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Full transcript of Sam Harris’ thoughts on Donald Trump, during the primary. : donaldtrump

Full transcript of Sam Harris' thoughts on Donald Trump, during the primary. : donaldtrump


…I’ll just say that those of you who are mystified that I could forgive Clinton her obvious lying and other indiscretions just don’t understand what a dangerous imbecile I think Trump is. I really think he is a child in a man’s body. He is a malignantly selfish, ignorant and petty person, and a tyrant in the making in so far as our system could accommodate a tyrant. As I said on that other podcast, if you’re supporting the guy because he’ll “shake things up”, I think you’re just playing a game of chicken with human history, and there’s no one in the other car. It is absolutely astonishing to me that this guy is a candidate for the presidency.

Now obviously, those of you who support Trump must think that I’ve been misled about him, but I don’t think that’s true. I believe that I see through the media spin against him. I see that he’s been occasionally treated unfairly. He’s also been treated for too fairly and graded on a curve for almost everything of substance. I mean, you saw Gary Johnson – the libertarian candidate – get destroyed in the press for not knowing what Aleppo was. Trump commits gaffs like that all the time and people just move on. And his gaffs are much worse – his gaffs are policy prescriptions that he pretends to have thought true and that would be disastrous if implemented. Like at the presidential forum the other day with Matt Lauer where he was asked about the war in Iraq – I’m actually going to read some of this.

He was asked about the war in Iraq, and he said: “I’ve always said we should have just taken their oil.” When asked how he would do this, he said, and is this a quote:

“Well you, you just would leave a certain group behind and you would take various sections where they have the oil. People don’t know this about Iraq, but they have among the largest oil reserves in the world. You know, it used to be ‘to the victor go the spoils’ now there was no victor here, believe me there was no victor. But I always said, take the oil! One of the benefits we would have had if we took the oil is ISIS would not have been able to take the oil and use the oil to fuel themselves!”

Now, it should be clear that this is much worse than just blanking on what Aleppo is, ok. This is just insanity. Forget about the logistical problems of “just taking the oil”. Forget about the ethical problem of taking the main resource from a country we were ostensibly trying to help, and further impoverishing tens of millions of people who we have just subjected to punishing sanctions for a decade, and who we just freed from a brutal dictatorship. I mean, what’s he picturing happening in Iraq – to the Iraqi people – when we just take their oil? Mass starvation, ok? Forget about that. Forget about the fact at ISIS’ primary funding hasn’t been oil. They were robbing banks and forcing people to just give them money. Forget about that. Just imagine how the world – both Muslim and non – would have responded to our invading Iraq and then just stealing their oil, which is to say, confirming the craziest conspiracy theories about why we invaded the country in the first place. Trump is telling us that this is what he would have done if he inherited the ongoing problem of Iraq. This is so much worse than not understand what the word ‘Aleppo’ means in the context of weirdly posed question, and yet Trump gets away with it! And again, there have been probably hundreds of moments like this in the campaign.

In any case, I’ve bracketed all the charges against him that seem spurious, and I’ve acknowledged that his plain talk about radical Islam is preferable to the sanctimonious lies we get out of the Democrats. And if you want to read what I think Hillary could and should say about Islam and the war on terror, that article’s on my blog. But I can’t overlook the fact that the man shows every sign – really every sign – of being motivated by pure selfishness and narcissism, to be compared with Hillary’s partial selfishness and narcissism. And he strikes me as completely rudderless intellectually. If you want to understand how I see Trump? Blow up a balloon without tying off the end, and hold it up high, and then release and watch it fly chaotically around the room. That’s trumps mind. In my view that’s what we be doing with the country if we put him in charge. Just hitching our future to a totally chaotic system. If that’s your view of shaking things up, you’re a nihilist.

My criticism of Trump – in particular about the way he speaks and what that says about the way he thinks, which I went on and on about in podcast 38 – that criticism isn’t political. It’s psychological. It’s neurological. The guy seems to be bull-shitting to a degree that borders on confabulation. I’m not a psychiatrist, I don’t have any clinical experience, I’m not making a diagnosis. But I am making a judgement about him as a person. It seems to me that there is something wrong with his mind. This isn’t political – I have no loyalty to the Democratic party, and I would never say that about someone like Mitt Romney. Now Romney is a religious bumpkin that wears magic underpants, but he seems perfectly normal to me, psychologically.

Here’s the difference between Clinton and Trump, in my view: when I hear Clinton speak extemporaneously, I hear someone who is well informed, who’s trying to be coherent, but who is also fairly paranoid about saying something unpopular and making a political mistake, so she’s cautious to a fault – egregiously so. But I can live with that, because I know she can find Pakistan on a map, and I know she knows a lot about what’s going on there. When I hear Trump speak extemporaneously, I hear someone very often getting prompted by his own misstatements to complete a thought in a way that he clearly didn’t intend to, which is to say that the thing he’s now saying doesn’t reflect anything he believed or even thought about before, but he’s saying it now because the last phrase he spoke just launch him there. Right? It’s as though he’s speaking in verse and he’s forced again and again to complete the rhyme. It’s like he says, “There was once a man from Nantucket…”, and he’s got to finish the thought. Right? So he says “…who always carried a bucket”, but he didn’t know he was going to say “bucket”, and now he’s stuck with it. And now he’ll go to the mat defending “bucket”. But he’s rhyming about policy and about world leaders like Putin, and it’s the rhyme of ignorance and error and bombast.

