Saturday, January 7, 2017

Trump, the wall, the media and broken promises?

Another break from "Assessing democracy..."  Stuff is happening again!  Stuff!

Anyway, quick synopsis, which you probably already know.  The Trump people are planning to ask Congress to appropriate money for a Mexican border wall.  The press reported it as such.  Since one of Trump's main campaign promises was to make Mexico pay for the wall, this looks, um, slightly unkosher.  Trump responded with a tweet about the "dishonest" media not reporting that he is going to force Mexico to reimburse for it.

This actually gets right into the gist of yesterday's piece at The Conversation.  Is Trump breaking his promise on the border wall, and if so, is this my model playing itself out?

I'm actually... ever so slightly sympathetic to Trump here.

Hypothetically, suppose that Trump could force Mexico to reimburse for the wall.  If so, then would he be breaking his promise by having Congress appropriate money for the wall, then getting reimbursed later?

No.  He'd be keeping it.

The proper way to cover the story, then, depends on whether or not one believes that Trump is capable of keeping his campaign promise.  Will Trump try?  Almost certainly.  The problem here is that Trump just doesn't know a single fucking thing about politics, government, international relations, etc.

The principle here is known as the "Dunning-Kruger effect," from a series of psychology studies (yet to be debunked in their ongoing replication crisis, unlike most of the field--  ZING!).  Basically, incompetent people lack the competence to know how incompetent they are.  Trump inherited a bunch of money, had a mixed business record in the real estate industry, then really struck it rich branding his own name and going on tv, playing the character of the real estate mogul.  This, circularly, made him actually rich, convincing him that he really is great at deals.  So, he almost certainly thinks he can force Mexico to pay.

If he thinks he is going to get Mexico to reimburse us, we can't even call this one a "lie."  It isn't a lie if you believe it.  It's just... ludicrous.

The problem, of course, is that he will have no real policy tools to force Mexico to pay (no, the impounded remittances thing won't work).  International relations don't work that way, and even if he could inflict real suffering on Mexico, they can never give in because once they cave to extortion, they abandon their national sovereignty.

This is tangled.  Everyone who isn't a Trumpkin knows that Mexico won't be paying for that wall.  Yet, you can understand why Trump reacts the way he does here!  He really does believe that he is going to keep his promise, and if one accepts the premise that Mexico could be forced to pay up, which was always his premise, then there is no inconsistency between what he is doing now and his initial promise, in which case there would be a problem with how the media are (yes, "are") covering the announcement that he will ask Congress to appropriate money for the wall initially.

Yes, I think I just sort of defended Trump.

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