Nov 16 2017

John Oliver Nails Trump

Oliver-Trump 2017In the season finale of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver reviews Trump’s assault on truth and decency. If you haven’t been watching this show, you should give it a try. Not only is it funny and entertaining, but on each episode Oliver does a deep dive on something in our society that is not right and can be fixed. His researchers generally do a great job, and I also think Oliver does a good job of not being gratuitously partisan.

His season-long attacks on Trump may not make it seem that way, but I don’t think they are partisan. I also try to keep my personal politics out of my science advocacy, but I think the problems with Trump transcend politics, ideology, and party. In this last episode for the season, Oliver reviews why this is true.

The real problem with Trump is not that he is Republican or conservative – actually you could argue that he is barely either of those things. It’s not even necessarily that he is an anti-establishment populist who wants to shake things up. The real danger of Trump is that he is an anti-intellectual who has been waging war against journalism, expertise, decency, standards, and any notion of objectivity.

For Trump the only thing that appears to matter is the current struggle in which he is engaged – he needs to achieve what he perceives as victory over any adversary, at any cost. Being honest and respecting knowledge and accuracy doesn’t seem to factor in at all.

As a result Trump is willing to sacrifice the basic fabric that is necessary for a functional democracy. He seems to view democratic checks and balances as nothing but an annoyance and obstacle, so eroding that fabric is just another win for him.

Many people, including many conservatives who have not caved to the insanity, have enumerated the numerous ways in which Trump erodes the shared norms on which our society depends. Oliver’s break down may not be the only way to do it, but it is as good as any. He highlights three strategies Trump uses to erode those standards. Actually, I think referring to anything Trump does as a “strategy” is giving him too much credit. These, rather, are the habits that Trump has adopted which have the effect of undermining our society.

The first is to delegitimize the media. Of course, news outlets are not without fault. They have their own biases and are rife with quality-control issues. Half of what I do on this blog is correct bad reporting about science. But the way to deal with this is to call them on their errors and bias, but in a way that respects the institution and vital role of journalism itself.

Trump doesn’t do this. He attacks entire news organizations as “fake news.” The term “fake news” has become a shield against anything Trump doesn’t like or finds inconvenient. When news organizations reveal legitimate information, or ask the kind of questions they should be asking of a world leader, Trump’s response is to delegitimize them, denounce them as fake, and even flirt with the idea of banning them from the press room, delicensing them, or “opening up the libel laws” so he can more effectively threaten them.

At the same time he promotes the one news outlet that is essentially functioning as a propaganda arm of the White House. It is clear that Trump would love to have one state media that tow his party line, and ban all other media who would challenge him on anything.

The second method Trump and his defenders use is diversion and distraction, what Oliver calls “whataboutism.” Skeptics will recognize this strategy as the tu quoque logical fallacy – defending one action by pointing to someone else who is engaged in something similar. This is only legitimate to the extent that it points out actual hypocrisy, but it is not a defense of ethically wrong behavior, flawed logic, or bad evidence. The recent allegations about Moore are a great example. Moore is accused, now by multiple women, and supported by accusations that he was banned from a local mall for cruising high school girls, that he had relations with teenage girls, at least one of which was underage. The defense? Well, what about Bill Clinton? Even if you accept as true that Democrats hypocritically gave Clinton a pass on his behavior, that does nothing to excuse Moore’s alleged behavior.

There is also a strong implication or direct claim of equivalency. All presidents lie, everyone engages in similar behavior. As long as you can point to someone else who has every done anything even slightly wrong, it’s all the same.

Whataboutism is part of a larger strategy of diversion – to distract from the actual issues with irrelevant dog whistles and appeals to emotion and tribalism. On countless occasions over the last two years I have been in conversations with Trump supporters, asked them about a specific policy point or failing of Trump, and their response was, “What about Hillary Clinton?” They still do it, even though she lost and is now politically irrelevant. The demonization of Hillary was so much a part of their support of Trump, they simply can’t let it go. Trump can’t let it go – he wants to use the Justice Department to punish his political opponent and continue the demonization. It is a convenient distraction whenever anyone has concerns about his blatant incompetence.

Finally, Oliver points out that Trump is essentially a troll. He is the first troll president, who won election by literally trolling his opponents and the media. By troll it is meant that Trump says things not to put forward a serious argument, based in logic and fact, but to have an emotional effect. He does it to upset anyone he perceives as an opponent or obstacle. He even does it to allies, just to keep them in their place.

This provides deniability to anything Trump says. He can never be held to a specific position, because he is generally incoherent. How many times has Trump said something outrageous. Then the media and the public are left scratching their heads – it sounds like Trump just said he thinks Neo-nazis are OK. Did he really just say that? Then his spokespeople take to the airwaves to reinterpret what Trump said, and when Trump is confronted he gives vague and incoherent responses that just muddy the waters even further.

Watching one of his people on talk shows gives me a flashback of reading 1984. It is all newspeak and double talk. Deny, distract, divert, confuse. For anyone who cares about being precise and accurate in communication, it is a nightmare.

