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March 03, 2018


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Patrick S. O'Donnell

Anthony, Thanks again for another marvelously informative and enjoyable post.

The conclusion is, I think, impeccable, but we can infer from Trump’s behavior (both prior to assuming the presidency and his term in office to date) that he could never come to feel gratitude, or even some sense of objective appreciation, for the 22nd Amendment (in this case, of course, retrospectively speaking, as I doubt Trump has ever seriously entertained, or could entertain, the belief that Obama would have defeated him had he been permitted to run for a third term) if only because it serves as a constitutional constraint, and constraints, let alone constitutional ones, are difficult for him to wrap his mind around, especially if they happen to apply—directly or indirectly—to him, owing to his pathological narcissism (we don’t in this instance require the intimate privacy and authoritative atmosphere of ‘the clinic’ to make a symptomatic diagnosis of narcissistic megalomania).* Indeed, insofar as they have any real or possible application to his own desires, plans, and actions, Trump habitually views constraints simpliciter with dislike or disdain. Furthermore, the idea of “self-binding” constraints that are in some sense beneficial to an agent are likely incomprehensible to or unimaginable for him. So, for example, the idea that one would intentionally create obstacles to one’s future choice of some specific option or options, in the form of pre-commitment (which, as Jon Elster explains, ‘embodies a certain form of rationality over time’) would also appear to him as incoherent, perhaps nonsensical. While some might cite Trump’s refusal to drink and smoke as evidence to the contrary, I suggest we can safely assume Trump’s motivations here did not fall within the class of reasons that are dispassionate or disinterested, nor was it likely motivated by rational self-interest. At best, given his narcissism personality disorder (NPD), it was an instance of a person in the grip of one or more passions (anger, fear, love, shame, and so forth) pre-committing himself against another “passion” (or desire or craving), hence its “one-off” character or quality, and thus not something one would associate with any possible cluster of dispositions, personality traits, or aspects of character, in other words, as indicative of someone who employs pre-commitment devices or rational self-binding with the requisite self-discipline and self-knowledge to understand their moral psychological value or worth.

* For the argument to this effect, please see Alex Morris’ Rolling Stone article, “Why Trump Is Not Mentally Fit to Be President” (25 April 2017), a discussion and summary of which is found in my short essay, “Donald Trump & Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD),” available on my Academia page.

Deep State Special Legal Counsel

If somebody told him that jumping into Lake Michigan was a good idea, he would do it. Thank god for our judges, lawyers, local officials, administrators, the Press who all know how to be small "d" democrats. Thank god for Tocqueville's "fragmentation."


"It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that Barack Obama—a president vastly more popular than either Clinton or Trump."

This is a myth. Barack Obama's average job approval rating during his eight years in office ranked among the lowest in Gallup's history. Other polls, like Rasmussen's, had him even lower. I'd also like to see the actual data, picking a reliable poll, that shows that an incumbent president's job approval or "popularity" v. the challenger's is a decisive factor.

Much of what is written above about the recent election is wishful thinking, born of a political longing to be right (about the fact that the current president really didn't "win"), especially 1.) the bogus comparison of state vote totals (take out California, if you want to play that game), 2.) the reliance on the popular vote (not the way the game is played sir, else candidates would allocate resources differently, and you should know that) and 3.) the emphasis on close elections (can't wait for your analysis of the first Franken election).

THis is more of a MSNBC style analysis: leave out the facts that don't support your point and twist the ones that do.

Deep State Special Legal Counsel

anon^^^Where did you get your facts? From the same guy who told another dude that Trump told him that 10 Million people attended his inaugural?

A simple Bing/Google search reveals that Obama's approval ratings with Gallup remained in the 50-60s. While our current Man of Steel remains mired in the 30s.


here's another whopper:

"Bush languished under Reagan's shadow and never really connected with the GOP base, as evidenced by his defeat in his 1992 reelection bid."

Oh, let's see, Barack Obama was "popular" because at the end of his term, WHEN HE WAS LEAVING OFFICE AND INITIATING NOTHING TO GENERATE CONTROVERSY, his "popularity hit unusual highs.

But, Bush "never connected" with his base because he lost his bid for reelection. Again, myth.

According to Gallup, Bush HW was at 56% when he left office, compared with Obama at 59%. Go to the Gallup website, and compare ratings, over their terms. HW's overall average was 61%, with a high of 89%. Obama's overall average was 48%.

The reasons HW lost his bid for reelection may have something to do with Ross Perot. As you may know, Clinton won with 43% of the vote. Clinton received 44M votes; together, HW and Perot received 58M. If you study Perot, you will know that arguments that he didn't take more from HW are weak and implausible. Perot was a Texas businessman who could not be considered, by any stretch, a "liberal."

I appreciate the superficial veneer of objectivity when you write about history, but, your politics are clouding your judgment when it comes to more recent events.


I don't usually respond to the person above, but, as usual, he calls others "liars" and his posts are gross and sickening...

Go to Gallup and see for yourself. The statement above regarding Obama's average job approval rating can be found there, almost verbatim.

