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Donald Trump Is A Culture Warrior, Not A President

Trump-Nixon-V

We’re just about three weeks short of Donald Trump’s 300th day in office, and there are no real legislative or policy wins that he can point to as signs that he’s living up to the promises that he made. The border wall remains unbuilt, is not funded in the current Federal budget, and Mexico isn’t going to pay for it. The Affordable Care Act hasn’t been repealed and replaced and is likely to remain the law of the land at least until 2019 if not longer. Tax reform remains a theoretical concept at best notwithstanding the announcement of two very generalized outlines for the such a bill that have yet to be put into final legislative format let alone ready to be voted on in either the House or the Senate. His travel ban has been hacked away and stayed by the Federal Courts at all levels despite three attempts to get it right. There’s been no real proposal made by way of infrastructure spending, which Trump cited as a priority on the campaign trail both in the race for the Republican nomination and the General Election, remains entirely a theoretical idea. And, finally, the only real legislation that Trump has signed into law has consisted of a handful of measures that rollback a handful of Obama-Era regulations.

As Elena Johnson notes at Politico, the President doesn’t seem to either notice or care and instead seems intent on fighting a different battle:

President Donald Trump was expected to spend the fall pushing his ambitious tax reform agenda and helping devastated regions in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico recover from hurricanes.

Instead, over a period of three weeks, Trump has hammered the NFL into submission over the national anthem protests, repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media and now reopened a fight over his — and his predecessor’s — handling of Gold Star families.

But these seeming distractions are the president’s substance — and the legislative agenda his predecessors have approached with a singular focus is, for him, largely a diversion.

Since his inauguration in January, Trump’s sideshows have dominated the news coverage of his presidency, with his fellow Republicans often left struggling to understand why he insists on stoking major cultural battles rather than working to advance a traditional legislative agenda. It’s perhaps the fundamental misunderstanding of the Trump presidency — and helps explain the yawning chasm between the president and official Washington.

“His ‘issues’ are a series of episodes where he has a fight with some person who doesn’t want America to be great, like the NFL or Colin Kaepernick, and he wins,” said Bill Kristol, editor at large for The Weekly Standard.

While congressional Republicans have committed to repealing Obamacare, passing tax reform, and moving an infrastructure bill, Trump has staked his presidency on identity and culture — hence his Twitter rebukes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his failure to bring the GOP’s health care bill over the finish line. “I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest,” Trump said earlier this week in the Cabinet Room.

If Trump is an inconsistent warrior on health care — he has flip-flopped several times over the past few days on the administration’s position on the cost-sharing reduction the federal government has doled out to insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act, for example — he has been remarkably steady on the sort of cultural issues that animate his base. Indeed, the president has mounted the sort of disciplined public communications campaigns on issues many have labeled distractions — the sort that his predecessors have devoted to legislative initiatives.

(…)

From the beginning, Trump has staked his political career on “cultural competence, not on policy competence,” according to Amy Walter, senior editor of the Cook Political Report. “I think what he does more than anyone is keeps coming back to the cultural issues as a way to keep reminding voters why they supported him in the first place.”

Like his dispute with the NFL, his dust-up with Gold Star families has now ignited a national conflagration — and is being widely condemned for drawing attention away from his party’s attempt to get a tax-reform bill through Congress and to stabilize Obamacare insurance markets. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the president promised the father of a fallen service member $25,000 and said his staff would establish an online fundraiser for the family, but that there was no follow-through on either pledge — prompting a swift rebuttal from the White House press office, which claimed a check had been sent.

But Trump’s impromptu remark during a Monday news conference that he made more phone calls to the families of fallen soldiers than did President Obama — “I was told that he didn’t often,” Trump said — tapped into broader notion held by part of the Trump base that the former president was less than fully patriotic.

(…)

Fights about the mainstream media, the national anthem, and the treatment of Gold Star families are cultural controversies, which sometimes, but not always, intersect with the Republican Party’s policy priorities — say, on immigration or the decertification of the Iran deal.

But Trump is always likely to consider those goals a distraction from his larger cultural agenda.

“He thinks he was elected on this stuff, this is the stuff he knows how to talk about, and this is the stuff that would make the front page of the New York Post,” said Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review. “The problem is, is that the job is still the job.”

This is all consistent with what we know about Trump as a politician and commentator on politics, of course. The vast majority of Trump’s campaign for the Presidency consisted of naked and quite often nasty appeals on hot-button social issues as well as an obsession with cultural issues that have been part of the fever swamp of right-wing American politics for decades. In fact, it began long before he entered politics formally with the announcement of his candidacy in June 2015. Years before that, he became the leading voice of the birther movement and proponent of the absurd and discredited idea that President Obama was not born in the United States and therefore not eligible to serve as President of the United States. From the beginning, birtherism was always about an attack on Obama as “the other,” and a stalking horse for nothing more than blatant racial animus based on the color of Obama’s skin. Even when the truth about Obama’s birth in Hawaii was confirmed once and for all, Trump continued to cling to the idea until he finally stopped talking about it as he prepared to return to NBC for another season of Celebrity Apprentice. Long before his time as the Birther In Chief, Trump’s comments on politics as a celebrity typically hit on cultural issues rather than on policy, and when they did hit on policy it was only in the most generalistic manner that made it clear that Trump really wasn’t up to speed on those issues and didn’t care to educate himself either.

