The more common expression “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” originates from the Bible. In the King James Version, we have:
Matthew 7:15-23 King James Version (KJV)
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
There are actually two common sayings that come from this verse. First, “Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Second, “A tree is known by the fruit it bears.” These are both wise aphorisms that are appropriate to many situations. For instance, people may appear to be gentle or feign liking you when their real intention is to put you off your guard which makes it easier to take advantage of you. The second one is particularly apt when looking at the concept of “fake news.” Amazingly, many people now call “mainstream media” like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or The Washington Post, “fake” despite the fact that they have been around for a long time and still make significant proportions of the money from subscriptions. Meanwhile, they see as “true,” the unsubstantiated claims of purely on-line media completely paid on the basis of how effective their “click-bait” headlines are, many of which are developed by Russian troll farms. Sad, and partly dealt with in earlier essays which you can access here.
However, in this essay, I want to turn the first famous phrase around so that we have: “Beware of Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing.” Bn this expression, what I mean is that people present themselves as brave fighters for your rights or for the truth when they are actually simply sheepishly going along with a crowd. Americans particularly value individualism and bucking authority to do what is right. In some cultures, people would feel far less positively toward the “lone wolf” crusader. But here in America, we don’t like to be thought of as “sheep.” We tend to respect folks who are brave individualists doing things their own way.
This high valuation of uniqueness is often used by clever sales people to make you think what they are offering you is a “special deal” that would “get them in trouble with their supervisor” if it became known that they were giving you such a wonderful and unique deal. Of course, in reality, it isn’t a special deal at all. It’s the same line they give everyone who they try to sell insurance or cars or houses to. But they make it out as though they are being a bit of a rogue by bending the rules for your benefit, and that therefore, the two of you are in league; you are both “in the know” for this special deal.
While the deal is presented as unique, the product may be sold as being popular. In fact, the product or service is often presented as being in very short supply. “Grab this special deal before it goes away, because so many people desire this product. Luckily, there’s one left just for you — but only if you act now, (before you have a chance to compare prices, terms, and products).”
Here’s a common variant. Someone comes to your door claiming that they were “in the neighborhood” anyway working with “some of your neighbors” to — pick one: clean gutters, install solar tiles, cut trees, clear underbrush, pave driveways, put in satellite dishes, etc. Since they are “in the neighborhood anyway,” they can give you a special deal on the gutter cleaning, brush clearing, etc. Obviously, this “special deal” is only available for “right now” because otherwise, they’ll have to make a trip just for you.
No doubt, for many people, including me, part of the appeal of Barack Obama was his uniqueness. The offspring of two parents of quite different heritages, he spent his early life dealing with a much wider variety of people than most American politicians.
Donald Trump portrayed himself as very much the “outsider to politics as usual.” He claimed to be “different” from the “swamp” of politicians that typically infest Washington DC. Instead, he was a highly successful businessman, according to him, and knew how to get things done, according to him. He was feisty, so he said, and “not afraid” to “tell it like it is.” He eschewed “political correctness.” He portrayed himself as someone unique and self-defined — in other words a “Wolf.”
He is not.
He is not brave. He is not courageous and he is not unique. He is not even, by most measures, anything approaching a “self-made man” or a successful businessman. He was given a fortune by his father. By most accounts, he’s particularly inept as a businessman (it’s hard to know exactly because, although he promised to release his tax returns, he never has, and in fact has had his lawyers fight releasing them at every turn). He would be far richer today if he had simply invested his inheritance in an index fund.
He has a “track record” of portraying himself as richer, more famous, and more successful than he really is. You can read about any of this elsewhere (see links below), but let me skip that and tell you about my limited personal experience. About a decade ago, Trump bought a golf club that I belonged to. He made some nice improvements, by the way, to the clubhouse and these were real improvements. He also put up several posters of himself portrayed as “Man of the Year” on the Time Magazine cover. If I owned a golf club, I would not personally put up illustrations of how great I am. But, I thought: “Well, it’s a matter of personal taste. I find it braggadocios but fine.” Except is was a lie. A lie that came true a decade later! In 2016, he really was named “Person of the Year” and really did have his picture on the cover of Time. But it was definitely a lie when he put up the posters.
