Tag Archives: Donald Trump

How did my home town become Trumpland?

[OK, I said I wasn’t going to do a Sift this week, and mostly I’m holding to that. But this single article just popped out.]

On the morning of Election Day, my wife and I cast our ballots in New Hampshire and then started driving west, heading to Quincy, Illinois, where I grew up. I didn’t think I was on a research trip. I just thought we would be visiting friends and that I would give a talk at the local Unitarian church.

We listened to the early returns on the radio, then stopped for the night in Erie, Pennsylvania. I went to bed comparatively early, around midnight. Ezra Klein had just explained why there probably weren’t enough uncounted Democratic votes in Wisconsin to erase Trump’s lead, and I decided I didn’t need to see any more.

At least Illinois was a blue state, called for Clinton shortly after the polls closed. But it differs from Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan mainly in that Chicago is a bigger city than Cleveland, Milwaukee, or Detroit. Once you get past the Chicago suburbs, you’ll find rural areas and small towns just like the ones that made Trump president.

Small towns like Quincy. It has roughly 40,000 people, a population level that has been fairly constant since it was a Mississippi riverport boom town in the 1840s. It is a small regional center, the biggest town for a hundred miles in any direction, and it dominates Adams County, which has a total population of 67,000. The vote totals from Adams County look like this:

Trump      22, 732
Clinton      7,633
Johnson    1,157
Stein              248

The people I had come to see are all liberal Unitarian Universalists, and their problems put mine in perspective. Like most Democrats, I felt kicked in the stomach by the election results. Trump’s victory didn’t feel like an ordinary defeat; even nearly a week later, it feels like a rejection of everything I believed America stood for. I have been looking at my country, wondering what had happened to it and where it might be headed. But my friends in Quincy are looking out their doors and feeling surrounded by the Trump signs in their neighbors’ yards. They weren’t surprised to see their town go Republican (and truthfully, neither was I), but Trump? Their neighbors?

If I were a real journalist, I would have spent my week interviewing local Trump supporters at random and telling you what they said. But to be honest, I didn’t have it in me. And over the last few months I’ve seen a number of such interviews on television and learned relatively little from them. (Some different language is being spoken, and I can’t crack it. Wednesday morning, during breakfast back at the hotel in Erie, I overheard a table of people telling each other that Hillary was corrupt, but Trump just wanted to do what was right for America. I don’t know how anyone can look at Trump’s long history as a con man and come to that conclusion, but I suspected that asking that question wouldn’t have gotten me an enlightening answer.)

Instead, I did what I usually do in Quincy: I walked. It’s a very walkable town, much of it unchanged since I was a boy. But some of it has changed, and as I walked I thought about that in a new way.

By now, Quincy has exported most of two generations of intellectual talent. At my high school reunions, people mostly fall into three groups: the few who inherited local family businesses and are doing fine; a much larger group that got a college education, moved away, and are mostly also doing quite well; and a third group of probably about the same size that didn’t go to college, stayed, and are surviving. (The people who don’t survive, I suppose, don’t show up at reunions.)

Like any regional center, Quincy requires trained professionals — the town’s biggest employer is the local hospital — which it mostly imports. A few years ago, when I was coming home often and spending far too much time with my parents’ doctors, those doctors were mostly Asians. (The doctors I remember from growing up were old white men with names like Brenner and Johnson.) When I would read articles in the local paper about my old high school, the prize-winning kids would often not have the Germanic names of old Quincy families, but names I associate with China or India.

In the mid-20th century, Quincy was a manufacturing center. My Dad worked in one of the factories, which had been owned by a local family; the corporate headquarters was one building over from the manufacturing plant. The company has long since been sold to ADM, headquartered in Chicago 300 miles away. I doubt it employs nearly so many people now, or that the high school graduates who work there make enough money to own a house and send their children to college. Most of the town’s other factories are either gone completely or are shadows of their former selves.

One other striking difference from the town of my youth is the subdivisions of McMansions on the east side of town, in areas that I remember as fields. When I saw them starting to go up, I was incredulous: Who in Quincy could afford them? I knew there were old families with old money, but surely not this many of them. But strangely, every year, there were more of them and they got bigger.

Eventually somebody explained it to me: Outsiders were retiring here. Quincy has a comparatively low cost of living (thanks in part, I imagine, to my high school classmates working for not much money), and low construction costs. If you sell your three-bedroom in St. Louis or Chicago, you can afford to build your dream house in Quincy.

