The Art of the Deal, ego stroking edition

When he endorsed Donald Trump, Ben Carson said “there’s two Donald Trumps.” The first is “the Donald Trump that you see on television and who gets out in front of big audiences.” The second is “the Donald Trump behind the scenes.” The two “are not the same person,” Carson explained. “One’s very much an entertainer, and one is actually a thinking individual.”

At the time, I wrote:

The folks who eat up Trump’s public persona should take heed: the Trump they see is phony and Dr. Carson thinks they are entranced by unthinking entertainment.

Moreover, I’m not sure why being two-faced recommends Trump in Carson’s mind. Is this some sort of Christian virtue?

For Dr. Carson, the answer to the last question apparently is affirmative, for he is doubling down on Trump’s hypocrisy as a virtue. The Hill quotes Carson as saying he endorsed Trump only after the tycoon assured him “that some of the more outlandish things that he’s said. . .he didn’t really believe those things.”

Respecting, at least to some extent, the confidentiality of their discussion, Carson declined to say which of Trump’s “outlandish” positions the tycoon doesn’t “really believe.” The list of possibilities is long enough.

Carson went on to say that he’s focused on helping Trump shape his policy goals. He cited health care and education in particular.

The idea that Trump’s thinking can be shaped will be an emerging theme as more and more politicians join the Trump bandwagon. It’s a facially plausible one. Trump displays so much ignorance in so many areas that one is tempted to view him as a tabula rasa onto whom folks with more expertise can inscribe their views.

But Trump isn’t a tabula rasa. He has opinions about everything. The slate isn’t empty; it’s cluttered. Sure, the clutter is breathtakingly superficial, but we shouldn’t assume that Trump recognizes it as such.

It’s possible that a Ben Carson could help deepen Trump’s thinking on health care or education and/or that others could have the same effect in areas such as foreign policy and national security. It’s probable that Trump is a master at enticing people with big egos into believing they can influence him.

Unfortunately, history is littered with those who, fancying themselves able to manipulate unsavory rising political figures, found themselves irrelevant or worse once they made their bargain with the devil.

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