Public Nuisances

Jeffrey Sachs and Bandy Lee: The Stupidest Experts in America

August 10, 2018

President Donald Trump

It would be difficult to imagine a greater example of oblivious stupidity and hubris than Jeffrey Sach and Bandy Lee’s recent article for Project Syndicate, “Trump’s Psychopathology Is Getting Worse.” Having read Lee before, and written about her in my column “The Age of Expert Ignorance,” when I came upon this article I was reminded of the sentence from Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.”

For not once do Sachs and Lee bother to analyze Trump’s policies. Nor do they show any understanding of the context and history from which these arose. Despite their fancy status as “experts”—Lee is a professor of psychiatry at Yale, and Sachs a university professor at Columbia—they show themselves to be no more intellectually serious than a Twitter mob: Their “method” is essentially ad hominem, discrediting Trump’s character in an attempt to discredit his policies.

Hilariously lacking in both self-awareness and intellectual humility, they assume that their “psychological expertise” excuses them from the burden of making an argument contra Trump: They can simply “diagnose” him from afar—even though that is in flagrant violation of psychiatric ethics—and since their “psychological expertise” evidently entails “political expertise” as well, the rest of us are to take it on faith that they are right, and so get on board with their political agenda: “Any appropriate measure to remove the danger [of President Trump]—the ballot box, impeachment, or invocation of the US Constitution’s 25th Amendment—would help restore our safety.”

Ah, the poor professors! They feel unsafe! Perhaps they might avail themselves of the coloring books, stuffed animals, and Play-Doh that, I understand, are now so popular among those precious millennials in our universities, for as this article makes clear, Sachs and Lee have no business telling President Trump or anybody else what to do. They are uniquely stupid, perhaps the stupidest experts in America.

“Citing the fake-news Washington Post as a moral authority is about as credible as quoting Stormy Daniels on the virtues of chastity.”

Thus they write:

Seemingly every day now, US President Donald Trump escalates his policy and personal attacks against other countries and their heads of state, the poor and the weak, and migrant families. Most recently, Trump has championed the heartless separation of migrant children from their parents. Though public outrage may have forced him to retreat, his disposition to attack will soon make itself felt elsewhere.

Trump’s wild exaggerations…reveal the increasing severity of his symptoms. Consider, for example, his repeated claims that the vague outcome of his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un constitutes an end to the nuclear threat posed by Kim’s regime, or his blatant lie that Democrats, rather than his own policies, caused the forced separation of migrant children from their parents at the southern border with Mexico. The ‘Post’ recently counted 29 false or misleading statements in a mere one-hour rally. Whether intentional or delusional, this level of persistent lying is pathological.

What “attacks,” specifically? What counts as an attack to these writers? We aren’t told, and this vagueness is characteristic of Sachs and Lee, who use melodramatic rhetoric—as in “championed the heartless separation of migrant children from their parents”—where serious minds analyze the issues. Whether it was good or bad for Trump to engage in these “attacks” one cannot rightly say, because we know nothing particular about them or their contexts.

Not that such vagueness isn’t psychologically effective. On the contrary, it functions to make Trump look like a villain, while it is impossible to refute the charge: For one cannot oppose what is not actually manifest.

According to Sachs and Lee, it was a “blatant lie that Democrats, rather than [Trump’s] own policies, caused the forced separation of migrant children from their parents at the southern border with Mexico.” But as I observed here on June 22, it was the “2016 court ruling that modified the 1997 Flores consent decree,” resulting in the policy that “children cannot be held for more than twenty days, and this is why…families cannot be held together.” The ruling was made under the Obama administration, and shortly after Sachs and Lee published their article, Trump foolishly responded to such critics by issuing an executive order intended to alter the policy. Since then, our government has built new detainment centers—courtesy of the taxpayer’s dime—that allow illegal alien families to stay together as they wait to be extradited or receive a ruling on their appeal for asylum.

That these persons are illegal aliens, and that the U.S. has a right to maintain its sovereignty, are inconvenient facts, which Sachs and Lee unsurprisingly do not mention. They prefer facile, pseudo-medical claims like “the increasing severity of his symptoms,” by which they mean “paranoia, lack of empathy, and sadism.” From their perspective, we don’t need borders. America having unlimited jobs and resources, unlimited numbers of “the poor and the weak, and migrant families” are all welcome.

Of course, President Trump, like virtually all politicians, has often lied and made “wild exaggerations.” For instance, the future being uncertain, the long-term value of his meeting with Kim Jong-un is necessarily unclear, so Trump should not act as though that meeting “constitutes an end to the nuclear threat posed by Kim’s regime.” And certainly, Trump’s nasty remarks, and frequent spats on Twitter, are counterproductive in many instances.

Nevertheless, citing the fake-news Washington Post as a moral authority is about as credible as quoting Stormy Daniels on the virtues of chastity. “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” runs the rag’s motto, as unwittingly obtuse as Sachs and Lee themselves, and as if that death weren’t the actual aim of globalist Jeff Bezos’ paper.

“Since Trump actually lacks the ability to impose his will on others,” our authors write,

his approach guarantees an endless cycle of threats, counter-threats, and escalation. He follows any tactical retreat with renewed aggression. Such is the case with the spiraling tit-for-tat trade war now underway between Trump and a widening circle of countries and economies, including Canada, Mexico, China, and the European Union. The same is true of Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from a growing number of international agreements and bodies, including the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, and, most recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council, after it criticized US policies towards the poor.

Trump’s paranoia is translating into heightened geopolitical tensions. Traditional allies, not accustomed to dealing with US leaders with severe mental defects, are clearly shaken, while adversaries appear to be taking advantage.

This would not pass muster in a freshman undergraduate paper. Rather amusingly, the authors fail to notice that it’s they themselves who appear paranoid. Trump’s strategies and policies, we’re supposed to believe, are so many “threats” and “counter-threats,” so much “escalation” and “renewed aggression.” Like Sachs and Lee, “traditional allies” are “clearly shaken,” and in the cliché last clause we get the standard nonsense about President Trump being the dupe of Vladimir Putin. All this in lieu of substantive argument.

The stuff about “geopolitical tensions” is simply silly. There are always “geopolitical tensions,” especially when it comes to the ever-vexed Middle East. But Islamic terrorism, as it concerns us, has decreased under Trump’s watch, and though few people appreciate it, he has been a good diplomat in regard to Russia.

Sachs and Lee are concerned about “the spiraling tit-for-tat trade war.” Meanwhile, in reality, sober minds perceive that things are far better than they suggest. Says Michael Thau:

The U.S. economy grew at slightly over 4.1 percent in the second quarter of 2018, something that never happened under Obama and that the experts derided as impossible. The unemployment rate has been hovering at around 4 percent all year, the lowest level in 17 years. And to top it off, 285,000 good manufacturing jobs, which Obama assured us “weren’t coming back,” have been created in the last year. That’s a 2.3-percent increase, the largest since 1995.

And the stock market, which the experts also assured us would crash under Trump, has dramatically risen, with the Dow Jones Industrial average up around 6,000 points.

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