the ‘serious’ candidates who encountered Donald Trump in the Republican primaries whether they thought he would prevail.
But if the past is prologue, we can expect ‘more of same’ from the man who got short-changed on the psychological assembly line — he got the ego and the id, but the superego is nowhere to be found.
And that takes us to an observation by Edmund Burke, the father of modern Conservatism:
“But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.”
Go with Hobson. Vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Posted at 06:21 PM in American Politics, Books, Current Affairs, Environmental Issues, Foreign Policy and National Security, Political Commentary and Analysis, Public Diplomacy, Public Policy Issues, Religion, Television, Think Tanks, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Dallas Morning News, Donald Trump, DSM-5, Edmund Burke, HIllary Clinton, Hitler, Hobson's Choice, Michiko Kakutani, narcissistic personaliity disorder, New York Times, presidential race, Pulitzer Prize critic, Shakespearean parable, USA Today, Volker Ullrich
Posted at 05:58 PM in American Politics, Books, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy and National Security, Political Commentary and Analysis, Public Diplomacy, Public Policy Issues, Television, Think Tanks, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: Ben Wittes, Brookings Institution, classified information, Clinton, Clinton e-mails, criminal charges, Department of Justice, FBI, Garrett Mitchell, Hillary, Hillary Clinton, HRC, James Comey, Lawfare, Loretta Lynch, presidential campaign, The Mitchell Report
Posted at 08:08 PM in American Politics, Current Affairs, Environmental Issues, Foreign Policy and National Security, Political Commentary and Analysis, Public Diplomacy, Public Policy Issues, Religion, Think Tanks, Travel, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: Boris Johnson, Brexit, direct democracy, England, EU, European Union, Great Britain, Nigel Farage, representative democracy, Shakespeare, sovereignty, UK
June 18, 2016
Obama, in my reading, does not—contra his right-leaning critics—suffer illusions about the pathologies afflicting the broader Muslim world. If anything, his pessimism on matters related to the dysfunctions of Muslim states, and to the inability of the umma—the worldwide community of Muslims—to contain and ultimately neutralize the extremist elements in its midst, has, at times, an almost paralyzing effect on him.
Obama and Radical Islam, Jeffrey Goldberg
If you’re looking for that perfect last-minute Father’s Day gift, planning a quiet celebration of the 204th anniversary of the U. S. declaration of war against Great Britain, thus commencing the War of 1812, or recalling listening to Winston Churchill’s ‘their finest hour’ speech 76 years ago today, then you’re an ideal candidate for this weekend’s TMR ‘Reader’ assignment.
It’s another of journalist Jeffery Goldberg’s candid and deeply researched essays on President Barack Obama, and it comes on the heels of Donald Trump’s mind-boggling assertions about the President and the horror of Orlando, as reported in this Washington Post blog:
“Asked by a Fox News anchor why Obama didn't immediately call the attack ‘Islamic terrorism,’ Trump replied that Obama either ‘doesn't get it or he gets it better than anybody understands.’ He then continued, saying that ‘we're led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or has something else in mind.’
“When NBC's Savannah Guthrie asked Trump to explain that last comment, Trump sort of passed the buck. ‘Well, there are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn't want to get it,’ he said. ‘A lot of people think maybe he doesn't want to know about it.’
And on that point, he was joined by none other than his ‘friend’ John McCain, who facing the toughest race of his career, both in the primary and general election, has set the bar for responsible campaign allegations lower than the limbo bar at the world championships in Trinidad and Tobago.
But if you are interested in understanding why the President has consistently chosen to avoid using the term, ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ or any of its variations, Goldberg’s reporting will fill in the blanks. For this and several other important considerations about the President and the strategic options for dealing with this menace, I highly recommend this most recent piece.
Happy Father’s Day to all and Happy 74th birthday to Paul McCartney.
P. S. And if you either missed, have mislaid, or not gotten around to reading Goldberg’s tour de force about Obama and foreign policy — “The Obama Doctrine” — consider this a bonus gift to all fathers, their family and friends, neighbors, and coworkers.
