Trump Tells It Like It Isn't, Say Defenders

Literally? Seriously? Actually? Really?

One of the more remarkable “defenses” of Trump regarding his long and consistent history of mocking and looking down on the troops…

“That’s how he is [when the cameras are off].”

Another one in a different vein is the repeated suggestion, made around the time of the original Gold Star Family dust-up, that Trump is a “fighter” and you have to expect him to “hit back”. I’ve seen phrases like “We have to expect him to criticize people who criticize him.”

What’s amazing about these two lines of argumentation is that they’re exact opposites.

The first one suggests that Trump’s occasional public deference and attempts at decorum towards military personnel is an act he puts on for the cameras. And amazingly, in our reality TV administration, this is somehow supposed to be a defense! In Trump’s America, character isn’t who you are in the dark. It’s what you do in the spotlight.

But at the same time, the suggestion that he’s just returning fire seems to be saying that we shouldn’t take what he says about any dead or wounded or captured veterans seriously because that’s just him giving as good as he gets.

Which also conveys the idea that the whole thing is a pissing match and that any criticism directed at him is just people taking potshots for political reasons.

So which of these defenses is true?

That’s a trick question: they’re both true and neither one is a defense.

It is absolutely true that Trump is an even bigger asshole when he thinks he’s in the clear. It’s absolutely true that his sneering contempt for the troops – for the idea of volunteering or self-sacrifice or taking risks when you can’t rig the table in your favor – all come out more when the cameras are off.

And this is obviously no defense. In what world would it be?

It is also true that for Trump, any kind of debate or argument is nothing more than a shouting match, a pissing contest, where words and accusations are just ammo. He wouldn’t need to have actual contempt for the troops to treat them contemptuously if he felt someone was being disloyal or attacking him. He doesn’t need to mean something, or believe it’s true in any kind of objective sense, in order to say it. He can say that he hopes John McCain is burning in hell and neither mean it nor not mean it without any impact on his sincerity because he has no sincerity.

And this is obviously no defense. In what world would it be?

But what’s amazing and kind of breathtaking in a scary way is how quickly we have arrived at a world where people can offer these things as defenses and have them be accepted as serious arguments.

It shows that Trump, in one respect at least, has functioned as a leader. His form of discourse, where “true” and “good” are just whatever is useful to his own side and “bad” and “fake” are whatever would help the other, has taken root and is crowding out actual discussion in the public square.

The supposedly anti-Trump mainstream media doesn’t endorse these arguments but it reports them and repeats them as though they were simply one more point of view, which makes it difficult to discuss what’s actually happening.

The bottom line on both defenses is that they amount, in differing ways, to “You can’t listen to what Donald Trump says because he doesn’t say what he means or mean what he says. You can’t expect him to just tell it like it is. He’s not a straight-shooter.”

Anybody who offers these arguments in the public square should be pressed by journalists to address this, or have their mics cut, be laughed off the stage, get ratioed to heck and back, etc.

They’re not serious arguments. They shouldn’t be treated as such.

And yet… here we are.

And here we are likely to remain, for a minimum of a couple more months.