Hate John McCain if you want. Call McCain a traitor, even.
I look at John McCain and marvel at his strength. Many do.
Everyone knows about McCain being shot down over Vietnam and spending 5 years in a POW camp. But most people don’t know about the deep emotional scar McCain brought home with him. And that emotional scar undoubtedly drives him to his fits of anger and telling lies about people he doesn’t like.
When you hear the reason for McCain’s anti-social behavior, you might not hate him so much. Maybe you’ll feel sorry for him.
Senator McCain has a long reputation as a petty, bitter, and vindictive man. He is prone to act out of envy and jealousy. By accusation and by his own admission, Senator McCain was a reckless Navy pilot. He tells people he crashed “six or eight” planes in a short period of time. After years of denial, Senator McCain finally admitted that, as a POW, he voluntarily recorded a propaganda broadcast for his North Vietnamese captors. By accusation and by his own admission, Lt. Cdr. McCain accepted favors from his captors in exchange for his cooperation in violation of the Armed Forces Code of Conduct for prisoners of war. But before accepting those favors, McCain rejected an offer to be released from POW camp. So let’s not exaggerate his cooperation.
Imagine how guilty you’d feel if you had made a propaganda recording for the enemy. I would feel very guilty. And I know that when I’m feeling guilty, I often find fault in others. Sometimes I find faults that don’t really exist. But finding petty faults with others makes me feel better about myself when I’m feeling guilty.
So maybe McCain handles his guilt a lot like I handle mine. (Not that I ever did anything as serious as recording a propaganda recording for the enemy during war.) When McCain goes to Europe to badmouth his President, he’s acting out of guilt. When he goes on Sunday talk shows and falsely accuses his President of stifling the press, he’s probably doing so under the duress of extreme guilt. Think about this: his Silver Star medal was awarded for resisting enemy offers. He must have felt very guilty when President Nixon pinned that medal on his chest, knowing about that recording.
When he volunteered to make that recording, he probably thought he was actually helping our side. It seems reasonable that McCain thought soldiers battling in the jungle would find comfort knowing the North Vietnamese would care for their wounds if they were captured.
It’s harder to explain why McCain called himself a war criminal, but maybe he accidently bombed friendly villages before he was shot down. Bombing the wrong target would probably create a lot of guilt. It’s possible that McCain’s reference to wounding and killing Vietnamese people was his way of apologizing for errant bombs. As we’ve heard, he wasn’t a particularly good pilot by is own admission. It makes sense that he’d want to get that off his chest right away.
And there’s always the possibility that McCain agreed to make the recording to help his fellow POWs. Maybe the North Vietnamese offered his comrades relief from torture in exchange for McCain’s cooperation. Anyone might violate the Code of Conduct to protect their friends.
If you’re wondering why I would mention John McCain’s propaganda recording at all, I’ll explain. Senator McCain is now calling our President a dictator and accusing the President of stifling the press. McCain’s accusations are laughably false, but the leftist press is eating them up. A lot of my friends seem to hate John McCain now, but they might not be considering the incredible guilt McCain lives with every day.
While I condemn John McCain’s despicable conduct, I also feel bad for him and his copious guilt. I think calling McCain a traitor is a bridge too far, too. I see John McCain as someone who did his best under horrible conditions. And it seems that his best, in his own eyes, was less than necessary. That creates tremendous guilt which he tries to assuage by finding even worse shortcomings in other people.
Remember that McCain wasn’t the only one to crack in a POW camp. Others did worse in Vietnam and other wars. I accept that. And I’m glad I never had to live through his experience. I don’t know if I would have conducted myself any better. And if one of my kids made a similar recording as a POW, I’d still consider him a hero. But I’d also understand how, later in life, his feelings of guilt might cloud his judgment and lead to reckless behavior.
I think it’s best to just ignore Senator McCain as he works through with his guilt.
