Madeline and Prestidigitation

I just finished Madeline Albright’s book, Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st Century Memoir.  I enjoyed the book and she is such an impressive person.

In the last two chapters of her book, she discusses President Trump and our current political environment.  She says that no other president has so “thoroughly combined a boorish personality with an incapacity to accept criticism, an utter disregard for the responsibilities of his office, and a tendency to make stuff up worth of both Guinness’s book and Ripley’s.”  What a roast!  I cannot say I disagree.

She discusses Trump’s instinct to go on the offensive while at the same time claiming to be under attack.  She thinks that the philosopher Eric Hoffer’s insight from sixty years ago applies to Trump.  He wrote, “rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”  She is worried that there is danger of him causing grave damage to the foundations of our democracy.

In terms of foreign policy, Trump has a obvious yearning to be praised as a world leader, yet as a result of his arrogance he is a source of dismay to U.S. allies and widely mocked.  Trump thinks of foreign policy less in strategic terms and more about style.  Mere unpredictability is just a character trait but not a policy.  Typically, the center of a nation’s foreign policy is embodied by a set of clear goals.  But, besides a desire to sell weapons and reduce trade deficits, it is unclear what the Trump administration wants to achieve or what it stands for.  Trump seems to identify, bond (and even envy) most with despots with bad records on human rights.  The president also likes to ignore or criticize the global system of international problem solving and law.  He ignores allies and thinks acting unilaterally is the best road to success.

In order to effectively manage world affairs, preparation and organization are required (and these are sorely lacking in Trump’s administration).  Now policies are often decided by presidential whim and influenced by what Trump saw on television instead of by careful analysis.  Trump has an attitude against career military and civilian professionals.  He has a deep need to blame others as well.  All this has weakened our country in the face of enemies and undermines the trust of U.S. citizens in their own institutions.  This amounts to what Albright calls, “a textbook example of how not to lead.”

On a lighter note, vocabulary word of the day is prestidigitation.  This means magic tricks performed as entertainment.

I am about halfway through the book, 1984 and Philosophy: Is Resistance Futile?.  In it, professional philosophers write articles to analyze different elements of the book.  It’s a good, but somewhat depressing read.

One thought on “Madeline and Prestidigitation

  1. Sharon Orfalea May 22, 2020 / 4:11 pm

    What a wonderful critique. I plan to read your post to “you know who.”


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