Who’s Afraid of Donald Trump?
In his business career Donald Trump relied largely on fear and intimidation to get his way on business deals. As President, he's finding that nobody is afraid of him.
Donald Trump once said that the best way to control people, and thus to govern, was through fear. If that’s true, then, as Michael Tackett and Maggie Habermann at The New York Times note, he’s failing miserably:
WASHINGTON — Richard M. Nixon once said, “People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday school, but it’s true.”
No president since has deployed fear quite like Donald J. Trump. Whether it is the prospect of a crime wave at the border with Mexico or nuclear war with North Korea, President Trump has persuaded his supporters that there is plenty to fear beyond fear itself.
In an interview as a presidential candidate in 2016 with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post, Mr. Trump said, “Real power is — I don’t even want to use the word — fear.”
As president, he initially tried to intimidate some of the nation’s strongest allies, including Canada, Mexico, Britain, France and Germany, in trade talks. He demanded political loyalty from Republicans in Congress and drove several who bucked him from office, notably Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake. But as his presidency enters its third year, a less convenient truth is emerging: Few outside the Republican Party are afraid of him, and they may be less intimidated after the disastrous government shutdown.
But Mr. Trump has shown little inclination to modulate his style, and that carries risks. He could well face a challenge for the Republican nomination in 2020, and congressional Republicans from swing states could begin to distance themselves from him.
One of the clearest signals came last week when Republicans, backing an amendment offered by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, opposed the president’s call for withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria and Afghanistan as part of a Middle East policy bill. Only three Republicans voted against it.
“I believe the threats remain,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech last week. “ISIS and Al Qaeda have yet to be defeated, and American national security interests require continued commitment to our mission there.”
Mr. McConnell also counseled the president last week against declaring a national emergency to get a wall built on the southwestern border, even as Mr. Trump emphasized that he was reserving that option.
Even his supporters say the president, who uses the word “tough” as a favored expression of admiration, has not made a measurably effective transition from the world of private business to public office.
“It is a common trait among those who ran privately held corporations,” said Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary for George W. Bush and frequently defends Mr. Trump. “Their way is the only way. Their will gets it done. They’ve been successful against all odds, built something huge, and when they declare it so they expect everybody around them to make it so. That’s Donald Trump’s behavior, and that doesn’t always work in politics or in government.
“Politicians don’t operate the way he does,” Mr. Fleischer said. “Frankly, it’s put him at risk and put the Republican Party at risk, but it also allows him to take on China and do something of tremendous consequences that no politician would ever do. If Trump is successful, this will be a better country and a better world for it.”
Yet there is little evidence that President Xi Jinping of China, or any other foreign leader, is cowed.
And certainly not Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The president initially said he felt comfortable negotiating with Ms. Pelosi, but in interviews aired on Sunday, he sharpened his attacks on her and said her obstinacy on the border wall was damaging the country.
Mr. Trump has found that his lack of experience in politics and diplomacy, which require policy knowledge, team building and nuanced negotiating ability, has left him at a decided disadvantage despite his boasts about his deal-making prowess.
“He’s surrounded in these standoffs by people who have all those boxes checked,” said Timothy O’Brien, the author of “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald.” “Nancy Pelosi has been doing this for quite a while, Putin has been doing this for a quite a while, Xi has been doing this quite a while. They’ve all been running circles around him.”
“The next question is when does he really realize that for what it is, and I think the answer for that is he never will,” Mr. O’Brien said, “because it would admit either defeat or acknowledgment of his inadequacies, and he will just never do that.”
The government shutdown is just the latest and highest-profile example of Mr. Trump sounding assertive but gaining little, at least so far. American allies, diplomats said, have more a sense of resignation than fear in dealing with him. The list of threats from Mr. Trump is long, but the number of times he has followed through is exceedingly short.
“He is playing a role, and the role, much like on ‘The Apprentice,’ was of the strong, able character, but it’s a role,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “Every foreign leader and every practicing politician has taken a measure of him and understands the basics, that he responds to strength and there’s not a lot behind the facade.”
