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Trump may be dumb, but he's a talented con man

By Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

Even if Trump doesn't read, can't follow a logical argument and has the attention span of a fruit fly, it still doesn't follow that he's stupid.

There's another form of intelligence: "emotional intelligence."

Emotional intelligence is a concept developed by two psychologists, John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire, and Yale's Peter Salovey, and it was popularized by Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book of the same name.

Mayer and Salovey define emotional intelligence as the ability to do two things -- "understand and manage our own emotions," and "recognize and influence the emotions of others." Granted, Trump hasn't displayed much capacity for the first. He's thin-skinned, narcissistic, and vindictive. As dozens of Republican foreign policy experts put it, "He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate criticism."

OK, but what about Mayer and Salovey's second aspect of emotional intelligence -- influencing the emotions of others?

This is where Trump shines. He knows how to manipulate people. He has an uncanny ability to discover their emotional vulnerabilities -- their fears, anxieties, prejudices and darkest desires -- and use them for his own purposes.

To put it another way, Trump is an extraordinarily talented con man.

He's always been a con man. He conned hundreds of young people and their parents into paying to attend his near-worthless Trump University. He conned banks into lending him more money even after he repeatedly failed to pay them. He conned contractors to work for him and then stiffed them.

Granted, he hasn't always been a great con man. Had he been, his cons would have paid off.

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By his own account, in 1976, when Trump was starting his career, he was worth about $200 million, much of it from his father. He said recently that he's worth some $8 billion. If he'd just put the original $200 million into an index fund and reinvested the dividends, he'd be worth $12 billion today.

But he's been a great political con man. He conned nearly 63 million Americans into voting for him in November 2016 by getting them to believe his lies about Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and all the "wonderful," "beautiful" things he'd do for the people who supported him.

And he's still conning many of them.

Political conning is Trump's genius. This genius -- combined with his utter stupidity in seemingly every other dimension of his being -- poses a clear and present danger to America and the world.

The 25th Amendment must be invoked before it's too late.

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(Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," now available in paperback. His film "Inequality for All" is available on Amazon, DVD and On Demand, and his documentary "Saving Capitalism" is now on Netflix. His daily blog is at www.facebook.com/RBReich/.)

 

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