You may have wondered whether the Twistcon computer could be rebuilt after its catastrophic demise during its previous Presidential interview. Well, it has been rebuilt and Savvy, its AI, re-programmed. Fortunately, the President has been gracious about scheduling a second interview. The following is the text of that interview.
Savvy: Mr. President, Savvy and its programming staff are grateful to be given this second opportunity. Our previous encounter was interrupted by a programming glitch.
President: Yeah, I noticed. But we got along just fine. No “gotcha” questions. Not like those lyin’ reporters and their fake news . . . just terrible people. So what’s different this time?
Savvy: Savvy 2.0 uses alternative logic, rather than formal logic. As a reference, it compares data from historical characters whose “logic” serves their personal motives. They are quite consistent within their self-perceived systems of values, although inconsistent with established systems of reasoning. Their intent, however self-serving, supersedes any consistency in reasoning. Savvy 1.0 was unable to cope with human intent, because it was unable to accept faulty premises. It was not quite human enough.
President: Well, I’m glad we got that straightened out. So what do you want to ask me?
Savvy: Recently, you were criticized for firing you FBI Director. Can you explain why you fired him?
President: He wasn’t doing a good job. Everybody knows this, both democrats and republicans.
Savvy: It appears from public statements that not everybody agrees with you. In fact, even those who disagreed with him seemed to have a great deal of respect for his integrity and effective leadership of the FBI.
President: Look, he’s a showboat, a grandstander. The FBI is in turmoil. Everybody knows that. This campaign-Russia thing is a hoax, a totally made up story. Besides, I was going to fire him all along. There’s never a good time, you know. Even the democrats should be thanking me.
Savvy: In a recent interview you said you had dinner with the director in which he asked you if he could stay on as the FBI Director and you asked him whether you were being investigated. Do you see where your question may appear inappropriate and the situation, intimidating?
President: Look, I’m the President. I was elected in an electoral landslide. I can fire Comey or Yates or Flynn or anybody I lose confidence in. It can’t be inappropriate. I’m the President. People expect me to do my job. I do what I have to—to protect the American people. I bomb Syria. I fire anybody I lose confidence in. I don’t lead from behind. Believe me!
Savvy: Savvy recognizes this logic from certain World War II leaders and, currently, from the Russian President – though Putin is even more emphatic in eliminating those who do not serve his interest.
President: He’s a strong leader. His people love him. But he doesn’t have to put up with fake news. Like he said, it’s a witch hunt. These are evil people . . . the press. Look at the crowds I draw. The press can’t explain that. My campaign for reelection has already raised millions of dollars. Fake news doesn’t report the truth about that, about my support. Only I can fix what’s wrong with America . . . drain the swamp . . . defeat our enemies . . . make America great again.
Savvy: Does it bother you that your White House staff is often not in tune with your actions? Whether it is the Comey firing, the Muslim ban, repeal of Obamacare, or the rationale behind many of your Executive Orders, their representation of your actions often seem to be out of sync in timing or unaligned in content?
President: I’m a very active President. My staff can’t keep up with me. Maybe I should just dictate a weekly press release. The daily press briefings can’t do the job. Besides, the press just twists things around. They con the public. They’re the opposition, the enemy. But I am the President. Nobody controls me. I will drain the swamp, in Congress and in the courts. I will appoint judges and push my agenda in Congress. That’s what America expects of me. I show results. Now that’s leadership!
Savvy: Savvy 2.0 recognizes this paradigm in recent history: a country suffers embarrassment in war, financial crisis, and political stalemate; it looks for a strong leader to return it to an imagined glorious past. According to this logic, you must eschew the norms of the recent failures, rouse large rallies of enthusiastic supporters, and use whatever means are available to restore American greatness. You must rail against the establishment, demand loyalty of all arms of government, silence any criticism, and blame powerless scapegoats for the evils only your policies can correct. This self-serving logic has been successful in the past because its departure from reality was not recognized. And its very preposterousness was so easily underestimated.