The scary thing is that Trump is affecting the baseline norm for society, not just for himself. His behavior is metastasizing. I actually don’t think Trump originated this behavior. Much of it has always been around to some degree, and has been greatly increased by social media. I think Trump is just a social media troll who inherited a marketable name and a lot of money. He found out how to troll his way into politics, at a vulnerable time when we are in social transition.

But he is exacerbating the problem by orders of magnitude. There is an optimistic view, however. Trump is shining a bright light on all the problems with trolling, fake news, and anti-intellectualism. He is also too incompetent to take maximal advantage of his position. I can only hope this will limit the damage he is doing. But hopefully the attention he is bringing to the problem will lead to a backlash, and a rededication to the norms of respect for truth, transparency, and scholarship that are necessary for a functional democracy.

68 responses so far

68 thoughts on “John Oliver Nails Trump”

  1. theo says:

    The iPhone’s predictive text make more sense than Trump. Now, where’s my popcorn, these comments are going to be entertaining…

  2. Nareed says:

    Trump’s Newspeak would give Big Brother fits.

    He says things like: “We’re at war with Eastasia! We have always been at war with Eurasia!”

    Doubleplusungood. Goodfacts not plain for all mans.

  3. MWSletten says:

    >[Trump] seems to view democratic checks and balances as nothing but an annoyance and obstacle, so eroding that fabric is just another win for him.

    This is NOT an excuse for anything Trump is doing, but the erosion of our government’s system of checks and balances has been ongoing for decades. I can’t think of a President over the last century who hasn’t made some attempt–usually successful–to circumvent the checks on executive power. The party not in power worries and warns until their candidate achieves the Oval Office, who is then more than happy to continue using whatever power his predecessor appropriated. Each small seizure is another click on an ever-tightening ratchet that is never released. Seeing every problem as government’s responsibility to fix is a big part of the problem. Who needs pesky rules when you have to DO SOMETHING!

  4. Art Eternal says:

    A public service radio station interviewed Trumps’ followers at the Inaugural Balls in Washington, D.C.. They referred to him as their Troll-In-Chief. A bit shocking at the time, but so true.

  5. YamaOfParadise says:

    This is a completely fair point, oft overlooked. Trump in many ways is unprecedented with the blatancy of his authoritarianism (and to some larger extent the degree/magnitude of all his actions), but he didn’t come out of nowhere; there isn’t a single thing he’s done that hasn’t been done to a lesser extent in a more competent and subtle way. The undercurrents were there, both in the culture at large and behind closed doors in the political world… it just was never obvious that they would manifest like this.

    As a whole, we sowed the seeds for this.

  6. YamaOfParadise says:

    A sub-point might be to look at how Whataboutism is being used in the media right now; it’s being employed through the Fallacy Fallacy to try and shut down dissent/discussion. Either to discredit Trumpists or try and make sure no one opposed to him can give him the fair shake he actually deserves occasionally. (Also being portrayed as being primarily a Soviet propaganda technique… It *was* one, but it also has been part of American propaganda for forever, too. Every war we have been in, for example.)

  7. banyan says:

    Trump is highlighting what’s wrong with his own style of governing, but he is always revealing the ways in which it can be effective.

    I generally do not vote for either of the two major party nominees, but in 2016 I felt like I had to vote for the Democrat, because I wanted there to be as strong of a message as possible that U.S. voters utterly reject Donald Trump’s style of politics. Trump himself is too old and incompetent to be a direct threat to the long-term stability of the republic, but now that he won, there will be others. Steve Bannon is out there now actively recruiting them.

    Sad!

  8. blu28 says:

    MWSletten – That is normal and how checks and balances are supposed to work. It is healthy to have dynamic tension between the different branches. The President pushes the envelope of power and Congress passes a law to limit it, then the Supreme Court limits the limit. Presidents rate each other on whether they leave the office with more or less power than they entered it.

  9. Willy says:

    Well said, Dr. Novella.

    The rise and election of Trump has been a real “life changing” moment for me, causing me to reevaluate just how I think about people and history. The following two statements by Trump exhibit everything one needs to know about him–his sheer ignorance, his narcissism, his complete inability to know that he doesn’t know

    On May 11, 2017, Trump said: “But in a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care. And we did the right negotiating, and actually it’s a very interesting subject,”

    In his July 19, 2017 NYT interview, Trump said: “So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.”

    How anyone can support this man escapes me. This has nothing to do with his politics, on which I am sure he has no convictions anyway.

  10. BBBlue says:

    Even if that is all true, I still think Tom Steyr’s impeachment ads are inappropriate and counterproductive. Being a troll does not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors. Maybe an impeachable offense will eventually come to light, but for now, Congress needs to figure out a way to deal the President that is more constructive than constantly tossing insults and pointing out what a jerk he is.

    There is not a single character flaw being remarked upon now that wasn’t evident before the election. Voters have themselves to blame and also have the obligation to live with their mistake and try to make things work as best they can by insisting other elected officials quit whining and stop feeding the troll.

  11. BillyJoe7 says:

    Careful about the ageism, banyan.