I’ve known all this for a while, but I had never put it together before. This time, as I walked I wondered: All those people who stayed here without a family business to inherit, how did the town look to them? The promising kids who move away and never come back. The good jobs going to foreigners and to corporate climbers who are spending a few years in the sticks in hopes of returning to headquarters at a higher level. The acres of mansions that you can’t figure out who lives in them. How do they feel about all that?

The word that popped into my mind was colonized. Like this wasn’t their town any more.

Trump supporters have been telling us this for a while, of course. They’ve been saying “We need to take our country back.” But I had always interpreted that as metaphor, having something to do with gay rights and racial integration. But maybe they very literally feel like the natives in a colonial empire.

A Teaching Moment on Sexual Assault

“It’s only been a week,” Liz Plank tweeted. “But we’ve all aged a year.”

Despite how ugly it’s been, though, the last ten days of the presidential campaign does have one redeeming feature: Sexual assault is being discussed in a setting where the whole country is listening.

I’m not naive enough to think that everyone is going to “get it” now and take a more enlightened attitude. (As someone once told me, “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”) But men who are open to understanding the topic better might be paying attention now. Women who had repressed thinking about it, or comparing experiences with other women, might now be having those thoughts and conversations. Teens and even younger boys and girls might be learning that things they had come to accept as normal, or even OK, are really not.

I believe the country as a whole is getting a powerful lesson about four things:

  • how ubiquitous sexual assault is,
  • the myths so many of us believe about it,
  • why women often don’t tell anyone about it,
  • the tactics men use to get away with it.

#notokay. Twitter is famous for insults and snark, but the most powerful hashtags are the ones that gather testimony. Shortly after Trump’s Access Hollywood tape came out, author Kelly Oxford tweeted:

Women: tweet me your first assaults. they aren’t just stats. I’ll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my “pussy” and smiles at me, I’m 12.

Last I checked, that had been re-tweeted more than 13 thousand times. Oxford reported that over the next weekend tweets came in at the rate of 50 per minute. On October 9, her Twitter feed got more than 20 million views.

Eventually she created the hashtag #notokay to move the discussion off her personal feed and open it to more than just first-assault stories.

This is something that pre-internet journalism couldn’t do. A 20th-century reporter could uncover one paradigmic story, or at most a handful of them, and tell those stories in a way that invited readers to identify or empathize, maybe adding a statistical claim that X% of women have had similar experiences. But there was no way to capture the sheer avalanche of testimony. Scrolling down the responses to Oxford’s original tweet, I was struck by their unity-in-diversity. The settings are infinitely varied: a bus, up against a door at granny’s, a couch at home, a bedroom at an aunt’s house, a Halloween party, a friend’s apartment, at work, at the supermarket. The perpetrators are strangers, neighbors, colleagues, bosses, cousins, uncles, teachers. Each tweet has its own unique details, yet pounds the same theme like a hammer.

And the hammer doesn’t stop. A TV news segment or a newspaper feature has to end, so you can leave with a feeling of being done. But a viral tweet defeats you; at some point you just decide to quit reading, knowing that there’s more and will always be more.

Liz Plank took that insight one step further and raised this question:

Trying to find ONE woman who has never experienced a man sexually touching her without their consent.

Scrolling through that hashtag, I still haven’t found the “I’m the one” tweet.

Myths. The typical folk explanation of sexual assault is simple: A man’s libido overcomes his impulse control. From there it’s a short trip to a long list of standard excuses and explanations:

  • virility. I just have such a strong sex drive, sometimes I’m overwhelmed by it.
  • it’s a compliment. You’re just so sexy, how could I stop myself?
  • it’s your fault. Your skirt is so short; your jeans are so tight; your neckline is so low. When you just put it all out there like that, what do you think is going to happen?
  • it’s inevitable. Boys will be boys. You can’t expect us to control ourselves all the time. (Or, as Trump put it on Twitter: “26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military – only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”)

and so on.

This is worse than just “objectification” of women, because we would never tolerate similar thinking about actual objects: If your drive for acquisition overcomes your impulse control, you’re a thief, period. The strength of your greed does you no credit; you’re not complimenting the wealth of the people you steal from; it’s not their fault for having such nice stuff or displaying it so attractively; and we don’t give in to the inevitability of theft whenever valuable objects are visible to people who might desire them. When it comes to object-lust, self-control is the price of staying in civilization; if you can’t muster it, we’ll lock you away.

