Donald Trump and The Art of Confusion

June 14, 2017

Donald Trump and The Art of Confusion

by Jeffery Frank@


President Trump has adopted the strategy that was recommended to the shady protagonist of Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls.”

President Trump has adopted the strategy that was recommended to the shady protagonist of Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls.” PHOTOGRAPH BY KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTER

Donald Trump may not realize it, but he has adopted the strategy that was recommended to Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, the shady protagonist of Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls,” whose lawyer (in the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky) advises him that “as soon as you see that the case is reaching a denouement and can conveniently be resolved, make sure—not really to justify and defend yourself—no, but simply to confuse things by introducing new and even unrelated issues.” The aim is “to confuse, to confuse, nothing more . . . to introduce into the case some other, unrelated circumstances that will entangle other people in it, to make it complicated.”

Image result for Trump the master of confusion

That’s an excellent way to stay one or two steps ahead, although the approach is fallible—after all, you may run out of places to step. Trump keeps up the confusion. He did so recently by withdrawing from the Paris climate accord; he did so again by tweeting a shift in policy vis-à-vis Qatar, which further roiled the Middle East and undermined his own Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. In the aftermath of a deadly attack on Londoners, Trump started a Twitter rant against Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, accusing him of saying something that he never said: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’ ” There is no way to prove that Khan’s religion—he is a Muslim—motivated that crude outburst, but it’s fair to ask if it would have happened if Boris Johnson were still the mayor. My colleague John Cassidy asked, “How low can he stoop?” The answer appears to be “Just wait and see.”

For Trump, though, nothing has been so effective as fabrication and barefaced lying. After all, Lie No. 1 may always be supplanted by Lie No. 2, and so on; without a boundary of truth, the number of possible lies, in theory, is limitless, and lying about lies may not even be detectable. Trump, by instinct or design, understands that. It empowers him to tweet nonsense, as he did during his first official trip abroad: “Just arrived in Italy for the G7. Trip has been very successful. We made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs.” The only true statement there was the fact of his arrival in Italy.

Last week, James Comey, the F.B.I. director who was fired by Trump, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that what the Administration had said to defame him, and the Bureau, “were lies, plain and simple.” He also recalled how Trump, in a private conversation, had “hoped” that he would shut down the investigation of Michael Flynn, the former national-security adviser—an issue that Trump, in the spirit of pure confusion, addressed in a recent news conference: “I didn’t say that,” he said. “I will tell you I didn’t say that. And there’d be nothing wrong if I did say that, according to everything I read today.” Comey’s testimony has been examined clause by clause, with particular emphasis on certain phrases, such as when, as Comey wrote in his prepared statement for the committee, the President apparently said, “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” Comey, who admitted being mildly nonplussed whenever he spoke to Trump—and never wanted to be alone with him—said, “I did not reply or ask him what he meant by ‘that thing.’ ”

Image result for Trump the master of confusion

“Why didn’t you ask him?” Senator John McCain asked during the committee hearing. “It didn’t seem to me to be important for the conversation we were having, to understand it,” Comey said. “I took it to be some—an effort to—to communicate to me this, that there is a relationship between us where I’ve been good to you, you should be good to me.” Trump, predictably, suggested that Comey was a liar and called him, with all the reckless power invested in his tweet machine, “very ‘cowardly!’ ”

Trump still has lots of supporters—people who still tell themselves that he’s “draining the swamp”—though fewer than he used to. Some of them are my neighbors, in upstate New York, but our conversations these days include long silences, an unspoken avoidance of argument. The President’s critics, meanwhile, are running out of ways to describe the harm that he’s doing to his country, and to his office. The best description of the Trump Effect has been attributed to one of his chief advisers, Kellyanne Conway, who may have had a revealing moment of truth-telling during the campaign. In a recent recollection from Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Conway expressed something like loathing for candidate Trump. Brzezinski recalled that Conway “came on our show . . . and would shill for Trump in extensive fashion, and then she would get off the air, the camera would be turned off, the microphone would be taken off, and she would say, ‘Blech, I need to take a shower,’ because she disliked her candidate so much.” Scarborough added that, of her campaign chores, Conway said, “ ‘This is just my summer vacation, my summer in Europe.’ And, basically, ‘I’m just gonna get through this’ ”—or, as Cole Porter wrote, “It was just one of those crazy flings.” In response, Conway said of Trump that “I know him, I respect him, I believe in him, and I am confident in his capacity to be a transformative and successful President.” But she didn’t deny her comments

The future of this aberration of a Presidency may finally be measured by the time it takes to act on the belief that “as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill,” as Comey, echoing Ronald Reagan, put it. Comey was talking about citizens of all parties who hold the same deep, pained convictions about America that he does—and, as Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said about Comey, “who loves this country enough to tell it like it is.” Burr, too, sounded like someone hoping for a time when respect, duty, and love of country reassert themselves—after which we’ll all want quickly, quickly, to take a shower.