Posted at 04:02 PM in American Politics, Books, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy and National Security, Political Commentary and Analysis, Public Diplomacy, Public Policy Issues, Religion, Television, Think Tanks | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: Churchill, Donald Trump, Fox News, Islam, Islamic terrorism, John McCain, Muslim society, Obama, Paul McCartney, radical Islam, Savannah Guthrie, terrorism, Today Show
If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don't receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having "the best" of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.
At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.
Yes, the title — The Anatomy of an Illness — is ‘borrowed,’ or ‘appropriated,’ if you prefer. It’s from the 1979 book by Norman Cousins, editor of Saturday Review magazine for three decades, and the author of a remarkable article forty years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine about his struggle with a pernicious disease — one of the rare occasions in which an article by a layperson was published in this prestigious medical magazine.
The full title is, “The Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration,” and is among the most prized books in my library.
Because this TMR deals with the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, we will focus only on the ‘the anatomy of an illness’ — his disorder. “As perceived by the patient,” doesn’t work with a hard core narcissist. And we will leave ‘healing and regeneration’ for another day.
Because there is considerable knowledge about Trump’s ‘illness’, we have a portal — a psychological frame — through which we can understand the salient factors about the man and the persona.
There is a considerable body of literature on the psychology of individual American presidents, including, “Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study,” by William Bullitt and Sigmund Freud (and yes, you read that right.)
More recently, “Personality, Character, and Leadership in the White House: Psychologists Assess the Presidents,” by Drs. Steven Rubenzer and Thomas Faschingbauer, which examines presidents on ‘big five’ traits — neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and on thirty ‘facet’ elements.
Perhaps the most prolific scholar on presidential character was James David Barber, Duke university professor, author of two highly acclaimed studies, Presidential Character (1972) and The Pulse of Politics (1980), who established a four-typology model for assessing presidents — active-positive, active-negative, passive-positive, and passive-negative. Barber was revered by many presidential observers, most notably Time magazine’s Hugh Sidey, but often viewed with lesser esteem by austere members of the academy.
In a 1980 article on Barber for VQR (Virginia Quarterly Review,) by journalist and college professor, Michael Nelson, he includes Barber’s perceptive, predictive observation written on the eve of Richard Nixon’s inauguration. Nixon was an ‘active-negative’ in Barber’s typology (before the 1972 election he would amplify that with ‘psychologically defective active-negative.)
“The primary danger of the Nixon administration will be that the President will grasp some line of policy or method of operation and pursue it in spite of its failure. . . . How will Nixon respond to challenges to the morality of his regime, to charges of scandal and/or corruption? First such charges strike a raw nerve, not only from the Checkers business, but also from deep within the personality in which the demands of the superego are so harsh and hard. . . . The first impulse will be to hush it up, to conceal it, bring down the blinds. If it breaks open and Nixon cannot avoid commenting on it, there is a real setup here for another crisis”
Enough about Nixon. What about Trump? Both psychologically and characterologically defective, albeit in different ways.
For insight, we turn to the Mayo Clinic definition of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which allows us to anticipate the behavioral conduct and organizational temper of a Trump presidency, if not its specific policies. For substantiation, we can consider his Tweets following the Orlando massacre, which had nothing to do with the carnage and profound field of pain and anguish, but with the congratulatory notes he received for having divined such an incident. 50 dead, 50 injured, a community in crisis, first responders, family, and friends in shock, and yet his Tweets were about him. To further prove his warped mindset, he followed with thinly camouflaged remarks to suggest that the President of the United States was somehow in league with its causal factors.
It is on occasions of this magnitude that we have a unique opportunity to take the measure of a leader. These are ‘teachable moments,’ not to be dismissed or discounted.
In the case of Orlando and Trump, we observe the radical distinction between a narcissistic personality versus a narcissistic personality disorder. The former can be trying and troublesome, the latter is genuine psychopathology: a POTUS with NPD is a treacherous proposition, a game of American roulette, upping the ante from one bullet in the chamber to three or more.
And yet, the leaders of the Republican Party continue to tiptoe around the elephant in the room, or the ‘giant sea tortoise,’ as Garrison Keillor describes Trump in his most recent riff:
“The dreamers in the Republican Party imagine that success will steady him and he will accept wise counsel and come into the gravitational field of reality, but it isn't happening. The Orlando tweets show it: The man does not have a heart. How, in a few weeks, should Mr. Paul Ryan and Mr. Mitch McConnell teach him basic humanity? The bigot and braggart they see today is the same man that New Yorkers have been observing for 40 years. A man obsessed with marble walls and gold-plated doorknobs, who has the sensibility of a giant sea tortoise.
