Trump’s Debate Performance Showcased His Worst Qualities

It’s long past demonstrated that Donald Trump is not in the normal range of aspiring political leaders, or even in the 95% interval.  He’s a black swan, cruising around in unexplored regions of the possible, the part of the map that used to be marked with “here be dragons”. Still, it’s worth reviewing in order of importance why it’s unthinkable that he should be president; I’m surprised that his most despicable personal qualities end up at the bottom of the list.

(1) If nothing else in this list applied, he would be disqualified by his tin-pot dictator aspirations to subvert the most fundamental American principles, thinking he can just “not accept” the results of an election [yes, after recounts and appropriate procedural actions] and even toying with the idea that he would get to imprison his political opponents if he were to win. Trump is as close as we’ve ever seen to the candidate running to be the last elected president.

(2) He is embedded in a uniquely opaque cloud of combined ignorance and insouciance. I can’t be sure which of his whoppers are just lying to hear himself talk, and which are genuine misinformation, because he believes nothing beyond his own ego, and knows nothing about anything; not economics, not defense, not the law, nothing…and I bet he’s never read a whole book.  What may be most important here is that he doesn’t care and won’t do anything about it: his ignorance is practiced and purposeful.

(3) There should be an entry about here to the effect that the policies he would try to enact are bad ones, but because of (2), he doesn’t really have policies, just ideas that pop into his head when facing a crowd or a Twitter window.

(4) He surrounds himself with vicious, cynical, unmoored opportunists and haters, and he takes their advice (except advice to emulate a serious person) because he’s too lazy (or perhaps too stupid) to do his own thinking, and completely, supinely, at the mercy of flattery. Good leaders try to accrete people better than they are; he goes around picking up parasites and barnacles.

(4) He’s cowardly, hateful, spiteful, racist, and just mean. He’s all these things especially toward anyone who exposes his deficiencies, either directly or by comparison, and to the weak and unfortunate. The rogues’ gallery he would bring into government have binders and briefcases of nightmares to unleash.

(5) He’s personally corrupt, a con man and grifter whose entire business “success” has been built on stiffing and cheating everyone he deals with: investors, lenders, suppliers, the government; everyone.

(6) Special case of (4): he’s a lecherous, misogynistic swine about women, and totally OK being so. Never mind the policies he would enact, what would it be like to be on the White House staff? and imagine the endless opportunities for blackmail he will unreel. In a sane world, this personal quality would itself be disqualifying, and it has certainly taken up most of the air in the room as it has come to light. But on reflection, considering the risks he poses to everything that stands between us and a Mussoliniesque (or Putinesque) national ruin, I have to put this at the end of the list, which says something about what precedes it.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Michael O’Hare

Michael O'Hare is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.