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Triangulation
Trump’s State of the Union Coup

America’s reality-TV President just hit the celebrity political jackpot.

Published on: January 31, 2018
Adam Garfinkle is editor of The American Interest.
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  • Unelected Leader

    Guarantee you that he’s going to keep using that sanguine little line “Americans are dreamers…my first responsibility is to citizens” etc. Could even be a 2020 slogan. Rest of it obviously went well enough, and certainly he hit all the right notes on ending terrible things like visa lotteries, chain migration, and talked about new investment into the country and job numbers.

    Couple of things stuck out about the Democrats. First of all, I really hope Luis Gutierrez needed to use the restroom when he walked out as Trump talked about vets. Second, perhaps the most important thing, when trump spoke to his willingness to do a deal that more than doubles the original obama DACA plan to nearly 2 million, Democrats did not stand up and cheer! That tells you that there is absolutely no limit. You can’t reason with the unreasonable. They simply want 20 to 30 million illegals to get amnesty as soon as possible, and they want to keep chain migration so that that number could be 100 million when they bring in a few family members a piece, and they want it because it’s the only chance they have being such a week party and losing elections for years now.

  • Curious Mayhem

    “Head-spinning changes that spite many of our cherished inherited beliefs about ourselves are the vanguard of that dislocation, a dislocation whose institutional dysfunctions have overtaken the skills and imaginations of a self-satisfied and insular hollow elite from both major parties as though they were standing still in a forced sprint for relevance.”

    Wow. I wish I could write like that. Oh wait, I just did.

  • Micah718

    I really wish Garfinkle could write about Trump without occasionally going into TDS induced hysterics. As he so correctly notes, no one gives a shit.
    I didn’t watch the speed (I never watch SOTU) but judging from reaction to it, it was a triumph for Trump and a messaging disaster for Democrats. Forget about spittlegate. When you are refusing to applaud America, the flag, the military, low African-American unemployment it is a sign that something here is not quiet working. The generic D lead in congressional races has been declining, ever since Democrat’s lies were exposed as lies.

    • D4x

      This was the first time I listened and watched SOTU live. It was hard to even read prior years.

      Trump’s voice is easy to listen to, confirming my theory that is the best predictor of who will win the Presidency, because that is the voice you will hear for four years.

      Adam is not a TDS’d on SOTU as usual, except for the, again, snarky photo and title.. He does fail to understand narrative, a problem shared by too many Hollywood PC postmodern scriptwriters. Every culture, and people need heroes. It is the basis of most mythologies.
      Today, this film trailer came on during an NCIS marathon: “In the Face of Fear, Ordinary People Can Do the Extraordinary” Opening Feb. 9, 2018, Clint Eastwood’s “The 15:17 to Paris” Finally, a film to see in theatres, after a sixteen month drought:
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/97f40458b243622fc4222966caaa77b843c23e5f328be19d006058fd96e2c20c.jpg
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/19ecb8a891a50878571fb09f631749b0af1962e0387698799b1bf7bcce9beaf1.jpg
      Anthony Sadler, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos,and U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone,
      who play themselves in the film. […] tells the real-life story of three men
      whose brave act turned them into heroes during a highspeed railway ride. In the
      early evening of August 21, 2015, the world watched in stunned silence as the
      media reported a thwarted terrorist attack on Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris—an attempt prevented by three courageous young Americans traveling through Europe. The film follows the course of the friends’lives, from the
      struggles of childhood through finding their footing in life, to the series of
      unlikely events leading up to the attack. Throughout the harrowing ordeal, their friendship never wavers, making it their greatest weapon and allowing them to save the lives of the more than 500 passengers on board. […]”
      http://themovieelite.com/the-1517-to-paris-trailer/

      BOX OFFICE BLOWOUT!
      Hollywood’s going to be wearing black forever, just like the pickled neoDems in Congress.

      Trump is more like Every Dad.

      The haughty disdain of the John Houseman Law Professor Charles W. Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase”, 1973. seems to be
      the archetype Adam and Philip Roth, and so many pundits want in the Oval Office, with a law degree from Harvard, or Yale.

      • Jim__L

        A nitpick – before getting too caught up in “best predictor” theories, we should remember how close some of these elections were. The closer the election, the more sensitive it is to smaller and smaller influences.

