There is no excuse for Trump

(And it’s time to stop pandering to those who make them)

No matter how bizarre or erratic his behavior, no matter how extreme or ludicrous the prevarication, Trump supporters will always defend him. Their excuses can be so extreme, so extremely implausible that one Trump spin illusionist, Jeffrey Lord, prompted Anderson Cooper to accuse him of defending Trump if he took a dump on the Oval Office desk.

Trump can declassify secrets on the fly to impress the Russians, claim, “I didn’t tell them the source was Israel,” (and thereby confirm the source of that intel was, indeed, Israel), ask intelligence officials to lie about the Russia investigation, call his FBI director a nut job and gut the social safety nets upon which his supporters rely. His supporters will assure us he’s not a bad guy, he’s smarter than we think and, like God almighty, he has a plan.

If only we could see the big picture.

This is the Hankey emoji.

No matter how many times and how closely I study the big picture it looks like a two-year-old smeared it with poop and signed it with a smiling Hankey:

This is the big picture after Trump added his touches.

When my kid reached into his diaper the first time and painted his bedroom, his mother laughed and said, “He’s just two. He’ll outgrow it.” She didn’t help clean the wall though.

We heard the same excuse about Trump during the election and leading up to the inauguration. Don’t worry he’ll outgrow it. Or, he’ll grow into the office. Or, he’ll become more Presidential when the job requires.

So far the job must not require a Presidential President because he looks like the same two year old who Tweeted his tantrums through the election campaign.

I have noticed the same three excuses popping up from Trump supporters wherever concerned citizens express their misgivings:

  1. He’s new at the job. It takes time to learn the ropes.

2. How can he focus on his job when everyone criticizes him, and

3. We elected him to stir things up in Washington and that’s what he’s doing.

I hate to say it but those excuses sound to me exactly like I must have sounded to my mother when I told her, “That’s not pot you smell. We were smoking cherry cigars.”

So why don’t more talking heads laugh in the faces of Trump’s spin butchers when they make the weekly rounds? Most likely they want to maintain the appearance of objectivity (which they must find increasingly harder to do daily). Being objective doesn’t mean you can’t form your own opinions; it means you go out of your way to give the other side a fair hearing even if they don’t deserve it.

Trump’s apologists, however, could care less about fairness or objectivity. While media commentators will hear them out, and try to listen to their concerns, more often than not Trump apologists speak over, interrupt and even bully their colleagues at the table. In short, they take their cue from Trump’s performances during the debates.

Why don’t more talking heads laugh in the faces of Trump’s spin butchers when they make the weekly rounds? Most likely they want to maintain the appearance of objectivity. Trump’s apologists, however, could care less about fairness or objectivity.

The media[1] has given the spin butchers more than a fair hearing. It’s time to say, “Did you throw away your brain with your vote?” (The answer is, scientifically speaking, yes, but more about that later.)

Allow me then, to pinch hit for the media and take my swing at those slow, straight soft-ball pitches:

Trump needs time to learn the job.

Maybe, but at least he could have spent a few minutes studying for it. This President would rather Tweet and listen to his supporters stroke his ego on Brietbart and FOX News than master the skills of statecraft, diplomacy, and listening.

Even as I say this, I can also say I don’t remember another President being let off the hook because he was learning the job. I feel safe making this statement because Trump is my eleventh President. (Twelfth to be more truthful, but I only remember Eisenhower by his name.) None of them sat down to the desk with experience as President, but all of them, including the clueless George Bush, trained for the job in the Congress or as Governor of a state.

I don’t remember another President being let off the hook because he was learning the job.

Trump, was not only allowed to skip a grade, he was promoted straight to graduation. We elected the first candidate educated in Presidential home school. And his teachers fell down on the job.

Sorry, President’s don’t participation trophies for preparation. He came with none and hasn’t studied since his arrival. Any teacher who gave Trump an A for such a performance in real school would be ridiculed by the Right for encouraging Trump to fail.

Trump can’t do his job when he’s constantly under fire

How can Trump perform his duties when everyone criticizes him?

Ask the Peanut. Ask Clinton, who spent his entire Presidency under investigation, just like Trump. Only his multiple investigations went on for years. Not only did his opponents attack Clinton from the day he took office, his wife was the first First Lady to come under fire. The Right hated Hillary even more than they hated Bill.

