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“绝对正确”的美国

更新时间:2017-3-21 18:48:46 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

America’s Epidemic of Infallibility
“绝对正确”的美国

Two weeks after President Trump claimed, bizarrely, that the Obama administration had wiretapped his campaign, his press secretary suggested that GCHQ — Britain’s counterpart to the National Security Agency — had done the imaginary bugging. British officials were outraged. And soon the British press was reporting that the Trump administration had apologized.

在特朗普总统令人诧异地声称奥巴马政府曾监听他的竞选团队两周后,他的发言人表示,英国政府通讯总部(Government Communications Headquarters,简称GCHQ)——相当于美国的国家安全局(National Security Agency)——曾展开这种想象中的窃听,导致英国官员激愤不已。很快,英国媒体报道称,特朗普政府已道歉。

But no: Meeting with the chancellor of Germany, another ally he’s alienating, Mr. Trump insisted that there was nothing to apologize for. He said, “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind,” a commentator on (of course) Fox News.

但是并没有:在会见他正在疏远的另一个盟友德国的总理时,特朗普坚称没什么可道歉的。他说,“我们所做的只是引用了一个非常有才华的法律人士的话。”他指的(当然)是福克斯新闻(Fox News)上的一名评论员。

Was anyone surprised? This administration operates under the doctrine of Trumpal infallibility: Nothing the president says is wrong, whether it’s his false claim that he won the popular vote or his assertion that the historically low murder rate is at a record high. No error is ever admitted. And there is never anything to apologize for.

有人感到惊讶吗?本届政府依据特朗普绝对正确的信条行事:他说的都没错,不管是他谎称自己赢得了普选,还是他认为实际处于历史低位的谋杀率,达到了创纪录的高点。从没有人承认错误,永远没有需要道歉的事情。

O.K., at this point it’s not news that the commander in chief of the world’s most powerful military is a man you wouldn’t trust to park your car or feed your cat. Thanks, Comey. But Mr. Trump’s pathological inability to accept responsibility is just the culmination of a trend. American politics — at least on one side of the aisle — is suffering from an epidemic of infallibility, of powerful people who never, ever admit to making a mistake.

好吧,此时此刻,全世界最强大的武装力量的总司令,是一个你不会托付他代你停车或喂猫的人已不是新闻。谢谢啊,科米(指现任联邦调查局局长詹姆斯·科米[James Comey]——译注)。但特朗普病态的担责能力缺失只是一种趋势发展的结果。在美国政坛——至少其中一方——大人物绝对正确的现象泛滥成灾。这种人从来不承认犯过错。

More than a decade ago I wrote that the Bush administration was suffering from a “mensch gap.” (A mensch is an upstanding person who takes responsibility for his actions.) Nobody in that administration ever seemed willing to accept responsibility for policy failures, whether it was the bungled occupation of Iraq or the botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

十多年前,我曾撰文称布什政府正在经历“正人君子的欠缺”。(正人君子是指一个人为人正直,对自己的行为负责。)那一届政府中,似乎没人愿意承担政策失败的责任,不管是伊战搞砸了,还是应对飓风“卡特里娜”(Hurricane Katrina)不力。

Later, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, a similar inability to admit error was on display among many economic commentators.

后来,在金融危机结束后的一段时间里,很多经济评论人士中也出现了一种类似的承认错误能力缺失。

Take, for example, the open letter a who’s who of conservatives sent to Ben Bernanke in 2010, warning that his policies could lead to “currency debasement and inflation.” They didn’t. But four years later, when Bloomberg News contacted many of the letter’s signatories, not one was willing to admit having been wrong.

比如,2010年,一批著名的保守派给本·伯南克(Ben Bernanke)写了一封公开信,警告称他的政策可能会导致“货币贬值和通货膨胀”。实际上,这种情况并没有发生。但四年后,当彭博新闻社(Bloomberg News)联系很多在那封信上签过名的人时,没有一个人愿意承认自己错了。

By the way, press reports say that one of those signatories, Kevin Hassett — co-author of the 1999 book “Dow 36,000” — will be nominated as chairman of Mr. Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers. Another, David Malpass — the former chief economist at Bear Stearns, who declared on the eve of the financial crisis that “the economy is sturdy” — has been nominated as undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs. They should fit right in.