Given all of this, it’s hardly surprising that Trump continues to hit back on cultural issues since becoming President. Not only is it the one area guaranteed to stir up his base supporters, but it’s also the bread and butter of his involvement in politics and the only thing he really knows how to talk about. When it comes to policy issues, he clearly doesn’t seem to care much about details, leaving those to his aides or to the Republicans on Capitol Hill. The only thing that really seems to matter to him in this regard is whether or not he can count on an easy win that will make it appear as if he’s actually accomplishing something. This is why, for example, he was praising House Republicans for passing the American Health Care Act in a Rose Garden appearance back in May only to turn around and call it “mean” when the polls made it clear that the measure was unpopular with the public and that it had no real chance of passing in the Senate. Similarly, and most recently, he made positive comments about a bipartisan proposal earlier this week that would fix part of the Affordable Care Act only to withdraw them once it appeared that the measure would meet with opposition he changed his tune. The only things that Trump has remained consistent on are the cultural themes that animate his base, and he’s used those to stoke the fires of political polarization several times throughout the course of his Presidency.

While all of this may work to Trump’s political advantage, the dangers to the nation as a whole are rather obvious. A President who does nothing but spend his four, or God help us eight, years in office doing nothing but hitting hot-button cultural issues and using his Twitter account and campaign speeches to divide people is a President who is destined to preside over a nation in an eternal state of chaos. One can see that over the course of this week and the manner in which Trump responded to what was an entirely legitimate question about the Administration’s response to the deaths of four American Green Berets in Niger. Instead of answering the question or acknowledging the facts of what happened, Trump responded by engaging in false attacks on President Obama and using his Twitter account to spread a story about Hillary Clinton and a supposed deal to sell the U.S. uranium supply to Russia that has been debunked by multiple fact-checking sources. As with so many of the other lies Trump has told, though, the truth here doesn’t matter. This is yet another attack on a political enemy based in a culture war that has been going on for twenty years or more, and it’s one that only serves to reinforce the pre-existing biases of the base that Trump seems intent on spending his time as President pandering to regardless of the consequences.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    Maybe we need to rename him Sideshow Don. Now we just need a meme of him saying “brrrrr”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Davebo says:

    Since the original travel ban was supposed to last 90 days why do they keep tossing a new version out there?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. CSK says:

    I was thinking that it’s been a while–since August, anyway–that he’s held another campaign rally to assure himself that he’s still adored by his mob of drooling acolytes. Isn’t it about time for another?

    If there’s one thing Trump is expert at, it’s bringing out the absolute worst in people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  4. Mikey says:

    A President who does nothing but spend his four, or God help us eight, years in office doing nothing but hitting hot-button cultural issues and using his Twitter account and campaign speeches to divide people is a President who is destined to preside over a nation in an eternal state of chaos.

    I submit that for Trump this is a feature, not a bug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. Scott F. says:

    If Trump were to cop to being a Culture Warrior first and foremost, then front the argument that this was an important, even critical, aspect of the role of the President, then his presidency* could almost be bearable. The country could then have a potentially useful debate about culture.

    But, Trump claims policy expertise – going so far to claim he’s the smartest policy guy in history and all his predecessors were idiots – and his base accepts his claim as truth. And Trump’s claim to unique, meaningful knowledge on what’s needed for good governance is so absurd on its face (because Trump is a f**king moron), so it becomes impossible to imagine bridging the chasm between his fans and the rest of the country.

    What a miserable place to be as a country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    It’s probably wishful thinking, but I can’t envision this boob/boor/oaf lumbering gracelessly around the Oval Office, alienating allies, giving aid and comfort to the enemy, disgracing his position, urinating on the Constitution (if not Russian prostitutes), and making, at best, the United States a global laughing stock till January 2021, much less January 2025. Can you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. James Pearce says:

    While all of this may work to Trump’s political advantage, the dangers to the nation as a whole are rather obvious.

    I wish there was more understanding that these “culture war” issues do, in fact, work to Trump’s political advantage, but not really getting that sense yet.

    Sure do get a lot of downvotes for saying it though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  8. M. Bouffant says:

    All surfaces, shallow & w/o substance, importance or even much meaning.

    Governing? Actually helping the idiots who voted for himhis base? Naw. “It’s haaaaard.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    I think we understand that perfectly. That’s what’s so appalling. The man’s popularity rests solely on the fact that he’s an absolute pig of human being.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  10. MikeyParks says:

    This is obviously a nest of neverTrumpers, so commenting is fruitless. However, you’re overlooking the unprecedented amount of sheer obstruction the President has had to deal with and how well he’s doing despite that. You can sneer at me all you want, but I know that we’re winning. Chew on that!

