Implementing Economic Transactionalism in Foreign Policy Part V: Fear and the Haunted Hill

Bob Woodward (2018) Fear: Trump and the White House, New York: Simon & Schuster

I returned last evening from Vancouver to Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island after a visit with my youngest son, a filmmaker and horror film fanatic. Yesterday morning, we had gone to one of the most interesting art installations that I have ever attended, Melbourne’s Patricia Piccinini’s sculptural and video creations, Curious Imaginings, on offer in 18 intimate and private rooms of one wing of a floor of the Patricia Hotel located in a sketchy area of Vancouver, East Hastings.

The rooms themselves are an art piece in which commerce and poverty have been domesticated. The show is part of the 2018-2020 Vancouver Biennale; it runs until 15 December. It is worth flying to Vancouver to see it. We went at the opening time at 10:00 a.m. and avoided the line ups; for the first fifteen minutes we had the show to ourselves. It is an exhibit that should not be seen in the midst of a crowd so they limit admissions to 40 at any one time.

The transgenic show is described as a hyperrealist “world of oddly captivating, somewhat grotesque, human-animal hybrid creatures” made of a mixture of materials – silicone, fibreglass, real hair. Each art creation is set in one of the rooms in the midst of very appropriate and complementary everyday objects – sheets, jars, books – but every installation is about hybridization and crossing the boundaries between the human and the animal world, between botany and zoology, between the natural world and the world of man-made artifacts in our new world of holograms, genetic engineering, and body part replacements with the organs of pigs and legs made of titanium.

What fascinated me most was not the message about bio-engineering or of environmental degradation, that was also a lesson at the Vancouver Aquarium that we had visited the day before – in the last two generations of humans, 60% of the world’s mammals have evidently disappeared. In the art show, alterity and difference is normalized. Boundaries are crossed. In the Vancouver aquarium, myths were debunked – that the piranha fish of the Amazon devour flesh in seconds, leaving only a skeleton. What may seem horrifying, may be portrayed and viewed as loving. Our empathy rather than our disgust may be aroused. Our wonder at the variety and the beauty of our world may be greatly appreciated. The caravans fleeing terror and deprivation may be seen through other lenses than those that create a Halloween terror of invasive species.

I wish I could send pictures with my blog, but I was advised that you can find pictures of the sculptures on the site http://www.imcurious.ca. In one room, there is a super-realistic creation of a peacock renowned for its beauty as well as the question of the function of that beauty. On the bed was a doll-like young girl of perhaps six-years of age (evidently modelled on Piccinini’s own daughter) that is as lifelike as one could possibly imagine. She beams with love as she is embraced by a creature with a human-pig (?) face, arms and legs, seemingly of bone, but having the contours of titanium replacement body part. The creature has a hairy back with extraordinary beautiful patterns. The creature’s arms around the child and his look are both loving.

In another room, a man – but not a man – and a woman – but not a woman, lie in bed in a loving embrace. In still another, a pig-like human feeds her young at her teats. Love is everywhere. It is boundless and boundaryless. Eyes do not look out with suspicion and fear. They are always gentle – and caring. They draw you in. What could be creepy and crawly is just a pale human-like baby with translucent skin climbing over the back of her mother who is a cross between a human and an orangutan. The Donald may be an orangutan, but he is hard to picture with a baby on his back and another on his chest; Barron seems to barely get the time of day from a father glued to TV news 4-6 hours a day or playing golf at Mar-a-Lago.

We learn that Donald Trump is a frightening monster, but these artistic aberrations with wrinkles, opposing toes and faint blue veins may initially repel, but a closer look invites you to set aside any wariness of difference. The sculptures are articulate though they are silent. Whereas Trump is careless in his thoughts, words and actions, Piccinini is meticulous and the epitome of care about process.

In the Raptor show we saw last week in Duncan, turkey vultures were not filthy birds but kept the land clean and restored, as did the hybrid human-beaver in the Curious Imaginings show. Nature in all its wonder and difference and beauty, even in ugliness, has been made into a home in an urban area crowded with the homeless where maternal love and nurturing is celebrated rather than left out in the cold with the homeless addicts, where pigs have human hands and feet, but nevertheless are more pig than human.

When I got back to Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island last evening, I watched the last two episodes of Mike Flanagan’s 10-episode Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House that I had been watching for the past five days, if only to talk about a series that my son insisted I watch. (I am not a horror film aficionado.) The series too is about fear versus love, about home as a walled off space to hold off what frightens you and home as a place of openness in which experiences are shares rather than remaining buried secrets. The Hill House mansion is not meant to be a home, but a transactional economic exercise in which the parents are renovating the house and plan to flip it for a very large profit. It will haunt them all their lives.

If the art exhibit is an expression primarily of love to combat the fear of strangeness, the ten-part series is primarily about fear as defined in the last episode (three different times) as “the relinquishment of logic, of the willing suspension of the reasonable.” We either surrender to that fear or fight it, but we cannot meet it half way we are advised. For Trump it is never retreat. Never back down. Defence is weakness. Fight until you win. The result, like The Haunting of Hill House, is erratic behaviour, disorder, disruption, chaos, isolation – and churning, churning, churning.

Ironically, love is also a suspension of logic and reason and is the principal component that saves the remnant of a family of two parents and five children. The Trump saga is unlikely to have a redemptive ending, but this horror series did.

However, when love is used to wall out danger, to build a barrier against insecurity, to protect one’s family within a defined boundary, a home becomes a monstrous prison. Instead of nurture, motherly love suffocates. A house intended to be a home eats you alive as each member of the family retreats into his or her own world of secrets and closes himself of herself off from the others. In isolation, the house and its successors are populated by ghosts. And everyone is turned into a different variation of a paranoid freak. Life becomes just professional lying full of self-delusion.

This is precisely the description of Donald Trump in the last chapter of Woodward’s book. The issue is not whether Donald Trump had “corrupt intent’ or “knowledge aforethought,” whether he suborned perjury or did not, as Mueller sought to establish, but whether he would fall himself into a perjury trap because he was incapable of controlling either his thoughts or feelings. He only really felt alive, felt vital, when he was “spontaneous” as he spewed out the venom he had ingested all his life and lies he could not stop telling. His absence of logic and reason, his inability to read an extended brief, except if it directly concerned him, were part and parcel of an overweening narcissism that ate at him from within and consumed him.

Ty Cobb, Trump’s second-in-command personal attorney, specifically cited how the Mueller probe was haunting Trump (325). The ghosts of Obama’s successes never left him. Nor did his obsession with building the wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, which he repeatedly promised was underway even though he had just “approved a two-year spending bill for $8.6 trillion that had no money – not one red cent – for the wall.” (323) I am not reading into the Trump saga a tale of horror simply because I saw a horror series. This is what his aides, his associates and his cabinet ministers saw and described in the White House that Melania haunted as a rigid, remote presence.

Reince Priebus noted that, “Since the tweets were often triggered by the president’s obsessive TV watching, he looked for ways to shut off the television. But television was Trump’s default activity. Sunday nights were often the worst…The president and the first lady had separate bedrooms in the residence. Trump had a giant TV going much of the time, alone in his bedroom with the clicker, the TiVo and the Twitter account. Priebus called the presidential bedroom ‘the devil’s workshop’ and the early mornings and dangerous Sunday nights ‘the witching hour’.” (195) “Priebus could see the fires building around a string of troubled investments.” (194) This horror show is for real.

In the horror series on Netflix, the parents, Hugh Crain (Henry Thomas and Timothy Hutton when he is older – I list the actor playing the older version second), Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino) and their five children, Steven (Paxton Singleton and Michiel Huisman), Shirley (Lulu Wilson and Elizabeth Reaser), Theo (Mckenna Grace and Kate Siegel), Luke (Julian Hilliard and Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Nell – Eleanor (Violet McGraw and Victoria Pedretti), temporarily move into Hill House. Just as the White House is being renovated, so was Hill House. Just as the Crain family had moved into the house to flip it for a profit, many suspected that this was the deep reason Trump wanted the presidency. Certainly, he viewed all events, domestic and foreign, as transactional exercises with nothing to do with real security, the defence of democracy or human rights and freedoms.

The tale of Donald Trump is a story of the paranormal, as is the case of Hugh and Olivia Crane and their children. Events do not have scientific explanations for Trump; they are simply projections of his beliefs. He perceives, not what occurs, but what haunts and bothers him. But the White House, just like Hill House, may consume and devour the family since, unlike the Crains, there is unlikely to be a happy ending even for a remnant still able to confront their deep fears and bring their secrets into the fresh air.

In the case of the Crain family, the various children carry different varieties of the paranormal – Steve the sceptic who is in denial and transforms his own and his family memories into fiction, Shirley who becomes a repressed mortician, Theo, a practicing psychologist, but one who has to wear gloves to prevent reading the twisted lives of those whom she touches, Luke, a fearful child who grows into a drug addict, and his younger, twin sister, Nell, who, unfortunately is the most sensitive of them all.

I was not horrified by the series. The labyrinthian plot was too hard to follow for the first few episodes and the jump scares too bothersome and distracting from the effort of trying to wind your way through the maze. But perhaps I am too inexperienced with fictional horror films and too preoccupied with the horrors we face daily with the rise of authoritarian figures as the head of polities around the world. My youngest son thinks The Haunting of Hill House is fantastic and a great horror film. But he cannot stand and look; he turns away from the horror of The Haunting of the White House.