“His response to the Orlando tragedy is one more clue that this election is different from any other. If Mitt Romney or John McCain had been elected president, you might be disappointed, but you wouldn't fear for the fate of the Republic. This time, the Republican Party is nominating a man who resides in the dark depths. He is a thug and he doesn't bother to hide it. The only greatness he knows about is himself.”
Trump will continue to be Trump. To think otherwise is fanciful. To accept his iniquities is folly. And to imagine that somehow this will all sort itself out on Tuesday, November 8th is fatalism of the worst strain.
Republicans are facing an existential crisis, which if not addressed at or before Cleveland will be a watershed moment unlike any other in the history of presidential elections. No one should pretend that this is an easy decision for the GOP leadership. There is the reality that Trump cleared the field; that ‘the people have spoken;’ and that the nomination is, by all rights, his to claim.
But by his words and deeds, Donald Trump has shown what a Trump presidency would produce. He has spent the past year consistently hitting below the belt, flouting the standards of decency and demeaning the aspirations of what G. K. Chesterton described in his 1922 classic, “What I Saw in America” as ‘the only country with the soul of a church.’
Warts and all, and there are warts aplenty, this is still a great nation, indefatigable if not uniformly indispensable, intent on doing good even when doing its opposite, and despite all of Donald Trump’s stentorian screeching, the most active agent for the preservation and enhancement of the liberal democratic order.
As historian Robert Kagan writes in “The World America Made:”
“In most respects, Americans are like any other people with a blend of selfishness and generosity. More than most, they have been a people of contradictory impulses and a most ambivalent view of what role, if any, they ought to play in the world.
“They are a people rife with potent national myths that both inspire and mislead them.
“They are not missionaries. But neither have they been able to escape their democratic identity, their democratic conscience, and their conviction that their special cause is, as Ben Franklin said, the ‘cause of all mankind.”
To borrow a phrase from our friends in Texas, Mr. Trump is ‘all hat’ and as he keeps shouting through it, the emptiness of his bespoke suits and the vacancy of his soul speak loudly and clearly.
R. Garrett Mitchell
The Mitchell Report
June 16, 2016
Posted at 05:14 PM in American Politics, Books, Current Affairs, Environmental Issues, Foreign Policy and National Security, Political Commentary and Analysis, Public Diplomacy, Public Policy Issues, Think Tanks, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: American presidents, Anatomy of an Illness, Donald Trump, James Barber, Mitch McConnell, narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder, Obama, Orlando, Paul Ryan, Richard Nixon
June 3, 2016
Hobson’s Choice: the option of taking the one thing offered or nothing
Sophie’s Choice: a choice between two persons or things that will result in the death or destruction of the person or thing not chosen
Morton’s Fork: choice that yields equivalent and most often undesirable results
With this restrained, unadorned statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan offered what has been termed an ‘endorsement’ of the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump:
“[Trump] would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people's lives. That's why I'll be voting for him this fall.”
It might have been more accurate to characterize Ryan’s statement as an ‘acquiesence,’ less an endorsement, a concession to the reality of the Republican primary season. In any event, it’s safe to say there’s no joy in Janesville tonight.
So, what were Ryan’s options? And what led him to this choice? What were the elements of Ryan’s Choice?
Absent having the list of strategic options that a decidedly left-brained Paul Ryan might have charted out, it might look something like this:
Option A: Full-throated endorsement
Option B: Tepid endorsement
Option C: Holding Pattern
Option D: Terse statement of non-support
Option E: Clear statement of non-support and resignation as Speaker of the House
The options range from the heroic (E) to the craven (A)with a couple that split the difference. For some in the GOP, this was the moment to repudiate Trump's puerile tactics, his splenetic polemics, and the incessant appeal to the lowest common denominator.
For those who have boarded the Trump bandwagon, this was a time for a clarion call for party unity, and a Professor Harold Hill–76 Trombones-style march to victory five months hence.