The fact that Trump operates in a manner that relies heavily on fear and intimidation to get his way is something that has been well-known for some time, of course. As anyone who has followed him from his early days as a media celebrity. The concept of establishing an aura of fear and intimidation was a significant theme of his best-selling book The Art Of The Deal and a big part of the image that he manufactured for himself during the time he was the host of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. It was also part of the image he sought to craft as a candidate for President, claiming that only he was “tough enough” to negotiate good deals, whether it was with Congress, on the international trade front, or in negotiations with foreign adversaries such as Russia, China, and North Korea. When he actually became President, he displayed at least some of that strategy during his year-long Twitter war with the leader of North Korea and also attempted to use the same tactics to keep the Republican Congress from straying too far from his agenda and from supporting the goals that he had set during the campaign.
To some extent, it has appeared that the President has been successful in this government-by-fear strategy, at least domestically. With the exception of a handful of members of the House and Senate who announced their retirement or otherwise felt free to speak without fear of retribution, he has managed to keep the entirety of the GOP caucuses in the House and Senate in line when it comes to enacting his agenda. This is due in large part to the fear that many Republicans have that rebelling against the President will end up causing them to become targets of his latest Twitter attack, or that he would back a rival in a primary challenge. Rather than being fearful of the President per se, though, I’d suggest that this is really another example of the same behavior we saw from Republicans during the Obama years when they generally adhered to a hard-right Tea Party agenda out of fear that they would end up facing a Tea Party-backed challenge in an upcoming primary. In other words, this isn’t a fear of the President per se so much as it is a fear of the groups that support the President and the risks they could pose to an incumbent’s political survival.
More recently, of course, there have been increasing signs that Republicans aren’t quite so fearful of the President. During the recently concluded shutdown, for example, several Republican Senators began openly questioning the strategy of not considering the various spending bills being put forward by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Had the shutdown continued any longer than it did, it’s quite likely that Mitch McConnell would not have been able to keep these restive Senators in line. More recently, it’s been reported that Senator McConnell has warned the White House that any move to use the President’s “national emergency” powers to get a wall built would likely lead to a revolt by Senate Republicans. This is just the first sign in the wake of the midterm elections that the Presidents ability to get what he wants from the GOP on Capitol Hill may not be as extensive as it was believed to be.
On the foreign stage, it seems obvious that the strategy of using fear to evoke cooperation has utterly failed for this President. In part, of course, this is because in dealing with foreign leaders the President isn’t dealing with underlings or people that he can easily control. Rather, he is largely dealing with people who are on an equal footing with him even if their respective nations are weaker than the United States. Additionally, when it comes to adversaries it is rather obvious that people like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong Un have any actual fear of Donald Trump. In fact, it’s more likely than not that they view him as easily manipulated and as someone that they can use to their own advantage.
As a result of all of this, the President has found himself without a governing strategy. Nobody takes him seriously as an Obama-like policy wonk. He can’t rely on the back-slapping good humor that George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan relied on to build relationships. And, now, he finds that his strategy of governing by fear doesn’t work in the context of the Presidency, especially when he has demonstrated himself to be so weak and easily manipulated. This is one of the main reasons why his Presidency so far has largely been a failure at the policy level and why it is likely to continue in that direction for the foreseeable future.
Fear and intimidation is what he used in his dealings with porn stars and ex wives. But I question the premise that Trump ever successfully used fear and intimidation against anyone that didn’t work with for him.
He’s worse than an easily manipulated weakling. He’s a joke. Except for his drooling acolytes–and he’s lost a few of them–everyone laughs at him.
I wouldn’t say no one’s afraid, Lindsey Graham is certainly afraid, so is Ted Cruz, so are most Republicans because they’re two-bit bullies themselves lacking any moral core, genuine beliefs or personal integrity. They’ve shown the backbone of earth worms. They’ve elevated groveling to an Olympic sport.
But no one else gives a sht what the clown says anymore. He’s impotent because he lacks any capacity to convince. Democrats have no fear of him because he has zero ability to reach their voters. That’s the problem with playing only to your base and being such a rancid, vile creature that you can’t expand that base.
This is exactly why it was right for Pelosi to not back down over funding the wall. If she had, she would have shown that Congressional Democrats are also afraid of Trump. By standing up to Trump, and having Trump be the one to give in, she has made it easier for others to defy him as well.
