A void filled with unchecked self interest

Greg Sargent points out that Trump is not actually putting America first in clinging to Saudi Arabia while shrugging off the torture-murder of Jamal Khashoggi; he’s lying about US interests while putting his personal hatreds and prejudices first.

The bigger idea at stake here in Trump’s response is the notion that our commitment to international standards of human rights [is] to be jettisoned when they get in the way of our “interests.” It’s true that the United States has a long history of turning a blind eye to Saudi human rights abuses. But this does not preclude responding to this particular atrocity, and merely claiming Trump is revealing “the truth” about our previous realpolitik does not justify the current absence of any response.

More to the point, Trump is not merely acquiescing to this unfortunate “truth.” He’s actively weakening our commitment to human (and civil) rights on many other fronts as well, both at home and abroad.

The idea that adherence to international standards on human rights — but also international commitments other matters, such as reducing climate change and taking in asylum seekers and refugees — is a zero-sum negative for America is of course supposed to be foundational to Trump’s worldview. But the administration has never actually defended this proposition on any of these fronts in a fact-based manner.

This is most glaringly true on asylum seekers and refugees. Limiting their entry is also foundational to “America first” Trumpism. But Trump has not merely tried to reduce asylum seeking; he has justified this with all manner of lies about the supposed threat it poses to us. Trump has not just slashed refugee levels to historic lows and employed bureaucratic chicanery to reduce those levels further. His administration deep-sixed internal data showing them to be a net economic positive.

And why? Because he hates them, of course. He wants America to look like Princess Ivanka.

The point here, again, is that Trump is placing his prejudices — his determination to implement a white nationalist agenda — over any good-faith effort to determine what the actual impact of this agenda will be on the country. On the migrants, the self-interest runs even deeper than this. The lies about the “caravan” were all about keeping the House in GOP hands — he even used the military as a prop in this exercise — to prevent Democrats from taking the House and subjecting him to accountability.

But the racism and lying was of course a happy bonus.

Need more? The New York Times reports that Trump privately wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey. There is no possible way this is based on any conception of the national good, unless Trump is totally delusional, which would itself mean there’s no such operative conception here. Everyone knows Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general not because of his qualifications, but for the sole purpose of protecting him from the special counsel.

There is no big and unpleasant truth at the core of Trump’s vision of what’s good for the country. That vision is largely a void filled with unchecked self interest, both disguised and sustained by lies.

And the unchecked self-interest is both $$$ and the joy of hatred. He loves the hatred.

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