Tremendous Disaster

For Donald Trump, much of the world breaks down into two categories: Things that are tremendous, and things that are disasters. In total, he used these two words 65 times over the course of his three debates with Hillary Clinton.1 By comparison, Clinton said “disaster” once, and never called anything tremendous.2  Political writers have spent a lot of time trying to hash out the tenets of Trumpism (“Surely it’s not just the racism and sexism”), so it can’t hurt to try and see the world according to the terminology preferred by the man himself.

Let’s begin with the more straightforward category, the disasters. I went through all three debates and did my best to figure out what exactly he found disastrous. Table 1 shows the results, organized first by things that were mentioned more than once, and then by the order in which they were mentioned. For future convenience (you’ll see), I have also numbered the disasters, in that column on the left.

Table 1

Row Thing Mentions as a disaster Debate
1 Obamacare 5 2,3
2 NAFTA 4 2,3
3 Clinton as a senator 3 2
4 Clinton’s tax plan 2 2,3
5 Libya (specifically Clinton’s role) 2 1,2
6 the Iraq War 2 1,2
7 our inner cities 2 2,3
8 Aleppo 2 2,3
9 a government investment in solar energy 1 1
10 our energy policies 1 1
11 Clinton’s regulations 1 1
12 the way the U.S. left Iraq 1 1
13 a theoretical single-payer plan 1 2
14 “almost everything she’s done in foreign policy” 1 2
15 education in the inner city 1 2
16 jobs 1 2
17 Clinton’s plan to give amnesty 1 3
18 Clinton’s trade plan 1 3
19 Clinton’s open borders plan 1 3

Most of these are fairly comprehensible, if not exactly accurate or defensible. He’s hammering a policy unpopular with his base, one of the only famous deals in one of his only core policy areas (trade), and Clinton in general. At times he arguably overreaches, as with Disaster 14. He also likes to describe hypothetical disasters, as in Disasters 4, 11, 13, and 17-19, which refer to his understanding (to put it generously) of Clinton’s proposals; none of these things are actual disasters, because they haven’t happened (and, like 17 and 19, are not always real proposals), but he emphatically believes that they would be disasters, if they existed. This arguably describes his relationship to “the inner city” as well: I would be surprised if he were thinking of any actual places when he used that term, but then again, what could possibly be more frightening—more disastrous—than whatever inner city lives in Trump’s imagination? Still, overall this is a pretty coherent realm of political belief—these are more or less the things any Republican candidate would criticize, if not always this aggressively.

Now here are the things Trump described as tremendous, laid out the same way:

Table 2

Row Thing Mentions Debate
1 the hate in Clinton’s heart 3 2
2 the impact of stop and frisk on NYC 2 1
3 our budget deficits 2 2
4 our economic machine 2 3
5 his tax reductions 1 1
6 new jobs (from his tax cuts) 1 1
7 jobs created by the wealthy 1 1
8 the job the wealthy will do creating jobs 1 1
9 his own income 1 1
10 our country’s problems 1 1
11 the money saved building his post office hotel 1 1
12 the success of his club in Palm Beach 1 1
13 the “service” we’re providing our military allies 1 1
14 the stamina needed to be President 1 1
15 Clinton’s commercials about him 1 1
16 our country’s potential 1 2
17 his respect for women 1 2
18 the numbers of taxes he pays 1 2
19 the success we could have if we did a sneak-attack on Mosul 1 2
20 how he’s doing on the small donations 1 2
21 the wealth under our feet (from natural gas) 1 2
22 the number of people offended by Justice Ginsburg’s statements about Trump 1 3
23 the respect of the people he’d nominate as judges 1 3
24 gun violence in Chicago 1 3
25 the numbers of nuclear warheads in Russia 1 3
26 the money Clinton takes (“from certain countries that treat certain groups of people so horribly”) 1 3
27 the jobs he’ll create 1 3

The first thing you’ll notice is just that this is a much longer list—which is even more surprising when you consider that Trump actually says the word “disaster” more often than the word “tremendous” (33 and 32 times, respectively). The difference is that while the disasters are reasonably coherent, allowing the word to collect around a few key areas, the tremendous things are all over the place. Even those top few items typically reflect instances where Trump happened to say the word a few times in quick succession—the three mentions of Tremendous 1  (T1) occurred within the same few sentences, and include basically a stutter (“She’s got tremendous — she’s got tremendous hatred”). In fact, I’d say that everything in the top four is essentially an instance of meaningless repetition:

  • “But stop-and- frisk had a tremendous impact on the safety of New York City. Tremendous beyond belief.”
  • “They’ll pay off our tremendous budget deficits, which are tremendous.”
  • “Because we have a tremendous machine. We will have created a tremendous economic machine once again.”

When you hear a word as idiosyncratic and exaggerated as “tremendous”, you might expect it to play a part in Trump’s standard hyperbole, like in the first bullet point. “Tremendous beyond belief”is just the kind of absurd overreaching that he loves; it fits nicely with another of his rhetorical tics, the claim that various things are “like we’ve never seen”. But I think the other two examples may be more telling, in the sense that they are incoherent nonsense. “Our tremendous budget deficits, which are tremendous”—this is not the statement of a man who knows how high the budget deficit should be, or has been, or is right now. This is not even the statement of a man who can think of a second adjective on the fly.

On that front, the beginning of the third bullet point is incredible: “Because we have a tremendous machine”.3 Trump, as if becoming cognizant of this statement only after it leaves his mouth, quickly amends this tremendous machine we have to a tremendous economic machine that we will have. But why did he say it in the first place? After all, he never said “machine” at any prior point in any of the debates, and it is not exactly a germane or meaningful word here. In fact, the only time the word came up at all in the debates was earlier on the night of this weird sentence, when Clinton mentioned that Trump called Machado “an eating machine”. But I think that’s just it: He’s saying “machine” more or less out of nowhere because someone else said “machine” earlier on.

