Hanging Up on Donald Trump

I am enormously proud of my friend Alice Roberts for this interview she did on CNN, along with the longer one she did on MSNBC, both follow-ups to the Op-Ed she wrote earlier in the week for the Newark Star-Ledger.

What I particularly love about this interview is Alice’s forthright, even laughing admission that if Trump were to call her, she’d hang up on him. Knowing Alice, I’m pretty sure she’d be as good as her word. That one sentence of hers captures the essence of the person–always the most forthright voice at any town council or school board meeting to which, invariably, she’d take her kids. When I think or write about citizen participation in politics, particularly local politics, the model I have in mind is Alice.

A couple of random thoughts go through my mind.

One is that like Alice (though obviously less intensely), I often find Rob’s death hard to accept at a simple factual level. Every now and then, I still have occasion to drive through Glen Ridge, where we were neighbors. He was so much a fixture of our neighborhood that it seems as though one might magically will him into existence, given the sheer oddness of his non-existence. A smile that broad, one thinks, can’t simply vanish from the world without a trace. But, I suppose, there’s a sense in which it has, and a sense in which it hasn’t.

Another is that it’s depressing to think that Rob’s death could have arisen in part from a clerical error–the mixing up of one test result with another. Shortly after I resigned my academic job, I considered taking a job as a data entry clerk for a lab processing COVID-19 tests. I ended up not taking that particular job (it was too far away), but the idea of making a consequential data-entry error while doing it weighed on me as I considered it. Even now, I’m not sure whether to feel anger or mere resignation at the error that led to the mix-up in question.

Third point: the MSNBC interview features a wonderful montage of the Roberts family, and does a good job at showcasing how attractive a family they were and are. But it bothers me when the news media addresses a tragedy like this by fixating on the photogenic qualities of those involved, as though beautiful people suffer more intensely than physically unattractive ones, or as though the tragedy itself were deepened by the loss of so handsome a man to such a beautiful family. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating physical beauty, but it’s beside the point here. It’s not as though the tragedy would be diluted in the case of a less photogenic family, or worse yet, could legitimately be ignored for that reason. Physical appearance shouldn’t be playing the oversize role in this story that it ends up playing.

All that said, I guess the main point is the one Alice makes with such passion. Rob’s death is emblematic of a national failure, one with Donald Trump directly at its center. It’s unfortunate that he’s lost so little while others have lost so much. But at the very least, he deserves to lose this election.


Thanks to William Ortiz and Chris Paglinco for bringing various parts of this story to my attention.

9 thoughts on “Hanging Up on Donald Trump

  1. I understand her feeling, but regard it as a very narrow-minded way of voting. It’s like nothing else matters. What Trump did for 3 years before the pandemic is irrelevant. How well other powers that be, like governors, the CDC, and the FDA did are irrelevant. Joe Biden’s merits and demerits are irrelevant. How well somebody else, e.g. Hillary Clinton, might have handled the pandemic isn’t worthy of consideration.

    Liked by 2 people

    • On the other hand, perhaps a bunch of sincere, passionate one-issue voters, each more or less offsetting the other, is part of how democracy works (and works well). I’m not sure things would work out so well if everyone voted that way, however.

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      • Responding to Michael:

        think it helps that “one issue” voting comes in degrees, and is itself a vague concept.

        Comes in degrees: There are probably very few people who are literally one (and only one) issue voters. There are people who regard one issue as having overriding importance, but regard their stand on that one issue as cohering with their views on other issues. Then there are people who vote on one or two issues; or three or four issues; and so on. Obviously, there’s a limit on how synoptic a view we can demand of the ordinary voter, or indeed, of any human being.

        A vague concept: what “one” issue is really, at the end of the day, reducible to a single issue? The pandemic is a single complex event, but once transformed into “issue talk,” becomes many different issues.

        You may recall that Michael Huemer has a discussion of single-issue political thinking in The Problem of Political Authority. Huemer is talking about conceptions of government, not voting. I found his argument weak and unpersuasive, but possibly worth re-visiting at some point.

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    • Responding to Merlin:

      I mostly agree with Alice that virtually all of that is irrelevant, and don’t see what’s narrow-minded about thinking so. One issue can have overriding importance, and I would say that the pandemic does. I can’t think of anything that Trump did in the preceding three years before the pandemic that’s as important as the pathetic job he’s done with respect to it. How well the other powers did is irrelevant to the assessment of his performance. A discussion of Joe Biden’s merits and demerits is exactly irrelevant, but beside the point, considering the wild incompetence of Trump’s handling of the pandemic; almost any idiot could have done better than Trump, whether Biden or Clinton.

