As the novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, President Trump has repeated one phrase like a mantra: It will go away.Since February Trump has said the virus will “go away” at least 15 times, most recently on May 15.“It’s going to disappear one day,” he said on February 27. “It’s like a miracle.”Invoking a miracle is an understandable response during a pandemic, but to some, the President’s insistence that the coronavirus will simply vanish sounds dangerously like magical thinking — the popular but baffling idea that we can mold the world to our liking, reality be damned.The coronavirus, despite Trump’s predictions, has not disappeared. It has spread rapidly, killing more than 90,000 Americans.In that light, Trump’s response to the pandemic, his fulsome self-praise and downplaying of mass death seems contrary to reality. But long ago, his biographers say, Trump learned how to craft his own version of reality, a lesson he learned in an unlikely place: a church.It’s called the “power of positive thinking,” and Trump heard it from the master himself: the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, a Manhattan pastor who became a self-help juggernaut, the Joel Osteen of the 1950s.“He thought I was his greatest student of all time,” Trump has said.Undoubtedly, the power of positive thinking has taken Trump a long way — through multiple business failures to the most powerful office in the world.Trump has repeatedly credited Peale — who died in 1993 — and positive thinking with helping him through rough patches.“I refused to be sucked into negative thinking on any level, even when the indications weren’t great,” Trump said of the early 1990s, when his casinos were tanking and he owed creditors billions of dollars.But during a global public health crisis there can be a negative side to positive thinking.“Trump pretending that this pandemic will just go away is not just an unacceptable fantasy,” said Christopher Lane, author of “Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life.”“It is in the realm of dangerous delusion.”
Trump says Peale has made him feel better about himselfThough they were professed Presbyterians, it’s more accurate to call Trump’s family Peale-ites.On Sundays, Trump’s businessman father drove the family from Queens to Peale’s pulpit at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan.The centuries-old edifice was, and remains, the closest thing Trump has to a family church. Funerals for both of his parents were held there, and Peale presided over Trump’s marriage to Ivana at Marble Collegiate in 1977. Two of his siblings were also married in the sanctuary.The draw, Trump’s biographers say, was Peale, who elevated businessmen like the Trumps to saint-like status as crusaders of American capitalism.Known as “God’s Salesman,” Peale wrote many self-help books, including “The Power of Positive Thinking,” that sold millions of copies.Peale drew throngs of followers, but also sharp criticism from Christians who accused him of cherry-picking Bible verses and peddling simplistic solutions.But the young Donald Trump was hooked.“He would instill a very positive feeling about God that also made me feel positive about myself,” Trump writes in “Great Again,” one of his books. “I would literally leave that church feeling like I could listen to another three sermons.”Peale peppered his sermons with pop psychology. Sin and guilt were jettisoned in favor of “spirit-lifters,” “energy-producing thoughts” and “7 simple steps” to happy living.“Attitudes are more important than facts,” Peale preached, a virtual prophecy of our post-truth age.“Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” Peale writes in “The Power of Positive Thinking.”“Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade.”
Peale has also influenced Trump’s spiritual advisersTo this day, Trump surrounds himself with Peale-like figures, particularly prosperity gospel preachers.One of his closest spiritual confidantes, Florida pastor Paula White, leads the White House’s faith-based office and is a spiritual descendent of Peale’s positive thinking — with a Pentecostal twist.White, a televangelist, belongs to the Word of Faith movement, which teaches that God bestows health and wealth on true believers.In a Rose Garden ceremony for the National Day of Prayer earlier this month, White quoted from the Bible’s Book of Job: “If you decree and declare a thing, it will be established.”“I declare no more delays to the deliverance of Covid-19,” White continued. “No more delays to healing and a vaccination.”The Book of Job, a parable of human suffering and powerlessness, may be a strange book for a preacher to cite while “declaring” an end to the pandemic. If it were so easy, Job’s story would involve fewer boils and tortures.But in a way, White perfectly captures the problem with positive thinking: It tries to twist every situation into a “victory,” even when reality demonstrates otherwise.“Positive thinking can help people focus on goals and affirm one’s merits,” said Lane, author of the book on Peale. “But it does need a reality check, and to be based in fact.”Sometimes, the reality is that you’ve failed and need to change course. But to Peale, that wasn’t an option. Even self-doubt was a sin, he taught, an affront to God.“He had a huge problem with failure,” Lane said. “He would berate people for even talking about it.”
Peale’s teachings can explain why Trump won’t accept criticismYou can hear echoes of Peale’s no-fail philosophy in Trump’s angry response to reporters’ questions about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, said Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio.“Nothing is an exchange of ideas or discussion of facts,” D’Antonio said. “Everything is a life or death struggle for the definition of reality. For him, being wrong feels like being obliterated.”And that’s one reason why the President refuses to accept any criticism or admit to any failure. To do so would puncture his bubble of positivity, not to mention his self-image.So, despite his administration’s early missteps in preparing for and responding to the coronavirus, Trump won’t acknowledge any errors.Instead, he has misled the public, claiming in February that the situation was “under control” when it was not; promising a vaccine is coming “very soon,” which it is not; and falsely insisting that “anyone can get tested,” when they could not and many still cannot.Still, when asked in mid-March to grade his administration’s response, Trump gave himself a perfect score.“I’d rate it a 10,” he said. “I think we’ve done a great job.”Trump’s self-appraisal might not match reality. But Peale would be proud.
