Sunday, September 18, 2016

Forethought and Consequences: Trump, Rove and the Unimaginable Dangers of an Impulsive President

by Nomad

Rove's Rant

Raw Story recently ran a piece about American Republican political consultant and policy advisor Karl Rove's take on Donald Trump. On Friday afternoon's Fox Business News, Rove had a lot of bitter whiny things to say. The term used was an "epic rant." 

He dared to ask the question whether Trump actually wants to win. If so, how can anybody explain the daily gaffes and the misjudgments and, well, the nonsense? What the hell is going on? In particular, the former George W. Bush chief-of-staff deplored how easily Trump could be distracted and baited.

Rove cited example after example in which the GOP nominee could (plausibly) have turned his campaign around. Visibly angry, Rove pointed out that Trump squandered those opportunities, picking an unwinnable fight with Gold Star families, and making outrageous and ignorant claims about Obama and ISIS. 
 As Rove once wrote:
“The most precious asset any presidential candidate has is time.” 
Trump has been wasting much time on petty spats that more intelligent candidates would have avoided like the plague. Not only has he wasted time with unimportant squabbles, Trump has also wasted even more time making ridiculous remarks that he must spend further time walking back from. Either he has later blamed it on the unfairness of the media for exaggerating or, even more ridiculously, taking his too seriously. 

None of this should be happening. Yet it is.
Rove then said much more important about the deficiencies of Trump:
“And why? He felt compelled to do it. He ought to get control of his impulses and keep focused on the main target. Otherwise, you’re going to have more of these Republicans saying ‘why do we want to stand by this guy when he just keeps going after the wrong target.'”
As usual, Rove characteristically misses the point and seems oblivious to the scope of the problem. Rove seems to be asking Trump transform himself into the candidate that he will never be. This is Trump's nature. 

The truth - something that Rove tends to avoid whenever possible- is that Trump was never suitable for the position he has applied for. Everybody, including Rove, desperately tried to ignore that minor detail in the lead-up to the Republican convention. 

In June, before the convention, Rove was predicting a moderate post-convention "bounce." The event, he said, would bring 'net plus' in polls for Trump. 
(Incidentally, that was nearly exactly the same phrase that RNC chairman Reince Priebus used a year ago. He said Trump was a "net positive" for the Republican Party.) Today Republicans should be looking around and asking "Is this what a net plus looks like?"

A fortnight following the Republican convention, Rove went on the airwaves and declared that 
This has been about the most dreadful two weeks of a presidential candidate following his convention. And all of it has been self-inflicted. 
As bad it was then, the situation has yet to improve... at all. Trump's numbers are at historically low levels for any candidate. He has all but lost key battle states and wastes his time campaigning in states where Democrats cannot lose

Ignoring the Obvious- A Republican Approach

Taking a page from Obama about hope, the Republican establishment had their fingers crossed and prayed to their gods that Trump would congeal into something like a president. Even then, a lot of very smart people had misgivings.

Yet now, with just over 80 days left, lots of right wingers like Rove have become impatient for Trump to be presidential. Guess what, folks, it's not going to happen. Another case in which Rove and reality have a head-on collision. Just like when he couldn't believe that Romney had lost Ohio in 2012.

Somehow Karl Rove has ignored- or is unable to spot- the thing that is glaringly obvious. 

This problem goes beyond an incompetent campaign or poor decision making. It goes beyond trying to find a winning strategy. Unintentionally Karl Rove's observations strike at the heart of the problem with Trump. 

When Rove declares that Trump "ought to get control of his impulses, Rove is providing voters with the best reason not to vote for the GOP choice. 
Forget for a moment Trump's profound ignorance of the Constitution, NATO and how the government runs. Forget too his irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric. There have been ignorant presidents in the past (though none quite as ignorant as Trump, I'd guess.)

Whether he intended to or not, Rove has acknowledged the most frightening aspect of Trump's character.  His impulsiveness.

In an age of instant annihilation, where things can spin out of control in a matter of minutes- do we really want to have a president who has clearly demonstrated an incapability to control his impulses? Do we really want a leader who refuses to trust intel before making his decisions?

In a time when geopolitical realities call for a leader who is thinking two or three steps ahead of everybody else, do we really want a president who cannot stay focused and who gets miffed at
every perceived insult?

Just the other day, when Republican Robert Gates- Secretary of Defense in two administrations (2006 to 2011) gave a critical assessment of Trump's qualifications
Gates is no light weight. He is described as a statesman, scholar and university president and, also been a harsh critic of Hillary Clinton. 
That's why Gates' opinion of Trump is important.