29 thoughts on “Donald Trump and The Art of Confusion

  1. LaMoy,

    Your thoughts on this article and the Attorney-General’s day at the Senate hearing. I thought he did a good job shielding the besieged el Presidente. Confusion reigns in DC with despicable lies.–Din Merican

    • Even his Attorney-General has been lying under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Soon they will find out that the Malay saying “pandai pandai tupai melompat, ahirnya ka tanah juga” holds true. Politics is strange; even a smart ass will be caught and humiliated in history like Richard Milhous Nixon.–Din Merican

    • Din:

      Some days back I received an email from a friend from Washington, D.C., with some very disturbing information. Trump is very concerned with the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel and his “Russiagate” investigation.

      Seeking to revive his stalled policy agenda in Congress, Trump is developing his “war room” within the White House to combat leaks, disclosures, and the investigation about his associates and Russia. That means the return of his toughest and most confrontational campaign aides, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, deputy manager David N. Bossie, and, of course, chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, his rough radical-right champion.

      If necessary, the “war room” could go offensive. Since the 1990s, Bossie has used the darkest Clinton controversies to battle both Bill and Hillary Clinton and, when warranted, could resort to the controversial “nuclear card.” The “nuclear card” rests on the controversial Wikileaks disclosures and associated testimonies, to steer public spotlight toward the gross abuse of public funds by the Clintons, Democratic leadership, and the 2016 deaths of Democratic operatives who were hoping to testify against such abuses and corruption before their odd deaths, including Seth Rich, Shawn Lucas, John Ashe and Victor Thorn. (You can Google these names to find out more about their odd death.)

      Historically, the appointment of special counsel has often been accompanied by unintended consequences and collateral damage. The Mueller investigation is not likely to be an exception. When necessary, Trump’s “war room” will resort to offensive actions that will drag into the daylight the darker side of the Democratic leadership. As a result, America’s international clout, which has eroded almost two decades, may suffer new, more extensive, even irreparable harm.
      Trump is a fighter. He is the most combative POTUS of Presidents. Winning is a everything to him. So I am not surprised at what he is doing now. Mueller will not last long. –Din Merican

    • Din:

      The ranking member of the House committee investigating Russia, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), put an end to Trump’s dreams of firing special counsel Robert Mueller by letting Trump know that if he fires Mueller, Congress will reappoint him.

      Terminating Robert Mueller would be the dumbest move that Trump could make. If Trump fires Mueller, the Russia scandal will blow up and get even bigger overnight. Trump would unleash a mushroom cloud of scandal that would consume all of DC if he tried to get rid of the special counsel. Trump can’t fire his way out of the Russia scandal. The fact that Trump is seriously considering firing Mueller makes him look guilty of obstruction of justice.

      This playbook didn’t work for Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, and it isn’t going to work for Donald Trump. Rep. Schiff’s warning was a reminder that a president doesn’t have unlimited executive power, and if Trump crosses the line by terminating the special counsel, Congress will be there to smack him down.

      If Trump is mentally ill, then those who voted him to be their POTUS last November must be sicker. Trump has done so much in so short a time to smear America’s image as a beacon of democracy and that city on a hill that caught my imagination and admiration. His actions have undermined your mission to propagate democratic values and human rights around the world.–Din Merican.

    • Din:

      Not all of them. We’ve done a study and figure that Trump’s core base is about 30% of those voted for him. The rest really wanted change. Why do you think we call his core base the Trumpanzees? They’re the first cousin of the chimpanzees, except the chimpanzees are more intelligent. Poll after poll now you find his approval rate has fallen to his core base. Most of these Trumpanzees, I believe, have personality disorder like Trump. They’ll never change.

