The Choose Your Own Adventure Presidency
Trump's lack of fealty to truth and reality gives supporters an out (if they choose it).
After watching Trump’s “concession” speech (which felt more like a hostage video), it struck me that supporters in the media would use it to say, “see, he is doing the right thing!” Setting aside that he almost certainly made that video because he was told he would be removed by impeachment or the 25th Amendment if he didn’t do something to step back from the precipice, this is just another example of Trump’s utter disregard for truth and reality.
In the January 7th “concession” speech, he says:
I’d like to begin by addressing the heinous attack on the United States Capitol. Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.
[Insert record scratch audio here]
Just yesterday, while the Capitol was being stormed by insurrectionists, Trump said the following (emphases mine):
I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.
It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil.
I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.
These are utterly incompatible statements. His January 7th statement he had to read because he was facing a humiliating removal from power. But his January 6th statements clearly reflected his true feelings.
I would note, he waited well over an hour before taking to Twitter (not national television, mind you) to issue that calm message of “go home, but we love you.”
During the occupation of the building he was tweeting the following:
He didn’t tell them to leave. He did not suggest that what they were doing, which was storming the building and forcing the US Congress to suspend the reading of the electoral votes, was wrong. He certainly made no condemnation of “violence” and “mayhem.”
Indeed, as sitting President of the United States, he sat in the White House watching television instead of addressing the nation while the US Capitol was overrun by seditious rioters.
But, late yesterday, he has the audacity to say:
The demonstrators who infiltrated the capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country.
And to those who broke the law, you will pay. We have just been through an intense election, and the emotions are high. But now tempers must be cooled and calm restored.
The “demonstrators who infiltrated the capitol” were invited to march on the capitol by Trump himself earlier in the day after telling the crowd that the election had been stolen (after weeks of hammering on that message).
As such, his words on January 7th are hollow at best.
But, of course, look to the his allies in right-wing media to point to the words from the 7th as proof that he was not in support of the violence and mayhem that he clearly encouraged.
The dishonesty is astounding, albeit it is a key feature of this administration and its supporters. When one has zero fealty to truth and reality, one can make life one big Choose Your Own Adventure novel wherein every moment is but a page turn away to another reality.
If you don’t like the events on page January 6, just turn to page January 7 and it’s all good, man!
Don’t like the call on page January 3 to Georgia’s Secretary of State where he said, “I just want to find 11,780 votes” and “there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated”? Just turn back to page January 7 where he droned on thusly:
My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote. In so doing, I was fighting to defend American Democracy. I continue to strongly believe that we must reform our election laws to verify the identity and the eligibility of all voters and to ensure faith and confidence in all future elections. Now Congress has certified the results.
After all, now that he has said “a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20,” we don’t need to flip back to page December 19:
Or to earlier on page January 6 (at the rally outside the White House):
Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal.
So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give… The Democrats are hopeless. They’re never voting for anything, not even one vote. But we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.
So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to thank you all. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you all for being here, this is incredible. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Because, there is no way that a crowd, that has been primed for weeks (if not months) that the election is being stolen and that the they need to “take back” the country, would do anything untoward whilst visiting the Hill.
No, ignore that, and just choose to focus, again, on the happy words on page January 7:
It will require a renewed emphasis on the civic values of patriotism, faith, charity, community and family. We must revitalize the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family.
But, of course, reality is a culmination of events, and we cannot choose to only look at the one statement and anyone that tries to do that is retroactively complicit in what happened in DC on Wednesday, and to the general degradation of our democracy and truth itself.
Trump’s statements yesterday sounded like a POW “confession”. But then he always sounds like that reading off a teleprompter.
Trump is the perfect representation of the crazy quilt country we live in right now, where so many people get their news and other information only from certain sources, allowing them to live in alternate realities from their fellow citizens…
His teleprompter statements mean nothing, his cult knows he was forced to say those things so it will just reinforce their resentment at dark, satanic forces trying to stop their lord and savior.
The mob was not just after Democrats. They were also apparently after Mike Pence. Bombs were left at the DNC and the RNC. That is not partisanship. That is a cult of personality.
Remember how Roman emperors suddenly started deciding they were gods? That’s what this is. I remember reading about this many long years ago and wondering just how credulous you had to be to think that a guy you may have pooped beside (given Roman sanitation) is now a god. Well, two millennia and people are no smarter.