As David Roberts has pointed out, it’s important to understand that Trump doesn’t really use language to communicate existing ideas that he has; instead, he simply “riffs until he finds the word strings that get cheers and shouts.” I think Trump has a stock set of words that come tumbling out almost at random, albeit often centered on some broad theme (trade, or hombres); Trump then becomes aware of these words at the same time we do, and begins to try and wrestle them into some sort of coherence by cobbling them together using some of his other words, or perhaps simply repeating the same ones (“our tremendous budget deficits, which are tremendous.”) It makes sense that he would mix his own language with random words and phrases from others (like the time Clinton said, “If Trump was talking, he’d probably say something like ‘repeal and replace'”, and then Trump finished his very next turn with the phrase “So I think we’ve got to repeal and replace”). It’s all just stuff he’s hearing.4

This explains some of the difficulty of parsing the list of tremendous things. For one, they’re so repetitive that they accidentally become recursive. After saying that his tax cuts will create tremendous jobs (T6), Trump later argues: “Well, I’m really calling for major jobs, because the wealthy are going create tremendous jobs. They’re going to expand their companies. They’re going to do a tremendous job.” (T7-8) Here are the word “tremendous” and the word “job” used not only to describe the thing that will be created (“tremendous jobs”) but the quality of the creation (the wealthy will do a “tremendous job” creating “tremendous jobs”). And tremendousness may have a positive connotation, but it’s also just an intensifier, so in T10 our country’s problems are tremendous, but in T16 our country’s potential is tremendous. Trump is pretty frequently tremendous (T9, T11, T12, T20), but so are Russian nuclear armament (T25) and gun violence in Chicago (T24). And as this last one shows, the tremendous can intersect with the disastrous—after all, Chicago has an inner city.

So what does this tell us about Trumpism? I think, like every other deep dive, it doesn’t give us any new clarity about his political commitments, because those have been flagrantly obvious from the outset of his political career—xenophobia, sexism, nationalism, and self-aggrandizement. But I think digging into his language even just a little reveals something we tend to gloss over too easily: Trump is a profoundly stupid man. This is not his most problematic feature; the bigotry, narcissism, short temper, and mean spiritedness are much more alarming. But he also does not know how to produce coherent sentences or express his ideas with more than two overlapping, imprecise, hyperbolic, occasionally self-contradictory terms. Smart, well-informed people can generally do that. You don’t need a tremendous intellect to be able to string together a few dozen meaningful sentences; you just can’t be a disaster.

 


Notes
1. I got these counts by looking up transcripts and performing simple word searches. I include the word “tremendously” in the count for “tremendous”. I did all of the counting/searching in this post by hand, so it might be a little off here and there, especially because Trump’s language is often pretty difficult to parse.  

2. She said, “When President Obama came into office, he inherited the worst economic disaster since the great depression.” 

3. Reading this, I was reminded of a strange anecdote I once read about a woman whose corpus callosum had been severed. When this happens, the right and left halves of the brain can’t communicate with each other. A doctor showed her left eye a picture of a nude woman, and she laughed, even though she said she couldn’t see anything; the issue is that the half of the brain that can see out of the left eye was no longer connected to the half that produces language, so she couldn’t express what she had seen. The doctor asked her why she had laughed, and her answer was, “Oh doctor, you have some machine!” I’ve always remembered that sentence, because it’s so strange, a snap response from a brain in which the function of language has literally been severed from certain kinds of perception and self-knowledge. I’ve never heard anything like it, until now. 

4. This might also explain the only other use of the word “machine” during the debates—later in the same turn, Trump said, “But that being said, we will create an economic machine the likes of which we haven’t seen in many decades.” Now that he himself has said “machine” a couple of times, this appears to him to be a term people use to describe the economy. Once uttered, his own words simply enter the universe of stuff he has heard and can now repeat.  

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Don’t Vote Third Party Unless You’re Comfortable Helping Trump

Even though Donald Trump is one of the least popular major party Presidential candidates in American history, a lot of people are still considering voting third party, probably because Hillary Clinton is also quite unpopular. I have some friends in that camp, people who can see that Trump is manifestly unfit to be President, but whose politics are just too different from Clinton’s for them to feel comfortable voting for her. But if the idea of Trump having the power to launch nuclear strikes genuinely bothers you, voting third party is a really bad idea, because in our political system these votes virtually guarantee that your least-preferred candidate will reap the benefits.

The basis for the claim here is pretty simple. Imagine there are three candidates running, and your order of preference for these candidates looks like this:

  1. Alice Good
  2. Bob Meh
  3. Carol Bad

In other words, you really want Alice to win, and you’d really like Carol to lose. We don’t know how you feel about Bob—maybe he’s an uninspiring technocrat, maybe he’s a corrupt tool of the system—but either way he’s better than Carol. If Alice has a shot at winning, this is an easy election; you just vote for Alice. But if Alice has no chance—in other words, if she’s like nearly every third party candidate in American history—then voting for her basically just makes it easier for Carol to win.

This quickly becomes obvious if you think about it numerically. Say there are 100 voters, 46 for Carol, 45 for Bob, and 9 for Alice—and the Alice voters all have the order of preference above. If they vote for Alice, Carol wins, netting them the worst possible outcome. If they compromise and vote for Bob, Bob wins, and they get a better outcome. And crucially, these are the only two possible outcomes: Either you get Carol, or you get Bob. There is no scenario in which Alice wins. It’s as though you’ve got an election between Bob and Carol, but instead of going to the polls, a lot of people who prefer Bob go watch a basketball game. Obviously this will help Carol, because Alice is essentially LeBron James—much more fun to support than Bob, but not capable of winning this election.

In short, voting for a third party candidate who cannot win inevitably ensures that your least-preferred candidate has a better shot at winning, because you would otherwise have distributed your vote to your second-most preferred candidate. Now, there are a few factors that could sway the math a little: If Alice and Bob have pretty even chances of winning, or if you dislike Bob and Carol equally, then a vote for Alice could still make sense. But in this election neither factor applies.

Third party candidates never win

The best performance by a third party candidate in U.S. history is probably Teddy Roosevelt’s in 1912, when he ran with the idiosyncratic Bull Moose party. He managed to beat the Republican candidate, William Howard Taft, but that was just good enough for him to lose to Woodrow Wilson by 14 percentage points and 347 electoral votes. Together he and Taft got just over 50% of the vote, but because they split it between them, Wilson won, even though he was in the Carol Position for a pretty large number of Americans. And this was, again, the best a third party candidate ever did.1

In that situation, voters really did have to deal with a difficult decision, since Taft and Teddy each had a strong claim to be the most electable candidate. But for most of American history, the choice has been pretty easy, because third party candidates don’t even remotely stand a chance. There have been 57 Presidential elections in U.S. history; third party candidates have won none. Most of the time third party candidates don’t earn any electoral votes; the last time it happened was 1968, when George Wallace got 46 (145 shy of the guy who came in second).2

Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will not buck this trend. A few weeks ago when Trump seemed doomed, he was polling at about 36%; Johnson is currently at about 9%, and Stein has never been as high as 5%. FiveThirtyEight gives Johnson a <0.1% chance of winning the election; Stein is not even on the chart. When a race gets close, the calculus involved in the Alice/Bob/Carol scenario gets very complicated; you have to balance likelihood against preference, and it’s not clear how you should weight either. But in most U.S. Presidential elections, the race is not close, and it definitely isn’t in this one.