Imagine Michael Jordan’s best game ever. Or Tiger Woods. That’s what it was like watching President Trump today. Amazing.
The President looked poised, cheerful, and humorous. He volleyed with Jim Acosta of CNN. He rated each question “good” or “bad.” He explained why he doesn’t want a nuclear war with Russia because the press seems to think nuclear war is a good thing. He mocked those in the press who want him to bomb that Russian intel ship off Virginia.
His maturity and gravitas made the press look like coked-up chimpanzees by contrast. He destroyed them. I bet a lot of White House correspondents are blowing 0.23 on breathalyzers tonight. They were ruined. They’re narrative, months in the making, erased. Trump took a powerful magnet to their biased hard drives. And Jim Acosta is now to Trump what Sam Donaldson was to Reagan: his straight man.
Trump is the guy calling them out. I’ve never seen anything like this today. I have never seen it. We have wanted Republican presidents all of my life to deal with these people this way, and the only thing we ever got was Spiro Agnew. We’ve not seen anything like this, and Trump did it with an air of confidence and self-assuredness. He was not nervous at all. He was having fun with them. He was toying with them. It’s like if you got a cat. You know how you get these little laser pointers and you have a little kitten or a cat and the cat goes nuts chasing the light? It will run into a wall.
That’s what I was watching here today. It was just… It was fantastic, and the American people are gonna eat this up. . . . He accused Obama of running the shadow government. He accused Hillary Clinton and George Soros of being the people paying for people to show up and protest things. He held nothing back! He ridiculed Hillary Clinton for being in part of a deal that gave up 20% of our uranium supply and for having that cheap little red reset button when she became secretary of state. And each time he mentions Obama. He mentions… He didn’t say “shadow government” but he said, “Our opponents are doing what they can.”
He called all of this fake news. He was on spot with all this. You know, it’s hard to say. You get caught up in the moment. But this was one of the most effective press conferences I’ve ever seen.
I was listening on earbuds and I couldn’t stop laughing. People probably thought I’d lost my mind. Trump delivered all my angry tweets from last night with humor and good cheer! As if showing me how it’s done. It was absolutely the greatest political press conference in history.
Expect to see a lot of reporters’ heads explode in the next 48 hours. He destroyed the crooked media. He destroyed Obama’s shadow government. He destroyed the criminal intel leakers. He destroyed his critics like no one has done before. He did with a smile. Even the corrupt Washington Post noted “he became more fiery and animated — joyful, even —when he began to banter and joust with the assembled reporters.”
And he did it all by being himself. For 78 minutes, he showed the country what it missed if it missed his campaign.
Soon thereafter, this great gate is sealed by the Crisis resolution, when victors are rewarded and enemies punished; when empires or nations are forged or destroyed; when treaties are signed and boundaries redrawn; and when peace is accepted, troops repatriated, and life begun anew. One large chapter of history ends, and another starts.
In a very real sense, one society dies— and another is born.
—*The Fourth Turning*
This post should be fun because it involves games.
You’ve probably heard of the game called Chicken. And maybe you’ve heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Just in case you don’t know these games, I’ll give you quick overview.
Two rivals get into cars at opposite ends of a long straightaway. On a signal, they accelerate toward each other. The winner is the one who doesn’t chicken out by swerving out of the path of the other car. If neither player chickens out, it’s a draw.
Two people are arrested for a crime. Call these suspects A and B. Police separate them into different interview rooms where they have no way to communicate with each other. A detective tells A that if he cooperates and confesses, the DA will recommend a short prison sentence of 1 year. If he doesn’t cooperate and is found guilty, he’s looking at 20 years. Oh, and by the way, B already confessed to his minor role and implicated A as the mastermind.
A must decide whether to cooperate or keep his mouth shut. If he cooperates, he’ll get 1 year. If he keeps his mouth shut and the detective lied about B’s confession, both men could walk. But if B really confessed and A doesn’t cooperate, A will be in prison until he’s old.
