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The ‘godly’ side of Donald Trump

By Lawrence Downes

LA Times

This week I went on a strange trip, a pilgrimage to a place where common words and assumptions were flipped upside down and backward, where my vision blurred and I felt an unseen force trying to make my brain go stupid.

I read “The Faith of Donald J. Trump,” just published. Its subtitle: “A Spiritual Biography.”

It’s real, and reasonably hefty, at 375 pages.

Check the flap: The authors are David Brody, a reporter with the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Scott Lamb, a Baptist minister and biographer of Mike Huckabee and the baseball slugger Albert Pujols.

Scan the blurbs, by Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich. By now your siren is a-wailing.

Then read the foreword, by Eric Metaxas. He says “many serious Christians” embrace this president because they understand God’s grace better than others. He says moralizing naysayers are like “the elder brother in the parable of the Good Samaritan.”

But wait, you say: There is no elder brother in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Maybe he meant the Prodigal Son.

And you think, as you wade into the text, these poor hacks. This is going to be bad.

And it is. As Noah built a mighty ark, so have Brody and Lamb built their vessel, broad and beamy and loaded with what smells like 40 days’ and nights’ manure in the bilge.

“We are not primarily speaking about his ‘religious piety,’ ” they write, using ironic quote marks to distance themselves from the absurdity. Instead they want to talk about his “worldview” — that is, “his framework and philosophy for understanding the world, himself, life, and eternity.”

“Like Muzak in an elevator or a fish in water, people have a personal worldview that surrounds them even when it goes unarticulated.”

In other words, this president has a godliness that is unspoken and invisible and cannot easily be detected in — what do you call that thing? — his life.

This is Christian homeopathy. It makes possible all kinds of miraculous pronouncements and mind-bending conclusions.

Decency, honesty, charity, humility: Who cares if the president does not manifest these things in what he says or does? Never mind the Lord’s commandments, like the ones forbidding idolatry, bearing false witness and moving on thy neighbor’s wife.

The authors instead plump up the virtuous side of the ledger. Trump works hard at being rich. He doesn’t drink or smoke, and he admires Norman Vincent Peale. Now and then in interviews, he wags his Christian tail, looking for good-boy treats: “When we go in church and when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness. And I do that as often as possible, because I feel cleansed, OK? But, you know, to me, that is important, I do that.”

The authors’ diagnosis? It’s all good.

The book loads up on Trumpy vacuity, yet avoids the only essential Scripture passage for a religious book about a billionaire. It’s the one where Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter Heaven. He was pretty clear about that.

But tackling that conundrum is not what Brody and Lamb are about. They give away the whole game in their next-to-last page: “It’s no secret that white, evangelical Christians, while still dominant politically, see their culture slipping away. They’re not the majority they once were and they’ve been looking for that fierce protector. And along came Donald Trump, warts and all.”

It’s a white-culture argument, with a spiritual mask.

Evangelicals will deny that. They’ll insist that Trump is — like all of us — a sinning child of God, a “piece of clay” shaped by the Lord for his glory. Maybe so. But if they mean it, let them extend such charity to God’s other children whom their president and party have so relentlessly and viciously attacked.

Let them spare some kindness for Latino immigrants and Muslim refugees. For the women Trump demeans and defames, or that other president whom they all hate so much, the black one. Or the former senator and secretary of State who haunts the Christian right like a she-demon.

You know they won’t, not in this life.

We’ll all have to wait until the kingdom of Heaven arrives, when the arc of the universe has finally bent to justice, and all those whom Trump stepped on as losers are winners at last. Maybe then the Lord will look with mercy on those who posed and preened as Christians, but lost their way.

And for the worst of the holy hypocrites, those who abused and distorted the Gospel for the most nakedly profane reasons — worldly power and sycophancy to Donald J. Trump — perhaps the Lord in his mercy will find a way to slip them this book, so they will have something to read in Hell.

Lawrence Downes is a writer and editor in New York.

NYT: Trump asking John Kelly for help in pushing Ivanka, Kushner out of White House

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

President Donald Trump is asking chief of staff John Kelly for help in pushing his daughter and son-in-law out of the White House, The New York Times reports.

The Times, citing two people familiar with Trump’s views, said Trump has been frustrated with his son-in-law Kushner after his top secret security clearance was downgraded this week and a report came out that officials from four countries had discussed ways to manipulate him during their dealings on foreign policy.

But Trump has told Kushner, who is a senior adviser, and his daughter Ivanka that they should remain in their roles, the Times reported.

Trump has vented at times that the couple should have never come to the White House and should leave, White House aides told the newspaper.

CNN has not independently confirmed the Times’ report. A message left with the White House seeking comment Friday was not immediately returned.

