How reckless is Donald Trump?


It looks like Donald Trump is going to win today’s Indiana Republican primary. According to the latest polls, he has rapidly expanded his lead over Ted Cruz in the last week, suggesting that the latter’s strategy of selecting Carly Fiorina as his running mate and the non-compete deal he arranged with John Kasich has not helped him in the least.

There are 57 Republican delegates at stake in Indiana and the rules award 30 of them to the overall winner and three each to the winner in the nine congressional districts. So the overall winner will likely win anywhere from 45 to all 57 delegates and if Trump does so, he will then require less than 200 more delegates of the remaining 450 to win the nomination outright, a reachable target.

On the Democratic side, it looks like Hillary Clinton will win by a small margin over Bernie Sanders but since their delegates are awarded proportionately, each will gain roughly half the delegates with her getting slightly more, which is not good enough for Sanders since he is the one who is behind and needs to close the gap.

As Trump’s nomination gets closer, the lines are being sharply drawn for or against him. Within the Republican party, there are those who say that his heterodox views will destroy the party by trampling all over the stances (climate change denialism, anti-choice, anti-Obamacare, anti-poor, anti-LGBT, pro-oligarchy, Bible thumping, flag waving, pro-‘free trade’, militaristic) that have been the party’s brand for so long. The harshest criticisms have come from the neoconservatives who seem to fear that while he talks about ‘making America great again’, he sees this more in terms of making better trade deals rather than what they want, which is projecting military might all over the globe, encircling Russia and China with military bases, and being willing to wage war against any nation is not properly subservient to the US. It should be no surprise that this this is the same group that is suggesting that if he is the nominee, they may well support Hillary Clinton, since she is a loyal neoconservative.

Things are more confusing for those of us who oppose the neoconservative agenda and are not Republican supporters in general.. It is hard to get a read on how bad Trump would be since he has said so many contradictory things. But it is clear that he is nowhere close to being as hardline as Cruz on issues such as health care, LGBT issues, religion, anti-choice, and anti-poor. His worst stances have been his downright sexist statements, xenophobic utterances against Hispanics and Muslims, and his discriminatory business practices and scandals.

What also alarms people about Trump is his possible recklessness, especially when it comes to issues of war and peace. Would he, simply out of pique because he thought a foreign leader insulted him, decide to initiate military action, start a third world war, or even initiate a nuclear strike? In other words, how much of a reckless hothead is he in militaristic terms?

It is clear that when it comes to rhetoric, he is prone to wild exaggerations and a disregard for facts. In the world of international diplomacy and finance, words carry great weight. A casual remark from the US president can set off alarm bells in other nations and send financial markets reeling. But it is also true that after some initial turbulence, people tend to factor in such things and will likely discount his statements.

So the real issue is whether he will be reckless in more than just words and take concrete harmful actions. Here the record is thin because he has not held public office and we only have his business record. From what I can see, while his business practices are definitely shady, he has not been particularly reckless if by that we mean taking personal risks. In fact, what he has demonstrated is a talent for is taking few risks with his own money but getting others (the government and the other investors) to take the risks while he reaps the benefits. The four bankruptcies he has had are not personal ones but businesses he was involved in.

If there is one thread that runs through his utterances, it is that he seems to see himself as an excellent deal maker. He brings up the idea of deals all the time and his most withering criticism of the Obama administration and his rivals is that they don’t know how to make good deals. Even on the recent Cruz-Kasich pact where Kasich supposedly promised to not compete in Indiana while Cruz would return the favor in New Mexico and Oregon, Trump’s response was typical, “I have a feeling it’s not a good thing. Cruz looks like a fool. He can’t make a deal.”

He says that this failure in deal making is the cause of all that ails the US. He boasts that he will be able to make deals with anyone, even his foes, and that those deals will be good for the US. While that is a specious argument, it does provide insight into the way he thinks and operates and may give a clue to his likely behavior.

In business and legal negotiations, the practice seems to be to start by making extravagant claims and staking out a maximalist position and then start working down from there before arriving at a deal that both sides are willing to accept. Trump seems to think that that will work in politics too.

