Monday, February 20, 2017

Trump Derangement Syndrome

On Sundays it has been my habit to read the New York Times Sunday Review. I like to peer in the bubble. On view, the old lady is still full-on foaming at the mouth with Trump Derangement Syndrome. Sunday's Review:

  1. Our Putin
  2. Bring Back Hypocrisy ("The American President and the American Way of Lying") 
  3. Donald Trump Will Numb you
  4. When it's time to blow the whistle (why leaking Flynn's private phone conversations is ok)
  5. Are Liberals Helping Trump?
  6. The Secret Service of the Skies (Trump flying is closing down airports.) 
  7. New Yalta (Trump, Putin and Xi photoshpped on to Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill at Yalta) 
  8. Being First Lady is a Job (OK, MDS not TDS, but I still count it. ) 
  9. Unnamed Sources, Happy Readers (more it's ok to leak private phone calls in service of TDS) 
  10. Where in the world can we find hope? "In Canda and Denmark creative strategists fight right-wing populism. "
  11. Breaking the Anti-Immigrant fever ("Americans have been watching the Trump Administration unfold for almost a month now, in all its malevolent incompetence...." ) 
  12. Trapped in Trump's Brain.
  13. How can we get rid of Trump? 
  14. Beltway panic, Wall Street Zero? 
  15. Diagnosing the President (Is he mentally ill?)
  16. Trump's Wall Won't Keep out Heroin.
  17. A Muslim Bank is Unscientific.

All TDS, all the time. There were only 5 pieces that were not, directly, foaming at the mouth about Trump. The old pretense of "balance" with one or two token opposing opinions is completely gone.  There were none -- none -- that offered an inking as to how people in the Administration see things, how Republicans cooperating with the Administration see things, or how the nearly half of the country that voted for Trump sees things. I don't agree with much of what's going on either, but I like to try to understand how they articulate their views. 

And then we wring our hands about polarization. 

Dear Times, get a grip.  America needs a thoughtful opposition, especially now. 


  1. Anyone who thinks people are over reacting to Trump should read his tweets and then consider that those are the unfiltered expressions of what is going on in his mind.

    Anyone who thinks that people are over reacting to Trump should consider how the travel ban was expressed and implemented and the things that Trump said about the rule of law when the courts pushed back.

    It seems to me that the Republicans basically announced to the country in January 2009 that there would be no civil discourse until either the Democrat or the Republican party was utterly destroyed. It has taken a while but I think what you are seeing is the grass roots left finally responding "challenge accepted".

    Now suppose that a person on the left still thought that civil discourse was possible or at least thought that game theory suggested that they should try to co-operate for one or two "turns" to see if the Republicans would start co-operating then that person would say to the Republicans: show me your policies on health care, entitlement reform, tax reform, immigration, trade etc but they would be met by blank stares from the Republicans.

    1. My point is not over reacting but reacting ineffectively.

      I haven't heard "but Jimmy did it first" since my children were very young.

    2. "My point is not over reacting but reacting ineffectively."

      You are not the target audience.

    3. That's a great point. These writers are trying to please their subscribers.

    4. And that too is my point. The Times used to be the "paper of record," "all the news that's fit to print," not the echo-chamber for the resistance. Sad to see one of the last institutions that even pretended to be a commons vanish.

    5. The travel "ban" is essentially a 2-3 month moratorium on immigration from 7 nations which have been labeled by the US, PRIOR to Trump, as state sponsors of terrorism. Yes it was rolled out stupidly but you'd think Trump has been going door to door stabbing the first born based on the reaction from the left. When's the last time the left used the term "illegal" when referring to immigrants in the country unlawfully anyway? Somehow "undocumented" is the term of art, as if someone just happened to forget to sign the paperwork and werent knowingly breaking the law. Personally, I'm very pro immigration, but what the left is doing right now is just pure lunacy.

    6. I don't think that Absalon made a "Jimmy did it first" argument. Instead, the rise of Trump implies that moral expectations about fellow citizens have been breached, so that previous civic conventions, built upon intuitions of shared morality, are no longer useful. If you truly believe that an administration is using "gaslighting" and racist signaling, then a conventionally balanced approach represents propagandizing. Your perspective requires an assumption of sincerity on the part of the administration, which might be generous, but not necessarily sober minded.

    7. "It seems to me that the Republicans basically announced to the country in January 2009 that there would be no civil discourse.." is a Jimmy did it first argument.

    8. @The Donk

      I personally do not care if Trump decided to suspend processing of pending applications from the seven Muslim countries. I do care that the Executive Order was incompetently prepared, not properly vetted, incompetently implemented and purported to suspend, without notice, individual cause or due process, existing vested Green Card and visa rights.

      I'm a lawyer. I, for one, believe in the rule of law. When a President attacks a court on Twitter because judges said he had to comply with the constitution in good faith there is a problem. I am not in anyone's echo chamber on those issues. I read the Tweets.

      Forget the seven Muslim countries. The way the Executive Order was done and Trump's reaction to the court rulings says there is a problem.

      (so far as "Jimmy did it first" - we have a ways to go until the lefties are shouting "lock him up" - but we will probably get there in a few months)

    9. What part of the Constitution, read in good faith, says Congress is prohibited from permitting the President to control immigration?

      There was nothing wrong with the implementation of the executive order.

      There are no rights to a greencard or visa.

    10. Professor Cochrane,

      You said "I haven't heard 'but Jimmy did it first' since my children were very young." I guess it's been a while since you've looked at equilibria in repeated games...

      What is the point of upholding a norm that the other side won't uphold as well? The equilibria are both sides uphold the norm or neither side upholds the norm.

