Politicians and Their Imaginary Friends

Politicians and Their Imaginary Friends
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Donald Trump is accused of having an imaginary friend “Jim” who doesn’t visit Paris anymore because “Paris is no longer Paris.” Trump often mentioned Jim during his campaign when he wanted to criticize immigration laws in Europe and link them to terrorist attacks. The Jim story got considerably more play after a reporter in Paris asked Trump about Jim and whether Paris is still unsafe. President Trump ignored the question about Jim, and now seems to feel that President Macron has made Paris great again. How? By warmly shaking hands with Trump and emulating the royal treatment Trump received in Saudi Arabia.

This is going to be one of those rare times I defend Donald Trump—sort of. Even though he might have invented Jim for the occasion, it was one of Trump’s more plausible and reasonable lies. There are plenty of American Jims, Toms, Dicks, and Harrys who no longer visit Paris (or London) for whatever reason. I would not be totally shocked if there’s an actual Jim for the Trump story, though not his imaginary twitter friend Jim “Covfefe.” All we know about Jim is that he’s “a very, very substantial guy,” which I would translate in Trump World to mean wealthy.

I’m less bothered by Trump’s lies about imaginary friends than by his lies about imaginary enemies when those lies have political consequences. Examples include his “seeing” thousands and thousands of Muslims cheer in Jersey City when the twin towers came down, and justifying his controversial Voter Fraud Commission by insisting that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in last year’s election. And who can forget Trump’s unnamed investigators in Hawaii who claimed to have evidence that Obama was hiding his birth certificate, probably because he’s a secret Muslim who was not born in this country? This lie gave Trump much-wanted publicity that might have led to his nomination for president.

When Trump began to gain ground as a candidate, he reminded me of 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot. Both were politically inexperienced, populist billionaires with inflated egos who spoke in superlatives and had simple solutions to complex problems, and both were used to getting their own way while relying primarily on family members and a staff who pledged loyalty. Perot, Like Trump, promoted unfounded conspiracies. He claimed that in response to his efforts to free POWs held in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese hired the Black Panthers to assassinate him. He also said that five Black Panther members tried to break into his house, but his guard dog chased them away. The man in charge of securing Perot's estate, along with the FBI, said it never happened. Perot dropped out of the presidential race because he allegedly uncovered a Republican Party plot to disrupt his daughter’s wedding.

Maybe I shouldn’t generalize with a sample size of just 2, but it seems the difference between experienced and inexperienced politicians is that the experienced ones know how to tell more plausible lies.

This brings me to the imaginary friend of many experienced politicians: God. Some believe that friend is real and others don’t. For political reasons, most not only claim that God is real, but that they also talk to him on a regular basis. This can become a genuine problem if God talks back. As psychologist Thomas Szasz said, “If you talk to God, you are praying. If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.”

Whatever a politician’s religious views, I want him or her to make rational decisions based on facts and evidence, and consistent with our secular Constitution. We started a war in Iraq after President George W. Bush supposedly consulted a “higher” father, rather than his “lower” father, the previous Bush president, who probably would have advised against it. George W. Bush also referred to the Iraq War as a “crusade,” possibly not understanding the horrible history of the Christian Crusades.

Politicians sometimes decide what they want to do, and then justify it by claiming they are following God’s plan. Perhaps “Jim” is the voice President Trump hears when he seeks support for what he wants to do. This gives new meaning to Lord Jim, a novel I read many years ago.

Finally, regarding imaginary friends, even though I’m an atheist I wish more politicians would take a look at the advice given in 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man (or woman), I put away childish things.”

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