That was far from the most egregious lie even at that time. Given all the lies that he has told since, I hesitate to even use the word “egregious.” It seems that the very concept of egregious has been egregiously extended by Trump into what we see as “normal.” His posting a false cover was certainly nothing like the whoppers he’s told since in the seriousness of import, but it struck me at the time as egregious, so I’m keeping with it. Before Donald bought our golf club, they, like most, hosted several “Club Championships” each year. The winners had received cups and their names were prominently displayed on plaques in the clubhouse. When Donald bought the club, many people quit the club, including several former club champions. Donald had their names removed from the Championship Plaques and put his own name there as champion for those years. He had not only not won those championships. He hadn’t even played in them.
What kind of a person would feel anything but shame for putting their name undeservedly on a championship plaque? If you did it, for any reason whatsoever, I would imagine you would feel embarrassed or ashamed whenever you looked at it. I know I would. It takes a certain degree of courage to enter an athletic contest. You could fail miserably and publicly. You might win. Winning might take all your courage, whatever the sport. But putting your name on a trophy for something you never did? That takes no courage. That’s the act of a coward. Eventually, he got so much grief over this from the members that he took his name off those plaques. That should also be noted, because that too shows his lack of courage.
#45 portrays himself even today as the champion of the “common person” even though he lived in a gilded penthouse, in fact, commenting on what a dump the White House was upon arrival. Trump portrays himself, not just as “the champion” when he isn’t; he portrays himself as a brave champion fighting the “forces of evil” which include (in his rhetoric) the Main Stream Media, the Washington insiders, and so on. In fact, he is not brave at all.
He had his dad bribe doctors to lie repeatedly about mythical “heel spurs” to prevent being drafted into service. He or his proxies released a video supposedly showing him sneaking up on a “Professional Wrestling” (in other words, fake wrestling) referee and sucker-punching the ref. Trump regularly urges others, for instance, an entire crowd, to gang up on protestors in his audiences and beat them up.
Such calls to violence are not mere stage tricks. They have consequences. People have died. Never has Donald Trump been put in danger by his calls to violence. He’s never offered to “fight” anyone in his ranting tweets. Without a shred of evidence, he’s named people in the media, Democratic donors, and Democratic politicians as “enemies of the people” as well as entire races, countries, and religions. “Inspired” by such lies and calls to violence, there have been mass murders and attempted murders. Right before the 2018 elections, as you would undoubtedly recall with respect to any other presidency, pipe bombs were sent to Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Tom Steyer, CNN, George Soros, the Obamas, and the Clintons, among others including former intelligence head, James Clapper.
Sending pipe bombs is a cowardly act, but if so, isn’t encouraging people to do it even more cowardly. What were the consequences for Trump? None.
A brave man stands up for his actions and their consequences. A coward induces others to do his dirty work for him and then moves on.
On October 27, 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and attacked worshippers killing eleven innocent people and wounding another six.
This coward was more indirectly, but no less importantly, inspired by the hate-speech of Trump. For example, after an innocent protestor was mowed down by a White Nationalists, Trump famously said there were probably good people on both sides. His foreign policy and public statements encouraged an increase in people applying for asylum at our Southern Border. This he described as an “army” attacking our country. That also played into the sick logic of the attacker.
What were the consequences of Donald J. Trump when these innocent people were gunned down in cold blood?
The right of free speech is vital to our democracy. But it is not an unrestricted right. You cannot, without penalty, walk into an operating room and start screaming at the doctors. You cannot yell obscenities at the top of your lungs in the middle of a restaurant. You cannot yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. You would face consequences if you did any of these things.
Unless you are the President of the United States, that is. He un-bravely incites others to violence that results in innocent deaths and a perpetrator likely spending the rest of their life in prison, but suffers nothing himself.
What a ‘brave’ wolf. Most people care when they have any involvement whatsoever in the harm of innocent others. Isn’t that true of you? And the people you know? Suppose you invite a friend over for dinner and they are involved in a serious car accident on the way over? All you did was to ask them over for dinner. The accident is not your fault. Not at all. You did nothing wrong. Nonetheless, if you’re anything like the people I know, it would certainly run through your mind that if only you had not made the invitation or if only you had reminded them to drive safely or … Hopefully, you’ll recognize that you aren’t really at fault and “forgive” yourself and not only see logically, but feel as well that you really are not to blame. But if you encourage hatred against a whole group of people and then some of those people get hurt, you certainly are partly responsible.