      Let me put it this way. 2016 election was a choice between two evils. Hillary was a known evil. Check into the names of the odd deaths I’ve given you above. And Trump was an unknown and an outsider. Last year when everyone on your blog was betting on Hillary, if you remember, I insisted Trump had a very good chance to win. Because people knew of his flawed character through his show The Apprentice, but people were hoping that he was just a bullshitter and a lesser evil. I’ve met and knew Hillary, but I’ve never met Trump. But through the same party and knowing many people who knew and close to him, I learned he was a very, very bad, ignorant and stupid person. That’s why I didn’t vote for either one of them.

      Yes, there will be a lot of repair and rebuilding to do after Trump. But that will be the job for my children and grandchildren.

      Before change can happen, the US will lose its pole position in geo-politics. At this stage, your politicians are preoccupied with playing domestic politics to have time for a global role. That is bad news. Only another trauma like 911 will shake and reunite the country. Leaving The White House to Republican chimpanzees is the worst thing to have happened to your country.–Din Merican

    • Your hero is self-destructing by the day.

      Too bad — the American political system still has a system of
      checks and balances such as the courts.
      Too bad also that the majority of Americans are not fans of
      Fox News like yourself 🙂

    • What’s the manner Shiou, it would seem that even you are growing weary of the deceitful justifications for the fabrications of Comrade Trump

  2. During his testimony before the Senate Intel Committee, Jeff Sessions tried to parse his Russia story and it blew up in his face. He didn’t deny that he met with Russians, but said that he didn’t recall meeting with Russians. Sessions also denied colluding with Russians specifically but didn’t deny working with Russia on the campaign. Sessions tried to make his anger about honor instead of facts. The fact of the matter is that Sessions talked about honesty, but his statement wasn’t straightforward. He thought that he could hide the truth behind anger and victimization, but the song and dance blew up in his face. He was trying to be vague, dodge, and weave, but he still managed to sink Trump by lending credibility to James Comey’s story. He confirmed that Comey did not want to be left alone with Trump. He also confirmed that he left the room, and saw Comey and Trump talking at the President’s desk.

    My jaws dropped when I heard Senator James Risch (R-ID) compared secret meetings with Russians to bumping into someone at the grocery store. Republicans are going to extreme lengths to try to whitewash the Russia investigation. The issue is the interfere of a hostile foreign power in the US presidential election. Sessions has not denied meeting with Russians. He has only said that he does not recall. Even for Republicans who are trying to brush off the Russia scandal, Risch’s statement was a new low.

    The Sessions hearing exploded when Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) accused Jeff Sessions of obstructing the Russia investigation by refusing to answer questions. Democrats and Independent Senator Angus King have grown increasingly frustrated during the hearing as Sessions had refused to answer questions that are not covered under executive privilege. Sessions was dodging questions because Trump may assert privilege later. The hearing had been testy as Sessions had not been forthcoming with his answers. Sessions had refused to answer questions, parsed his answers, and smothered his answers in “I don’t recall” and “I believe.” But Democrats have not let Sessions get away with this soft shoe routine, and it is not a good look for Sessions and Trump.

    Words have been floating around that Trump might fire special counsel Robert Mueller but, while testifying before a Senate subcommittee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein rejected the idea being floated by Trump allies of firing the special counsel by saying there is no good cause to fire Robert Mueller. Rosenstein also testified that he would not follow any orders that were not lawful and appropriate. Mueller can only be fired for good cause, and that cause has to be stated in writing. Trump’s allies are floating the idea that the President fire the special counsel in the media, but Trump can’t directly fire Mueller. What he can do is fire the Deputy Attorney General if he refuses to fire the special counsel, and then appoint a new deputy AG that would fire Mueller. The swift reaction from Congress to the idea of firing Mueller is a warning to Trump that he should not go there, but this president seems to view warnings as challenges, so if Trump decides that he wants to be rid of Mueller, he will have to fire Rosenstein too. And then all shits will blow up into the sky.

    According to the most recent Gallup Poll, Trump is crashing and burning before our eyes as his disapproval hits a record high of 60%. According to some friends who are still in government in Washington, D.C., instead of even pretending that he is trying to run the country, these Russia investigation stuffs have Trump’s mental meltdown accelerates. I do believe that it’s possible that Trump will soon have an emotional collapse because he has lived in a self-created fantasy wrapped around his own PR for most of his adult life. Donald Trump is rejecting reality, and the result is a presidential meltdown 140 characters at a time with his twitter.

