Tag Archives: blame

It’s Never His Fault

If there is one area of consistency in the chaos of Trump World, it’s this: no matter what the problem is, it isn’t his fault.

The black guy did it.

Juanita Jean has one of the latest manifestations: As she writes, “I knew Fox News would find a way to blame Barack Obama for Epstein’s plea deal with Acosta.”

Apparently, a Fox commentator insisted that “Bob Mueller knew about this.” (The relevance of that assertion escapes me, but whatever…) He then went on to say that Acosta’s plea deal was “from 2008, under a Democratic administration.”

As Juanita Jean points out (and a television pundit–even one on Fox– should know) Obama wasn’t elected until six months AFTER the plea deal. “But, as we know, Obama has magical powers to make things happen even before he was born in Kenya.”

This is part of a pattern among Trump supporters–a pattern set by Trump himself. It isn’t enough to reverse every policy Obama’s administration put in place, irrespective of its merits. It’s necessary to respond to any problem, any challenge, by blaming Obama for it and insisting that he, faultless Trump, has improved the situation.

For example, Trump continues to insist that the horrific family separation policies put in place by his administration were really attributable to Obama, multiple fact checkers to the contrary:

According to FactCheck.org, “previous administrations did not have a blanket policy to prosecute parents and separate them from their children.” It was after the Trump administration announced its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy in April 2018, in which everyone who illegally entered the U.S. was referred for criminal prosecution, that thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents.

After he ordered and then aborted an air strike on Iran, Trump went on a Twitter rant blaming Obama for the tensions with Iran–tensions that escalated following Trump’s abrogation of the pact Obama had negotiated, a pact that had cooled those tensions.

He has behaved this way from the beginning: When millions of women took to the streets to protest him, shortly after he took office, Trump blamed Obama:

President Trump said Tuesday morning he believes former President Obama “is behind” nationwide protests against the new administration’s policies, taking an unusual swipe at his predecessor.

More recently, despite the fact that he has been President (okay, he’s occupied the Oval Office) for two and a half years, he blamed Obama for Turkey’s recent purchase of Russian weapons.

My favorite example of “the black guy did it” was an interview I saw (if someone has a link to the original, please post it) in which a relatively young MAGA hat wearer was talking about 9/11, and demanding to know where Obama was. “I’d really like to know why we didn’t see him responding when the planes hit.” Of course, few people had even heard of Barack Obama in 2001, when George W. Bush was in his first full year as President.

The only thing Trump and his base don’t blame on Obama is the one thing for which Obama is undeniably responsible: the economy Trump inherited.

These examples–and plenty of others (just google Trump blames Obama)–vividly demonstrate two things: Trump’s childish inability to take responsibility for his own actions and mistakes; and his racist obsession with his predecessor.

You can almost hear him brooding: How dare that black man be so much smarter, classier and (most egregious of all) more admired than I am?

Sane Americans are also brooding–about the incalculable damage this sorry excuse for a human is doing to our country and our planet, and especially about the racist reactions to the election of his predecessor that motivated his base and propelled him to the Oval Office.

Scapegoating and Grandstanding

The question that has continued to mystify me is how any voter could look at Donald Trump and see anything but a pathetic and embarrassing wanna-be entirely unqualified for office.

So I was struck by this recent paragraph from Talking Points Memo.

People continue to marvel how a city-bred, godless libertine who was born to great wealth could become and remain the political avatar of small town and rural voters of middling means. The answer is simple. Despite all their differences, Trump meets his voters in a common perception (real or not) of being shunned, ignored and disrespected by ‘elites’. In short, his politics and his connection with his core voters is based on grievance. This is a profound and enduring connection. This part of his constituency likely amounts to only 25% or 30% of the electorate at most. But it is a powerful anchor on the right. His ability to emerge undamaged from an almost endless series of outrages and ridiculousnesses is based on this connection.

Grievance explains a good deal. We all encounter people who seem desperate for respect, for the esteem of others, but who seem wholly unaware of the qualities or behaviors that might earn them that esteem. And because they lack self-awareness, they double down on two behaviors in particular that mark them as insecure and resentful: scapegoating and grandstanding.

Trump is exhibit A.

The grandstanding is repellant and its dishonesty is obvious to people who actually know how the world works. When Trump takes credit for corporate hiring announcements, or good economic news–after a month in office–economists and savvy business people roll their eyes.   Boasts that his administration is a “well-oiled machine” are a gift to comedians.

Proclaiming that you know more than other people, blustering that you have the “best” words or mind or instincts or whatever, is evidence of desperation, not superiority. (I still remember the counsel of an older lawyer with whom I once worked; he used to say “If you are good at what you do, people will notice without your telling them.”)

The most accomplished people I know are also among the most modest.

The constant grandstanding is embarrassing and revelatory, but it isn’t nearly as dangerous as the scapegoating. It is Trump’s “blame game” that binds him to his base. People who are aggrieved, who feel cheated of the respect, success or status they believe is their due want someone to blame. The enduring appeal of white supremacists is their willingness to provide those villains and their enthusiastic demonizing of the “other”– black people, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, gays…

When bad things happen to these lost, insecure souls, it can never be their fault. It can never be because they erred, or failed. It is because of the perfidy of those Others.

Donald Trump is the poster boy for pointing fingers and deflecting blame–even before the fact.

As Phillip Rucker noted earlier this month in the Washington Post, 

President Trump appears to be laying the groundwork to preemptively shift blame for any future terrorist attack on U.S. soil from his administration to the federal judiciary, as well as to the media.

In recent tweets, Trump personally attacked James L. Robart, a U.S. district judge in Washington state, for putting “our country in such peril” with his ruling that temporarily blocked enforcement of the administration’s ban on all refugees as well as citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

“If something happens blame him and the court system. People pouring in. Bad!” Trump wrote in a tweet Sunday.

Trump thus confirms his supporters’ core conviction: If it’s good, they did it (and all by themselves).  If it’s “bad,” (one of those “best words”) it’s someone else’s fault.