But the two have a number of common elements – apparitions, for example. Apparitions are spectres or phantoms; they are not real. The claim that Obama was not a native American was a phantom. And Trump sees such phantoms everywhere. The Canadian government threatening the U.S. and taking advantage of the country south of the border, is another spectre. And we observers are repeatedly startled and sidelined by new ghosts and familiar ghosts and we are unsure whether they are deliberate distractions or the projections of a mad mind.

Another situation in the horror series is the sleep paralysis that Nell exhibits. As scientifically explained in the film by the sleep technician who eventually marries Nell, sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious, but you are unable to move.

Evidently, it takes place between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, the individuals stricken with sleep paralysis are unable to move or speak for a short period. The cabinet members and the aides around Trump, at times, all suffered from sleep paralysis when they were stricken dumb and speechless by one or other outrageous observation or conclusion uttered by Donald Trump. In fact, Woodward’s set pieces of conversations and events, I would argue, is simply a series of instances of sleep paralysis by Trump’s appointees – until, of course, they wake up or are woken up and fired. They literally choke.

Other elements of a horror series are part of the Trump legacy – storms, an interweaving plot, repetitions and flashbacks. Gary Cohn or Rex Tillerson or John Kelly or Rob Porter or John Dowd, even Steve Bannon and Lindsay Graham, no sooner believe they have an agreement with the president than they are sideswiped. Trump wakes up in the morning, sends out a tweet that totally reverses the agreed course of action.

Trump also believes he has an extraordinary power to communicate with other autocrats. He calls it chemistry. They used to call it telepathy. For example, even though Trump initiated a major trade war with China, he believed that everything would be settled because he and President Xi Jinping understood one another. “He and Xi will work out a deal. It’ll be a beautiful deal. The best deal you’ve ever seen.” (341) China may be an economic aggressor, a major thief of proprietary commercial secrets, an abuser of human rights norms with a plan to emerge as the strongest economic and military power, “But all of those problems were superseded by his [Trump’s] rapport with Xi.” (232) Trump, if he knew the word, was claiming that he could form a psionic communication line with another ruler.

Another psychological characteristic used in horror films, and in The Haunting of Hill House, is a psychogenic fugue. Trump also seems to suffer from dissociative fugue or a fugue state whereby he repeatedly suffers from amnesia to the great benefit of those around who want to manipulate him. For he forgets what he orders, so his aides ignore orders with which they disagree. He may diss a cabinet member in the strongest language one day and forget all about it and praise the same person as the best and the brightest several days later.

But perhaps the best indication of Trump as a protagonist in his own horror film is his relationship with the Mueller probe. John Dowd convinced Trump to cooperate fully with the probe – which he did in supplying documents and witnesses – but would not allow Trump to be cross-examined under oath by Mueller or the other prosecutors lest he go off on a wild rant combining total fiction with snippets of truth. Trump praised the professionalism of Mueller in private, but in public branded the whole probe a witch-hunt that drove him to distraction. But if it was truly a witch-hunt, then perhaps he was the target, not of collusion with the Russians or even of obstruction of justice, but of practicing witchcraft, especially since he was a specialist in arousing panic and mass hysteria.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

To be continued

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Implementing Economic Transactionalism in Foreign Policy Part IV: The American Civil War on Globalism

Bob Woodward (2018) Fear: Trump and the White House, New York: Simon & Schuster

Fear and anger! Fear and anger! Fear and anger! Fear is personified and ethnicized. Intellect is demoted to offering just opinions. Fear-mongering and anti-intellectualism are then packaged together in sex and pomposity. The troops have been indoctrinated for war. Nation states are not the primary enemy. Globalists are, both domestically and internationally. The U.S. has already entered the early stages of a civil war.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post yesterday, Timothy Perry Shriver, chair of Special Olympics, opined, “The question isn’t whether we are a nation divided by anger and fear. The question is what we’re going to do about it.” The opening was a tease because he wrote about integrating handicapped and regular individuals involved in sports.

“The news and social media obsessively detail how we all hate one another, presenting a fresh new hell each week…Young people have found an antidote to divisiveness. They are uniting around a new idea, drawing closer, jump-starting social barriers and bringing outsiders in.”

As Americans pursue physical integration in sports, large swaths of Americans advocate divisiveness based on ethnicity and religion. The enemies are globalists, liberals, integrationists and pluralists. In its traditional antisemitic trope, “It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” The global power brokers are almost always Jews.

Donald Trump is not an antisemite. His own daughter is Jewish. However, when he was running for president and was campaigning against globalists, whom he held responsible for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the American heartland and the loss of manufacturing to foreign states, in the ads called “Donald Trump’s America” that appeared with his voice over were Janet Yellen, then the Federal Reserve chair, Lloyd Blankfein CEO of Goldman Sachs and, of course, the ubiquitous liberal and globalist, George Soros. All just happen to be Jews.

A deranged antisemite, anti-globalist and anti-liberal nut case, Robert D. Bowers, shouting “All Jews must die,” killed 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue on shabat, the very shabat when the weekly portion begins with teaching respect for strangers and the importance of empathy for others. The deranged killer armed with an assault rifle and Glock handguns insisted that Trump himself had sold out to the globalists and the Jewish world conspiracy. Mr. Wooden Spoon, Vice-President Mike Pence, in all his pompous certitude, intoned in his tone-deaf voice that the divisive attacks on Muslims and Mexicans and liberals and globalists were inconsequential to such violent events, “People on both sides of the aisle use strong language about their political differences, but I just don’t think you can connect it to threats or acts of violence.”

Trump insisted that that the racist protesters at Charlottesville who were shouting, “Jews will not replace us,” consisted of many good people, but this had nothing to do with the worst antisemitic incident in American history. Donald Trump did not instruct Cesar Sayoc to send 14 pipe bombs to Democrats and liberals or tell Robert D. Bowers to murder Jews on shabat at their house of worship. Trump did insist that the caravan of Central American trudging up the spine of Mexico was promoted and financed by Democrats. Donald Trump had nothing to do with a white supremacist killing two worshippers in a Black church.

Donald Trump, of course, is opposed to such random acts of violence. At his rally in Indianapolis of Saturday, Trump insisted that, “With what happened early today, that horrible, horrible attack in Pittsburgh, I was saying maybe I should cancel both this and that. And then I said to myself, I remembered Dick Russell, a friend of mine, great guy, he headed up the New York Stock Exchange on September 11th, and the New York Stock Exchange was open the following day. He said — and what they had to do to open it you wouldn’t believe, we won’t even talk to you about it. But he got that exchange open. We can’t make these sick, demented, evil people important.”

Except Peter Dick Russell was not the president of the NYSE. Dick Grasso was. Perhaps it was Freudian slip that Peter Dick Russel happened to be a racist senator from Georgia. Perhaps it was just a slip of the memory when Trump said that the NYSE did not close, when it did close, not just for a day, but for more than a week. Facts! Shmacks! Correlations are not causal. But they also may not be coincidental.

Was it a coincidence that Cesar Sayoc, the would-be pipe bomber, cozied up to his “Russian brothers” at the very time in 2015 that Trump was expressing a very favourable view of the Russians and insisting that they had not interfered in American elections? Did Bower’s claims that Jews were the children of Satan and his use of the code “1488” – 14 signifying a white supremacist slogan with 14 words and 88 the Nazi-symbol for Heil Hitler – have nothing to do with the Charlottesville racist demonstrations that Donald Trump minimized?

Correlations are not causes. The extraordinary rise in racist and antisemitic incidents have evidently nothing to do with the fact that Bowers explicitly cited HIAS, the American Jewish immigration society, for helping potential refugee claimants. “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us?…HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Just that weekend, on a shabat about welcoming strangers, the Tree of Life, etz or aitz chaim, Synagogue was celebrating the work of HIAS on behalf of refugees. When the Torah is put back in its place, Jewish congregations across the world sing, “It is a tree of life to all who grasp it, and whoever holds on to it is happy; its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace. (Proverbs 3:17-18)”

Last November, a white supremacist anti-gay gunman killed 49 people in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Another racist gunman killed 26 worshippers in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in Texas. Three years ago, another with supremacist killer murdered nine African Americans in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. But the main enemies to be feared by Americans are Latino would-be Convention refugees. And Muslims. And…And… But never white supremacist antisemitic and racist right-wing Americans.

Jews are behind all the problems. Jews. Liberals. Globalists. Pluralists. Antisemitic incidents in 2017 in the U.S. rose by 57%.

However, Trump does not want to raise the importance of white supremacists by cancelling a rally or even insisting on two minutes of silence for the victims. After all, raising their importance might diminish his, and even associate their acts with his words. Donald Trump denounces such acts, condemns them as the work of deranged souls, and insists that something must be done to stop such hate crimes, but that something will have nothing to do with changing the language he uses, the objects of his attacks, the lies he tells, the degrading of others. “We need to apply the death penalty with greater speed.”

“It’s a terrible, terrible thing, what’s going on with hate in our country and frankly all over the world.” Donald Trump, you are correct. Are you even capable of stopping for just a moment, reflecting for just 30 seconds and asking yourself whether the hatred and anger you stir up, the false objects of your attacks, have anything to do with these mass murders? Of course not! Donald Trump ordered that the American flag be flown at half-staff until Wednesday, sunset, out of “respect” for the victims.

