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Thom Barker: Dear America: Please don’t try to fix Trump with Oprah

Thom Barker
Thom Barker - Submitted

The election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the most powerful nation on Earth promised to turn the world upside down.

Ignoring decades of American policy and general posture, Trump has certainly shaken things up by killing the Trans-Pacific trade deal, pulling out of the Paris climate-change pact, not abiding by the terms of Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, threatening NAFTA, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, engaging in a tough-talking standoff with another nuclear power, and withholding funding from the United Nations.

Had these things been done by another administration in a more traditional manner with some degree of diplomacy and regard for consequences, one might be inclined to disagree, but not feel like pulling out one’s own hair.

Trump’s general comportment is a major problem. He has no impulse control, lacks intellectual curiosity, embodies narcissism, is endlessly spiteful and exhibits unbridled avarice. And yet he was elected even though exit polls showed nearly two-thirds of voters did not think he has the temperament to be president, a majority opinion that remains unchanged and that he has been proven time and again in the past 12 months.

Trump’s reaction to Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury confirms the president’s unfitness for office.

“Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories to sell his really boring and untruthful book,” Trump tweeted. “He used Sloppy Steve [Bannon], who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone.”

Mark Hamill, he of Star Wars fame, hilariously summed up the resistance’s reaction to the reaction.

“Congratulations sir! This dignified, statesman-like tweet is the perfect way to counter the book’s narrative that you’re an impulsive, childish dimwit.”

We did not need Wolff’s book to recognize Trump’s unfitness; it’s all there in his public history and current Twitter feed.

Following the Golden Globe Awards January 7, people started seriously talking about Oprah Winfrey taking a run at the presidency in 2020. In my currently Trump-addled state of mind, my initial reaction was that this horrifically awful idea was good one.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be comparatively 100 per cent better to have Oprah in the Oval Office, but that’s like saying it would be comparatively 100 per cent better to be sentenced to life in prison than get the death penalty, or vice versa depending on your point of view, I guess.

Like Trump, Oprah represents the problem with celebrity culture in which fame and wealth are substitutes for evidence and rational thinking.

On her show, Oprah has actively peddled or passively endorsed virtually every modern-day equivalent of snake oil there is. The impact of her celebrity has been coined “the Oprah effect,” the phenomenon by which anything that appears on her show instantly turns to gold. Unfortunately, her uncritical swooning over purveyors of pseudoscientific nonsense extends to lending credence to hair-brained notions such as vaccines causing autism and every brand of spiritual relativism and medical quackery that promise instant gratification in a world that eschews working for solutions.

As Phillip H. Devoe recently wrote brilliantly for The National Review: “[Oprah’s] is a strange, unethical, and bizarre system, but it’s a commercially beneficial one. From Oprah, the champions of a yet-to-be-proven, seems-too-good-to-be-true practice receive validity. From her guests, Oprah receives trend points. The only victims are. . . well, everybody else, including people such as Kirby Brown, for whom a high-profile endorsement doubles as a reassurance.”

Kirby Brown was one of three people who died (18 others were injured) after attending a desert retreat with faith healer and two-time Oprah guest James Arthur Ray. After Ray was convicted of negligent homicide in 2011, Brown’s mother revealed her daughter had been skeptical of Ray’s methods until he appeared on Oprah.

While Oprah Winfrey may be preferable to Donald Trump, she is not the kind of person we need taking over for him in world’s most powerful job.

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