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Give Trump a Chance
European commentators get their understanding of Donald Trump from the American media. That is a big mistake.
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Battlefield communications in World War I sometimes left something to be desired. Hence a famous British anecdote of a garbled word-of-mouth message. As transmitted, the message ran, “Send reinforcements, we are going to advance.” Superior officers at the other end, however, were puzzled to be told: “Send three and four-pence [three shillings and four-pence], we are going to a dance!”

Similar miscommunication probably helps explain the European media’s unreflective scorn for Donald Trump. Most European commentators have little or no access to the story. They have allowed their views to be shaped largely by the American press.

That’s a big mistake. Contrary to their carefully burnished self-image of impartiality and reliability, American journalists are not averse to consciously peddling outright lies. This applies even in the case of the biggest issues of the day, as witness, for instance, the American press’s almost unanimous validation of George Bush’s transparently mendacious case for the Iraq war in 2003.

Most of the more damning charges against Trump are either without foundation or at least are viciously unfair distortions. Take, for instance, suggestions in the run-up to the election that he is anti-Semitic. In some accounts it was even suggested he was a closet neo-Nazi. Yet for anyone remotely familiar with the Trump story, this always rang false. After all he had thrived for decades in New York’s overwhelmingly Jewish real estate industry. Then there was the fact that his daughter Ivanka, to whom he is evidently devoted, had converted to Judaism.

Now as Trump embarks on office, his true attitudes are becoming obvious – and they hardly lean towards neo-Nazism.

In appointing Jared Kushner his chief adviser, he has chosen an orthodox Jew (Kushner is Ivanka’s husband). Then there is David Friedman, Trump’s choice for ambassador to Israel. Friedman is an outspoken partisan of the Israeli right and he is among other things an apologist for the Netanyahu administration’s highly controversial settlement of the West Bank. Trump even wants to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This position is a favourite of the most ardently pro-Israel section of the American Jewish community but is otherwise disavowed as insensitive to Palestinians by most American policy analysts.

Many other examples could be cited of how the press has distorted the truth. It is interesting to revisit in particular the allegation that Trump mocked a disabled man’s disability. It is an allegation which has received particular prominence in the press in Europe. But is Trump really such a heartless ogre? Hardly.

As is often the case with Trumpian controversies, the facts are a lot more complicated than the press makes out. The disabled-man episode began when, in defending an erstwhile widely ridiculed contention that Arabs in New Jersey had publicly celebrated the Twin Towers attacks, Trump unearthed a 2001 newspaper account broadly backed him up. But the report’s author, Serge Kovaleski, demurred. Trump’s talk of “thousands” of Arabs, he wrote, was an exaggeration.

Trump fired back. Flailing his arms wildly in an impersonation of an embarrassed, backtracking reporter, he implied that Kovaleski had succumbed to political correctness.

So far, so normal for the 2016 election campaign. But it turned out that Kovaleski was no ordinary Trump-hating journalist. He suffers from arthrogryposis, a malady in which the joints are malformed. For Trump’s critics, this was manna from heaven. Instead of merely accusing the New York real estate magnate of exaggerating a minor, if troubling, sideshow in U.S.-Arab relations, they could now arraign him on the vastly more damaging charge of mocking someone’s disability.

Trump’s plea that he hadn’t known that Kovaleski was handicapped was undermined when it emerged that in the 1980s the two had not only met but Kovaleski had even interviewed Trump in Trump Tower. That is an experience I know something about. I, like Kovaleski, once interviewed Trump in Trump Tower. The occasion was an article I wrote for Forbes magazine in 1982. If Trump saw my by-line today, would he remember that occasion 35 years ago? Probably not. The truth is that Trump, who has been a celebrity since his early twenties, has been interviewed by thousands of journalists over the years. A journalist would have to be seriously conceited – or be driven by a hidden agenda – to assume that a VIP as busy as Trump would remember an occasion half a lifetime ago.

In any case in responding directly to the charge of mocking Kovaleski’s disability, Trump offered a convincing denial. “I would never do that,” he said. “Number one, I have a good heart; number two, I’m a smart person.” Setting aside point one (although to the press’s chagrin, many of Trump’s acquaintances have testified that a streak of considerable private generosity underlies his tough-guy exterior), it is hard to see how anyone can question point two. In effect Trump is saying he had a strong self-interest in not offending the disabled lobby let alone their millions of sympathisers.