Do they not know, as Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch observed, that, “Words are like sparks to the gasoline of disturbed minds. These words can kill.” Trump at his rallies often goads people to unjust actions and even vigilante violence. But, of course, Trump could not be an inciter, an abetter, of racist murder in a country that worships in idolatry at the shrine of automatic rifles.

Antisemitic vitriol has exploded over the last two years. Neo-Nazis spout Hitler-era propaganda. Jews and Blacks and Mexicans are caricatured with hateful images. “George Soros” has become a name identified with being Jewish, being a liberal, being a globalist so it is no surprise that he was sent a pipe-bomb. As Alexandra Schwartz – I urge you to read her – wrote, “Anti-Semitism has burrowed into the American mainstream in a way not seen since the late nineteen-thirties and early nineteen-forties, when it also fed easily with conservative isolationist fervor and racism.”

Nigel Savage, founder of Hazon, the Jewish lab for sustainability currently in Israel, wrote that, “The fault line now is not between Israelis and Palestinians, or Democrats and Republicans. It’s between those who strive to use language with honesty and empathy and a desire to make things better; and those who use language to inflame, incite, exaggerate and demonize. That is what our tree of life has taught us these two millennia – that language, and respectful discourse and truth are utterly central to being Jewish.”

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Implementing Economic Transactionalism in Foreign Policy Part IV: The American Civil War on Globalism

Bob Woodward (2018) Fear: Trump and the White House, New York: Simon & Schuster

Fear and anger! Fear and anger! Fear and anger! Fear is personified and ethnicized. Intellect is demoted to offering just opinions. Fear-mongering and anti-intellectualism are then packaged together in sex and pomposity. The troops have been indoctrinated for war. Nation states are not the primary enemy. Globalists are, both domestically and internationally. The U.S. has already entered the early stages of a civil war.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post yesterday, Timothy Perry Shriver, chair of Special Olympics, opined, “The question isn’t whether we are a nation divided by anger and fear. The question is what we’re going to do about it.” The opening was a tease because he wrote about integrating handicapped and regular individuals involved in sports.

“The news and social media obsessively detail how we all hate one another, presenting a fresh new hell each week…Young people have found an antidote to divisiveness. They are uniting around a new idea, drawing closer, jump-starting social barriers and bringing outsiders in.”

As Americans pursue physical integration in sports, large swaths of Americans advocate divisiveness based on ethnicity and religion. The enemies are globalists, liberals, integrationists and pluralists. In its traditional antisemitic trope, “It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” The global power brokers are almost always Jews.

Donald Trump is not an antisemite. His own daughter is Jewish. However, when he was running for president and was campaigning against globalists, whom he held responsible for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the American heartland and the loss of manufacturing to foreign states, in the ads called “Donald Trump’s America” that appeared with his voice over were Janet Yellen, then the Federal Reserve chair, Lloyd Blankfein CEO of Goldman Sachs and, of course, the ubiquitous liberal and globalist, George Soros. All just happen to be Jews.

A deranged antisemite, anti-globalist and anti-liberal nut case, Robert D. Bowers, shouting “All Jews must die,” killed 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue on shabat, the very shabat when the weekly portion begins with teaching respect for strangers and the importance of empathy for others. The deranged killer armed with an assault rifle and Glock handguns insisted that Trump himself had sold out to the globalists and the Jewish world conspiracy. Mr. Wooden Spoon, Vice-President Mike Pence, in all his pompous certitude, intoned in his tone-deaf voice that the divisive attacks on Muslims and Mexicans and liberals and globalists were inconsequential to such violent events, “People on both sides of the aisle use strong language about their political differences, but I just don’t think you can connect it to threats or acts of violence.”

Trump insisted that that the racist protesters at Charlottesville who were shouting, “Jews will not replace us,” consisted of many good people, but this had nothing to do with the worst antisemitic incident in American history. Donald Trump did not instruct Cesar Sayoc to send 14 pipe bombs to Democrats and liberals or tell Robert D. Bowers to murder Jews on shabat at their house of worship. Trump did insist that the caravan of Central American trudging up the spine of Mexico was promoted and financed by Democrats. Donald Trump had nothing to do with a white supremacist killing two worshippers in a Black church.

Donald Trump, of course, is opposed to such random acts of violence. At his rally in Indianapolis of Saturday, Trump insisted that, “With what happened early today, that horrible, horrible attack in Pittsburgh, I was saying maybe I should cancel both this and that. And then I said to myself, I remembered Dick Russell, a friend of mine, great guy, he headed up the New York Stock Exchange on September 11th, and the New York Stock Exchange was open the following day. He said — and what they had to do to open it you wouldn’t believe, we won’t even talk to you about it. But he got that exchange open. We can’t make these sick, demented, evil people important.”

Except Peter Dick Russell was not the president of the NYSE. Dick Grasso was. Perhaps it was Freudian slip that Peter Dick Russel happened to be a racist senator from Georgia. Perhaps it was just a slip of the memory when Trump said that the NYSE did not close, when it did close, not just for a day, but for more than a week. Facts! Shmacks! Correlations are not causal. But they also may not be coincidental.

Was it a coincidence that Cesar Sayoc, the would-be pipe bomber, cozied up to his “Russian brothers” at the very time in 2015 that Trump was expressing a very favourable view of the Russians and insisting that they had not interfered in American elections? Did Bower’s claims that Jews were the children of Satan and his use of the code “1488” – 14 signifying a white supremacist slogan with 14 words and 88 the Nazi-symbol for Heil Hitler – have nothing to do with the Charlottesville racist demonstrations that Donald Trump minimized?

Correlations are not causes. The extraordinary rise in racist and antisemitic incidents have evidently nothing to do with the fact that Bowers explicitly cited HIAS, the American Jewish immigration society, for helping potential refugee claimants. “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us?…HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Just that weekend, on a shabat about welcoming strangers, the Tree of Life, etz or aitz chaim, Synagogue was celebrating the work of HIAS on behalf of refugees. When the Torah is put back in its place, Jewish congregations across the world sing, “It is a tree of life to all who grasp it, and whoever holds on to it is happy; its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace. (Proverbs 3:17-18)”

Last November, a white supremacist anti-gay gunman killed 49 people in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Another racist gunman killed 26 worshippers in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in Texas. Three years ago, another with supremacist killer murdered nine African Americans in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. But the main enemies to be feared by Americans are Latino would-be Convention refugees. And Muslims. And…And… But never white supremacist antisemitic and racist right-wing Americans.

Jews are behind all the problems. Jews. Liberals. Globalists. Pluralists. Antisemitic incidents in 2017 in the U.S. rose by 57%.

However, Trump does not want to raise the importance of white supremacists by cancelling a rally or even insisting on two minutes of silence for the victims. After all, raising their importance might diminish his, and even associate their acts with his words. Donald Trump denounces such acts, condemns them as the work of deranged souls, and insists that something must be done to stop such hate crimes, but that something will have nothing to do with changing the language he uses, the objects of his attacks, the lies he tells, the degrading of others. “We need to apply the death penalty with greater speed.”

“It’s a terrible, terrible thing, what’s going on with hate in our country and frankly all over the world.” Donald Trump, you are correct. Are you even capable of stopping for just a moment, reflecting for just 30 seconds and asking yourself whether the hatred and anger you stir up, the false objects of your attacks, have anything to do with these mass murders? Of course not! Donald Trump ordered that the American flag be flown at half-staff until Wednesday, sunset, out of “respect” for the victims.

Do they not know, as Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch observed, that, “Words are like sparks to the gasoline of disturbed minds. These words can kill.” Trump at his rallies often goads people to unjust actions and even vigilante violence. But, of course, Trump could not be an inciter, an abetter, of racist murder in a country that worships in idolatry at the shrine of automatic rifles.

Antisemitic vitriol has exploded over the last two years. Neo-Nazis spout Hitler-era propaganda. Jews and Blacks and Mexicans are caricatured with hateful images. “George Soros” has become a name identified with being Jewish, being a liberal, being a globalist so it is no surprise that he was sent a pipe-bomb. As Alexandra Schwartz – I urge you to read her – wrote, “Anti-Semitism has burrowed into the American mainstream in a way not seen since the late nineteen-thirties and early nineteen-forties, when it also fed easily with conservative isolationist fervor and racism.”

Nigel Savage, founder of Hazon, the Jewish lab for sustainability currently in Israel, wrote that, “The fault line now is not between Israelis and Palestinians, or Democrats and Republicans. It’s between those who strive to use language with honesty and empathy and a desire to make things better; and those who use language to inflame, incite, exaggerate and demonize. That is what our tree of life has taught us these two millennia – that language, and respectful discourse and truth are utterly central to being Jewish.”

Implementing Economic Transactionalism in Foreign Policy Part III: Fowling One’s Nest: Getting There and Governing

Bob Woodward (2018) Fear: Trump and the White House, New York: Simon & Schuster

It is not enough to have fear and anger as your basic emotional tropes governing both how you get elected and how you will govern. These basic appeals have to be applied in a way that makes the attraction effective. Before I move on to indicate how they were applied in individual cases of foreign policy, I want to offer the frame in which they were used. Below, I suggest four elements that set the frame that were used by Donald Trump, but only after indicating that Donald Trump ignored all standard advice on how to get elected in a democratic polity. These are the techniques he eschewed.