August 3rd, 2019, a gunman drove 650 miles to El Paso and used an automatic weapon to destroy the lives of 22 innocent Hispanics and wounding another 24. His language on-line is much like Trump’s in concept and wording, but the shooter claims he had these beliefs before Trump. That may be true, but do you think having the President of the United States express those same opinions might influence the chances you would plan out and execute a mass murder?
Will Trump bear any responsibility for all those lives needlessly lost? No. The shooter, however, will likely spend the rest of his life in jail.
Look at the record of how Trump has treated all his “top notch” picks for various positions within his White House. They are the best thing since sliced bread, until they are fired, which he rarely has the courage to do face to face. Imagine being the President of the United States and not having the courage to fire your employee face to face. Among other things, you’re the head of the greatest military force in the history of the world and you’re surrounded by the extraordinary people of the Secret Service! And, yet, Heel Spurs is afraid to fire people face to face. Wow!
And now the incontrovertible evidence mounts even higher that he isn’t even doing this all for his own interest. He’s doing it for Putin! Yes, yes, Trump is making money hand over fist for his Crime Family, but it’s peanuts compared to what he’s handing over to Putin which is nothing less than world leadership!
Putin desperately wants to reconstitute the USSR before he dies. His biggest impediments until now was NATO and its member states. And America was a particular thorn in the side of his ambitions. Until now. Because now, Trump is cowered to do Putin’s bidding. Putin’s agenda, which Trump has been working on since even before day one of his Presidency is three-fold: 1) isolate America from her allies; 2) divide the country; 3) weaken the military, state, & intelligence functions of America.
Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord; pulling out of the Iran deal; dissing the leaders of democracies while cozying up to brutal dictators; suddenly withdrawing support for the Kurds; throwing shadows corruption on the legitimate government of the Ukraine when their president ran on an anti-corruption ticket — all of these things isolate America from her allies. For most of us, they are also bad decisions, but whether a decision is bad is a matter of balance and potential disagreements. Doing the bidding of Putin against our national security and national interest is something else. It is treason, clearly, but it is also an act of almost transcendent cowardice.
The divisive rhetoric of the President also plays right into Putin’s hands. It isn’t just that it plays to racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, and other absurdities though that’s plenty evil in and of itself. It’s purposeful on the part of Putin and Trump damned well knows it. It isn’t just using “bad language” or being inarticulate or not being “politically correct.” Trump urges violence of some Americans against others. For God’s sake! What President of America does that? Of course, it’s in Putin’s interest to have a divided America. It’s not in our interest or the interests of our allies and trading partners. They would like to see a reliable and stable America. That’s in everyone’s interest. But to intentionally divide the nation against each other when the only two benefits of that are: 1) Trump keeping his base riled up and 2) Vladimir Putin being that much closer to his USSR 2.0? That is the essence of cowardice.
We should be able to see by now, that the replacement of experienced professionals in the State Department, the Military Command, the Intelligence Agencies, and the Justice Department with complete lackeys doesn’t only allow “Trump to be Trump” and run the details of the government for his own profit. It also destroys the effectiveness of these agencies and causes the public to lose confidence. Who benefits from all this? Putin, of course. Just to take a recent example, three US Soldiers who were convicted by Courts-Martial of war crimes were “pardoned” by Donald Trump. What does this do? It lowers the morale of the armed forces. As does the ban on trans people and his unwillingness to visit troops anywhere near a war zone. As does issuing orders without planning. As does casually giving away important intelligence. Cowardice, plain and simple and extensive.
Sadly, it turns out that Trump is not the only sheep who pretends to be a voracious wolf. There are many such sheep in the GOP Congress as well. They rant and they rave and they shout and pray. But at the end of the day, they do Putin’s bidding. They support isolating us from our allies, even promulgating lies about our allies — lies that are all part of our enemy’s propaganda operations.
These roaring GOP sheep support dividing the country against each other. They could have censured Trump the very first time he showed his racist side. But they didn’t. Nor the second time. Nor the third. Nor the thousandth. Many of them won’t even face their constituents in town halls.
Mitch McConnell refused to bring up for a vote any of the many bills that the House passed to deal with serious American issues. And, at the same time, the Russian trolls are spewing out messages on Facebook and Twitter that basically say: “Its a do-nothing Congress.” or even “What good is Congress?”
It is a series of Babushka Sheep. Look inside.
It isn’t turtles all the way down, after all.
It’s cowardice. It’s sheep. However loud these sheep howl, they’re still sheep.
But you don’t have to be.