    • Narcissists leave a trail of destruction wherever they go.
      My sense is that Trump will go down in American political history as
      a major aberration and cautionary figure.

      Meanwhile, the Christian Right is salivating at the possibility of
      a President Mike Pence in the near future. Bad days for the
      American Republic – first a mentally unstable person who fibs all the time, and then a religious extremist mediocrity waiting in the wings.
      The 2020 presidential election is a long time ahead ……..

    • Dr. Phua:

      Do you know how mentally ill Trump is? He is so mentally ill that the White House used a Cabinet meeting to treat his depression. That bizarre dear leader meeting where Trump’s cabinet was forced to praise him was part of an intentional effort by the White House to boost Trump out of his depression. In other words, the White House virtually confirmed that this president has some mental health issues going on. Take a look at the video and have a laugh. Please don’t laugh too loud and don’t roll on the floor:

      Trump claimed to have passed more legislation than nearly every other president, but he has passed no major legislation. I believe he doesn’t understand the difference between an executive order and a legislation. Trump also claimed to be creating jobs, when job growth has slowed since his election, and he hailed his tax plan as the biggest tax cut in history, but he has no tax plan.

      The strangest part of the meeting was when each cabinet secretary praised Trump. It turns out that the praise was part of an effort to boost Trump’s mood. The New York Times reported, “Yet the comments were in keeping with an intense effort by the White House to boost Mr. Trump’s mood and change the subject from the damaging testimony last week of Mr. Comey, who, under oath, accused the president of having fired him for his handling of the Russia inquiry.”

      If the charade proved anything, it is that there is no one in this White House with the guts to stand up to Trump and tell him the truth. Instead of a team of rivals, Trump has assembled a team of enablers. Never in American history has a televised cabinet meeting been turned into an intervention for a president. Donald Trump is not well, and the only way anything is going to be done about it is if voters throw those Republican Trumpanzees who enable him out of office.


    Democratic Socialists of America (I was a member in its Baltimore, Maryland chapter during the 1980s and early 1990s) is a component of “big tent” Democratic Party politics. By Western and Northern European standards, the DSA is actually a group of mild social democrats.
    The Democrats can’t do much now. They are being seen as the spoilers keen to obstruct Trump’s agenda. Most Americans want to change politics in Washington DC and eliminate the legislative gridlock.–Din Merican

  4. In the tradition of Buddhists, someones in suffering are not merely the object of sympathy, but are also serving as compassionate beings (Bodhisattva) demonstrating what are causing sufferings. The doctors of Venezuela are fleeing the country for its socialist policy, and leaving many to suffer as the result of socialism as promoted by Mr. Phua and LaMoy. Those suffering demonstrated by Venezuela citizens telling the truth about what are not working:

    As to Trump, the mere successful appointment of judge Gosuch in the tradition of upholding the Constitution with its original meaning and intention is many times more constructive than what President Obama had done in 8 years. The rest of what Trump could do in promoting a good balance of individual liberty, In God/Truth we trust, and nationalism would only be a bonus.

    As to Malaysians, there is no reason for us to be sucked into the giant whirlpool of American politics without seeking to understand both sides of stories, the American history, American Constitution, and significance of American political spectrum defined in terms of left–center-right with a view of self-government and individual liberty.

    If you find yourselves still talk about Russia collusion, then I think you are in the deep end of the whirlpool with no hope to get up again.

    • I like the way how Shiou has only an appointment of SCOTUS judge to show the great draining of the swamp lie which is the only thing he can point to.

      That and piss on Obama and go on about Venezuela as some sort of failed socialist experiment when the rest of the world is looking at socialist leaning European countries as an alternative to the lobby politics of DC which is what Trump promised his useful idiots that he would end.

      Even the POTUS praised socialists healthcare systems and wondered why it could not be done in America.

      All people like Shiou can do is attempt to deflect – and badly – from the lies of this charlatan. If you do not mind being a proxy of Putin, I got a patch of land in the Siberia that you may be interested in.

    • Mr LaMoy is a Republican lah ! A decent, moderate Republican
      whose Republican Party has been captured by extremists.

      I am a Social Democrat (non-Marxist, moderate socialist) lah !
      Still trying to paint me as a far left Communist (Marxist-Leninist) ??

