Room for Gore in Trump's Wide-Open Mind

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Remember when I pointed out how similar the election of Donald Trump was to the passage of ObamaCare? As Nancy Pelosi so patronizingly put it, we needed to pass the ACA to find out "what's in it." This is proving doubly true of Trump. The same man who has (had? was rumored to be thinking about?) a climate contrarian heading up his EPA transition team has reportedly just had a tête-à-tête with climate alarmist Al Gore, which the former called a "productive" "search for common ground." (Pro tip: Never open suspicious packages.)

Regarding this, John Hinderaker of Power Line opines:

This is the peril of nominating a candidate who has no track record in public life. Donald Trump hasn't spent his adult life studying and dealing with public policy issues. That is precisely why many of his voters liked him; fair enough. But the down side of a candidate with no track record and a lack of fully thought-out stands on the issues is that he may blow with the wind. [bold added]
Close, but no cigar!

Trump actually does have a public record -- of contradicting himself and flip-flopping on everything.

This is not to say that Hinderaker doesn't have a point here: There is an argument for a presidential candidate having some sort of public record, in terms of us knowing how effective he might be once in office, but that still leaves the question of, "Effective -- at what?"

Trump's ramblings show not just a lack of study, but a lack of principles guiding his thinking, and that is real peril here: We've elected an unprincipled man to our highest office. "Make America great again?" In terms of its early -- if inconsistent -- commitment to all men being equal? Or in some Rooseveldtian sense? (Take your pick.) Or in Obama's sense, on the premise that he merely executed his plans poorly? Who knows?

Not having studied certain issues deeply would make someone unclear about policy specifics, but there would only be a range of variation in what those policies might be from a principled man. If, for example, slavery were an issue, a principled man might come up with any number of different ways of ending it, but he would not invite someone famous for, say, arguing that slavery is good for the slaves to discuss "common ground" when contemplating policies or choosing advisors.

That said, Trump has mentioned having an "open mind" about global warming, which reminds me of the following, by Ayn Rand:
[There is a] dangerous little catch phrase which advises you to keep an "open mind." This is a very ambiguous term -- as demonstrated by a man who once accused a famous politician of having "a wide open mind." That term is an anti-concept: it is usually taken to mean an objective, unbiased approach to ideas, but it is used as a call for perpetual skepticism, for holding no firm convictions and granting plausibility to anything. A "closed mind" is usually taken to mean the attitude of a man impervious to ideas, arguments, facts and logic, who clings stubbornly to some mixture of unwarranted assumptions, fashionable catch phrases, tribal prejudices -- and emotions. But this is not a "closed" mind, it is a passive one. It is a mind that has dispensed with (or never acquired) the practice of thinking or judging, and feels threatened by any request to consider anything.

What objectivity and the study of philosophy require is not an "open mind," but an active mind -- a mind able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them critically. An active mind does not grant equal status to truth and falsehood; it does not remain floating forever in a stagnant vacuum of neutrality and uncertainty; by assuming the responsibility of judgment, it reaches firm convictions and holds to them. Since it is able to prove its convictions, an active mind achieves an unassailable certainty in confrontations with assailants -- a certainty untainted by spots of blind faith, approximation, evasion and fear. [bold added]
Regarding "equal status to truth and falsehood" (and, in Gore's case, the arbitrary), the only winner possible from such a meeting was Al Gore. If, as Trump asserted during his campaign, global warming is a scam, the only rational thing to do with someone like Al Gore is to refuse to give him any pretense of having something constructive to add to the national conversation. That Trump entertained Gore at all shows a concerning shallowness of conviction on his part, about this issue at the very least -- an issue he ran on. And it grants Al Gore a level of legitimacy he doesn't deserve.

I did not support Trump, nor did I expect great things from a Trump presidency. But I was beginning to feel a modicum of relief that he might offer some breathing room by some combination of (a) stalling or even partly rolling back some of the worst leftist policies, while (b) not being able to enact his more worrisome anti-capitalist ideas. Between Trump's "deal" "with" (i. e., fascistic jawboning of) Carrier and this meeting, I am not so sure even that much is warranted.

-- CAV

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