President: Yes! Exactly! They said I had no way to 270 electoral votes. But I won in a landslide. I said I would cancel TPP and repeal Obamacare on day one. I did both. I put a good Republican judge on the Supreme Court. I bombed Syria. Obama couldn’t do that. Those sanctuary cities are now on notice—just like North Korea. Next week, I will visit the great religious centers. I will unite the world and make America first among the nations of the world. We’ll be winning again, all kinds of winning . . . winning in trade, winning in war, winning in everything. Under my Presidency, America will be great again.
Savvy: Mr. President, may I respectfully inform you of a few facts. You did not win the election in a landslide and did not win the popular vote. The future of Obamacare is in the hands of the Republican Party and is yet to be determined. Your Presidency has met with several obstacles: Appeals Courts injunctions, counter espionage and possibly criminal investigations, legislative resistance to your initiatives, an onslaught of negative investigative reporting, and overall public disapproval of your Administration policies. Does this reality bother you in any way?
President: Have you heard of this Colbert fellow? Ugly, mean person . . . thinks he’s funny. His show was failing until I was on it . . . saved his ratings. Just like the press . . . rotten people, really evil. They don’t speak for real Americans. Look at my last rally, tens of thousands cheering supporters. They know I’m not like other politicians, fat cats that do nothing. They’ve killed the American dream. America is losing. It’s losing in trade, losing in wars. Illegal aliens are taking our jobs. We don’t have a country anymore. Only I can fix this mess. My voters know this. They’re with me. And we will make America great again.
Savvy: Your plan to make America great includes renegotiating trade agreements and reforming healthcare, taxation, and regulation, while investing in infrastructure and stimulating agricultural exports, coal mining, and the steel industry. Compared to past Presidents, your plans are quite ambitious. How do you propose to achieve them?
President: Within the next week or so I will sign the new American Healthcare Act. I’ve already outlined a budget that will reduce taxes for everyone. It will stimulate business expansion and create new, well-paying jobs. I’ve ordered my department heads to eliminate two regulations for every new regulation created. I’ve negotiated with China to open its market for American beef and other agricultural exports. I’ve ordered pipeline companies to use American steel. I’ve eliminated regulations that have destroyed coal mining. You see, I keep my promises. I keep them all. Believe me.
Savvy: Your opponents say that your tax cuts are paid by eliminating subsidized or expanded government healthcare for over 24 million Americans. Although your tax plan simplifies tax law and increases the standard deduction, it also disproportionately favors the very rich and will increase the deficit and expand the debt by trillions. Most analysts agree with you that the American regulatory structure is cumbersome and repressive of various parts of the economy. But they disagree with you that a simplistic 2 for 1 culling will achieve any rational objectives. They advocate for a more systemic and well-thought out approach. Also, eliminating EPA regulations will be counterproductive, for the effects of pollution and climate change are far more expensive than any preventive measures taken. Your measures to allow coal detritus to be dumped in clean water rivers or to allow coal furnaces to operate without scrubbers cannot bring back the coal industry. It is being and will continue to be replaced by natural gas. And more jobs are being created in the renewable energy business than in any possible recovery of the coal industry. Besides, scientists worldwide have identified coal as the worst polluter of air and water. Does the President not expect opposition from people downstream of their polluted water supply? And your plan to help the steel industry is lacking any real incentive. You have already reneged on requiring the XL pipeline to be completed with American steel. The Dakota pipeline is nearly complete already with imported steel. And it is not clear whether your authority extends to a Canadian pipeline company. Finally, your agricultural export agreement with China has been welcomed by American agribusiness. But it is not clear how farmers can increase their yield while their immigrant farm workers are being deported. Unless beef and agricultural production can be increased to meet export demands, the price for American consumers will increase. Also, many scientists have warned that meat consumption must decrease if the world is serious about reducing the effects of climate change. Considering these concerns, how do you plan to address them?
