We don’t need conspiracy theories to explain Trump

I don’t believe there is a conspiracy, or that our president is a Russian mole. Instead, I accept the “he’s a stupid man” theory. It explains everything without demanding remarkable planning and conscientious effort, which I don’t think the guy at the top is capable of. Trump can’t tell fact from fiction, and neither can the Republicans in congress, or a big chunk of the electorate.


  1. says

    I suspect that Trump is simply acting the same way he has for the past couple of decades. I don’t think he has realized that, as President, people will actually be looking very closely at his actions. He’s used to being surrounded by yes-men and wiping any problems off on underlings with no ability to fight back. I don’t think he was at all prepared for real criticism.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Firing the man in charge of investigating his campaign ties to Russia one day, then meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador the next? That can’t be stupidity, he’s got to be a super-genius playing 15-dimensional chess.

  3. dhabecker says

    The Trump campaign was played by the Russians and possibly others. If one of Trump’s staff knowingly coordinated with, or in hindsight, realized that they had been played by a Russian and said nothing, the accusations of a conspiracy are valid. It took no skill or planning on the part of Trump or his staff, just a win at any cost mentality.
    The clip was good.

  4. A Masked Avenger says

    “A stupid man,” yes. There’s abundant evidence of, at minimum, profound ignorance coupled with extreme Dunning Kruger and possible (severe, untreated) ADHD.

    But that’s an imprecise characterization. I’m not a therapist, and this is not a diagnosis, but NPD provides a model that makes predictions. First, it predicts that he would blab secrets for no better reason than to prove that he knows them. Second, it predicts that he’s likely to confessbrag about doing it, because everything he does must be brilliant and heroic. Plenty of folks predicted that he would turn out to be easily manipulated, and Lo! It has come to pass.

  5. llewelly says

    Being part of a conspiracy with Putin doesn’t require any particular skill at politics as usual – in fact, someone dangerously ignorant about politics as usual would be far more likely to think conspiring with Putin was a good idea – and far more attractive to Putin.

    There’s enough evidence for collusion to justify accepting it as the best theory available – and the “stupid man theory” is not an argument against it – it’s just sloppy thinking.

    Further, the much beloved “stupid or genius” false dichotomy is not an argument either – it is a fallacy. Being very ignorant about some things, yet usefully skilled in other areas is the normal state of humanity. General purpose intelligence, “g”, “IQ”, or whatever Charles Murrayism you wish to use, is a nonsense concept.

    Trump is ignorant about politics as usual – but he’s quite good at turning out Nazi support. (Though probably not good enough to win an election without the help of “Voter ID” laws). Trump has no idea how to run the USA government the way it has evolved to be run – but he’s quite good at breaking it, and looting funds from it.

  6. kestrel says

    We had an NPD family member, who behaved pretty much exactly the same way Trump does, so none of this surprises me. Once you can kind of get into that very odd mentality, yes, sure. It’s not difficult to manipulate them to some extent, as long as your goal is to get them to blow up or say something ridiculous. Ignoring reality and the lying is just a free add-on; and so typical of NPD.

    I have no idea if Trump is actually NPD or not, but boy, his behavior is absolutely text-book spot on. If you have never had experience with these people, just watch him – that’s what it’s like. As surreal as it is to have Trump in charge, just imagine how it is for people who have someone like that as a family member. Wow.

  7. Ichthyic says

    just imagine how it is for people who have someone like that as a family member.

    Imagine what it’s like for his kids.

    oh wait.. they’re all narcissists too. I wonder if they even notice anything? what happens when EVERYONE is a narcissist?

  8. Parse says

    rietpluim @ 3:

    Indeed. Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    While Hanlon’s razor certainly holds true here, so does Clark’s corollary to this: Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

  9. blf says

    He is stupid, incompetent and malicious.

    And those are his good points — his only good points.

  10. davidnangle says

    Are there historical precedents of an entire country, or at least a controlling minority, going stupid? Given the development of atomic weapons, the species could go extinct from stupidity. Does the Drake equation need to have a variable for willful idiocy?

  11. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    45* is simply the “useful idiot” of the GOP Conspiracy, to enrich their contributors (the wealthy). This “conspiracy” has been ongoing for quite some time, 1980 is when it hit big with St. Raygun leading. The GOP saw 45* as the blithering showboat who will do so much damage, frequently, that the media will be kept distracted fact checking his every blunder.
    The GOP are even defending his latest “leak”, i.e. meeting privately with the Russians to “share with them” classified information, with American media excluded, while Russian media, only, was allowed to attend the meeting. 45* now claiming it was “fully scheduled”. bah.
    Clear to me the GOP are running a conspiracy to “shake” the status quo, to give themselves control, both political, and financial.
    They think that 45*, being so NPD that whatever he thinks benefits himself will automatically benefi all the rest of the wealthy class so voila, he’s their choice, to be defended to the bottom of the sea, as the ship he’s driving gets rammed into the iceberg of reality.