Trump can lose and still win

In an election where no candidate hits a majority of the electoral votes (270 these days), the House of Representatives chooses the President from the existing pool of candidates. The House is currently Republican, and has shown no courage or even really desire when it comes to breaking with Trump. And a third-party candidate wouldn’t have to do that well to create a scenario like this. This map shows an example:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

 

This is basically the 2012 map, but Trump has picked off Florida and Ohio, which are currently fairly close. Johnson has won Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico, three states where he’s doing pretty well at the moment. And as a result, Clinton falls just shy of 270 electoral votes, meaning the whole thing goes to the House, and Trump is our next President. This is not an especially likely scenario, since the best Johnson is doing in any of those states (as of this writing) is about 18% in New Mexico. It is also true that some states are more secure than others for Clinton, so if you live near enough people who do the right thing, your inaction will cause less harm. But the general point is that good electoral performance by Johnson or Stein—the purpose of voting for them—has a little extra capacity to help Trump become President, whether or not it gets them remotely closer to winning the election.

What about other reasons to vote third party?

My impression based on the people I know who are enthusiastic about Johnson or Stein is that they are well aware that neither candidate will win. Instead, they cite a bunch of other reasons to vote third party. These are often pretty compelling on their own merits: It’s important to qualify for federal matching funds.3 It’s also important to change the political discourse and introduce new ideas—I would consider Bernie Sanders’s primary run a major success for progressive politics even though he didn’t get the nomination, just because of how it changed the party’s discourse and policies. The question is whether these considerations outweigh the risks involved in giving Trump an easier path to the White House.  I say no, because I believe that the ethics of voting are almost entirely about outcomes.

In other words, I think the only ethical consideration you should make when you vote (assuming the election is more or less free and fair, like ours are)4 is the effect your vote will have on determining who wins the election. If your vote helps the better candidate win, it is ethical; if not, it is not. I’m not arguing that either candidate needs to be great, or even decent: Two terrible people might run, and in that case you just have to pick the one who is the least bad. One person will become President when the election is over, and if you used your vote on a doomed candidate, then you made it more likely that the President will be, by your own estimation, worse.

As you probably know if you’re this far into this piece, Trump is a uniquely terrible candidate for President. He’s the most overtly racist candidate since George Wallace in 1968, and by any reasonable measure the least qualified major party candidate in the history of the country.5  Whatever you think about Clinton, this is not a case of “both are crooks” or “they’re all the same”.6 Clinton is basically a run-of-the-mill Democrat; we have those all the time, and things stay pretty ordinary. Trump is a vindictive, corrupt, violent, incompetent man with no knowledge of policy and no interest in anything but confirming delusions of his own greatness. If he ran against George W. Bush, I think we would have a duty to vote for Bush, whom I consider a war criminal. If he ran against Nixon, I think we’d have a duty to vote for Nixon, who was forced from office for criminal corruption. Whatever you dislike about Clinton, Trump is far worse, and that means there is a strong ethical imperative to keep him out of office—as only a lot of votes for Clinton can do.

You will still have a conscience on November 9

The phrase that really stands out to me in a lot of the pro-Stein and pro-Johnson rhetoric I’ve seen is “voting my conscience”. The idea is that if, like many people, you think both Trump and Clinton are bad candidates—or even bad human beings—then you can’t personally bring yourself to cast a vote for either of them.

I think this is an oddly solipsistic way to think about conscience. Your personal relationship to your vote will not affect anyone else in the world; other people won’t even know how you voted unless you tell them. But the winner of the election will affect a lot of people. Millions of people will be harassed and deported, or they won’t. NATO will collapse, or it won’t. The press will remain free from government crackdowns, or it won’t.

If you help the worse candidate win, everything that happens after election day is, in small part, on you. The ethical choice you make in the ballot box can only go one of two ways: You help Clinton or you help Trump. If you’re passionate about Libertarian ideas or Green Party values, you can advocate for those things for the rest of your life, but those parties are not going to win on election day. Johnson and Stein aren’t a way not to choose; they’re just the most active way to pretend that you didn’t. If you recognize that Trump should not be President, vote to keep him out of office.

 


Notes

1. Of course, I don’t actually know how voters would have ranked the three candidates, but since Taft and Teddy were ideologically similar (and had even worked together closely in the past) I think it’s probably fair to assume that a primary preference for one usually indicates a secondary preference for the other. In general terms, this is a major reason why the two party system is so stable in America: Anyone who runs third party basically ensures that the voters ideologically closest to him will lose, since that’s where he’s splitting the vote.

2. In a few scattered cases, people got one vote from a faithless elector. These include John G. Hospers (1972), Ronald Reagan (76), Lloyd Bentsen (88), and John Edwards (04). Of those, only Hospers was really a third-party candidate, but my strategic use of the word “earn” above was meant to exclude this weird, beside-the-point scenario. 

3. I hear people mention this a lot, but some cursory investigation shows it to be a little more complicated than it sounds—e.g., Jill Stein got matching funds during the primaries. 

4. I say “more or less” because of things like voter ID laws and the disenfranchisement of felons. These are serious issues, but I don’t think they contradict the broader argument of this post. 

5. As far as I can tell, there are only two other candidates who were neither elected to any office nor held an important post in the military. One is Horace Greeley, who briefly held office in Congress by appointment, helped found the Republican Party, published Marx and Engels in America, and was a longtime activist. The other is Wendell Willkie, again a longtime activist. He’s probably the closest thing to Trump on a resume basis, but at least he had a law degree and was against the KKK decades before Trump created the coalition they currently enjoy. 