        • D4x

          The Listenable Voice is my personal predictor since the 2008 primaries. No one else agrees, but it is how I explain why America’s 24/7 obsession with the Imperial Presidency fails to notice issues, Party Platforms, … truth, justice, the American way 🙂 1896 was the first election that deployed political education of targeted demographics. The GOP distributed 100 million pamphlets, when the total electorate was sixteen million voters: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cd17ffa05713cfd28c06ed667850724bf62ca42496f8f32616b72ed5bc9c471d.jpg https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/elections/election1896.html

          • Jim__L

            Ever read any of Lincoln’s private letters? There’s a good collection here… https://www.amazon.com/Living-Lincoln-Man-Times-Words/dp/1566190436

            What reminded me of this was reading some of Lincoln’s early letters, when he’s basically a party hack for the Whigs, where he asks an associate to get him the mailing address of Joseph Smith (Yes, THAT Joseph Smith) and other Mormons so he can start sending them campaign literature.

            (There was also reading young Mr. Lincoln arguing that he believed, just like apparently everyone else at the time, that Texas had sacred a right to split off of Mexico, just like the 13 Colonies had a sacred right to split from England — but that still didn’t justify the widespread violence of the Mexican-American War. Talk about cognitive dissonance…)

  • QET

    It would be interesting to see Garfinkle disclose how many “lies or misleading statements” he wrote into the speeches of the Secretaries of State he worked for. I won’t hold my breath.

    But let’s analyze. A “lie” and a “misleading statement” are two entirely different species. One is empirical and objective; the other is hermeneutic. “Misleading,” like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Garfinkle knows this. Despite pumping TAI readers’ tires, he really must believe we are all dolts, to offer up a quantification of “lies and misleading statements” as though there was any significance to that other than to communicate once more his utter hatred of the President.

    I reviewed a few of the WaPo’s “fact checks.” As I knew before I even clinked on the link, facticity is so plastic in the hands of extremist partisans like WaPo that one would do better to consult La Fontaine for facts. I especially smiled at the not-to-be-believed-on-anything WaPo’s “refutation” of Trump’s unemployment claims number. “Had Trump given his speech last week, it would have been true; but not this week.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! And then the manufacturing jobs. 184,000 according to the (re)doubtable BLS. Trump rounded up. No doubt Garfinkle would have rounded down (yeah, sure). Or at least looked into the number and written into the speech that exactly 183,739 manufacturing jobs. . . ” Now THERE’s a fact! But then here is WaPo’s explanation of why what Trump said was not a “fact”: there were 184,000 manufacturing jobs created in the 11 months since Trump took the oath of office, compared with a loss of 16,000 in 2016, according to the BLS. This is a substantial one-year gain, but it’s still more than 1 million manufacturing jobs below the level at the start of the Great Recession. So Trump has not fully restored all of the losses since 2007, therefore even a factual gain must be a lie. Or misleading. (Garfinkle does not provide us with criteria to distinguish between the two, yet it seems highly relevant to his fits of pique in these pages that we be able to do so). And so to detract still more from the facticity, WaPo complains that Trump is taking credit for a trend that began before he took office. OMG! Unheard of! Unprecedented! No President Ever! I Can’t Even! The man is unfit and must be forcibly removed from office!

    And then there’s this WaPo gem: Trump is citing a White House Council of Economic Advisers report that has been widely criticized for the $4,000 estimate. Someone criticized the CEA number, therefore to cite it is to lie, or mislead. Right. Q.E.D.

    Garfinkle is no fool but is certainly acting like one. I have lived through multiple Administrations and Every. Single. One. makes exaggerated claims like Trump’s, on the basis of numbers that on even cursory scrutiny are questionable. Yet only Trump is to be removed from office over them. To his credit, Garfinkle admits that Trump did only what all other Presidents have done. To his debit, it seems that only when it was done by Trump did Garfinkle see the light.

    And I must take issue with Garfinkle’s paean to Carter’s notorious “malaise” speech. Suggesting it was Lincolnian as Garfinkle does is really beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse, as Marcuse wrote of Heidegger. Lincoln was caught in the middle of the Civil War, about which nothing more need be said here. Carter, on the other hand, well, here’s how Wikipedia describes the situation: When the energy crisis set in, Carter was planning on delivering his fifth major speech on energy; however, he felt that the American people were no longer listening.

    Lincoln:

    Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.”

    Carter:

    I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy… I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might. The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

    Garfinkle should be ashamed. I am ashamed for him.