Donald Trump is a formidable campaigner. He is also a lousy governor. His political campaigning, whether for president or in the mid-terms, inverts and upends every bit of advice of the U.S. government-supported National Democratic Institute for International Development (NDI) in its National Campaign Planning Manual written by Brian O’Day. The Manual is subtitled, “A Step by Step Guide to Winning Elections.” If Trump had read it and followed its advice, he would certainly not have won the presidency.

NDI  

Trump and the Republicans

 

Establish, strengthen & advance democratic institutions

 

Undermine and weaken democratic institutions

 

Build political & civic organizations  

Take over a political non-civic organization

 

Establish best practices re democratic citizen participation  

Gerrymander and restrict voting access to maximize one party’s advantage

 

Deepen democracy  

Weaken democracy

 

Ensure an informed citizenry  

Use lies to misinform citizens

 

Encourage active individual participation  

Hold rallies to reinforce group think

 

Hold public officials accountable  

Do not publish your income taxes or disclose conflicts of interest

 

Enhance voter and civic education

 

Emphasize propaganda and the repetition of lies
Promote electoral integrity  

Deny Russian interference in the presidential vote

 

Establish codes of conduct  

Engage and even promote mis-conduct

 

Mitigate political conflict  

Enhance divisiveness

 

Ensure public access to information  

Deny, delay and obfuscate to prevent or, at least, inhibit, citizen access

 

Engage constructively with an opposition  

Label an opposition as traitors and enemies

 

Donald Trump certainly did not follow the NDI guideline. Instead he focused primarily on the following recipe:

  1. Personify fear
  2. Politicize intelligence
  3. Package sex
  4. Most surprising of all, promote pomposity.

The latter two may seem surprising, especially when applied to foreign policy and, in particular, making economic transactionalism the foundation for foreign policy in specific cases. However, let me deal with the first two that at least seem self-evident.

Trump’s main object of fear has been migrants, overwhelmingly from Mexico and Central America. In the presidential election, it was Mexicans.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” (15.06.2015 announcing his intention to seek the Republican nomination).

“I would build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me — and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”

Fear is married to economic advantage and packaged in a sphere in which Trump is believed to have some expertise. In the mid-term campaign in 2018, it is the turn of Central Americans. Trump has threatened to completely close the southern border to Central American asylum seekers even though, in accordance with American law, they have every right to seek convention refugee status in the U.S. Trump is considering an executive order under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that, “would suspend that provision and bar Central Americans as a matter of national security,” “contrary to the national interest” and “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” He threatened to send 1,000 troops to enforce the order even though American law prohibits the use of the military for such purposes.

Why the threat? Why the hyperbolic stimulation of a totally unwarranted fear? Because a caravan of 2,500 Central Americans is making its way up Mexico towards the American border! According to journalists who have interviewed participants, they could find no miscreants, let alone terrorists and criminals as claimed, among those en route. The contingent is largely made up of destitute families and their children. The caravan is 900 miles away when the threat of a ban on the basis of security was stated to be under consideration. Progress has been slow as could be expected of a group trudging by foot, though the band has been dwindling as it moves north, as was the case with the previous caravan. There are no circumstances under which, even if the caravan remains at full strength, it could be regarded as a security threat. Illegal crossing has decreased in recent years. Outright lies and hyperbole are used to manufacture and stimulate fear.

The lies get worse. Democrats have orchestrated the caravan, even though it is self-evident that it would be against any self-interest of Democrats to do so. Democrats want open borders – a demonstrably enormous lie. Democrats want more Latinos to add to their electoral base in the U.S. Perhaps. But otherwise, lie after lie after lie.

The migrants are a menace as were Muslims in a previous campaign. Xenophobia, demagoguery and lies are used to heighten fears and rally Trump’s base. As one op-ed put it, Trump’s latest exercise in fear-mongering has been the most shameless ever. Not satisfied with manufacturing the fear, not satisfied with pinning the source of the fear on Democrats, Trump personifies the alleged culprit. In the presidential campaign it was “crooked Hilary’ as Trump led his mob with shouts of “Lock her up.” In this campaign, Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts, has become the prime target.

Targeting Warren began in June 2016 with, “Goofy Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, pretended to be a Native in order to advance her career. Very racist!” The ante increased as Warren became Trump’s most trenchant critic for his migrant family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border.

If Donald Trump manufactures and personifies fear, he also politicizes intelligence. Hence, his repeated attacks on the FBI, the CIA, and other sources of intelligence in the U.S. The fact-finding of the Mueller probe is dubbed a “witch hunt” in spite of the large number of indictments (32 individuals and 3 corporations); many were Trump associates, among whom five pleaded guilty. Hence, his attacks on the media of record in the U.S., the “failing” New York Times, The Washington Post depicted as an “expensive lobbyist” for online retailer Amazon (the Post is owned by Jeff Bezos who founded Amazon), with not a shred of evidence that the Post has supported reduced postal rates to benefit Amazon.

The media are “totally dishonest,” filled with “fake news” and Bob Woodward’s “fake book.” NBC News edits interviews with him to misrepresent what he says. Google online services and their allied tech oligarchs are all “dishonest, terrible people.” Trump tells the crowd, “When you get good ratings, you can say anything.” Yet, the media are decried as the “enemy of the people.”

When knowledge is degraded, when fear is manufactured and lifted up as a prime motive for policy, wannabe authoritarians like Trump can emerge as the sole arbiter of “truth,” especially in a time when many users of media occupy their own echo chamber and silos for news sources.

But why include in the above list the “packaging of sex”? Did Trump not say that he was sorry for the old Hollywood tape of his insisting he could grope women’s pussies with impunity? It was only “locker room” talk. Of course, that is its appeal. For locker room talk objectifies women. And a large majority of American men indulge in such locker room talk. While other candidates for various positions resigned when charges of sexual peccadilloes were aimed at them, Trump follows the Bill Clinton path, but in a far more vicious way, and denounces those who “tell on him” by, for example, dubbing adult-film star Stormy Daniels as “Horseface.” If women resist him, if women do not fall under his spell, or after they escape it, they are called fat, ugly or disgusting.

Sex packaging is intended to essentialize sex as a well-designed experience, not a real one. How does insulting women advance such a program? By dividing women into three categories: 1) those who are beautiful but inaccessible to ordinary mortal men – Melania Trump; 2) those who are repulsive to ordinary mortal men, and 3) those who are both desirable and accessible, but only if you have the power and position to take advantage of such women. The latter is the widespread fantasy that the packaging and commodification of sex addresses.

Bracket cognition and critical analysis. Promote fear and desire rooted deep in the human brain and in animal instincts. All of these seem to be reasonable claims, whether valid or not. Even package sex, an American pastime. But promoting pomposity? On first appearance, such a claim appears to have no validity whatsoever.

But ask yourself, why does Donald Trump include an unsmiling and wooden Mike Pence with his own version of neurotically-combed hair in the backdrop of a photo-op? Why does Donald Trump trot out the schlump, Rudy Giuliani, who, incidentally, suffers from verbal diarrhea, to defend him on “fake media’ and then, afterwards, degrades him as an apologetic wimp? (32-38) Why does Trump appoint a fat sycophant like Chris Christie to head his transition team and then take away his responsibilities and subsequently deny him a cabinet post? (32-37)

Pence is the most pompous with his ostentatious display of dignity in contrast to the foul-mothed and loose-lipped Donald Trump. If Trump’s speeches are down-to-earth, Pence’s are high-flown, but in a rigid compartmentalized evangelical frame. Pence may perhaps be pompous. But Giuliani pompous? Christie pompous? The latter two appear as anything but. However, if pomposity is understood as characterizing someone full of self-importance, a self-importance that they need to put on display, then both Giuliani and Christie display their own respective brands of pomposity.

Jeff Toobin in the 18 September issue of The New Yorker argued that Giuliani, as Trump’s brawling special counsel in the Mueller probe, was Trump’s clown with his seedy theatrics on display in his countless television appearances with his false or misleading claims. Giuliani, craving publicity, labels the prosecutors in the Mueller probe as “thugs.”  Nevertheless, Rudy has a very high regard for his own performances and combative bombastic style. He combines naked aggression and a thirst for attention, seeming to be a mirror of Donald Trump.

If Pence is a study in contrast that makes the Donald look good, the politically incorrect provocateur, Giuliani, is indeed a study in imitation, but also in a way that makes Donald Trump look good. As Donald stands tall, Rudy slumps. Trump holds his chin high. Rudy’s disappears into his thickening neck. Trump hides his expanding girth in his tailored suits; Rudy’s expanding girth is on full display.

If Pence is an example of constrained and disciplined pomposity and Giuliani an example of unrestrained and undisciplined pomposity, Chris Christie is the shabby sycophant without any backbone. When Trump had dropped in his ratings following the release of the Hollywood tapes, Christie advised dropping out, for the sake of his brand, for the sake of his children. Trump ignored the advice, accepted Bannon’s and said, “Fuck ‘em!”

Pence had distanced himself from the pussy remarks. Giuliani had squirmed but went out to battle. Christie folded. All in different ways were pompous men. But Donald Trump had what they did not have. He wolfed down hotdogs. He did not, like Giuliani, smoke $40 stogies. Lust after women, certainly, but never cringe in the face of an attack. Battle back. Not only was his base fed with fear, but taught to love him, not in spite of his foibles, but because of them. Trump may have had gold-plated toilets, but, in the end, he was a regular guy. Surrounding himself with pompous fools only made him look better to those that counted.