  12. blf says

    Are there historical precedents of […] a controlling minority, going stupid?

    The entire British monarchy / nobility since William the Conqueror? (You can decide how much snark there is in this reply.)

  13. Larry says

    As bad as Trump is, the absolute horror of this whole thing is GOP. They behavior has been nothing short of traitorous. They’ve complete replaced love of country with screwing everybody in it except for the established oligarchy. The refusal to act in what are clearly impeachable offenses is disgusting and cowardly and contemptuous of all of us here in the US. All for tax cuts for those who don’t need them and total destruction of the health care system, support system, infrastructure, and schools for those who do need them. They’re so power mad, the aren’t noticing the country falling down around their feet. Monsters, every one of them.

  14. robro says

    I agree with what Clint Watt says at about 1:33, which I think is: “Until we get a firm basis on fact and fiction in our own country, get some agreement about the facts…” I don’t see how we can possibly achieve that when we have such a large number of people that deny fundamental facts, and people in power who pander to that ignorance for their own stupid, venal reasons.

    This phrase “active measures” is new to me, but a glimpse at WP largely confirms what I suspected he meant. The WP article puts the focus on Soviet/Russian techniques, but I would bet that the kind of things that the Koch brothers, Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon, and the Murdochs have been doing in US elections and in the Brexit vote would qualify.

    There are stories (fake?) circulating that Priebus is trying to stop other staffers from slipping Trump fake news stories to influence him. But what does that matter. He follows twit feeds and watches Fox. Duh…he’s swamped with fake news.

  15. davidnangle says

    blf, “the British monarchy…”

    I should have been more specific. I mean the kind of stupidity that leads to collapse. England *thrived* under those madhatters.

  16. Gregory Greenwood says

    rietpluim @ 3;

    Indeed. Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    and Parse @ 10;

    While Hanlon’s razor certainly holds true here, so does Clark’s corollary to this: Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

    Between the two of you, you really have covered everything that needs to be said about the worst Commander in Chief in the history of the US. Trump is more an almost unbelievably monumental fool than a Bond villain, but a fool of such magnitude and in possession of such vast power is still every bit as dangerous as any fictional super villain.

    If he starts a shooting nuclear war with, say, with North Korea as a product of a failure to grasp the consequences of his actions and an inability to understand international politics and diplomacy rather that out of some volcano-lair-hatched plot to depopulate the world and replace humanity with a new breed of mini-Trump clones (just let that image sink in for a while, I apologize in advance for the nightmares…), the bombs and warheads that fall on civilian population centers like Seoul will be no less deadly for all that.

  17. whywhywhy says


    The refusal to act in what are clearly impeachable offenses …

    I agree that Trump is racking up impeachable offenses on a weekly basis. However the failure to hold folks in power accountable for their transgression has been a long process and Trump is just the rancid frosting on the two tier system of justice cake. Think back to the Abu Ghraib torture investigation which was forbidden from investigating up the chain of command. Or look at the lack of fraud prosecutions following the 2007/2008 Housing implosion. Or look at targeted assassination of US citizens by Obama (which still seems like an impeachable offense but the Republicans actually liked these actions).

  18. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Re 19,

    The Spanish monarchy starting from los reyes católicos might be a better example. They stumbled into an empire and then let it slowly crumble to the low point of Primo de Rivera before they were (temporarily) booted.

  19. A Masked Avenger says

    oh wait.. they’re all narcissists too. I wonder if they even notice anything? what happens when EVERYONE is a narcissist?

    NPD is an actual personality disorder. There’s no obvious evidence that any of the adult Trumplings have that disorder (although we don’t know much about them, so it’s certainly possible). They seem to be garden-variety self-absorbed little shits. Family of people with NPD will show various behavioral anomalies (and psychological baggage) which are just defense mechanisms against living with a malignant narcissist.

    For example Ivanka’s reputation as the Trump whisperer is probably well-earned: when you grow up with a narcissistic parent, you become expert at anticipating, recognizing, and dealing with their little tantrums. Ivanka’s enablement of Trump on the national scale is probably a magnified version of what she did all her life at the family (and then work) level, and she does it because when Trump is having a bad day, everyone is having a bad day.

    It’s also quite likely that all three, but especially Eric, are overcompensating for an awareness that in their father’s eyes they don’t even exist — they are mere extensions of his own ego, and their successes are his, while their failures are their own and a source of abiding shame and sadistic punishments. They struggle not only to win approval that they’re never, ever going to get, but also to prove to themselves that they matter, despite all evidence that they clearly don’t matter at all. Acting like shits is the tip of the iceberg; there’s no extravagance they might not be driven to under the right circumstances. If Trump were ever impeached, they might find Eric crouched over McConnell’s body, nibbling on his entrails and chortling, “No. No, preciousss. It triess to hurt masster. Mussn’t hurt masster, no, precious *gollum*!”