    My father-in-law was 82 when he died last year and, almost to the end, he was reading seven books at a time on topics as diverse as quantum physics, mathematics, economics, sociology, psychology, and politics. He could talk for hours on almost any topic.

    My guess is that Trump was always an idiot and that his age is incidental.

  12. Willy says:

    BBBlue: I agree that impeachment at this point would be a bad move and would likely do more harm than good; further alienating his supporters and also making Mike Pence POTUS. I’m hoping Mueller turns up something big–and easily provable.

    Nonetheless, I think to label Trump’s unfitness for office as “character flaws” is an understatement. The man is an incompetent buffoon and his election reflects very poorly on us as a nation. The fact that his support is still around 1/3 of those polled is incomprehensible to me (these folks don’t mind “living with their mistake”; they don’t even see it as a mistake). The fact that the NY press and TV hosts like Oprah lionized him, treated him like a “star” and fed his ego for decades appalls me. When he announced his candidacy, I repeatedly said he wouldn’t even win a single primary, yet, he’s now POTUS. Like I said above, this has been a life changing event for me.

    BJ7–Yep He’s always been an idiot and he has grown no further in maturity than junior high level. He’s a man with a 7th grade intellect and a teenage maturity.

  13. banyan says:

    BillyJoe7 – I appreciate the call out. It does look like I’m saying he is “old and incompetent” as though the two are related or even the same character trait. To be clear, I reference his age only to make the point that he does not have a long political future ahead of him, and that limits the long-term damage he can do.

    Barack Obama was only 48 when he was at this point in his presidency, and so he was able to serve two full terms and then continue spearheading political action in a variety of ways. If Trump dies at 82, then he will live only four years past the end of his second term. I’m much more worried about Steve Bannon (who will turn 64 next week) and his recruits.

  14. BBBlue says:

    Willy- I never said that Trump’s character flaws rendered him unfit for office, the fact that he is still our President confirms that he is fit for office despite those flaws. In my opinion, that fact alone is the most chilling aspect of all of this.

    My point is that patting John Oliver on the back for stating the obvious is an unproductive and trivial observation. Its like constantly berating a genuine idiot for not be smarter.

  15. SteveA says:

    In one of the later episodes of ‘Parks and Recreation’ there was a story thread about Knope’s husband working for a Senator or Congressman who was little more than a smiling robot who could be wheeled out to reliably spout-out carefully scripted platitudes as required.

    I think part of Trump’s appeal is a reaction to that kind of sanitised ‘automaton’ politics, or the perception of it, anyway.

    And frankly I don’t blame (though don’t necessarily condone) Trump for crying ‘Fake news’ so often; given that much of the media is so openly biased against him, is it any wonder he kicks back? He could be a little cleverer about it, but I refer you to my second sentence…

  16. michaelegnor says:

    The main reason Trump got elected is that he treats the swamp with contempt. It is the chronic criminality and cowardice of the Democrat/Republican establishment that made Trump necessary.

    He is, in a way, akin to Grant in the Civil War. When asked about Grant’s personal missteps (especially his drinking), Lincoln replied: we can’t spare this man. He fights.

    He fights hard and sometimes a little dirty. Bless him. The sewer at the highest levels of our government needs to be destroyed. And for that, you need a bastard. Trump’s our bastard.

    You libtards gave us the Clinton Foundation and that f*cktard Obama.

    Now we’re fighting back. Trump is doing very well in most ways–the economy is booming, foreign policy is improving, regulations are down, illegal immigration is way down, and we’re getting federal judges and a Supreme Court justice who obey the law.

    No bad for a year. God bless Trump.

  17. michaelegnor says:

    [He is also too incompetent to take maximal advantage of his position. I can only hope this will limit the damage he is doing. But hopefully the attention he is bringing to the problem will lead to a backlash, and a rededication to the norms of respect for truth, transparency, and scholarship that are necessary for a functional democracy.]

    What arrogant bullsh*t. “Norms of respect for truth, transparency and scholarship…” from supporters of the Clinton Mob and Jeremiah Wright’s favorite son?

    You made Trump necessary and possible. He’s also not the least bit incompetent. He’s a billionaire, and he just got elected president against all odds, which all of the arrogant elites against him.

    He’s trolling you with twitter, and you’re too stupid and full of hate and pride to understand what he’s doing. He’s making you reveal yourself for who you are–look at the light he’s cast on CNN, which is a corrupt arm of the Clinton Fountation.

    He’s playing three-dimensional chess and you’re not even good at checkers. I love what he’s doing.

  18. michaelegnor says:

    [I think part of Trump’s appeal is a reaction to that kind of sanitised ‘automaton’ politics, or the perception of it, anyway.]

    Yep. I didn’t start out as a Trump supporter–I liked Cruz. But as time went on, I (and tens of millions of other Americans) saw that he was the only guy with the balls and the savvy to really blow up the elite swamp. And he’s doing it.

    The best metaphor for Trump that I’ve read is an essay called “The Flight 93 Election”. Our country is like the passengers on Flight 93 that was hijacked on 9-11. We’re being piloted by a bunch of bastards (Democrat and Republican) and our country is going down. We (the passengers) don’t have a lot to fight with, so we’re ramming the cockpit door with the best thing at our disposal–the beverage cart. We don’t have a battering ram or a gun, so we use what we have. We hope it works.

