There is Another Deadly (but Curable) Virus Stalking the Land

Here is its formula: I+AxIL/NC = -0

As terrible as the Corona virus is, there is another that is ravaging our country. It is bad enough in and of itself, but it actually makes the other virus, indeed all our national problems, worse.

I am referring to the mental and emotional profiles that make up the Trump administration. If this were a biological infection, its component formula might read something like the following:   I+AxIL/NC = -0

The Chemistry of Failure

I: Ignorance. Simple failure to know, to understand, to study a threat or a problem.

A: Arrogance. A mindset that says “I am right, so no need to listen to others or consider other possibilities.

IL/NC: Intellectual Laziness/No Curiosity: Like barnacles on a ship, this attitude slows down the vessel of the mind. When paired with A, it multiplies the shortfall, making curing I virtually impossible.

-0: the end result is not just no progress, but less than zero; a worsening of the problems not properly addressed.

For brevity in the rest of this posting, let’s refer to the above condition as one of Permanent Brain Cramp (PBC).

This is Not New; Just More Virulent

 I first encountered PBC some years ago. I had just retired from the US Army and was working for a company that did a lot of work for the US Government. We interfaced often with State, Defense, Justice, and Treasury. During my tenure, we worked with the Clinton administration in its last year and in the first years of the Bush (Jr) administration. The contrast was striking, and to me at least, a surprise.

Everywhere I engaged with the Bush team I found a remarkably predetermined mindset about what was going on, what would work, and what motivated potential adversaries. Everyone has preconceived notions. We are all shaped by our experience. But this went well beyond that. They just could not conceive of other risks, other approaches. They had no interest in even asking the questions. I thought that odd and dangerous.

As much as anything, this is what gave us the Iraq war. I knew lots of genuinely talented, capable, and experienced people who tried to educate them in the lead up to the Iraq war. The result of their efforts was to be isolated, left out of discussion and decision making. I thought to myself, “How could they be this short-sighted?”

You think THAT  Was Bad? 

Little did I know this was just the warmup act.

As bad a PBC was in the Bush II administration, they were just a beginning farm team compared to Trump & Company. The Trump administration has these same elements at unimaginable levels, especially the Arrogance component.

Willful ignorance and arrogance are a most deadly combination. People are dying in America every day now, in large numbers, because of this reality.

What Does This Tell Us?

Three conclusions, at least.

One, management of this ongoing crisis will not get any better at the federal level. Just watching Trump’s daily tv shows (cannot really call these briefings) demonstrate he is completely – and I mean completely – clueless as to the current condition or the dynamics behind it. And he has zero interest in learning about it. We all saw Trump on TV just this week being asked about his point of reference for knowing when to loosen restraints. His answer? He pointed to his head. “It’s all up here. I will know when it is time.” Yeah, right.

Two, no serious team is in place to deal with this, or the aftermath. This is the most understaffed administration at key player level in US history. Dozens of key positions are vacant. Still more are filled with “Acting” officials, and have been for many, many months. For two great recaps on just how bad this is and why, read Max  Boot,
and Dana Milbank,

Three, we could well walk this path again without a world-class after-action review. Hopefully the House will start that work shortly. The administration has no intention to do so. One of the first things a newly sworn in President Biden should do is appoint a blue-ribbon commission to do this right. It should come with broad powers, specific mandates, a hefty budget, and membership representing the scope of government and private sector stake holders.

Yep, this disease is curable. I prescribe voting on November 3rd for an effective treatment.

Bill Clontz, Founder, Agents of Reason

Bill Clontz

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2 replies to There is Another Deadly (but Curable) Virus Stalking the Land

  1. As I may have mentioned when you visited the San Marcos UU, my Ph.D. and teaching experience are in philosophy. I find it useful in addressing human thought processes to start with evolutionary origins. For millions of years human ancestors survived by solving immediate problems: recognize food, find a mate, count bears entering and leaving a cave. When these immediate problems were solved, we stopped thinking! This was much easier, and required less nutritional energy.
    As a result, our brains evolved “modules” to solve such immediate problems; generalizing was not needed at the time. The capability to count objects in general, and eventually to do mathematics, came later to the species, and only to some members of it. (I became sadly aware of this limitation in teaching college students!)

    Your comments on the Trump administration fit this model exactly. The immediate problem Trump faces is his own re-election; he can’t generalize his thinking beyond this. And he appoints assistants who think the same way. All too many Republicans follow the easy road well-travelled by evolution: they think only of the immediate problems: re-elect Trump, save themselves from short-term visible threats. Right now, it is clear that Biden, and many who support him, are thinking more generally–about the wider society, and the long-term survival of humanity. That’s another way of looking at why we should vote Democratic. In the future, wider thinking may lead to a different conclusion.


    • Gil, how good to hear from you. My best to everyone there.

      I think your comments out the ongoing processes in a context that makes sense. As I noted in the blog, I have certainly seen this sort of behavior before, but never to this degree. I am boggled at what I see from them every day.

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