In his swashbuckling tale of intrigue and betrayal, Trump as d’Artagnan needed his own Athos, Porthos and Aramis, his own three Mouseketeers, to make himself appear as a man of unsurpassed guts with an embarrassing sense of his own high intelligence and certainly with the greatest political skill set, though he was the outsider compared to these three polished politicians. Foils have a role. Foils closest to you have the most important role. They can make even a fool look good.

Trump, the supreme paranoid narcissist, had to appear as if he could beat Steve Bannon and John Bolton, both far more intelligent than he was and is, at the fear-mongering game, beat James Clapper and James Comey at the intelligence game, and John Dowd and General Joseph Dunford at the defense game, whether in the legal or military field.

The frame and packaging were then applied to particular foreign policy issues.

With the help of Alex Zisman

 

To be continued.

Parashat VaYera (Genesis 18:1 – 22:24)

Is there any weekly portion of the Torah that is packed as much as this section? Perhaps the Garden of Eden story in Bereishit. However, look at all the memorable tales crowded into this single portion:

  • God’s appearance to Abraham
  • The visiting strangers
  • The promise of a late life birth
  • Sarah’s laugh
  • Sarah’s redemption
  • Sodom and Gomorrah
  • Lot and his wife
  • Ishmael, his birth and expulsion with his mother
  • The most famous part of all, the Akeidu, the story of the sacrifice of Isaac

I am going to focus only on the first three topics, God’s appearance to Abraham, the visiting strangers and the promise of a late-life child for Abraham and Sarah. They are covered in the first three verses of the parasha.

The scene opens with Abraham resting and sunning himself at the entrance of his tent. He had pitched his tent on the plains of Mamre. Perhaps he is grimacing. He has just circumcised himself. Presumably, he is in terrible pain. The day was very hot. Suddenly God appears.

If the parasha is crowded with stories, what about this opening verse which offers the setting for the story? The reference to Mamre occurs elsewhere in Genesis.

  • Genesis 13:18 – near Hebron where Abraham pitched his tent and built an altar
  • Genesis 14:13 – an escapee arrived, an Amorite, a tribe allied with Abraham
  • Genesis 23:17 – a description of the Cave of Machpelah before Mamre
  • Chapter 23:19 – Abraham buried Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah
  • Chapter 25:9 – Isaac and Ishmael buried their father in the Cave of Machpelah
  • Genesis 35:27 – where Jacob came before his father, Isaac
  • Genesis 49:30 – the Cave of Machpelah purchased by Abraham for a burial place
  • Genesis 50:13 – where Jacob’s sons buried him

Mamre is a holy site, a place of refuge and located near an even more famous Cave of Machpelah, the burial site of Sarah and the forefathers of the Israelites. It is no surprise that God appears to Abraham at that place. What is surprising is what happens next.

2 And he [Abraham] lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground. (my italics)

Look at the surprises.

Abraham takes no notice of God. Did he not see Him? Did he ignore God? Or was Abraham simply distracted by the three men suddenly standing beside him? And why does the verse say twice that Abraham “saw” them? Further, if they were standing beside him, why did Abraham have to get up and run towards them? If Abraham was in great pain from circumcising himself, how could he get up so quickly? How could he run? Then there is the real kicker; God appeared and Abraham did not even seem to notice. Instead, three strange men appear, and Abraham prostrates himself. He bows down before them. What in the world is going on?

The puzzles continue.

3 And he said, “My lords, if only I have found favour in your eyes, please do not pass on from beside your servant.”

Abraham addresses them as “my lords.” Is this an appellation of respect? Or were they dressed to the nines like royalty? Why does Abraham make the conditional request, “if only I have found favour in your eyes?” Was that an expression of customary respect or did the query have a deeper meaning? And why not just say if you find favour in me or favour me? Why the addition of “in your eyes”? And what about the request not to pass on or pass by?

The puzzles continue.

4 Please let a little water be taken, and bathe your feet, and recline under the tree.

5 And I will take a morsel of bread, and sustain your hearts; after[wards] you shall pass on, because you have passed by your servant.” And they said, “So shall you do, as you have spoken.”

Abraham offers them water, offers to bathe their feet and invites them to recline under a tree. He then promises them bread, not to fill their stomachs but to sustain their hearts. Only after he has carried out all four of these mitzvah, does Abraham say then, and only then shall they pass on. Then and only then, should they pass by. Once again there is the shift from passing on to passing by.

The Lords instruct Abraham to do as he offered. But Abraham immediately does far more. Scene 2 takes place inside the tent and outside in the animal pen before Abraham returns to them and offers them food to eat. Perhaps the offer of bread was just a euphemism for offering to feed them.

6 And Abraham hastened to the tent to Sarah, and he said, “Hasten three seahs of meal [and] fine flour; knead and make cakes.”

7 And to the cattle did Abraham run, and he took a calf, tender and good, and he gave it to the youth, and he hastened to prepare it.

8 And he took cream and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and he placed [them] before them [there were no laws of kashrut at the time], and he was standing over them under the tree, and they ate.

Had Abraham already given them water to drink and bathed their feet? Had he then gone into the tent when they reclined and rested under the tree? Is this presumed?

Then the third and climactic scene of Act 1 of the parasha.

9 And they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Behold in the tent.”

10 And he said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year, and behold, your wife Sarah will have a son.” And Sarah heard from the entrance of the tent, and it was behind him.

By now it has become really creepy. Still no notice has been given to God. What about giving God your undivided and uninterrupted attention? The Lords eat and ask after Abraham’s wife and do so by name? How did they know he had a wife? The woman cooking could have been a maidservant. How did they know her name? And if they knew the woman cooking was his wife and named Sarah, why did they ask where she was? Then the most surprising turn of events. Up until then, all three of the lords spoke as one. Now it is “he said” and not “they.” The “I”, not the “we” promises to return at the same time next year and promises that Sarah will have a son. Not a daughter, but a son. Does it mean she will give birth during the next twelve months or in nine months; on the anniversary she will already have had a son?

Let me try to clear up some of the puzzles. When Abraham notices the three strangers, they do not intimidate him; he does not act in fear. He does not seem to regard the world as a dark and evil place with danger lurking behind every corner. The very opposite. He not only shows his respect, but demonstrates that he honours these strangers. This goes beyond the call of duty in treating strangers. Are these three strangers not ordinary men but angels disguised as humans? If so, Abraham seems to see through the disguise.

Whether they are angels whom Abraham recognizes as such could clear up some puzzles, but what about another, Abraham’s ignoring God. One answer rabbis offer is that Abraham does not ignore God. Abraham sees that there are two angels and the third figure, is God. And Abraham even sees through that disguise. In verse 9, God comes out as a singular to promise that Sarah will have a baby son. Well before then, Abraham saw through the game, but went along with it nonetheless just as he would later go along with the commandment to sacrifice his son.

As many or even most rabbis interpret the message of the text, it is a lesson about how to treat strangers. You should not regard them as threats. They may turn out to be monsters, but they should initially be given the same respect and honour with which you would welcome God. For the stranger is thirsty. The stranger has sore feet. The stranger is tired. God does not suffer from any of these problems.

Further, some suggest that this was an act of reciprocity. God appeared to Abraham when he was in pain and ailing. Abraham, even when in pain, must pay forward and do what he can for the strangers. God acts with loving kindness and so must Abraham. The three strangers are not the advance guard of an allegedly threatening caravan travelling up the spine of Mexico. Taking care of their needs is how we honour God, how we express empathy and not fear. God expects kindness from those who would be human.

Hence the reference to feeding the heart. Hence the repetition of “to see” in the sense of seeing what first appears and then seeing and understanding the message beneath the appearance. This is what it means to know God in all His ways and in all His guises.

This interpretation clears up many of the other more minor puzzles. The strangers or angels or God plus two angels stand beside Abraham but also at some distance. They are beside Abraham and are there to support his gracious offering. They are distant from Abraham because he must exert energy and effort to reach out to them. As guides, they are near. As recipients, they are distant.

When it comes to the dual phrases “passing on” and “going by,” the latter is a reference to what happens in space. Strangers pass one another in the night. But strangers may “pass on” in time. The phrase we now use is “passing forward.” We give so the other may also give. In that way, we perform a double mitzvot. By acting with loving kindness we pass on the value of loving kindness. We become witnesses to the joy of giving.

Finally, though Abraham appears to ignore God, when he says “if I find favour in your sight,” we have a clear indication that the narrative, both here and in the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, and contrary to Sőren Kierkegaard, is not about whether Abraham has faith in God but about whether God has faith in Abraham. God is testing the waters to see whether Abraham is a man worthy of setting a standard for all of mankind. If God finds favour in Abraham, if God sees in the double sense of noticing what appears before Him and, second, understanding its deeper meaning, He will perform a miracle and allow Sarah in her old age to become pregnant.

Pregnant with whom? Another forefather who will have to demonstrate that he too is the embodiment of loving kindness, the embodiment of empathy, for how else can these patriarchs give birth to a nation that, in its heart, must give witness to a people that will be the embodiment of empathy, the embodiment of loving kindness.

