On "Morning Joe" Thursday, I got into a bit of a kerfuffle with the host when I said that Donald Trump was operating out of his lizard brain. Joe Scarborough apparently thought I was denigrating Trump--and I was, but not in the way Scarborough thought. First of all, the lizard brain is an actual part of our brain, the amygdala--the most primitive part, governing fight or flight impulses, sexual impulses and our involuntary nervous system (breathing, heart beat, etc.).
We all have a lizard brain, including me and Joe Scarborough. But we also have a frontal cortex, which is the site of thinking and reason. I would argue that Trump's appeal is not to reason, but to more primordial impulses--like fear (especially when it comes to fighting or fleeing).
Scarborough also challenged me when I said that Trump wasn't a particularly good dealmaker. I said this after praising Mika Brzezinski for a question she asked on last night's MSNBC "forum" with Trump, held Wednesday night. She cleverly listed some characteristics of a candidate and asked who Trump thought it was. It was clear from the jump that (a) this was a trick question and (b) that the candidate she was describing was Bernie Sanders. Trump thought she was describing him--very revealing, I'd say. Trump has no apparent knowledge of anything beyond himself, a tragic quality in a negotiator, and one which calls into question Trump's claim to be a dealmaker. Joe cited Trump's fabulous business history, which I would say was more gaudy than fabulous—there are those four bankruptcies—and more attributable to his success as a genius marketer than as a dealmaker (although he obviously knew enough to hire a few good negotiators along the way).
The fact is, Trump knows very little about public policy, just enough to be a populist rabble-rouser. Scarborough seems to think that Trump had something going for him because all these people--a minority of the Republican party--were voting for him. "Are they dumb?" he asked me. I would prefer to call them reflexively angry and under-informed.
Our job as journalists is to try to inform them. I wish we were spending more time on that—on pointing out Trump's false claims and general ignorance—than on his sleight-of-hand, the phony lawsuits that he'll never file, the wild slurs against his competitors and the misleading, over-simplistic positions he's taken on serious matters of state. But I guess I'm just an old fogey.