Trump’s son-in-law and first daughter have also been a target of Kelly’s.

CNN recently reported that Kelly has grown increasingly frustrated with Ivanka Trump since he entered the West Wing last July and was not enthusiastic about her recent trip to South Korea.

Ivanka and Kushner have, in turn, grown exasperated with Kelly, viewing him as hostile to their continued presence in the White House, multiple people familiar with the couple’s thinking told the Times.

CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.

From Facebook

Trump and Jared needed money. No legitimate bank would loan them a penny. They went to Russia begging. Russia contacted Deutsche Bank and expressed a willingness to guarantee the loans that Trump and Kushner were looking for. Russia demanded that Trump conspire with it to elect him POTUS thereby insuring relief from US sanctions. Trump agreed BIGLY. Deutsche Bank extends credit. Vlad hires trolls to hack various key states. Trump wins election via the Electoral College. Within one month of inauguration, Trump Administration calls for the removal of sanctions against Russia. Any questions?

Cicero of the Roman empire wrote this about the situation during his lifetime

1. The poor, work & work

2. The rich, exploit the poor.

3. The soldier, protects both.

4. The taxpayer, pays for all three.

5. The wanderer, rests for all four.

6. The drunk, drinks for all five.

7. The banker, robs all six.

8. The lawyer, misleads all seven.

9. The doctor, bills all eight.

10. The undertaker, buries all nine.

11. The Politician lives happily on account of all ten.

Written in 43 B.C., but valid even today.

Commentary: I study liars. I’ve never seen one like Donald Trump.

Bella DePaulo

Special to the Washington Post

I spent the first two decades of my career as a social scientist studying liars and their lies. I thought I had developed a sense of what to expect from them. Then along came President Donald Trump. His lies are both more frequent and more malicious than ordinary people’s.

In research beginning in the mid-1990s, when I was a professor at the University of Virginia, my colleagues and I asked 77 college students and 70 people from the nearby community to keep diaries of all the lies they told every day for a week. They handed them in to us with no names attached. We calculated participants’ rates of lying and categorized each lie as either self-serving (told to advantage the liar or protect the liar from embarrassment, blame or other undesired outcomes) or kind (told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else).

At The Washington Post, the Fact Checker feature has been tracking every false and misleading claim and flip-flop made by Trump this year. The inclusion of misleading statements and flip-flops is consistent with the definition of lying my colleagues and I gave to our participants: “A lie occurs any time you intentionally try to mislead someone.” In the case of Trump’s claims, though, it is possible to ascertain only whether they were false or misleading, and not what the president’s intentions were.

I categorized the most recent 400 lies that The Post had documented through mid-November in the same way my colleagues and I had categorized the lies of the participants in our study.

The college students in our research told an average of two lies a day, and the community members told one. (A more recent study of the lies 1,000 U. S. adults told in the previous 24 hours found that people told an average of 1.65 lies per day; the authors noted that 60 percent of the participants said they told no lies at all, while the top 5 percent of liars told nearly half of all the falsehoods in the study.) The most prolific liar among the students told an average of 6.6 lies a day. The biggest liar in the community sample told 4.3 lies in an average day.

In Trump’s first 298 days in office, however, he made 1,628 false or misleading claims or flip-flops, by The Post’s tally. That’s about six per day, far higher than the average rate in our studies. And of course, reporters have access to only a subset of Trump’s false statements — the ones he makes publicly — so unless he never stretches the truth in private, his actual rate of lying is almost certainly higher.

That rate has been accelerating. Starting in early October, The Post’s tracking showed that Trump told a remarkable nine lies a day, outpacing even the biggest liars in our research.

But the flood of deceit isn’t the most surprising finding about Trump.

Both the college students and the community members in our study served their own interests with their lies more often than other people’s interests. They told lies to try to advantage themselves in the workplace, the marketplace, their personal relationships and just about every other domain of everyday life. For example, a salesperson told a customer that the jeans she was trying on were not too tight, so she could make the sale. The participants also lied to protect themselves psychologically: One college student told a classmate that he wasn’t worried about his grades, so the classmate wouldn’t think he was stupid.

Less often, the participants lied in kind ways, to help other people get what they wanted, look or feel better, or to spare them from embarrassment or blame. For example, a son told his mother he didn’t mind taking her shopping, and a woman took sides with a friend who was divorcing, even though she thought her friend was at fault, too.

About half the lies the participants told were self-serving (46 percent for the college students, 57 percent for the community members), compared with about a quarter that were kind (26 percent for the students, 24 percent for the community members). Other lies did not fit either category; they included, for instance, lies told to entertain or to keep conversations running smoothly.

