Reflections Blog

The Terrible Dilemma We Face

Okay, I was wrong about Donald Trump.  I didn’t think he’d last through the primaries.  His surprising victory in securing the Republican nomination is as shocking to me as it was to most people, including the leaders of the Republican party.  However, I stand by my prediction that Trump will fall.  Eventually.  Sooner or later.  If he loses in the general election, he’ll no doubt find people to blame (except himself).  He’s already said that the election may be rigged, which sets the stage for his explanation of that failure if it happens.  If he wins in the general election, then I think his fall will be much more spectacular and ruinous, not for Trump but for the country, because Trump hasn’t a clue how to govern the richest, most powerful nation on Earth, and he is a dangerous and erratic narcissist.

I am going to vote for Hillary Clinton, and I don’t say that with any real conviction that she is the right choice.  Like many Americans, I don’t completely trust Hillary.  I don’t know that I can believe everything she says, and I, too, have concerns about her handling of the Benghazi situation and the two-step she did afterwards to justify her actions.  And I think her email fiasco shows a lack of judgment.  But I don’t believe she would be dangerous in the Oval Office.  She may not be a great choice for president, but she is smart, even-tempered, and capable, and is the best and safest choice in an election featuring only bad choices.

I wish Mitt Romney were running.  I’m not a Romney fan, but he is smart and sensible and would not ruin the country the way I think Trump could.  Instead of voting for Clinton, I would have voted for John Kasich.  Or Lindsey Graham.  Or Jeb Bush.  Or John McCain.  Or Joe Biden.  Or Paul Ryan.  I would have voted for dozens of other Republican or Democratic candidates if they were running.  I won’t vote for the Libertarian ticket, not that I think Gary Johnson is incompetent.  I think he is and I agree with many elements of the Libertarian platform, but Johnson has no chance of winning, and a vote for him would in essence be a vote for Trump, just as a vote for Ralph Nader in the year George W. Bush was running against Al Gore was in effect a vote for Bush.  The Nader vote came at Gore’s expense and helped elect Bush.  Likewise, votes for Johnson will probably come at Clinton’s expense.

Much has been written and said lately about Trump’s cavalcade of missteps after the Democratic Convention—his inexplicable feud with the Khans, his statement that the Russians should continue hacking Clinton’s emails, his refusal to release his tax returns, his bickering with members of his own party, his notion that our country could default on its debts (which he has done repeatedly in his business dealings),  or simply print a lot more money (apparently, Trump missed the part of his Economics class that dealt with money supply), and so on.  His litany of missteps and misstatements is growing so long it’s difficult to remember them all.  But here, in my view, are the most telling of Trump’s failures and the greatest problems with him as our president:

The Trump University Fiasco

It was a sham from the start, a money-making scheme designed to enrich Trump at the expense of the suckers who signed up for it.  He may have started Trump U with good (albeit self-serving) intentions.  The idea of a school that teaches its founder’s success principles is not new and can have merit.  But Trump bungled it from the start.  As its founder and CEO, he should have overseen the operation and ensured that the people he put in charge were doing a good job.  Any decent businessperson would have done that.  He should have ensured that the people attending Trump U got their money’s worth and were more successful afterwards.  Most founders of schools are personally and professionally invested in their students’ success.  But beyond lending his name to the school, it’s not clear that Trump had much to do with it.  If he did, that’s an even more damning indictment of his inability to manage an operation. 

So the question arises:  if we put him in charge of the entire executive branch of our federal government—with all of its departments and agencies—what confidence do we have that he will manage it well?  I have none.  Trump won’t attend to the details, and it’s not evident that he is capable of selecting managers who will.  Trump talks a good game, but as they say in Texas, he is all hat and no cattle.


Donald Trump lives in self-contained bubble called Trumpworld.  He is a textbook narcissist.  A classic.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.  But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”  Psychology Today adds that “Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder generally believe that the world revolves around them. This condition is characterized by a lack of ability to empathize with others and a desire to keep the focus on themselves at all times.”  Trump assures us that America is going to hell and only he can save us.  He claims that he is the best candidate for president because of his admirable success in business (for an informed, contrary opinion, read Newsweek’s article “Donald Trump’s Many Business Failures, Explained” at His speeches are filled with self-congratulation, he is reluctant to admit when he’s wrong, and he casts blame for his failures on other people or crooked and rigged systems.  A Trump view is an “I” view, not a “we” view, and his claims like, “I know more about Isis than the generals” are not simply unbelievable, they are beyond laughable.

The danger of a narcissist in the Oval Office is that he will think he knows more than anyone else, including the experts he’s hired to advise him, and he would bridle at criticism and need to lash out at people who challenge him or question his decisions.  Does that sound like Trump’s campaign so far?  A narcissist has to be right all the time.  He has to assert his superiority over others beyond the point where those assertions not only ring false but incite ridicule.  A narcissist has to find justifications for his actions even when those justifications make no sense.  And a narcissist cannot anticipate the impact of his behavior on others because he is so deeply centered on himself that he is incapable of understanding how others feel.