  20. llewelly says

    Further, while Trump can’t meet either the “deep cover” or “spy skills” implied by the word “mole” , that doesn’t preclude collusion. And I suspect when he started cooperating with Russian billionaires, they were originally looking for opportunities to run real estate scams in the USA. Probably they were keeping a secondary eye out for political opportunities, but real estate was probably their first interest. Probably they started finding him politically useful about the time he started supporting the “Obama was born in Kenya” lie. Maybe he started supporting it, and that support caused them to see him as useful – or perhaps they influenced him to support it. Probably their original goal was just to support causing a lot of disruption. I doubt they orginally foresaw it leading to a candidacy.

    But the important thing is – Trump spent many years (all the way back to the 1990s) being yet another “billionaire” who talked a lot about running for president, but never made any serious motion towards seeking any political office. And then, surprising a great many Trump watchers, Trump actually ran. And, despite what many predicted, he didn’t quit, and in the polls he consistently outperformed most expectations. Why did his behavior change? I think collusion with the Russians is actually a good explanation, and, importantly, those who dismiss that as a “conspiracy theory” have no alternative explanation; “he’s a narcissist” is not sufficient, because, for over 20 years, he was also a huge narcissist, and yet never actually ran for office, despite talking about it all the time.

  21. thirdmill says

    The practical problem is that it simply does not matter whether he’s merely stupid; we’re going to end up with catastrophic results regardless. Remember the good old days when one disagreed with presidents over policy but never had to question basic competence?

    And when I read commentary by Trump’s base, it sounds more and more like a religious cult.

  22. anchor says

    Of course, the stupidity is obvious. But stupidity can have complex repercussions. He was also stupid enough to have his bankruptcies smoothed out by certain Russians.

  23. consciousness razor says

    Stupidity can’t explain a fraction of Trump. He’s arrogant, myopic, capricious, irascible, belligerent, deceitful, racist, sexist, classist…. I could go on like this for a while about what an all-around evil fuck he is, before I ever got around to mentioning his fucking stupidity. Maybe it makes you feel better somehow, to think that there’s some merely stupid person out there, but we actually have much bigger problems than that.

  24. blf says

    Some excerpts from the Foreign Policy article on the upcoming Nato meeting, NATO Frantically Tries to Trump-Proof President’s First Visit:

    A ‘freaked-out’ NATO braces for Donald Trump’s first meeting of the transatlantic alliance.

    NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior US officials tell Foreign Policy. And the alliance scrapped plans to publish the traditional full post-meeting statement meant to crystallize NATO’s latest strategic stance.


    “It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” said one source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re freaking out.”

    Still, despite these changes, experts are wary of how Trump will react to NATO meetings and their long-winded, diplomatic back-and-forth among dozens of heads of state, which can quickly balloon into hours of meandering discussions. One former senior NATO official […] described these meetings as “important but painfully dull.”


    “Even a brief NATO summit is way too stiff, too formal, and too policy heavy for Trump. Trump is not going to like that,” said Jorge Benitez, a NATO expert with the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

    Another change: NATO traditionally publishes a formal readout, known as a declaration, after each major meeting or summit. While they’re often lathered in diplomatic drivel, declarations signal new strategies and key policy shifts that come out of closed-door meetings […].

    This year, NATO has scrapped plans to publish a full formal meeting declaration. […] NATO isn’t publishing a full declaration “because they’re worried Trump won’t like it,” another source said.


    […] NATO leaders will use the meeting to unveil their new headquarters […] The building is way behind schedule and over budget.

    The senior NATO official […] expressed concern that this could be a sore spot with Trump as he pushes European countries to spend more on defense. Although Trump may know little about the military alliance, he does profess to know something about getting buildings done on time and on budget.

    […] After months of Trump’s threatening a radically new approach to global alliances the United States helped create, there’s nobody even charting a new course. Trump hasn’t appointed any high-level posts for Europe, including key Pentagon postings, undersecretaries of state, an assistant secretary of state for Europe, or a new ambassador to NATO. […]

  25. ionopachys says

    I am increasingly agreeing that he might be losing it, either cracking under the stress or succumbing to dementia. I’ve recently watched videos of him from thirty years ago. It’s like watching a different person. Not that he seemed well educated or deep. He was still a clueless narcissist, but he was coherent and fairly quick witted, not this stammering idiot. I really think his mind is deteriorating.

  26. brucegee1962 says

    Well, I think he has precisely one genuine skill: an almost uncanny ability to detect whatever it is that the person he’s talking to wants to hear, and then to say that thing. It’s a skill that worked incredibly well for him as a candidate — it’s just that, when the person you’re talking to is, say, the Russian ambassador, it may no longer be an asset.