Meet Ben Hunt, PhD
Ben Hunt is that genius financial planner I quote often. Dr. Hunt is no fan of Donald Trump, but his latest blog post illustrates our present situation rather well. He points out in his latest post that in normal times, life is a series of repeated cooperative games like Prisoner’s Dilemma. But now we’re playing repeated games of Chicken.
That first bit — the nature of repeated-play competitive games — is a mouthful. All it really means, though, is that our real-life social interactions, whether in politics or markets or everyday life with our family and friends, are never a single, solitary game. We play the same core game over and over and over, each single interaction setting the stage for the next, and what we really should be concerned about is the overall pattern of the entire set of interactions. That’s real life, as opposed to some 2×2 matrix of Cooperate/Defect like you’d see in a game theory textbook.
In Hunt’s view, Trump has transformed America’s repeated game—from a cooperation game to competitive game. Chicken is winner-take-all.
Trump, on the other hand … I think he breaks us. Maybe he already has. He breaks us because he transforms every game we play as a country — from our domestic social games to our international security games — from a Coordination Game to a Competition Game.
Well … first off I’m going to suggest that we should all prepare for impact. The evolution of competition and the success of “mean” strategies in games like Chicken is at least as robust as the evolution of cooperation and the success of “nice” strategies in games like Prisoner’s Dilemma. Once you introduce, say, mustard gas into the trench warfare game, it doesn’t just un-introduce itself on its own. These bells are really hard to un-ring, and it typically takes a lot of car crashes on both sides before you get a peace treaty and a chance to rebuild a cooperative game structure. That’s at least four mixed metaphors, but you get what I mean. And unfortunately, all of these metaphors apply just as aptly to a social structure of family and friends as to a social structure of a political party or an entire nation. The evolution of competition is a powerfully contagious virus, and it hops easily from a big tribe like a nation to a small tribe like a family.
So, the question is: Is Dr. Hunt right?
Good Diagnosis, Erroneous Causality
If you’ve read my previous posts in the #PeopleWantYouDead series, you know that I agree with Dr. Hunt’s diagnosis of the American condition. We are playing repeated competitive games of Chicken. On that, he’s absolutely right.
I also agree that Donald Trump is a master of the game of Chicken.
But I strongly disagree with Hunt on a key point: Donald Trump is a symptom of the competitive game, not the cause.
Long before Trump decided to run for President, we abandoned, as a nation, those coordination games for competitive games. I’m not smart enough to give you the exact cause or the exact date, but we in the center-right were still playing Prisoner’s Dilemma and getting our asses kicked by the side playing Chicken. I knew the game had changed when SEIU thugs beat up Ken Gladney at a town hall in 2009. I knew the game had changed when President Obama talked about our stupidity for bringing a knife to a gunfight. I knew the game had changed when the president of the AFL-CIO told his members to punch us.
Dr. Hunt probably wasn’t paying much attention to our little Tea Party movement back then. His Epsilon Theory blog wasn’t around at the time. Or maybe politics wasn’t his thing then. He is an economist, after all, not a political scientist. I don’t expect him to pay attention to obscure political events—events made more obscure by a national press that ignores events that are potentially damaging to the American left.
Had he been in the trenches with us in 2009, he would probably agree that the game changed long before Trump. He might also agree that someone else changed it. He might conclude that the game was changed by the same people who exercised the “nuclear option” in the US Senate. And I know Dr. Hunt agrees that it’s important for us to know which kind of game the other side is playing. He said so:
the most important thing in that interaction is to figure out the meaning of cooperation for yourself and whoever you’re dealing with. Otherwise you’re going to find yourself playing a different game from the other person, and that never ends well. This is a tough piece of advice to follow (myself included!) because we assume that whatever our “identity weighting” might be for a given issue, the person or group we’re interacting with attaches that same meaning.
Dr. Hunt also points out an important aspect of competitive games like Chicken. In Chicken, the player who swerves is a coward and he’s scorned or ostracized by his tribe. In Prisoner’s Dilemma, it’s different:
If you cooperate in a game of Chicken — i.e., you’re driving your tractor straight on at Kevin Bacon’s pick-up truck and you veer off from the looming crash, or you and James Dean are racing towards a cliff and you put on your brakes first — you are the LOSER. You are the COWARD. That becomes your identity and your reputation, which means that others will now treat you like a loser and a coward in the games that they play with you in the future. Compare that to the meaning of cooperation in a game of Prisoner’s Dilemma, where cooperation — i.e., you refuse to rat out your partner and cut a deal for yourself at his expense — means that you are STRONG and LOYAL. The words and the examples used to illustrate bloodless, mathematical game theoretic matrices are not accidental! If we believe that our identity is at risk in a repeated-play competitive game, we behave very differently than if it’s not. More to the point, we should behave differently if our identity is at stake. It’s the rational thing to do.
So I am confident that Dr. Hunt would agree that we on the right should be playing Chicken because the left most certainly is. Plus, the left has been playing Chicken for years. It took us longer to recognize that the nature of the game had changed. Which means we’ve already lost a few rounds. Worse, many on the right—Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, etc.—they’re still stuck playing Prisoner’s Dilemma. They still think cooperation is a sign of strength and loyalty. That’s why the Tea Party went after them so hard and continues to. Their reputations are as cowards and losers.
We Chose Trump
When we recognized that the game had changed and that our Republican leaders refused to recognize this shift, we looked around for someone with clearer vision. And along came Trump.
Donald Trump might have always been a Chicken-player, but we didn’t need one when the other side was playing a coordination game. Once the left dropped coordination for a competitive death match, he had to change our game or die.
You might even conclude that Hillary Clinton failed to inspire the left because she, like Ryan and McConnell, is a Prisoner’s Dilemma politician, too. The left changed the game and she ignored the shift. She was wrong for the time, even for Democrats.
Where To Next?
All of this fits the Fourth Turning prophesy. In the 1770s, the Crown changed the game from coordination to competition and the colonists responded by declaring our independence. In 1861, the South changed the game by seceding from the union and attacking Fort Sumter which triggered the North’s response and the bloodiest war in US history. In the 1930s, Hitler changed the game from coordination to competition, and, after Neville Chamberlain gave away a chunk of Europe in a desperate attempt to keep the coordination game alive, the Allies recognized the new game and put down the tyrant.
So here we are in the fourth turning of the fourth cycle of American history. The previous three cycles ended in total war, and two of the three were fought primarily on our soil. These cycle-ending wars are brutal and rare, occurring once about every 80 years, at the end of the fourth turning.
Not many people recognize these historical cycles. Most people see history as a straight line. Most people expect the future to be a linear progression of the recent past. But that linear view fails the test again and again. No one expected British colonists to break away from the crown. No one expected the South to sever ties with the United States. No one expected Germany to take over Europe and Africa. No one even saw the Great Depression coming.
No one, I should say, saw those climaxes coming except those few of us who see history as a circle instead of a line.
In the White House, sitting at the right hand of President Trump, is Steve Bannon. You know him as the Honey Badger who took Breitbart.com to a new level after Andrew’s early death. You might not know that Mr. Bannon is at least as impressed with the Fourth Turning view of history as I am. Chances are, Mr. Bannon’s views are similar to mine in many ways: the nature of the game we’re playing, the left’s commitment to our death or enslavement, and the need to understand the real threat this domestic enemy poses.
Mr. Bannon likely agrees with me that our growing understanding of his cyclical history gives us a chance—but only a chance—at avoiding the kind of bloodshed that ended the previous three cycles. We both know that pretending the other side wants to coordinate with us is the surest way to end up in a full-scale civil war. It’s why we both supported Donald Trump. It’s why we warn our friends of the diabolical nature of today’s political left. It’s why we prepare for the worst-case scenario, because preparing for that horror is the best way to avoid it.
As Howe and Strauss wrote in 1997, a society will die and a new one will be born. Either our side will give birth to that new society, or their’s will. This is no time for coordination except among ourselves. But there’s good news.
The Gray Champion is coming if we earn his return. And we’ll explore what it means to Earn It in a future post.
Overcoming and defeating The Resistance, Pressfield tells us, is the key to living the good life. I agree, even if I don’t agree on some of his enemies. The Resistance must be defeated. On that, we definitely agree completely.
The Resistance hates virtuous actions. Here are the virtues that Pressfield says conjure up The Resistance in all its diabolical powers. These are the things The Resistance hates:
1) The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
2) The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
3) Any diet or health regimen.
4) Any program of spiritual advancement.
5) Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.
6) Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
7) Education of every kind.
8) Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.
9) The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.
10) Any act that entails commitment of the heart. The decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.
11) The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity. In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.
Oh, Mr. Pressfield, you know The Resistance so well. So well.
The book then lists The Resistance’s nature:
Plays for Keeps
Fueled by Fear
Only Opposes in One Direction (this short topic alone makes the book worth buying or borrowing)
Is Most Powerful at the Finish Line (like the Boston Marathon Bombers)
Finally, (well, not finally for the book, but finally for this post), Pressfield reminds us that The Resistance can be beaten:
If Resistance couldn’t be beaten, there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo and Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge. Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years.
You might have thought I was paranoid for wondering if some people in the CIA and the Deep State are plotting a coup to overturn our recent election.
The Wall Street Journal seems to agree with my conclusion: a coup attempt is going on in America. Rogue actors within the CIA, all of the major leftist media (New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS), and probably major defense contractors seem to be involved, though the Wall Street Journal stops short of accusing advertisers. That’s understandable.
You’re probably thinking about the word “coup” yourself a lot. You’ll probably hear “coup” on the news in the coming days. And you’ll hear about more threats to Electors who plan to vote for Donald Trump on December 19. You will want to remember these words from the Wall Street Journal’s editors:
Only a few weeks ago Hillary Clinton’s campaign was denouncing Donald Trump as un-American for saying the election might be “rigged.” We criticized Mr. Trump at the time. But now that Mrs. Clinton has lost, her campaign is claiming the election really was rigged, albeit for Mr. Trump by Russian meddling, and it wants the Electoral College to stage what amounts to a coup.
That’s the only way to interpret the extraordinary statement Monday by Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta endorsing a special intelligence briefing for electors a week before they cast their ballots for President on Dec. 19. He released the statement hours after 10 members of the Electoral College sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper seeking information on foreign interference in the election to judge if Mr. Trump “is fit to serve.” One of those electors is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter.
I admit that my posts sounded a little paranoid. But it turns out I’m not alone. The staid Wall Street Journal now uses the “coup” word to describe what’s going on in this country. Here’s more from Wall Street Journal:
What should really distress Americans is that the losers are trying to overturn the election results based on little more than anonymous leaks and innuendo. Whatever Russia’s hacking motives, there is no evidence that the emails it turned up were decisive to the election result. Mr. Podesta is citing a CIA judgment that Americans have never seen and whose findings are vaguely public only because one or more unidentified officials chose to relate them to a few reporters last week.
If you find yourself feeling scared or angry, you know why now. This is a serious coup attempt by the left wing and the Deep State to overturn a US election. Wars have been fought over less.
The Wall Street Journal concludes that the Democrats and the press probably know their Electoral College coup will fail. Maybe the left’s motive is only to make the Unites States ungovernable, to throw the country into violent chaos. Would that be any nobler a goal? Seeking chaos is a kind of evil, is it not?
What will those Democrats try next? Nothing lies beneath them.