The main flaw in his reasoning is that it is based on the idea that the government is just another business and works on the same principles. It is what drives the efforts of the right to corporatize public institutions by installing business types to run them, people who prioritize profits and losses and cost cutting and not the providing of essential services and benefits to those who need them

So this approach by Trump may, if he is elected president, result in him failing spectacularly. But it does not necessarily indicate recklessness in terms military adventurism.

Comments

  1. Blood Knight in Sour Armor says

    Well Trump’s given some fair indications that he’s in favor of a more isolationist policy (if he can be said to have any true policy that he’s in favor of), so foreign adventurism looks somewhat unlikely.

  2. Dunc says

    To be fair, that approach (negotiating down from a maximalist starting position) doesn’t appear to be a million miles away from what usually seems to work in international diplomacy, and may in fact represent a significant improvement on the approach the US has generally seemed to take in the last few decades – i.e. staking out a maximalist position and then sticking to it like a limpet (with the option to bomb the other party to smithereens, or support revolutions or military coups against them).

  3. sonofrojblake says

    It is interesting watching this blog go through the five stages of grief with regard to Donald Trump.

    First there was the denial – the man is obviously joking, just doing it for the publicity, not a serious candidate. But his numbers went up…

    Then came the anger – he said WHAT about Mexicans/Muslims/women/whatever? But his numbers went up…

    Now, for I think the first time, comes the bargaining – well, maybe he won’t be THAT bad, because… his numbers are still going up.

    Next I predict depression – oh good grief no he’s really going to win we’re all doomed etc.

    And finally acceptance – how can we get through the next four/eight years of President Trump?

  4. Mano Singham says

    sonofrojblake,

    You imply that you follow this blog closely. Can you provide evidence in the form of links from my blog to support your thesis about this evolution of views?

  5. brucegee1962 says

    It seems as if there are two main questions that are being debated these days. One of these is, would Cruz or Trump be worse? My answer is, who cares? The question is pretty much academic, since most people agree that Trump has probably won by now. Anyway, as Democrats, it’s not as if we will have any input into the decision anyway.

    The other question is, would Trump be worse than Hillary? The answer is yes. Or possibly, yes duh. Hillary promises four-to-eight more years of Obama’s centrism, which has been better than expected in a few areas (the belated recognition of gay rights, climate change), ok in others, and somewhat poor but still better than most Repubs in a few (militarism, drone strikes). But I would still trust her instincts more on her worst day than Trump on his best.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    I don’t think we know much about Hillary’s instincts. Her career has been more about putting in the work and following the polls than minding her instincts.

  7. Holms says

    I find it amazing that I can’t even tell which is the worse between Clinton and Trump. On the one hand, an ardent belligerent in every vote that has come before her, whose ties to high finance render her stated stance against income inequality an obvious lie, and whose progressive values were conservative until polls told her it was politic to switch camps.

    Versus a classless braggart of a man whose rhetoric is so fickle and so empty of detail that it is hard to pin down what his actual values are, except that he is a bully that is in the presidential race primarily to feed his own vanity and pass tax reductions for himself.

    Worrying times.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Reginald Selkirk @ # 5: Cruz: Trump ‘is a pathological liar’ ¶ It takes one to know one.

    Which leads to a rather alarming conclusion about the majority of the commentariat here…

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    Would he, simply out of pique because he thought a foreign leader insulted him, decide to initiate military action, start a third world war, or even initiate a nuclear strike? In other words, how much of a reckless hothead is he in militaristic terms?

    Enough, I suspect, that by the 2nd or 3rd crisis the Pentagon would find it necessary to stage a coup – and a lot of us would end up in the streets applauding it.