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    • ljgude

      Like me you obviously graduated from some place still capable of inducting you into the mysteries of abstract thought. A matter of hermeneutics – exactly. Although Garfinkel is not among the worst of the elites – he can see a wee skerrick of good in that russet headed son of a Faroe island lassie – but what is appalling is that after a year he and the rest of the bitter clingers still don’t get what any ordinary uneducated opioid addicted deplorable in West Virginia understands perfectly well. As the very elite Arnold Toynbee observed of the fall of the Roman Empire – the dominant elite had lost the confidence of the internal proletariat.

      • Jim__L

        If I could only get through 1000 pages of Toynbee in the next year or two, which pages should I pick? Are the abridgements worth it?

  • Joe Eagar

    “is a plutocratic heist of the highest order.” Please provide evidence for this that isn’t based on “But the individual cuts are temporary!” So were the Bush tax cuts, and that made the law less regressive, not more–ultimately, the cuts for the wealthy were allowed to expire, but all the rest were made permanent.

    And please, spare us the “it transfers wealth to corporations” line. As if corporate taxes aren’t primarily borne by workers and consumers.

    • Joe Eagar

      Oh and also, please don’t give us the “all positive effects were going to happen anyway!!!” line. It’s unbelievably stupid.

  • Anthony

    “Let’s be honest State of the Union addresses are seldom exciting affairs.” Yet Trump for all intents and purpose appears to secure his position a top the Republican Party – mainstream republicans stood affirm for Trump last night (SOTU address).

    To that end: “President Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union was as promised a reasonably normal speech, read by a politician for whom the bar is set far, far below ‘reasonably normal’. And so we can expect the celebration, the hosannas, the cheers that accompany Trump’s occasional forays into acting, just for a moment like his predecessors” (Garfinkle’s coup reference perhaps).

  • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

    I compared Trump’s speech to one of Obama’s SOTUs (the 2016 edition). In 5000 or so words, Trump used 1st-person pronouns 42 times; in 6000, Obama used them 80 times.

    Their use of the 2nd person was roughly equal.

    Listeners notice this. And I think it says something that a boastful, narcissistic braggart referred to himself less often than the man reputed to be both history’s most brilliant politician and its greatest orator.

    • Tom

      Well yes. That’s because Obama was better at not being blatant about his narcissism and braggadocio.

      • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

        ?? See politico: https://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/81895_Page2.html

        “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

        This quote was attributed to Obama by Patrick Gaspard, who was Obama’s first White House political director, in an interview with The New Yorker in November 2008.

        • Tom

          Note carefully, though: that side of him never came out in his speeches. Even the “oceans stopped rising” speech was careful to use “we” instead of “I.”

        • Angel Martin

          In addition, did Obama claim to be more humble than his “spiritual advisor” ?

          what a joke !

      • Gary Hemminger

        Good point, but Obama and Trump are the same. Ego maniacs.

  • Daniel Jelski

    Minus the Trump derangement syndrome, I generally agree with this. I think Trump’s speech was masterful. My own remarks are here: http://trotskyschildren.blogspot.com/2018/01/sotu.html

    • Anthony

      Thanks for blog link – forthright analysis.

    • TruthfulJames

      The Trumpster cleaned up his act, It was a 5K tweet with a rhythm to which his supporters could dance, widening his base and permitting them to return from the shadows with new converts hand in hand. He opened an opportunity for others to join his coalition in the warmth of the moment and without a single reference invoked Reagan’s “morning in America.” The young Korean with the crutches upraised by his remaining arm reminded us that anything is possible in America with personal and family effort. There are no guarantees except the freedom to try and the right to fail. Not all immigrants could succeed. America fulfilled its promise of geographic and interclass mobility. Not all immigrants could succeed. Many returned from whence they had come. We are dreamers. We are Americans first. Trump’s resonance is solidly based on these beliefs

  • Gary Hemminger

    Hey Garfinkle, I hate to remind you but many who did graduate from college and went on to get post grad degrees also had a tingle up their leg when Obama spoke. I watched the speech llast night and thought, what a load of dung this is. The same thing I thought when Obama gave his SOTU. what a bunch of dung. Oh and Garfinkle, lose the sh*t comment. It is below you. I am very sorry to remind you what you said previously. If rational people don’t protect our borders, irrational people will. You said it. Thank the Democrats for giving us Trump. I think we might be thanking them again in 2020.

  • JBay

    Thanks Adam! It’s always a pleasure to read.

  • johngbarker

    Vintage Garfinkle! I think now I have a much better grasp of the Trump phenomenon. More, please sir.