Instead, it fell in between the two ends of the spectrum, a harbinger of things to come, perhaps.
At several points along the way, Paul Ryan had used the Speaker’s ‘bully pulpit’ to express his and the GOP’s stark differences with Trump on slurs and smears about Mexicans, Muslims, persons with disabilitiies, and other of Trump’s crude inanities. Despite those signals of disapproval, the Republican nominee continued along this path showing no sign of abatement — coy allusions to the fiction that the Clintons might have been responsible for Vince Foster’s death; oblique references linking Rafael Cruz (father of Sen. Ted Cruz) to Lee Harvey Oswald and President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and more to come undoubtedly.
Trump has become the National Enquirer and Comments Section of blogs rolled into human form, and it seems to work for his supporters.
So, with no apparent agreement in which Ryan secured assurances from Trump to tidy up his act, to move to a more civil space, and to demonstrate a willingness to allow the disparate components of the Republican Party to begin patching up their considerable rifts, what prompted yesterday’s action?
Answer: the realization that the time had come to defecate or default. The recognition that the electoral equivalent of “to govern is to choose” had arrived, and that a delay until Cleveland would only exacerbate an already deteriorating circumstance with implications beyond the race for the White House.
It is as if the Great GOP pooh-bah had visited Speaker Ryan’s chamber and said:
“It’s not about you or your principles, Paul. It’s about holding on to the House and the Senate, even if it means endorsing the most unprincipled, unqualified, presidential nominee in our history.”
Here’s the logic:
• Trump will be the GOP nominee; barring a “July surprise,” that reality won’t change
• It’s unlikely, but not impossible, he will defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election, given the Democrat’s electoral college advantage, and Clinton’s considerable lead with Hispanics, African-Americans, and women:
• Democrats begin with 217 votes in ‘safe’ or ‘favor’ states v. 191 for Republicans; this increases to 249 by adding states that ‘lean’ Democratic; a total of 270 needed to win
• Trump has a considerable deficit with non-White voters, who were 28% of voters in 2012, and are expected to be 38% in 2016
• Trump has a profound gap with women, who are 53% of voters; they provided a 10% advantage for Obama in 2012, and are currently showing a 40% preference for Clinton in 2016
• Ryan’s endorsement will have little effect on Trump’s chances for victory. However, a choice of Option D or E, would weaken Trump’s prospects, and create a larger liability for the Republican Party; down-ballot legislative candidates would be at a competitive disadvantage, thereby running the risk of the GOP losing the Senate, the Republican margin in the House, or becoming the minority party in the House again:
• ‘split-ticket’ or ‘crossover’ voting — i. e., voting for a president of one party and a legislative candidate of another — has been in decline during the past few election cycles; in 2012, for example, in only five of the Congressional districts that voted for Mitt Romney did voters ‘split’ to vote for the Democratic candidate for the House; in prior elections of 2004 and 2006, the incidence of ‘splitting’ was substantially higher
• So, the calculus is that by encouraging the party faithful to vote for the Republican party’s nominee, distasteful though that might be, it enhances the likelihood that they will also vote for Republican candidates for House and Senate seats. Trump will likely lose, but the GOP legislative team could survive his loss and be reelected. And if Trump wins, this strengthens Speaker Ryan’s hand considerably.
• Reagan acolytes might call this a 21st century version of “Get one for the Gipper,” although in this case it isn’t about the Gipper but about Team GOP. Or one could say that if Ryan will “take one” for the team by giving Trump a limp thumbs up, the greater good will be served.
The bottom line in “Ryan’s Choice,” one suspects, is that no one wins, no one loses, no one is happy, no one is hurt, and principle is the innocent bystander. It recalls this definition in Ambrose Bierce’s, “The Devil’s Dictionary:”
"Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.”
Posted at 08:25 AM in American Politics, Books, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy and National Security, Political Commentary and Analysis, Public Diplomacy, Public Policy Issues, Television, Think Tanks, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tags: Donald Trump, endorsements, GOP, Hillary Clinton, Hobson's Choice, Janesville, Morton's Fork, Paul Ryan, presidential nominees, Republican Party, Sophie's Choice, Speaker of the House