    11. It might be a norm that you internalize because it is important within your side, even if outsiders don't uphold it. Though it might appeal to them as well in the long run.

    12. Pithom

      You managed three errors in three sentences. The short answers are:
      1) The Congress cannot authorize the President to violate the constitution.
      2) Ha Ha. I suppose you think the same people who faked the moon landing faked the scene at the airports.
      3) A new applicant sitting in, for example, Delhi, has no right to have his application accepted. A current holder of a Green Card / residency permit / visa who shows up on US soil in the arrivals area of an airport does have an existing right.

  2. Maybe the Times is reporting the objective truth.

    If I understand the news, the White House is telling economists to goal seek growth numbers and to calculate the trade deficit in an artificial and misleading way. How does one deal with that? Are people supposed to pretend that such conduct is something that could be the foundation of a civil discourse and compromise?

    Trump has attacked the courts and the press. We are miles away from the fight you want to have because Trump wants to have a fight over the legitimacy of institutions.

    1. Clearly Absalon has come down with a case of TDS. Since WHEN exactly has an administration under projected GDP?

      Trump has atracked the press to roughly the same extent the press attacked him.

      As John points out, just look at the daily editorial sections of the NYT or the Washinton Post. Pure hysteria.

      Step out of the echo chamber brother!

    2. "Maybe the Times is reporting the objective truth."

      -Maybe the Electoral College could oust Trump.

      "If I understand the news, the White House is telling economists to goal seek growth numbers and to calculate the trade deficit in an artificial and misleading way. How does one deal with that? Are people supposed to pretend that such conduct is something that could be the foundation of a civil discourse and compromise?"

      -Those growth numbers may be optimistic, but are hardly unrealistic. The productivity stagnation of the 1970s were followed by the return to prosperity of the 1980s. The idea that this productivity stagnation is going to continue forever is completely unwarranted.

      "Trump has attacked the courts and the press. We are miles away from the fight you want to have because Trump wants to have a fight over the legitimacy of institutions."

      -Nope; the institutions want to have a fight over the legitimacy of the Presidency. What kind of legitimate courts allow judges to legislate from the bench? What kind of legitimate press is nothing more than a Democratic Party rag? Neither the courts nor the press are remotely "legitimate institutions". Meanwhile, the President got to his place fair and square; by using all lawful means necessary to win the Electoral College.

    3. Really Pithom? "-Nope; ..... " How do you get those notions?
      I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the institution of the Presidency. Only the competence of the current occupant.
      I don't think any of the court opinions on the "travel ban" have been making new law, they are just stating the applicability of existing law.
      The courts are definitively an official institution of government (the third branch).
      As has been pointed out in these pages the President does not have, no matter how much he whines and moans, the divine right of kings.

    4. Ridiculous. The "existing law" regarding immigration is decided by the Executive branch! Immigration policy is absolutely set by the executive and the courts are clearly legislating from the bench.

  3. "America needs a thoughtful opposition, especially now."
    Yes, fully agreed.
    This is why I much prefer the editorial and opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, and not the NYT.

  4. Professor - maybe this is what you are looking for:

  5. I always find it amusing when professors at research universities think that they are looking into a bubble, instead of out from one (and yes, I am guilty of being inside one myself).

  6. Actually, the "Are Liberals Helping Trump" is quite a sensible argument, and I would have thought you'd agree with it. Basically, it observes that "Trump Derangement Syndrome" (your words, not theirs) is alienating many reasonable people, and pushing them towards Trump, and away from the Democrats. See, e.g.,

    1. "Trump Derangement Syndrome" may be an intentional strategy. After spending 50 years as a (mostly) successful businessman President Trump knows that constantly insulting somebody (e.g. the press) is going to drive them further away. So the question may be why it's better to drive the press to irrational opposition than to show them why Trump policies might make sense.

  7. As witnessed again here, Cochrane periodically returns to a theme: the surface analysis of ideas is in bounds. A quest for deeper cause, however, which can take us into uncomfortable areas such as unconscious bias, human psychology, and (horrors!) even psychopathology, is not.

    Note the tell-tale phrase, "I like to try to understand how they articulate their views." Not why. "How".

    In short, Cochrane likes to keep things at a comfortable surface level. That's disappointing but not surprising, for frightening truths lie in the murky depths.

    1. P.S. Here is a nonpartisan way to understand the NY Times (and all good newspapers).

      Broadly speaking, the NY Times prints three kinds of content:

      (1) hard news (straight reporting)
      (2) analysis (what does the news mean? less objective)
      (3) opinion (highly subjective, punditry, polemics)

      Cochrane's 17 item hit-list is heavily weighted to items that fall in category (3). That's what you'd expect to appear in the Sunday edition.

      To find category (1) content, try reading the NY Times daily front page instead. There you will find the Times' hard news reporting.

      And yes, they have reported several times on what Trump voters think and believe.

      Of course the NY Times opinion content has a liberal bias. No one disputes that. If, however, Cochrane wishes to argue bias in the NY Times' hard news reporting, that is another topic.

  8. A couple more to add to your list:

    According to the disclosure, in 2012, Trump borrowed more than $50 million from a company called Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC. The true value of the loan could be much higher; the form requires Trump only to state the range of the loan's value, and he selected the top range, over $50,000,000. Elsewhere in the same document, Trump notes that he owns this LLC.

    The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.

    But then again, this must be just more derangement - huh?

  9. On the president's power: See 8 U.S. Code § 1182 - Inadmissible aliens
    "Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate."
    Congress gave the president that power. Whether it should have is another question. I'm a pro-immigrant, free-trade guy and that part of the code strikes me as out-of-bounds.


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