    • Jim__L

      You’ll get a better sense of the Trump phenomenon reading the comments than the articles. Garfinkle is just ‘splaining.

  • StudentZ

    I don’t think I’m cynical enough to appreciate this article or Trump’s SOTU speech. Although I regularly complain about the idealistic reliance on voters to resolve systemic political problems, I feel the public is less hindered by limited education and intelligence than a political process that devalues reason, gives voters few incentives to be more informed, and rewards simplistic groupthink and mass appeal. Trump’s SOTU made my skin crawl, but I’m not sure how effective the political circus really is or to what extent it reflects the people it supposedly represents. Perhaps Trump’s audience view him the way they view reality television: some are mildly entertained without completely buying the sob stories or the melodrama, while others react so strongly they lose all sense of perspective. People of all persuasions eventually lose interest in such distractions, however, either because reality calls or the shallow manipulation loses its appeal the more redundant and predictable it becomes. In that sense, Trump pressed his luck on Tuesday night with his extended parade of patriotism and pathos. With the subtlety of an infomercial, he exploited grieving parents (again), a tactic that is neither original nor inspired.
    The success of such a strategy will depend on how long the presidency can rely on low-brow entertainment, convenient timing, and a disengaged populace.

    • Everett Brunson

      Okay, you got me curious. You said his speech made your skin crawl. You listed a few reasons such as containing sob stories, an appeal to patriotism, and so on. Did you have the same reaction to the speeches of President Obama? How were they different to you? The reason I ask is that I have found you to be a reasonable person though you and I appear to be at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

      While Man on the Street interviews seem to bring out the gullibility in us I was struck by a recent one in which President Trump’s SOTU speech was given to folks but identified as words from President Obama. Thinking the words were from Obama the majority approved of the speech. When they found out it was Trump’s words their reaction changed. What does this indicate to you?

      • StudentZ

        This is long and late, but here goes. I love that we can have interesting discussions and be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Admittedly, I have my unreasonable moments, though, so please let me know if I cross a line.

        Are you referring to the Campus Reform video? I had a few thoughts watching it. I think every student should have asked for the context in which each statement was made or refrained from passing judgment without hearing the rest of the speech. However, the timing did imply the SOTU remarks were from Trump’s speech, and the students were led to form hasty opinions and incorrectly attribute the words to a source and stance they dismissed. It’s not clear whether their opinions of Trump were ill-founded or whether they would have objected to the words once the source and context were clarified. The video only showed a handful of respondents with similar views and reactions, which were then edited. Were other interviews omitted, and how were the respondents chosen? It would have been interesting to see more supportive students respond, too.

        I think it’s fine to encourage people to think more critically and objectively, but some of that message is lost when the video is published on websites to trivialize or discredit perspectives and whatever they are supposed to represent. The students seemed to recognize their own shortcomings, so it bothers me when their bias is highlighted to reinforce a different bias or devalue preferences that are not examined. Also, I think the gotcha spirit of the video overshadows some important underlying questions. Is the impact of bias significant and how do we determine that? Does bias invalidate views on specific policies or ideologies? Do voters or respondents have adequate exposure or information to be able to critically evaluate a president’s views or the reasons behind them? Do the presidents’ views or speeches even matter? I think we’re trained to adopt scientific approaches to bias and question political speeches in school, but perhaps we all need a refresher course or two.

        Regarding my own visceral reaction to the SOTU speech, I dislike speeches and politics in general, so my criticism is not limited to Trump. To answer your questions, I compared Trump’s speech to Obama’s speeches from 2015 and 2016, though I will mostly focus on the former.

        https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-state-union-address/
        https://warontherocks.com/2015/01/full-text-state-of-the-union-address/
        https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/12/remarks-president-barack-obama-%E2%80%93-prepared-delivery-state-union-address

        Basically, I’m not a fan of many of Trump’s themes (e.g., idolatry, individualism, nativism, militarism, isolationism, nationalism, originalism, etc.). The first half of his speech is relatively benign, but Trump wades into darker territory in the second half when he discusses foreign policy and immigration. He speaks of MS-13 as if all illegal immigrants are culpable, no domestic gangs exist, and the Priority Enforcement Program, an immigration program targeting violent criminals, never existed under Obama. I worry that Trump’s stances on international trade, Jerusalem, foreign assistance, Guantánamo Bay, Iran, and North Korea strain diplomatic relations. I also feel he exhibits none of the reluctance or restraint one would hope to see in a leader seeking to expand his nuclear arsenal.