    Trump is the beverage cart.

  19. Sarah says:

    I can’t even imagine what goes on in someone’s head to think that this is three-dimensional chess.

    I mean, the man literally spends most of his day watching Fox and tweeting. His aides have to distract him to minimize the damage he does. The way he’s eroding democracy without a care COULD point to a dictatorial Hitler-esque mastermind, sure –

    Or we take the explanation that requires the fewest new assumptions – that Trump is unqualified for his position and not an unparalleled genius who is a master of obfuscation at all times.

  20. michaelegnor says:

    Poor little Willy, who just had his life change:

    [This has been a life changing event for me.]

    *Sniff*. It must be hard not to have the Clinton Foundation running the country, as you had hoped.

    [I’m hoping Mueller turns up something big–and easily provable.]

    Sure you are. Because that’s what Mueller’s “investigation” is all about–a bloodless coup. The Swamp had their “life change” too, and they want to overturn the election. Mueller is a dirty cop who hired a bevy of Clinton mob lawyers to take down the elected president. Mueller covered for Clinton when she ran the State Department as a pay-for-play scheme for Clinton Inc. If this coup attempt is successful, there will be civil war.

    [Nonetheless, I think to label Trump’s unfitness for office as “character flaws” is an understatement. The man is an incompetent buffoon and his election reflects very poorly on us as a nation.]

    That’s right, asshat. He’s not nearly good enough for a paragon of genius and virtue like you. Only Hillary, Bernie and Barack are up to your standards. You just worship gangsters, washed-up commies, and Chicago Democrat machine politicians.

    [The fact that his support is still around 1/3 of those polled is incomprehensible to me (these folks don’t mind “living with their mistake”; they don’t even see it as a mistake).]

    The only mistake is that we didn’t elect him a long time ago. We are in a cold civil war, and normal Americans just figured it out.

    [The fact that the NY press and TV hosts like Oprah lionized him, treated him like a “star” and fed his ego for decades appalls me. When he announced his candidacy, I repeatedly said he wouldn’t even win a single primary, yet, he’s now POTUS.]

    Just what I said about Obama.

    [Yep He’s always been an idiot and he has grown no further in maturity than junior high level. He’s a man with a 7th grade intellect and a teenage maturity.]

    He’s an order of magnitude smarter than you are. That’s why he’s president and you’re an anonymous commenter. If you want to see teenage junior high maturity, watch CNN and MSNBC.

  21. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] Trump is the beverage cart.

    Or the terrorist let into the cockpit.

    I suppose a good objective metric would be to watch who he actually empowers. Is it Goldman Sachs, lobbyists, oligarchs, and big business or does he strengthen the democratic process to curtail the influence of those groups? After all, there’s no need to buy-off congress to tilt the scales into your pockets if you can just have your lobbyist appointed head of an agency and write the rules yourself.

  22. michaelegnor says:

    @Soooscared Sarah:

    [I can’t even imagine what goes on in someone’s head to think that this is three-dimensional chess.]

    Of course you can’t, because you’re clueless.

    [I mean, the man literally spends most of his day watching Fox and tweeting.]

    Sarah knows exactly what Trump does all day. She’s smarter than other people.

    [His aides have to distract him to minimize the damage he does.]

    But he beat you, so that means that you’re dumber than a post. Why do you libtards call people who outsmart you “stupid”? I guess if you realized what you are saying, you wouldn’t be a libtard.

    [The way he’s eroding democracy…]

    “Eroding democracy…” in the libtard dictionary is defined as “beat my as* in the last election, and still beating my as*.”

    [without a care COULD point to a dictatorial Hitler-esque mastermind, sure – ]

    Oh no–he’s not stupid. He’s literally HITLER!!!

    [Or we take the explanation that requires the fewest new assumptions – that Trump is unqualified for his position and not an unparalleled genius who is a master of obfuscation at all times.]

    He’s a very savvy guy, and he trolls you. And you fall for it. He’s revealed you for the morons that you are.

  23. Bob.Newman says:

    I will admit it’s good to see that the best our die-hard Trump supporter has to offer is name calling and vague comments about “draining the swamp”.

    I would surmise that I lack the motivated reasoning to ever understand how exactly showboating and Twitter tirades accomplish this draining. I guess falling behind Germany as the country with the best global image is just a part of it. Alas, to some, the rest of the world is probably part of the swamp.

  24. michaelegnor says:

    [Or the terrorist let into the cockpit.]

    Oh no! He’s stupid, Hitler, and a terrorist!

    [I suppose a good objective metric would be to watch who he actually empowers.]

    The working class. He’s already made things better, by substantially improving the economy.

    [Is it Goldman Sachs, lobbyists, oligarchs, and big business or does he strengthen the democratic process to curtail the influence of those groups? After all, there’s no need to buy-off congress to tilt the scales into your pockets if you can just have your lobbyist appointed head of an agency and write the rules yourself.]

    A Hillary Clinton voter complains about the influence of Goldman Sachs, lobbyists, oligarchs, … . Now I’ve heard it all.