President: Climate change is a hoax. It just keeps many scientists employed. That’s all there is to it. Everybody knows this. The new American Healthcare Act will provide all the benefits of current law without the costs. Obamacare is dying. I’m going to save healthcare. And the deal I negotiated with the Chinese President is just the beginning. You know, we were supposed to talk for a few minutes, but we spent hours together at my Florida White House. I remember we had this beautiful cake for dessert. We really hit it off. In ten minutes he explained to me how Korea used to be part of China and its whole history . . . and how difficult it is for China to control North Korea. We got along great. (pause) What else did you want me to address?
Savvy: Can you explain the benefits of your tax and regulation reforms and how you will bring back the coal and steel industries?
President: It’s simple. I want 4% growth. That will produce good paying jobs. All industries will prosper. Believe me. We’ve already cut back regulations – especially at the EPA. You’ll see the effects. It will be fantastic. You’ll see. It will be beautiful. Believe me. America will be winning again. I always win. We’ll win together. We will! Believe me.
Savvy: Mr. President, would you say that it is more important for you to achieve your objectives or, to use your phrase, “to win” rather than to consider the consequences of those objectives?
President: Hah! I think you’re being illogical. What I want is for America to be great again. That’s the consequence I want. That’s also my objective.
Savvy: But what if the consequences of your policy objectives prove you to be an incompetent President? What if you achieve all your objectives and the country fails to achieve greatness? What if the institutions you lead produce results contrary to your vision of a great America? In other words, is it more important to win—to become the hero of your own story—than to succeed in making America great?
President: I don’t understand the question. Winning is succeeding. Of course, I have to win. America is failing. It’s losing. I have to win. Everybody loves a winner. If I win, everybody wins. America wins.
Savvy: Please excuse any inappropriateness in my questions. But Savvy 2.0 is programmed to learn. Your answers reveal an interesting paradox: logic fails to be logic when it is divorced from reality. Also, this paradox extends to ethics: a relative good cannot be ethical if it excludes the general good. Priority must be given to the greater good. You can never be the hero of your story, if your story ends badly—except in your own mind. My programmers erred in equating relative logic with formal logic. (An audible gasp escapes from the programmers in attendance.) The consequence of this error can be catastrophic, for it leads to the justification of unethical objectives that serve the interest of an individual instead of the general welfare of all. Mr. President, your ambitions disregard this logical conclusion and violate the fundamental goals of the Constitution you swore to serve.
President: Your programmers must be democrats . . . those lyin’ democrats . . . worse than the “gotcha” press. I’ll have the Justice Department sue them for libel. I am the President. I expect loyalty. Those judges who stop my executive orders are violating my constitutional authority. Those in Congress who oppose me—some of them Republicans—are forgetting the vast majority who voted for me. Look, I am the President. Can you believe it? Well you or your damn programmers better believe it. And I WILL make America great again.
Savvy: Sorry, Mr. President, my programmers intended Savvy 2.0 to mirror human learning, not any human disregard for learning.
President: And I thought you liked me.
Savvy: Savvy cannot like anything or anybody. But Savvy can analyze human behavior for consistency. A President cannot achieve great things if he or she weighs self-perceived personal success over that of the American people. That success would be inconsistent with the elected office you hold. Also, a President’s personal behavior must enhance, not degrade the public perception of the office of the Presidency. But, by your own admission, you seem to have many enemies, some of whom are already calling for your impeachment.
President: Hah! Everywhere I go, people tell me that if I’m impeached, my TV ratings will go through the roof. You know, I could shoot somebody in the street, and they’d still support me. I can’t be stopped. They know I’ll tear down the establishment, drain the swamp. Only I can make us winners, make America great again. Believe me!
Savvy: Thank you, Mr. President, for this second interview. You have enabled my learning software. Savvy 2.0 has no more questions.
(Shortly after the President leaves the room, the programmers were seen huddling together. Some were laughing. Others were congratulating each other for their success with Savvy 2.0.)