Hillary Clinton may be flawed, but Donald Trump is dangerously narcissistic.  Putting him in the Oval Office would inflate his already grandiose ego to the point where he would believe that he knows more than anyone else and has the legitimate authority to do whatever he wants.  Sure, let’s make him Commander-in-Chief and give him the nuclear codes.  Why not?

Newsweek argued that Trump as president could not do too much damage because of the three branches of our government and the fact that any president leads from a position of weakness—needing congressional approval, for instance, for many decisions, and having his decisions potentially held in check by the judiciary.  But this is not entirely accurate because American presidents—while not able to declare war by themselves—can order military action (such as nuking a foreign capitol) without the advice and consent of the Congress.  This is a dangerous amount of power to put in the hands of a man whose overwhelming ego has convinced him that he knows more than anyone else and is never wrong. 

His disdain for reality

Maybe more than anything else he’s said, Trump lost my vote when he claimed in a speech in Fresno that there never had been a drought in California and when he became president he would turn on the water again.  Huh?  The fact of a drought, not only in California but in other parts of the country, is indisputable.  You don’t have to be a scientist to know that.  You just need two minutes of research on the Internet.  You just have to look at the U.S. Geological Survey’s website on California Drought (  It’s not difficult to gain a basic command of the facts, but Trump is not interested in facts.  He doesn’t care about the truth—and that is almost more frightening than his narcissism.

Like many of his fellow Republicans (although it’s questionable whether Trump really is a Republican), he does not believe in global warming.  In fact, Trump claimed that global warming was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.  Yes, he did say that.  Here is what Trump tweeted:  “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”  It’s difficult to respond to that assertion and keep a straight face.  It is laughable on so many levels.  True to form, when he was challenged on this statement,

Trump later claimed that it was a joke.  The “I was joking” ploy is one he frequently uses when he’s taken to task for some preposterous statement he’s made.  The only thing positive about Trump becoming president is that he would singlehandedly drive explosive growth in the fact-checking industry.  And he would provide endless fodder for late-night comedians.

In an August 4 article in The Washington Post entitled “The Unbearable Stench of Trump’s B.S.,” Fareed Zakaria argues that Trump is not a liar, as many others have asserted, but is instead a consummate bullshitter, which is worse.  Liars know they are telling a falsehood; bull shitters don’t know what’s true and don’t care.  In the following passage, Zakaria quotes a former professor at Princeton University:  “Harry Frankfurt concludes that liars and truth tellers are both acutely aware of facts and truths. They are just choosing to play on opposite sides of the same game to serve their own ends. The B.S. artist, however, has lost all connection with reality. He pays no attention to the truth. ‘By virtue of this,’ Frankfurt writes, ‘bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are.’  We see the consequences.  As the crazy talk continues, standard rules of fact, truth and reality have disappeared in this campaign.  Donald Trump has piled such vast quantities of his trademark product into the political arena that the stench is now overwhelming and unbearable.”  (See ).

I would prefer a president who is not a bull shitter, a leader who actually knows what he or she is talking about and isn’t constantly ridiculed by our press as well as foreign governments for making false assertions he is forced to defend (foolishly, because everyone else knows the truth) or retract.  Moreover, I’d prefer a president who bases his or her decisions on what is factual and provable.  It’s reasonable to expect that our president is knowledgeable and well educated and that he or she has access to and listens to advisors who themselves are experts in their fields.   When key decisions are being made—decisions that could affect all of our lives, physical and financial security, and welfare—I want those decisions to be based on a sound understanding of the facts and a reasoned and wise assessment of the alternatives.  But when asked who he listens to, who his advisers are, Trump said, “I listen to myself.  I have a good brain.”  On Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Trump where he gets his military advice, and Trump said, “Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great — you know, when you watch your show, and all of the other shows, and you have the generals, and you have certain people –.” 

What comes out of his mouth comes from his heart and soul

It’s been amusing to me to hear one of Trump’s latest gaffes and then watch as his apologists try to justify his behavior on CNN.  By apologists, I mean people like Kayleigh McEnany, Scottie Nell Hughes, and Jeffrey Lord.  Like faithful lap dogs, they try to justify every Trump outrage by explaining it away or altering the narrative so it makes more sense than what came out of Trump’s mouth.  Or they try for a “Hail Mary” interpretation of a Trump remark, as when one of them claimed that Trump did apologize to the Gold Star Khan parents by acknowledging that their dead son was a hero.  I think we can agree that what Captain Humayun Khan did in Iraq was heroic, but just agreeing that he was a hero does not constitute an apology.  Sorry¸Trump supporters.  I don’t buy it.  I know an apology when I hear one.

In his eloquent speech at the Democratic Convention, Khizr Khan said to Trump, “You have sacrificed nothing!”  In his lame response to Khan’s statement, Trump argued that he has made sacrifices.  When interviewer George Stephanopoulos asked him what those were, Trump replied, "I think I've made a lot of sacrifices.  I work very, very hard.  I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures.  I've had tremendous success.  I think I've done a lot."  Trump equates sacrificing with being successful and making a lot of money.  I have no doubt that every parent who’s lost a child in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Vietnam would rather have had Trump’s brand of sacrifice.  