6. As you might imagine, I don’t think that’s ever true; one candidate is always at least marginally better than the other. This was a major talking point about Al Gore and George W. Bush during 2000—”What does it matter? They’re the same!”—and then one guy won a Nobel Prize battling climate change and the other started the Iraq War. Does anyone really think those biographies would simply have swapped if Gore had won Florida? 

The MVP of Meeting MVPs

My last post, on the employment connections between Presidents, put me in mind of some network diagrams I once put together on the other major topic in American history: the NBA. Specifically, I was interested in MVPs who have played together on the same team in the same season. I didn’t care what stage of the career either guy was in; as long as both of them were ever on a team together and won the MVP sometime—even far in the past or future from the season they shared—they were still connected. Here’s the result:

NBA_MVP.png

The colors of the edges are based on the shared team (I approximated team colors, which I guess I’ll list in the footnote to this sentence), and their weight (line thickness) is based on how many years the two connected guys played together.1  The nodes are sized based on betweenness centrality. As you can see, by this one metric no one in NBA history has ever been as important as Bob McAdoo. A little more on him in a second.

The headline, I suppose, is that MVPs are fairly highly interconnected, even by this narrow criterion. In the NBA, if you get past first-order connections, you pretty quickly get to a six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon situation, as you can see for yourself using this tool from Slate.  For instance, you can get from Kyrie Irving to George Mikan in six teammates—impressive when you consider that Mikan’s career predates the NBA.2  But direct connections like you see here are much tougher; Kyrie will never play with most of the people in the league today, much less retirees. MVPs tend to have long careers—they’re generally highly employable—so that ups their odds of playing together, but they also often stick with a team (the Lakers weren’t about to trade Kobe Bryant), and their contracts are usually expensive, so I was a bit surprised to see how many had played together at least once. All told, of the 31 guys who have been MVP, only 9 never shared a roster with someone.

That said, some of these connections are ridiculous. Here are a few of the more absurd ones, in order of ascending tenuousness:

  • Steve Nash is only connected to Kobe because of the time he and Dwight Howard tried to form a super-team in LA. Nash was already 38 and in his 17th season, and he spent the most of the time injured. Dwight left the next year. The team was not super.3 
  • Karl Malone is only connected to anyone because of the time he and Gary Payton tried to form a super-team in LA. He was 40, and in his 19th season, and missed half the games because of injuries. And then the Pistons won the Finals anyway.
  •  Shaquille O’Neal concluded his career—largely spent on a super-team in LA—by roaming from team to team like a gigantic, increasingly ineffective samurai. He joined Steve Nash on the Phoenix Suns, where, according to distraught Wikipedia phrasing, he “all but ended their fast-paced offense which had brought them on the cusp of a Finals appearance”. Then he moved on to LeBron James’s Cavs, and helped them get slightly less far in the playoffs than they had the year before. Finally, he journeyed to the Celtics, where Kevin Garnett’s recently-built super-team was coming off a Finals appearance; they have not been back since.
  • Moses Malone similarly refused to retire. His connection to David Robinson stems from his 21st season, when he was 39. This was 1995, and he was the last active player from the ABA, which folded in 1976. He managed to play just 17 games, averaging about 9 minutes a game. But in his last game he hit an 80-foot buzzer-beating three, so it was probably worth it for everyone involved.
  • Bob Cousy did retire, but then he unretired, which was probably worth it for no one. In 1970 he was coach of the Cincinnati Royals, and decided to play himself to boost ticket sales. This happened even though: A) He had last played a game in 1963—long enough ago that his absence effectively coincides with the entire existence of the Beatles; B) He was 41, C) He was a point guard, and this team featured Oscar Robertson. In the 7 games he played, Cousy amassed 34 minutes and 5 points—not on average, but in total. And yet, this is still a more meaningful connection than:
  • That between Moses and Bob McAdoo on the 1977 Buffalo Braves. They were together for two games, during which Moses played 6 total minutes. His stat line: 0/1/0/0/0 with 1 foul. But there’s one thing you can’t deny: They were technically on the same team in the same season.

That’s the perfect transition back to McAdoo. What’s his deal? If you’re like me you know him mainly as a trivia answer, a guy who led the league in scoring and won an MVP in the mid-70’s for… some team (turns out it was the Braves). He was a great player, but I get the sense that he’s generally considered one of the weaker MVPs. In any case, he definitely moved around a lot after that successful early period in Buffalo. From there he went to New York for a while, then stopped by Boston for 20 games in 1979, just long enough to get a connection with Dave Cowens. After stints in Detroit and New Jersey, he actually stuck around with the Lakers for four years, so his connections to Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are pretty substantial. And then he retired like he worked: By first playing 29 games in Philadelphia with Charles Barkley and Dr. J. The network above doesn’t quite show it, but Moses was there too—coming full circle after their 6-minute connection on the Braves. Those two were real journeymen, but the crazy thing with McAdoo is that he was only 34 when he retired; he played just 14 seasons, but still got to 7 different teams.

One of the initial motivations behind this project was to show that the situation we’ve got on the Warriors next year—Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, two very recent MVPs, still in their prime—isn’t that unusual. But in spite of its fairly high connectivity, I think you really see just the opposite here. Only a few of these guys played together at our near their peak: Definitely Kareem/Magic and Shaq/Kobe, probably Cousy/Russell, and it’s reasonably close for Oscar/Kareem, Dr. J/Moses, and Duncan/Robinson. Everyone else is off somehow; in some cases both parties are past their prime. So that line between Durant and Curry should be pretty unique.

Still, I like all these tenuous connections. It’s the reason the two clusters are so connective, the top one connecting the 2000’s from Karl Malone to LeBron, and the bottom one stretching (thanks to Cousy’s marketing tactics and McAdoos’ travels) all the way from the 1950’s to Tim Duncan, hitting every major period in between.

Now that Duncan has retired, though, that cluster may be done. The last hope is probably Kawhi Leonard, who stands a decent chance of winning MVP sometime in the next few years. But then he or someone else will also need to migrate. Derrick Rose could be a key player here; often these guys start moving around when they’re a little worse, either because of age or, as with Rose, injury. Bill Walton is the best analogy there—a dominant force in 1977, he could’t stay healthy enough to keep going, missing multiple entire seasons. That’s probably the only reason he wound up on the Celtics, where, unlike the examples above, he was a major contributor to a title team while creating his connection to another MVP in Larry Bird. And finally, these connections often back-form; look at Moses and Robinson, or Cousy and Oscar. There’s still time for LeBron to have a late-career Shaqesque spirit journey.