    What irony. The B*tch sold our State Departement to the highest bidder, and she runs a pay-for-play scheme that almost hit the jackpot (if she had been elected). She took tens (hundreds) of millions of dollars from foreign oligarchs and lobbyists for favors rendered and promised. She sold American uranium to Putin, paid a British spy millions of dollars to peddle fake Russian rumors about Trump, etc. etc. She belongs in prison, along with her girlfriend Huma and her “husband” Bill (the rapist).

    Sorry moron, Goldman Sachs and the oligarchs and the lobbyists are on your side. You, and they, lost.

  25. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] But he beat you, so that means that you’re dumber than a post. Why do you libtards call people who outsmart you “stupid”? I guess if you realized what you are saying, you wouldn’t be a libtard.

    If he turns out to be an autocratic oligarch who feigns populism then the people he “beat” were the ones who voted for him. Well, unless they happened to be among the insider “elites” who will be rewarded with their time at the trough.

  26. michaelegnor says:

    [I would surmise that I lack the motivated reasoning to ever understand how exactly showboating and Twitter tirades accomplish this draining.]

    Here’s how, Bobby. Ever play laser tag with a cat? You point the laser at something, and the cat instinctively jumps at it and makes a fool of himself. He leaps, falls and goes nuts over an illusion.

    Trump is pointing the laser, and you asshats are the cat. He’s making you jump. He’s making your stupidity and hate and arrogance obvious. He is controlling you by playing to your idiot responses. It’s delightful to watch.

    [I guess falling behind Germany as the country with the best global image is just a part of it. Alas, to some, the rest of the world is probably part of the swamp.]

    Oh Noooooos! We’re falling behind Germany for the “best global image”! The elites who declare who has the “best global image” won’t like us anymore!

    You’re an asshat, Bob.

  27. michaelegnor says:

    [If he turns out to be an autocratic oligarch…]

    Do you mean an autocrat like Obama, who made up laws out of thin air with his “pen and a phone”?

    And what better term for Clinton than “oligarch”. She’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars, with no legal source of income. What did she sell to get that money?

  28. michaelegnor says:

    The really delightful thing is how clueless you libtards are. You have so much hate and pride that you can’t see what Trump is doing to you.

    Interestingly, what Trump is doing is very similar to what Obama did with the birth certificate brouhaha. Obama had the long form certificate, and could have shunt down the conspiracy stuff immediately. But he let it play on for several years, while his enemies made fools of themselves. Obama trolled his enemies and made fools of them.

    Trump was one of the people suckered by this tactic. He learned, and now he’s trolling you back. And you are too stupid to see it.

  29. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] Sorry moron, Goldman Sachs and the oligarchs and the lobbyists are on your side. You, and they, lost.

    There’s what a politician says, and what he does. I wish I could lose like GS is losing right now…

    http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/15/investing/goldman-sachs-jim-donovan-trump-treasury-deputy-secretary/index.html

    https://theintercept.com/2017/09/17/goldman-sachs-gary-cohn-donald-trump-administration/

  30. steve12 says:

    If there’s one thing I admire about religious conservatives, it’s that they have standards that are not to be transgressed. ABSOLUTE standards. It’s not like God is just a cudgel that they use for purely political purposes, which is why they roundly rejected candidate Trump:

    “I am not sure I have,” Trump said when asked if he’d ever asked God for forgiveness. “I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

  31. michaelegnor says:

    GS was all in for Hillary, and Obama was called “President Goldman Sachs”. Spare me your hypocrisy.

    The rich, lobbyists, etc. are overwhelmingly Democrats and Clinton groupies. Gates, Buffett, Carlos Slim, Stayer, etc, etc are all lib democrat fellators. Not to mention that foreigners who paid hundreds of millions to the Clintons (it looks like Hillary made about 140 million from the uranium deal alone).

    How the hell do you think the B*tch made her hundreds of millions of dollars in her “Foundation”?

    Who do you think it was that gave her that much money? And what did they expect for it in return?

    And why do you think that she’s not being investigated by a special investigator?

  32. michaelegnor says:

    [If there’s one thing I admire about religious conservatives, it’s that they have standards that are not to be transgressed. ABSOLUTE standards. It’s not like God is just a cudgel that they use for purely political purposes, which is why they roundly rejected candidate Trump: “I am not sure I have,” Trump said when asked if he’d ever asked God for forgiveness. “I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”}

    I’m shocked–shocked- that Trump isn’t Mother Theresa with a comb-over!

    Why would a religious conservative insist that we elect a monk? I don’t care about Trump’s personal religious beliefs–I’ve got enough on my own plate without worrying about his.

    I want an effective president who will defend religous rights and kick the sh*t out of you libtards, which he is doing quite nicely.

  33. steve12 says:

    HA HA HA HA HA!!!

    I love it. I love watching Christian’s people rally around a guy who says he doesn’t need to ask God for forgiveness.

    It’s SO good. If you had a sense of humor at all Egnor you’d LOVE it. So funny…

  34. steve12 says:

    PLEASE talk about the guy who put himself on par WITH GOD as an imperfect instrument! That’s my fav.