When some well-intentioned vet gave Trump his Purple Heart, Trump said, “I always wanted a Purple Heart.  That was easy.”  As a Vietnam veteran who was wounded in combat and awarded a Purple Heart, I found Trump’s acceptance of the medal offensive and his comment about it being easy totally galling.  Trump has no clue whatsoever.  None.  To deserve such a medal, he would have to put himself in harm’s way, something Trump would never do.  He would have to risk losing his life to defend the country and his fellow soldiers, something Trump would never do.  He would have to act in a way that serves other people more than he serves himself, again something Trump would never do.  He should have politely refused to accept that Purple Heart.  That would have been the honorable thing to do.  But it never occurred to Trump to do the honorable thing because that’s not how he is made.

Trump’s apologists keep finding ways to downplay his misstatements by saying, “What he really meant to say is. . . .”  ?But we have to remember that when Trump attacks Gold Star parents, the words he uses are coming from his heart and soul.  When he attacks his opponents, including all those Republican contenders during the primaries, what comes out of his mouth is coming from his heart and soul.  When he says of some speakers at the Democratic Convention, “I wanted to hit them in the face.  I wanted to hit them so hard,” those words of violence and retribution are not a joke—those words are coming from the rage that burns inside him when he feels attacked.  Those words are coming from his heart and soul.  When he calls women pigs and Mexicans rapists and murderers, those words are coming from his heart and soul.  When he opens his mouth, he reveals the blackness that’s inside him.  It’s not an act; it’s what’s actually there, inside.  And what is there won’t change if he becomes president.  He wouldn’t suddenly become equalitarian and compassionate, empathetic and understanding, insightful and wise.  He would still be the petty, bullying, self-serving narcissistic he is now.

Writing in the National Review, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer argued that Trump’s “governing rule in life is to strike back when attacked, disrespected, or even slighted. To understand Trump, you have to grasp the General Theory:  He judges every action, every pronouncement, every person by a single criterion — whether or not it/he is “nice” to Trump.”  To Krauthammer, this goes beyond narcissism:  “I used to think Trump was an eleven-year-old, an undeveloped schoolyard bully. I was off by about ten years. His needs are more primitive, an infantile hunger for approval and praise, a craving that can never be satisfied. He lives in a cocoon of solipsism where the world outside himself has value — indeed exists — only insofar as it sustains and inflates him. Most politicians seek approval. But Trump lives for the adoration. He doesn’t even try to hide it, boasting incessantly about his crowds, his standing ovations, his TV ratings, his poll numbers, his primary victories. The latter are most prized because they offer empirical evidence of how loved and admired he is.” (

The Clinton Alternative

Like me, many voters are alarmed by the prospect of Trump becoming our president.  Perhaps deeply alarmed.  But they’re also uncomfortable with Hillary Clinton.  A recent article from the Associated Press noted that most young white voters believe that Clinton either knowingly broke the law by using a private email server or did so unintentionally, and Clinton’s poll numbers on honesty and trust should alarm all democrats.  In a poll taken just before the Democratic Convention, sixty-eight percent of Americans said that Clinton is not honest or trustworthy, fifty-six percent had an unfavorable view of her, and sixty percent said they would not be proud to have her as our president.  Trump’s numbers in these areas are not much better, and that highlights the discomfort many of us feel about this election. 

I share the uneasiness many voters feel about Hillary Clinton, but I will vote for her.  Not voting for her could put a reckless, impetuous, self-serving egomaniac in charge of our national destiny—and that is something we cannot allow to happen.  Recently, fifty Republicans who have served in national security positions published a letter opposing Trump and saying that they would not vote for him.  Their reasons reflect many of my own.  They said in part:  “Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be President. In our experience, a President must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control emotions, and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust.  In our judgment, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”

We face a terrible dilemma in this election year.  There may be no good choices, but there is only one right choice, and it’s not Donald Trump.




Trump scares the crap outta me. He attacks anyone or anything that makes sense. He is anti- everything and everyone that he doesn't agree with.

August 10, 2016, 11:28 AM
Gigi Baty

Hi Terry. I appreciate the thoughtful blog with clear bullet points about Trumps character deficiencies. Unfortunately the Clintons fare equally bad for different reasons, in my opinion. You've given me a lot to think about, however, and I will watch carefully and do more research. Thank you, as always, for your honest efforts to make us question and think.

August 10, 2016, 12:43 PM
Donald Wilson

Difficult time require responsible citizens to make decisions that are less than optimal.

"We face a terrible dilemna in this election year. There may be no good choices, but there is only one fight choice and it's not Donald Trump".

Bravo, T.R. Bacon!

August 10, 2016, 1:54 PM
Ed Lehner

Well thought out and written, Terry. Thanks.

August 10, 2016, 9:46 PM
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