One last thought: These sorts of networks get more connected very quickly if you add either a few extra nodes (more players = better odds that any one player has a teammate out there somewhere) or another principle of connection. I thought about using family members. Dell Curry, for instance, played with both Karl Malone (Jazz, ’86) and Hakeem Olajuwon (Raptors, ’02), connecting the two big clusters, and he’s the father of Steph Curry, connecting everyone to him and Durant. And the Warriors have also forged a connection to the most important man in the MVP network: In July, they re-signed back-up forward James Michael McAdoo, second cousin to Bob.

 


Notes

1. Celtic green = Celtics; Dark green = Bucks; Yellow = Lakers; Dark blue = 76ers; Red = Rockets; Gray = Spurs; Light blue = Mavericks; Pinkish purple = Suns. A few are easier to describe based on the connection: Cousy<->Robertson = Cincinnati Royals; Shaq<->James = Cavaliers; Moses<->McAdoo = Buffalo Braves. 

2. Kyrie played with Anthony Parker, who played with Rick Mahorn, who played with Wes Unseld, who played with Bob Ferry, who played with Slater Martin, who played with George Mikan. One cool thing about the Slate tool is that it incorporates other sports at the same time; for instance, LeBron James is evidently 4 degrees of separation from Mike Trout (via Damon Jones, Mark Hendrickson (who played in the NBA and MLB), and Scott Kazmir). One caveat, though, is that their data only goes to 2013.

3. This experiment and Shaq’s late-career wandering (see below) are the only reasons Dirk Nowitzki is connected to a larger network, instead of just to Nash. There’s a certain dignity to isolation in this network, I guess.

Nice Work If You Can Get It

One of the oldest battles in American political rhetoric is the one that pits bold outsiders against experienced statesmen. This election has taken that to such a ludicrous extreme that it put me in mind of a project I did back when I was first learning how to build network diagrams.1  The idea was to see Presidential employment relationships: Which Presidents held major jobs under other Presidents? Who employed the most other Presidents? The results tell us a little about the outsider/insider battle at the highest level of insiderness.

When you start to dig into this stuff, a lot of ambiguous situations arise. For instance, Ulysses S. Grant was Commanding General of the United States Army under both Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, but Johnson, characteristic of his usual interest in skilled governance, national unity, and racial progress, hated him and constantly tried to get him fired.2 Should that count? What about William McKinley, who was a major in the U.S. Army during the Civil War? Technically that means he worked for Lincoln and Grant—should that count? In the end I settled on an imperfect but easy compromise: I took any job that got its own category in the sidebar of the President’s Wikipedia page. Grant’s has his Commanding General post; McKinley’s major post doesn’t make the cut.

Here are the results:

PresidentialEmploymentSimpler

The nodes here are colored by political party and sized by betweenness centrality.3 I’ve arranged everything here to show the major clusters. What immediately stands out is that the early guys are incredibly interconnected. John Quincy Adams worked for four different Presidents (ambassador for Washington, Adams with no Q, and Madison, and Secretary of State for Monroe) and hired another, Harrison, who had also worked for his dad. Recently a lot of people, including Barack Obama, have said that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person ever to run for President, and while I think the basic gist of this is true (she’s as qualified as anyone in the last hundred years), you just can’t beat those early guys. They just insisted on hiring each other to do everything (and that’s before you factor in things like writing the Constitution).

Beyond that, you see a couple of other groups: The Lincoln Republicans, a group I call the Immigration Era Republicans,4  and then the American Empire guys—the WWI and WWII Presidents, followed by the Republican group that dominated the rest of the 20th century. It’s obvious that some things are off here; W. is clearly in the same political club as Nixon (who contributed a lot of his staffers) and George H.W. Bush (who contributed a lot of his DNA, education, baseball teams, etc.). And there are other, slightly more tenuous connections as well: The Harrisons are related, albeit separated by a generation; JFK’s dad worked for FDR; Taylor prosecuted the Mexican-American War for Polk.

Here’s another issue with this data: You may have noticed that the edges in that network are multicolored. That’s to show the nature of the job held, as detailed in this key:

EdgeKey

Most of these are probably fine (and note that “governor” only refers to appointed governorships, like when McKinley made Taft Governor-General of the Philippines), but ambassadorships are doing a ton of work here.5  Buchanan, for instance, was the ambassador to Russia under Jackson at the early stage of his bafflingly long (considering how it ended) career in national politics, which is the only reason the President in the late 1850’s is connected to George Washington. Arguably these aren’t substantial enough roles to be included in this kind of graph; that’s what happens when you let Wikipedia make the decisions for you. Still, in broad strokes, I think this really shows you something about the internecine operations of power at our highest level, and its capacity to reset every so often.

One last image: Here’s everything laid out chronologically. This time the edges are directed, so you can see, based on the arrows, who hired whom.

PresidentialEmploymentOrdered

Here the unending nature of that first group really becomes clear. If you worked for George Washington, you stood a surprisingly good chance of being in the same org chart as the guy who would one day lose seven states to secession at the start of the Civil War. You also see that the groups overlap chronologically, with Wilson and FDR crossing the 1920’s Republicans, and the Taylor/Fillmore pair interrupting the Founders’ lovefest. You also get the weird anomaly of Hoover hiring a guy who had already been the President; when he needed a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who better to choose than the man appointed governor of a territory by the man whose Vice President later appointed that same man governor of a territory? (Taft was also a judge and solicitor general under Ben Harrison—you just couldn’t keep Presidents from hiring him, even decades after he was done being President.)

The possibilities for describing these employer-employee chains are pretty fun. For instance, Wilson’s Assistant Secretary of the Navy’s Vice President’s general’s Vice President’s Vice President’s CIA Director’s running mate was Ronald Reagan (that’s Wilson-FDR-Truman-Eisenhower-Nixon-Ford-Bush-Reagan). Or, much weirder, Polk’s Secretary of State’s former boss’s former boss’s former boss’s Secretary of State’s UK ambassador’s former boss’s Vice President’s appointed governor’s Vice President was John Tyler, aka the guy Polk replaced. (That one goes Polk-Buchanan-Jackson-Monroe-Jefferson-Madison-JQA-Washington-Adams-Harrison-Tyler.)