Hugh Brady

While I get the "hook" and this was interesting to read, the post rests on what I would call the "Barry Allen" fallacy ( -- that all things in the past remain equal even if you change just one fact. There's simply no way to know if Trump would have been nominated if Obama sought a third term. The Gallup average for Obama's second term was 46.7; he was under 50 percent at the beginning of 2016 and was at 48-47 as late as July 2016 (although it rebounded thereafter). As you suggest, the high approval ratings at the end are perhaps a direct reflection of the public's view of him vs. Trump, but likely not a reflection of whether he could have won against another nominee. Fatigue among voters is another real factor, and one not completely accounted for here.

Moreover, if a president were eligible for a third term, that would also likely change the political calculus for second-term decision-making. That is, the decisions become less about burnishing the legacy that they become about seeking re-election. That might also have an effect on poll numbers -- which way, I'm not sure.

As an aside, Reagan was suffering some sort of cognitive degeneration by the time he left office and was so bad by the time he was deposed in 1990 about Iran-Contra, he could remember so little that he remarked that it was almost like he had never been president. It's unclear if Nancy Reagan fancied herself to be an Edith Wilson, but given her protectiveness, it's entirely possible she wouldn't have let him run again.


The Gallup ranking of average job approval ratings below really does hit home the absurdity of the claim that HW "languished under Reagan's shadow and never really connected with the GOP base" and gives lie to the myth that Obama was a considered a highly competent president (George W. Bush was ranked higher folks!).

When you live in a bubble, and just assume that everything your side says is true and everything "they" say is false, you end up being risibly wrong about basic facts.

Jan. 20, 1961-Nov. 22, 1963 70.1

Jan. 20, 1953-Jan. 19, 1961 65.0

G.H.W. Bush
Jan. 20, 1989-Jan. 19, 1993 60.9

Jan. 20, 1993-Jan. 19, 2001 55.1

Nov. 22, 1963-Jan. 19, 1969 55.1

Jan. 20, 1981-Jan. 19, 1989 52.8

G.W. Bush
Jan. 20, 2001-Jan. 19, 2009 49.4

Jan. 20, 1969-Aug. 9, 1974 49.0

Jan. 20, 2009-Jan. 19, 2017 47.9

Aug. 9, 1974-Jan. 19, 1977 47.2

Jan. 20, 1977-Jan. 19, 1981 45.5

April 12, 1945-Jan 19, 1953 45.4


BTW, if Obama had run for a third term, then Trump wouldn't have been nominated. My speculation is as good as yours, sir, and you can't prove me wrong any more than you can prove, by cherry picking isolated facts of particularly questionable relevance, your points.

Anthony Gaughan

Thank you for your comments, Patrick. I'll be sure to check out your article!

Anthony Gaughan

Thank you for your comments, anon.

Two quick points of clarification before I address your broader point.

First, when I watch television news, I watch CNN, not MSNBC. So instead of claiming that I get all of my information from Rachel Maddow, you should claim that I get all of my information from Anderson Cooper.

Second, I'm not sure why you interpreted my point about conservatives distrusting Bush Senior as some sort of indictment of his historical legacy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, I personally think that George H.W. Bush (i.e. Bush Senior) was quite a good president, certainly the best one-term president in modern history. He handled the 1991 Gulf War and the end of the Cold War exceptionally well, and he pursued fiscally responsible policies regarding the budget deficit. The economic boom in the mid to late 1990s was due in no small part to Bush Senior's fiscal restraint in the early 1990s. It's also all too often overlooked that he signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation that continues to have many positive ramifications today.

Thus, in my view, George Bush Senior had a remarkable record of accomplishment during his four years in office (1989-93).

But that doesn't change the fact that conservatives never trusted him. In 1980 Bush ran in the GOP presidential primaries as a moderate Republican, which is precisely why Reagan took him on as a running mate. Adding Bush Senior as the vice presidential nominee brought ideological balance to Reagan's presidential ticket.

But conservatives continued to view Bush as a Rockefeller Republican throughout Reagan's presidency. Accordingly, to allay conservative distrust, Bush made his famous "No New Taxes" pledge at the 1988 GOP convention. Those words, of course, came back to haunt him when he turned around as president and raised taxes. Conservatives never forgave him for it.

Indeed, as you may recall, Pat Buchanan ran against Bush Senior in the 1992 GOP primaries. Although Buchanan failed to win any primaries, his ferocious attacks on Bush's tax hike and Buchanan's allegation that Bush was insufficiently conservative contributed to Bush's rapid slide in the polls in 1992. Indeed, Bush went from a high of 89% approval in March 1991 down to 51% in November 1991 to a low of 29% approval in August 1992.

Ross Perot added insult to injury, by relentlessly (and falsely) claiming that Bush Senior was fiscally irresponsible. Factor in the 1990-91 recession, and there is no mystery left as to why Bush Senior collapsed in the polls.

Indeed, in the final Gallup Poll before the November 1992 presidential election, Bush Senior's approval rating stood at only 37%. That Gallup Poll proved to be extremely accurate, because do you know what percentage of the vote Bush Senior won on election day 1992: 37%.

