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Trumping the Yellow Brick Road

Ross Douthat’s most recent column [1] got me thinking: as long as we’re asking the Wizard for a miracle on Trump’s behalf, is a brain really what the man needs most?

Douthat is perfectly correct that Trump has no idea what his policies should be, neither in the sense of what will be efficacious nor in the sense of what is politically doable nor even in the broadest sense of what his goals should be. His profound ignorance and incuriosity is one reason [2] why nobody will seriously negotiate with him: they don’t think he knows what he wants nor why he could trade for it.

But it’s far from the only reason. Trump also lacks a heart, and by that I don’t just mean that he has no compassion, an accusation often leveled at right-wing politicians, sometimes quite fairly and sometimes very much not so. So far as I can tell, Trump doesn’t care about anybody with the exception of his elder daughter, and so far as I can tell everybody around him knows it. If he cares about nothing and nobody, then what amorphous goals are the brain trust supposed to elaborate into policy?

Trump also lacks courage. He folds quickly in the face of serious opposition, cannot bear criticism, takes no responsibility for anything, and desperately wants the feeling of being loved without daring to take the slightest emotional risk to get it. What kind of brain trust would actually work for a man so lacking in character? If Trump asked Douthat himself to run an in-house think tank, would he take the gig? If he asked a friend of his, would he recommend he take the job?

And Trump does have some clever people working for him. Steve Bannon is certainly not stupid, and neither is Michael Anton or Stephen Miller. The reason they haven’t applied their intelligence to crafting policy isn’t just a lack of experience; it’s that they are fundamentally motivated by what they hate and wish to destroy rather than what they wish to build or preserve. Peter Thiel is anything but an idiot; if Trump wants to put together a techno-libertarian policy shop, he could get it done in a heartbeat — and could probably actually execute a bunch of their ideas without legislation simply by tweaking the staff and policies of key regulatory agencies. In the foreign policy world, Trump has hired some real intellectual stars: James Mattis and H. R. McMaster are not only sharp but have thought deeply about the challenges of America’s troubled interventions. The evidence so far suggests that Trump has little interest in actually listening to them or even letting them staff their own departments. What would it avail him were he to add an advocate of restraint like our own Andrew Bacevich to the mix?

Wouldn’t it save us all a lot of trouble if instead we just asked the Wizard to send him home?

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Trumping the Yellow Brick Road"

#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 4, 2017 @ 2:09 pm

“…As long as we’re asking the Wizard for a miracle on Trump’s behalf, is a brain really what the man needs most?…Trump has no idea what his policies should be…his profound ignorance and incuriosity…Trump also lacks a heart…I don’t just mean that he has no compassion…Trump doesn’t care about anybody with the exception of his elder daughter…Trump also lacks courage…Wouldn’t it save us all a lot of trouble if instead we just asked the Wizard to send him home?”

You’re letting us down, Noah. C’mon now: Argue. Debate. You’re so good at both. But don’t stoop to this weak ad hominem stuff. It’s beneath you. Three years ago you wrote for TAC a fascinating piece about your time as a top-level high school debater – praising the influence of your debate coach Richard B. Sodikow. Please re-read your piece and please consider re-writing the above article:

[3]

#2 Comment By Noah Millman On April 4, 2017 @ 4:07 pm

Yeah, this probably amused me more in the idea than in the execution. But we all need to blow off steam now and again.

#3 Comment By Rosita On April 4, 2017 @ 5:02 pm

Yes the first 100 days have not been auspicious but all is not lost. Let Trump muddle through for better or worse.

#4 Comment By JKSKSx On April 4, 2017 @ 5:15 pm

FWIW, I thought this was very clever and well written.

#5 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On April 4, 2017 @ 5:37 pm

I disagree, Noah (RE: @Kurt Gayle). Even Bacevich got a little cheeky in his most recent screed. Back to message. As I have suggested on other sites; there is nothing surprising about any of this. The 45th POTUS is a Trojan horse being exploited and manipulated by the very establishment he campaigned against. McConnell, Ryan, et al; and even the “Freedom Caucus” have used him to further their alternative agendas. Bannon, who seeks to “destroy the administrative state”, simply has his own idea of what the new establishment should look like – war with Islam – which is nothing if not ironic, as the previous 5 POTUSs have a pretty good track record in terms of war in areas heavily populated and in some instances, governed by Muslims. Nope, we the People have elected a vain, unstable, narcissistic, game show host; who failed to demonstrate or reveal ANY of the skills, experience, or intellect necessary to faithfully execute the office of the POTUS. Or, to riff off Douhat and Millman; in the words of the ‘gatekeeper’ to the Great and Powerful Oz, “no way, no how” does the 45th POTUS have the chops to govern or the vision to formulate/implement policies which will ‘make America great again’. No way, no how. In short, the Patsy-in-Chief may or may not be a good wizard, but he is without question a very ‘bad’ POTUS.

#6 Comment By Lee On April 4, 2017 @ 6:56 pm

The Dow hit 20,684 today. There’s a 1 Trillion dollar proposal to rebuild the deteriorating infrastructure in the US. Yes, things actually do periodically need attention after decades of neglect. I know of one employer that hasn’t been mentioned that’s bringing 20,000 jobs back to the US, a major employer that actually met with Trump and the MSN completely ignored it.

Reading TAC is quickly become like reading a Liberal whining back in the W days. Which in this present age, appears at first glance to be one heck of a lot more rational than the SJW’s and the erratic blathers of the mass media, which to most of us on Main St. appears they all need to have their “meds” adjusted.

#7 Comment By OhhJim On April 4, 2017 @ 7:32 pm

I thought it was funny/interesting.

#8 Comment By VikingLS On April 5, 2017 @ 12:29 pm

“Yeah, this probably amused me more in the idea than in the execution. But we all need to blow off steam now and again.”

You implied he only loves one of his children. I don’t care who you’re talking about, that is not justifiable.

#9 Comment By OhhJim On April 5, 2017 @ 2:02 pm

“I know of one employer that hasn’t been mentioned that’s bringing 20,000 jobs back to the US, a major employer that actually met with Trump and the MSN completely ignored it.”

You seem to be ignoring the name of that employer.

#10 Comment By kgaard On April 5, 2017 @ 2:31 pm

“You implied he only loves one of his children. I don’t care who you’re talking about, that is not justifiable.”

Yes, thank you. I think it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t love any of his children.

#11 Comment By phg On April 5, 2017 @ 7:06 pm

Lee, is there an actual proposal to re-build infrastructure? But again, that really highlights the issue doesn’t it. He can’t stop campaigning and start governing.