October 19, 2019

“But the Emperor Is Wearing No Clothes.”

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Which is what a child cries out in Hans Christian Anderson’s famous, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” first published in Copenhagen in 1837.

Well, it seems some things just don’t change.

The reader will recall that the people who dwelled in the realm of the fable’s emperor were either too enthralled or too afraid to acknowledge the emperor’s lack of clothing, so they played along…until a child, too innocent to be worried about offending the emperor, cried out the truth. The emperor was parading around in his underwear.

And so, we come to today’s living version of the emperor and those of his subjects who see finery in a bare closet.  We speak, of course, of the President’s insistence at his rally this week in Texas, that China was paying the cost of his tariffs and not the American consumer. His supporters and some sycophants cheered at the good news. But his assurance that American consumers are not bearing the cost was, well, a prevarication as naked as was Hans Christian Anderson’s emperor.

President Trump also told an Ohio audience the same thing; that China is laying out the bucks for the tariffs he’s imposed. Not so. Not even close. But the crowds cheered anyway.

Here’s what President Trump recently tweeted on the subject. “Based on the historic currency manipulation by China, it is now even more obvious to everyone that Americans are not paying for the Tariffs – they are being paid for compliments of China, and the U.S. is taking in tens of Billions of Dollars!”

But, again, his supporters cheer as though what he says and what he tweets makes even a modicum of sense. Every dollar of those tens of billions of dollars the U.S. has taken in has come from the tariffs paid by American importers…every dollar.

Here’s some more Trumpian rhetoric about his Trumpian tariffs, “Don’t let them tell you, the fact is — China devalues their currency, they pour money into their system. Because of that, you’re not paying for those tariffs. China’s paying for those tariffs,” the president said, hours after announcing a new set of tariffs on Chinese goods. “Until such time as there is a deal, we will be taxing the hell out of China,” he fulminated.  His crowds cheer jubilantly.

But, no, Mr. President, you’ll be taxing the hell out of American consumers. While there has been some minor devaluation of the Chinese Yuan it has been a function of demand for the Yuan against a basket of currencies—not manipulation, and it has been too minor to have made any material difference in costs to the American importer.

President Trump’s hyperbole, of course, isn’t limited to tariff talk. He has staged elaborate photo ops with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and met with the dictator to jawbone him into behaving himself. Meanwhile, Kim shows no signs of ameliorating his behavior other than apparently sending what President Trump calls “beautiful letters” while he continues to launch missiles from above ground and from below the sea. That’s sufficient for President Trump to declare that the threat from North Korea is over. President Trump seems to take comfort from the fact Kim’s recent missile tests involve missiles that can’t reach the United States. That has to be small comfort to our Japanese allies or the tens of thousands of American GI’s stationed just below the 38th parallel.

The President has bragged that he doesn’t read and the best advice he gets is when he takes his own counsel. Well, he’s probably being modest. There is after all the good counsel he has enjoyed from Rudi Giuliani, Steve Miller, Peter Navarro, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and prior to his presidency, the late Roy Cohn. Actually, he did get good advice (which he ignored) from former Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, that, apparently, over-rated retired Marine General.

It seems that President Trump acts on his whims, and conducts policy, both domestic and foreign, by what moves him at the moment, confident that his innate wisdom really is great and unmatched. That’s why Turkey is in Northern Syria today, a region heavily populated by Kurds who the Turks want out and away from their border. These are the Kurds who stood with us in the fight against ISIS. They feel betrayed by President Trump…because they were betrayed.

It will be interesting to see what history has to say about this period of time. It will be grist for many historians and maybe even a few fable writers.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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8 responses to ““But the Emperor Is Wearing No Clothes.””

  1. susan duman says:

    I like that you include a few fable writers in the future.
    I so enjoy chronicling (sp) your take on as much as you can possibly tell.
    I began reading your essays in 2013 when you wondered how Edward Snowden would be viewed.
    If you haven’t already read his book, do so. He’s a good writer.
    As always Thanks,
    Susan D

  2. M M Kaback MD says:

    Read last week’s comment and add “narcissism “ to sociopath. It’s all there in Google under—-sociopath, traits of, and narcissistic. The man is dangerous to this country and our future.

  3. Roberta Conner says:

    Rather than fairy tales or fables I prefer to deal in hard facts. Let me see. 1) The US stock market is near an all time high; 2) Employment levels for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians is at an all-time record level; 3) The overall US unemployment rate is at a 50 year low; 4) Consumer confidence is at an all-time high; 5) The average American family income increased by more than $5,000 this past year due to wage increases and the Trump tax cuts. And all this “winning” is happening during the current trade war with China!

    Meanwhile, according to the October 18, 2019, South China Morning Post, “A miserable three months for China’s economy was capped by the lowest growth on record on Friday, and the expectation that with darkening storm clouds on the horizon, things are likely to get even worse.”

