Sunday 7 February 2016

Whatever one thinks of him, Trump is a genius

I was arguing with a Romanian friend (Romanians are often tremendous intellectual snobs) who insisted that Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and George W Bush were all too stupid to be president.

About Sarah there is no question. But not about the others.

Stupid people do not do what Trump has done, destroy the Bush dynasty, outsmart the Republican party and runs rings round every other politician. He is a born natural for politics. Think Tony Blair in England, Ion Iliescu in Romania.  Of course, it's intuitive with Trump, as with Berlusconi, Blair and Putin. Hitler too, I suppose, and probably Pericles. All great politicians and artists are intuitive.

I long considered Putin a stupid man in many ways, a poor strategist but a very good tactician. (I remember an English friend of mine, who lived in Russia, telling me 'Russians
don't do clever, they do brutal'.) Seeing how he's doing in Syria this week I have revised my opinion. He is clever and more strategic than I thought. Like Trump, whom he admires, he is street-smart. In terms of academic intelligence Putin rates very low, of course. George W. Bush and Blair have upper second class minds (Yale and Oxford respectively), which is the best thing for CEOs and leaders. Too many brains often makes you indecisive. Mrs Thatcher had an upper second class mind. 

The cleverest recent leaders were Macmillan, certainly Pope Benedict XVI and possibly Obama. Academic brilliance explains why Benedict caused Muslim outrage by quoting the the Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos's opinion of Islam and Obama's indecisiveness and lack of the common touch.  

There is no close connection between intelligence and being a good political leader. Ford was stupid, but a good president. Carter clever and a failure, though not so bad as he is nowadays painted. 

I don't know whether Mitterand had a first class academic mind but he had amazing cunning, which I wish Angela Merkel possessed. Maybe being French and German have something to do with it, but Bismarck was a lot more cunning than Napoleon III or almost anyone else. 

Though, on second thoughts, Mitterand did for us all when he insisted over Kohl's objections that Greece had to be in the euro because
It's the country of Plato and Aristotle.
Not a clever idea.


  1. As usual you miss the point on Putin altogether, so focused as you are on the threat of Islamists . Putin is not clever or strategic in Syria .He remains as low brow and brutal in his tactics as ever ! Above that he is desperate. Faced at home by an admittedly slow slip of control and an ever accelerated rate of complaint over the economy and the enrichment of his circle he knows two things only. Firstly that he cannot afford politically another Afghanistan ( circa 83 ) just another foreign adventure where he has to return tail between legs, that would hasten his demise, showing he could be beaten . Secondly he cannot afford an extended foreign adventure, the coffers are running low, if they run too low he will not be able to appease with cash at home also leading to design.
    He has already achieved his primary objective which was to draw EU eyes from Ukraine and drive a tide of refugees and migrants into Europe, mainly by attacking targets based not upon their theology, but their immediate threat to Assad and his own position on the Mediterranean, he only looks now for an exit , as every day goes by his own internal Islamic population gets nervous. How much longer will his tame Rottweiler in Chechnya survive the assassins bullet?

    Of course he could start a Holy war, a crusade against Islam the likes of which we have not seen since the late Middle Ages , I'm certain there are thousands of rabid friendly idiots throughout the West some of whom would fight, some of whom would sing his praises for doing so.

  2. I am not focused on Islamists. I am focussed on wanting peace in Syria. I don't see why Putin's desperation precludes him being clever - but people look clever when they win as he is doing in Syria. (Like Mr Cameron after his election victory which surprised everyone, most of all him.) Your comment about a holy war does not make sense.

  3. I think I did say his methods are low brow and thuggish not clever. Saying he is winning in Syria is like saying The USA was technically ahead during the Tet offensive. Small victories are not winning, he has probably extended the war in Syria rather than moved it to any end. When I next see you and like the look of your wristwatch, I'll make sure to punch you hard in the face and take it because I'm bigger and have more of a capability an propensity to violence than you. I'm fairly sure if I time it right and perhaps time it with a dinner replete with wine I can get away with it. Perhaps he fell while in grape? Does it make me clever to consider this? Cunning and opportunistic perhaps. David Cameron was lucky in his timing , John Major was much cleverer as a man, less so as a political player
    That my comment on a Holy war shows that you don't understand Sun Tzu or Putin. " hence to fight and conquer in your battles is not supreme excellence, excellence and intelligence consists in breaking the enemies resistance without fighting."
    Putin thinks low, always. A war based upon religious us and them would suit him politically in his near zone of influence.It would go down very well with large factions of Polish, Czech, Hungarian and yes even Romanian society . If he thought he could start it and direct the aftermath mostly south and west from Syria he would do so tomorrow, to an extent he maintains its potential by not seriously engaging IS, but he fears that to push it as anything but a last resort would engulf the Caucaus too. Make no bones though it is in his quiver. Hitler and Mussolini looked just as competent and invincible in 1941 , they walked together as happily as Putin and Berlesconni do today . The only field more mercurial than warfare though is politics. If Obama , Cameron or Orban had their backs to a wall in a domestic political situation it is doubtful they would resort to the tactics of all out external war to distract, Putin would burn his own children, he has already said the greatest traitors to Russia were Gorbacev and Yeltsin who gave away power, that holding onto it at any cost is his only aim.

    1. Putin cannot lead a war against Islam nor wants to. 6.5% of the total population of Russia was Muslim as of 2012. Assad is a Muslim and almost all his regime.

      Most East Europeans are even more afraid of Russia than of Muslims. Certainly Poles and Romanians, though not Serbs.

      Putin as he must know is playing with fire in fighting ISIS and will want to exit Syria quickly which is good for everyone.

      I wonder why Muslims seem to feel aggrieved at America and not Russia. Perhaps because Russia is backing one side in a civil war that started years before Russia got involved, rather than starting a war as the US and UK did in Iraq.

      Hitler and Lenin were evil but certainly geniuses. I wouldn't call Stalin one, though - though a cunning psychopath - and certainly not Putin, who is a street smart ruthless thug.

      The cleverest British Prime Ministers of the 20th century were Balfour and Brown who were utter failures. Salisbury who was a wonderful Prime Minister counts too, then Macmillan, a solid PM, then I suppose Wilson, who won elections but achieved what? The Open University, he said, was his proudest achievement. Eden was very bright and another failure.

      Churchill who failed academically and Lloyd George who didn't go to university stand out as the ablest. Dear Lord Home, no scholar, and Baldwin, who took a Third, were pretty good. John Major was hopeless, though better than Brown.