Understanding Donald Trump

Although many, perhaps most, Americans clearly have strong opinions about President Donald J. Trump, pro and con, few really understand him. This is true not only for his #neverTrump haters, deeply afflicted with TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) as they undoubtedly are, but for the majority of his more-or-less supporters as well.

This was egregiously demonstrated by some generally pro-Trump Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Trey Gowdy who at least briefly joined the Democrats and the MSM (mainstream media) in their cringing, hand-wringing reaction to Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin. Gingrich and Gowdy clearly failed to understand what, in fact, President Trump was (and is) doing with Putin (and the EU, NATO, North Korea and much more), why, and how he is doing it. They just don’t get it.

The key to understanding Trump is actually quite easy; quite simple. But it is so different from contemporary ‘conventional wisdom’ that for most folks, it is like the late Chicago comedian Lord Buckley‘s characterization of the bear dance in his delightful “God’s Own Drunk” comedy monologue about the whiskey still: “It was like the jitterbug. It was so simple it evaded me!”

We actually indicated the key to understanding Trump in the very first post here on semiotic.com back in the wee hours of the night on December 16, 2015 when we confidently (and correctly) said:

The Professional Pontificators got it wrong, again. They are all over the place trying to make sense of last night’s (Tuesday, 15 December, 2015) Republican debate and they are as clueless as ever. Trump is going to win. He’s going to win the Republican nomination. He’s going to win the general election in November 2016. And he’s going to win by a lot. Here’s why (and how).


He is also not the least bit crazy, erratic, impulsive, or reckless. His ‘crazy’ is entirely as in “crazy like a fox”. It is deliberate, conscious, carefully crafted, and used as an instrument (or, when necessary, weapon) to get the results he aims to get. Whether he has ever read it or not, he embodies the practical wisdom described in Thomas Cleary’s “Thunder in the Sky: Secrets on the Acquisition and Exercise of Power”, a brilliant translation of two Chinese Taoist classics: “The Master of Demon Valley” and “The Master of the Hidden Storehouse.”

But the most concise statement of the real key to understanding Trump is in another of Cleary’s books: The Book of Leadership and Strategy,  a translation from the Huainanzi, characterized on Wikipedia as “an ancient Chinese text that consists of a collection of essays that resulted from a series of scholarly debates held at the court of Liu AnKing of Huainan, sometime before 139 BC.”

The most concise key to understanding Trump may be found on page 69 of  The Book of Leadership and Strategy. It is as follows:

The way of the warrior is to show others softness but meet them with firmness, to show others weakness but to surmount them with strength, to shrink back from them but reach out to counter them.

When where you are coming from is not where you are going, and what you show is not what you plan, then no one can tell what you are doing. You are like lightning — no one can anticipate where it will strike, and it never strikes twice in the same place.

Therefore, your victories can be one hundred percent complete, in communion with hidden knowledge. When no one knows your door, this is called supreme genius.

Trump’s enemies (foreign as well as domestic) and even most of his friends simply do not understand this. Most never will.