  10. says

    There’s a decent chance that if the president of the US tried to start a war over something trivial and stupid, there would be a few refusals to obey unlawful orders, and eventually the president might wind up hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. Too many stupid wars are bad for the oligarchy’s business. If you look at the wars the US has been fighting they are not necessarily successful but they are all imperial wars to expand US markets for US businesses, or to protect US colonies and client states (e.g.: Israel, Japan, Germany)

    I get tired of people demonizing Trump as if he’s stupid. He’s such an oaf he’s brilliantly played his media expertise into running a devastatingly effective campaign against big-money opponents. He’s such a dumbass he interrupts and distracts his opponents with timing that a world-class comedian would envy. He is not irrational or stupid. He’s playing irrational and stupid the same way that GWB pretended to be a Texas redneck: it’s pure schtick.

    Understimate Trump at your own peril. The republican party did.

  11. says

    Cruz: Trump ‘is a pathological liar’

    Ranum: No he’s not.

    A pathological liar is someone who can’t tell what’s true and what isn’t, or who has an emotional compulsion to lie even when it doesn’t serve them. Trump isn’t pathological. Trump doesn’t give a shit because he has realized that the truth doesn’t matter. If there’s any pathology going on here, it’s the system that Trump has manipulated.

    Cruz, who is manipulating the shit out the same system right now, who is trying desperately to game the will of the republican electorate, is the pot calling the kettle “pathological” He’s also a manipulative asshole of the first water. His problem is that he’s looking at Trump and gnawing his heart out because he’s being out-assholed, out-manipulated, and out-acted. Trump, the reality TV star, knows how to play a reality TV role. Cruz’ mistake is that he’s a good liar and manipulator and has all those republican qualifications in spades: he’s just less personable than a slug and is being out-acted by a reality TV performance.

    The republicans’ only chance against Clinton would be to run a comedian. It’s way too late to find a funny republican, though.

  12. DonDueed says

    The most troubling thing about Trump is that we have absolutely no idea who he would appoint to leadership positions in his administration.

    A President doesn’t do everything himself, and couldn’t if he wanted to. The cabinet secretaries, White House chief of staff, national security advisers and other top positions would be crucial given the fact that Trump has no government experience at all.

    With Clinton we would at least have a good bit of continuity in the policies and people in those positions. With Trump, who knows? He could bring back people from the Dubya Bush administration, appoint his business cronies, or celebrities… or maybe a horse, as it’s said Caligula did.

  13. Pierce R. Butler says

    DonDueed @ # 13 – The most troubling thing about Cruz is that we do know who he’ll appoint: hyperchristian culture warriors and corporate instacronies.

  14. sonofrojblake says

    The republicans’ only chance against Clinton would be to run a comedian. It’s way too late to find a funny republican, though

    You don’t think Trump is funny? He’s hilarious, starting with “only Rosie O’Donnell” and working on from there. Being laugh-out-loud funny is at least 30% of his appeal. Obviously if you’re like the pinch-faced scolds in that “Real Donald Trump Quotes About Women” video, you’re not laughing, but then if you’re like that, are you ever? What’s even funnier than Trump is watching people who don’t like him say he can’t possibly win because he doesn’t appeal to them personally, as though they and people like them are even part of his target audience. An important part of his appeal is that he’s deliberately saying things calculated to alienate about 40% of the population, because that makes him an unprecedented hero to the other 60%. Romney tried to keep his 47% comment secret – Trump shouts his from the rooftops. New rules.

  15. sonofrojblake says

    @mano, 4:

    Sure.
    Let’s start with some denial/”obvious joke” stuff.
    A Simpsons clip.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2015/07/08/homer-simpson-and-donald-trump/
    A post which you hubristically open with the words “There is no chance that Donald Trump will ever become the nominee of the Republican party for president”:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2015/07/06/why-donald-trump-is-a-problem-for-republicans/#more-31725
    That’s denial, right there.

