Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9 November 2019


Yours truly is in the United States, Reader, although I had sworn never to set foot here again until Donald Trump was out of office. But a family reunion trumps (I couldn’t resist that) that vow, so here I am. Before I get too involved in details, let me say that my first impression from the TV channels that I have been watching is that either the United States is doing a Philippines, or that the Philippines is way better off than the United States insofar as their current presidents are concerned.

Let me explain. Remember the way the Philippine legislature behaves? The legislators’ shameless ass-licking of the President, and their very obvious decisions when it comes to choosing to do what is best for the country or what is best for themselves?

Now, for the United States, there seems to be a complete change. It is personal objectives (nobody in the Republican Party—my lord, isn’t this Abe Lincoln’s party?—wants to cross the president for fear of losing in elections) or party objectives that are the No. 1 consideration, and to hell with what this does to the country.

For example, the Republicans are circling their wagons. And they argue that what happened in the Ukraine situation, where Trump apparently was tying US military aid to Ukraine to a personal favor he wanted from them (dirt on a political rival), does not constitute an impeachable crime (bribery). In other words, they will admit that the US president did talk to the Ukrainian president, they will admit even that State Department officials and the US ambassador to Ukraine were concerned about the quid pro quos and what these meant. The evidence is just too overwhelming. But they will not admit that President Trump committed a crime.

In other words, pakapalan ng mukha. Just like in the Philippines.

Now why do I think that President Duterte may be less dangerous to the Philippines than President Trump to the United States? You will understand, Reader, that I have been conflicted about this question since the beginning of their six-month-apart presidential terms.

I have written in previous columns about Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte both suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. I had opined, in my Jan. 13, 2017 column, that it was a close call as to who was worse as a president, but in the end, based on data at the time, I chose Mr. Duterte as the better man.

I’ve only been in the United States for five days, but in that time, listening to the US media, it has become obvious to me that it is no longer a close call: President Duterte’s shortcomings pale in comparison to Trump’s.

The main difference between the two, as I have recently determined, is that Mr. Duterte is the more intelligent one. How do I know, without the evidence of IQ tests? Well, there is a forthcoming book, “A Warning” by “Anonymous,” a senior Trump administration official, which will be out on Nov. 19.

Rachel Maddow, of the multi-award winning “Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC (she is a Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D. in political science from Oxford, and an author), read excerpts from the book last night while I was watching. And that convinced me about our President’s being more intellectually gifted than Trump.

Trump was described as inattentive, impulsive. Well, Mr. Duterte can also be described as impulsive, but I have never heard him described as inattentive.

But what tipped the scales in favor of Mr. Duterte was a description of what had to be done in order to catch Trump’s attention when he was briefed: He preferred PowerPoint slides (pictures to words). The briefing paper, even if on the most weighty and complicated matter, should not exceed one page (preferably one paragraph), and had to have at most three points—later reduced to one. A really short attention span.

Doesn’t that sound like someone who lacks the intelligence to analyze and weigh issues? President Erap was rumored to be that way, too. But Mr. Duterte has never been accused of that.

On the other hand, Reader, a thought has just occurred. Maybe I have concluded that Trump is less intelligent than Mr. Duterte because I have less solid info about the latter. What do you think?