        Pablum and propaganda are part of Obama’s speeches, too, and I’m not sure foreign policy has changed much under Trump. Each president acknowledges bipartisan priorities, such as terrorism, infrastructure, job training, and the economy. However, I do not share Trump’s worldview. All presidents invoke God, but Trump prioritizes religion as something essential to every American endeavor. Irreligious citizens like me prefer secular leadership and recoil when Trump states, “As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will not fail.” I dislike Obama’s religious references, too, but he does not downplay the role of government as a burden or peripheral concern (after “faith and family”). Instead, he emphasizes the need for strong institutions and a government that serves everyone.

        Trump’s admiration for government initiatives, on the other hand, seem limited to the military. Instead of lauding the collective efforts of FEMA or the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection to mitigate natural disasters, Trump focuses on individual heroics, suggesting personal fortitude is sufficient. On the contrary, federal support is crucial to funding disaster relief, scientific research, healthcare, transportation, education, and infrastructure (all things I care about). Trump acknowledges the latter two to some degree, but he seems more inclined to pass the financial burden to state and local governments or private industry. Neglecting key investments is myopic, and regulations serve a purpose, which should be addressed, at the very least. It’s disconcerting to learn the FDA is approving drugs at an unprecedented pace, for example, after Trump champions fewer regulations and celebrates “beautiful, clean coal”. I want to be assured that patients are safe and human health is still a priority, especially when the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health warns of an accelerated black lung epidemic among miners and shares photos that are anything but beautiful.

        Obviously, Trump is speaking to his supporters who want different things. For what it’s worth, I don’t want science, art, and music to get a passing mention at the end of a speech that goes back more than two centuries to define the epitome of American greatness. I don’t want partisan Cabinet members with dubious credentials and conflicts of interest deciding the fitness of federal employees with far more experience. I would prefer a speech focused on technology, information, and engineering, not individual bravery and faith. A show of humility, thoughtfulness, and concession would appeal to me, too, even if it’s pure artifice.

        I say all of this to explain my own reaction in response to your questions, not to offend or tell people how they should feel or think. I’d be interested to know your thoughts, too. What did you think of his speech?

        • Everett Brunson

          Z, I must apologize. I depend on email notifications for “seeing” replies to comments. I never received a notification for your reply. It was only by going into my Disqus account to check up on those I follow that I came across your reply. At any rate, sorry about that.

          You’ve raised a number of issues. I will address some here and let the discussion go where it may.

          Trump’s admiration for government initiatives, on the other hand, seems limited to the military. Instead of lauding the collective efforts of FEMA or the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection to mitigate natural disasters, Trump focuses on individual heroics, suggesting personal fortitude is sufficient. On the contrary, federal support is crucial to funding disaster relief, scientific research, healthcare, transportation, education, and infrastructure (all things I care about).

          There isn’t anything I disagree with in regard to your observation. I would say our differences are in point of view. I think people more readily identify with People than abstract notions of what an organization or department does or is supposed to do. Recall all of the news conferences after the hurricanes. What I saw Trump doing was highlighting:
          1) the visual of all the various actors from state and federal agencies working closely together to
          bring aid to the citizens suffering hardship.
          2) the going around the room to identify each of the department heads and allowing them time
          to make statements about what their departments were doing and how they planned to
          inter-act with the other departments.
          3) praising the efforts of his subordinates as he introduced each
          I doing so, Trump put a human face on the agencies AND gave an increased level of importance to their efforts. I found this highly effective. I have noticed that Trump does this in virtually every meeting he holds. He did much the same in DAVOS at the luncheon round table.

          Too, tying in with your observation in your closing paragraph, ” I would prefer a speech focused on technology, information, and engineering, not individual bravery and faith. goes to our difference in POV as it relates to effectiveness. The subjects you listed put most people to sleep–too technical, too arcane, too distant. I’m hoping to find the time to go see Clint Eastwood’s production of The 15:17 To Paris. Why? I enjoy books/movies about individuals acting in situations most others would run away from. I guess you can say I subscribe to the “rugged individualism” mythos of Americana. I suspect more than most fall into “my” category. So, in that, I don’t have much of a problem when speechmakers frame issues in narratives or use human props to make a point. I thought his use of the Korean defector to be highly effective.

