If Donald Trump were a car salesman (which he would be, had it not been for Daddy Roombucks), he'd assure your bad midlife-crisis macho self that that pricey two-seater sports car you're interested in would also make a fine family vehicle for your wife and five children. He'd do it because there is no contradiction or incoherence or concern for your real and manifest needs capable of abashing the man. Were you stupid enough to listen to him, you would lose but he would profit — and that's all that counts in Trump's world. He possesses no core but the self-serving, absent core of Trump.
He's now running the country, so to speak, the way he would sell cars. And E.J. Dionne wants to know: "Is Trumpism a scam?"; or "is the country confronting something even more troubling: a president unhinged from any realities that get in the way of his impulses … and willing to make everything up as he goes along"?; or is there "a method in all of this" — "riding policy horses that seem to be moving in quite different directions"? (e.g., he's a working-class "populist" who's "been promising corporations the moon").
I confess I'm unable to differentiate Dionne's three. Trump's unmistakable scams are made up as he goes along in his unhinged-from-realities way, both of which are methodologically emblematic of different-directions policy horses. Yet what does Trump care? He's getting the cars sold to suckers hatched by the herd long ago; organizing principles of coherence would only inhibit business.
Trump's latest flimflamming incoherence came yesterday in an ABC News interview — and this one staggers even those of us who, as a consequence of his unremittingly preternatural incoherences, had believed ourselves unstaggerable.
In the interview, Trump held to his populist opinion (about two-thirds of Americans agree) that torture "absolutely … works"; plus "We have to fight fire with fire," an often-appealing but insipid cliché that substitutes for thought. Thus, as The Hill paraphrased, he "would consider reinstating [torture] depending on the advice of members of his national security team."
Continued Trump: "If they don’t want to do [it], that’s fine" — even though it works, absolutely, in the commander in chief's opinion. "If they do want to do [it], then I will work toward that end," since, as noted, he depends on the advice of his national security team.
Lucky for Trump, his "top intelligence officials have told him they agree with his [pro-torture] view." This he knows because he has asked them and their "answer was, yes, absolutely." Was it? Trump vowed that "he would defer to CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis," two administration officials at the very top of the national security team on which he depends — both of whom have expressed a solid opposition to torture.
What's more, last November Trump said "he was 'impressed' with [Gen. Mattis'] opposition … but it was not enough to fully persuade him to change his mind," which of course stands in even greater opposition to Trump's promise that he'll rely on expert advice.
Untangling Trump's tortured contradictions and incoherences is futile. They're a mush of populist scamming darting hither one minute and yon the next, and nearly all of it unhinged from incontrovertible realities of smart national security measures. Yet what does Trump care? Bullshit moves the product.
There's something in Trump that's not there: a conscience.