If Pelosi had followed the course urged by certain commentators here, this would not be happening at all in Congress, and Trump would continue to get exactly what he wants, regardless of cost to the country.
I just want to note that Pearce is scared shitless by the fat orange blob and his stupid fuqing comb-over.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
Pearce still thinks Trump won the shutdown fight.
I think the earthworms are secretly contemptuous of Trump. I don’t think they fear him; they fear the power of his base. If the base suddenly turned on Trump, they’d be pushing him out the door.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
I’m afraid of what Trump is going to accomplish in the face of a feckless, cowardly opposition who is as full of shit as Trump is. Not the same thing.
I don’t know what kind of sinister forces are aligning against us. I just know that weird clapping and smug little quips isn’t going to stop it.
And you still think there was a winner in the shutdown fight, so…
The base isn’t going to turn on Trump, they can’t. In some dusty corner of their brains it’s beginning to occur to them that they made a mistake of such magnitude it can’t be walked back. They can’t get away with pretending they made a reasonable mistake, they’d have to admit they elected an absolute POS, a corrupt buffoon who is utterly unprepared and too stupid to learn. They can either admit that, or go down with the ship and try to shift blame onto Democrats. How many victims of con men ever admit they were gulled?
You said flat out that Trump would win and he’d get his wall. You were 100% wrong, but also 100% too weak to admit it.
As for winners I’d cite polls and other evidence, but I’m going to reserve judgment until you take your own psychic poll of light rail commuters.
Dennison needs to realize that neither foreign leaders nor Congressional Democrats are afraid his base will primary them out of office.
No, they won’t admit it. To them he’ll be the greatest president of all time.
He may yet get his wall, Michael.
The key graph:
You can cite all the polls you want. Trump is going to get something he can call a wall and Dems are going to give it to him.
A “feckless, cowardly” opposition would have already given him his wall, but since that hasn’t happened, it shows once again that you have misjudged and mischaracterized his opposition…
So now tying him and his wall up in court is “giving” it to him? Who knew…
He’s not getting his wall. The wall is at minimum a 25 billion dollar job. We aren’t even debating 25 billion, we’re debating 1.6 vs. 5 billion, and the 5 billion won’t cover the costs of land acquisition and legal defense from the endless lawsuits that will arise once the USG starts seizing rancher’s property and cutting their cattle off from water.
As for Trump being able to claim a win? He’s been telling his culties the wall’s already being built. What does it matter what a pathological liar tells credulous cretins? He can tell them he’s already got all 25 billion.
But, oops: Ann Coulter et al. Yeah, there’s the rub. Trump can claim he’s building his big, beautiful concrete wall, er, steel slats, er human barrier, er white picket fence and decorative flower trellis. But will the RWNJ’s fall into line? If both Nancy Pelosi and Coulter are laughing at Trump’s lie he’s going to have a hard time selling it even to idiots.
Even the ‘declare an emergency’ dodge has run into a dead end. The House can (and would) vote to stop the declaration, which would force the Senate to vote, which means Senators voting to seize land pursuant to a fraudulent claim of emergency, a claim the courts would quite possibly shoot down. What you’d get then is half a dozen Republicans sitting out the vote, which means the rejection would pass and Trump would have to veto it. All for a wall no one gives a rat’s ass about outside of the frantic and fearful xenophobes and racists. A wall that if it’s ever even begun will simply be torn down once the pig is gone from the Oval.
Bottom line: wall ain’t happening. What is happening is Mueller, the SDNY, the House intelligence committee, the House justice committee and the media all digging happily into the mountains of evidence against the entire Trump Crime Family. He doesn’t get stronger from here, just weaker and weaker, and the weaker he gets the less anyone’s going to give a sht about his pathetic vanity wall.
No one’s afraid of Trump because, unlike you with your reflexive forelock tugging to the ‘alpha male’, out here in reality we know the buck’s been shot and now we’re just following the blood trail to finish the poor beast off and carve him into Trump steaks.
@An Interested Party:
Caligula got his military victory against Neptune by having his soldiers stab the water in the French coast, and collect sand, starfish, and seashells. He even celebrated a triumph to prove it. This did not help him even a little when his body guards, surely encouraged by the Senate, stuck a knife in him.