You are absolutely right, however, that voters almost immediately had buyer's remorse. After he lost, Bush Senior's approval rating rapidly rose, reaching 56% in January 1993. But of course, by then it was too late.

The key point is I don't think your use of the presidents' average rating during the entire course of their presidency sheds much light on the matter of which presidents were in a position to win a third term (in the absence of the 22nd Amendment).

For example, it's not "cherry picking" the evidence to say that in November 2008--when George W. Bush (i.e. Bush Junior) would have hypothetically been up for a third term (in the absence, of course, of the 22nd Amendment)--his approval rating was only 28%. The election day approval rating is what matters, not the approval rating months before or after the election (just ask Bush Senior!).

In contrast, Obama's approval rating was 57% the week of the November 2016 presidential election.

The bottom line is the approval rating in November of the president's 8th year in office is the number that matters for determining whether each of the two-term presidents would have been viable candidates for a third term in office.

In any case, thanks again for reading The Faculty Lounge, and please keep commenting!

Anthony Gaughan

Thank you for your comments, Hugh. I think all of your points are excellent.

You are absolutely right that there is nothing certain whatsoever about counterfactual speculation. It's of course 100% true to say that we really don't know what would have happened in the absence of the 22nd Amendment.

But nevertheless I still think that counterfactual analysis is helpful for gaining at least a little insight into the historical ramifications of major events and constitutional developments, such as the adoption of the 22nd Amendment. Indeed, if we don't think about what could have been, then we never really fully grasp what did happen.

I also agree completely with your point about Nancy Reagan. But it's interesting to note that in a November 1987 interview with David Frost, Ronald Reagan publicly lamented that the 22nd Amendment prevented a president from serving more than two terms. Reagan even said he wanted to start a campaign to repeal the 22nd Amendment. So the idea of running again in 1988 certainly seems to have appealed to him (if not to Nancy).

In any case, thanks again for your comments!


"The bottom line is the approval rating in November of the president's 8th year in office is the number that matters for determining whether each of the two-term presidents would have been viable candidates for a third term in office."

This is the key unsupported thesis. What's your support, one president (Bush Sr.)? Your rebuttal is more or less unsupported speculation and scuttle butt, with some left wing tropes sprinkled in for seasoning.

For example, you state, as a fact: " conservatives never trusted him [BUsh]" What the h... are you talking about? That is just a Democrat talking point; it sounds right, but it is wrong.

Look at his standing, according to Gallup. The third highest in Gallup history. You think that was possible without the support of "conservatives"? What's your evidence for your statement that "conservatives" never trusted Bush? Pat Buchanan? How many votes did he get? One knows your stripes by the labels and examples you throw around, which are imprecise and anecdotal

Again, you just elide the facts you don't like, sort of like CNN does. You mention Perot, but not the fact that Clinton won with 43% of the vote, likely because of him. You don't refute that Perot and BUsh together swamped CLinton, and you don't refute the fact that Perot likely took more votes from Bush (though, left wing journalists, like those you applaud, have tried mightily but ineffectively for years to do so).

The plain truth is that your implication about Obama being such a "popular president" is wrong (his overall approval numbers were near the bottom), your claim that the only number that matters is November job approval ratings is completely unsupported, your thesis that, but for term limits, Obama would have beat Hillary (she wouldn't have run) and Trump (he wouldn't have been nominated) is really just a left-wing exercise in revisionist "history" that should be beneath you, if you really want to pitch yourself as objective.

Moreover, your version of the last election is so one-sided a and slanted that you did give yourself away. You cherry picked the results of some of the close states to prove a point that can't be proved, because campaigns would be different if only the popular vote counted, lots of elections are close, and without California, Hillary lost the popular vote (if one plays the "without those states" game you played above).

You haven't even the tiniest bit of support for the proposition that you want to prove: that Obama could have and would have won a third term. That notion may be comforting to those who get their "news" (i.e., opinion) from CNN and ANderson Cooper (how can you call that "news"?), but for all those persons counted by Gallup, your speculation about popular opinion seems sort of reckless and immature and the product of some serious time spent in a bubble.

And, by the way, that is the benefit of the Faculty Lounge.
So, thank you for posting!

Deep State Special Legal Counsel

Bush I was very successful looking 30 years out. He passed the ADA, the Native American Graves Preservation Act, strengthened the EPA, passed tough emission standards for diesel commercial vehicles, and created the national CDL (commercial driver's license. We are benefitting from all of these programs. His biggest mistake was nominating Clearance Thomas (I believe Anita Hill).


And, breaking on CNN:

The Academy Awards last night were the MOST WATCHED IN HISTORY! HISTORIC! Political ranting by Hollywood liberals of impeccable education, reputation, training and experience, was on prominent display. THis ranting is even more popular now than ever. More evidence of the dominance of the moral in America over the deplorables, who seek to undermine our very democracy (by speaking to us in Russian).

Now, back to our panel for some opinion.

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