One category of lies was so small that when we reported the results, we just tucked them into a footnote. Those were cruel lies, told to hurt or disparage others. For example, one person told a co-worker that the boss wanted to see him when he really didn’t, “so he’d look like a fool.” Just 0.8 percent of the lies told by the college students and 2.4 percent of the lies told by the community members were mean-spirited.

My colleagues and I found it easy to code each of our participants’ lies into just one category. This was not the case for Trump. Close to a quarter of his false statements (24 percent) served several purposes simultaneously.

Nearly two-thirds of Trump’s lies (65 percent) were self-serving. Examples included: “They’re big tax cuts — the biggest cuts in the history of our country, actually” and, about the people who came to see him on a presidential visit to Vietnam last month: “They were really lined up in the streets by the tens of thousands.”

Slightly less than 10 percent of Trump’s lies were kind ones, told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else. An example was his statement on Twitter that “it is a ‘miracle’ how fast the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police were able to find the demented shooter and stop him from even more killing!” In the broadest sense, it is possible to interpret every lie as ultimately self-serving, but I tried to stick to how statements appeared on the surface.

Trump told 6.6 times as many self-serving lies as kind ones. That’s a much higher ratio than we found for our study participants, who told about double the number of self-centered lies compared with kind ones.

The most stunning way Trump’s lies differed from our participants’, though, was in their cruelty. An astonishing 50 percent of Trump’s lies were hurtful or disparaging. For example, he proclaimed that John Brennan, James Clapper and James Comey, all career intelligence or law enforcement officials, were “political hacks.” He said that “the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close.” He insisted that other “countries, they don’t put their finest in the lottery system. They put people probably in many cases that they don’t want.” And he claimed that “Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities.”

The Trump lies that could not be coded into just one category were typically told both to belittle others and enhance himself. For example: “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for reelection in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).”

The sheer frequency of Trump’s lies appears to be having an effect, and it may not be the one he is going for. A Politico/Morning Consult poll from late October showed that only 35 percent of voters believed that Trump was honest, while 51 percent said he was not honest. (The others said they didn’t know or had no opinion.) Results of a Quinnipiac University poll from November were similar: Thirty-seven percent of voters thought Trump was honest, compared with 58 percent who thought he was not.

For fewer than 40 percent of American voters to see the president as honest is truly remarkable. Most humans, most of the time, believe other people. That’s our default setting. Usually, we need a reason to disbelieve.

Research on the detection of deception consistently documents this “truth bias.” In the typical study, participants observe people making statements and are asked to indicate, each time, whether they think the person is lying or telling the truth. Measuring whether people believe others should be difficult to do accurately, because simply asking the question disrupts the tendency to assume that other people are telling the truth. It gives participants a reason to wonder. And yet, in our statistical summary of more than 200 studies, Charles F. Bond Jr. and I found that participants still believed other people more often than they should have — 58 percent of the time in studies in which only half of the statements were truthful. People are biased toward believing others, even in studies in which they are told explicitly that only half of the statements they will be judging are truths.

By telling so many lies, and so many that are mean-spirited, Trump is violating some of the most fundamental norms of human social interaction and human decency. Many of the rest of us, in turn, have abandoned a norm of our own — we no longer give Trump the benefit of the doubt that we usually give so readily.

Bella DePaulo is the author of “How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century” and “Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.”

Carl Icahn unloaded millions in steel-related stock days before Trump tariff

By Kate Gibson

CBS This Morning

MoneyWatch March 2, 2018, 1:56 PM

As the saying goes, timing is everything.

Investor and former regulatory advisor Carl Icahn dumped $31.1 million of stock in a Wisconsin company that relies heavily on steel to make its products last week, days before President Donald Trump said he’d impose stiff tariffs on steel imports.

The disclosure in a regulatory filing, first reported by ThinkProgress, shows Icahn systematically sold off almost 1 million shares of Manitowoc Company (MTW), which makes cranes and other equipment.

The billionaire investor and longtime confidant of Mr. Trump started selling the stock on Feb. 12, according to the filing dated Feb. 22. Icahn began selling before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross released a report Feb. 16 that called for a 24 percent tariff.

Mr. Trump’s announcement seven days later that he would inflict a 25 percent tariff on steel imports has sideswiped the market, steel-tied stocks in particular. Manitowoc stock has since lost 12 percent of its value.

Icahn had not actively traded Manitowoc stock up until February, noted ThinkProgress, which said he had not purchased or sold any shares of the company between January 17, 2015 and February 11, 2018. Icahn resigned from his post as a “special adviser” to the president in August, ahead of a New Yorker article describing how he used his White House position to shield his investments, from which he had not detached himself before taking the job.

Wire reports