After all it was not as if there were votes in dissing the disabled. This stands in marked contrast to other much discussed Trumpian controversies such as his disparaging remarks about Mexicans and Muslims. In the case of both Mexican and Muslims, an effort to cut back immigration is a central pillar of Trump’s program and his remarks, though offensive, were clearly intended to garner votes from fed-up middle Americans.

In reality, as the Catholics 4 Trump website has documented, the media have suppressed vital evidence in the Kovaleski affair.

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For a start Trump’s frenetic performance bore no resemblance to arthrogryposis. Far from frantically flailing their arms, arthrogryposis victims are uncommonly motionlessness. This is because relevant bones are fused together. As Catholics 4 Trump pointed out, the media should have been expected to have been chomping at the bit to interview Kovaleski and thus clinch the point about how ruthlessly Trump had ridiculed a disabled man’s disability.
The website added: “If the media had a legitimate story, that is exactly what they would have done and we all know it. But the media couldn’t put Kovaleski in front of a camera or they’d have no story.”

Catholics 4 Trump added that, in the same speech in which Trump did his Kovaleski impression, he offered an almost identical performance to illustrate the embarrassment of a U.S. general with whom he had clashed. In particular Trump had the general wildly flailing his arms. It goes without saying that this general does not suffer from arthogryposis or any other disability. The common thread in each case was merely an embarrassed, backtracking person. To say the least, commentators in Europe who have portrayed Trump as having mocked Kovaleski’s disability stand accused of superficial, slanted reporting.

All this is not to suggest that Trump does not come to the presidency unencumbered with baggage. He is exceptionally crude – at least he is in his latter-day reality TV manifestation (the Trump I remember from my interview in 1982 was a model of restraint by comparison and in particular never used any expletives). Moreover the latter-day Trump habit of picking Twitter fights with those who criticize him tends merely to confirm a widespread belief that he is petty and thin-skinned.

Many of his pronouncements moreover have been disturbing and his abrasive manner will clearly prove on balance a liability in the White House. That said, the press has never worked harder or more dishonestly to destroy a modern American leader.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, therefore, as he sets out to make America great again. The truth is that American decline has gone much further than almost anyone outside American industry understands. Trump’s task is a daunting one.

Eamonn Fingleton is an expert on America’s trade problems and is the author of In Praise of Hard Industries: Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future Prosperity (Houghton Mifflin, Boston). A version of this article appeared in the Dublin Ireland Sunday Business Post .

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Media, Donald Trump 
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  1. In my opinion, it’s extremely silly to presume that the European media (the BBC, the guardian, etc.) are somehow misled by the US propaganda. They are part of the same propaganda machine; in fact sometimes they’re even more vicious (the guardian, for example) than their US partners.

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  2. The German press being the epitome of madness, the untruths, omissions, and distortions regarding DT being beyond definition.
    Of course the Germans themselves are the most neurotic brainwashed folks in Europe and what else could one expect from a nation of sheep which has on it’s books a law ( “Meldepflicht” = “Meldegesetz” ) requiring every resident to report his new address to the local police registry office : “Meldeamt” upon moving.
    And believe it or not Germans, authority-worshiping subjects which they are, think that this is a good law and they simply cannot grasp the police-state implications thereof.

    Authenticjazzman “Mensa” society member of forty-plus years an dpro jazz artist.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
    Not to mention the infamous law against home schooling, one of Uncle Adolph's laws still in the Statute Book. Numerous home schooling families have fled abroad to avoid the state removing their children.
    Verymuchalive, one-time "Mensa" member and not very good guitar player.
    , @Anonymous Nephew
    "what else could one expect from a nation of sheep which has on it’s books a law requiring every resident to report his new address to the local police registry office"

    The Japanese also seem to have such a law. They just have different ideas about privacy.

    Mr Fingleton knows more than I, but this is what I read.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2011/03/why_the_japanese_arent_looting.html


    "There is little urban anonymity. When I first lived in Japan on a work visa and had my own apartment in a residential neighborhood of Tokyo, in 1971, I was paid a friendly visit by a local policeman. It was a completely routine matter: police are required to keep track of every resident of their beats, and they want to know the basics, such as your work, your age, and your living circumstances. In my circumstances, immigration papers were also of concern, but for Japanese, it would be the koseki, a mandatory official family record kept on a household basis, reporting births, acknowledgements of paternity, adoptions, disruptions of adoptions, deaths, marriages and divorces. Every Japanese is not just an individual, he or she is officially is a member of a household (ie), and the state keeps track.