In the recent past, we’ve had a lot more isolates than before, although, as noted, there’s a strong argument for connecting W. to the other American Empire guys. But if Clinton wins, we’ll have connections to Obama (who hired her as Secretary of State) and arguably Bill Clinton (it’s pretty odd to think of that as an employment relationship, but First Lady makes the Wikipedia sidebar—nothing I can do!). And if you’re willing to go along with all that, the only guy who would be left out of the loops in the past 120 years is Jimmy Carter, a mediocre President but arguably in the top three in terms of being a decent human being. It’s a little sad to think of him out there by himself; I think Clinton should appoint him Ambassador to Cuba for a couple days.6  It’s what the Founders would have wanted.

 

 


Notes

1. I did all of this with Gephi.

2. One strategy was to try and promote William T. Sherman ahead of Grant to dilute his power. For some reason Sherman preferred to side with Grant, which led to the odd situation of Sherman calling in political favors to battle his own promotion on the Senate floor. See Jean Edward Smith’s Grant, 452. 

3. Betweenness centrality basically measures how important a node is for connecting other groups of nodes to each other; so Jackson is big because he connects all those dark blues to the Founders. The parties here include Democrat (dark blue), Republican (red), Democratic-Republican (light blue), Federalist (yellow), Whig (green), and none (white).

4. Two reasons: 1. There’s not another good name for the period from the 1880’s-1930’s; it’s post-Reconstruction, much longer than the Gilded Age or Progressive Era, and doesn’t align well with any wars. But, 2. Tons of people immigrated to the U.S. over this period. The numbers really explode starting in the 1880’s (they double the 1870’s in the source in that link) and stay strong until the mid-1930’s.

5. In the old days they seemed to call ambassadors “ministers” (e.g., Buchanan was United States Minister to Russia). I’m assuming these jobs are close enough to the same thing for my purposes, though I’d be interested to hear if I’m wrong about that. 

6. First Provisional Governor of Cuba for the U.S.: William Howard Taft. Of course. And by the way, to answer the two questions I asked in the first paragraph and then forgot about: 25 Presidents worked for some other President; JQA and Taft each worked for 4 different Presidents, tying for first on that metric. Three Presidents hired other Presidents 4 times: Jackson hired Buchanan, and then Van Buren for three different things. Madison hired JQA and Monroe for two things apiece. And Washington hired Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, and JQA, one time apiece.

The Parable of the NBA Talents

One of the many complaints attached to Kevin Durant’s recent decision to join the Warriors is that it will wreck any semblance of parity in the NBA. There were two players who posed a threat to that team and one of them just joined it, seemingly killing all suspense about who will win the title next year (unless thinking about injuries counts as a form of suspense). It makes sense that a lot of people are mad/disgusted about this, but I think these arguments miss a key feature of NBA history: the league has almost never had parity, and it’s better when it doesn’t.

You don’t have to get too detailed to see just how skewed the NBA is (although if you want to, this Forbes article explains the financial influences pretty well). In my lifetime (30-ish years), just nine teams have won the NBA title. In the NFL, to get to nine champions you have to go all the way back to… 2007. That’s just ten seasons—nearly every time it was possible, someone new won. The NFL is often held up as the parity model to follow, and there’s a certain logic to that, since they’re the league that makes the most money even though they’re an obvious ethical catastrophe. But the NFL model just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the NBA.

If you delve a little further into the history, you see this kind of thing going all the way back. Even before it was called the NBA, the league had started a dynasty, with the Minneapolis Lakers. They won five of the first eight titles, and from there the timeline of non-parity looks like this:

NBA Non-Parity: A Timeline

1947-1954: Lakers dynasty (5 of 8 titles)

1955-56: Open season!

1957-1969: Celtics dynasty (11 of 13 titles)

1970-1979: Open season again!

1980-1989: Celtics and/or Lakers in every single Finals

1990-1998: Bulls win 6 of 8 (Rockets get the other two)

1999-2010: Lakers or Spurs in 11 of 12 Finals

2011-Present: LeBron James

You might have noticed that I switched from titles to Finals appearances partway through—when you consider these, the league looks really skewed. There have been 70 NBA Finals; the Lakers have been in 31 of those. The Celtics have appeared in another 21. So that means two teams have appeared in better than 70% of all possible Finals (12 of those times, they were playing each other).correction

Why is this like this? I have no idea. One theory is that individual players matter more in the NBA, so a transcendent talent on a particular team means more. It’s definitely true that the league still looks unequal when you phrase it in terms of individuals: Every Finals since 1999, except one, has featured LeBron, Tim Duncan, or Kobe Bryant. In fact, you can get back to 1957 with just 14 players1:

A History of the NBA Finals in 14 Players

14 NBA Finals Players Corrected - Edited

I wanted to include that because I think it’s cool, but I’m not sure the Great Man theory actually explains that much. I mean, it’s true that Russell, Magic, Kobe, and LeBron personally account for half of all NBA Finals. But LeBron had Wade, Kobe had Gasol/Shaq, Magic had Kareem, and Russell had a crappy rigged 8-team league. (I don’t like the Celtics. What was I talking about? Oh right, that obnoxious dynasties are good.) Point being, the greats required other greats to win, and it seems like a league with parity could simply have distributed some of those greats elsewhere—put Kobe on the Jazz, say, or Magic Johnson on the Pacers.2 As far as I can tell, the lack of parity just doesn’t have a great explanation (though the salary structure has clearly been the key driver in the last few years).

As you may have noticed, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can see in the little timeline above that the 1970’s were an open season. In that period eight different teams won, six of them for the first and last time (the Warriors were the seventh in that club until 2015). Compare that to the four teams of the 1980’s and it looks like a Golden Age—except that, as every curmudgeonly sportswriter agrees, the 1980’s were the real Golden Age, and the 1970’s were terrible. The league kept diluting the talent with nonsense teams (the Phoenix(?) Suns(!)), half the players were on cocaine, and there was a cooler, but not very good, competing league until halfway through the decade. It was the nadir of the NBA. The 80’s are supposed to be the Renaissance from that, the moment when the league reached its modern form, began to compete with the other major sports, and found stars who could sell things all over the world. And basically that meant two guys played each other over and over until they physically couldn’t, at which point Michael Jordan handled everything himself for the next decade.

Long story short, the NBA has never been about a fair shake for 30 teams. It has always been about a tiny oligarchy of geniuses in markets rich enough to pay two of them to trounce everyone else. If you love the NBA, apparently this is what you want to see. The people who say Kevin Durant has damaged his legacy with this move have to confront a pretty overwhelming history: Callous disregard for parity is the legacy of the NBA.


Notes

1. It’s possible there’s a more efficient way to do this, but this is the best I’ve found. To make the graphic more interesting I picked players who appeared in a lot of Finals, but in three cases (Dr. J, Larry Bird (surprisingly), and Clyde Drexler) you can swap them with any random player from 1977, 1981, and 1990, respectively, since those are the only Finals in which they appear without someone else on the list. One other combination I found that also involves 14 players would swap Wade for LeBron. This gets you the Heatles titles plus 2006. Then you can eliminate Shaq (Kobe covers the rest of his) and make up LeBron’s difference with Steph Curry (or Iguodala, Kyrie, Draymond, Dellavedova, etc.). I went with LeBron since I mention him a lot elsewhere in the article.

2. Technically I had to imagine this in order to write it, but I still feel like I can’t quite imagine it.

This post has been corrected: Originally I had the Celtics going to 20 Finals, and the two teams meeting 11 times. I’m not sure what happened—I guess I overlooked one.
 

 

VPs Are Important

Matthew Yglesias at Vox makes an excellent point in a recent post: The choice of Vice President is one of the most important that a President can make.1  I thought it might be worthwhile to summarize his argument in slightly more qualitative terms.

To date, 14 of our Presidents arrived at the job through the Vice Presidency.2 That’s almost exactly one third of the people who have been President. It’s also about 30% of the people who have been Vice President (we’ve had 47 so far). So that pretty much confirms Yglesias’s point by itself: I doubt there’s any better predictor of future Presidency than having been VP, and evidently there’s no talent pool voters like to raid more than that one.3

Also persuasive is the fact that 9 of our Presidents (about one in five) got the job automatically simply by virtue of being the VP. Eight Presidents died in office, and one resigned. This is a terrible rate of completion; 20% of the people who have held that office haven’t made it to the end of their elected terms. It’s true that no President has left office early in about 40 years, and I think you could argue that the most chaotic days are behind us (e.g., in the forty years stretching from Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt, three Presidents were murdered). Still, the idea that the VP is a heartbeat away from the Presidency is actually pretty well borne out in our history. And those days are not entirely behind us: Four of our Presidents have died of natural causes. Medicine is better today, but so far people still die sometimes.

VicePresidents

Finally, Yglesias notes that even when VPs don’t ascend to the Presidency, they often become the nominees for major parties—further proving the importance of the job. Perusing the list of VPs, I only see four people who ran but failed to win: John Breckinridge served under Buchanan and lost to Lincoln, Hubert Humphrey served under LBJ and lost to Nixon, Walter Mondale served under Carter and lost to Reagan, and Al Gore served under Clinton and lost to W.4  Across all of American history, this appears to be a slightly weaker part of Yglesias’s argument, but three of the four examples are from the past fifty years, so it might be that it’s more relevant today than the raw counts suggest.

So there you have it: If history is any guide, there is a very strong chance that the VP on the winning ticket will become President later on. You could make the argument that, historically, it’s apparently about a third as important a job as the Presidency, since it eventually is the Presidency one third of the time. And that’s pretty important; unless I’m incredibly mistaken about the readership of this blog, it beats your job by a wide margin. So this gives us a rare opportunity to say, realistically, that we hope Clinton doesn’t screw up as badly as Abraham Lincoln.5

 


1. This is especially obvious, as Yglesias notes, in the case of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson; if anything, Yglesias understates the extent to which Johnson was a complete disaster—appointing him was the single worst decision Lincoln made as President, and one of the worst things that ever happened to Civil Rights in the United States, which is saying something.

2. The 14 are Adams I, Jefferson, Van Buren, Tyler, Fillmore, Johnson I, Arthur, Teddy, Coolidge, Truman, Nixon, Johnson II, Ford, and Bush I. This is all from Wikipedia and other easily accessible sources (I think you could probably glean it from the Yglesias post with a little work). All I’m trying to do here is compile and summarize it.

3. As far as better predictors for becoming President, you’re pretty much limited to things that only apply to one person (e.g., “being George Washington”, or “marrying Mary Todd”). It’s actually pretty hard to think of another good smartass answer that works—I thought of “sharing at least 50% of John Adams’s DNA”, but he had six kids (and two parents), so the rate of 2/9 is actually slightly worse than for VPs. (George H.W. Bush has had 6 kids, too). Another important milestone for Hillary Clinton if she were elected would be adding “being Chelsea Clinton’s parent” to this list. 

4. It seems weird that they’re all Democrats. Supposedly conservatives like hierarchy more, which might mean they’d turn out to vote for the guy who seems like the next guy in line, but it could also be a coincidence—it is just four guys. I didn’t include George Clinton in this list; he got a few electoral votes in 1808, but it was while he was running for (and already serving as) VP. You also might double count Nixon as a losing candidate for his party and a future President, since he was both, in that order. 

5. Trump, of course, will surely pick Donald Sterling

Trump’s Favorite Joke

Recently I came across a trail of bizarre, hilarious campaign rhetoric from Donald Trump that leads right to two of the core questions about his whole political presence. These questions are as fascinating as they are profoundly disturbing:

  1. Does he actually mean the things that he says?
  2. Does he know the answer to question one?

I’m afraid that I have not reached a conclusive answer to either question; as a society, we may never get there. But this is a pretty illuminating glimpse beneath the hood.

It all started with this Tweet, which I saw on Friday (June 17):

Click through and you’ll see a transcript of a speech Trump gave in Texas. Like most Trump transcripts, it gives you plenty to think about, but the highlight is this:

But we’re gonna start winning again. We’re gonna win so much, you people are gonna get sick of it. You’re gonna come up and they’re gonna call me up from Texas. “Mr. Trump, sir, you have thousands and thousands of calls from Texas. They’re all your friends. They heard you speak one night. Mr. Trump! They’re very upset. President Trump, they’re very upset.”
[APPLAUSE]
They’re gonna walk in and they’re gonna say – go ahead, what the hell –
[“TRUMP!” CHANTS]
They’re gonna walk in. They’re gonna say, “President Trump! Thousands and thousands of calls from Texas – they are so upset with you, Mr. President. They can’t stand the amount with which you’re winning by.

He goes on in this vein for a long time, detailing the many ways he will win (“on trade”, “at the border”, “with your military”, “on health care”, “with Common Core”, and by having “saved the Second Amendment 100%!”).1 The imaginary Texas public keeps begging him to stop, and he refuses.

Of course, this is bizarre stuff. On the one hand, he develops this id-driven, parodic version of a platform consisting of simply listing policy areas, announcing that he will win at them, and moving on. On the other, far more confusing hand, he goes to great lengths to describe the people pleading with him to stop winning so much. This is a man who, again, is running for actual President of a country, so the amazement in that Tweet seems warranted. But oddly enough, Trump’s routine rang a bell for me.

This might be because Trump has done this before. People who are plugged in to conservative media may know this already, but this idea that the American people will beg Trump to stop winning is one of his favorite bits. A little research shows him using very similar rhetoric at an NRA rally in Louisville on May 20, in Billings, Montana on May 16, in Syracuse on April 16, in South Carolina on February 19, at Liberty University on January 18, and in Reno on January 10. My favorite write-up is probably this one by Jack Moore in GQ (describing a speech in Albany on April 12). Like me and other liberal elitists, he mistakenly interprets what he’s seeing as a one-time meltdown, where a Trump voter would likely recognize it as the reliable, beloved bit of rhetorical gold that its constant reuse shows it to be.  But Moore also goes on to say (correctly I think ):

But if it’s possible, the weirdest part of the rant wasn’t the fact that the TrumpBot4500’s wiring short circuited leading him to just repeat the words “win” and “winning” so many times that they began to lose all meaning. No, the weirdest part of the rant was the picture it painted of a world, where Trump is President and he makes America win so much that the American people actually beg him to stop winning.

I guess what I’m really noticing here is that simply offering a straightforward description of this speech act is fascinating.2

But the use on the campaign trail wasn’t what I was remembering. With some modest additional research, I suddenly remembered that Trump did nearly the exact same thing in a sketch on Saturday Night Live (here’s a Hulu link if that works for you).

Winning

For most of the sketch, various characters just tell Trump how well things are going; Putin has backed down, the economy is in great shape, etc. It’s not great comedy: The actors seem uncomfortable, the audience isn’t laughing much, and, as we’re about to see, the whole thing feels way too much like Trump’s actual campaign rhetoric, because at around 2:55 Taran Killam’s character enters and says:

“We have got a big problem. It’s the American people, sir. They’re just sick of winning! They’re winning so much! It’s just too great, sir.”

As he did in Texas, Trump insists that people are just going to have to accept the winning. The sketch ends with a direct address to the camera in which he insists that his actual Presidency will be even better.

Now, to be clear, I don’t think Trump completely stole this whole idea from Saturday Night Live. He hosted on November 7, 2015, and he was talking about people begging him to stop winning at least as far back as September, 2015. As far as I can tell, this is the first time it goes on at this length, or where various policy areas are mentioned as areas where he has won without any specifics (if anything, SNL has more policy detail than the bit in his Texas speech). So it is certainly possible that some of his favorite campaign lines were actually written by comedy writers who were making fun of him.

Still, we don’t necessarily need to ask whether a man running for President of the United States has based a key part of his campaign speeches on a lightly plagiarized version of a comedy sketch.3 The important thing, the part that no one can argue, is that a key part of his campaign speeches appeared in a comedy sketch, where it was a joke; and furthermore, he clearly knows about this, because he was there, helping make fun of it.

The rational explanation for the appearance of this routine in so many of Trump’s later speeches is that he’s joking; it’s hyperbole for comedic effect, just something to amuse the crowd. I want this to be true, because he might be the President someday. But I can’t quite believe it.

For one thing, the crowd doesn’t treat it like a joke. If you listen to that speech in Texas, they aren’t really laughing; they’re cheering. For another, there are way too many platform-style talking points in these moments, things that you’re not supposed to turn into a big joke. His constituents don’t think it’s funny to say that you’ve eliminated Common Core or “saved the Second Amendment 100%”. Those are genuine policy goals that they take seriously. Politicians don’t make jokes about that stuff—you didn’t see Obama working the crowd by saying, “You’ll all say, Mr. President, how’d you get us out of Iraq so fast?” The basic reason you don’t do that is that it’s only a joke if you obviously won’t achieve those goals—it’s not a joke to just list stuff you think will happen. So does he really expect to get rid of Common Core, or is this something like the idea of people begging him to stop winning—funny only because it’s clearly absurd?

This brings us back to the two questions at the top of the post. For question one, we would seem to have an obvious answer, at least in this one little corner of Trump’s speeches. Does he mean what he says? Surely not, since: 1) These things are flagrantly absurd, and 2) He appeared in a show making fun of these things as obvious jokes.

Yet we also know that 1) He keeps mixing this obvious joke with his actual policy, 2) The crowds cheer rather than laughing. And all of this is made only more confusing by the fact that the reality appears to be warping to fit the TV comedy show—the bit just keeps getting longer and more absurd, to the point that in Texas Trump was performing lines for both himself and his fictional exhausted public.

I think we also have to add one last consideration: Do we have any evidence, from any point in his history, that Trump ever didn’t think he was going to win? However you define winning, doesn’t it seem like he genuinely believes (this may be his most genuine belief) that he is going to triumph? This is where we get back to Question 2. What does Trump think he’s doing up there on stage? He was in the sketch, but does he know it’s a joke? Did some part of him doubt it was truly a joke even when he was on the show? Is he able to hold both beliefs at once, simultaneously knowing that he’s repeating a joke, and truly believing that everything he’s describing will come true in real life?

In the end, I don’t think we can ever know. Is he joking, lying, or just wrong? The answer requires a journey into the mind of Trump. It’s a journey only he can make; but I’m not sure even he knows if he ever has.


1. Also like most Trump transcripts, this one contains a lot of phrases that sound like bad machine translations. On Common Core, for instance, he says, “You’re gonna end it and bring education local”, and again, that other one is “they can’t believe you’ve saved the Second Amendment 100%!”

2. Marlow, in Heart of Darkness: “There’s no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination–you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.”

3. I haven’t seen him credit the SNL writers/cast in his speeches, for what I take to be obvious reasons, but I don’t want to accuse him of anything—maybe he has (this would be kind of incredible).