POTUS and Occam's Razor
Occam’s Razor, attributed to friar William of Occam, is a principle that states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. It’s also called the principle of parsimony. In other words, simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones.
The trap that awaits anyone who deals with Trump is that their responses tend to be rational, grounded in reality and factually based. But the president traffics in alternative facts, is not given to introspection, insight, or analysis; rather, his thinking is a spider’s web of impulsive reactions, his decisions often stemming from his gut and not surprisingly composed of a landscape of “Deep State” conspiracies.
For the purpose of discussion, let’s examine Trump’s totem: the wall. Blatant examples are those concrete prototypes now standing as mnemonic reminders that something of their ilk must be constructed along the shared border with Mexico. How else, asks Trump rhetorically, do we prevent a flood of drugs, illegal migrants, and terrorists from entering the U.S.? Facts: The majority of drugs come through points of entry. Most who are undocumented aliens have overstayed their visas. Four thousand possible terrorists, as alleged by the White House, did not try to enter the U.S. in 2018; the number was six. There is no security crisis. A crisis is global warming; mass shootings/gun control; or the opioid scourge.
Yes, there is a humanitarian crisis on the border, manufactured by this administration, made explicit by the Trump/Sessions’ “Zero Tolerance” policy while giving short shrift to our nation’s asylum laws.
But, risking wandering too far into the weeds of analysis while applying Occam’s Razor, I would suggest that Trump, in truth, for all his sturm und drang, does not actually want a wall. What this is about is something else, far more chilling than his prime time, Oval Office appeal for the $5.7 billion.
The payoff for Trump resides with sustained and perpetual chaos, along with the ancillary attention and drama it generates. For him it’s pure reality theater and he thrives on moments like this, strung like so many lights over the past two-plus years.
This current drama allows him to stand ring center while both Republicans and Democrats make the pilgrimage to the Oval Office to discuss a deal. Initially, it was a promised wall. But when the Blue Wave Democrats said no, “Not a dollar,” Trump, with what I would argue is perverse brinksmanship pleasure, shut down parts of the government, furloughing or forcing to work without pay some 800,000 workers. For the unwilling participants (often referred to as hostages), they are enduring uncertainty, stress and anxiety because of what amounts to an unconscionable gambit by Trump and the Republicans.
I judge that for Trump the shutdown is exhilarating and represents a new pinnacle of chaos. His presidency thus far has been defined by days and weeks and months of such moments.
From the day Trump rode down the escalator in Trump Tower, he has used the southern border as a source of mayhem and manufactured crisis. He described Mexicans as criminals and rapists. He cynically used a Central American caravan as a pre-election foil, riffing on the threat it posed: a swath of humanity sprinkled with criminals and terrorists. In response to this panzer-like invasion he sent our soldiers to the border where they spent Thanksgiving stringing razor wire and waiting.
If we pause and reflect back, it becomes clear that what has emanated from this White House has been sustained tumult. And threaded throughout this administration’s tenure is the Russian investigation. Like the southern border, it has been a source of never-ending rants and riffs about “Mueller’s witch hunt.”
And now, this avatar of chaos threatens to declare a “national emergency,” proposing to use disaster relief money (e.g. Puerto Rico), while tasking the military with wall construction, all in the absence of congressional approval. More ferment, court challenges, and autocratic posturing (“Only I can fix it”).
Chris Honoré is a Daily Tidings columnist.