On being … incredulous, nervous, and sad

By Ingrid Sapona

There are a few reasons this is a tough topic for me to write about. But, it’s the elephant in the room – the subject that has kept me up at night for some time – so I must write about it. The column is about Donald Trump.

To be honest, one of the main reasons I hesitate to write about Trump is because when I write On being… I try to present coherent arguments and thoughts. But, when the topic of Trump as president comes up, I often end up ranting. On that front, all I can do is promise that I’ll try to be coherent and that I’ll be heavy-handed in my editing.

I know that the fact the Trump candidacy has gotten this far is certainly a surprise to many. But that’s not the incredulity that the title alludes to. What I’m referring to is the way the media has covered his campaign. Going as far back as the Iowa Caucus, the media has turned cartwheels to find neutral ways of describing Trump and his campaign.

Fact: Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucus. I know, it doesn’t matter at this point. But what does matter is that Trump lost – but no media outlet said that. Instead, they said things like: Trump came in second and Trump suffered a defeat. Now, no one can fault the media for putting it in those terms – they’re correct and true. But it’s equally true that Trump was the loser. Why would they not say that? Perhaps because it sounds unnecessarily mean or hurtful…

I know, I know, back in the early days of the primaries, Trump’s penchant for simple, straightforward words hadn’t quite made their mark. Of course, if Trump were a reporter covering that story and talking about anyone who hadn’t actually won, I’m sure he’d have had no problem calling them a loser.

But, what really bothers me is how many different acronyms the press uses to describe Trumps lying. He gets away with nicknaming Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” and referring to Clinton as “Crooked Hilary”, but when discussing his penchant for lying, the press speaks of him as making “false statements”, or that he makes claims that are “not the truth”, “provably false”, and that he “mishandles facts”. Again – all reasonable synonyms – but they are also very benign and easy to gloss over. As Trump knows, nothing drives home to people the truth than simple, short words. So, the bottom line is Trump lies – a lot.

I should say that I’ve noticed that over the past couple weeks or so, the press has finally come around and that various media outlets (the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the LA Times, for example) have finally begun to label his lies as “lies”. Bravo!

Another thing I’ve found unbelievable is that almost nothing has been said about conflicts of interest between Trump’s business empire and his running of the country. I’ve been wondering about that since the day he entered the race. This issue came up here in Canada years ago when businessman Paul Martin, who owned a huge shipping company, became the federal Finance Minister. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, Martin signed an obligatory blind management agreement under which he handed over autonomous operational control of his companies to the manager. And, when he was running for Prime Minister, he transferred his company outright to his sons. What would Trump do? Would he continue to run his empire from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Why doesn’t anyone at least ask? Doesn’t anyone care?

In mid-September, Newsweek finally ran a long story about the potential conflicts of interest that could arise from a security point-of-view. I was relieved when the article hit the newsstand, as I was SURE that the topic would become the focus of attention and questions. But, the issue has kind of gone nowhere. (Mind you, it’s not because the press can’t wrap its head around the issue of potential conflicts of interest – they certainly seem to think it’s an issue for Clinton and the Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, a non-profit corporation that carries out humanitarian programs.)

Another thing about the press coverage that has bothered me is the propensity of folks in the US to use game analogies – things like Trump “doubled down”. For heaven sake – that just means he told a bigger lie or he refused to back down off a lie. Again, I understand the writer’s desire to be clever, or to find new ways to describe (crazy) behaviour, but it doesn’t help. The thing about such analogies is they make it acceptable to use other game analogies. Think of the folks who, claiming they’re tired of the current crop of elected officials, say they’re willing to “roll the dice” with Trump. But the election isn’t a game!

So, to my American readers, all I can say is that you should know that much of the rest of the world is nervous – very nervous about the idea of Donald Trump as president. In a post-debate editorial, the Toronto Star put it this way, “If Trump was seeking to run almost any other country, it would be a tragedy just for his own people. But the prospect of Trump in the White House presents a danger not only to Americans but to the entire world.” 

And finally, the other reason I initially hesitated to write about Trump is that the column isn’t meant to be about politics – it’s about behaviour. But here’s the thing – this column isn’t about politics. Regardless of whether Trump wins or loses, I feel sad seeing that his way of behaving – of bullying, belittling, bragging, lying, being nasty, aggressive, hurtful, and hateful seems to have become acceptable in the U.S. That doesn’t bode well for society, I think…

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona


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