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 38

  11. Scott F. says:

    @MikeyParks:

    I’ll agree to not sneer at you, if you’ll agree to define how “you” are winning. In what tangible ways are you benefiting from how well Trump is doing?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  12. Scott says:

    Yes, he punches the culture war issues. But I think it is not so much he believes it but that it gives him the most attention and cheers. It is because this classless pig of a man is a know-nothing narcissist who believes he is in his own reality show. He has shown he has no fixed principles and no solid moral or ethical foundation. At his base, he is an empty suit who won the lucky sperm contest.

    there are no real legislative or policy wins that he can point to as signs that he’s living up to the promises that he made.

    Thank goodness!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. James Pearce says:

    @MikeyParks:

    However, you’re overlooking the unprecedented amount of sheer obstruction the President has had to deal with and how well he’s doing despite that.

    The only real obstruction Trump has had to deal with has come from fellow Republicans in his own party.

    @CSK:

    The man’s popularity rests solely on the fact that he’s an absolute pig of human being.

    That does seem to be a big source of his support, but there’s also a utilitarian aspect that is underappreciated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. steve says:

    Guys- Before you go off responding to Mikey Parks, unless you spend a lot of time talking openly with conservatives about trump, you just don’t realize that they think he is doing a great job. Really! Doug’s blog here will just be seen as a baseless attack. They think that he has passed lots of legislation. That everything that is going well in the world is because of Trump. Anything that is not going well is because some people oppose him. Point out that he cannot control his own party and they will respond that is not his fault. All of the criticisms about lack of leadership aimed at Obama when he was in office just don’t apply to Trump. They think he is a great leader, even if he cannot get people to follow. Basically, I think it is just a cult now. Talking with Trump followers is wasted time you will never get back.

    Steve

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  15. Hal_10000 says:

    Nate Silver, I think, has said that white identity politics is the best predictor of Trump’s actions. I would say that is a more accurate description of him than “culture warrior”. Culture warriors at least care about culture and morals. And many culture conservative — Mormons for example — are pro-immigration. Trump doesn’t care about morals. He could give a damn about abortion, teen pregnancy, gay marriage or anything else. All he cares about is advancing the interests of “real Americans”, whatever he perceives those interests to be.

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  16. Mister Bluster says:

    utilitarian:..useful or practical…functional, pragmatic, serviceable, sensible, efficient,..

    Pud is none of these things…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @MikeyParks:

    you’re overlooking the unprecedented amount of sheer obstruction the President has had to deal with and how well he’s doing despite that

    Obstruction?

    Republican President
    Republican House
    Republican Senate
    Conservative Supreme Court
    Fox News as his own Pravda

    Obstruction?

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Try unbelievably bad policies that are not based in reality nor supported by the constitution.

    Take this whole NFL thing.

    One person believed that his first amendment rights gave him the ability to make a statement. Any American can make a statement, and if it is an unpopular statement, they may pay the penalty in the court of public opinion… but the government will not – CAN NOT – take action against that person because… well, the first amendment.

    Against the constitution, POTUS Trump steps in and expresses his opinion, deciding to shift the conversation from a statement on race inequity to one of disrespect for the flag and America.

    Now since the Supreme Court has already ruled that the first amendment trumps any possible show of respect for a flag, a particular ball player was well within his rights to do so.

    And if a realty-show Trump decided to use his first amendment rights to express his distain, that’s totally okey-doke too.

    But Mr. Trump has still not gotten the fact that he is POTUS Trump, and when he speaks, tweets or makes a side comment, he is doing so as the representational head of these United States… EXACLY undermining the complete intent of the First Amendment.

    So, Obstructionism? No. not at all.

    Just some dammed fool that doesn’t actually get that he won the brass ring.

    Or if he did, doesn’t know what to do with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  18. Rick Zhang says:

    @steve:

    This guy has it right. Trump won’t fall below ~35% because that’s the proportion of people who are gullible, uneducated, or otherwise fanatically delusional. It takes an amazing amount of suspension of disbelief for a poor person to vote for Trump and choose to ignore his statements on wanting to revoke their health care.

    Principled conservatives have long since understood what kind of person he is and see his inability to advance any sort of legislation as evidence of a fumbling buffoon at work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  19. al-Ameda says:

    @MikeyParks:

    This is obviously a nest of neverTrumpers, so commenting is fruitless. However, you’re overlooking the unprecedented amount of sheer obstruction the President has had to deal with and how well he’s doing despite that. You can sneer at me all you want, but I know that we’re winning. Chew on that!

    I just love that pre-emptive sniveling and whining on your part, nice touch.

    Compared to the 8 years of obstruction that Obama faced from the opposition party, mind you – the obstruction that Trump faces is a walk in the park, and it almost entirely emanating from a few members in his own political party.

