Excerpted and Transcribed from Sam Harris podcast
As many of you know, I have come out strongly against Trump and tepidly for Clinton, and there are many questions about why I haven’t come out for a third party candidate. The reason is that to vote for anyone other than Clinton is to increase the likelihood that we will have President Trump… and I believe that would be potentially catastrophic. Many people have criticized me for my rejection of Trump and my support for Clinton, but unfortunately this criticism never makes much sense.
I’ve been very clear about describing Clinton as the lesser of two evils. There is a ton to say about why she is not a great candidate. I totally understand why some people don’t like her and don’t trust her, but even with all her problems, she will probably be a competent President. In fact, I think she stands the chance of being a good President because she is actually smart and well informed and reasonably concerned about not destroying the world. And that’s true even with all the stupid lies and mistakes trailing behind her. Yes, there is something fairly rapacious and opportunistic about both Clintons. But their vices are mostly aligned with reasonable policies. There are exceptions but I think this is generally true. And, most crucially they are not idiots or ignoramuses.
Those of you who are mystified that I could forgive Clinton her 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.
If you are supporting the guy because “he can shake things up,” I think you are playing a game of chicken with human history, and there is no one in the other car. It is absolutely astonishing to me that this guy is a candidate for the Presidentcy.
Now, obviously, those of you who support Trump must think that I have been misled about him, but I don’t think that is true. I believe that I see through the media spin against him. I see that he has been occasionally treated unfairly. He’s also been treated far too fairly, and graded on a curve for almost everything of substance. You saw the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, get destroyed for not knowing what Aleppo was? Trump commits gaffes like that all the time, and people just move on… and his gaffes are much worse. His gaffes are policy prescriptions that he pretends to have thought through… and that would be disastrous if implemented.
Like at the Presidential Forum the other day with Matt Lauer, when he was asked about the war in Iraq. He said, “I’ve always said that they should have just taken their oil.” When asked how he would do this, he said, “Well, you would just 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 goes the spoils.’ Now, there was no victor there, believe me, there was no victor. But I always said, ’take the oil.’ One of the benefits we would have had if we had taken the oil was that 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. 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 there to help… and further impoverishing the tens of millions of people who we had just subjected to punishing sanctions for a decade… and who we had just freed from a brutal dictatorship. What is he picturing happening in Iraq to the Iraquie people when we just take their oil? Mass starvation? Forget about that. Forget about the fact that Isis’ primary funding has not 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 had he inherited the ongoing problem of Iraq. This is so much worse than not understanding what the word Aleppo means in the context of a weirdly posed question. And yet Trump gets away with it. There have been probably hundreds of moments like this in the campaign.
In any case I have bracketed all of the charges against him that seem spurious, and have 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 about what I think Hillary should say about Islam and the war on terror, that article is on my blog.
But I can’t overlook the fact that the man shows every sign… really every sign, that the man is motivated by pure selfishness and narcissism. To be compared to Hillary’s partial selfishness and narcissism. And he strikes me as completely rudderless intellectually.
Do you want to understand about how I see Trump? Blow up a balloon without tying off the end and hold it up high and then release it… then watch it fly chaotically around the room. That’s Trump’s mind. In my view, that’s what he’d be doing with the country if we put him in charge. Hitching our country to a totally chaotic system.
If that’s your view of “shaking things up,” you’re a nihilist.
My criticism about Trump, particularly about how he speaks, and what that says about how he thinks, is not political. It’s psychological, it’s neurological. The guy seems to be bullshitting 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 there is something wrong with his mind. This isn’t political. I have no loyalty to the Democratic Party. I would not say something like that about Mitt Romney. Romney is a religious bumpkin that wears magic underpants, but he seems perfectly normal 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 is trying to be coherent, but who is also fairly paranoid about saying something unpopular or 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 that she knows a lot about what is going on there. When I hear Trump speak extemporaneously, I hear some one 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 is 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 launched him there. It’s as though he’s speaking in verse and he’s forced again and again to complete the rhyme. It’s like he said “There once was a man from nantucket” and he’s got to finish the thought 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 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 of the Miss America Pageant. Maybe this isn’t an accident… he owned the Miss America Pageant. This is surely unfair to many on 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 we’ve spread world peace.” And it’s just this agonizing tightrope walk. 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 (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, so I understand that, I haven’t denied it. But what I also know there are a lot of violent people, I mean they are telling us they hate us, they’re saying it, I’ve heard them say it, we all have. They scream it in the mosque, they scream it, so what can you do? They scream it.”
You might think that’s a characture, 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? Because the prospect of a Clinton Presidentcy even granting all of the slander about her… and some of it is just slander, isn’t terrifying. Maybe depressing, but isn’t terrifying…
I 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. President Tim Kaine is far preferable to President Trump. I’ll tell you how bad I think this is. If you gave me a choice to pick a random citizen, or take Trump, I would roll the dice with random citizen. 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 number 2. 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 qualifications is married to an egocentrism the likes of which we have never seen. So no, the health issue is not an 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.