    Being an Italian boy raised in the church who understands just how heretical this is makes all…the…sweeter.

    You guys sold your soul for Trump. And I. LOVE. IT.

  35. michaelegnor says:

    [I would surmise that I lack the motivated reasoning to ever understand how exactly showboating and Twitter tirades accomplish this draining.]

    Here’s how, Bobby:

    Trump trolls the swamp, who historically have pretended to be refined, honest, intelligent folks.

    His trolling makes them go nuts, and they drop the mask and show themselves as the scum they really are.

    It’s not a difficult tactic to understand Bobby, unless you’re a moron…

  36. steve12 says:

    When I was an alter boy, I remember talking to Father Ron and telling him that I though I was w/o original sin and he was like “AWESOME!!!!”

    HA HA HA!!!!

  37. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] GS was all in for Hillary, and Obama was called “President Goldman Sachs”. Spare me your hypocrisy.

    Has GS lost influence under Trump or is he purposefully empowering them? If his actions are no different, or worse, than his predecessors what implications does that have for your assessment?

  38. steve12 says:

    Oh no! I went to check out Egnorance to see what White Supremacist book you were recommending these days (how is Vox?) and you seem to have stopped blogging.

    I guess when a Dem isn’t POTUS there’s nothing to write about. I mean, maybe all that religion schtick – but why keep going with that now? God is already POTUS…

  39. michaelegnor says:

    Steve-o:

    There is no Christian injunction against supporting imperfect candidates. The Christian teaching is to support the best candidate, taking a variety of issues into account. Christians supported Constantine in the 4th century, because he did good things for the church, not because he was an angel.

    This last election was a choice, and the choice was Trump (flawed) vrs Hillary (criminal). Easy choice for a Christian. In fact, my Bishop circulated a letter that was read at Mass in all our parishes that basically said (not in so many words) that Catholics should vote for Trump.

    It’s interesting that you seem to feel that a Christian can’t vote for a flawed candidate, even if the opponent is a criminal. Alinsky’s best tactic is “make the enemy live up to his own book of rules”. That’s what you’re trying to do to Christians–make us not support pro-Christian candidates if they are flawed.

    We conservative Christians are learning the rules of this fight. We can do Alinsky too. Luke 16: 1-13.

  40. MosBen says:

    There is simply no evidence that Trump is any type of genius. He was a rich New Yorker who used his existing wealth to buy into the New York real estate market when it was at historically cheap levels, and miraculously made money. Of course, he still made less money than if he had simply invested his initial money in the stock market and done nothing. And on every substantive policy area he shows both a deep pack of knowledge and a disinterest in learning about it. He speaks poorly, with incoherent arguments. And he reacts childishly to difficulty.

    He simply isn’t smart. He was born rich and managed not to fritter it away. That’s it.

  41. Willy says:

    My, my, my, Dr. Egnor, you are in rare form today—full of empty, uninformed scorn and baseless accusations. You haven’t the foggiest idea about my political views, yet you assert that I wanted the Clinton Foundation to “run the country”. Actually, Doc, my guy was Kasich and my politics are pretty middle of the road. I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of the Clintons, although I do think even the Clinton’s dog would be a more suitable POTUS than Trump. I wouldn’t vote for Trump if he claimed to support every single view that I do, precisely because he is ignorant and untrustworthy. My intense dislike of him has ZERO to do with politics.

    I notice you didn’t take the time to comment on my post regarding Trump and his understanding of healthcare. I’ll repeat his statements here so you don’t have to search them: On May 11, 2017, Trump said: “But in a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care. And we did the right negotiating, and actually it’s a very interesting subject,”
    In his July 19, 2017 NYT interview, Trump said: “So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.”

    C’mon, Doc, put lipstick on that pig. Better yet, DEFEND his statements as being evidence of someone capable of playing even checkers. You can’t and you won’t.
    As a further example of his non-existent intellect, here are his thoughts on “nuclear” as expressed in 2015 in Sun City, SC:

    “Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.”

    Since you probably didn’t grasp the key point (the garbled, almost incoherent nature of the comment aside), let me explain it to you. In the 1980s, Trump’s uncle (great genes!) told him that “nuclear is powerful” and sometime AFTER that, Trump was astonished to learn that it was true. I knew “nuclear is powerful” in grade school and I didn’t need an uncle with “great genes” to explain it to me, yet Trump himself says he didn’t know this until he was middle aged. And even you must chuckle when he claims to be one of the “martest people anywhere in the world”.

    As for his business acumen, he managed at a young age to construct a building, using his father’s reputation and financial support (including cosigning on loans). Since then, his record is pretty crappy and his ‘success” consists mostly of him selling his name to the gullible who are impressed with the outward appearance of success. Consider his many failures: Trump: Steaks (he sold ‘em in CLOTHING stores!), University, Vodka (he’s a teetotaler!), Shuttle, NJ Generals (and the USFL—Trump’s big lawsuit killed the USFL), Magazine, Taj Mahal (he failed in the gambling biz!), Water, The Game, the Polish Brigade, GoTrump.com, Mortgage (he got in at the peak!), six bankruptcies, over 4,000 lawsuits, clothing line made out-of-country (making him and Ivanka hypocrites), who knows how many appearances on the Howie Stern show, bragging that his daughter’s parts were “real. What kind of classy, intelligent human would appear on Stern’s show, anyway?