      I guess I just have to ask you pointblank, Merlin: do you actually approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic? I can’t think of any president in the last 100 years who has handled any major event as poorly as Trump has handled the pandemic, not even LBJ with respect to Vietnam, or Bush with respect to Iraq. To describing his handling of it as “incompetent” is a colossal understatement; to live under Trump is to live under the rule of psychopath. Biden has his faults, but is at least not a psychopath. I can (sort of) understand not voting, or voting for a third party candidate, but if one narrows the choice to Trump versus Biden, I guess I’d like to hear one semi-coherent reason for choosing Trump over Biden. Offhand, I can’t imagine one.

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      • No, I do not approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. I also don’t approve of some other high powered people’s handling of it, including Fauci, some Democratic governors, and the mainstream media. I consider Trump a bombastic narcissist, but not a psychopath. He is not Jeffrey Epstein, John Wayne Gacy, V. Lenin, or Adolf Hitler.

        Joe Biden is a wishy-washy, spineless fool who in his entire life has accomplished what besides collecting government paychecks and getting elected several times? He was a leader on the 1994 crime bill that was highly irrational and harshly discriminated against black people, helping to turn black neighborhoods into drug war zones. Years later Biden himself said that law was a big mistake. He was against the first Gulf War and for the 2nd Gulf War, wrong both times in my opinion. He is a follower, not a leader. If elected, he will be manipulated like a puppet by Schumer, Pelosi, Harris, AOC, maybe Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, the UN, and the Chinese government, all totalitarian. He consistently favors more taxes, even more spending, and more regulation. I am a combat veteran. The idea of Joe Biden being commander-in-chief of the military makes me shudder. There was a local adage when I was young – the guy could mess up a junkyard. I am not a fan of Trump, but Biden is even worse.

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        • I don’t find your last response persuasive.

          There is no comparison between Trump’s “handling” of the pandemic and that of Fauci or the Democratic governors, at least governors like Wolf (PA), Murphy (NJ), Cuomo (NY), and Raimondo (RI). I’ve heard a lot of loose right-wing talk about what the Democratic governors did wrong, but almost all of it strikes me as ignorant nonsense written by people who have no idea how paramedicine, hospital workflow, or sub-acute care work at even an elementary level. Trump wasted January, February, and most of March, lied systematically about every aspect of the pandemic, and has incited sedition in the midst of the pandemic. That is psychopathy of a kind that exceeds that of John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Epstein. Anyway, one doesn’t have to exceed those two to be a psychopath. The jails, prisons, and psychiatric facilities are full of psychopaths who, for whatever reason, haven’t gone as far as those two. Donald Trump is a member of their club.

          There are credible studies out there suggesting that a faster, more consistent, more science-attuned response to the pandemic might have saved either tens of thousands or a hundred thousand or more lives. Whatever the number, Donald Trump squandered them, and stands accused of those deaths. I think it’s entirely credible that he is guilty of mass murder, and that his supporters are complicit in that crime. Jeffrey Epstein didn’t manage that, and John Wayne Gacy didn’t manage it on that scale. That Trump is not Lenin or Hitler is not for lack of trying on his part.

          Even if I accepted your evaluation of Biden, if one accepts my evaluation of Trump, the choice would be clear: better a wishy-washy guy than a psychopath.

          But there is no good reason to accept your evaluation of Biden. Yes, Biden led the charge on the crime bill in the mid 1990s. Here is a balanced assessment of the bill itself:

          https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/6/20/18677998/joe-biden-1994-crime-bill-law-mass-incarceration

          You seem to have fixated on thing in it, and ignored everything else in it. I oppose the drug war, but I also oppose crime. As a marginal improvement, what do you say about this?

          The law encouraged states to back drug courts, which attempt to divert drug offenders from prison into treatment, and also helped fund some addiction treatment.

          Or this?

          The Violence Against Women Act provided more resources to crack down on domestic violence and rape.

          We could as easily credit Biden for these things as hold him responsible for the bad in the bill. What if we did? Then he comes out looking pretty good–a lot better than a person who still thinks that the Central Park Five should have been executed despite being innocent of the crime for which they were charged (and the crime was rape, not murder). Can you find an instance of Joe Biden demanding the extra-judicial killing of demonstrably innocent people–not once, but over decades, despite being given dozens of chances to recant?