Implementing Economic Transactionalism in Foreign Policy Part II: Anger: The Connecting Paste Between Objective and Subjective Fear The Oreo of Trump’s Political Appeal

Implementing Economic Transactionalism in Foreign Policy

Bob Woodward (2018) Fear: Trump and the White House, New York: Simon & Schuster

I received an interesting response to my blog on falcons. It read:

Hope you are having fun with the kids and stuffing your face with gourmet food. I assume the Vancouver earthquake was far enough for your family to feel it, and so you are safe and sound and not even a hair got ruffled on your head.

I was thinking about your fascinating Raptor story: Currently I am dealing with some German mothers whose mothers-in-law, like many other people from that generation, torment the 30-something mothers with being Rabenmutter (Raven mother – a typical slur against mothers around here – never against fathers…) for daring to bring their little children into a nursery or a daycare, instead of being with the kids 24/7. So, we were talking about early and gradual exposure to society outside the home with the unconditionally loving parents, so the kids can get slowly used to strange other people who do not always love them the way their parents do: the predator kids (and adults), bullies, self-centered monsters, who take away their toys, call them names, and make fun of them, etc. A child who lived in total isolation from birth to age 5/6 and then is thrown cold turkey into the real society of kindergarten or grade 1, might have some problems accepting that he is not the apple of the eye of everyone, so maybe it is better to let them experience the real human society and some of its predatory actions bit by bit.

From there we moved to your Raptor story and were asking ourselves, why it is that traditional children’s stories contain only cute, furry, adorable animals that tend to act in a saintly manner, better than any normal human ever would. This is children’s first encounter with fake news, I’d say. In reality, there are a lot of scary, ugly, angry ‘big birds’ that feast on dead bodies…as you told us. So why cannot we have some balance and tell stories to children both about bad and good people so they are prepared (age-appropriately) to deal with both…? From the saintly unicorns we then abruptly switch to violent computer games…How can a child remain sane with that arrangement of tales? How can he be prepared to take on society with its trumps and MBS’s and other jerks? What do your grandchildren’s parents think about all this?  Maybe on a farm it is easier when they deal with actual animals, not just anthropomorphic creatures…And how does one explain god’s incredible unfairness prone to devastating revenge to a 4-year-old in the shul? You cannot put a candy on god to make him sweeter for learning.

Perhaps I can make a stab at answering the question by dealing with the relationship of fear and anger. Small animals fear larger predators. That is natural. When those predator birds flew rights over us, I crouched in fear, considerably modified because I trusted that the experts on birds of prey would never intentionally put us in harm’s way. An emotion like fear generally originates from observing a threatening external stimulus, as when we see a predator approach, a reaction linked deep down in the brain to the limbic system. But why do we fear some objects and events when virtually all the cognitive information indicates we have no need to be fearful? Why is there such a cognitive dissonance between the evidence and the emotion aroused?

Let me begin by discussing anger rather than fear. Of the three paired emotions evidently in all of us, including many animals, fear and anger, rather than disgust and surprise or happiness and sadness, is arguably the most basic duality. My claim is that mean politics, Trumpian politics, works like an Oreo cookie. Anger is not red hot, but serves as the white cream in the middle that allows fear of false sources to be linked to our inner fears. And the greatest inner fear is not of biological death, of existential death, but of death of one’s identity, of phenomenological death.

This, I believe, may explain why resourcefulness yields to helplessness and optimism yields to pessimism instead of fight or flight in response to a real objective fear. For these responses are indicators of phenomenological rather than existential fears. The relationship of the stimulus and the response is not given but constructed. Neither we, nor animals, behave simply as Pavlovian dogs. If an objective source is used to stimulate fear, it only can do so if it connects with an inner wiring. Though it is alleged that an external situation arouses fear, it can only work if there is a connection between an outer and an inner state. When the outer state is in actuality a fiction, I suggest the inner fear is one of identity loss rather than the loss of one’s life or fear of harm to oneself.

Cognitive dissonance results when the objective situation is totally out of synch with how it is perceived. It is unclear whether a cognitive bias should be regarded as the product of such a discrepancy or its cause. I believe it is the latter. Situations are depicted in an illogical fashion when individuals and groups create a subjective social reality from the perception of the external world. But it is not the external world that leads to the distortion, but the inner wiring and a bad connection.

A person whom I know very well, but shall remain unmentioned, resorts to verbal road rage if another driver behaves dangerously, such as cutting off another driver. There is the apprehension of fear and real fear. The latter easily leads to intense rage. The former leads to a performance – such as cursing the other driver who cannot even hear what is said. If the rage is justified by externalities, the trepidation is connected to the fear as if the wiring was rooted in a solid-state system rather than a hard drive – it takes place almost immediately. However, when the external danger is not very great and when it has already passed, the anger is a performance. It is not instantaneous. It is cultivated and practiced. The anger is a cover-up to an even more serious threat to one’s ego or sense of identity and not just one’s existence. It is not just our personal safety that is at stake, but who we are rather than that we are.

This secondary rather than primary anger masks or disguises what we really fear. As a cover-up, there is no unconscious let alone conscious evaluation of the event or situation to ascertain whether the response accords with the stimulus. Further, against the very self-interest of the individual, that constructed emotion, which will glue together the alleged object stimulating the rage and the inner fear of identity loss, is given a higher urgency than any real threat; it competes with and even interrupts and suppresses the perception of a real threat. The facial expressions, the verbal articulations and the behavioural responses imitate real ones produced in the face of real frightening situations, but they are produced by acting, by a performance art rather than as an authentic expression of who we are and what we experience. The behaviour is cultivated.

How can we tell? What is the clue that allows us to differentiate between this cultivated emotion used to cover-up a deep-seated fear and genuine anger aimed at countering a real threat? The absence of empathy, that emotion that links humans and whales, elephants and great apes, and ravens such as magpies. In that absence, it is not the pain or death of the other, but the anticipated pain and death of the self that is the focus. Often, as in a verbal performance of road rage, the acting is innocent and without effect on another or oneself. It is simply an acting out. However, in the political arena, the absence of empathy and acting out in anger can be the greatest danger to a humane society, especially when it plays off an alleged danger to self.

Anger in response to a danger to oneself and those close to you is natural when much empathy is expressed towards those familiar to us rather than those who are more distant and even unfamiliar. It is not natural to express complete indifference or even disdain for the suffering of others; that has to be cultivated. On the other hand, if someone has really made you angry, those with greater empathy will remember the source for a considerable period. Real and justified anger is deeply felt, especially in those with a great range of empathy. As the attendant at the Raptor show told me, and ravens are very empathetic birds, if you annoy the raven, it will remember your face and exact revenge even years later. Not only that, the bird can communicate and inform other birds in his flock about the culprit. Other crows can then identify the dangerous one. In other words, don’t mess with crows. Retribution may be meted out years later. More immediately, ravens may constitute a mob and dive down at you in successive flights that miss you only be a few feet.

However, when humans form a mob and act out in performative anger, they do not produce the degree of serotonin and testosterone produced by anger stimulated by a genuine external cause. Further, the spindle neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex, the frontoinsular cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex are not activated nearly to the same degree as when stimulated in situations in which genuine fear is the appropriate response.

Ishaan Tharoor, who writes on foreign policy for The Washington Post, in an op-ed this past Friday wrote that, “Jair Bolsonaro is the clear favorite to become Brazil’s next president. Polls place the far-right candidate comfortably in front of his challenger, Fernando Haddad, ahead of their Oct. 28 run-off vote. Stirred by a government corruption scandal and rising crime rates, voters are so angry (my italics) that most of them are willing to look past Bolsonaro’s record of homophobia, misogyny, racism and apologia for dictatorship — those voters, at least, who weren’t already enticed by Bolsonaro’s ultranationalist agenda.”

Anger in such situations is just the vanilla cream paste between the head of a two-sided coin of performative fear, but where the underlying face, the tail, so to speak, is fear, but fear of subjective dislocation and an identity threat rather than an existential threat. When you feel impotent, that use of anger lets you feel in control. Anger may be the acting-out of fear when society is experiencing an intolerable level of anxiety. Anger protects the individual from feeling his or her fear. Anger, then, is not primary, but secondary to fear, but usually of manufactured fear. Anger is a reactive expression of fear, but in this case of cognitive dissonance, a fear in which there is an enormous discrepancy between the supposed stimulus of the fear and the response. When that anger becomes a far more potent rage at a threat to one’s self worth or a society’s status in the international arena, the world is at great risk.

Thus, there is a connection between a domestic political regime dependent on anger and an international regime where fear becomes predominant. Further, there is even a more intimate connection when a domestic politics of fear is enhanced because of the threat of losing one’s economic and social status and when an international regime emerges based primarily on economic threats and fears. The brilliance of Bob Woodward’s book is that he connects the two scenarios. He connects the dots.

In other words, a feeling of helplessness or impotence becomes anger and then even rage which is transformed into the energy of resistance. But at the base is fear, fear of the implications of that impotence, fear at the loss of sense of who we are and of ourselves as in control. In that profound sense, Bob Woodward, not overtly, but in the very succession of the dramatic replays of situations he depicts in his docudrama in the form of a work of political analysis, gets at the heart of what connects the mistreatment of women and the anger behind it, the fear behind that of a loss of economic and social security and status, into projecting that anger onto the international stage to arouse the economic fears of other states and other nations.

