It’s two years into the Trump presidency and you would think by now the staff would begin to know how to manage the boss. I hold them personally responsible for the mass of somewhat weird tweets that Trump unleashed on the nation this weekend. As soon as I heard Trump would be staying in the White House and was not going to go down to Mar-a-Lago in Florida, I knew the nation was in for a tough Monday. Some leaders like an occasional quiet weekend to introspect. I like an occasional quiet weekend to introspect. If you’re a Trump staffer, you know that Trump most definitely is not a man you want to leave alone to introspect. His introspection is never a good thing. First, he starts to recall all the people who didn’t treat him with proper respect and deference. Apparently, death is no excuse because he’s still seething about John McCain, among many others. He is obviously a guy who needs constant stimulation so they ought to schedule his weekend like a workday. Bring in sympathetic politicians. Bring in legions of groupie MAGA followers. Hold a weekend informal press interaction. He actually doesn’t do badly sitting behind his desk interacting with reporters. But whatever you do, don’t leave him alone or he turns into Hamlet. Strangely, Trump is not the only president who was like this. I’ve known people who had meetings with President Bill Clinton and the stories are not terribly dissimilar. People would go to the White House for a dinner meeting with Clinton. They were warned that they had a 90-minute dinner to make their pitch for whatever it was they wanted or wanted to stop. Clinton was incredibly bright, loved to talk and was insatiably curious, so that 90-minute dinner could easily turn into the two- or three- or four-hour talkathon with people surreptitiously looking at their watches, wondering when they could get back to their hotels and go to bed. It’s then they discovered that Clinton hated to be alone and hated to go to bed. He and the Secret Service often walked the dinner guests back to their hotels and then Clinton took off for the donut shop.

 

•••

We have an enormous and growing problem with social media and, frankly, we don’t know what to do about it. Anyone can broadcast to the world, provided they are willing to die or go to jail for doing it. New Zealand is a quiet country and relatively free of terror and murders. Yet, some white racist became self-radicalized and committed a mass murder of 50 people there with a camera in his hat—and live broadcast the atrocity to the entire world as he was committing the murders. He stage-managed the entire event for the online world and it went out as it was happening. There is no country or social media platform that could having acted quickly enough to shut down the broadcast, which was rebroadcast almost instantaneously, so of course we are feeling impotent and angry and pointing fingers. We are mad at the tech companies for not stopping this, but in truth, do we really want some tech geek sitting in a dark room in Silicon Valley deciding what the rest of us can and can’t see online? Politicians are blaming the tech companies for things their own high tech intelligence operations can’t find or stop in warp speed.

We are also dealing with people who are prepared to believe the most absurd things, beyond rationality, which puzzles me greatly. Two prime examples are Pizzagate and the anti-vaxxer movement. If someone told you that that a candidate for the presidency of the United States, Hillary Clinton, while engaged in a presidential campaign, was also running a child slavery and child selling ring out of a pizza restaurant in Washington,  D.C., what would your reaction be? Would it be, “Well, that sounds like a possibility to me?” Apparently it did to some buffoon in one of the Carolinas, who set out to save the children, drove to D.C. with his rifle and went to the pizza restaurant, which is actually a real restaurant. I suspect he expected to see children sitting on the floor with For Sale signs around their necks. Fortunately he didn’t shoot anyone. 

Then, there is the entire anti-vaxer movement, which distrusts all inoculations as being the work of the devil, or the pharmaceutical companies, or the National Institute of Health. At a time when we are generally living longer and healthier, parents are petrified they may be harming their own children with inoculations. I can understand the apprehensions about inoculations, especially with people pedaling the fear stories. But whom should you believe? Should you believe some MD, PhD who spent his life researching childhood diseases, working for a national or worldwide health organization, or something you read on the internet from someone who is absolutely convinced that inoculations are the work of the devil? The greatest advancements in the past century have been in public health, which is why we are living longer and healthier. The problem is that many people today have never seen or heard of an epidemic. I’m old enough to remember when summertime was polio time and parents were petrified. They didn’t want us to go outside, or see other kids or go swimming or do anything. When I was 13, I can remember a little red haired girl named Myrna dying from polio and all the kids in the class went to her house in a condolence call. Stuff does happen. When the Salk vaccine was discovered, we were all relieved because polio was a terrible thing. If the Salk vaccine were invented today, the internet would be filled with people absolutely certain it was going to kill all the children and it should be avoided at all costs. Why do they feel this way? Beats me.

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