      I am not a supporter of Venezuela’s far left regime.
      Its loonie economic policies (Nicholas Maduro is a former bus driver and whose economic advisor is a far left Venezuela sociologist) is destroying the Venezuela economy.

      By the way, my opinion is that too much Fox News has destroyed your critical faculties.

      Malaysians should pay attention to UK and US politics.
      This is because Anglo-American ideologies and policies will influence us sooner or later e.g. Thatcher’s “privatisation”,
      US foreign policy in Asia, US domination of international organisations such as the WTO, World Bank and IMF.

    • A decent, moderate Republican who wants social revolution and thinks society change as in US will not happen without bloodshed? If that is decent, what is indecent?

    • You’re really one very sick s.o.b., full of sophistries with lies, just like your deity. I can provide you some tranquilizers for free. What do you need, troll? Valium? Xanax? Ambien? or Sanata? They’re all clinically proven on sub-human like you.

  5. Left-Right, Otak tak center..
    Let’s stop this chatter of what sound’s dogmatic or doctrinal and look at what’s righteous, good and filled with grace.
    All this division, squabbling and angst is what chaos Drumpski and cohorts love most. Why? So that it can divert attention from his pathological lies. And because he’s actually babbling inanities like a showman without a script. Boy, am i sick and tired of a clueless mangy mutt, and to assuage this conundrum, here’s Fats:

  6. If inanities are all that are spouted, then one must shrink from reality that shows leaders of 50 Muslim-majority nations sitting in a room listening to President Trump talking about radical Islamism as the most damning threat of the world — and he implied forget about Russia’s threat to the world.

    • Don’t lie.

      What he got was an arms deal and saying that the US wasn’t there to preach. Muslims despots were treated to a get out of jail card and progressive Muslims were told that their days were numbered.

      Not to mention Iran which has to do with the havoc in the ME than the House of Saud were named the next Big Bad much to the delight of Sunni death cults everywhere.

  7. What is the use of grace of Obama’s speeches if the grace is for only appeasement at the expense of fundamental American values? President Obama linked Benghazi Islamic terrorist attack to a low-quality film mocking Mohammad, and therefore he exempts himself from calling out Islamist terror acts. He then ordered his administration to prosecute the film maker on unrelated charge so that he can teach the film maker a lesson for exercising American’s right to free expression. A grace without grounding on American fundamental values is a disgrace.

    • If you think that Trump represents “American values” you are right. But he does not represents the spirit and intent of the American Constitution nor does he represent those authentic American patriots who throughout American history have drained the swamp.

      And why is it, that right wing nutters who defend Trump always have to bring in Obama ? I get that eventually this charlatan has to rely on policies that Obama carried out – good or bad – but I really that that folks who defend Trump should just say thank you Mr. Obama and move on.

  8. “Not to mention Iran which has to do with the havoc in the ME than the House of Saud….”

    This should be – Not to mention Iran which has less to do with the havoc in the ME than the House of Saud….”

    Also, I am conservative leaning in my political outlook but the GOP has become a cesspool of religious nutters, constitutional eroding demagogues and racists scumbags who would embrace anything to get their sordid agenda done.

    Paul Ryan is the head cheerleader of vacuous morally and intellectually bankrupt political cabal who will eventually destroy the republic. Of course the DNC are a bunch of timid wankers who will help in that destruction.

    What Malaysians should learn after experimenting with putting the Oppo in power is that for all the benefits of a two party system, we should reject the theory that democracy is a two party coin flip.

    End of sermon.

    • Conrad, my young friend:

      You can’t rationalize and reason with Trumpanzees. Their minds are blocked and they’re stubborn in their beliefs and unwilling to accept new information. Trump to them is like a deity, an emperor who is the Son of Heaven and cannot be wrong.

      Day in and day out I deal with these Trumpanzees in the Republican local meetings. Most of them are rude and vulgar, and like to make up names for others who do not think like them. They’ve great difficulty knowing what they know and what they do not know, and knowing the difference. They only parroting the talk points of the far-right lies fabrication factories, like Breitbart, Fox News, et al. I find the best way to deal with them is to bullshit back by saying nonsensical things to piss them off. Like when they call you a motherf**ker, just tell them: “I see you found out eventually, I truly am your mother’s f**ker.”

      It’s always more interesting to have different ideas and opinions in any blog or in any meeting, as long as we present our ideas and opinions in a civil manner. Trumpanzee is a different breed. Republican local meeting was never like that before.

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