Trigger-warned

“Natural disasters and their man-made counterparts (mass shootings, terrorist attacks) pose an obvious challenge for those living the Me-Driven Life. These events are frustrating, and inconvenient, because they tend to cause those people to think about their own problems: their injuries, the loss of loved ones, their hunger, thirst, discomfort, life-threatening cholera, what have you.

This is a common character flaw, and it is harmful because it distracts them from their more pressing obligation to think about you ….”

(Dana Milbank, A Narcissist’s Guide to Helping Others Understand It Is All About You)

President Trump is the author of many of the most successful business books of all time, from The Art of the Deal to … um … those other ones. And with his presidency spooling out before us like an endless rainbow of winning, there’s much that leaders of any organization, company, or family can learn about how to make their enterprise function like the “fine-tuned machine” that is the Trump administration.

Perhaps someday Trump will sit down to write a book detailing his leadership secrets, offering up another trove of penetrating insight and inspiring prose. Until then, here are some tips we can glean from watching Trump’s unrivaled performance as president.

1. Force your underlings to praise you in public. This will make them feel like honored parts of the team! It’s a technique Trump often employs, whether it’s a Cabinet meeting or a get-together with a group of religious leaders. He’ll call on them one at a time, knowing that they’ll all feel compelled to give him the hosannas he’s looking for …

(Paul Waldman, Leadership tips from Donald J. Trump)

Why? Why can’t just one religious leader, of all people, have the cojones to say “It’s always an honor to be invited to meet with the President of our nation” and leave it at that?

UPDATE:

The thing I got most wrong is that I did not anticipate the sheer chaos and dysfunction and slovenliness of the Trump operation. I didn’t sufficiently anticipate how distracted Trump could be by things that are not essential. My model was that he was greedy first and authoritarian second. What I did not see was that he was needy first, greedy second, and authoritarian third. We’d be in a lot worse shape if he were a more meticulous, serious-minded person.

(David Frum, The Atlantic, October 2017)

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Don’t let your dogma mess with my dogma

It fell to Sen. Dianne Feinstein … to explicitly declare Barrett part of a suspect class. “Dogma and law are two different things,” Feinstein lectured. “And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. . . . When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” Translation: Don’t let your dogma mess with my dogma.

[T]he deeper problem is a certain type of liberal thinking that seeks to declare secular ideas the only valid basis for public engagement. A neutral public square, in this view, must be a secular public square. Because religious ideas and motivations are fundamentally illiberal, they must be contained entirely to the private sphere.

This is a thin and sickly sort of pluralism. It is permissible, in this approach, to advocate human rights because John Locke says so, but not because of a theological belief that the image of God is found in every human being. If your views on a just society are informed by John Stuart Mill, they are allowed to triumph in politics. If your views on a just society are informed by your deepest beliefs about the cosmos, you can never prevail, because this represents the imposition of religion. This is hardly “neutrality.” It is a conception of pluralism that silences millions of people and reaches back into history to invalidate the abolition movement, the civil rights movement and many other causes informed by boisterous religious belief.

In effect, Feinstein would make her secularism the state religion, complete with its own doctrine and Holy Office. A judge is bound by the Constitution, not by any creed — as Barrett has affirmed again and again. But having a conscience and a character shaped by faith is not a problem; it is part of a rich and positive American tradition. Someone should inform the grand inquisitor.

(Michael Gerson, Senate Democrats show off their anti-religious bigotry)

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Trump in Warsaw

It sounds as if the President’s speechwriters gave him some very lofty things to say in Poland. I almost laughed out loud, derisively, at the thought of Donald Trump as the defender of what’s noble in the western tradition.

I wish I could credit him with believing — even understanding while uttering hypocritically — any of the better things he said. But I can’t.

If he follows through, he will enhance my faith in miracles.

* * * * *

I had every intention of leaving Trump’s Warsaw comment there, with nothing more said. But something bizarre has happened:

The shocking thing here is that this is controversial at all. It shows how decadent we’ve become.

Let’s sample some of the left-liberal freakout, shall we?

Here’s Peter Beinart in The Atlantic:

In his speech in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to “the West” and five times to “our civilization.” His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too.

… The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white.

More Beinart:

The most shocking sentence in Trump’s speech—perhaps the most shocking sentence in any presidential speech delivered on foreign soil in my lifetime—was his claim that “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.” On its face, that’s absurd. Jihadist terrorists can kill people in the West, but unlike Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, they cannot topple even the weakest European government. Jihadists control no great armies. Their ideologies have limited appeal even among the Muslims they target with their propaganda. ISIS has all but lost Mosul and could lose Raqqa later this year.

Trump’s sentence only makes sense as a statement of racial and religious paranoia. The “south” and “east” only threaten the West’s “survival” if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders. They only threaten the West’s “survival” if by “West” you mean white, Christian hegemony. A direct line connects Trump’s assault on Barack Obama’s citizenship to his speech in Poland. In Trump and Bannon’s view, America is at its core Western: meaning white and Christian (or at least Judeo-Christian). The implication is that anyone in the United States who is not white and Christian may not truly be American but rather than an imposter and a threat.

Poland is largely ethnically homogeneous. So when a Polish president says that being Western is the essence of the nation’s identity, he’s mostly defining Poland in opposition to the nations to its east and south. America is racially, ethnically, and religious diverse. So when Trump says being Western is the essence of America’s identity, he’s in part defining America in opposition to some of its own people. He’s not speaking as the president of the entire United States. He’s speaking as the head of a tribe.

Let’s move on. Here’s a tweet by Slate’s Jamelle Bouie:

Here’s James Fallows on the Warsaw speech:

Has Donald Trump ever heard of Leni Riefenstahl?