顺便提一句,据媒体报道,签署人之一、1999年的《道指36000点》(Dow 36,000)的作者之一凯文·哈西特(Kevin Hassett)将被任命为特朗普的经济顾问委员会(Council of Economic Advisers)主席。另一个签署人,曾在金融危机前夕宣称“经济稳健”的前贝尔斯登(Bear Stearns)首席经济学家戴维·马尔帕斯(David Malpass),已被任命为负责国际事务的副财政部长。他们应该很合得来。

Just to be clear: Everyone makes mistakes. Some of these mistakes are in the “nobody could have known” category. But there’s also the temptation to engage in motivated reasoning, to let our emotions get the better of our critical faculties — and almost everyone succumbs to that temptation now and then (as I myself did on election night).

要清楚的一点是:人非圣贤,孰能无过。有些错误属于“应该没人能够预料”的那一类。但也会出现进行有目的的推理,诱惑我们让情感战胜理智思维,并且几乎所有人偶尔都会禁不住这种诱惑(就像选举夜的我一样)。

So nobody is perfect. The point, however, is to try to do better — which means owning up to your mistakes and learning from them. Yet that is something that the people now ruling America never, ever do.

因此,人无完人。但关键是要努力做得更好,这意味着承认错误并从中吸取教训。然而,现在统治着美国的那些人永远不会这么做。

What happened to us? Some of it surely has to do with ideology: When you’re committed to a fundamentally false narrative about government and the economy, as almost the whole Republican Party now is, facing up to facts becomes an act of political disloyalty. By contrast, members of the Obama administration, from the president on down, were in general far more willing to accept responsibility than their Bush-era predecessors.

我们怎么了?其中一部分肯定和意识形态有关:当你像几乎整个共和党现在这样,忠于一种从根本上就是错误的政府和经济叙事时,面对事实就成了一种政治背叛行为。相比之下,奥巴马政府的成员,从总统开始自上而下,总体上远比布什时代的前任更愿意担责。

But what’s going on with Mr. Trump and his inner circle seems to have less to do with ideology than with fragile egos. To admit having been wrong about anything, they seem to imagine, would brand them as losers and make them look small.

但特朗普和他的核心集团的情况,更多地和脆弱的自尊而非意识形态有关。他们似乎以为,承认错误会给他们打上失败者的烙印,让他们显得丢脸。

In reality, of course, inability to engage in reflection and self-criticism is the mark of a tiny, shriveled soul — but they’re not big enough to see that.

当然实际上,没有反思和自我批评能力是灵魂卑微、枯萎的标志,但他们的心胸不够宽广,看不到这一点。

But why did so many Americans vote for Mr. Trump, whose character flaws should have been obvious long before the election?

可为什么有那么多美国人投票支持特朗普?早在选举之前,他的性格缺陷就应该很明显了。

Catastrophic media failure and F.B.I. malfeasance played crucial roles. But my sense is that there’s also something going on in our society: Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like, mistaking bombast and belligerence for real toughness.

灾难性的媒体失职和联邦调查局的不当作为起了关键作用。但我感觉,我们的社会也发挥了一定作用:很多美国人似乎不明白一位领导人听上去应该是什么样子。他们误把吹嘘和好斗当成了真正的强硬。

Why? Is it celebrity culture? Is it working-class despair, channeled into a desire for people who spout easy slogans?

为什么?是名人文化吗?是工薪阶层的绝望催生了他们想要一位呼喊简单口号的人的愿望吗?

The truth is that I don’t know. But we can at least hope that watching Mr. Trump in action will be a learning experience — not for him, because he never learns anything, but for the body politic. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll eventually put a responsible adult back in the White House.

其实我也不知道。但我们至少可以寄希望于,观察特朗普的所作所为就是一种学习经历。不是对他而言,因为他永远不会学习,而是对全国民众而言。也许,仅仅是也许,我们最终会让一个有责任感的成年人回到白宫。

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