Monday, March 16, 2020

Neville Chamberlain and Donald Trump

Sandy Levinson

Neville Chamberlain actually remained Prime Minister until the disastrous invasion of Norway by Germany and the almost complete loss of confidence in his capacity to lead the British nation.  He was, obviously, succeeded by Winston Churchill.  And this occurred, just as obviously, without an election:  There were no elections between 1935 and 1945, when Churchill, in a magnificent display of democratic decisionmaking, was ousted from office and replaced by Clement Attlee, who immediately flew to Potsdam and replaced Churchill at the conference with Truman and Stalin.

So compare our own situation, when we are facing the greatest domestic crisis since World War II (in retrospect, September 11 was a stunning gutpunch from which the country recovered relatively easily). The President is a completely incompetent near-sociopath who cannot possibly be trusted to be telling the truth about the most easily verifiable information.  Nor, of course, does he wish to take responsibility for anything "his" Administration has done.  A truly rational political system would have a way of deposing him and replacing him with someone in whom we had sufficient confidence to make what are truly Draconian (or, ideally, Solomonic) decisions that really touch on who shall live and who shall die.  Impeachment, it is clear beyond reasonable doubt, does not work, not least, as I've tiresomely argued, because it has been captured by lawyers who want to parse the meaning of "high Crimes and Misdemeanors," which is really beside the point when a political system is facing a genuine near-existential crisis.  Chamberlain committed no crimes, and one can even understand his relentless desire to prevent another disastrous war; that turned out to be utterly irrelevant after September 1, 1939, though in fact Chamberlain did get another year.

I find it truly incredible that any reasonable person has genuine confidence in Donald Trump at the present time.  It is not a question of replacing him with Joe Biden, which I of course hope happens in November (though we will then be afflicted with waiting an excruciating eleven weeks for Biden's inauguration, thanks to our awful Constitution).  I would gladly replace him with, say, Mitt Romney, someone actually skilled in the administrative arts and, all things considered, trustworthy to make decisions on the basis of his understanding of the public interest.

To continue to ignore the extent to which the Constitution is a major part of our crisis is the equivalent of ignoring all of the social distancing advice and choosing instead to go to a bar because it is so frustrating to spend itme alone.  I can understand both impulses, but each can, in its own way, turn out to be disastrous.


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I do think a rational system would determine that Trump is not the person for this emergency and have a "no confidence" type mechanism to replace him.

I heard someone on a liberal radio program saying Pence has on the whole (moving past "Dear Leader" stuff that is basically a necessary party of this Administration) has been sane. I haven't really heard him much, and maybe that is generous, but can see it. Gov. Pence had issues, but he was after all still governor, and had some skills at governing.

This is not just a result of our Constitution since our Constitution does have mechanisms to address a problem like Donald Trump [not as catchy as the Sound of Music] including impeachment. It is partially a problem of our political system, but the political system was crafted within the flawed constitutional system in place including the nature of the Senate. The 22A in part is a result of the concerns of a powerful executive in the post-WWII era & an easier no confidence approach might be valid there too. But, it still would include a supermajoritarian mechanism, probably, that would be hard to obtain in this current environment.

Our system is a result of various things and we compare as a whole fairly well to other countries in a variety of ways. It is not like the UK has a great system in all respects. Modern political history there had the conservatives get power even when their majoritarian support among the population is at best dubious. John Oliver has been busy with other things, so I haven't gotten my full accounting there of late, but the whole Brexit thing also was not handled that well.

I don't see the need for "near" in "near-sociopath." A sociopath is "a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience." Surely kidnapping and torturing children, deporting people to be murdered, trying to take 700,000 people off food stamps, and lowering nursing home standards earns him the title without "near."

In addition to being a sociopath, he is literally insane. Could there be any other explanation for the following?

Last week Trump told aides he’s afraid journalists will try to purposefully contract coronavirus to give it to him on Air Force One.

Trump on Tuesday shared a tweet suggesting his border wall would protect Americans from the “China virus.”

And his insanity is not new:

“My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings,” Donald Trump said in a 2007 deposition for a lawsuit he filed against journalist Tim O’Brien for reporting that Trump was not a billionaire. “Let me just understand that a little,” said O’Brien’s lawyer. “Your net worth goes up and down based upon your own feelings?” “Yes,” Trump said, “even my own feelings, as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day.”

I don't see the need for "sociopath" in "near sociopath".

Look, let's be serious. The left in this country are caught in a "Who can have the worst opinion of Trump" arms race. That's all that is going on here. It's a moral hysteria.

I realize you're unlikely to come out of it on your own, until it somehow burns out through some ridiculous excess. Anybody who comes to their senses loses the arms race, after all.

But one day you'll look back and be horrified.