    Following the gathering of my information, the policeman no doubt returned to his local substation (koban), which are found every few blocks in urban areas, to record the information for his colleagues. To an American it seemed quite extraordinary, a violation of privacy. But in Japan a lack of anonymity is the norm.

    Soon after the beat cop's visit to me, local merchants began nodding to me as I walked to and from the train station, as if they knew me and acknowledged me. I was fairly certain the word had gone out via omawari san (literally, the honorable gentleman who walks around, a polite colloquial euphemism for the police) that I was a Japanese-speaking American in Japan on legitimate, respectable grounds. For a year or so, I was a member of the community."
     

    Anonymous Nephew, took the paper test MENSA sent you in those days, and just scraped through, but never sat the exam!
    , @Buzz Mohawk
    Germans were beaten into submission when they got too uppity. We Americans who are now freshly enthused by patriotism, we who have a renewed sense of who we really are, might want to keep that in mind and be prepared.

    Buzz Mohawk, well-qualified for Mensa but not the least bit interested. Tall, handsome and well-endowed.

  3. @Authenticjazzman
    The German press being the epitome of madness, the untruths, omissions, and distortions regarding DT being beyond definition.
    Of course the Germans themselves are the most neurotic brainwashed folks in Europe and what else could one expect from a nation of sheep which has on it's books a law ( "Meldepflicht" = "Meldegesetz" ) requiring every resident to report his new address to the local police registry office : "Meldeamt" upon moving.
    And believe it or not Germans, authority-worshiping subjects which they are, think that this is a good law and they simply cannot grasp the police-state implications thereof.

    Authenticjazzman "Mensa" society member of forty-plus years an dpro jazz artist.

    Not to mention the infamous law against home schooling, one of Uncle Adolph’s laws still in the Statute Book. Numerous home schooling families have fled abroad to avoid the state removing their children.
    Verymuchalive, one-time “Mensa” member and not very good guitar player.

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  4. Asking for fairness from the European media is IMHO a laudable exercise but one that’s unlikely to be successful. Even your old FT has full-blown Trump Derangement Syndrome. Paul Murphy at FT Alphaville is a particularly sad case – you can take PM out of the Guardian, but you can’t take the Guardian out of PM. In countries like Germany the media seem to have voluntarily placed themselves under government control, and the present German government isn’t exactly Trumpian.

    Financial journalists (at least in the UK) have suckled at the globalisation teat for so long that they’d close every steelworks in Britain for a trip to Davos. Combine that with real career concerns at the lower levels, as the internet increasingly does to journalist jobs what Chinese factories did to manufacturing jobs, and you have a perfect storm of fear and loathing.

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  5. @Authenticjazzman
    The German press being the epitome of madness, the untruths, omissions, and distortions regarding DT being beyond definition.
    Of course the Germans themselves are the most neurotic brainwashed folks in Europe and what else could one expect from a nation of sheep which has on it's books a law ( "Meldepflicht" = "Meldegesetz" ) requiring every resident to report his new address to the local police registry office : "Meldeamt" upon moving.
    And believe it or not Germans, authority-worshiping subjects which they are, think that this is a good law and they simply cannot grasp the police-state implications thereof.

    Authenticjazzman "Mensa" society member of forty-plus years an dpro jazz artist.

    “what else could one expect from a nation of sheep which has on it’s books a law requiring every resident to report his new address to the local police registry office”

    The Japanese also seem to have such a law. They just have different ideas about privacy.

    Mr Fingleton knows more than I, but this is what I read.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2011/03/why_the_japanese_arent_looting.html

    “There is little urban anonymity. When I first lived in Japan on a work visa and had my own apartment in a residential neighborhood of Tokyo, in 1971, I was paid a friendly visit by a local policeman. It was a completely routine matter: police are required to keep track of every resident of their beats, and they want to know the basics, such as your work, your age, and your living circumstances. In my circumstances, immigration papers were also of concern, but for Japanese, it would be the koseki, a mandatory official family record kept on a household basis, reporting births, acknowledgements of paternity, adoptions, disruptions of adoptions, deaths, marriages and divorces. Every Japanese is not just an individual, he or she is officially is a member of a household (ie), and the state keeps track.