    Later, there came the dawning realisation that although you’d treated it as such, maybe this wasn’t a joke, but still literally “unthinkable”: “a jocular comment that was circulating along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be funny if the 2016 presidential race ended up being between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders? Yuk! Yuk!” The reason it was so funny of course was because the very idea was absurd”
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2015/08/13/thinking-the-unthinkable/#more-32370

    The very next day, you’re thinking about Trump supporters and asking “Who the hell are these people?”. That’s an angry sounding phrase.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2015/08/14/barbarians-at-the-gate/#more-32386

    Then you move on to responding to Drumpf’s statements about illegal immigrants being a slippery slope to summary arrest of anyone not carrying papers proving citizenship.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2015/08/26/the-escalating-republican-war-on-immigrants/#more-32566

    In September you were still saying: “[Trump] winning the Republican nomination seems to be too ridiculous to contemplate”, although you do concede even in the same post that you’ve come round to it as “not out of the question”
    But your immediate question is “have we come to this, that a Trump presidency is actually seen as a real possibility?”.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2015/09/24/grouping-the-republican-candidates/#more-33181

    Looking back, I’m amused to find you’ve done the “five stages of grief” thing about Trump already, just in relation to the GOP itself: http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2015/12/03/gop-goes-through-the-stages-of-grief/#more-34291

    Now that Cruz has pulled out and Trump definitely is the nominee, are you ready to move on to depression?

  16. Mano Singham says

    There is no doubt that in the early days on July 6, I dismissed Trump’s candidacy as unrealistic saying that “There is no chance that Donald Trump will ever become the nominee of the Republican party for president”. But I quickly realized that I was wrong, saying on July 24, that “I think a lot of political commentators (including me) need to apologize to Donald Trump for seriously underestimating him”. In fact, this post looks at why those who think he will suffer an early exit are indulging in wishful thinking.

    Since then I have been trying to understand his appeal to his supporters (which is the source of the “Who the hell are these people?” statement that you quote) and the consequences of his possible success. I still believe that Trump’s statements about undocumented immigrants and Muslims are dangerous (I have used the description xenophobic repeatedly) because they have aroused a great deal of anger against those groups and that his supporters will demand that he act on those statements if he is elected. It is always dangerous to fan tribal anger in the course of trying to win elections. It often leads to post-elections violence against those groups, something that has been demonstrated time and again all over the globe.

    Your quote from my August 13 post about a joke “Wouldn’t it be funny if the 2016 presidential race ended up being between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders? Yuk! Yuk!” was an obvious standard rhetorical move where one opens with a statement that one then argues against, which I do in the very next paragraph where I say “But things have shifted and it no longer seems so outlandish.”

    As to “have we come to this, that a Trump presidency is actually seen as a real possibility?” statement, I do not see anything notable about it. I find it incredible that someone who is all over the map when it comes to making statements on major issues has been able to use inchoate anger and dissatisfaction and xenophobia to propel himself to the nomination of one of the two major parties. That this phenomenon needs to be analyzed and understood, and that I have sought to do so, is hardly surprising.

    So basically your critique comes down to the fact that my views on his viability as a candidate reversed itself between July 6 and July 24 and since then I have been trying to understand how a candidate like Trump could get so far and what it says about the state of American politics. All that psychoanalyzing on your part seems a little contrived to me.

  17. says

    Why take Mano to task for not accurately predicting Trump’s nomination?
    He’s in the same boat as about 1/3 of the republican party, and a whole lot of other people.

  18. sonofrojblake says

    I’m not taking anyone to task. Please don’t interpret my post as any kind of condemnation. The “five stages of grief” thing was contrived for amusement, after I noticed the “denial” (very early) and what looked like “bargaining”. It was a stretch to find anything that equated to anger make it fit… but come on, now he’s nominated, are you not depressed? Even a little bit?

  19. Holms says

    You don’t think Trump is funny? He’s hilarious, starting with “only Rosie O’Donnell” and working on from there. Being laugh-out-loud funny is at least 30% of his appeal. Obviously if you’re like the pinch-faced scolds in that “Real Donald Trump Quotes About Women” video, you’re not laughing, but then if you’re like that, are you ever?

    I don’t, so I guess that means I’m a ‘pinch-faced scold’ who never laughs at anything. Or maybe you and I have different sense of humour…?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *