Jun 03

Trump’s New Book: The Art of the Deflection

The Art of the Deflection

The Art of the Deflection

“Because the indefensible can’t be defended… that’s why we perfected… The Art of the Deflection.”

If I were to ghostwrite Trump’s next book, that would be the first line. All politicians and political wonks play some form of deflection when debating. But Trump and his followers have taken it to a new level.  In their hands, it has gone from a simple technique to an art form they depend on almost exclusively. Like the magician’s sleight of hand, they say, “Look over here – not there.”

I’m not always a fan of CNN. They play Trump’s game – all Trump, all the time with very little push back on his hyperbolic statements.  I wonder if they are like CBS News Chief, Les Moonves, who said, when talking about Trump’s rise, “It may not be good for America, but it’s good for CBS.”  Those sugary sweet ratings can tempt anyone away from wholesome journalism. But CNN’s Carol Costello was a delightful exception to this the other morning.

On that day, Costello asked a Trump advisor, “What is Trump’s plan to deal with Isis?” Four times, she asked. And four times the Trump guy attacked Hillary, Obama, the Democrats…. always somebody. The question wasn’t, “How effective are the other guys?” The question, I repeat as Carol repeated four times, was, “What is Trump’s plan to deal with Isis?”

Like a true journalist, Costello kept calling him on it, but all the supporter had to work with was some of Trump’s non-specific declarations. And that’s not a plan.  The defender couldn’t defend the indefensible, so attacking others was his only option.

“Ignore the man behind the curtain. It’s Obama’s fault we have no plan.”

(In fairness, later this week, Trump’s Stephen Miller… You know? The one who looks like a serial killer… He explained Trump’s foreign policy. “Trump has a good foreign policy philosophy,” he said  before attacking other people who actually have a plan.  We all know a good philosophy beats a good strategy any day, right?)

It’s not only poor Carol Costello who has to suffer through this nonsense. But the sad thing is that she seems to be one of the few who still believes in the power of journalism and persists until she gets an answer. Or in this case, until it becomes clear there is no answer. (Cuomo does pretty well, too.)  You’ve got a be a bit of a bulldog with this Trump bunch or you get nothing.

I first noticed this pattern of deflection a few months ago. They asked CNN’s regular Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord, to talk about Trump’s rants that were descending into a promotion of violence. Remember Trump saying about protesters, “I’d like to slug that guy.” And “See, in the good old days this doesn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough.”

(Woo hoo. Let’s make America great like that again!)

The CNN news person asked Lord to defend Trump’s comments. Lord’s responses could’ve been a drinking game. The game:  You get a shot when Lord diverts from defending Trump’s dog whistle statements by going after “liberals” within ten seconds of starting his answer. That was then. But he hasn’t changed his tactics a bit. Now, if you want a quick buzz, watch anytime they ask Lord to answer for any of Trump’s provocative statements. You earn a shot if Lord doesn’t miss a single beat before he goes after someone who is not Trump rather than try to defend the man.

Cheers. And please don’t drink and drive.

If you listen carefully, Lord rarely defends Trump. Neither does Katrina Pierson, the other regular spokesperson on CNN. None of them do. If there’s nothing of substance to defend, you have to either admit that and lose,  or you have to distract from that fact. They distract.

Deflection is a consistent pattern that runs throughout the Trump campaign. If it’s not officially part of their game plan, it should be.  Keep everyone’s eyes off The Donald’s many flaws and keep the opponents playing defense. That’s the only way this works.

C’mon. Do these Trump people really believe that by blaming someone else, it absolves Trump from the original criticism? Do they believe in the magic of magical thinking that says such deflection causes the original criticism to melt away? Nah. It’s a cheap tactic, and they know it. The question is: Who’s falling for it?

As a proud liberal, I’d like to say that this sort of distraction is an essentially conservative practice. But then some conservative would show me some examples of a liberal who has done it. But I bet if someone had the time and patience to count who uses it, the conservatives would far outnumber the liberals. It seems to be a favored tactic in their ranks.  And it makes sense. Isn’t it always about some evil “other” with them anyway? Muslims, immigrants, the elites, gays, the press, Washington insiders, liberals, Obama, Black Lives Matter….anybody to blame for their miseries.  Attacking is a deflection that comfortably fits their narrative.

For Trump, it’s mostly attack, attack, and some more attack. That’s because even the Messiah of the White Middle-Aged can’t defend the indefensible.

Listen to Trump talk at any of his rallies. They’re all the same. Usually first, he’ll go on about poll numbers, who likes him,  who he doesn’t like and the “harrable” press, ad nauseam. Then, after stroking his ego and presumably getting some satisfaction from it, he’ll move on to making a few vague declarations which are essentially fantasy promises to the gullible. These serve as empty morsels for the psychological needy and provide an illusion that there is something there. Since this usually lacks any real substance, he has nowhere to go. To use a double negative, you can’t build on nothing. So, he’ll shift to attacking other people – which he does in abundance. He might mix it up a bit, but all the elements are generally the same each time.

What else can he do? That’s all he’s got. But if you like stage magicians – you got it.

Did somebody say the emperor has no clothes?

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