AND WHY SO MANY SURROUNDING HIM APPEAR TO GIVE HIM FREE REIN AND, DESPITE THE LUNACY, STILL STAND BY HIM
THIS BEGAN when I forwarded friends and family Maureen Dowd’s insightful piece (“Trapped in Trump’s Brain” New York Times, 2/18/17), and a friend asked me why those around him can’t see his great instability, and appear to ignore his chaotic, illogical thinking. She then asked, perhaps rhetorically, why an adored family member, a self-made immigrant physician, could continue to support this man.
She summed it all up with a profound question many people have asked by now: How can someone I love and respect support someone I so distrust and despise?
I replied: The people around him — from Vice President Mike Pence, to former RNC Chair now White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, to smart, successful ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and the entire Cabinet, nearly all of them — do see it, see his erratic behavior and the fractured personality, as well as hear his stream of lies and distortions.
Donald Trump has surrounded himself primarily with yes-men and sycophants his entire career, and so these inner circle businessmen and politicos are all street-smart and experienced enough to nod to him, treat him with kid gloves, and especially work around him. That surely is the modus operandi, their cross-your-fingers plan. His staff has to do it. His advisors and new Cabinet quickly learn how to do it, or they lose access, are ignored, or get shown the door.
They are dancing with Mad King George (not unlike kids, even grown kids, navigating a tyrannical father, a drunk mother, an abusive older sibling, or a creepy uncle who tries to get you in a corner every family gathering).
But all may not be as it seems.
One important undercurrent of Dowd’s piece is that they often do not support his rash or twisted plans and pronouncements. Some privately try to reason with him — Preibus, Pence, his daughter, Ivanka, and surely others. But a self-centered, terribly childish, beholden to no one ever, falsehood spewing, fact disassembling, erratic mind, at 70, can rarely be reasoned with. He either listens to the last person who has his ear – or he listens to no one. Besides, he is the Joker, for real. Donald Trump thrives on chaos.
So the people around him make a choice. If they want access to power, and they surely do (the Presidency and those in his inner circle are the ultimate Game of Throne winners), they have to dance with the flailing, unstable king.
Now, do many want him to implode or get impeached? Sure. Most know he is too unstable to be Commander-in-Chief and the Leader of the Free World. But here we are – and here they are. Surely, true Conservatives would greatly prefer President Mike Pence to this Joker. And, if he royally screws up, or gets even nuttier, the knives will come out. Caesar will be stabbed, repeatedly.
As for the Republican Congress, from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell on down, they know they finally have the keys to the legislative kingdom — much to their surprise and thanks to this steamrolling, electoral college-winning huckster. So while he jumps from petty point to petty point, lie to lie, attack to attackᡃthey are slowly, gleefully, undoing prior, mostly progressive, legislation. Like Vikings unleashed, they are ransacking departments they have long despised (the EPA, Dep’t. of Education), using his surprise win, and his still huge popularity with 35% of the population to finally get their anti-Washington, small government way.
They’re not killing the Mad King… yet.
As for people like my friend’s intelligent, successful, self-made relative — they have many reasons to support this new “Republican” president. They despised or distrusted Hillary; or they saw the federal government giving far too many handouts to the undocumented, the drug addled, the idle, or the otherwise less-than-ambitious. Where Liberals see “the disadvantaged,” Conservatives see people who “take advantage of the system.” And of course, both are true. Besides, self-made men ask, not unreasonably, “Since I worked my tail off, since I got around barriers and made it, why don’t you work hard too? You claim lack of opportunity; I see a slacker, a taker, and an excuse maker.” And, quite often, they are not wrong.
Furthermore, we all rationalize. One hears: “He may be a crude jerk, be he’s a doer, he gets stuff done!” Or, “I don’t agree with Republicans on gay rights or abortion, but Democrats are strangling small businesses.” Or, “I work hard, so I’m going to make as much as I can, and not support other people who refuse to do the same with tax after tax.”
So supporters still support him, his inner circle still stands by him, and business people give him the benefit of the doubt. So far.
Trump may be an arrogant, unschooled, intolerant, salesman-entertainer who would, at root, like to be more like Mussolini or Putin than Reagan or Bush. Yet for those who are not blinded by ethnic hatred, or still drunk from the rip-roaring, what-the-hell choice they made last November, it is clear to see that the new president is a danger not only to reason and the free press, but to world stability and our very democracy.
But until such time as he starts a trade war with China or a shooting war with Iran, those who supported him and those who stand by him will also cross their fingers, ignore his inane tweets and press conferences, and hope the overall business climate improves. And for a while, it just might.
Meanwhile, the rest of us continue to shake our heads, hoping that after enough shakes this bad dream will finally go away.
Ken Taub is a copywriter, strategic marketing advisor, author, online journalist, and associate editor of RoelResources.com. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and son.