Groupthink and Bud Light

Where to start in a week when Trump broke every campaign promise he made about healthcare – which was supposed to become better and cheaper – by strong-arming House Republicans to pass a bill that is essentially a $600 billion tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and will do irreparable damage to the poor, the elderly, the mentally ill and women. It would be the highlight of the week if Trump had not simultaneously called Kim Jong-un a ‘smart cookie,’ showing appreciation for the way the grandson of the Little Helmsman consolidated power and fended off threats after his father died and left him in charge of the most totalitarian state in the world at the tender age of 27.  Trump didn’t go into details, but we have to assume that one of those threats was Kim’s uncle, whom his nephew therefore appropriately fed to the dogs.  The president, whose admiration of tyrants was already evident from his attitude towards Putin, Erdogan and Duterte, went as far as declaring that he would be happy to meet with Kim and that it would be ‘an honor.’

With all the political fireworks coming out of the White House and Capitol Hill it was almost lost that Trump also let his light shine over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stating that achieving peace in that part of the Middle East “might be easier than you think,” because “all you need is two parties who are willing to work with each other.”  The absence of such parties is pretty much the problem, and although Trump’s thoughtless yelping has some conservative Jewish organizations and the Netanyahu administration worried they can rest assured that it is only the intro to a ‘who knew’ moment, like in ‘who knew that peace between Israel and the Palestinians was so complicated.’  There are people, exclusively on the right, who think that Trump is learning on the job, which would be evidenced by the fact that he now realizes that health care is complicated, but even they will become disappointed.  The conservative commentator George Will, by Trump-friendly forces removed from Fox News, explained why in a piece that says: ‘Trump doesn’t know what it means to know something.’

The House vote on the American Health Care Act 2.0 had all the characteristics of groupthink: a complex problem, time constraints, and external pressure to make a decision.  What happens in those situations is that the fact that a decision has been made substitutes for the quality of the decision, and that explains why Congressmen who voted for a lousy bill celebrated with Trump, in awe of themselves and fueled by the world’s worst beer.

The craziest moment of that Rose Garden event was the start of Trump’s speech, when he said: “Hey, I’m president, can you believe it, I must be doing something right,” which summarized his view of the office, namely that everything the president does is well done.  It is the White House version of ‘grab them by the pussy’ and shows that Trump doesn’t learn.

In contrast to all that excitement Trump signed his first bill this week, a spending bill that keeps the government funded until October and doesn’t give him anything, not even a penny for The Wall, but that keeps Planned Parenthood funded. There is hope, after all.

Hugo Kijne

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