          With all due respect, Merlin, there’s something frankly ludicrous about your comparison. You are equating the advocacy of a war on drugs, an utterly conventional view (however wrongheaded), accepted at the time by most Americans with predictable collateral damage on minority communities (but also some successes there), with intentional extra-judicial killing of the innocent for transparently cynical racist reasons. Are those two things really morally equivalent? Unintended harm with some positive effects in dealing with a real, complex problem is morally equivalent to intentional murder in order to pander to racists? Only by endorsing such moral inversions can one equate Trump with Biden. Otherwise, the difference between them is as obvious as the difference between the two italicized phrases.

          Biden did not say that “the law was a big mistake.” He said it contained big mistakes. All laws do. The difference is the Biden learns from his mistakes. Trump doubles down on them.

          I was also against the first Gulf War and in favor of the second, just like Biden–in my view, wrong only the second time. To be more precise, my view was that we should never have entered the Gulf conflict in 1990, but having done so, and signed onto a post-war agreement that demanded Iraq’s disarmament, we should have completed the disarmament and gotten out for good. I too credulously believed the Bush Administration’s rhetoric that they invaded Iraq to complete its disarmament. I’ve since become more skeptical of such claims. So has Biden.

          But it was Trump who unilaterally exited the Iran nuclear deal and escalated conflict with Iran, something I’ve written about ad nauseam at PoT.

          https://irfankhawajaphilosopher.com/2020/03/19/war-with-iran-24-regrets-only/

          Biden was in favor of the nuclear deal, and critical of Trump’s unilateral violation of it. All of that argues in favor of Biden against Trump, not that I’m crazy about either on foreign policy. But American foreign policy is almost incorrigible. The best that can be done with it is to avoid major wars.

          If elected, he will be manipulated like a puppet by Schumer, Pelosi, Harris, AOC, maybe Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, the UN, and the Chinese government, all totalitarian.

          Those are just hand-waving right-wing talking points without substance. How do you know “he will be manipulated” by those people? You’re writing as though you’re his therapist. There is no way to know such a thing, and no basis for predicting it. I wish he was persuaded by some of those people, especially AOC, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar on foreign policy, but I doubt he’ll be persuaded enough.

          He consistently favors more taxes, even more spending, and more regulation.

          So do I. You can’t fight a pandemic on the cheap, or by relying on the voluntary cooperation of totally irrational people.

          Larger issue: At some point, it seems to me, right-wing libertarians have to ask themselves how much mileage they can continue to get by repeating these mantras that don’t even convince people like me–former Objectivists. How convincing an argument have Objectivists or libertarians made for a version of the non-initiation of force principle that logically entails that “more taxes, more spending, and more regulation” should stop? I can answer that question with ease: there is no such argument anywhere. At some point, libertarians and Objectivists need to figure that out, and realize that they’re writing ideological checks with their rhetoric that far exceed the balance in their accounts.

          I’m a health care worker who sanitizes rooms full of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, among many other pathogens. So in that sense, I’m a front-line soldier right now, not against other people, but against pathogens. I need a commander in chief that I can respect, not one I want to spit at every time I go into combat. Right now, I don’t have one.

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          • This is a good summary of the Trump trainwreck on COVID-19, but it’s just a summary.

            It’s worth noting that whatever criticisms one might make of Bush or Obama, both of them took pandemic readiness seriously. To the extent that we have any infrastructure in place to deal with COVID-19, we have them to thank. The same George Bush that started the Iraq War helped us prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. People tend to fixate on the awfulness of the war but forget how his actions positively affected events after his presidency (as did Obama’s).

            Here’s a compendium of all of Trump’s lies on the coronavirus, a track record that seems to me unbeatable for its wildness and mendacity.

            https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/10/trumps-lies-about-coronavirus/608647/

            One last piece. The original title for this Op-Ed properly likened the Trump-inspired enthusiasm for herd immunity as a form of mass murder. Close enough.

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          • I don’t find your response persuasive. You gave no good reasons to accept your evaluation of Biden, Trump, the autocratic Democratic governors you seem to admire, or left-wing Vox’s “balanced” assessment of the crime bill. Your evaluation consists of an abundance of raw emotion and a dearth of reason.
            Bye.

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