Many of the usual experts confess that they don’t get Trump: despite their repeated attempts to make sense of him, and despite the authority and expertise they bring to the task, he won’t make sense; his behavior, especially his communicative behavior, simply doesn’t work by the rules.
Their problem lies in their background, which limits their understanding and expectations. Most political experts have been educated as political scientists and/or politicians, historians, or economists. That background provides them with expectations that have worked well in understanding other presidents: they assume that their subject’s behavior has underlying it a rational strategy for the short and long-term; and they further assume that people in positions of power and influence act according to their belief (correct or not) that the strategy will bring long-term benefits to their nation. So experts see politicians as rational actors whose moves are predictable and explicable.
But Trump is another story, a narrative the plot of which the pundits, try as they may, cannot follow. They cannot read him. He is Greek to them, but would be Navaho to Aristotle. Again and again, he goes out of his way to insult people that others in his position would be trying to humor or befriend. His insults tend toward the crude, infantile, and personal. Kim Jong-Un is “Little Rocketman.” Germany under Angela Merkel has become a client state of Russia. Europe has lost its culture (Trump gets a twofer here, smacking both Europe and Islam). Theresa May is too dumb to take his advice. NATO is a bunch of cheaters. Continue reading