Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com
“The fundamental cause of the trouble in the modern world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”—Bertrand Russell.
I brought a handful of books to Sedona with me when we were up there but the one I read from start to finish was Jimmy Carter’s A Full Life: Reflections At Ninety. As the title suggests, it’s a straightforward account of Carter’s entire life spanning his childhood on his family’s farm in Plains, Georgia, to a career as a submariner and nuclear engineer in the Navy, and then his lengthy career in public service. I have to admit to rolling my eyes through parts where he would describe his religiosity and the pride he took in his missionary work (not my thing) and puzzling over a few occasions where he described his “moderate views on race” during the Civil Rights era but, for the most part, Carter’s account of his life left me more impressed with the guy than I already was.
Carter devoted a good part of the book, unsurprisingly, to his time as President. Whether or not you think he performed well in that role, no one can deny he was hit with a farrago of challenges from the moment he took office. Carter meticulously explains his approaches to several of them (the list is exhaustive and it includes well-known crises such as the gas shortage, the hostage situation in Iran, and the tricky Egypt-Israel peace negotiation but also arguably less memorable events like Love Canal nuclear crisis, the Panama canal treaty, the Mount St. Helen’s eruption, and bailing out both New York City and the Chrysler Corporation, just to pick items a few at random). He spares himself and others no criticism for failures while taking, and giving, credit where due for successes. In other words, he acts like the thoughtful and responsible adult he has been since roughly 1942. As President, Jimmy Carter was the honest and responsible politician everyone said they wanted after Watergate. As a reward for that, Carter got news coverage that was negative 46 out of the 48 months he was in office, cartoonists regularly depicting him and his family as having straw coming out of their ears, and a prominent columnist opining that the Reagans would “restore grace to the White House” when Carter lost his bid for reelection.
Quite the contrast from that is the current GOP primary front-runner, blowhard man-baby Donald Trump, who is definitely not taking a measured approach to the pressing issues of the day. Trump is leaning hard on his supposed business expertise* while blustering that he will be able to solve all kinds of geopolitical problems through his magical deal-making ability. President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal is a “total and complete catastrophe”, according to Trump, who assures his followers that he would simply sashay into the negotiations with a bunch of non-negotiable demands and have all of them met immediately by Iranian leaders cowering in submission. Yeah, okay.
Trump epitomizes the corporate “no excuses” ideology that is now pervasive in America. It is supposed to produce results and excellence but often leads to miserable workplaces and chaos when applied to governmental functions. Guys like Trump, who brag and self-promote at every opportunity, whether justified or not (often not, as they tend to be highly adept at taking credit for other people’s work), and refuse to admit to mistakes, do very well in these environments. Or they at least appear to, which seems to matter more than their actual performance.
The “no excuses” mentality Trump espouses means that he can never admit to being wrong no matter what.
When reporters confronted Trump, he hadn’t yet heard about the incident. At first, he said, “That would be a shame.” But right after, he went on:
“I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.”
This is not someone who should be running the country and I agree with Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi (whose article I just linked) that he is no longer funny. I sincerely hope Trump has reached the ceiling of his public support but I don’t expect any erosion in that which he already has, since people who admire a guy because he acts like he’s always right tend to be the type of people who refuse to admit to being wrong themselves.
*It’s worth noting that Jimmy Carter took over his late father’s farming and supply enterprise in the early ’50s and has managed it quite successfully since then. I’d say Carter could have run rings about Trump as a real estate developer had he devoted his life to that rather than public service.