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Presidential Temperament - Dilbert Blog

Presidential Temperament

Do you remember the time someone insulted Donald Trump and then Trump punched him in the nose?

Neither do I. Because nothing like that has ever happened.

Instead, people attack Donald Trump with words (often) and he attacks them back with words. See if the following pattern looks familiar:

1. Person A insults Trump with words. Trump insults back with words.

2. Person B mentions some sort of scandal about Trump. Trump mentions some sort of scandal about Person B.

3. Person C endorses Trump (even if they publicly feuded before) and Trump immediately says something nice about Person C. The feud is instantly over.

See the pattern? 

Consider how many times you have seen the pattern repeat with Trump. It seems endless. And consistent. Trump replies to critics with proportional force. His reaction is as predictable as night following day.

The exceptions are his jokey comments about roughing up protesters at his rallies. The rally-goers recognize it as entertainment. I won’t defend his jokes at rallies except to say that it isn’t a temperament problem when you say something as a joke and people recognize it as such. (We see his rally joke-comments out of context on news coverage so they look worse.)

What we have in Trump is the world’s most consistent pattern of behavior. For starters, he only responds to the professional critics, such as the media and other politicians. When Trump responded to the Khan family and to Miss Universe’s attacks, they had entered the political arena. As far as I know, private citizens – even those critical of Trump – have never experienced a personal counter-attack. Trump limits his attacks to the folks in the cage fight with him. 

And when Trump counter-attacks, he always responds with equal measure. Words are met with words and scandal mentions are met with scandal mentions. (And maybe a few words.) But always proportionate and immediate.

Does any of that sound dangerous? 

What if Trump acted this way to our allies and our adversaries? What then?

Answer: Nothing

Our allies won’t insult Trump, and they won’t publicly mention any his alleged scandals. They will respect the office of the President of the United States no matter what they think of Trump. If Trump’s past behavior predicts his future, he will get along great with allies. Our allies have been fine with every president so far, and they haven’t all been perfect humans. The worst case scenario is that Trump calls some prime minister goofy. We’ll all be used to it by then, including the prime minister in question.

But what about our adversaries? It seems that Trump will get along fine with Putin. And Trump says North Korea is China’s problem. Compare that to Hillary Clinton trying to publicly emasculate Putin (with words) while talking tough about North Korea and forcing them to act tough in response. Clinton seems like the dangerous one here.

Clinton and Trump both talk tough about Iran. That feels like a tie. Trump might talk tougher, but he has a pattern of doing just that to begin any negotiation. Iranians understand negotiating. Clinton has the extra risk of being influenced into military action by lobbyist for the defense industry. That risk is hard to measure, if it exists at all.

China’s ruling party is a bunch of trained engineers who couldn’t be goaded into an over-reaction if you tried. China would expect Trump to be a tough negotiator, but that’s not a cause for war. 

From the viewpoint of foreign leaders, Trump is 100% predictable. He responds with proportional force, every time, and right away. The safest situation for the world is when everyone can predict what the United States will do. You can criticize Trump for a lot of things, but he is completely predictable in this particular way.

That’s why it was easy to goad Trump into counter-attacking the Khans. That’s why it was easy to goad him into counter-attacking Miss Universe. But you know what no foreign leader will ever do to Trump?

That sort of bullshit. 

That stuff only happens in campaigns and in our internal politics. 

And if a foreign leader tried something so classless, Trump would respond proportionately. And every American would cheer when he did. It would be a headline for one day.

The riskiest situation for the world is when our adversaries can’t predict our response. That encourages them to be adventurous. With a President Trump, foreign leaders will know that every action creates an equal and measured reaction. Every time, and right away. That’s his unbroken pattern.

With a President Clinton, foreign leaders won’t always know what they will get. For one thing, they won’t know where her allegiances are. Is she serving the people, the Democratic Party, or lobbyists? Will she react with equal force or try to be diplomatic? Uncertainty is risky. Clinton offers more uncertainty. She is complicated. Trump is simple.

I’ll wrap this up by summarizing the alleged risks of each candidate so you can see how they compare on the “scariness” dimension.

Alleged Clinton Risks

  1. Dementia risk (because of age)
  2. Low energy (maybe can’t perform the job)
  3. Temperament (alleged to yell and throw things)
  4. Might allow more terrorists into country via immigration
  5. Influenced by lobbyists to start wars (Eisenhower warned of this)
  6. Drinks alcohol (We don’t know how much or how often)
  7. General brain health is questionable lately
  8. Adversaries won’t know who she serves or how she will react.

Alleged Trump Risks

  1. Dementia risk (because of age)
  2. Trump is “literally Hitler” (This risk is cognitive dissonance, not real)
  3. Con man (Sure, but we’ll be watching him closely)
  4. Temperament (responds proportionately every time)
  5. Race riots (Clinton’s side created this risk by framing Trump as a racist)
  6. Inexperience (But Trump routinely succeeds where he has no experience)

If you think Trump is risky because of his “temperament” or because he is “literally Hitler” you are experiencing cognitive dissonance caused by Clinton’s persuasion game. I mean that literally. And remember that I’m a trained hypnotist. That doesn’t mean I’m always right, but it does mean I’m trained to spot cognitive dissonance and you probably aren’t.

I don’t think any of us is smart enough to evaluate the relative risk of either candidate. And that’s my point. If you think Trump is the dangerous one, that isn’t supported by his history, his patterns, or the facts. It is literally an illusion created by his opponents.

One thing we can know for sure is dangerous is doing more of the same. Obama has been a successful president in part because the United States was strong enough to take on massive new debt. But that situation can’t last forever. Debt is a good idea until it reaches a point where it is deadly. At the current rate of debt growth, we’re doomed in the long run. That makes the candidate of change the lowest risk, even if you think he might call a few foreign leaders dopey.

You might like my book because sometimes foreign leaders are dopey.

I’ll be traveling to London and Zurich for ten days with my neighbor/girlfriend Kristina Basham. You can follow us on social media while we are there:

Instagram: @Kristinabasham    @ScottAdams925

Snapshot: @Kristinabasham     @ScottAdams925

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