The president he so admired

I’m reading an Atlantic piece by Robert Draper from October 2022 and got distracted wondering about one claim near the beginning.

In March of 2020, I sat in a federal courtroom in Utah and watched a man stand before the judge and murmur through sobs, “This wasn’t me. This wasn’t me.”

The defendant, a 55-year-old health-insurance salesman named Scott Brian Haven, wasn’t protesting his innocence. He openly acknowledged that over the two-year period before his arrest in the summer of 2019, he had placed 3,950 calls to the Washington offices of various Democratic members of Congress, spewing profanities and threatening violence against them.

But as the prosecutor listed a sampling of Haven’s vile threats in the courtroom, the defendant—a devout Mormon who served meals to homeless people in downtown Salt Lake City—seemed unable to recognize those sentiments as his own…

…Haven, as it turned out, got his news from the conservative talk-radio-show hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh—and, of course, from the president he so admired, Donald Trump.

It was that. The setup is here’s a guy with enough compassion to help feed homeless people, yet he “so admired” Donald Trump. My curiosity about that got between me and the rest of the piece.

What is there to admire in Trump?

That’s a real question. It’s easy to think of lots of people who are bad but also have unmistakable good or at least attractive qualities. Trump is not one of those people, or at least, I get stuck when I try to figure out how anyone can see him as one. Know what I mean?

He’s certainly not the familiar charismatic baddy who seduces everyone with charm and wit and beauty. He’s also certainly not the ordinary mixed-bag baddy who is greedy but generous or cruel but brave or destructive but honest. If you had a lineup of good qualities and a lineup of bad ones, Trump’s qualities would all be in the bad column.

What is it that otherwise decent people admire in him? How can otherwise decent people admire him? It’s like a magic spectacles fairy tale or similar. What do they see that we can’t?

All I can come up with is a bastard child of Telling Truth to Power sort of thing. He’s blunt, he’s honest, he’s not afraid to insult the rich and powerful. He insults everyone, and that shows how truthy and authentic and incorruptible he is.

Mind you, he doesn’t insult Putin, but that’s because…um…er…

Any other explanations?

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