Clinton spent his entire Presidency under investigation, just like Trump. Only his multiple investigations went on for years. Not only did his opponents attack Clinton from the day he took office, his wife was the first First Lady to come under fire.

Liberals, including me, railed against Reagan and Shrub Bush, belittling them for their short attention spans, failure to grasp the issues and lack of intellectual acuity. Trump made both of them look like emeritus professors at Harvard and accomplished statesmen as well.

In spite of their shortcomings, in spite of the lampooning, in spite of the Iran-Contra and Valerie Plame investigations, both moved legislation through Congress and one started two wars.

Nor should we forget, the smear campaign against Obama that started before his election. Remember the comparisons to the Anti-Christ, the claimis he was Muslim, and Trump’s relentless campaign to prove he wasn’t even American? (Let’s not forget the pancake box.)

The smear campaign against Obama started before his election with comparisons to the Anti-Christ, claimis he was Muslim, and Trump’s relentless campaign to prove he wasn’t even American.

Obama moved his health care plan through Congress by making enough concessions to ultimately undermine the law and provide his opponents with cannon fodder for eight years. He also moved legislation through Congress that Bush couldn’t move, bailed out the auto industry and turned the economy around within a year. Not enough to pacify the Right, but better than the tailspin he inherited.

Trump is supposed to shake things up.

Maybe he is, but we don’t want a President to shake things up. We want a President to lead. Ask any teacher or manager, the guy who stirs things up is never the leader. He’s the troublemaker.

Trump has certainly delivered on “troublemaker.” But leadership? Even on the rare moments when he steps up to the plate by blowing up an empty Syrian airfield with rockets or twisting House member arms to adapt the most Draconian heath care plan in history,[2] he undoes any good will with three tweets. And that’s on a good night.

You want the guy who stirs things up in your union, on the City Council, even in Congress. We need the guy who stirs things up. But you don’t want him at the helm of the ship because when the storm hits, he’ll steer you into it and sink the ship.

Just ask the people who depended on the businesses he bankrupted.

Defending Trump wrecks your brain

Neuroscientists have known for years that people rewire their brains when they cling to a rigid set of beliefs.[3] When you embrace one idea and dismiss the possibility that competing ideas might be equally valid (or even better), your brain builds a neural connection. Each time you reject competing ideas and insist you were right, your brain not only reinforces that neural connection, it erodes the connections that might encourage you to consider the possibility you might be wrong.

When you choose one idea to the exclusion of others, your brain builds permanent connections. (Brain image Copyright © 2003 Nicolas P. Rougier)

In time your brain won’t even allow you to process information that might change your mind, even if that information could save your life. The Lord God could appear in a burning bush and warn you you’re heading toward your doom, and you wouldn’t see the bush.

Your friends will say, “For goodness sake, didn’t you hear the warning from the bush?” You’ll say, “You’re lying. There never was a bush.”

The neural connection theory certainly explains Trump’s spin butchers. They’ve defended him so many times, they can no longer see they’ve followed Wile E. Coyote off the truth cliff and that they’re hanging in mid-air, about to fall. If they did look down, they wouldn’t see the ground rushing to meet them with a catastrophic collision. They’d see the comforting walls of the Trump plane, surrounding them and flying them to safety.

Until their bones and blood splatter across the ground and they say with their last breaths, “I knew Trump would save us.”

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[1] A media Trump apologists call the “fake media” — directly to their colleague’ faces — forgetting that they’re “the media” too.

[2] Let’s face it. If an employer offered you a health care plan that could undo the one you already had, you’d stay with your current employer (as much as you hate him).

[3] This applies to liberals and progressives too. Which might explain how so many failed to see the Trump train hurtling toward them while they stood on the track discussing third-party candidates, conscience, and Hillary’s less than stellar past.

I voted for Nader in 2000. I’m proud I voted for him. But I did it in a state (Texas) that Gore couldn’t win. I’d seen Bush as Governor. I knew his Presidency would be a disaster, but I also knew the country would survive. (He brought us to the brink of depression, but we survived.) Even though I knew Hillary couldn’t win Texas, Trump was so awful I knew better than to gamble with my vote to protest the Democratic Party’s shortsightedness.

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Phillip T. Stephens is author of Cigarettes, Guns & Beer and Raising Hell.

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