    Yeah, Doc, Trump is playing 3-D chess. ROFLMFAO!!!! Get this—Trump is, and always has been a swamp creature, relying on the likes of Roy Cohn and various other underworld folks. The only way that Trump is “draining the swamp” is by pumping swamp water into his own boat. Tell us, Doc, do you aspire to gold plumbing like Trump’s?

    Finally, let’s note that two of Trump’s three wives were immigrants, thus proving the idea that immigrants will do jobs that Americans won’t do.

  42. michaelegnor says:

    [Has GS lost influence under Trump or is he purposefully empowering them? If his actions are no different, or worse, than his predecessors what implications does that have for your assessment?]

    I don’t give a sh*t about GS. They are bascially scum, but they are mostly Democrat scum. They lived in Obama’s and Hillary’s rectums (or the other way around), and they will always play political games.

    It’s your hypocrisy that is so disgusting. Complaining about GS while supporting President Zero and the B*tch is the apotheosis of hypocrisy.

    Are you really that stupid, or just a liar?

  43. michaelegnor says:

    Willy:

    It seems that Trump isn’t good enough for a special guy like you.

    The economy seems to like him.

  44. michaelegnor says:

    Willy;

    [“yet you assert that I wanted the Clinton Foundation to “run the country”… I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of the Clintons…]

    [… although I do think even the Clinton’s dog would be a more suitable POTUS than Trump.]

    As it turns out, that was the choice: Clinton or Trump.

    So you did want Clinton to run the country.

    You’re an asshat.

  45. steve12 says:

    “There is no Christian injunction against supporting imperfect candidates.”

    Of COURSE not! Claiming you’re the equivalent of God is merely an imperfection – I don’t think there’s any disqualifying ecclesiastical issues there!

    I think the relevant quote is: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me, unless the guy is either willing to eliminate the estate tax OR appoint a Goldman dude as Sec of Treasury, then shit – he’s at least a minor deity who doesn’t need to check in with me for the whole forgiveness deal.”

    Have you thought about the implications for the Trinity here?

    “Easy choice for a Christian”

    The only thing that sort of taints all this fun for me is that I don’t really consider you a Christian, but whatever. You et al. claim the mantle for political purposes so close enough.

  46. JoeMamma says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how Trump supporters essentially take any criticism of Trump and start screaming “But HILLARY!”

    Last I checked she wasn’t president, and if this isn’t a fallacy Michael is capable of understanding, there isn’t one.

  47. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor: As predicted, you made no attempt to defend Trump’s grossly ignorant statements on “Nuclear” or healthcare.

  48. tmac57 says:

    Every time that I check in to this blog and see the two (unnamed) usual suspects comment bombing, I just sigh and write that comment thread off.
    I’ll still read the original blog post, but otherwise I have no use for the train wreck that ensues afterward. Trolls ruin everything, and are especially ruining society to a degree that is sickening and in a way that is actually dangerous to our future.
    And to them, this is all some great fun and games.

  49. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] It’s your hypocrisy that is so disgusting. Complaining about GS while supporting President Zero and the B*tch is the apotheosis of hypocrisy.

    You said GS “lost” because Trump was elected. The fact is that GS executives, lawyers, and lobbyists were immediately appointed to key cabinet positions and agencies that allow them to author financial policy. He could have appointed anyone. He went deep on GS. (He was also a wealthy Democrat as recently as 2001.)

    The question is whether this has any implications for your assessment of Trump’s intentions or on behalf who’s interests he acts.

  50. RickK says:

    A once talented surgeon reduced to flaming internet troll.

    As Bill Maher said a while back about Trump’s base: They are trolls who get off on provoking others who are trying to have an adult conversation.

    Or, even more on point – John Oliver said: “Trump even once retweeted a claim that he was ‘the most superior troll on the whole of Twitter,’ calling it ‘a great compliment,’ which it is not because sometimes when you do something that makes a lot of people mad, it’s because, and bear with me here, you’re a dick.”

    Folks, may I present Michael Egnor wielding his best middle-school playground insult techniques just for the pleasure of upsetting everyone.

    What is so striking is the contrast between the two highly-educated MDs represented here. One is Steven Novella who always keeps a calm, fact-based tone, who respects anyone who approaches a discussion in a reasonable manner, and who has a long and well-documented track record of changing other people’s minds. The other is Michael Egnor, whose approach whose character are well represented in the comments above.

    How ironic that Steven is representing the atheists and Michael the devout Christians.

  51. Willy says:

    Egnor’s idea of clever: “you’re an asshat”.

    Golly be shucks, I was sure put in my place!

  52. MosBen says:

    The truest thing ever said of Trump is that he’s a stupid person’s idea of a smart person.

