Great moments in decision making

The flood of tell-all books about Donald Trump’s words and actions during his presidency keeps gushing forth. As I said in an earlier post a couple of weeks ago, these books appear to be largely just insider gossip that tell us little that was substantive but instead add to the picture of a petulant man-child who should never have got anywhere near a responsible high office. The books are all unflattering and now Trump has chosen, unwisely I think, to hit back at his critics and his own comments reveal more damaging things about him than what are in the books.

I was particularly struck by a statement put out by him is response to the reports that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Mark Milley had been highly critical of Trump and had warned that he was trying to stage a coup but that he (Milley) would not allow it.

On Thursday, Trump lashed out at Milley over the new reports, saying he named the four-star Army general as Joint Chiefs chair in 2018 “only because the world’s most overrated general, James Mattis, could not stand him, had no respect for him, and would not recommend him.”

“To me,” Trump said, “the fact that Mattis didn’t like him, just like Obama didn’t like him and actually fired Milley, was a good thing, not a bad thing. I often act counter to people’s advice who I don’t respect.”

I was aghast. That is how he picks people for some of the most important positions in the government? To make a decision based on the logic of it being the opposite of what those you despise made is a recipe for disaster because it is based on the unrealistic hope that two negatives will result in a positive. It is carrying the ancient proverb of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” to a ridiculous level. To maker it worse, Trump was not even correct in the factual basis of this particular hiring decision.

Trump’s statement that former President Barack Obama fired Milley is incorrect. It was Mattis whom Obama fired as head of U.S. Central Command in 2013, in large part because of Mattis’ increasingly hawkish posture toward Iran.

Mattis went on to serve as Trump’s first Defense secretary but resigned from the administration in 2018 in protest of the president’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. Mattis initially refrained from criticizing Trump after leaving the Pentagon, but ultimately accused him of seeking “to divide” Americans and said the Jan. 6 insurrection “was fomented by Mr. Trump.”

Trump then issues another statement later in the same day where he lashes out at the people who worked for him and are now providing the fodder for these books, saying “Many say I am the greatest star-maker of all time. But some of the stars I produced are actually made of garbage.”

Is Trump so utterly incapable of self-reflection that he doesn’t ask himself why so many of the the people he chose turned out to be made of garbage? Surely the reason is because of the absurd basis on which he picks them that he just proudly boasted about?


  1. Matt G says

    Sounds a lot like the “own the libs” mentality: liberals want me to do this (get the vaccine, accept evolution and climate change, get justice for non-whites, etc.), so I’m not going to. Even when I know, at some level, that what I’m doing is stupid. A child elected by children (and I hate insulting children, since most of them deserve more respect than these idiots).

  2. anat says

    If you make your decisions based on what person X is opposed to then you are just as controlled by person X as if you made your decisions based on what person X agrees with.

  3. mnb0 says

    @2 Anat: yeah, but going that far with his thinking process is asked too much for Donald the Clown.

  4. Joel Grant says

    I have tried very hard to understand the psychology of the MAGA crowd. The evidence that you-know-who is a thoroughly atrocious human being is well beyond dispositive. And yet still -- still! -- he has not only millions of supporters but the unbending support of the GOP, notwithstanding a very few outliers.

    There are dozens of comprehensive videos showing the behavior of the right wing thugs who attempted the coup on 1/6, but the MAGA crowd will not acknowledge what is obvious to the eye.

    I just don’t get it. No matter how many analyses I read, none of them seem to really get to the bottom of it. Surely, the invention of an alternative universe by right wing media has a lot to do with it but I do not believe that explains it all. There is something going on, something very frightening (shades of 1930’s Germany) that we need to figure out. And fast.

  5. says

    Is Trump so utterly incapable of self-reflection that he doesn’t ask himself why so many of the the people he chose turned out to be made of garbage?

    Yes. The Angry Cheeto, being a pathological narcissist, is utterly incapable of self-reflection. Everything the Angry Cheeto says is a pearl of purest wisdom, every choice the Angry Cheeto makes is an admirably well-considered decision, every action the Angry Cheeto takes is a marvel of effective efficiency. And if anything the Angry Cheeto does happens to go wrong, of course the blame for that failure cannot lie with the Angry Cheeto. In the Angry Cheeto’s mind, he is a perfect and stainless Winner who is sadly beset on all sides with a seemingly unending array of liars and losers and frauds who the Angry Cheeto graciously condescended to associate with for a time, in the hope that their exposure to the perfect and stainless Angry Cheeto would somehow ennoble them.

  6. lanir says

    The attitude required to just do the opposite of what your enemies do is a complete disrespect for your foes. Anything they do which is even mildly clever will throw you off. The only foes you can defeat at that point are really trivial ones.

    And that’s not even considering that the people he labels as enemies are just people who want him to stop screwing up and just do well at his job, people who want him to stop acting counter to the beat interests of everyone but himself, and people doing important work that he’s disrupting.

    Sure, nine of that is surprising about Trump. But it’s important to know that his MAGA crowd thinks and acts the same. We will never stop them by any appeal which requires them to show consideration of anyone but themselves. They won’t respond to deescalation attempts because those require more mutual respect to work. And they can’t be stopped by disrupting a reasonable, goal oriented plan because they’ll never have one.

    That is why we’re still fighting the Cold Civil War well over a century after winning the last military action.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    @4 Joel Grant: And yet still — still! — he has not only millions of supporters but the unbending support of the GOP, notwithstanding a very few outliers.

    Those two things are linked. If he didn’t have the support of the millions, other Republican politicians would drop him like a hot potato. The only reason they don’t is to avoid estranging possible voters.

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