    Finally, you’re right, you are “winning.” Trump’s cabinet is busy rolling back clean air and clean water regulations, diverting public education resources and support to private schools, opening up public lands to private exploitation of natural resources, and unilaterally abrogating negotiated treaties and multilateral agreements.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    “Politics is downstream of culture” — Andrew Breitbart.

    It’s remarkable what is getting done by Trump’s people while Trump himself keeps his enemies dancing to his tune.

    Imagine what he could accomplish if he wasn’t a narcissistic, moronic egomaniac.

    And what he could accomplish if he wasn’t being opposed so effectively by such incredibly intelligent, morally superior, sensitive, and insightful people like the commenters here who could never be so easily distracted by such transparent ploys.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  21. Todd says:

    For Trump’s hard core fans, the MOST important thing he can and does do is “piss off the damn liberals”. So really, from their perspective, the more that liberals (and RINOs) appear to be losing their minds, the “greater” America is becoming again … and they love Trump for it.

    Again, just as I said in my comment on the other post, we have to view Trump as nothing more than a typical right wing troll … who by some twisted quirk of history happens to occupy the most powerful position in the world. It’s obvious that Trump’s greatest pleasure, the thing he looks forward to when he wakes up every morning, is slapping down his “haters” on twitter. Our political discourse in recent years has become analogous to sporting events, with people rooting for their team above all else. But with Trump, it’s not even real sports. He’s the equivalent of a huge WWE star, with fans who don’t even realize that it’s all just a show.

    The fact that our country allowed our politics to become so dysfunctional (on all sides) that this joker even had a chance in hell of dreaming of being President, let alone actually getting elected, almost makes me think that we deserve whatever national consequences his time in power is sure to bring us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  22. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Todd: I didn’t think I needed someone to demonstrate my point so quickly, but I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Thank you!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  23. Todd says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier: I read your comment, and I actually agree with you to a large extent. While Trump puts on his daily sideshow, the courts are being stacked with conservatives who will sit on the bench for decades … long outlasting any legislation that may or may not be passed by this congress. 2016 was an extremely consequential election. that the left didn’t take anywhere near seriously enough.

    Where I suspect you and I differ is in our assessment of what these consequential (but mostly out of the spotlight) accomplishments will mean for the future of our country. Call me a cynic, but I don’t see many scenarios where the great American experiment isn’t at least in its twilight, if not close to its final days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  24. James Pearce says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Pud is none of these things…

    Scalia died during Obama’s term. Obama nominated Merrick Garland.

    Neil Gorsuch sits on the bench. From Bob’s link:

    Even if Sessions doesn’t last long in his job, those handed long prison terms will still be behind bars.

    Trump may be a poopy-head, but to them, he’s a useful poopy-head.

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    And what he could accomplish if he wasn’t being opposed so effectively by such incredibly intelligent, morally superior, sensitive, and insightful people like the commenters here who could never be so easily distracted by such transparent ploys.

    Dayyyym! That stings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. Mikey says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Andrew Breitbart

    I wonder what the late Mr. Breitbart would think of his online namesake being used as a tool of white supremacists and America’s enemies.

    Do you think that’s what he intended, or did it only go that way after he died, leaving him rolling in his grave?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Todd: That’s a rather remarkable walk-back from your earlier declaration, which had some rather absolute terms:

    we have to view Trump as nothing more than a typical right wing troll … who by some twisted quirk of history happens to occupy the most powerful position in the world. It’s obvious that Trump’s greatest pleasure, the thing he looks forward to when he wakes up every morning, is slapping down his “haters” on twitter.

    Your own words: “nothing more than…” “greatest pleasure.” You show perfectly just how well Trump makes you dance, and only back off from that when I pointed out just how he was making you dance.

    Look how well he pulls your strings. Imagine just how much more he could make you do if he wasn’t “nothing more than a typical right wing troll.”

    Trump’s administration is getting a lot of things done while everyone obsesses over Trump himself. That Atlantic article barely scratches the surface.

    So, please, keep fixating on Trump’s Tweets, proclamations, and remarks. Pay no attention to all those other things.

    I’m begging you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  27. DrDaveT says:

    Donald Trump Is A Culture Warrior

    You continue to make the same category error with respect to Trump, repeatedly.

    Trump is not a culture warrior, any more than Chance the Gardener was a culture warrior. Trump is a narcissistic ADHD con man. He has no cultural agenda. He has no ethos. He doesn’t care at all what the world will be like after he is dead. This peg does not fit in that hole.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  28. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Davebo: Is that a rhetorical question or are you one of the guys who actually believes all that BS about “enhanced screening/extreme vetting” for refugees?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @CSK: Inertia is a powerful force in both physics and psychology, so I can imagine this dog and pony show lasting until at least 2021, unfortunately. (And 80 some percent of GOP voters seem agree with me and want it.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Mikey:

    I wonder what the late Mr. Breitbart would think of his online namesake being used as a tool of white supremacists and America’s enemies.

    Do you think that’s what he intended, or did it only go that way after he died, leaving him rolling in his grave?

    So many assumptions, so much bad faith in two sentences. So, instead, I’ll point out you’re attempting one of the left’s favorite tactics here.

    Liberals hate their enemies right up until they die — at which point they love them, because they can use them. They can assign whatever beliefs to them as weapons against their still-living enemies without fear of being contradicted. For example:

    Reagan would be appalled at what people are doing in his name today.

    Lincoln would be disgusted at where his party now stands on civil rights matters.

    Not even Scalia would go along with what the conservatives on the Court are doing.

    Even if these assumptions are refuted, they’ve served their purpose — you’ve successfully changed the subject away from the things you don’t want to discuss.

    I happen to own a copy of Breitbart’s “Righteous Indignation,” and I remember just what progressives said about him. Your attempt to practice necrophilia on his corpse would be amusing — if it wasn’t so disturbing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  31. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @DrDaveT:

    You continue to make the same category error with respect to Trump, repeatedly.

    Oh, how convenient. You make an assertion, then prove that you’re guilty of the same thing.

    Trump is not the problem. Trump is a symptom.

    The majority of people who voted for Trump do not think he’s some great messiah (like so many Obama voters did). They saw him as the best tool available for the job at hand. (And I’ll save you the non-witticism about “yeah, Trump’s a tool.” I chose the word deliberately, as that particular interpretation is also valid.)

    Do you know what you do when you treat a symptom and ignore the underlying condition? You tend to make the underlying condition worse.

    Get rid of Trump, and you don’t crush the people who elected Trump. You guarantee that next time you will get Worse Than Trump.

    I don’t know who would become Worse Than Trump (Rand Paul? Scott Walker? Or someone, like Trump, completely outside of politics?), but I know he or she is out there, just waiting for you to give him or her their opportunity of a lifetime.

    “Go ahead. Make my day.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  32. Mikey says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier: You accuse me of bad faith and then build an enormous straw man to beat up, while ignoring my actual point.

    Bad faith, indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  33. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Mikey: There was a point in there that I missed?

    No, I got your point perfectly. You’re just upset because I spoiled one of your favorite little rhetorical toys.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  34. CSK says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    While it’s true that a certain percentage of Trump voters held their noses when they voted for him, you’re mistaken if you think he’s not adored by a large coterie of vindictive dullards who worship him precisely for his most loathsome traits.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  35. Mikey says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier: Not “missed,” deliberately evaded.

    I didn’t hate Andrew Brietbart–in fact, I was a bit of a fan. I used to read his site semi-regularly, before he died and it turned to shit. That’s not saying I agreed with a lot of it, but it was usually thought-provoking.

    So I’ve wondered lately how he’d feel if he knew the Nazis have moved in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  36. grumpy realist says:

    @Todd: I notice no comments yet about China and the three-and-a-half-hour talk Xi gave outlining where he sees China going in the world, either.

    Face it guys, we’re effed. We’re afflicted by a deranged toddler of a POTUS and his hanger-ons. We’re having the equivalent of a Chinese Sputnik being launched right in front of our eyes and NOBODY IS EVEN PAYING ATTENTION. Between corporations and the rich getting their tax cuts, our continued cutting of R&D money (and our belief that everything’s all right as long as we can code an App for anything), we’re sliding downhill at an ever increasing rate and no one cares.

    Just don’t be surprised when the U.S. becomes eclipsed by China.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  37. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    Andrew Breitbart had nothing good to say about Trump. Ironic, given that his successor Bannon turned Breitbart.com into Trump Pravda.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  38. KM says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    The majority of people who voted for Trump do not think he’s some great messiah (like so many Obama voters did). They saw him as the best tool available for the job at hand.

    Then how do you explain the slavish devotion to him even when he’d demonstratively wrong? Take this latest flap: was his usual insensitive self and instead of apologizing, flat out LIED and accused a Gold Star Family in grief as liars instead. Drags another Gold Star Family (Kelly’s) into the frey on his own then screams about how disgusting it is. Kelly admits Trump did and said what he denied after Trump decided to use his dead son as a prop.

    And people are totally OK with this. All it would have taken was a simple apology for Trump and boom, done. Instead, now people are actively attacking a Gold Star Family for daring to say Trump did something wrong. This is the *second* Gold Star Family he’s deemed on Twitter and picked a fight with in less then a year – an unthinkable action for a CiC who supposedly respects the troops. Even if they are on the opposite side of the political spectrum, it would have been political suicide among conservatives to do as Trump is doing a mere year ago.

    Trump supporters are all OK with this. How exactly do you square that with not thinking he’s some great messiah? He’s trampling on some of their nearest and dearest values and they are gleefully cheering him on. A huge segment of the GOP actually thinks Trump is their avatar – doing all the things their ID has wanted to do for years. Cult of personality, indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  39. KM says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Just don’t be surprised when the U.S. becomes eclipsed by China.

    I’ve been pushing Chinese on kids for the last decade. Everyone wants to learn Spanish due to the demographic shift in the US but knowing Chinese is going to be the ticket to success very shortly. When anyone complains, I baldly tell them the Communists are going to ultimately win using the tools of capitalism – learn to speak the new lingua franca or get left out of the market.