I don't see with all due respect, that both, have too much in common (Trump and Chamberlain) nor any substantial resemblance in the crisis both had, or, needs to face. For, in the pre -war situation, it was up to Chamberlain, and personally so, to decide and run the show. Facing the current epidemic, well, not too much discretion is left to any leader. But rather, strict professional public measures to be taken, and known in advance as such. This is not really his show ( of Trump).Although, Germany claims, that he is trying, I quote:

" German ministers have reacted angrily following reports US president Donald Trump offered a German medical company “large sums of money” for exclusive rights to a Covid-19 vaccine."




"People can genuinely disagree about things, not just agree with you and lie about it."

Or, have merely have "moral hysteria" etc.

I'm wary of using terms like "sociopath" given their special character and emotional valance, but in certain cases, there is actually some validity to using such terms.

What Prof. Levinson et. al. is getting at here in a wider sense is not just "moral hysteria" and not just "the left" think it about Trump unless "the left" is a special Trump dictionary term to cover a range of people.

I doubt people will be horrified about this. There are some things that people look back at with some apology (some think this way about let's say the Clinton impeachment or voting for Trump or saying "there's not a dime's worth of difference" etc.) and even then it often is not "horror."

In my post above, I offered examples of what seem to me to be sociopathic behavior and insanity. Brett's reply was entirely ad hominem.

'We Are Living In A Totalitarian Nightmare,' Says Protester Freely Without Any Fear Of Government Retribution

"WASHINGTON, D.C.—During a recent string of protests in Washington, one protester told reporters that "we are living in a totalitarian nightmare just like in The Handmaid's Tale," making the statement with absolutely no possibility of the government kidnapping and torturing her for her outspokenness.

The woman drew on her guaranteed free speech rights to state that "this government is like something out of a totalitarian dystopia," as police stood by guarding to ensure her and her fellow protesters' right to protest was protected.

Let's add to Trump's willful cruelty his tightening of US policy towards Cuba, which seriously damage ordinary Cubans. We were moving in a reasonable direction there, but no more.

One unpublicized aspect of this is new restrictions, put in place in October, on remittances to Cubans. They are now limited to $1000 in every three-month period, and go only to family members. Remittances to others are completely barred. This is cruelty, pure and simple.

And tell me, libertarians, is it OK for the government to tell citizens they can't go visit someplace they would like to go?

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We have been down this road for a while.

The Onion-like article cited is silly stuff. People can quote actual quotes of Trump supporters here as an example of silly hyperbole. It adds little to the conversation.

And tell me, libertarians, is it OK for the government to tell citizens they can't go visit someplace they would like to go?

If one comes by, maybe they will answer.

It's worth noting, there was nothing wrong with Neville Chamberlain. Indeed, he saved Great Britain. Germany would have kicked it's ass had it gone to war earlier than it did, and Winston Churchill, while correct about the Nazi threat, was your classic overconfident full of crap hawk when it came to Britain's actual capacity to defeat Germany.

Chamberlain used the time Munich bought him to build up the British military. It also bought time for the Americans to move towards a position of fully supporting the British war effort. In addition, and most importantly, Britain got lucky- the Germans violated their pact with Stalin which forced Germany to fight a two front war including one against the Red Army, which it couldn't win. Luck, of course, was the residue of Chamberlain's design.

Yes, Chamberlain saying he had achieved "peace in our time" was silly. But his strategy wasn't. He should be lauded as a patriot. And of course, having bought that time, he did declare war on Germany after the next act of Nazi aggression.

"But one day you'll look back and be horrified."

We can only hope!

We were visiting a family friend prior to the 1956 election and I innocently asked her about who she was voting for. she reared back and started in, "the first time I voted, I voted for Harding and I was so disgusted I swore I'd never vote again and I haven't!"

I am guessing that, though few of them will admit it, after this all shakes out, a significant number of those who resonated to "drain the swamp," "shake things up," and believed a reality show star could run a state will, out of horror, shame, and despair, step back and never vote again.


"The left in this country are caught in a "Who can have the worst opinion of Trump" arms race. That's all that is going on here. It's a moral hysteria."

Bircher Brett was oh so silent during the 'lock her up' chants.

This is not a serious man.

Bircher Brett, the least self aware man in the universe. He regularly posts here, under his own name, about Democrat 'tyranny.'

Now, be fair. He actually used the word "Democratic" just earlier today.

If the COVID 19 is the Black Death panic mongering and Trump is incompetent to handle the existential threat two step does not work and Trump is reelected, over the dementia addled old man you Democrats are offering, heads are going to explode in these precincts.

Blankshot, you're flailing. Maybe go out to a crowded bar for a few cocktails.

