The King of Campaign Kettle Logic: Trump on the Stump and in the Gutter
With the New York Times reporting on Donald Trump’s leaked 1995 joint tax return with his then-wife Marla Maples Trump, we get to see how Trump persistently uses “kettle logic” on the campaign trail to avoid ever having to say he is wrong, sorry, or in the least bit ashamed of his abominable behavior. In his Interpretation of Dreams, Freud relates a story of someone who refuses culpability for breaking a borrowed kettle by replacing one refuted denial with another. This is a common tactic of people who are caught in a lie and cannot admit it. Trump lies all the time and deploys kettle logic ad nauseum. One time it is about how he could not release his taxes because he was under audit. Then when they are leaked showing he probably has never paid taxes for approximately two decades, he falls back on the argument that his ability to avoid taxation proves he is a genius businessman (as multiple surrogates said ad seriatim the day after the leak was reported in the Times).
In fact, in the first presidential debate last week, when Hillary Clinton suggested he had not released his taxes perhaps because he did not want people to know he had not paid taxes, Trump interrupted her not to deny her suggestion, but to state it meant he was smart. Yet, as others have noted, if not paying taxes is something to be proud of, why didn’t Trump release his taxes in the first place?
The answer is he previously never thought that he would be hailed a genius for not paying taxes. In fact, he stated in the Republican primary debates that he thought it was wrong that there were rich people not paying any income taxes, and we needed to reform the tax code to stop it. Trump has gone from being against the rich not paying taxes to bragging about what a genius he is for doing the same. He replaced one explanation for another, not acknowledging that the contradiction might make it ever more clear to people what a con-man he really is.
Trump relied on kettle logic perhaps most dramatically when he finally stated after much complaining from the press that President Obama was in fact born in the U.S. (just as most people other than his supporters always rightfully assumed). Trump however never admitted that he was wrong and he did not apologize for his five years of relentlessly intimating that the President was illegitimate because he was not born in the U.S. Instead, Trump immediately followed up his statement that the President was born in the U.S. by claiming that he deserved all the credit for forcing the proof to be divulged and that Hillary in fact had been the one that started the rumor. Neither of course were true, since Obama had already released proof of his birth in Hawaii, and Clinton never tried to claim anything about the President’s birth. If Trump could no longer claim the President was illegitimate, he resorted to replacing one birther lie with another. The king of campaign kettle logic reigned supreme yet again.
Much earlier in the campaign, a Trump surrogate Howie Carr apologized for mimicking in stereotypical fashion an Indian war chant when referring to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, as if to mock her for once claiming native American heritage. Carr told a reporter that Trump quickly admonished him noting that he, Trump, never apologizes for anything, lest the press use it against him. Trump in fact never says he is sorry, though once during this presidential campaign, notably during his last decline in the polls, he vaguely indicated he regretted some things he had said (though he did not specify what). Trump is consistent. He repeatedly lies and never apologizes. When caught, he does not back down, but instead shifts to an alternate explanation, and ultimately tries to change the topic by turning to smearing his opponent for what he had lied about.
Now, as election day mercifully approaches, Trump’s flagging poll numbers have forced him to pull out all the stops and go as low as he can by changing the subject about his mistreatment of women to suggest that Clinton bears responsibility for her husband’s sexual behavior and denigration of women.
If Hillary were involved in smearing women who called Bill out for his behavior, that is wrong in and of itself. Yet, Trump is playing with dynamite since his own history with women is pretty disgusting from the sexist comments he spouted to Howard Stern on his radio show, to how he treated female employees to his attack a Miss Universe for gaining weight. And his three marriages hardly make him a feminist. Further, relying on philanderers like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani to spread the word on Hillary alleged treatment of Bill’s accusers just compounds the problem.
Trump’s October surprise is no surprise at all. He had mentioned his willingness to go into the gutter on this score multiple times during his campaign. Now he’s there. And what does it show us? It really does not tell us much new about Hillary: a not always saintly and often too pugnacious politico.
Instead the real revelation is how far Trump will go in relying on campaign kettle logic. His eleventh hour smearing of Hillary shows that he has no shame and knows no limits when it comes to denying his own behavior by trying to change the subject, turning the lie back on his opponent. Instead, Trump is more than willing to pollute public discourse, willing to turn it into a putrid, stinking sewer to get his message through that as bad as he might be as a person his opponent is worse. Trump is revealing that he might very well if necessary take down the whole country in the process of trying to win a campaign to “Make America Great Again.” It is all about him, about his always being right, about his greatness, etc.
No contradiction is too big to be used to prove himself great even if it means showing that America is an embarrassment as a nation, especially when it comes to politics and how we go about deciding who should hold the highest office in the land. That is the ultimate in Trump’s campaign kettle logic.