Oh, yes. Caligula was supposed to be conquering Britain. Somehow collecting seashells didn’t do it. But then, nobody knew conquering Britain would be so complicated! Dennison is supposed to be securing the border. His vanity wall, if it gets built, won’t do that. But then, nobody knew securing the border was so complicated!
@An Interested Party: If this is winning, you won.
No points for dragging it out and then capitulating.
Let’s be clear about two things:
His wall is a 35 foot tall structure from sea to shining sea.
He is not going to get his wall. He may get some additional border structures of some kind, which he will then call a wall (and insipid sycophants like you will believe him) but it is categorically not his wall.
You mean like shutting down the government for a 200o mile long 35′ high wall, from sea to shining sea, and then settling for a few miles of fencing?
You’re a moron.
You are vastly underestimateing how gullible these marks are, most of them. They mostly do not realize they are being conned, they are a gullible cult, the reason Fox News and Limbaugh and the rest keep promulgating the Foxlandia alternate reality is that these fools are such suckers it keeps working.
Why are you guys even bothering?
Now you want points for stopping a 25 billion dollar project? If they spend even a dime on “barriers” at the border, Trump is going to say it’s a wall. You think he wants an actual wall, this superficial demagogue with no core beliefs?
You’ve been pumping that up for a while now, all the ways that some hero is going to come in and wipe Trump out of American history, be it Mueller or the SDNY or Stormy Daniels or the NY Times, all in a desperate bid to avoid the political fight, the one where you have to do things for people and you can’t just call them names.
Jennifer Rubin described Pearce today:
What are you talking about? Read a newspaper occasionally, huh? Democrats beat Trump in the midterms and are falling over themselves to run against Trump in 2020. We are dying to take him on on the issues and our candidates are spewing proposals and plans and policies left and right. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You don’t know much. Invincible Ignorance.
Trump is a demagogue and the wall is part of his demagoguery. You think it matters if it works?
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
No. It’s a political scam to get bigots and know-nothings to support him politically. This is not a big bloc. The smart move would be to go “Please proceed, governor” and give him the rope needed to hoist himself up onto the gallows.
But this goddamn “resistance” pose cannot be broken. You’d rather seem him elevated to the mainstream as the Tormenter of Democrats than watch him become King of the Nerds.
No…Individual-1 and his sycophantic supporters, like you, will always be a malignant cancer on this nations history, like Jim Crow and Japanese Internment and Joe McCarthy. You should be proud to be associated with it.
Yes, a 2,000 mile long 35′ foot high scam from sea to shining sea. And he ain’t getting it.
You’re both right, for the same reason. A person being conned will resist acknowledging the con. Some ignore the evidence and stay blissfully unaware of a con, others know they’re being conned but won’t admit it. the end result is the same.
Asimov argued, in a mystery short story of all places, that people want to be fooled. They want their biases, beliefs, or prejudices confirmed, and some are not picky as to how the confirmation comes about.
Think of the infamous Martian Canals. at best these were a mistaken observation, perhaps due to pattern recognition where there was no pattern. People, including serious astronomers, build them up to much more. Who wouldn’t want to find intelligent life right next door?
Though their existence was debunked long ago, they persisted as features in science fiction stories and in the popular imagination for decades thereafter. I recall as late as 1976, when the Viking probes landed on Mars, someone asking whether they’d landed at or near the canals
If they don’t respond, they can’t call me names or insult my personality.
Clapping funny at the SOTU is not how you take him on in regards to issues. Wearing all white is not how you take him on in regards to issues. Calling everyone who doesn’t support your politics a racist or a sexist or both is not how you take him on in regards to issues.
If you are going to insist on making insipid comments, then we are going to call you insipid, and then your little feelings are going to hurt.
Be the change you want to see in the world…don’t be a moron, and no one will call you a moron.
I do not buy into the afraid Republicans cowering with fear from Trump. They are cowering not from Trump but from the consequences of willingly taking lots of $$$ from countries that highly support Trump. They are bought and paid for supporters of Trump and they are in fear of being held accountable by America.
No…about 19% of America…give or take.
What has this quote from NYT to do with Trump?
