12 Jan 2017

Trump Is So Awful He Defies Reason

Scott Sumner, Trump 16 Comments

…from his critics, that is.

I really didn’t expect that in 2017, I would bother commenting on Scott Sumner’s crusade against Donald Trump. But after reading a recent post from Scott, I can’t help myself, and I can only hope that you will see why.

On January 10, Scott opened a post like this: “There is no issue that Trump emphasized more than having Mexico pay for a new border wall. The suggestion always got huge applause from his crowds. Now there are disturbing signs that America’s Congress is about to ignore the will of the voters, and spend $38 billion on a boondoggle that no one seriously expects to work. So sad!!”

Good one, Scott, except I have been blessed (cursed?) with a good memory, so I knew it would be fun to go dig up this post from Scott, from Nov. 22, when he told us: “Of all the issues that Trump campaigned on, none got more emphasis that his promise to persecute, I mean to prosecute Hillary and send her to jail. He was quite passionate on what he would do to that “nasty woman”. But when a con man appears passionate, that really doesn’t tell you anything about whether he actually cares about the issue:” (And then Scott quoted from a news story saying that Trump probably wouldn’t prosecute Clinton.)

Look at the first two sentences. They are identical phrasing, except one is the passive and one is the active voice. Instead of merely saying, “Trump is backing off a campaign pledge,” Scott both times had to assure us that Trump was backing off his most important pledge. And presumably if Trump doesn’t end up erecting a huge tariff against China, Scott would complain, “There was no issue that Trump emphasized more than reducing the trade deficit with China. And yet today we read at Bloomberg…”

But of course, my observations here are silly. For people who really despise Trump, it’s not even necessary to use reason when attacking him. You probably think I’m engaging in hyperbole. Not at all. In the Jan. 10 post, Scott goes on to say:

Trump fans think Obama had nothing to do with the massive rise in the S&P from the lows of roughly 700, but Trump definitely caused the small (roughly 6%) rise since the November election (black dot to yellow dot.)

Here is what I believe:

1. They may well be right.

2. They have not presented any persuasive evidence that they are correct.

In other words, you Trumpistas may be right, but don’t expect any non-Trumpistas to believe it. Just take a look at the graph, and you can see how absurd the claim seems.

Now you might reply that this is a superficial criticism, and that sophisticated analysis shows that Trump helped the stock market but Obama did not. But Trump is all about superficial, and completely rejects sophisticated analysis, of any sort. This is the guy who picked Peter Navarro to advise him on trade. [Bold added.]

When I was originally reading Scott’s post, before I hit the part that I’ve bolded above, I had been toying with the idea of using previous Sumner blog posts to establish that Trump fans are on solid ground for thinking: (a) Obama’s policies aren’t responsible for the rise in the stock market since 2009, and (b) Trump (and his Cabinet picks) are largely responsible for the rise in the market since the election. That would be pretty funny, right? If I used Scott’s own blog posts to show that the Trump fans weren’t being silly for believing the views he seemed to be mocking?

But, when I hit the part that I’ve put in bold above, I knew it would be a waste of time. Scott literally argued that one is not allowed to use sophisticated analysis to refute a superficial critique of Trump.

Last thing: I understand that some people really, utterly, despise Trump–this isn’t a mere issue of having different political views. Fine. And further, if ranting about him relieves stress, and you don’t care whether it does yourself long-term damage, then that’s fine–it’s like taking up smoking to get through these 4 (or 8) years for you. But don’t kid yourself that it’s healthy. Let me reproduce a fantastic passage from Glenn Greenwald’s column about the CNN/BuzzFeed fiasco:

[T]here is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy?

16 Responses to “Trump Is So Awful He Defies Reason”

  1. Tel says:

    When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe …

    This only just occurred to you guys? Better late than never I suppose.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Which guys, Tel? GG is stating an obvious fact in light of a new episode, and same for me. The next time I have to say, “Protectionism is bad,” I hope you don’t ask, “This only just occurred to you guys?”

      (And if you’re focusing on GG, he has been very consistent for years on this kind of stuff. He doesn’t endorse BS media attacks even on people he hates.)

      • Tel says:

        Anyone wanting to avoid destroying their reputation needs to think ahead a bit. It doesn’t work in retrospect, after crying “Wolf!” extensively and then much later deciding that what we really need to do is get a reputation for being hard headed and telling it like it is.

        This applies to the media in general, but I think commentators should appreciate that brands such as CNN have already tarnished themselves to the point of being unrecoverable. It’s waaaaaayyyyy too late to start thinking about starting over.

  2. Levi Russell says:

    Yeah, I get really tired of seeing all the hyperbole over what are really minor things (not the issues you mention above, but others).

    Avoiding the chicken little problem seems wise here, but only criticizing Trump on substantive points and criticizing other people when they get petty only opens you up for crap like this: “You must secretly be a Trump supporter!!! OMG!!!!!!!!” I know it’s happened to me and I believe Glenn Greenwald has been subject to that kind of childish crap too.

    • Matt M says:

      About 50% of Twitter replies to GG are people loudly insisting he’s a secret Pro-Trump sleeper agent…

      • Levi Russell says:

        Good grief. It really is frustrating, especially for someone like me who agrees at least sometimes with the right. I dislike Trump more than I dislike the average politician, as a libertarian. For me, being labeled a Trump supporter would be career-endangering.

        • ax123man says:

          Professor I presume? If so, I hope things aren’t so bad that career-endangerment is a risk of questioning absurdity. Is it 1984 yet?

          good luck

  3. RPLong says:

    It’s not just the Trump issue. One of the reasons I gave up reading Scott Sumner’s blog posts is that he tends to throw the kitchen sink at every issue. He doesn’t present his best case for Issue XYZ, he presents any and all evidence, no matter how weak the argument is, presumably hoping that any method of convincing someone is a good method as long as Sumner is “basically right.”

    I find this method of argumentation wholly disingenuous and very off-putting. He’s not the only one who does it, of course, and as a result of that we shouldn’t unfairly make an example of him. But there are only so many hours in a day, and I would rather spend that time reading interesting, sincere, and well-constructed arguments than reading the writings of an advocate who puts forth arguments that he himself doesn’t believe.

    • Levi Russell says:

      Didn’t Bob recently criticize Sumner for having some kind of silly postmodernist view of truth?

  4. E. Harding says:

    Murphy, you are rarely right when you criticize Sumner. But you are entirely correct here.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      You’re like a nuclear warhead, E. Harding. Complex and dangerous.

      • Andrew_FL says:

        I’ll agree with one of those.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Just to explain my crack, Andrew_FL, I meant that E. Harding has been on the warpath against Sumner (for the Trump stuff). Yet E. Harding wanted to make sure I knew that he rarely endorsed my Sumner critiques.

          • Andrew_FL says:

            E Harding is especially dangerous, in that he’s a Market Monetarist Trump supporter.

  5. Major.Freedom says:

    Sumner’s premises are more political and anti-social, than logical or truth based.

    I expect the quality of his posts to continue to degrade. He can’t cope with the world with his chosen philosophy.

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