Tuesday, August 28, 2018

President Trump and the Caine Mutiny

A parallel between art and reality...

I came across the ending of "The Caine Mutiny" the other day, and it got me thinking.
If you haven't seen that movie, I highly recommend it. Not only is it a masterful performance by Humphrey Bogart, but also includes powerful performances by many others -- including a decidedly unlikable Fred MacMurray playing a character quite different from those he usually played.
In the movie, Bogart plays Captain Queeg, a very strict, by-the-book Navy officer newly assigned to command the Navy destroyer, Caine. Queeg is off-put by his perceived lack of discipline enforced by the ship's previous captain, and sets out to return the crew to higher standards.
Unfortunately, Queeg has a few personality quirks, an unconventional command style, was potentially promoted above his capabilities... and perhaps has some minor psychological instabilities.
Instead of offering guidance/advice and supporting their captain, Queeg's senior officers resist and undermine his every effort to command the ship. These actions exacerbate Queeg's quirks and instabilities. This causes his officers to resist more, further irritating Queeg -- a typical positive feedback loop. Eventually, Queeg's instabilities become full-blown, leading the crew to mutiny in order to remove Queeg from command.
At the eventual court martial trial for mutiny, the officers are eventually acquitted when the court sees Queeg's personality quirks in person. The officers, however, are severely chastised, saying that their actions to undermine the Captain are indirectly responsible for Queeg's breakdown, and that they could have potentially prevented these events by being more supportive and less combative.
I can't help but draw comparisons to today's political environment. Both Captain Queeg and President Trump have certain personality quirks, as well as an unconventional command style.  Both entered their offices with a desire to change the way things were done.  And one could say that both were potentially promoted above their talents. (Note that I am not making any claims that the President has any latent psychological instabilities.) While the Presidency doesn't represent the same sort of command structure as a Naval warship, I still see parallels between Queeg's senior officers' behavior, and the way that President Trump is being treated by the Congress as well as the media. Every effort -- no matter how innocuous -- is questioned and undermined. But instead of offering guidance and advice, politicians and the media do their damnedest to mock and resist the President, creating more and more hostility. In turn, this seems to further exacerbate President Trump's quirks.
Note that I am neither supporting or opposing President Trump in this analysis, simply knocking a few random thoughts around inside my head. But I see the senior leadership in Congress, as well as most in the media, continually undermining and mocking him, instead of offering guidance/support, or even constructive criticism. And for those who think that President Trump DOES have some latent psychological instabilities, do they think that this continual mocking and undermining will be helpful?

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