I expect that foreign leaders have sought analysis and advice on how to handle Trump from their Intelligence agencies, and from Psychology professionals. I expect Pelosi has too. GOPs in the House are winnowing down to Freedom Caucus types from deep red gerrymandered districts, who fear Trump’s influence on the base. This is also true of, for instance, Lindsay Graham. But the Senate isn’t gerrymandered. Some of them, I expect, are also starting to fear educated suburban voters as much as they fear the Base.
In every internet discussion it is always useful to ask yourself “WWTD?” – What Would a Troll Do? A Troll’s goal is to get you excited and to waste your time. Given that, would a Troll marshall strong, coherent and consistent arguments? Or the opposite?
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
More decent people live by the “don’t call people names” ethos they learned in elementary school, but hey…you don’t have to.
Most people learn to make cogent arguments and not vapid, obsequious, paeans to their orange god.
Again…just a moronic straw-man of an argument.
When he stated to an interviewer real power comes from fear, the interviewer let slip a golden opportunity:
“Is that why so many lenders stopped doing business with Trump Inc?”
A troll would call people names. A troll would join the pile on on the unpopular dude. A troll would join the conversation with no other purpose than to call someone else a troll.
I’m sorry that so many of you don’t find me consistent or convincing or whatever. But you people are the ones who abuse me.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
Think what you want about my arguments and don’t call me names. Seems pretty simple, huh?
“Oh, yes. Caligula was supposed to be conquering Britain. Somehow collecting seashells didn’t do it. But then, nobody knew conquering Britain would be so complicated!”
Well, except for his successor Claudius, who actually got it done.
Only 3 downvotes for the “don’t call me names” post? Some of you are slacking…
Claudius is an interesting figure. He did not command or lead the legions that invaded and conquered Britain. At the time that was nothing short of astonishing. Perhaps he was given a pass given his known infirmities.
What I find interesting, is that not only he knew his limitations, but decided not to bungle things by trying to ignore them. He knew he was neither a soldier nor a general, and didn’t try to grab glory by pretending otherwise.
It’s too bad his second wife had him killed. More so since the successor was Nero.
I read this rather interesting piece in The Guardian today. The gist is the target of moneyed Trump supporters, and Brexit supporters and others, is the international order.
I’m not saying I buy the thesis, but it is thought-provoking.
I’m surprised you’re not a conservative…you got the victim mentality down pat…
“And once again, Freddy, you have inadvertently stumbled upon the truth.”
— John McLaughlin [host of the McLaughlin group] 1926-2016
@An Interested Party: One thing he may not be considering is that no one except the people who respond to him (i.e. feed the troll) even reads his posts anymore. Not bothering to read them might have quite a dramatic effect on his downvote count. Who can tell?
Probably best just to ignore him as much as possible until he passes through *his artistic contrarian formerly known as Prince* phase and returns to thoughtful commentary.
@An Interested Party: As much as you wish it to be so, I’m not being “victimized” by you and your cadre. “Cut out the personal insults” is a reasonable request.
You’re just unreasonable people.
“What I find interesting, is that not only he knew his limitations, but decided not to bungle things by trying to ignore them.”
Except with respect to alcohol consumption, and trying to govern while drunk.
“It’s too bad his second wife had him killed.”
Fourth, but who’s counting?
@gVOR08: heck, anyone who’s had to deal with a three-year old would have sufficient psychological smarts to deal with the Orange Mango…..
We haven’t gotten down to Nancy Pelosi saying “look at the choo-choo!” quite yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.
P.S. I swear, every time I look at that picture of Trump, the more he looks like a chicken who’s just been through a spin-dryer. Same stultified gaze, same ruffled feathers, same coloration.
Actually I don’t wish that at all…however, that is the way you are acting…
That’s actually amusing coming from someone who moves goalposts and seems to deal in the same unreality that Trump does…
@James Pearce: Dearie, you’re just not all that important. So put a sock in it, hmmm?
Apparently there is an entire town in Costa Rica being supported by Dennison’s golf courses.
The WaPo spoke to 16 men and women who worked at Bedminster…all of them without legal status and all say their managers knew.
A police report shows that Bedminsters head of security was notified in 2011, and the practice continued.
Seriously — what’s it going to take to get rid of Individual-1?