    Teach your kids to code and teach them to speak Chinese. If nothing else, you just increased their value to our system a thousand fold. They’ll send money back home once they have to leave for the good jobs.

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  40. Todd says:

    @grumpy realist: I swear I almost ended my comment with something along the lines of “Our kids need to be learning Chinese.”

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  41. James Pearce says:

    Contrarian alert!

    “Chinese” is not a language. You’re going to teach your kids Mandarin or Cantonese or one of the other hundreds of less useful dialects and chances are that they’ll speak it so poorly that the Chinese person they’re speaking to would rather converse in English.

    If you want “Better living through bilingualism,” you should teach your kids Spanish, a language they can use today, not a Chinese dialect they’ll never use tomorrow.

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  42. KM says:

    @James Pearce:

    “Chinese” is not a language.

    Fair enough . I’ve found though with giving this advice specifying works against it for many. If you say “Chinese”, they’ll understand and at least consider it. If you recommend Mandarin, you’ll get a huh look, end up giving a mini explanation that China is *not* one monolithic culture and probably lose them in the process. See, it’s less intimidating for one who’s contemplating learning another language that there are variants and sometimes completely separate languages that are used.

    Baby steps. Get them to accept the concept, then provide the nitty gritty.

    you should teach your kids Spanish, a language they can use today, not a Chinese dialect they’ll never use tomorrow.

    Why not both? Kids aren’t stupid – they can learn more then one language, especially if you start early enough.

    And don’t bet on not having to learn any sort of Chinese. I grew up in a relatively small redneck area and we had recently arrived Chinese (Mandarin AND Cantonese) speakers via our church with not a word of English between them. It was an interesting experience to learn to communicate, I’ll tell you that. More and more, our commerce, science and politics are heading that way. Don’t shortchange your kids if you don’t have to.

    that they’ll speak it so poorly that the Chinese person they’re speaking to would rather converse in English.

    Same could be said for Spanish. Why do you assume the English kid would pick up Spanish so well that scenario wouldn’t happen?

    Also, never trust the translation. Knowing what was left out or politely reworded can be the difference between a good deal and a bad one. Someone instructing the translator to say how great the deal is and muttering under their breath about the gullible gwailo happens. You’d be surprised what people say when they think you can’t understand them.

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  43. Gustopher says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    It’s remarkable what is getting done by Trump’s people while Trump himself keeps his enemies dancing to his tune.

    Imagine what he could accomplish if he wasn’t a narcissistic, moronic egomaniac.

    Imagine what he could accomplish if he could hire competent people — this is the bottom of the barrel Republican operatives that he has working for him, the least effective people that can hold a job.

    And what he could accomplish if he wasn’t being opposed so effectively by such incredibly intelligent, morally superior, sensitive, and insightful people like the commenters here who could never be so easily distracted by such transparent ploys.

    An administration with a few dozen major decision makers is always going to be running circles around the public and the press — the media can only focus on a few stories at a time, and the administration then slides through a bunch of unrelated things while the focus is on the others. The Trump administration could be doing this a lot better with more competent and nimble people, by the way.

    Also, liberals as a whole haven’t learned to be outraged at everything at all times. The right has the crazy spaces where outrage is carefully honed, and where 12 different things can be the worst thing ever.

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  44. Just 'nutha' ign'int cracker says:

    @KM: New histories of the Cultural Revolution seem to show that the seeds for the explosion of State Sponsored Capitalism from China were planted as the population adapted to saying what the leadership wanted to hear and went about their own business as best they could. The great discovery of the post-Mao era in China was that an authoritarian system could do capitalism just as well as a democracy.

    It’s never about economics and politics as much as it is about philosophy and morality. We don’t realize this; we believe the systems are pure in themselves. They’re not.

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  45. Just 'nutha' ign'int cracker says:

    @Todd: I think Korean is a suitable alternative. The alphabetic script makes it a little easier to learn, too.

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  46. Just 'nutha' ign'int cracker says:

    @KM:

    Knowing what was left out or politely reworded can be the difference between a good deal and a bad one.

    An even more important situation is how the culture affects the language. As a case in point, in Korean, the future verb tense and the conditional mood use the same particle. As one of my Korean friends explained, “all future promises have to be conditional; we can’t know we’ll be able to keep them.” So the phrase from my hagwon contract translated as “you “will receive two weeks vacation” in practice means “I hope that my circumstances at the time will permit me to allow you the two weeks vacation I’ve promised, but one can never be sure…”

    The department chair that I was tutoring came back from his vacation. I asked him how it was. He told me “I had to go to Turkey on university business.” When I asked him if the school will give him release time or replacement vacation days, he answered, “no, but I did get to visit Turkey, and that was nice.” (BTW, his vacation was 3 days long twice a year, while I got four 3 weeks at the end of the intersession each semester. Other teachers held that being required to teach the intersession–and not getting the full 8 weeks off was oppressive of Woosong, and we were fools for putting up with it.)