"the dementia addled old man you Democrats are offering"

Every accusation is a confession.


If you actually believe all of this and this are not compelling evidence of dementia, then your cognitive problems are arguably more profound than this sad old man.

If you actually believe all of this and this are not compelling evidence of dementia, then your cognitive problems are arguably more profound than this sad old man.
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 11:16 PM

Blankshot, you do understand that for every video of Biden looking old there are at least 10 of Trump looking even worse?

Yes, at least 10 is actually probably charitable. Almost daily Trump does something like confuse Kansas and Missouri, Concord NH with Concord MA, etc., or makes up some story that didn't happen or rambles in incomplete, near incoherent sentences.

Note Bircher Bart was saying a few days ago that Covid is no big deal. If 300 people were killed in Italy by a terrorist or immigrant in a 24 hour period he'd be arguing its a world crisis and ginning up support to invade someone or build a big wall or some other costly counter-measure.

Partisan incoherent.

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Your WWII analogs to Trump have now gone from Hitler to Chamberlain.

There is no particularly good analog, but you might try Churchill, another leader who was loathed by the elites.

Yes, we all can remember Churchill's heroic "these Nazis will disappear soon, nothing to worry about. My polls are still great!"

Also, if anything shows Bircher Bart's pseudo-populist anti-elite stuff to be nothing but gibberish more than this statement (Churchill was literally born in a palace) I don't know what it would be.

Mr. W:

Can you imagine for a moment how the British bulldog Churchill would react to any suggestion the UK shut down in the face of a cold?

George Carlin probably came the closest in his skit You are all Diseased.

Can you imagine for a moment how the British bulldog Churchill would react to any suggestion the UK shut down in the face of a cold?

George Carlin probably came the closest in his skit You are all Diseased.
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 10:26 AM

Churchill experienced the pandemic at the end of WW1. Millions around the world died. One would think that he would not be nearly as stupid as you.

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The Chinese cold COVID 19 is a sniffle compared to the 1918 influenza true pandemic.

The Chinese cold COVID 19 is a sniffle compared to the 1918 influence true pandemic.
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 11:44 AM

Doctors in the trenches called it the “three day fever” at first. How did that work out for them?

It is estimated that 25% of Americans were infected. 675,000 died.
That is a mortality rate of 2.7%. Currently Italy’s COVID-19 mortality rate is estimated at 7.7%.

In short, go find a nice crowded bar to wait while this “cold” passes.


It's despicable to see someone like Bircher Bart softpeddle something which killed over 300 Italians in a day as a 'cold' or 'sniffle.' But then again this is the man on record here that he would support Trump even if he knew Trump murdered someone in cold blood. Stands to reason he'd also spread false confidence that harms people in his support for Trump as well. Despicable partisan incoherent.

BB/Mr. W:

When did America become the home of shrinking cowards?

I am living my life as normal and laughing at the Chinese cold. My former paramedic wife is going to "plague central" in Washington to set up a system for insured who suspect they have COVID 19 to call into a doctor to perform an initial screening. She plans to fearlessly come into close contact with people on flights, at work and in restaurants, unless government closes them by decree. I have zero worry for her.

The only people under significant risk from this cold and a constellation of communicable diseases in Italy and elsewhere are the elderly and immune system compromised. They should take reasonable precautions.

This is the talk of the phony tough and crazy brave. Of course we all know what Bircher Bart takes seriously: if 200 Italians had been killed by a terrorist or undocumented alien he'd be screaming for a new Patriot Act, to invade another country, to build a giant wall. He's done it before. He's just soft peddling this because his favorite fascist administration got caught flatfooted on it. He's proven he will say intellectually ludicrous and morally despicable things in support of his partisan side numerous times before.

"I am living my life as normal and laughing at the Chinese cold."

I'll ignore the xenophobic or racist aspect of that statement and point out merely that, to act as if the threat is not serious is logical if one believes that the threat is not serious. It can go without saying that we act in accordance with our beliefs. To act as if the threat is not serious, in other words, is a symptom of not taking it seriously; it is not evidence that the threat is not serious.

Likewise, of course, those who take greater precautions because they take the threat seriously act logically, and their taking greater precautions is not evidence that the threat is serious.

Your comment does not address (nor does this one) whether the threat warrants being taken seriously.

Mr. W:

My cowardly Democrat, colds and other communicable diseases exist and a small percentage of the elderly routinely die of them. This is a fact of life. We do not close down society in the hope of reducing the natural death rate by some miniscule amount.

As I noted before my lying correspondent, I have no problem with government efforts to kill off terrorists or diseases. Stop falsely suggesting otherwise.

What I have a growing problem with is government shutting down the economy, taking away people's livelihoods and destroying people's savings in a largely vain effort to combat a severe cold.