These are collected by Rod Dreher, who detests Trump about as much as I do. I don’t recall much about Peter Beinart and nothing at all about Jamelle Bouie, but this kind of crap from James Fallows is bitterly disappointing. No, it’s worse than that: it’s unhinged. The real paranoiacs in this story are the deranged eisegetes.

I can’t give Trump credit for playing the media like a violin this time because I don’t think he intended anything provocative. He neither intended nor uttered anything racist or white nationalist, and the grievance-mongers aren’t likely to persuade me otherwise.

Dreher explains pretty well why Trump’s themes are legitimate and timely while David Frum and Ross Douthat explain what really was jarring about the speech (articulating what I had only intuited).

Douthat:

One key to understanding Trump, always, is that he appeals to people by attacking the decadence that he himself also embodies.

— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 7, 2017

Frum:

As presidential speeches go, Trump’s address in Warsaw was fair. Ish. If you forget who is speaking and what that person has been saying and doing since Inauguration Day—since the opening of his campaign in 2015—and really through his career.

But if you remember those things, the speech jolted you to attention again and again.

[T]he most troubling thing about the speech was the falsehood at its core; the problem is not with the speech, but with the speaker. The values Trump spoke for in Warsaw are values that he has put at risk every day of his presidency—and that he will continue to put to risk every day thereafter. Trump’s not wrong to perceive a threat to the Euro-Atlantic from the south and east. But the most recent and most dramatic manifestation of that threat was the Russian intervention in the U.S. election to install Donald Trump as president. The threat from outside is magnified by this threat from within—and it is that truth that makes a mockery of every word President Trump spoke in Warsaw.

Maybe this is analogous to the trick bag the Left thought Trump was in on immigration (the one President, in all of American history, forbidden to limit immigration is Donald J. Trump because he promised to do so in terms connected to the religion of Islam): the one person forbidden to defend Western Civilization is Donald J. Trump because we know it’s racist dog-whistles when he does it.

Back to Dreher, who says what I was starting to feel:

If you tell people that to love and to want to defend the culture of the West is a racist act, then they will cease to care about your judgment on the matter, because you are requiring them to hate themselves as an act of virtue. In that regard, Jamelle Bouie’s sentiment here is a much greater gift to the racist alt-right than anything Donald Trump said in Warsaw.

I mean, really, how ignorant and provincial do you have to be, Messrs. Beinart and Bouie, to hear Trump’s speech and think of it as a #MAGA version of a Nuremberg Rally Address? Is the degree of self-hatred of the West required to be a virtuous, woke person such that you cannot tell the difference between Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and the Horst Wessel Song? Do they really think Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation (all of which is available on YouTube, starting here) is a plummy version of Triumph of the Will? If standing against this kind of liberal insanity means I have to stand with Donald Trump, well, okay, I’ll stand with Donald Trump. I won’t like it, but at least Donald Trump doesn’t hate his own civilization.

It is necessary to criticize ourselves constructively, for the sake of growing in virtue.But that is not what these people are doing. By anathematizing any and all who cherish the culture and history of the West, they will ultimately force conservatives to embrace Reaction as the only bastion of resistance to their nihilistic crusade. But they don’t see it anymore than the Social Justice Warriors grasp that their militant illiberalism is calling up and equal and opposite reaction from the people they have demonized.

“Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” Trump asked. Maybe he was thinking about Islamic terrorists. I’m thinking about the educated barbarians who cannot create a living culture, only live off the last vestiges of one they inherited, even as they scatter salt in its fallow fields. Donald Trump may be the enemy of culture in many respects, but he is in no way as potent an enemy as these mad evangelists for the Anti-Culture.

But then here comes respectable commenters on the left, like Bouie, Beinart, and Fallows, yammering about fascism, Leni Riefenstahl, and racist dog whistles, and you realize that whether he meant to or not, Trump’s speech was clarifying. I don’t think Donald Trump could write ten meaningful sentences explaining why the West matters, but that’s beside the point. The point is, when talking about the worth and the defense of Western civilization makes you into Hitler McGoebbelsface in the eyes of liberal commentators, then you suddenly see the situation in starker relief.

(Emphasis added)

Finally, I really want to share Dreher’s beautiful response to the “‘Western civ’ is white nationalist and racist” crap:

Broadly speaking, what we call the West are the countries and peoples formed by the meeting of Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Hebrew religion. There’s a great deal of diversity within the West, but religion, ideas, art, literature, and geography set it apart from other civilizations …

Go to Istanbul. Turks are heirs to a great civilization; you have to look no further than the religious architecture of the city to know that. But you also would never mistake Istanbul for a city of the West. So what?

Every descendant of Africa and Asia who lives in the West and broadly affirms the values that shaped Western civilization is a Westerner. Louis Armstrong and Muddy Waters are as much sons of the West as J.S. Bach and Ludwig von Beethoven. I wrote a book about how reading a poem written by a 14th century Tuscan, Dante Alighieri, utterly changed my life. I have no Italian blood in me at all, but I am part of Dante’s civilization in a way that I simply am not part of the civilization that produced, say, the Analects of Confucius. If not for my mind having been shaped by the Christian narrative, and by Greco-Roman narratives, the poem would not have meant at much to me. Again: so what? This is normal human experience the world over. The civilization shaped by Islam have broad diversity too, but they all share a core belief and experience that binds them.

Thank God that the deracinated, de-Christianized EU elite plan to integrate Turkey into the European Union did not work. And if I were a Turk, I would thank Allah for preserving my Islamic country from that fate too. Elites in both countries wish to deny the religious basis of their respective cultures, and pretend that we’re all a bunch of universalists. We’re not, and never will be.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.