More recently in history we have the Hitler cult which without batting an eye turned on many fellow Nazis in the Röhm Purge. Fellow party members were instantly no longer party members because one man said so. Ditto the Stalin cult of personality in which long-time comrades in the Communist Party became unpersons overnight, solely on the word of the cult leader.
Mike Pence, Republican, faithful to the point of slavishness, is now un-person. Is he still a Republican? Yes. How about Sasse? Still a Republican. How about Lindsey Graham now as opposed to last week? But that doesn’t matter because this is not about political partisanship this is a cult of personality. These people don’t think Trump is a president, they think he’s a god. This is religion and abnormal psychology manifesting in the political sphere, but it is not partisan politics. They’re even willingly dying for their cult leader. Indeed, many are actively seeking death as an expression of their devotion.
Obviously, “Timeout” Trump isn’t the real Trump, it’s just him doing what he has to do to get his dessert. But it highlights that Trump, having no real principles or need to adhere to the truth, says so many different things, that you can choose to hear what you want to hear. Choose your own adventure, indeed!
I feel much the same about the WSJ, which today is calling for his impeachment or resignation. Both the editorial board and Peggy Noonan, for instance.
But what were they saying Monday? Was it something more along the lines of “these fine patriots!”? Maybe they are just better at reading the teleprompter and making it seem believable? Or maybe, now that the Senate is gone, along with the House and the Presidency, it’s time to settle scores? I don’t know…
Trump reading of a teleprompter is not quite as lifelike as the early attempts at text-to-speech software.
BTW, if he took Putsch 101, he must have failed miserably. had he joined his minions, they’d have stood a much better chance of doing something besides embarrassing the country and repulsing a segment of his supporters. Do you think the Capitol police, National Guard, or anyone else would have cleared the corridors if the titular president was in there, saying “these people are with me”?
But that would be like plan Z (after plans A through Y have failed). Plan A is you get actual troops with tanks, troop carriers, and assorted real battlefield weapons like machine guns*, mortars, and light artillery, and they surround the Capitol, keeping the MAGA herd close by for moral support (and to serve as canon fodder if necessary).
It’s rather easy to imagine what happens next, but chances are he’d have walked out certified as winner of the election 538-0 if he so wished, and a river of blood trailing him.
@Jay L Gischer:
Why wait until Monday?
Kristi Noem, who is the governor of South Dakota in a speech to the RNC yesterday(?):
As to what happened this week, we should look forward, not backward!
I kid you not.
Anyone who still believes anything trump says is deranged.
What’s always been curious to me is how Trump’s loyalty is completely one-way and his fervent supporters don’t seem to realize that. Trump is the kind of guy who expects everyone to take a bullet for him but he will only help others if it directly benefits him. “Leading from behind” is far too kind a term.
@drj: That’s discouraging all right, but not really my point, which was about reversals, and whether to trust them. Kristi Noem isn’t reversing, she’s bobbing and weaving and pivoting. I’m sure see sees this as an opportunity to outshine rivals in demonstration of her devotion to The Righteous Cause.
(Just for the record, *I* don’t think it’s a righteous cause, but her target audience does).
His performance over the past few days has further illustrated how he is one of the slimiest most craven opportunists ever to slither in and out of the Capitol…and considering some of the people who have worked there, that’s saying something…
Well, exactly. How has he repaid Mike Pence? By turning on him.
As for the apparent deafness and blindness of Trump’s fans? It becomes easier to understand when you realize that they’ve created a simulacrum of the man, one in which he’s a devout Christian, a faithful husband, a devoted father (who refused to be photographed with his youngest daughter on the grounds that she’s fat), a brilliant business man (who went bust selling booze and promoting gambling), a handsome, fit dude, and The Greatest President We’ve Ever Had.
@Jay L Gischer:
No need to reverse if you never, ever talk about it again. That’s what most of them – like Noem – are going to do.
“I condemn the senseless violence of the past. Let’s now talk about deficits & abortion and how 2020 was really the Democrats’ fault.”
At Reagan Intl. Airport, Lindsey Graham got called a liar, a traitor, and a piece of shit (I’m quoting) by Trump supporters who claimed he “set Trump up.” One woman said he’d never be able to walk the streets again.
Was it worth it, senator?
That’s completely rude, disgusting, crude, and totally immoral.
But it’s hard to say it’s undeserved.
Rick Wilson’s Everything Trump Touches Dies becomes more and more relevant every day. The only way you can keep your life and career from being destroyed is by never having anything to do with him.