          The first half of his speech is relatively benign, but Trump wades into darker territory in the second half when he discusses foreign policy and immigration. He speaks of MS-13 as if all illegal immigrants are culpable, no domestic gangs exist, and the Priority Enforcement Program, an immigration program targeting violent criminals, never existed under Obama.

          Again, this is another example on POV effectiveness. What you find disturbing is your intellectual/analytical take on his methods. I don’t, in any way denigrate your approach to issues. I prefer a thinker to a feeler 24/7/365. BUT, I want our immigration system reformed–AND in a manner that makes it INCREASINGLY more difficult to bad actors, drugs, and immigration line jumpers to enter this country. How will that ever happen? In one way only. There must be an overwhelming tide of opinion that supports immigration reform. Such a move in opinion MUST include a wide range of Democrats that come to feel the same way for such a thing to occur.

          How could this happen? In one way only. The appeal must be made directly to the people. And this is best done by giving a face (heavily tatooed at that) to the disaster our immigration policy has wrought on American citizens. You and I can debate all day on whether illegal immigration results in a net cost or net profit to the country. Each of us can bring reams of data to the fray. Each of us can spend hours refuting the other’s data. In the end I doubt either of us will be moved one whit. (Here I am not projecting your position vis a vis illegal immigration. I have no idea where you stand. I am using you vs. me for illustrative purposes only.)

          Finally–Regarding my own visceral reaction to the SOTU speech, I dislike speeches and politics in general, so my criticism is not limited to Trump. That is what I enjoy most about your posting–always reasoned, always respectful of another’s opinion. If you read my Disqus posting history you will find I am respectful in some instance and highly disrespectful in others. I make no claim to my being reasonable. You, however, can make that claim AND BACK IT UP.

          So I find it always rewarding to see what you’ve written and your thought process in the writing of it.

          • StudentZ

            I appreciate the response and your timing is perfect, so no need for apologies. Before I edited my comments on the SOTU speech, I had included a paragraph suggesting Cabinet members should lead a SOTU conference instead. We seem to be on the same wavelength. Also, your observations regarding the tricky balance between crowd-pleasing sentiment and dispassionate analysis are on point. It’s very difficult to engage the public without diminishing the complexity of some of the issues policy makers address. Scientists and engineers often struggle with the desire to influence policy (as a matter of perceived duty) without compromising their objectivity or reputation as impartial experts. In the current era, we seem inevitably forced to confront the way we think, communicate, and govern. In fact, whenever the focus is on Trump, I find my interest shifting to policies, procedures, and systems.

            Immigration is among the more complex issues, and while I agree that a protracted discussion would achieve little, I will share one anecdote. Not too long ago, I happened to be seated on a plane next to a border security contractor who (if I remember correctly) worked in New Mexico. He described some of the children he encountered on the job, many of whom were victims of abuse and neglect. Some lacked basic survival skills and could not clean or feed themselves. They came from nowhere and had nowhere to go, so he was regularly confronted with the disturbing realization that he had nowhere to send them. I have no idea what his political views were, but I suspect he had a more nuanced interpretation of immigration policy than someone like me, who is rarely exposed to its practical implications. For that reason, I only ask that our policy makers view immigration with careful consideration and a sense of responsibility for all positive and negative outcomes. When offering asylum to refugees, for example, they must confront the impact on existing communities, the difficulties of integrating diverse populations, and the hardships assimilation poses. Similarly, when erecting a border wall, they must weigh the efficacy and cost of such a proposal against other options, as well as the probability of more people being killed and exploited in their desperation to enter the country along riskier routes. Each decision should be perceived as both an opportunity and a burden.

          • Everett Brunson

            Immigration is a good topic. It contains all of the elements–reality, need, pathos, and mythos.

            There are two kinds of immigrants–legal and illegal. Within the legal immigrant community there are different classes. For example there are:
            1) immigrants seeking permanent status
            2) immigrants here on a student visa
            3) immigrants here on a work visa
            4) refugees– some can come on a permanent status such as Cubans as indicated by law, while others are here on temporary status–such as those from Haiti, Somalia, and so on.

            Those in groups 2, 3, and 4 can go from legal status to illegal status by violating the terms of agreement–such as over-staying their visa. Many of the current illegal immigrants now come from these groups. They arrive by plane or boat for the most part.