    “In the third quarter of 2019, China’s economy grew by 6.0 per cent, the slowest rate since quarterly records began 27 years ago and worse than expected. …for Beijing the symbolism (of a slowing economic growth) is huge. A strong economy is often offered as the justification for the Communist Party’s non-democratic governance of the Chinese people.”

    There are numerous other signs that China will eventually bend to Trump’s will and agree to trade with the US and its other trade partners in a fair and legal manner.

    • Response to Ms. Conner: We appreciate, as always, Ms. Conner’s comments. She makes a number of points this week which she characterizes as “hard facts” which she says she prefers “rather than fairy tales or fables,” which is a nod to (or a jab at) the fable we allude to in this week’s essay, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
      We provide some necessary context to Ms. Conner’s comments lest she creates some unintended fairy tales or fables of her own. The vast improvement in Black and Hispanic employment didn’t simply materialize under President Trump. Ms. Conner notes that employment levels for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians are at an all-time record level. That is, in fact, true although it is merely a continuation of a ten-year trend. We assume Ms. Conner was acknowledging that the steady improvement in the employment rate of Blacks, Hispanics and Whites has progressed steadily since the end of the Bush years and has continued under President Trump. For example, the unemployment rate for Blacks fell during the Obama years from over 16% to under 8% and has continued to drop under President Trump to below 6%. A nearly identical trend is seen in Hispanic and Asian employment.
      While consumer confidence is actually not at an all-time high as Ms. Conner writes, it has certainly improved markedly from its all-time low recorded in February 2009. The record high was actually reached in May 2000.
      Finally, Ms. Conner, correctly, points to the improvement in household income, although she cites improvement in “average” family or household income as an example. “Average” or “mean” household income is, of course, much less meaningful than “median” household income because the extremes affect the means, and the very high incomes at the top of the US income pyramid distort the average. Nonetheless, the increases in median income have continued under President Trump. When President Bush left office median household income hovered at around $52,000. During the Obama years, median household income improved markedly to $62,000 and as Ms. Conner notes it has continued to improve under President Trump to just over $63,000 in 2018.

  4. judy allen says:

    I agree with Roberta Conner. I believe the President has taken on many unpopular tasks… like the Trade issues with Other Countries because he is a business man and doesn’t want to make a career out of staying in D.C. like so many of our career politicians….. Term Limits, now!

  5. James Fisher says:

    I followed the good Doctor Kaback’s advice and looked up “sociopath” on Google: “A person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.”

    As a mere layman I fail to see these characteristics in our President. As a career businessman having achieved great success in the hospitality industry, and seeing him react with genuine empathy to a variety of Americans and their individual issues, I have not seen signs of an “extreme antisocial attitude or behavior.” Quite the contrary.

    To me, Trump’s avowed campaign platform of wanting to bring American troops home from fighting endless wars – and acting upon that promise – does not reveal a “lack of conscience.”

    I grant that Trump may indeed be egotistical. However, most of the successful entrepreneurs and business leaders in our history would fit that description. I for one welcome such a sea change in the selection of our politic leaders – someone other than a dreary, heavily-compromised career politician – to help solve the national issues we face in a complicated and nuanced modern global society.

    • Response to James Fisher: Picking up on Mr. Fisher’s comment regarding Dr. Kaback’s comment, we, too, thought it would be a good idea to look up sociopath as Dr. Kaback advised. We found a far more comprehensive description than Mr. Fisher quoted. Here’s what we found:

      Profile of the Sociopath
      This website summarizes some of the common features of descriptions of the behavior of sociopaths.

      Glibness and Superficial Charm

      Manipulative and Conning
      They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

      Grandiose Sense of Self
      Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”

      Pathological Lying
      Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

      Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
      A deep-seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

      Shallow Emotions
      When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love, and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

      Incapacity for Love

      Need for Stimulation
      Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

      Callousness/Lack of Empathy
      Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

      Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
      Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.

      Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
      Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.

      Irresponsibility/Unreliability
      Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.

      Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
      Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape, and sexual acting out of all sorts.

      Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
      Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.

      Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
      Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.
      Other Related Qualities:

      Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
      Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
      Authoritarian
      Secretive
      Paranoid
      Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
      Conventional appearance
      The goal of the enslavement of their victim(s)
      Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life
      Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim’s affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
      The ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
      Incapable of real human attachment to another
      Unable to feel remorse or guilt
      Extreme narcissism and grandiose
      May state readily that their goal is to rule the world

      (The above traits are based on the psychopathy checklists of H. Cleckley (American psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of psychopathy) and R. Hare (researcher in the field of criminal psychology).

  6. Perry says:

    As usual I truly enjoy your essays and feel my week would be
    less enjoyable without them.

    While I am weary of Trump, I still cannot see a “D” I could vote
    for other than Congress Lay Amy Klobuchar. The Democrats
    have no worthy agenda other than “Impeach” Trump.

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