But beyond moral considerations, that libido vs. control frame loses its explanatory power when you pay attention to women’s stories, or to the complexity of the male psyche. All women (or very nearly all) get victimized, not just the sexy, popular, or flirtatious ones. Sometimes it’s specifically the unpopular women, the ones no one is looking out for, who get assaulted. Sometimes it’s girls too young to understand what they’re supposedly “asking for”. Sometimes men are seeking dominance rather than pleasure. Sometimes it’s about asserting control over a woman whose self-assurance seems threatening. Sometimes it’s part of a man’s internal process that has nothing to do with the victim at all: Maybe assaulting a stranger is a man’s way of taking revenge on his spouse, or on the women who won’t go out with him. Maybe he’s been humiliated by his boss and wants to humiliate someone else to feel less helpless.

Another myth is that all men do it, or would if they were brave enough. At the very least, they wish they could do it and envy the men who do; so when they get together and trade “locker room talk”, they brag about real or imagined assaults the way Trump did with Billy Bush.

I remember believing something similar in junior high. (Maybe the worst thing Trump has done to me personally is make me remember junior high.) To see up a girl’s skirt or down her blouse, or to touch her somewhere we weren’t supposed to — it was a game: They defended the “goal” while we tried to “score”. To put it in a childish terms, it was like Yogi Bear trying to steal picnic baskets while the ranger tried to stop him. But imagine being an older Yogi, looking back at what once had seemed like youthful highjinks and realizing: “Oh my God, I was a bear. People must have been terrified.”

The earlier we can get that message to boys and young men, the better. And in some cases we are.

One afternoon, while reporting for a book on girls’ sexual experience, I sat in on a health class at a progressive Bay Area high school. Toward the end of the session, a blond boy wearing a school athletic jersey raised his hand. “You know that baseball metaphor for sex?” he asked. “Well, in baseball there’s a winner and a loser. So who is supposed to be the ‘loser’ in sex?”

Fortunately, this week many admired and imitated athletes came forward to say that the Trump/Bush conversation is not normal locker-room banter. Like LeBron James:

What is locker room talk to me? It’s not what that guy said. We don’t disrespect women in no shape or fashion in our locker room. That never comes up. Obviously, I got a mother-in-law, a wife, a mom and a daughter and those conversations just don’t go on in our locker room. What that guy was saying, I don’t know what that is. That’s trash talk.

Even Trump’s friend Tom Brady walked away from a microphone rather than defend him on this.

Why don’t they tell? One of Trump’s main defenses against his accusers has been: Why didn’t they say anything at the time? If these incidents have been happening for decades, why is this all coming out only now, just a few weeks before the election?

In particular, he wondered about People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff whose account of being shoved up against a wall and forcibly kissed by Trump while she was at Mar-a-Lago to interview Donald and Melania about their first anniversary seemed (to me) particularly compelling. He challenged her at a rally Thursday in Ohio:

I ask her a simple question. Why wasn’t it part of the story that appeared 12 years ago? Why didn’t they make it part of the story … if she had added that, it would have been the headline.

Picture what Trump is assuming: If Stoynoff had made such a claim against Trump, with no witnesses or physical evidence, her editors would have simply believed her, and would have been willing to put their magazine behind her in a battle against a famously litigious billionaire. Weigh the likelihood of that scenario against the explanation Stoynoff had already published before Trump spoke:

Back in my Manhattan office the next day, I went to a colleague and told her everything.

“We need to go to the managing editor,” she said, “And we should kill this story, it’s a lie. Tell me what you want to do.”

But, like many women, I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. I minimized it (“It’s not like he raped me…”); I doubted my recollection and my reaction. I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me, especially if I got his coveted PEOPLE feature killed.

“I just want to forget it ever happened,” I insisted. The happy anniversary story hit newsstands a week later and Donald left me a voicemail at work, thanking me.

“I think you’re terrific,” he said. “The article was great and you’re great.”

Yeah, I thought. I’m great because I kept my mouth shut.

Notice that the idea of making the assault part of the story never comes up; it’s not even suggested by Stoynoff’s colleague.

Liz Plank created the hashtag #WhyWomenDontReport, which is another assemblage of testimony like this:

Because I was a medical student and he was the attending surgeon

Because he was my landlord. Because I was 21 and feared homelessness. Because my father told me to figure it out myself.

Because it was easier to pretend it didn’t happen than to face the police, the courts and my perpertrator.

But maybe the best explanation of why women don’t report sexual assault is watching Trump trash the ones who reported on him, which Plank wrote about in “Donald Trump is giving us a master class in #WhyWomenDontReport“.

