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Reflections on the Woodward Recording


There’s been some suggestion that Donald Trump entered Republic politics – and eventually ran for president – in order to perpetrate an affinity scam. By that I don’t mean he was interested in classic affinity fraud, but that he saw the Republican base as an easy mark; he only needed to parrot the messages coming out of right-wing media – most notably those that the more mainstream candidates still wouldn’t touch – and trade on his public image as a successful businessman. Had he lost in 2016, he would’ve happily stoked GOP grievance politics and sold merchandise, started a rival to FOX News, or something along those lines.

I suspect that this was part of the mix. He certainly didn’t expect to win; his campaign didn’t do basic due diligence on matters like planning for a transition. He didn’t care enough to familiarize himself with the powers and responsibilities of the presidency. Of course, that doesn’t mean he wants to lose in 2020. For one thing, his ego is too big. For another, he needs a pliant Department of Justice to avoid legal jeopardy.

The irony is that Trump isn’t a very skilled grifter. By the time he ran for president, Trump had found himself reduced to petty scams and dependent on moneylaundering operations. He also has a weird penchant for bursts of candor. My guess is that some of these, like in the Woodward interviews, stem from his need to impress famous people. Others, like his famous quip that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and” not “lose voters” seem to come from genuine amazement at his power over his base.

So it turns out that a plurality of Republican voters were easy marks – softened up by an epistemic bubble, one created and sustained by the right-wing media ecosystem. Trump catches some lucky breaks, gets an assist or two from abroad… and you know the rest of the story. Partisanship, whether positive or negative, can help carry someone like Trump all the way to the White House.

The complication with Trump is that he is, by many accounts, overly credulous when flattery or motivated bias are involved. This sometimes makes it hard to tell if he believes his own bullshit; and that ambiguity has, I believe, made it easier for the media to avoid calling him a liar.

For me, that’s why Woodward’s recording does contain useful information. Trump didn’t believe his own bullshit. He simply lied and people died. The fact that Trump seemed to understand very well the dangers of COVID-19 also lends credibility to reports that Trump and Kushner abandoned Federal action once they concluded that only residents of solid blue states were going to die in significant numbers.

Now, I very much doubt even this will peel off many more Republicans.

Those who think he’s an appalling human being don’t care, because Trump delivered on judges, taxes, deregulation, and ‘sticking it to the libs. (If nothing else, Trump does understand how transactional arrangements work.) Besides look over there: an antifa socialist!

Those that genuinely think Trump is a terrific human being will find ways to cope; based on what I’ve seen lately at sites like Facebook, some will speculate about what kind of n-dimensional chess game Trump is playing, or even maintain that Woodward faked the recording.

I hope I’m wrong, but regardless the Woodward tape isn’t superfluous. It’s a window into evil.

ICYMI, more criminal activity in the Trump administration, and specifically in DHS.

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