When the next authoritarian shows up on the scene, Trump will have been long gone. A number of reporters are re-tweeting Trumpkins complaints about being betrayed by Trump with this speech, that they’re being thrown under the bus, etc. So he’s losing them because he’s not keeping the adrenalin flowing.
Someone else is taking notes about how easy all this was for Trump and how Cruz, Hawley et al won’t survive either. And then we’ll know what serious trouble looks like.
A republic – if you can keep it. Ben Franklin
@Not the IT Dept.:
I once predicted the only thing Trump could do to turn off his base was to show decency.
I didn’t know phony decency would work as well.
Some Trump supporters are pissed, thinking he sold them out. But others claim the concession speech was more 5-D chess. “When he said a new administration would be inaugurated, he didn’t say Biden’s! So he meant his new administration, with Flynn instead of Pence as VP!”
It’s true some Trump supporters think he sold them out. But others claim the concession speech was more 5-D chess. “When he said a new administration would be inaugurated, he didn’t say Biden’s! So he meant his new administration, with Flynn instead of Pence as VP!”
Now, that would make for an interesting digression.
Long story short, no one really believed it, and it was mostly a political move to keep Roman subjects in line. But few living emperors made the claim; it was mostly reserved for dead ones. Also to further attack unpopular dead emperors, by having the Senate refuse to deify them (you read that right).
There’s an anecdote I like about Vespasian. As he lay on his deathbed, he said “I feel myself becoming a god.” He expired shortly after.
The hardcore Trumpkins seem to be sticking with him.
And speaking of which…an armed march is planned to take place in Washington, D.C. and all state capitals on January 17 at noon. This is being promoted by a group/website called Gun and Game.
It must be a run-up to the festivities planned for January 20.
That comment is true and could have come from any anti-Trumper
Yeah, but I think Wilson said it first and said it best. By the way, did you read the book? It’s great.
Did you mean to reply to @kathy?
1) The hardcore cultists will never leave him. But it’s nice to see a few cultists do so anyway.
2) Most of the country, including several red states, are not in the mood for this kind of thing. I doubt it will attract many followers, or that it will be met by a less than adequate response.
No, you. But given the current glitchiness of the site, when I looked to see to which of my comments you were referring, I got taken to the top of the page. Then I got the message that you were referring to my initial Wilson citation.
I hadn’t, but Kathy did.
He hasn’t got the cold hard will and nerve required.
He’s not a battlefield leader, or even a general, but a wannabe capo, the Spodfather, sitting in his office with carefully clean hands.
“I didn’t do it. I got an alibi.”
You to me: “Your comment is true and could have come from any anti-Trumper.”
Breaking news: Hope Hicks is discussing dumping Trump. Also, Lisa Murkowski has called on Trump to resign.
I said this to myself as I was watching it unfold on Wednesday, but I’ll say it out loud now: Those tweets were not from Trump. That was a staffer trying to mitigate the situation. That was a desperate attempt at containment PR–handled by someone who doesn’t really understand PR or containment.
IIRC it started out with the new Roman subject in the Hellenistic areas – Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt – where the kings had traditionally been at least semi-divine.
The Roman’s initially regarded as an amusing evidence of the unmanly nature of the eastern provincials. Again IIRC Augustus is reputed to have joked about the whole business. And the Imperial Cult, except for to some extent “divine Julius”, was relatively uncommon in Italy until the third century AD.
I’m reminded of a Pat Benatar song:
You can cry to me, baby
But there’s only so much
Only so much I can take
It’s a little too little
It’s a little too late
Hitler wasn’t the power behind the Nazis. He was the mouthpiece. He had the charisma to get people riled up, but it was Goebels, Goering, et.al., who took his rants and turned them into the machinery of genocide. Stalin was much smarter and brought the powerful men under his control early.
We are very fortunate that the Trumpists in Congress, in the Cabinet, in the military, and on the staff are lazy coat-tail riders or pathetic sychophants. Ironically, we have Trump to thank for a lot of that, as he fired most who was actually competent. One intelligent puppet master could have manipulated Trump with ease, and made a serious–possibly successful–attempt at actual authoritarianism and “revolution”.
If you want a contemporary insight into how effective authoritarianism works, look at the rise of Xi Jinping. When he became President, he did so on the promise to eliminate corruption in government. That’s like saying “I’ll eliminate toes on feet”. The Chinese bureaucracy is built on low-level corruption. Cash, favors, etc. It’s just part of doing business.