Trump funneled popular anger to both construct and disarm, denigrate and intimidate real and imagined enemies, for, in the end, everyone but family was a potential enemy – including friends and allies. For if not tied by blood, those friends can turn on you – and they did. Hence the deep need and the result – imagining omnipotence, invulnerability and invincibility. Hence the connection between emotional detachment in intimate relations and the huge weight placed on the attachment to blood relations, to relations acquired through marriage as I depicted in portraits of gang culture.

Anger is then used to disengage, to deny interdependence and reassert an imaginary and solitary independence, independence as power, independence in being great, independence in being great again. The latter is merely an unself-conscious confessional form of expressing the myth, the all-powerful myth, that you are made in the image of a god and that you must act to regain that lost self-confidence of this mythical self, a mythical self that disguises and re-channels the fear and loathing into anger and even rage. The question is not only about the fear, but about how anger is used both to disguise and enable that fear to define international politics primarily in terms of self-protection. Trump is a hot-head, Trump is irascible, Trump is unpredictable, but it is always to cover his fear that he will be caught out as an interloper, as a fraud. The anger is a cover for that fear that needs to be projected outwards by stirring up fears in others.

About forty years ago, I read an article in Foreign Affairs (then I was a regular subscriber so I can date my memory approximately), that described the corruption of foreign policy when it was energized by domestic anger promoted by underlying feelings of reduced social status and fears of decline. In that analysis, this was the main trope that ran through American foreign relations. Trump is merely the most acute, the most astute agent, who has risen to the political pinnacle and expression of this fear of impotence, expressed in the politics of anger and resentment in foreign policy.

To be continued.

Implementing Economic Transactionalism in Foreign Policy Part I: Fear

Bob Woodward (2018) Fear: Trump and the White House, New York: Simon & Schuster

On the back cover of his latest tome, Bob Woodward quotes candidate Donald Trump: “Real power is — I don’t even want to use the word — fear.” In a very important article in The Atlantic (2 September 2016), Molly Ball, a Time magazine correspondent, wrote a very important and informative article entitled, “Donald Trump and the Politics of Fear.” Ball wrote this when Trump’s candidacy was at its lowest ebb in August of 2016, when Trump’s poll numbers were so bad that a desperate Trump in mid-August brought a totally inexperienced and not yet widely known far-right populist pundit, Steve Bannon, on board to run his campaign. Paul Manafort was dumped. Kelly-Anne Conway, another neophyte in campaigning, joined Bannon to bring into the equation her polling knowledge and her sensitivity to voter desires and fears. (See Chapter 2)

The above changes to the campaign took place at a time when, as Woodward writes, Time writers were describing Trump as “bewildered, exhausted, sullen gaffe prone and in trouble with donors.” (8-9) The last two depicters were objectively accurate; the first three subjective descriptors were only partially true of Trump’s emotional state. Bewildered, exhausted, sullen? Except in comparison to Bannon, Trump was the epitome of certainty, even the certainty that he was going to lose. Further, Trump exhibited more energy than all his minions. And rather than sullen, he was enraged, enraged at his staff and at the campaign situation in which he found himself. Two-and-a-half months before the election, Trump was running as much as 20 points behind Hilary Clinton. Even the Republican National Committee chaired by Reince Priebus seemed to be about to jettison their organizational and economic support for the president.

Except for his deep-seated passion to win, to win at all costs and at any cost. Donald Trump is a fatalist, a Marcus Aurelius in the making. What position does he hold? “It doesn’t matter.” What are the risks of open diplomacy with the leader of the very repressive North Korean regime? “It doesn’t matter.” Did he regret saying he could do anything to women as a TV star, even grasp them by the pussy? To a small extent – only because it might throw his chase for victory off course for the moment. But, in the end, Donald Trump is a stoic. “It doesn’t matter. Shit happens.” “We’ll see.”

The result: Donald Trump is fearless. He can play on fear but not really experience it. Not for Trump, “to strive, to fight, to overcome, to succeed.” Rather, to strive and fight and ignore whether you will win or lose, for that is the magic formula for winning, for destroying your opponent and emerging victorious, for taking in stride financial, psychological, political and personal setbacks. Trump, in the end, just doesn’t give a damn. Trump is a mystic who deep down believes that it will all work out to his advantage. Though very gaff prone and time and again facing desertion by his most loyal associates, never mind the Republican National Committee, though he will become enraged, he does not wallow in despair. And he has a deep-seated well of energy that makes him relatively inexhaustible.

Because he is ultimately so fearless himself, he can use fear to manipulate others. He has no inhibitions. No one can get to him like he can get to them. Though campaigning to becoming the Republican candidate was founded on fear. Trump, now reinforced by Steve and Kelly-Anne, successfully turned his campaign around by throwing overboard the ballast of presidential respectability and instead once again restored fear as the foundation of the campaign. On the basis of appealing to fear, to cultural fears, to economic fears, Trump won the presidency.

He was right. We would see what we all along failed to see. We’ll see what happens. We will see what happens in the Khashoggi affair as Trump twists and turns inside out. We’ll see what happens as the caravan of Central Americans moves north through Mexico. For, as Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey reported for The Washington Post this morning (22 October 2018), “President Trump has settled on a strategy of fear — laced with falsehoods and racially tinged rhetoric — to help lift his party to victory in the coming midterms, part of a broader effort to energize Republican voters with two weeks left until the Nov. 6 elections.”

Trump’s messaging — on display in his regular campaign rallies, tweets and press statements — largely avoids much talk of his achievements and instead offers an apocalyptic vision of the country, which he warns will only get worse if Democrats retake control of Congress. The president has been especially focused in recent days on a caravan of about 5,000 migrants traveling north to cross the U.S. border, a group he has darkly characterized as gang members, violent criminals and “unknown Middle Easterner” — a claim for which his administration has so far no concrete evidence.

For we who fear Trump, it is crucial that we see and understand what is happening and what happened in the past.

Trump stoked the fears of others. As Bannon summed it up when he presented the radically revised thrust of the presidential campaign in August 2016: “Number one, we’re going to stop mass illegal immigration and start to limit legal immigration to get our sovereignty back. Number two, you are going to bring manufacturing jobs back to the country. And number three, we’re going to get out of these pointless foreign wars.” (15) Fear of foreigners, fear of financial ruin and fear of the furies of war all combined to energize the Trump campaign.

On the surface level, Ball was correct and prescient. “Fear pervades Americans’ lives—and American politics. Trump is a master of fear, invoking it in concrete and abstract ways, summoning and validating it…And if Trump still stands a chance to win in November, fear could be the key.” And it could work again in November 2018 as it did in 2016.

Certainly, this was the case in the race for the Republican nomination. Serendipity helped. Terror attacks in Paris in November and in San Bernadino in December were used to reinforce his mantra that Muslims were scary. In the aftermath of the attacks, Trump’s polling rose seven points. (See Shana Gadarian, “The Politics of Threat: How Terrorism News Shapes Foreign Policy Attitudes”)

What is the source of those fears? The outer situation? Trump said that real power is fear. But fear of what? Fear, in no uncertain words, of the wrath of God or of your teacher or your parent bringing his or her rage as an authority figure down on your forehead? Or is it fear of physical blows – a slap across the head – or military might in which the prospect of missiles, especially ones with hydrogen warheads, raining on your head terrifies you? Or is it fear of economic ruin and the corresponding loss of status – of effectively being reduced to a homeless panhandler on the street, in the cases covered in this blog, the boulevard of international relations? Or is it a combination of two or three of the above, or, God forbid, apocalyptic destruction, such as the havoc expected if climate change is not brought under control, an apocalyptic possibility buried under an apocalyptic vision of what will happen if 5,000 Central Americans marching through Mexico eventually reach the U.S. border?drock fear of stasis, an individual’s stall or even fall in income and a corresponding decline in status. These economic fears are not only shared by a vast swath of Democrats, but so are military fears of increased involvement in foreign wars. What distinguishes Trump’s base is its cultural fears. No leader in America has spread and heightened these fears to the degree and with such repetition and emphasis as Trump. For the sociologist, Barry Glassner (The Culture of Fear), Trump is the greatest master in this satanic art.

Is the source of fear objective circumstances or an inner state of mind and heart that frames the world out there to reinforce one’s inner fears? Trump supporters disproportionately fear external violence – crime and terror allegedly enhanced by immigrants, particularly Muslims. Contrary to many claims, Trumps supporters are no more anxious about the economy than Democrats, though the source of their cultural fear focuses on foreigners. Unlike Democrats, the source of their economic fear focuses on foreign states rather than foreign people.

Cultural fears rest on a bedrock fear of change. Economic fears rest on a bedrock fear of stasis, an individual’s stall or even fall in income and a corresponding decline in status. These economic fears are not only shared by a vast swath of Democrats, but so are military fears of increased involvement in foreign wars. What distinguishes Trump’s base is its cultural fears. No leader in America has spread and heightened these fears to the degree and with such repetition and emphasis as Trump. For the sociologist, Barry Glassner (The Culture of Fear), Trump is the greatest master in this satanic art.

Two-thirds of Americans, a significantly higher percentage of Republicans than Americans in general (65:50 on crime, and 75:63 on terror), fear rising crime and terrorism respectively, roughly double the percentage that used to have such fears fifteen years ago. A remarkable body of evidence, however, all reinforce the reality that such fears are unjustified. Nevertheless, those running Trump’s past campaigns and his current one, and, more importantly, Trump himself, pinned the source of that fear, first on migrants and foreigners, and behind that, the Democrats who were the source of that alleged crime and terror for they supported immigration and immigrants. Trump woke up the fear of pain, the fear of uncertainty in those who would become his Kell followers.