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  47. James Pearce says:

    @KM:

    Why not both?

    You can do both, but I think the child will retain most of the Spanish and forget most of the Chinese, especially if they will be spending most of their time in the United States, where English and Spanish are the commonly used languages and Chinese is barely even spoken.

    Speaking English/Spanish means you can communicate with people all through Europe, all through Australia/NZ, all through North America, a lot of Asia (Hong Kong, especially) and most of South America. (Your Spanish will help decipher the Portuguese spoken in Brazil)

    It just seems to me to be more useful than teaching your kid a Chinese dialect. Not saying don’t teach your kid Chinese. Just saying it’s usefulness is probably being over-estimated.

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  48. wr says:

    @KM: “You’d be surprised what people say when they think you can’t understand them.”

    I’ve worked for a few companies in Beijing, and I would NEVER be surprised by anything they say when they think (rightly) that I can’t understand them.

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  49. wr says:

    @Just ‘nutha’ ign’int cracker: “I think Korean is a suitable alternative. The alphabetic script makes it a little easier to learn, too.”

    I might hold off on that for a couple of years — say until Trump is out of office. No point learning a language if our idiot president has caused the two countries where it’s spoken to be reduced to rubble.

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  50. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce: the Chinese would disagree. The literal translation of what we call “Mandarin” is “Chinese Language”. Everything else is officially considered a dialect.

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  51. DrDaveT says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Trump is not the problem. Trump is a symptom.

    You have somehow failed to notice that nothing I said is inconsistent with this. In fact, it’s one of the first important factual things you have ever said in this venue.

    The majority of people who voted for Trump do not think he’s some great messiah

    I also didn’t say anything inconsistent with this claim.

    Do you know what you do when you treat a symptom and ignore the underlying condition? You tend to make the underlying condition worse.

    Nor this one.

    Get rid of Trump, and you don’t crush the people who elected Trump.

    Nor this one. Who, exactly, are you arguing against here?

    I didn’t say anything about getting rid of Trump, much less that doing so would cure anything or anyone. I just corrected a misperception on Doug’s part about Trump’s motives and nature.

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  52. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: “the Chinese would disagree. ”

    Yes, but who knows more about the Chinese language, the Chinese people or Pearce?

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  53. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The literal translation of what we call “Mandarin” is “Chinese Language”. Everything else is officially considered a dialect.

    Yes, but that’s politics, not linguistics. As we all know, a language is a dialect with an Army and a Navy.

    James is correct in that, if you were going to get your kid language instruction in a Chinese language, you would need to decide up front which Chinese language — Mandarin (probably), or Cantonese, or Hokkien, etc. They’re not mutually intelligible, so it matters a lot more than (say) deciding whether to learn British or American English.

    I say start ’em as young as you can on Mandarin, news broadcast Arabic, and Mexican Spanish. Languages aren’t hard for the very young, and with 4 under their belts the next 8 will be easy.

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  54. Just 'nutha' ign'int cracker says:

    @wr: That’s a point. I was going to visit friends in Korea this fall before I started substituting for the fall, but all the saber rattling affected my resolve. Maybe things will be quieter in April. Or glowing in the dark, depending on how things progress.

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  55. Just 'nutha' ign'int cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: There may also be considerations related to second language acquisition compared to foreign language acquisition. Unless one lives in a coastal metropolitan-sized city, one is most likely to encounter opportunities to speak Spanish, making it a second language. Attrition, extinction, unlearning, whatever one wants to call it will probably be much higher with a language with low speaking opportunities.

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  56. James Pearce says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The literal translation of what we call “Mandarin” is “Chinese Language”.

    Okay, but “Mandarin” isn’t the only “Chinese Language.”

    @wr:

    Yes, but who knows more about the Chinese language, the Chinese people or Pearce?

    All I know about the Chinese language I learned from watching Chinese movies. So, no, I’m not an expert.

    But I’m not a dummy either.

    @DrDaveT:

    They’re not mutually intelligible

    This.

    That’s why my first reaction to “learn Chinese” was “Which dialect?” I mean, it makes no sense to teach your kid Mandarin if she’s going to be an exporter based in Macau, right?

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  57. wr says:

    @DrDaveT: “As we all know, a language is a dialect with an Army and a Navy.”

    That sentence alone makes it worth wading through all the swill the trolls post around here. Awesome!

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  58. An Interested Party says:

    It seems that whenever we get a new president there are all these shrieks from that president’s political enemies about how he is going to change so much, have so much power, etc….like with the judicial system…what some are complaining about Trump now others did about Obama and Bush in the past, surely the next president will also get to make judicial appointments…and all these executive branch moves that Trump and his henchmen are making now…surely they can easily be undone by the next president…it’s funny how the artist formerly known as J-e-n-o-s is gloating now about all the supposedly amazing things that Trump is getting away with…while he is delighted that so many seem to be dancing to Trump’s tune, he seems to forget how he used to dance to Clinton’s and Obama’s tunes…

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  59. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “That’s why my first reaction to “learn Chinese” was “Which dialect?” I mean, it makes no sense to teach your kid Mandarin if she’s going to be an exporter based in Macau, right?”