As you know, everybody sees the Middle East through his or her own narrative. Conservatives see it through the “front line in the war on terror” narrative and defend Israel’s actions on the Gaza border fence this week. Progressives see it through the “continued colonialist oppression” narrative and condemn those actions.
.. sometime in the 1990s, a mental shift occurred. Extremism grew on the Israeli side, exemplified by the ultranationalist who murdered Rabin, but it exploded on the Palestinian side. Palestinian extremism took on many of the shapes recognizable in extremism everywhere.
.. First, the question shifted from “What to do?” to “Whom to blame?” The debates were less about how to take steps toward a livable future and more about who is responsible for the sins of the past.
.. Second, the dream of total victory became the only acceptable dream.
.. extremists stop trying to win partial victories, insisting that someday they will get everything they want — that someday the other side will magically disappear.
.. Third, extremists over time replace strategic thinking with theatrical thinking. Strategic thinking is about the relation of means to ends: How do we use what we have to get to where we want to go? Theatrical thinking is both more cynical and more messianic: How do we create a martyrdom performance that will show the world how oppressed we are?
.. If you read the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s April 30 speech or much of the commentary published over the past week, it’s clear that some powerful Palestinians now believe that the creation of the state of Israel is the wrong that needs to be addressed, not the expansion and occupation.
.. They rejected incrementalism. After Israel withdrew from its settlements in Gaza, the Palestinians could have declared a new opening, taking advantage of the influx of humanitarian aid. Instead, they elected Hamas, an organization that lists the extermination of the state of Israel as an existential goal. They expended resources that could have improved infrastructure to fund missiles and terrorist tunnels.
.. Yasir Arafat was once a terrorist, but at least he used terror to win practical concessions. The actions today — the knife attacks, the manipulation of protesters to rush the border fence — are of little military or strategic value. They are ventures in suicidal theater.
.. The shift from the politics of Rabin and Shimon Peres to that of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman is a move from pluralism to ethnocentrism, from relentless engagement to segregation. It’s a shift from tough realism to the magical thinking that Palestinians are somehow going to go away.
.. sometimes Israeli policies seem callously designed to guarantee an extremist response.
.. That’s the problem with extremism: It is a flight from reality. It makes you stupider. Instead of cleverly working to advance your own interest in a changing context, you end up shouting your own moral justifications into a whirlwind.
.. Extremism is naturally contagious. To fight it, whether at home or abroad, you have to answer the angry shout with the respectful offer. It feels unnatural. But it’s the only way.
Pro-Trump pundits look at his outbursts and spasmodic actions and imbue them with meaning that simply isn’t there.
In Ancient Rome, a haruspex — a type of priest — would carefully study the entrails of sacrificial animals in order to divine the intent of the gods, the course of events, or even who might win the big game this weekend between the Gladiators and the Lions.
.. These men — and they were all men, damn the patriarchy — were extremely smart, but their intelligence was reflected entirely in their explanations. The entrails had no magical properties.
A rooster spleen will not tell you whether you should destroy Carthage, never mind whether you will survive the attempt. The V-formation of geese has no bearing whatsoever on whether you should or will stab Caesar. The genius of it all lay in the sales job.
.. I am coming around to the position that the vast bulk of punditry in defense of Donald Trump is little different from hepatoscopy, chiromancy, tasseography, and other “sciences” that imbue essentially random phenomena with deep and prophetic significance
.. John Boehner was hounded out of office by tea-party types for even considering cutting far better debt-ceiling deals with Barack Obama.
.. See if you can follow the logic. Paul Ryan, a lifelong Republican and the most conservative speaker of the House in living memory, took the fiscal hawks’ position, going back to the Ted Cruz government-shutdown circus of 2013. Donald Trump, until recently a life-long Democrat and New York liberal, embraced the opening offer from the leaders of the Democratic party, Chuck and Nancy. And Dobbs’s instantaneous conclusion? Paul Ryan, who over-performed Donald Trump in the 2016 election by 12 points, is the “RINO.” Does anyone doubt that if the policy positions were rearranged and Ryan had insisted on a short-term deal, Dobbs would be castigating that position?
.. To this day, no one can explain to me how Trump is playing so far above everyone else — nth level chess! — and yet has the worst poll numbers in history and can’t get anything done. The thought that he’s in way over his head is just too terrible to contemplate, and so we get all of these ornate — and sometimes quite clever — explanations about how Trump has outfoxed everyone yet again.
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/g-file/451215/trump-debt-ceiling-daca-pivot-rachel-maddow-woodrow-wilson-dishonesty?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=170908_G-File&utm_term=GFile