            Then there are the illegal immigrants. Most enter by crossing the southern border. Of both groups, legal and illegal, which prove to be the most burden on the American taxpayer and on the infrastructure? The answer would be the illegal border crossers and the temporary refugees. Why? Because they have the least skills and would need the greatest assistance. Those who become illegal from categories 2 and 3 provide the least intrusive burden. They are adults and they are educated. To almost a 99% degree they don’t have minor children so they don’t place a burden on the public school system. They are also least likely to apply for financial assistance when compared to the border crossers and refugees.

            Which group can be stopped the most easily? The illegal border crossers. Despite the hyperbole walls work. The Israeli wall would is the best example. Our southern wall, if it is ever built, would be a combination of sections of physical wall, fences, natural barriers, and electronic counter measures. It would dry up southern incursion to a trickle. We could go from thousands of incursions per day to mere dozens per day. Who can argue against that?

            The cost–Trump asked for $25 billion–which would go for all the things listed above plus the hiring of more border agents and ICE agents. Is it a one time cost? No. There would always be maintenance and payroll. Is the cost prohibitive? By what measure? What portion of city, county, school, and federal taxes go to pay for services to the illegal population? In other words, would this “wall” entail a net cost or net gain? By every measure I’ve studied it would be a net gain.

            Putting all rhetoric aside, we need to build the wall. The anecdote you told about the children who could barely fend for themselves—If there was a wall we wouldn’t be facing that problem at all. At some point, if one doesn’t stop the bleeding, the patient dies. Rapid infusion of blood only works as long as there is a blood supply.

          • StudentZ

            Many analysts have argued against the wall, but I will let you have the last word on that. I have work to do, unfortunately. Boo. Also, I don’t have a problem with my tax dollars supporting refugees (or anyone else in need).

  • Lyle7

    I agree, our intelligentsia is untalented and shouldn’t be driving America. Men and women like Trump should.

    • Jim__L

      Look upon these words ye mighty*, and despair!

      *As mighty as Mr. Garfinkle, anyway.

  • Jim__L

    Some of this is downright hilarious.

    He starts with a standard boiler-plate elite sniffing at anyone who’s not from an Ivy…

    “you realize that roughly three-quarters of the electorate has not
    graduated from a four-year college. The number quickly gets a lot larger
    when you factor in those who have graduated from a second- or
    third-tier college and those whose chosen majors put little or no
    premium on critical thinking or dealing with abstractions.”

    And the claim that the Politically Correct Ivies deal in any way with the critical thinking or abstractions that have been the hallmarks of Western Civilization since Martin Luther (not to mention Aristotle)? Wow! How is that not a bigger lie than anything Trump could have come up with in his SotU??

    It gets better — he follows this up with a bit of flattery better suited to the labeling on a Trader Joe’s store-brand product…

    “In short, dear reader, if you’re reading this in The American Interest
    you may need to be reminded that, no, you are not a modal voter, and
    your infosphere differs in significant ways from the modal audience
    Trump was addressing last night. If that shocks you, it means you need
    to get out more.”

    …Totally ignoring that the vast majority of the commenters on these boards are far more in touch with (and sympathetic to) the political currents that put Trump in the White House than the editorial board of TAI, especially now that WRM is gone.

    But it gets better!

    “Why is this brilliant? Not just because of its emotive character, and
    not just because these are uncontroversial issues—no one, after all,
    outside of a psychiatric institution roots for a hurricane or a madman
    shooting at innocent people from a hotel window. It’s brilliant because
    dwelling on these kinds of tragedies create an instantaneous community
    of souls. It enables the rest of the speech to proceed on the tacit
    basis of “we” instead of “him and me.””

    Why is THIS brilliant? Garfinkle is effectively confessing that what he’s doing in the last couple of paragraphs I quoted was flattering his (supposed) audience, those oh-so-brilliant-and-critical-10%ers, into a community of “we”.

    Great to know an Ivy Leaguer can learn, even if what they learn is what they claim to hate.

    “Audiences like to hear some numbers because it lends an air of gravitas
    to the speaker, but they don’t like to be victims of statistical
    shrapnel”

    So we have 18 incidences of lies (complete with a citation!), and a count of 20 “Joe Hero” references. (I’m sorry, “twenty”, don’t wanna overuse those digits now). Nicely done, Mr. Garfinkle.

    It would be so much fun to evaluate this entire essay on the same terms that Garfinkle evaluates Trump, but sadly, I do not have the time now. Maybe later.