    That’s exactly right. If you know that your five year old is going to grow up to move to Macao and become an exporter, then you should definitely not burden him with Mandarin. But if you’re concerned about him (or her) knowing how to speak the language of the century’s rising superpower — the official language and the one spoken by everyone in government and business in the PRC and everywhere across the country — then you sign up for Mandarin lessons.

    Honestly, do you think that immediately contradicting everything anyone says makes you appear wise? This ridiculousness about the importance of preparing your child for the possibility of a job in Macao is like telling someone they shouldn’t learn English because they might want a job in Scotland so they should really study Gaelic instead.

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  60. DrDaveT says:

    @wr: I’m glad you enjoyed it, but it’s not original. Now you, too, can share it with others.

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  61. DrDaveT says:

    @Just ‘nutha’ ign’int cracker:

    There may also be considerations related to second language acquisition compared to foreign language acquisition.

    Absolutely. On the other hand, if your six-year-old speaks Mandarin, it’s a lot easier to find her a regular supply of native speakers to converse with than it would be for her to learn Mandarin as an adult, or even as a teen.

    The US approach to language education — that it’s hard and therefore you shouldn’t force it on young children — makes me want to pull out such little hair as I have left. Young children can’t help learning any language around them; it’s hardwired, and no they do NOT get them jumbled up.

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  62. JKB says:

    Recommended is this podcast with Chis Bedford, author of the new book, “The Art of the Donald: Lessons from America’s Philosopher-in-Chief.”

    Sure it’s complimentary of Trump, but it is also quite objective in explaining how Donald Trump was successful. The haters here will like the discussion of Trump’s instinctive use of sowing chaos to disrupt his opponents.

    One should understand their enemy.

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  63. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    Honestly, do you think that immediately contradicting everything anyone says makes you appear wise?

    No, I expected tomatoes.

    And you’re the only one who threw them.

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  64. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Getting in the language young is definitely the best way and, if you want pronunciation to be correct, almost the only way to teach someone languages from very disparate families. I’m trying to get our 4 year old daughter into one of the local Chinese play groups so that she can at least pick up the phonemes with some of the language. In house she’s learning English, Dutch and a bit of Hawaiian. She has switched seamlessly between Dutch and English depending on who she is talking to.
    One of the cooler examples of the importance of picking up phonemes early is how the Dutch underground used passwords during WWII. The ‘u’, ‘g’, and ‘sch’ sounds in Dutch are difficult to mimic and almost all non-native speakers bungle them. The Dutch underground always incorporated these sounds into their passwords so that even if a German spy discovered their password, they would know by the pronunciation that it was not a native Dutch speaker at the door.

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  65. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: For many years, Koreans were afraid to have their children learn English because it would “confuse them while they were learning Korean and the wouldn’t be able to speak in their native tongue.” Anecdotal and ethnographic research is now seeming to show that children who are in consistent contact with speakers of two languages not only don’t confuse the languages but also speak only the correct one to the correct speaker.

    Agree that we are not good at language instruction, but believe it or not others are worse.

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  66. JohnMcC says:

    @Grewgills: I hadn’t known that about the Dutch resistance and language. Marines in the Pacific used passwords such at “little lulu” and “lollapalooza” for similar reasons.

    Interesting how many ways we homo sapiens have of recognizing who is our tribe and who is not, innit?

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  67. t says:

    @wr:

    Honestly, do you think that immediately contradicting everything anyone says makes you appear wise?

    Do you think that poking fun of James in every thread says makes you appear wise?

    He’s 100% right in this instance, and yet here you are, bragging about “working in Beijing” and trying to imply he knows nothing…he then freely ADMITS he knows nothing.. and you keep piling on.

    just give it rest dude.

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  68. wr says:

    @t: He’s a troll. He just admitted he’s a troll. Meanwhile you believe he’s 100% right even though he knows nothing, which is a pretty remarkable trick.

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  69. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    He’s a troll.

    I think you know better….

    I admitted I’m not an expert. But I know a thing or two, just enough as it turns out to have made a semi-cogent point. You, of course, can disagree with it. But you seem to be personally offended that I even made it.

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  70. t says:

    @wr:

    He’s a troll. He just admitted he’s a troll. Meanwhile you believe he’s 100% right even though he knows nothing, which is a pretty remarkable trick.

    lol, you literally go out of your way to mention him in threads he hasnt even posted in yet. so miss me with the “HE’S A TROLL” shit…

    also i said he’s right in this instance, and he is right…so then you come in swinging your dick around like you’re donald trump talking about your chinese contacts and this and that.

    like i said, give it a rest. looks petty af tbh.

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  71. wr says:

    @James Pearce: When you post deliberately “looking for tomatoes,” that’s trolling. And I expect better of you. At least I used to.

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