While I was on set Wednesday night with Chris Hayes, [Trump spokesperson A.J. Delgado] said, “If somebody actually did that, Chris, any reasonable woman would have come forward and said something at the time.”

Any reasonable woman?

Was it reasonable for Jessica Leeds to come forward about her sexual assault only to have Lou Dobbs tweet her personal phone number and address, exposing her private information to his hundreds of thousands of followers? Was it reasonable for Natasha Stoynoff to come forward about her sexual assault only to have Donald Trump suggest she was too ugly for him to be interested in sexually assault her?

Trump said his accusers are “doing [it] probably for a little fame. They get some free fame. It’s a total set-up.” But who exactly wants this kind of fame? Are any women out there watching Jessica Leeds or Natasha Stoynoff and thinking “I wish people would pay attention to me like that”?

And that brings us to men’s tactics.

Tactics. Between the debate Sunday and the first wave of new accusers coming forward Wednesday, Liz Plank used Trump’s debate performance as an example of the tactics of abusive men. She listed

  1. Humiliation. Trump’s pre-debate press conference with women who have accused Bill Clinton wasn’t about seeking justice for them. It was about humiliating Hillary Clinton.
  2. Deflection. Trump minimized his behavior as “locker room talk”, and quickly segued to “ISIS chopping off heads”.
  3. Intimidation. He threatened to put Clinton in jail, and loomed behind her “in a way that almost made me feel unsafe for her”.
  4. Gaslighting. In other words: creating an entire alternate reality to make victims question their own perceptions and memories. For example, Trump asserted that it was Clinton, not him, who owes President Obama an apology for the birther movement. “So if you feel like you’re going insane during this election, that’s Donald Trump gas lighting you over and over and over.”

What we’ve seen since just bears this out. He’s been heaping humiliation on the women who have accused him. (They’re “horrible, horrible liars” who he obviously couldn’t have assaulted because they aren’t attractive enough.) He’s been deflecting his own guilt onto Bill Clinton (whose accusers should be believed even though Trump’s shouldn’t). He’s threatened completely ridiculous lawsuits against The New York Times and People for publishing women’s accounts of his misconduct. And (completely without evidence) he has gaslighted the nation by putting forward a theory that makes him the victim of a conspiracy involving the global financial elite and the entire corporate media. (He’s not a sleazeball who abuses women, he’s a messianic hero who suffers these outrageous attacks in order to save the common people. He’s not blowing an election Republicans might have won, he’s going to be defrauded at the polls.)

But the important thing to remember for the future is that this is not an isolated incident and Trump is not a unique character. Lots and lots of men do this kind of thing. They do it to anybody. They do it because they can. They have a standard list of excuses for doing it. They have tactics for getting women to shut up about it and men not to believe the women who don’t shut up.

The thing to remember the next time you hear something like this is that you’ve heard it before. It’s all part of the pattern.

Four False Things You Might Believe About Donald Trump

Election years are always full of false claims and false beliefs. Candidates will tell you that some number — the deficit, unemployment, inflation — is going one way when it’s really going the other way. They’ll say that things are good when they’re bad, or bad when they’re good. They’ll invent scandals about their opponent and deny that their own scandals amount to anything. They’ll find imaginary disasters and injustices lurking in their opponent’s proposals, while making ridiculous claims about the benefits of their own.

That’s par for the course and a lot of it doesn’t matter. Americans are pretty skeptical of political claims, most of which go in one ear and out the other. Often the original disagreement gets lost in a subsequent argument about whether one or the other of the candidates is lying, or whether the media is holding one candidate to a higher standard than the other. Partisan voters find their own side’s case convincing, and the others tune out.

But there’s another kind of falsehood we should pay more attention to: the ones that slip past our filters and get woven into our fundamental image of who a candidate is and what he or she has to offer. Often they aren’t lies, exactly, or aren’t the clear fabrications that fact-checking columns like to expose. They’re more like the illusions and misdirections of stage magic: The card was never really in the deck, and the coin never left the magician’s hand. The magician may never say that it was or it did, while saying dozens of other false things of no particular significance to the illusion. The trick didn’t fool us so much as suggest ways that we could fool ourselves.

So in compiling this list, I completely ignored high-profile arguments like whether President Trump really can build his “big, beautiful wall” or make Mexico pay for it. I ignored all the insults and hyperbole, all the did-he-or-didn’t-he debates about his past, and the I-can’t-believe-he-said-that moments. Instead I looked for misconceptions that have gotten established in his public image, the kinds of things people take for granted while they argue about other things.

