Of Trees, Forests and Debates
He calls her a nasty woman – tree
She jabs him on not paying taxes – tree
He refers to ridding the nation of bad hombres – tree
She raises Alicia Machado to goad him – tree
He can’t focus his concentration for more than 30 minutes – forest.
After the third and final debate, the talking heads were all over Trump’s unwillingness to commit to accepting the election results, with side dishes of nasty woman and bad hombre. And each of those things are interesting trees. Some are bigger trees than others, but each is a tree and we fail to see the forest for those trees. The failure to see the forest for the trees has been a consistent error in election coverage this cycle.
What I observed during this debate was a pattern of Trump’s inability to hold focus beyond 30 minutes. The pattern held true in all three debates, and it’s evident in the day to day of the campaign. Scripted for a while, but wandering off script or tweeting in the wee hours to scratch an off script compulsive itch. As I watched Trump unable to maintain adulthood longer than 30 minutes, three words came to mind: Cuban Missile Crisis. Thirteen days with the world on the precipice of nuclear destruction. Requiring steadiness and clarity of thought, the ability to hear and understand facts, evaluate and calculate every move, with everything on the line. No cruising into mental petty grievance based pre-adolescence at minute 32.
Get my point? That’s not a tree. That’s existential. That’s the forest. In Trump’s case it’s a forest populated by few full grown adult trees and littered with an underbrush of egocentric petty grievances that guide his decision making and choke out logic, calculation, clarity and open mindedness. None of the talking heads are talking about the 30 minute egg timer that defines Trump’s ability to feign adulthood. It’s been mentioned, yes – almost in passing. But it doesn’t sell Viagra like “Miss Piggy” or “Little Marco” or the latest disgusting comment caught on tape or the battle of sexual finger pointing one at the other.
Yeah, I know all of that other stuff is important. It’s character and decency and respect for others. That does matter, and I don’t mean to diminish it. But it’s really about the Cuban Missile Crisis and who we will have to decide for us when the next one comes. It could be soon. It could be later. But it will come. That’s the forest, and we cannot have Donald Trump as our woodsman.