    • D4x

      Quit while you are ahead. You nailed what is wrong with post-WRM TAI, not just it’s Editor, with your first two insights: ‘Big Lie Generator’, and, ‘ignoring the vast majority of the commenters’. No one at TAI reads the comments. They are too busy in their Russia!hysteria war room, kvetching over the perfect Merlot about how Amazon has ruined the Whole Foods supply chain, except, they do not know what a supply chain is.

      No need to drag Trader Joe’s into it. It is the sole institution in my life that has not betrayed my trust since 2008. The best moment of 2017 was at TJ check-out. I can not remember why I launched into a short oratory on why the “Invention of moveable type was the innovation that launched the ascendancy of Western Civilization”. The man next in line then said “Trump is playing to his base”. My parting retort was “I am his base”. The stunned expression on his face was…Priceless, because it shattered his Idee Fixe that Trump voters are all as poorly educated as Garfinkle describes. Almost made up for the first year of my life that there was no in-theatre movie worth the effort since Eastwood’s 2016 hero narrative “Sully”.

      • Jim__L

        Just got back from Trader Joe’s myself, I’m a regular. But I do have to say, it amuses me (and sometimes makes me a little uncomfortable, really) when their packaging dedicates several column-inches to celebrating itself, its unique character, and presumably how special the customer is for realizing all this and buying it. On the plus side it’s really cheerful about it, and just wacky enough that it might actually be tongue-in-cheek.

        My folks once saw me making chocolate chip cookies with TJ’s “organic” sugar, and gave me a bad time about this, until I pointed out that it’s literally impossible to buy that commodity (and a variety of others) at TJ’s without some random Whole-Foods sounding adjective (“Turbinado”! “Raw cane”!) hooked up to it. Have you ever tried to buy just plain chicken broth there? Can’t be done.

        Damir reads the comments. So there’s hope for the next generation, at least. 🙂

        And, I realize now, Garfinkle uses the singular in referring to his “dear reader”. Maybe he knows that there’s only one of them out there, and the rest are like us. 😉

    • Diws

      WRM is starting a regular weekly column in the Wall St Journal (The Global View). Yet another reason to read the WSJ.

  • Jonathan Dembo

    Of course, dear reader, don’t think for a second that Mr. Garfinkle is not manipulating you, too. He is not just an expert in identifying how others manipulate their audiences. Garfinkle uses the same tricks Trump does. He says nice things about Trump in order to get you to believe the bad things he wants to embed in your mind.

  • Jay Margolis

    Adam, great perspective and writing! As a simple scientist with neither political acumen nor deep historical knowledge, I found your insights, knowledge and observations of Trump’s SOTU speech to be a tremendously useful analysis, as well as wonderfully readable. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in public (in addition to around the dinner table!).
    …j

  • Joseph DeMarzo

    Why is this author so filled with hatred and rage? Why must he engage in personal attacks instead of writing analysis of the speech on a point by point basis?

    The real gift that Trump has is that he causes those who accuse him to engage in the very conduct that they accuse him of. And when the opposition reacts with hate filled screeds instead of addressing the merits, one naturally wonders if the opponent is unable to address the merits…

  • Humanist_at_all_times

    I find it humorous to read authors such as this one, beginning their long journey out of darkness and into the light. Such journeys are replete with virtue statements that they never voted for Trump, are appalled by him personally, despair for the cultural decline Trump must usher in…yet…are increasingly forced to admit some aspects in a positive light.

    It will take time, perhaps another 12 months for the naysayers to grudgingly accept that Trump is a true revolutionary. Perhaps the only man who could pull off the extraordinary reversal of America’s decline.

    Trump, a product of all things America, his formative years in the 1960’s when America was unassailably the world number one in every measure. Then as he matured in the 1970s and 1980s watching the dream sour. By 1990 Trump could see the fix was in. Bush and Clinton ran the country into the ground with their criminal crony capitalism. But the 8 years of Obama and his destruction of the Republics institutions and the side lining of law and order was what called him to action.

    He was uniquely placed to know that a Clinton win would mean America’s final destruction. Trump is now restoring the Constitution and law and order, reversing the globalist infiltration and really presiding over a second American Revolution.

    Media opposition to Trump has been unprecedented. Soon however many writers will be exposed as in the payroll of CIA/globalist programs, their credibility and reputations destroyed. Other writers have elitist bias, their views dictated by their progressive left social and collegiate circles.
    Like this writer, they will eventually become overwhelmed by the truth and facts they can’t deny. Hopefully by 2020, they will be writing of the achievements of President Trump the man who saved the Republic.

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