I found some. Whether you like Trump or not, your thinking is very likely influenced by one or more of these four false beliefs about him.

Donald Trump is one of America’s top businessmen. Trump himself makes this argument:

I’m running for office in a country that’s essentially bankrupt, and it needs a successful businessman

His critics claim to be appalled that somebody with no experience in public office could become president, but actually that’s fairly common in American history. Usually the outsider is a victorious general, like Eisenhower or Grant or Washington. Nobody has ever gone straight from academia to the presidency, but Democrats have been known to elevate university professors like Daniel Moynihan or Elizabeth Warren to the Senate. And maybe nobody has made the leap from the boardroom to the White House yet, but the idea of a businessman-president is not new. Ross Perot made the most credible third-party run in modern times. In the 1980s, Chrysler President Lee Iacocca was often the subject of presidential speculation. Mitt Romney didn’t like to talk much about his days as governor of Massachusetts (when he passed RomneyCare, the forerunner of ObamaCare) so he mostly ran on his record as a businessman. One of the candidates running against Trump in this year’s primaries, Carly Fiorina, was also coming from the business world.

So choosing one of our top businessmen or businesswomen to be president is actually not that radical a notion.

But is Trump in fact a top businessman? Not really. He’s a businessman, and he’s been OK at it, but he’s not at all the genius he’d like us to think he is.

To start with, he is rich, but not nearly as rich as he claims. He boasts of a $10 billion fortune, but Forbes estimates less than half that, $4.5 billion, and Bloomberg even less, $2.9 billion. Either estimate could be improved if Trump would ever release his tax returns, which is probably the reason he doesn’t. (For comparison, Forbes estimates that another businessman/politician, Mike Bloomberg, is nearly ten times as rich, worth an estimated $38 billion.)

Even $2.9 billion still seems like a lot of money, though, so let’s consider how he got it. Trump inherited a New York real estate empire from his father. The size of his inheritance (in 1974) is not a matter of public record, so estimates vary from $40 million to as high as $200 million. A few years later, in 1978, Business Week estimated Trump’s net worth at $100 million. Max Ehrenfreund observes that if Trump had cashed out then and stashed the money in an S&P 500 index fund, he’d be worth $6 billion today — considerably more than he probably has.

But even that’s not the full story. More than just money, Trump inherited a New York City real estate business and the corresponding connections. And although he talks a lot about his international properties and his diverse business ventures, New York real estate is still the center of his empire. The further he has gotten from his roots — whether it was his bankrupt Atlantic City casino, the Trump Tower Tampa project that collected deposits on luxury condos but went broke without building any of them, or non-real-estate failures like Trump Steaks, the Trump Shuttle, or Trump magazine — the less success he’s had. To the extent that he’s a successful businessman at all, he’s a successful NYC real estate developer.

Now look at the era that his career has spanned. Trump received his inheritance when New York City was bottoming out. In 1975 the city very nearly went bankrupt. Since then, the long-term trend has been dramatically upward. In retrospect, the last 40 years has been a very good time to be in New York City real estate. When the trend is on your side to that extent, you don’t have to be a that good to come out ahead.

For comparison, look at my father. He bought a 160-acre farm for $30,000 in 1950, and when I was dissolving his estate a few years ago, I sold it for $1 million. Did that significant increase reflect my Dad’s deep insight into real estate? Not to disparage my Dad’s intelligence, but no: His career as a farmer happened to fall during an era when the price of farmland went up.

On a larger scale, something similar happened to Trump. While he has engaged in a lot of impressive wheeling and dealing during his career, that activity is probably irrelevant to his wealth, and may even have kept him from being considerably more successful. He’s rich because his Dad was rich, and the business he inherited was destined to do well as long as he didn’t screw it up too badly.

He is financing his own campaign rather than selling out to special interests. Last September, Trump announced on Facebook:

Of course, Trump’s campaign was never completely funded out of his own pocket — there was always the money he collected by selling campaign hats and such, as well as small donations — but none of that invalidated his main point: Nobody bought a Make America Great Again hat or sent him $25 with the idea that they were buying a favor from the next president.

The more interesting question was how that self-financing worked: Trump gave his campaign very little. Instead, he loaned money to his campaign. According to the Sunlight Foundation, as of late February, loans from Trump himself made up 68.7% of the campaign’s funding. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported: “Mr. Trump lent his campaign $36 million of the $47 million he spent on the primaries through March, with the rest coming mostly from small donations.”

