Ralph Mathekga

Crafty Trump ever more difficult to understand

2017-02-20 08:34
(Evan Vucci, AP)

(Evan Vucci, AP)

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Barely two months into the year, Donald Trump has already emerged a serious contender for the title of newsmaker of the year. 

I understand that it might be too early to give this title to Trump, but one cannot ignore the unprecedented pace at which his presidency started. Within a month of his presidency, the courts have already said no to his ridiculous travel ban. 

Mr. Trump sought to ban travellers from seven Muslim countries, an initiative that was eventually blocked by the court. He has also set a record by losing a key cabinet appointee only two weeks after the appointment was made. His national security adviser was forced out after lying about an earlier conversation with a Russian ambassador. 

In this category, Trump is only second to President Jacob Zuma, who lost a cabinet minister 48 hours after appointing him. That was our ‘weekend special’ finance minister, Des van Rooyen. 

Trump’s presidency is already so bizarre that the American media are trying out all theories to explain how he manages to limp from one disastrous decision to another. 

An interesting explanation that is beginning to emerge is the idea that perhaps Trump is not mentally stable. This explanation shows how frustrating it is for people to make sense of a president who is deliberately making no effort to be understood. 

In most cases, Trump throws out wrong information without worrying about the consequences if he is found not to be accurate. For example, he openly stated that he attained the highest amount of electoral college votes in recent US elections. When an irritated reporter retorts that this is incorrect as his votes were lower than Obama’s, Trump simply responds by saying ‘that’s the information that was given to me’. Then he carries on and insists that there is no turmoil in his administration because it’s all going smooth. 

This is despite clearly visible evidence that the newly inaugurated president is having a very rough start. 

What Trump is doing is something very complex and different. Trump is not lying because lying presupposes that one knows the truth. Therefore, the process of lying entails having to make efforts to make a point that what people think is the truth is actually false. This is why people who lie often double their efforts to make their point understood. 

The problem with Trump’s approach is that he does not make an effort to convince people of his often erroneous position. He simply dismisses them as being held to fake news, and hence being removed from his reality and its sense of truth. 
For Trump, anything he doesn’t like to hear is simply lumped into the ever-growing list of fake news. 

This way of relating to the reality on the ground is something that has not been seen before, at least not from a head of state. How do you deal with a man who has redefined the relationship between truth and lies in such a manner that even the most reasonable people have to ask themselves if they are not mad when confronted with the Trump situation?

The sad part is that Trump’s policies are real and they have real impacts on real people, while he labels as fake news any negative coverage of his presidency. 

It was odd when he admitted to the press that indeed leaks from the White House are real, hence he intends to investigate the sources of those leaks. He, however, maintains that the coverage of the leaked information is fake news.   

This helps Trump when it comes to deciding which issues about his presidency he would engage with, and which ones are not worth his time.  

When he has answers and is comfortable with the issue at hand, he will engage and offer further explanation of his decisions. When he feels forced into a corner, Trump disengages by declaring fake news. 

The sad part is that Trump is always willing to hold press conferences with the media even if it means declaring that the basis for all their questions is fake news.

One way or another, people have to ask questions about Trump’s sanity. His press chiefs have already started hitting back at the allegations of insanity, stating that Trump is as mad as a “fox” because he won elections hands down. 

Now this is a crafty explanation. This means that if Trump is mad, then everyone who elected him is also insane. By perusing this line, Trump’s detractors run the risk of declaring a large part of the American population mad for electing Trump. 

This is not a good way to deal with a president who thinks he is still campaigning for elections. He will agitate his supporters against the system even further, becoming more and more emboldened to accelerate his insane policies. 

America will have to ride this one out and it still has four more years to go. 

- Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  us 2016 elections  |  fake news
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