When I left China in 2017, over one million government officials had been charged, tried, and convicted of corruption. Most are in prison, some have been executed. And Xi didn’t have to fabricate anything. All he had to do was pick the people he wanted purged. The rest fell in line and are “absolutely loyal” to him (for fear that they’re next).
All of this was done through a popularly-supported “law and order” campaign, backed up by soft propaganda. Once his position was solid, that propaganda ramped up.
I thank the gods that we got Trump and his sycophants–rather than actually competent people.
I’m signing off for the weekend. I’ll check back on Monday to see if we still have a country.
OK, but I didn’t connect to the comment about Rick Stevens’ book.
@CSK: Wait… Lindsay Graham is a streetwalker? Who knew????
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
Take you around the world for twenty, big fella.
Looks like Trump just tweeted something out of line and Twitter pulled the plug
https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump “Account suspended”
She been… whatevering… with Donald Trump? Eewwww!! That’s even more repulsive than Lindsay Graham streetwalking.
And I’m out of mental floss and eyeball bleach, too. 🙁
@CSK: So he’s cut-rate, too? Ewwwww!
Flynn also “account suspended”
(Have mentioned, I really hope some ambitious LEO has eyes on Flynn?)
Also: Apple has given the Parler 24 hours to clean itself up or be deleted from the App store
Reddit Bans r/Conspiracy Moderator and r/DonaldTrump
I wonder if a word has gone out from some National Security office that it’s time to stop playing silly buggers?
@JohnSF: Do we know what the final twit was that did him in?
@JohnSF: If any word has gone out, it’s “We’ve got your back” from Congressional leadership, I would guess. Bipartisan would be best.
Not seen a screencap of one. Just a guess on my part.
Could be they just said, “soddit, aint worth the risk”
OR once my (highly hypothetical) Pence “acting presidential committee thingy” had got the sorta-concession out, they decided, good enough, why take any chances, ask Twitter to shut it down. Completely baseless speculation on my part. 🙂
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
Miss Lindsey is many things
Yes; it was the one about how 75 million Americans would speak in a GIANT VOICE.
To many people.
Having met a lot of stupid, angry, resentful people who think they are the smartest person ever, I disagree.
Trump gets angry when he is told what to do, and is too stupid to understand things that you get him to parrot unless they are really simple, so he will never believe those are his ideas. And then get angry when people are doing something he never told them to, if it comes back to be a problem.
He’s not easy to manipulate in the long term towards any specific goal.
People have gotten him to not care about things, and delegate, and then bask in the praise for his wise actions — the judges come to mind — but only because he doesn’t care.
How long was he on his best behavior after being dragged into a statement condemning nazis in Charlottesville? Two days?
How many Chiefs of Staff has he had?
If Trump were stupid and happy, and thought he was the smartest person ever, then he would be easily manipulated long term.
Basically, he said he will not be attending Biden’s inauguration and the tweet before or right after said that his 75m followers will not be disrespected which of course sounds ominous as frack. I am guessing at that point Twitter (and it sounds like Apple is also going down the ban Trump path) said jeebus, screw that noise and permabanned him.
The social media companies will be able to whether the blow back from the crowd screaming that they are being censored (to be fair, they are being censored, but anyway) just fine, it beats being indelibly linked to attempts to take over our existing government and destroy Democracy in America.
The stelazine has kicked in. Yes, I’m stuck in 1968. In 1968, before the lamentable Democratic party national convention in Chicago there were rumors that hippies were planning to put LSD in the Chicago water to cause mass hallucinations. Phillip K.Dick wrote that au contraire they were planning to put stelazine, an antipsychotic drug, into the water which would cause mass reality to arrive, and people would realize that Lyndon Johnson was really a giant amoral lizard. The stelazine has hit America, and we see Trump as he really is.
@inhumans99: I’m actually laughing (and crying) at the same time about them screaming about being censored from spouting their worst treason fantasies online. They’re so dumb they don’t know they’re providing digital evidence of their state of mind and what they would happily do if nothing stood in their way.
We still have to somehow live with these treasonous bastards.
They also don’t know what censorship is.
I think you have the better argument here. A lot of people joined the Trump administration believing they could manipulate Trump and they are all gone. The most obvious of them is John Bolton who was drooling over the possibility of remaking mid-east policy in his vision. Didn’t work out well for him.
Then there are all the leaked stories of people doing things behind Trump’s back. If Trump was easy to manipulate, that wouldn’t happen. And doing stuff behind Trump’s back was dumb because there’s been no real secrecy in this administration. Washington and OPSEC are antonyms, but the Trump administration is a special case. I mean, if a “secret” effort is reported in the NYT, it’s not very secret even if the usual suspects pretend otherwise. And it’s usually the leakers reporting the secrets, so that was ultimately another attempt to manipulate Trump, which never worked for very long.