But now that he is heading towards a fall campaign that could cost a billion or more, self-financing is out the window. Trump now has a joint fund-raising agreement with the Republican National Committee, and is pursuing all the big-money donors who usually give to Republican campaigns. A Great America super PAC is also raising money to support Trump’s general-election campaign.

One possibility is that Trump could use big-donor money to pay back the loans he made to the campaign — a sort of retroactive de-self-financing. In other words, money collected from lobbyists and billionaires could go straight into Trump’s pocket. Campaign spokesmen say that won’t happen, but there has also been no move to officially turn the loans into contributions.

In the primary campaign, Trump frequently claimed that big donors own candidates. He said of Ted Cruz: “Goldman Sachs owns him. Remember that folks.” Now he’s looking for a billion dollars from the same people who funded his Republican rivals. To exactly the same extent that they were selling themselves then, he’s selling himself now.

He was against invading Iraq. Trump counters Hillary Clinton’s greater experience as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State by claiming to have better judgment. The foremost example he gives is that he spoke out against invading Iraq, while she voted to authorize the invasion.

In a February debate with the other Republican candidates in South Carolina, he said

I’m the only one on this stage that said, “Do not go into Iraq. Do not attack Iraq.” Nobody else on this stage said that. And I said it loud and strong. And I was in the private sector. I wasn’t a politician, fortunately. But I said it, and I said it loud and clear, “You’ll destabilize the Middle East.”

He may remember it that way, but that’s not how it happened. PolitiFact, the Washington Post Fact Checker, and FactCheck.Org have all looked at this claim. PolitiFact rates it False and the WaPo gives its lowest rating, four Pinocchios. FactCheck.Org does not give a simple rating, but provides a timeline of Trump’s statements on the war that begin with support and only come around to opposition later, at about the same time as the rest of the country.

The invasion didn’t begin until March, 2003, but the national debate about authorizing it happenedthe previous fall. Congress passed the authorization resolution (the one Hillary voted for) in October, 2002. In a September, 2002 radio interview, Howard Stern asked Trump “Are you for invading Iraq?” and Trump responded “Yeah, I guess so.”

Like most of the country (and Clinton), Trump eventually soured on the war. But it happened little by little, as is clear from this interview for the August 2004 edition of Esquire. By then, things had started going bad in Iraq: The first battle of Fallujah had been the previous April, and it was starting to be clear that we wouldn’t find the WMDs that had been the most impressive justification for the original invasion. But even this late, Trump didn’t say the invasion was a bad idea, just that he’d have done it better.

Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the county? C’mon. Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. And he’ll have weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam didn’t have.

What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who’ve been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing!

In short, Trump’s trajectory on Iraq is similar to Clinton’s: At first he supports the war. Then he begins to have doubts about how the Bush administration is handling it. And eventually he comes to believe that it was a bad idea. The major difference between the two candidates is that Clinton admitted her mistake; Trump just replaced those memories with ones where he was right from the get-go.

His Muslim immigration ban is just temporary. A press release in December said Trump was

calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.

Subsequent statements have described the ban as “temporary”. This January TV ad, for example, talked about

a temporary shutdown of Muslims’ entering the United States until we can figure out what’s going on.

“Temporary” is a big part of the ban’s appeal. It’s dubious constitutionally to apply a religious test to immigrants and visitors, and it’s not at all clear how such a ban would work. (If I want to come to America, what proof can I offer that I’m not a Muslim?) But problems are easy to ignore if they’re just temporary.

However, calling something “temporary” doesn’t make it temporary. The Pentagon built gobs of “temporary” buildings during World War II, and so many of them were still in use forty years later that the Military Construction Act of 1983 had to specifically mandate their destruction.

If something is really temporary, it’s end is in sight. Either it has an explicit time limit, or it is tied to some other process that is clearly headed towards termination. (As in: “We’ll come straight home after the football game.”) Trump’s ban isn’t like that.

Picture it this way: Suppose you’re a ninth-grader and your parents are punishing you by taking away your video game access. If they tell you your access is gone for a week, that’s temporary. If they tell you it’s gone “until you start passing your math quizzes again”, that also is temporary (assuming that you can pass those quizzes if you start studying). But if it’s “until you shape up”, with no specifics given about what shape up means, that’s not temporary. They’ve opened the possibility that they may change their minds some time in the future, but that’s about all.

That’s all Trump has offered. Maybe at some point in the future, President Trump will go on TV to say, “OK, I’ve figured out what’s going on, so Muslims can start coming in again.” I have trouble picturing that happening at all, but even if I stretch my imagination, it’s not happening on any predictable schedule.