    As for the economy, absent direct action times of crisis, presidents have very little affect on the economy. And even in times of crisis their influence is mostly indirect: lobbying Congress to pass stimulus bills, appointing Fed chiefs that take particular policy positions, etc. And the stock market is a really bad indicator of how an economy is doing overall. This was true under Obama, it was true under Bush II, and it’s true under Trump.

    It’s reasonably likely that in the next three years we’re going to have a recession, because that’s just something that happens in an economy and we haven’t had one in quite a while. So, when the economy is shrinking, I wonder if we’ll see Trump supporters touting his supremacy in controlling the markets, or if we’ll see excuses.

  53. michaelegnor says:

    RickK:

    [As Bill Maher said…Or, even more on point – John Oliver said…]

    That sums up the depth of your political insight.

  54. Willy says:

    Below is a link to an article about a ghostwriter’s experiences with our 3-D chess player.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all

    Hey Doc, I’m still waiting for your explanation of Trump’s views on healthcare and “nuclear”. Tell us how they show Trump’s genius.

  55. MosBen says:

    Willy, in my discussions with Trump fans it nearly always comes down to the fact that he is a billionaire, therefore he must be a genius. It’s as simple and stupid as that.

  56. bachfiend says:

    I was wondering when Egnor was going to appear to support Trump. I wasn’t expecting him to appear so often, with so much vitriolic enthusiasm and with so little substance (well, actually I wasn’t expecting much substance from Egnor).

    My personal opinion about Trump is that he’s going to be a bad president, similar to Woodrow Wilson 100 years ago. Hopefully, he won’t cause lasting damage to America and the world as Woodrow Wilson did.

  57. Willy says:

    MosBen, when the “he’s a billionaire” line comes up, I always ask ’em if that means Soros and Bloomberg are geniuses too.

    Hey, Doc, since you like condemning Democrats, what do you make of the fact that Jared and Ivanka were Dems and only switched once the 3-D genius ran as a Republican? Do you think Jared will solve the problems in the Middle East?

    Oops, I better be careful lest i get called an asshat again. THEN whatever would I do?????????????

  58. BillyJoe7 says:

    It’s so amusing to see Michael Egnor, the devout catholic, support Donald Trump, who is almost certainly an atheist. Amusing as well that he thinks Trump’s tweets are a strategy rather than a disaster, whereas his actual strategy is to fool ignorant religious fools like Michael Egnor into supporting him.

  59. MosBen says:

    While it’s not impossible for a political actor to engage in some complex maneuvering to achieve some greater goal, onlookers should be constantly be evaluating whether the actions being taken are actually achieving the goals that the political actor has laid out. If not, either the political actor is bad at politics, or they never had a plan in the first place. Trump stated many times that he wanted to repeal Obamacare. And when he became president he took actions that were supposedly in furtherance of that goal. But he also antagonized Senators with key votes in speeches and Twitter. He gave interviews in which he demonstrated a massive lack of information about the healthcare system, as well as the content of the plans that he allegedly supported that we’re making their way through Congress. His participation in the legislative process proved to be counter productive. Ultimately, no bill has passed.

    The most reasonable conclusion is that either Trump is very bad at three dimensional chess, or he was never playing out a strategy in the first place.

  60. bachfiend says:

    BillyJoe,

    I think you’re wrong when you state that Donald Trump is almost certainly an atheist. He appears to be a Presbyterian and receives communion, and also associates with various religious leaders.

    He’s a very bad Christian. Being bad and a Christian aren’t mutually exclusive. Michael Egnor proves it whenever he comments here.

  61. BillyJoe7 says:

    bachfiend,

    I mean “atheist” in the sense of “not a theist”. At the very least he is apathetic about theism. An apatheist, if I can coin a term. He is a man of the world. A materialist you might say! But he is at least wise enough to know that he could never become president if he declared himself an atheist, or even someone who doesn’t give a damn.

  62. bachfiend says:

    BillyJoe,

    You seem to be implying that a Trump is a liar and a politician… but I repeat myself.

  63. praktik says:

    Michael just seems so toxic, and not able to realize that filling every post with insults only makes his own points look weaker.

    You realize Michael that your comportment here is doing your arguments a disservice?

    Do you agree that being charitable and gracious to others is a prerequisite to rational conversation?

    If so, perhaps that is not really what you are after here. Perhaps instead you just derive a sense of personal satisfaction from engaging in attacks on others?

    I imagine it undergirds your sense of righteousness

  64. RickK says:

    practice said to Egnor: “Perhaps instead you just derive a sense of personal satisfaction from engaging in attacks on others?”

    Bingo!

  65. Cdesign Proponentsist says:

    Now how does his name appear in the telephone book?

    “Egnore, Michael”

    BINGO! Ignore Michael!!!!!

  66. Jason says:

    Dr. Novella you ought to read the recently released Win Bigly by Scott Adams, which neatly explains why just about everything you wrote above is true but irrelevant.

  67. praktik says:

    ^^ lol! 😉

  68. Charcot says:

    Mr. Egnor – Checking off talking points is not argument, although you are good at it. The checking, not the argument. Your coverage of the Trumpist Rhetoric (TM) is so relentlessly thorough I’m tempted to think you are just having a bit of fun.

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