Trump’s greatest strength and weakness is his ego and his reliance on his own instincts above all else. That’s why he so easily threw Pence under the bus this past week. The universe is Trump and Trump is the universe. The only exception might be is family.
The strength of his ego and instincts is that he’s resilient against manipulation and is good at course correcting back to his center. This is why I’ve long been skeptical of the whole idea that he’s “owned” by Putin and the Russians. He aspires to be like Putin but is too dumb and lazy to put in the work.
The weakness of his ego and instincts is that his natural center is in la-la land and divorced from reality in most contexts. It served him reasonably well in NY real estate and reality TV, but he’s spent four years trying to template that experience to the rest of the world and all the problems he faced. Everything is possible with a “deal” that is only possible with his charisma and talents which, of course, didn’t work.
The only asset Trump has among political elites is the number of rubes who still believe in him and his bullshit. In light of that, I’m much more scared of Cruz and Hawley than Trump. They’ve been milking Trump voters with a clear eye to 2024. Unlike Trump these are men with real political ambition who are not cosplaying.
This probably won’t be well received here, but I think those who’ve been catastrophizing everything Trump over the last four years ought to reevaluate history and be more skeptical about “normal” politicians like Cruz and Hawley who don’t lack Trump’s strengths and deficits. They are, IMO, much more dangerous than the reality TV cosplaying President we’re burdened with for the next 12 days.
And the irony is that he is all those things. But they didn’t think so last week.
Putin is happy just seeing America burn — he doesn’t care how. So he’s not after a specific goal. Flattery can enable Trump’s worst instincts.
And, Putin can offer Trump things that he wants — money, business deals, a world leader that pretends to look up to him, prestige. Trump fancies himself the consummate deal maker, and has a very transactional worldview.
Meanwhile, Bolton wants specific things. But what can Jon Bolton possibly offer Donald J. Trump, Real Estate Tycoon and President? Walrus cosplay tips?
I suspect that Putin has long had a reach into the Trump organization, at least as far back as the 2016 campaign. Manafort is compromised, after all. But, so far as ownership of Trump goes, it’s loose.
@Andy: “Unlike Trump these are men with real political ambition who are not cosplaying.”
Yes, but that cosplaying is a big part of Trump’s appeal. He’s an entertainer, a carnival barker, a stand-up comedian. His followers view his rallies like rock concerts. Cruz drips slime, and Hawley is flat out boring. They think aping Trump’s politics is the way to win his people, but they don’t have the spark.
Not well-received? Where have you been? “The real risk is a guy with Trump’s ambitions but competent” has been a pretty consistent theme here for the last few years.
Not if you’re saying “you should do this”. But a good puppet master doesn’t do that. They manipulate the information that’s coming in and slowly turn the puppet in the direction they want–all the while making the puppet believe it’s what they want.
With Trump it would be stroking his ego and presenting him with “powerful minions”. Then tell him to bask in their glory while you “take care of all the tedious details”. That’s an overly simplified version of it, but the right manipulator could definitely do it–especially if they had Melania on their side.
The current joke meme on FB at the moment is along the lines of “It’s worse than Trump getting banned from Twitter. They just banned Miss Lindsey from Grindr (gasp).”
I needed that laugh! Thanks.
I vary in my opinions about the Trump/Russian relationship.
My general conclusion is: he should be owned but he’s too stupid to actually realise it.
(I suspect the vory guys he’s played footsie with scare him, but he’s to dumb to grasp that Putin owns them)
@Mu Yixiao: You can’t usefully manipulate the information coming in — he spends all day watching TV and seeking out the information that appeals to him, giving up on Fox when it tells him things he doesn’t like, and moving to OANN and InfoWars.
He doesn’t absorb information that he doesn’t want to hear. And he believes his own bullshit.
I’m pretty sure that he believed VP Pence had super-magical powers to change the election on the 6th. Someone probably told him this, or he knows the quote attributed to Stalin, and then he tweeted it, it got echoed back by his favorite crazy news sources, and that was confirmation. But the only reason he believed it in the first place was because it allowed him to do what he already wanted to do — not lose the election — and was so simple that he understood it.
He’s too dumb to be usefully manipulated towards a specific goal. He doesn’t change his views when presented with information he doesn’t like, he changes the channel.