    Following the gathering of my information, the policeman no doubt returned to his local substation (koban), which are found every few blocks in urban areas, to record the information for his colleagues. To an American it seemed quite extraordinary, a violation of privacy. But in Japan a lack of anonymity is the norm.

    Soon after the beat cop’s visit to me, local merchants began nodding to me as I walked to and from the train station, as if they knew me and acknowledged me. I was fairly certain the word had gone out via omawari san (literally, the honorable gentleman who walks around, a polite colloquial euphemism for the police) that I was a Japanese-speaking American in Japan on legitimate, respectable grounds. For a year or so, I was a member of the community.”

    Anonymous Nephew, took the paper test MENSA sent you in those days, and just scraped through, but never sat the exam!

    Read More
  6. @Authenticjazzman
    The German press being the epitome of madness, the untruths, omissions, and distortions regarding DT being beyond definition.
    Of course the Germans themselves are the most neurotic brainwashed folks in Europe and what else could one expect from a nation of sheep which has on it's books a law ( "Meldepflicht" = "Meldegesetz" ) requiring every resident to report his new address to the local police registry office : "Meldeamt" upon moving.
    And believe it or not Germans, authority-worshiping subjects which they are, think that this is a good law and they simply cannot grasp the police-state implications thereof.

    Authenticjazzman "Mensa" society member of forty-plus years an dpro jazz artist.

    Germans were beaten into submission when they got too uppity. We Americans who are now freshly enthused by patriotism, we who have a renewed sense of who we really are, might want to keep that in mind and be prepared.

    Buzz Mohawk, well-qualified for Mensa but not the least bit interested. Tall, handsome and well-endowed.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Americans ganged up on Germany with a bunch of other countries like cowards. They couldn't beat Germany in a fair fight.
  7. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Buzz Mohawk
    Germans were beaten into submission when they got too uppity. We Americans who are now freshly enthused by patriotism, we who have a renewed sense of who we really are, might want to keep that in mind and be prepared.

    Buzz Mohawk, well-qualified for Mensa but not the least bit interested. Tall, handsome and well-endowed.

    Americans ganged up on Germany with a bunch of other countries like cowards. They couldn’t beat Germany in a fair fight.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
    Indeed several nations and peoples ganged up on Germany. I am making a comparison between that and the smears, disinformation and violent agitation now directed at nationalistic Americans and our newly elected government.

    Powerful entities don't want the rightful owners of this country to stand up for themselves.
  8. @Anonymous
    Americans ganged up on Germany with a bunch of other countries like cowards. They couldn't beat Germany in a fair fight.

    Indeed several nations and peoples ganged up on Germany. I am making a comparison between that and the smears, disinformation and violent agitation now directed at nationalistic Americans and our newly elected government.

    Powerful entities don’t want the rightful owners of this country to stand up for themselves.

    Read More
  9. Eamonn, a far bigger problem right now is several of the people he has put into office.

    Most notably:
    - His Treasury Secretary is a Goldman Sachs alumni
    - The Secretary of State was the CEO of Exxon Mobil
    - The Secretary of Education is a heiress to the Amway fortune, a known Pyramid scheme

    While I think that Trump is correct about trade deals being extremely harmful and agree with his desire to rebuild American manufacturing, I’m worried his appointments don’t match up to the rhetoric. Personnel is policy.

    I’m also unsure of how he is spending money on infrastructure if it will benefit all Americans or a small elite. He has also been unwilling to do much about Silicon Valley, which has a dangerous rent seeking monopoly. Finally, he seems to be anti-science in many regards – the US needs R&D money for basic research and is falling behind relative to China.

    I suppose in terms of foreign policy, easing tensions with Russia is a big step forward. I’m worried though about his warlike tone towards Islamic Terrorism. It’s unlikely that any war would have any different outcome than one started by Bush.

    Finally, there is the matter of whether or not he will spend the amount of investment needed to build manufacturing. It will be decades before the US becomes any manufacturing power and the question is, can he take the first steps? Then after that, will his successors understand how important manufacturing is?

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