Why? Because Trump promised them: “You’re not going to be scared anymore. They’re going to be scared.” “I will protect you.”

But from what? Though a majority of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, though a significantly higher percentage among Republicans, believe that the crime rate is higher than ever before and so is the threat of a terrorist attack. The reality is the opposite. Crime is at its lowest level in fifteen years. Since 9/11, far more terror attacks come from the American right than foreign Muslims. The source of the fear is not what exists in the objective world. It resides in your fundamental basic emotional state. Conservatives are more fearful than liberals, specifically from believed cultural threats. They want more certainty in their lives. They fear ambiguity. They fear nuance. They fear a loss of control. Trump promises the restoration of order in the face of alleged chaos and of control in a world experienced as out-of-control.

Immigrants are invading. Trump stirs up fears as a caravan of future refugee claimants from Central America cross into and wend their way up the length of Mexico. The fact that as many as there are in the caravan – perhaps as many as 5,000 – and despite past experience that most will not reach the border with the U.S. to make a claim, despite the fact that on any two days running, more migrants than are in that caravan arrive at the Mexican-American border every two days to make a claim, despite the fact that Trump’s deploying 6,000 National Guardsman to the Mexican border has not made an iota of difference and sending army troops as threatened would be even more useless, despite the fact that his open aggression against Central American children by separating them from their immigrant families did not deter as intended and, in fact, more not fewer families arrived, the appeal to those fears remains central to the Trump appeal.

Chief of Staff John Kelly may get into a verbal shouting match with Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton, who was supported by Stephen Miller, the young greybeard White House aide behind Trump’s anti-immigrant stance and rhetoric, and even walk out in a rage at the gross discrepancy between the alleged basis of the fears of immigrants and actual reality, Trump himself remained unmoved. He denounced Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s suggestion that UNHCR be invited to process asylum claimants in Mexico.

Trump ignored advice from his own State Department that what was needed was increased aid to those Central American countries. The numbers of families and children that arrived at America’s southern border is the highest since 2014. Trump’s response? Cut off foreign aid to the Central American countries from which the refugee asylum claimants are coming.

The reproduction rate in the U.S. has dropped dramatically among almost all ethnic groups and economic sectors. America is entering the future with fewer and fewer workers to support an increasingly aged population. American women marry later to pursue education, careers and pleasure. The inadequacy of social benefits for pregnant women (parental pay and leave for pregnant women) in the U.S. does not help. This long-term prediction concerning the effects of falling fertility rates – from 2.15 on average ten years ago (barely sufficient for a population to maintain itself) to about 1.75– should be a real source of fear, of economic fear. Trump is a political performance artist creating a totally fictional world even though the reality is that America now needs more immigrants than ever before as pregnancy rates have dropped significantly below that needed to maintain a country’s population levels. Trump knew what worked politically in 2016. In 2018, he claims again to know what is needed to bring out his base to the polls in the midterm election. Facts! Shmacks!

The reality is that President Trump is a bumbler and serial liar, but he is also a political performance artist. Like many other real artists, Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt, Degas and Picasso, Trump is walleyed, but in the political rather than creative sphere. He has political strabismus. One eye sees the world as 2-dimensional. There is fear and there are objects that arouse fear. This may not be the world as it really is, but it is a world that can be represented easily on a 2-D canvas.

On the other hand, the other eye sees the world in 3-D, detached and with a cold and acute eye indifferent to any emotional distractions. He is a political performance artist because, in the interplay of his 2-D and his 3-D vision, he can both see the world with a clarity and perspective most lack who have 3-D vision in both eyes. The latter recognize subtlety and ambiguity. Trump creates a 2-D world of fear based on his insight into the reality of the 3-D world he views. He sees clearer because that eyesight is unencumbered by facts and analyses, in comparison to the 2-D world he favours. Trump suffers from an acute case of exotopia and favours the vision of his 2-D eye.

The combination of 3-D acute vision in one eye and 2-D vision in the other eye that he greatly favours makes him a formidable political opponent and an objective source of real fear. When 2-dimensional portraits are favoured over 3-D in the political world, however helpful they can be in the artistic one, we should be fearful.

Several readers of my first draft asked me to explain the analogy and one challenged my use of the term “artist” to characterize Donald Trump. I will elaborate and clarify.

I distinguish between a political performance artist and a creative one. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a creative performance artist. On Sunday, she was presented with the Mark Twain Prize for lifetime achievement in comedy. She had previously earned six consecutive Emmy Awards for her roles as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld and as Vice-President Selina Meyer on Veep. I would contend that Louis-Dreyfus is a creative performance artist, often about politics, while Trump is a political performance artist who turns politics into farce.

Like Donald Trump, I suggest that she possesses 3-D acute vision in one eye and 2-D vision in the other eye. Unlike Donald Trump who converts a 3-D image into a 2-D one to create a totally fictional world, Louis-Dreyfus inverts that process and takes 2-D characters in the real world and develops 3-D characters on stage or on the TV screen. Instead of relying on repetition of the same theme to exhort laughs, she possesses comic precision and variation. The character she creates may be selfish and petty. The Donald is self-centred and petty. While she has a deep sense of irony and a brilliant ability to be sarcastic, Trump has no sense of irony whatsoever. While Louis-Dreyfus uses her wit without any intention to hurt anyone’s feelings, Trump intentionally does the opposite. He is a bully.

If Louis-Dreyfus can be described as acerbic, Donald Trump’s comments are usually acrid. If Louis-Dreyfus insights are dead-on, Trump’s are wide off the mark and gets laughs through hyperbole only. Louis-Dreyfus’ wit can be both scalding and scathing, but the target of her jokes is immediately a character she creates or even her own self or the folly of others. Trump always and only targets others, not to expose vices but to use irrelevant characteristics to suffocate virtues.

Trump’s comments are sadistic rather than cutting and mordant. His caustic commentary corrodes the social landscape. Her sharp-tongued jokes on the follies and foibles of humans enhance and enrich society. Trump’s remarks are mean and defamatory; hers are gentle and aim at raising our consciousness. They are not demeaning, derisive or divisive and intended to abuse and offend.

At one of his never-ending rallies, Trump performed to a crowd that laughed and clapped in approval as the Donald mocked Dr. Christine Blasé Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“I had one beer. Well, do you think it was — nope, it was one beer. How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs — where was it? I don’t know — but I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.” When critically questioned by reporters about someone whom he said appeared very credible in her testimony when she described the attempted rape, Trump responded, “It doesn’t matter. We won.”

While Trump derided and denounced Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for not remembering how she got home from an attempted rape, Julia Louis—Dreyfus, who attended the same Maryland college prep school as Blasey Ford, the elite Holton-Arms School, Louis-Dreyfus recalled her high school performance in a play called Serendipity. “I can remember every single aspect of that play that night so much so that I would testify under oath about it. But I cannot remember who drove me there or who drove me home.”

Her comments on the Kavanaugh Senate hearings were barbed; Trump tried to wallop Blasey Ford with a spiked club, the simplest and most primitive of weapons intended to bludgeon rather than enlighten the target or anyone else.

Trump’s comments are rooted in bitter acrimony and insecurity; Louis-Dreyfus is the embodiment of compassion even for the most flawed and foul-mouthed characters she plays. Whereas she is good-natured and good-humoured in her sarcasm, Trump is bilious and totally indifferent to whom he hurts.  His derision and taunting are intended to inflict pain and not relieve it through a comic art.

Donald Trump and Julia Louis-Dreyfus may both be walleyed and suffer from strabismus, but Trump converts politics into farce and the 3-D real world into a 2-D caricature. Louis-Dreyfus inverts the process and takes a real world reduced to two dimensions and re-presents it with creativity and acute timing and insight to convert it into a 3-D representation so that one can understand that our world has been diminished.

The differences are best observed when you watch Trump and Louis-Dreyfus satirizing the President as Selina.

Donald Trump Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Selina Meyer)
   
Contempt for democracy and voters Ditto
Politics as response to crises Ditto
Rotating appointments Ditto
Dissing of members of one’s own administration Ditto
Government only a venue for advancing personal positions & enrichment Ditto
Barging into something without thinking or reflection Ditto
Saying something totally inappropriate Ditto
Screwing up and then boasting of success Ditto
Lying and contradicting a previous claim Ditto
Incompetent, disloyal and competing aides Ditto
Venomous abuse Ditto
Restless, bored and impatient Ditto
Brazen lies, whether about trivia or issues of world importance Ditto
Shouting matches Ditto
Aides insulting each other to the press Ditto
Announces cancellation of trade deal before the press in the oval office but forgets to sign the document Ditto
Frozen faces of aides and Republicans always in the background of Trump’s formal announcements Ditto
Theft of documents from President’s desk Ditto
Shoves the President of Montenegro aside to be in a better position in a photo-op Ditto
Love of luxurious pageantry Ditto
With President Sisi of Egypt but distracted and touching a glowing orb Ditto
Engaging in macho handshake contest with President Emmanuel Macron of France Ditto

 

Cozying up to oligarchs Ditto
Primacy given to business deals Ditto
   

What begins as satire can end as docudrama.