Gates said that when it came to credibility problems, "Donald Trump is in a league of his own." He was, Gates said, "beyond repair" in terms of ever being suitable presidential material. 

"He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief."
Journalists like to call that kind of remark "scathing."

And what was Trump's reaction? 
He impulsively tweeted that Gates was "a nasty guy." Gates was, according to Trump, "dopey." Gates was he reason why America's foreign policy was in such a mess, Trump claimed. 
If that wasn't bad enough, Trump capped his return fire by saying that Gates must have "some undisclosed problem." 
Nobody knows the art of the nonspecific slander better than Trump.

Even though Trump was blindly unaware of it, his impulsive, defensive, and childish reaction to the remarks managed to prove Gates correct in every way.

To Act without Thinking about the Consequences

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, 5th edition, impulsive behaviors are a hallmark of borderline personality disorder (BPD), a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships. Impulsivity is defined as " a tendency to act without thinking about the consequences of your actions."
As one authority puts it:
People with impulse control disorders engage in repetitive behaviors despite adverse consequences that may occur as a direct result of those behaviors. Even if these individuals have the desire to control their behaviors, it can be impossible as they continuously experience an increasing urge or craving to engage in the behavior.
For Trump, the temptation to react to slights and criticism- even when it is accurate- is overwhelming. And expecting Trump's behavior patterns he has exhibited all his adult life is extraordinarily futile.

Admittedly, everyone acts impulsively from time to time but not everybody is running for president. Not everybody will have control over a vast nuclear arsenal and the greatest (and most expensive) military in the world at his/ her disposal.  
On that level, the consequences of Trump's impulsive behavior could well be catastrophic.

A High Stakes Gamble for Humanity

The United States and Russia account for 93 percent of the world's 15,375 nuclear weapons. The US alone maintains an arsenal of over 7,200 nuclear bombs. 
It's certainly enough to destroy every living thing on the planet. It's more than enough to win a pissing contest with anybody, friend or foe. 

Back in March, Trump was asked about the use of atomic weapons. Trump refused to rule out using tactical nuclear weapons on ISIS.
“I’m never going to rule anything out—I wouldn’t want to say. Even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t want to tell you that because, at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use them.”
What a clever fellow. He's like.. like a genius or something.
The problem with this line of thinking is that eventually, somebody will call your bluff and once they do, a blustering president will be forced either to back down or to make good on his promise. And annihilation is not a big deal for a group that prizes deadly martyrdom.
You cannot threaten people like that. Vicious religious fanatics who have been backed into a corner see suicide as the express lane to divine salvation.
That suicidal mentality - a fulfillment of their mission on earth- applies not just to their own neighborhood but for the entire world.

That's when, unless there are cooler heads in command, and unless there is a president in charge who will actually listen to his advisors, things can quickly spiral out of control. 
Threats of retaliation from Russia or other players in the region followed by emergency meetings at the UN in the middle of the night, deadlines, and desperate negotiations. In other words, the prelude to devastation. Hundreds of nuclear war game scenarios all come to the same conclusion. 
Literally (and without a smidgeon of sarcasm), it would be hell on Earth. 

The Civil War historian Allan Nevins once argued that one of the “causes” of the American Civil War was the general failure to imagine just how horrible such a war would be
In 1859, the average Southern plantation owner may have been wary of the prospect of war, may have questioned the wisdom of their politicians' bravado, but, none of them could have foreseen the abject desecration that the war would cause. 
One Georgia legislator in January 1861, did. in fact,warn of acting impulsively:
when our green fields of waving harvest shall be trodden down by murderous soldiery and the fiery car of war sweeping over our land; our temples of justice laid in ashes, all the horror and desolation of war upon us, who but this convention will be held responsible for it?
Nobody was listening. Too many people- seemingly  prudent and intelligent voters- are apparently still not listening. Still not reading the lessons of history.

But the question boils down to whether the American people understand the risks. Or will they be just as suicidal  and reckless as any ISIS fighter?
*   *   * 
Today, Karl Rove, a man who was at ground zero of George W. Bush's disastrous presidency, is on Fox News, a bastion of conservative politics, trying to warn American voters that the guy who wants to be America's next commander in chief is unable to control his impulses.
The former Secretary of State under Bush- whom 61 percent of surveyed historians consider to be the worst president- openly says that Trump is unfit to be president.
How much more of a warning do people need?