First in a series.
The word trumpery, with similar definitions, appears in every English language dictionary.
Trumpery, as practiced by Donald Trump, includes meandering, unfocused babble, frenzied repetition of meaningless phrases and misinformation, all expressed with pompous self-admiration. Consider this exchange with Chris Matthews on MSNBC:
MATTHEWS: OK. You said last night on CNN you’re not going to stick to this pledge to back the [Republican] nominee. Is that — are you sticking to that?
TRUMP: I have not been treated properly. People understand. They haven’t stuck to the pledge. I don’t want an endorsement from somebody that doesn’t feel like, oh, I love Trump. If he wins, he’s going to be the guy. I don’t want that endorsement, I’m not looking for that endorsement.
So when they ask me about Cruz and the endorsement, I said, no, no. Just put — no pressure on Cruz, tell him he doesn’t have to endorse me. Please don’t endorse me. It doesn’t matter. The endorsements don’t mean very much. You know, I have great endorsements, I have some phenomenal endorsements.
Wait! Trump was asked if he would decline to back someone else as nominee. His response was that he didn’t want an endorsement from someone who doesn’t love him, or, from Ted Cruz. AND by the way, he has “phenomenal endorsements” – but endorsements don’t mean much.
Here’s an excerpt from the April 3d Face the Nation with Host, John Dickerson.
DICKERSON: When people looked at your answer on abortion, on proliferation, they got the sense you were just winging it on foreign policy — on policy issues.
TRUMP: I’m not winging it.
DICKERSON: Have you been studying up?
TRUMP: I have. I have.
DICKERSON: You met with your foreign policy team in your hotel in Washington. What did you ask them?
TRUMP: More than anything else, I discussed nuclear.
Wait! The question was, “what did you ask them”? Of course Trump doesn’t ask or listen. He talks. If he really did meet with a so-called foreign policy team, whoever that is, he did the talking. Trump continued:
TRUMP: To me, the single biggest problem that this world has — and we will knock out ISIS fast and we will do a lot of things — but the single biggest problem that the world has is nuclear. I think, if somebody gets nuclear weapons, that is a disaster.
By what standard does Trump find nuclear “the single biggest problem”? He didn’t say because he doesn’t ponder such abstract questions. Nuclear weapons were used only once, 71 years ago. Since then, millions have been killed or maimed by missiles, chemical weapons, bullets and bombs.
What did he mean by “if somebody gets nuclear”? As Trump himself has said, several nations already have nuclear capability, including North Korea, a Communist dictatorship run by a lunatic. In a later interview he contradicted himself by calling for even more nations to develop nuclear capability.
Of course, Trump doesn’t know who “somebody” is. He simply verbalizes his fleeting thoughts and emotions, in real time, the instant he experiences them. Then the media replay those thoughts dozens of times, as if they had more meaning or validity than random grunts from the guy on the third stool down at the corner bar.
DICKERSON: Did they [the purported foreign policy team] say anything to you that you have been saying and said, you probably shouldn’t say that?
TRUMP: Not at all. In fact, many of them — and I will give you full list of the people that were there, and the list is being added on, and we have many people that are top people that want to come on board. Many of them were surprised at my knowledge, and they were surprised at the feel that I had for it. I have a feel. I have… I will tell you what the feel is.
Remember the original question that opened this back and forth? It was, “have you been winging it?” Trump’s claim to be speaking from “a feel” is, of course the same thing as winging it. It’s bluffing. It’s expressing uninformed opinions because he gets away with uninformed opinions. Trump continued:
TRUMP: The feel is, I was asked about NATO. Now, as an entrepreneur, I have never been really asked too much about NATO. NATO is not exactly — when I’m doing deals or building buildings in Washington or New York or wherever I may be building them, but the question was asked about NATO
Knowing a little bit about NATO at the time — this was a couple of weeks ago — I said, in my opinion, NATO is obsolete. It’s many, many decades old, like now 68 years, but it’s many, many decades old. And NATO is too expensive, because we can’t afford this anymore.
This response is another indication that he has indeed been winging it. When he disparaged NATO in the CNN interview he was speaking as a candidate for President, not a deal-maker/building-builder. Yet in the ninth month of his campaign he still lacks informed opinions. He still spoke from lack of knowledge, as if the interview was a construction site bull session, and his ignorant ideas would not be flashed around the world and thus would not matter. With little or no thought Mr. Trump alarmed twenty seven allied nations by summarily dismissing NATO as “obsolete” because it’s old and “expensive.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO is a seven decades old, mutual defense treaty organization with 28 member nations, including the United States. Why doesn’t Trump think it’s a good thing that the NATO alliance has survived seven tumultuous decades, through eight Democrat and eight Republican Administrations, and political turmoil in the other member nations? Would he likewise dismiss our much older treaty relationships with, say England, Australia and Canada? Trump continued his response to the question about his foreign policy team:
It turned out I was right on every single subject… And people were surprised at the instinct that I had, because it turns out that we are spending too much money on NATO, and it turns out, very importantly, that it is obsolete. NATO is not talking about terrorism.
Trump’s claim that after he became informed it “turned out” he was right is further confirmation that initially he was winging it. And who made the determination that he was right? Donald Trump, of course! Certainly nobody from the alleged foreign policy team has come forward to confirm that he’s “right” about anything. What’s tough about foreign policy is the “right” answer is usually elusive. Most often there is no objectively “right” assessment or course of action.
What about terrorism? In this interview he said “NATO is not talking about terrorism.” In other interviews he said “NATO doesn’t cover terrorism.” But this simply isn’t true. NATO forces are currently deployed in counter-terrorism operations in several places, including Afghanistan, The Horn of Africa and The Mediterranean Sea.
What about the cost of NATO? In a radio interview with host Charlie Sykes Trump bellowed:
We pay so much disproportionately more for NATO. We are getting ripped off by every country in NATO, where they pay virtually nothing, most of them. And we’re paying the majority of the costs.
NATO has a relatively small infrastructure, including its administrative and command headquarters staff that is funded by direct cash contributions from member nations. In 2016 it’s projected to cost about $2.4 billion. The portion of the total that each member nation contributes is equal to its national income relative to the total national income of all members. With the largest national income America contributes 22%. In 2016 this will be $519 Million or slightly less than one percent of our total 2016 Defense Department budget of $585 Billion.
In addition to cash contributions, each member nation pledges to spend proportionate amounts on its own military. Only America spends in excess of its pledge every year. Many of the other nations have fallen short in some years. A few have fallen short every year. This is, of course, a problem. But it isn’t that America is being “ripped off.” Again, we’re spending on our own military, which we would do anyway. And Trump has never alleged that we spend too much on the military! Just today, at a rally in New York he repeated his standard promise:
We are going to rebuild our military. It’s totally depleted, we’re going to rebuild our military it’s going to be bigger and better than ever before!
Trump’s promised military rebuild would cost far more than our NATO pledge. So he has offered absolutely nothing to support his allegations that NATO is obsolete, that all the other countries “pay virtually nothing” and that America is being “ripped off.”
Yes, NATO has faults that should be addressed. But Donald Trump has given no effort to learn what the real problems are and no effort to figure out how to solve them. Instead, he has spewed witless trumpery that risks damaging the NATO alliance for no benefit.