Spare me the bullshit race card with which you Democrats maliciously slander Trump. Communicable diseases are routinely nicknamed after their source animal or nation. See, e.g., swine flu or Spanish flu.

I don't know your motivation, but the fact is that we generally do not call the present pandemic the "Chinese cold," unless we have point to make.

And, according to the Wikipedia entry on the Spanish flu, it is believed to have originated in Kansas, or a couple of other places, but not Spain. Wartime censors minimized reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, but not in neutral Spain. "These stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, giving rise to the pandemic's nickname, 'Spanish flu.'" Furthermore, in those days, the people of Southern Europe were viewed by Anglo-Saxons as inferior, so perhaps that played a role in the nickname (though this is merely speculation on my part).


Applying the term "pandemic" to a cold which has reached less than 1% of the world population is nuts.

"My cowardly Democrat..."

Again, the tell of the phony tough and the crazy brave. Bircher Bart has a long track record of 1. getting big things laughably wrong and 2. freaking out when he thinks it is in the GOP's favor to do so. Don't worry, now that Trump is pushing how serious this is he'll soon fall in line (he went from calling Trump a fascist to defending his every move within a months) and no doubt he'll solve this crisis by calling for President Romney to initiate an invasion of Iraq to get the Covid-19 vaccine hidden behind those WMDs. We'll also need a vamped up new Patriot Act, increased warrantless surveillance, and all the other stuff he's called for in the past when he thought the GOP would do well in a freak out.

This is not a serious man. This is a partisan incoherent.

After President Trump called the novel coronavirus “the Chinese Virus” in a tweet Monday, an evangelical leader responded by calling the label “unacceptable,” warning that it “instigates blame, racism, and hatred against Asians.” ...


Blankshot, I’m pretty sure that Faux News has given dumbasses like you the ok to treat this seriously. You can stop pretending that it’s just a cold.

"President Trump called the novel coronavirus “the Chinese Virus” in a tweet Monday"

That's hardly the worst of the Trump cult. A reporter relayed that an individual in the White House called it "Kung flu" to her face. She's ethnically Chinese, though as American as the rest of us.

Probably not as American as Blankshot.

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Apparently the "do nothing" approach advocated by Blankshot and put into practice (until today) by Trump would have most likely resulted in 2.2 millions deaths in the US. That assumes that our healthcare system is not overwhelmed by the high numbers of critically ill. So it would almost certainly be worse than 2.2 million. Needless to say, the results of not following the advice of morons like Blankshot tend to be better.


You just offered another popular progressive propaganda two step: (1) offer a "study" projecting an insanely bad result if the government "does nothing," then (2) claim the very bad results from government misdirection constitutes an improvement.

This one was a favorite of Roosevelt and Obama to explain away the ongoing economic stagnation and unemployment their misdirections created.

More incoherent than usual.

This recent emergency shows a significant hole in the rhetoric of Birchers like Bart. There can be no more total use of government power than the quarantine. Under quarantine rights of property (destruction of suspected property), association, press, religion, travel, and privileges such as to conduct business, etc., are all restricted. There can be no more 'totalitarian' conception of government power. And note: the power of quarantine goes back well before 'progressivism' and is accepted by many if not most 'classical liberals.' This shows that 'classical liberals' 'accept no limits on government power' *when they think government action is necessary to protect people and property overall.* There's no difference between 'classical liberals' and any other political philosophy in the idea of governmental power limits, there's only differences in what they count as triggering total government action.

There is a more totalitarian conception of government power that the quarantine, and that's slavery, including conscription. I am amazed that even some liberals advocate a return to the military draft or advocate a non-military draft, and not even to deal with an emergency, but merely because they perceive a societal benefit to it.

Mr. W:

A government quarantine to prevent the spread of a deadly communicable disease is a law meant to keep people from harming one another, in this case an infected person killing others by spreading the disease, and once again well within the portfolio of a liberal limited government.

The problem with the COVID 19 reponse is the government is imposing quarantines or quarantine equivalents on an entire nation for a severe cold afflicting a vanishingly small percentage of the population and threatening death to a discrete minority of the population who can take reasonable precautions.

Gross overreaction and abuse of power.


You just offered another popular progressive propaganda two step: (1) offer a "study" projecting an insanely bad result if the government "does nothing," then (2) claim the very bad results from government misdirection constitutes an improvement.

This one was a favorite of Roosevelt and Obama to explain away the ongoing economic stagnation and unemployment their misdirections created.
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 9:04 AM

This post by you is complete gibberish. The US government is imposing restrictions to save the lives of about 4 million people.



You sure the government is not saving 50 or 100 million people?

Man up and don't believe everything you are told like an unreasoning prole.

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