Just listen to the man speak – it’s unbelievable! It’s like listening to the contestants at the Miss America pageant – maybe this isn’t an accident, he owned the Miss America pageant. This is almost surely unfair to many of these women – I don’t actually watch the Miss America pageant – but there have been a few viral videos that have come out of there where some of these women have been asked things like, “How would you spread world peace?”. Right? And it’s just this agonizing tight-rope walk.

And again, the magical thing about Trump is that he has said so many strange and incoherent and dangerously crazy things, that people are inured to it. Almost no one ever comments on how shockingly empty of content, which is to say empty of thought, his speech is. Imagine how you’d feel about me if I spoke like him! Let’s say I was having a debate about Islam, and when challenged about my views, imagine if I said something like this (ok, I obviously can’t do his voice, but this is his pattern of speech):

“How do I know about Islam? Well, it’s a religion, it’s a big religion, billions of people – I don’t know how many billions but there are billions. Many many people. Some good, some not so good. I’ve been to many mosques, they’re beautiful buildings. So there’s beauty there, and I understand that. I haven’t denied it. But what I also know is a lot of violent people. I mean, they’re telling us they hate us, they’re sayin’ it! I’ve heard ‘em say it – we all have! They scream it from the mosques! They scream it! So what can ya do – they scream it!”

Now you might think that’s a caricature, but there are many examples of Trump speaking like that on issues of civilizational importance. This is a mind with no apparent purchase on the world. When he speaks, he’s just creating an atmosphere, and it’s the atmosphere of false confidence. The prospect that this man could be president is just terrifying.

Then I get questions like this: “Why is it logical to support a morally corrupt and criminal individual when you could choose to support none of the candidates?” Ok, because the prospect of a Clinton presidency, even granting all of the slander about her – and some of it is just slander – isn’t terrifying! It may be depressing; it isn’t terrifying.

Another question: “If Christopher Hitchens was alive, who would he vote for in November?” And the assumption of course here is that, given how critical Hitch was of the Clintons, the answer must be Trump or a third party. Now I honestly think the answer is Clinton. I know what Hitch said about both Clintons. I’ve read ‘No One Left to Lie To’. I’ve seen the videos of him running down Hillary. I’ve also seen a video of him not ruling out voting for her in 2008, so Hitch was pragmatic on this point. Trump as a human being – as an intellect, or a lack of one – is the walking annihilation of nearly everything the Hitch I knew, valued. I honestly cannot imagine him voting for Trump – this man who seems to have never read a book, and who speaks at the level of a fourth-grader, and then mostly about himself. And even then most of what he says is a lie. So given the choice I can easily imagine Hitch holding his nose and voting for Clinton, as I will.

And again, you can put almost anything on the scale you’ve got as reasons to dislike her – if you think any of those should tip the balance, you don’t get how I view Trump. I mean, take for instance the concerns over Hillary’s health. So just today there was an episode that looks like the most serious and legitimate cause for concern – she had to leave a 9/11 memorial under the power of her body guards and was seen kind of fainting and stumbling as she was put into a van. Then it was revealed that she has a case of pneumonia and is on antibiotics. But, you know, the sight of her kind of losing consciousness and not having full neurological control is fairly alarming. Who knows what her actual health is – she hasn’t released her records fully. She’s released more than trump, but still. So, is there something to worry about there? Well, again, no – not given who Trump is! I mean, would vote for Hillary if she were on life support! I would vote for her if I knew she would die in office the first week! Ok, President Tim Kaine is far preferable to President Trump. So, there really is nothing!

I’ll tell you how bad I think this is: if you gave me a choice to randomly pick an American citizen, or take Trump, I would roll the dice with a random citizen. I mean, you realize how bad that could turn out? You realize how many people in this country shouldn’t be president? I would go for door #2, ok, because at a minimum, I would expect a randomly chosen unqualified citizen to be so terrified and awed by the responsibility being thrust upon his or her shoulders that they would be desperate to defer to real experts. Trump has the opposite attitude. His lack of qualification is married to an egocentrism the likes of which we have never seen! So no, the health issue is a non-issue for me. As long as she doesn’t show up at a rally and kill and eat a baby, she’s got my vote.

I mean, you might disagree with me about Trump – that’s a reasonable thing to debate. You can think I’m wrong about him. But given my impression of him – and again I believe I have corrected for the Liberal spin and the political correctness and all the rest – there is nothing that has come out about Hillary that moves the balance even slightly, ok. And that includes everything Hitch ever wrote and said about the Clintons, some of which is truly awful. And I believe Hitch would feel the same, of course I don’t know that for sure, but you asked and that’s what I honestly believe.

Anyway, that was much more about Trump than anyone wanted, but, I think it really is important. I don’t want there to be any doubt that I put my shoulder to the wheel on this one. These moments in life don’t come along very often. A president Trump I believe would be a blunder that history would be very slow to forgive us for.

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