How Trump Builds Up More ‘Bad Karma’

The U.S. government – and now President Trump – have a long record of palling around with oppressors, such as the leaders of Israel and Egypt, creating more “bad karma” for the nation, observes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

“Karma” is a Sanskrit term meaning “action” or “deed,” and in its classical religious (Hindu or Buddhist) rendering, it predicts that the behavior of an individual, past or present, influences their future fate. Leaving aside the spiritual dimension of this outlook, one can see that, just from a behavioral point of view, there is a logic to such a causal prediction.

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at joint press conference on Feb. 15. 2017. (Screen shot from

For instance, if you are an arrogant or angry person, you will create a different type of environment around you than will a kind-hearted and thoughtful person. Your environment will attract others who, for whatever reason, feel comfortable being close to your sort of person. The nature of this entourage will, in turn, reinforce your surrounding environment. Taken as a whole, that environment defines your world as you go forward.

Of course, plenty of things might intervene to change this equation. Both nice people and bullies do, on occasion, get into serious accidents or die from sudden illnesses. Of the massive numbers of refugees spilling out of places like Syria and Libya, many were and are quite decent folk whose lives have been overtaken for the worse by events utterly beyond their control – and utterly independent of the “karma” that might have produced for them a different fate. (In other words, bad things can happen to good people and good things can happen to bad people. Karma is more fitting in moments when someone gets what he “deserves,” good or bad.)

A Karmic Example

Let’s take an example that most people will recognize – President Donald Trump. Judging from his public behavior, we see Trump is shallow, opinionated, self-centered and arrogant. Such a person’s behavior should produce a life that is equally shallow and populated by some pretty distasteful companions. As we shall see, this is generally the case.

One of the elegant rooms at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. (Photo from

However, random events have also intervened. Trump was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, which has allowed him to buy his way to fame, all the way to the presidency, while maintaining a battery of lawyers whose job it is to fend off the negative legal consequences of his behavior. Here money serves as a lucky random variable, the negative equivalent of which would be being hit by a bus or being diagnosed with some fatal disease.

The semi-biographical tale told in Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, reads like a Horatio Alger “morality play” and makes the good fortune of birth seem like a personal achievement. The book hit the New York Times best-seller list, and many Americans took to Trump’s story, seeing it as a guide to how they too could get rich. Thus, The Art of the Deal’s popularity helped make an idealized Trump a well-known person. It therefore can be seen as a step in the direction of the White House.

Trump has claimed The Art of the Deal as one of his “proudest achievements.” Actually, it wasn’t exactly his achievement. The book was ghostwritten by someone else, the professional writer Tony Schwartz.

By the time of Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, Schwartz regretted his having been Trump’s ghostwriter. He said he had “put lipstick on a pig.” On the other hand, Trump’s claim to authorship is what he (Trump) would call “an innocent form of exaggeration” for the sake of “effective promotion.” But there is something both distasteful, and in character, about this fabrication/exaggeration. It reflects someone who is probably unable to tell the difference between truth and his own opinion. The result is almost certainly “bad karma.”

Telltale Friendships

One’s personality also broadly defines one’s friendship circle. This is another factor, which — if paid attention to — can shed light on who someone really is. So who is Donald Trump drawn to and who is drawn to him? Domestically, we know who these companions are (e.g., Stephen Bannon), so here we shall focus on some of the foreign leaders that Trump finds compatible.

Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

—Much has been said of Donald Trump’s affinity for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is a pugnacious personality, a strong nationalist who cares much more about the ethno-religious purity of Israel than its alleged democratic heritage. He is at the forefront of Israel’s illegal expansion into Palestinian territory and has given full rein to the bellicose, racist settlers who lead the way in this endeavor.

Nonetheless, according to Trump, Netanyahu is “my friend” and the leader of “our cherished ally Israel” with which we have “an unbreakable bound.” Trump goes on to repeat the standard mythology that both he and Netanyahu hold “shared values” such as “advancing the cause of human freedom, dignity and peace.”

This latter bit is propaganda – a longtime, standing example of “false news.” The Israelis have spent the last 70 years destroying the cause of Palestinian freedom and dignity at the price of regional peace. And the U.S.?  Last week Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said that the U.S. “no longer would condition its foreign relationships on countries adopting American values such as human rights.”

Of course, it can be argued that such a condition has rarely existed in the practice of American foreign policy and that, like Israel, values such as human rights are not among those Americans themselves practice domestically with a lot of consistency. Nonetheless, Tillerson’s confession made nonsense out of the American part of Trump’s declaration.

–Next we come to another of Trump’s “friends” – Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the “President” of Egypt, who paid a visit to the White House on April 3. According to President Trump, al-Sisi is “my great friend and ally; he is “very close to me.” Trump finished up by telling the world that al-Sisi is “doing … a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”

And who is this man, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom Trump so admires and to whom he feels so close?

Egyptian President Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi

Al-Sisi is a criminal.  He is the “Field Marshal” who pulled off a coup in 2013 against his country’s first honestly elected government and followed that up with a rigged election that made him “president” of Egypt.

Al-Sisi is a megalomaniac. He and his subordinates have constructed a cult of personality by instructing the Egyptian media to describe al-Sisi as a heroic figure,  a “brave, special, free and patriotic Egyptian.”  To criticize him is to “slander this beautiful thing we have found in our lives.”

Al-Sisi is corrupt. He and his subordinates have been funneling both public and foreign aid monies into special accounts controlled by the military.

Al-Sisi is a hooligan. He has been busy destroying any person or group opposing him, including the largely pacifist Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared “a terrorist organization.” Those who have protested against all this in the streets of Egypt have been beat up, arrested or simply shot down.

Nonetheless, al-Sisi is President Trump’s kind of guy, and the U.S. president stands with him. ”I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President Sisi.”

— Finally, we take up the appreciative attitude Trump has taken toward Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines. In early May, Trump extended an invitation to Duterte to visit the White House, remarking at the same time that the two presidents had engaged in “a very friendly conversation.” Duterte, like al-Sisi, seems to be just the sort of “get things done” kind of guy Trump is drawn to.  And it is equally clear that, in both cases, Trump is sufficiently devoid of ethics so that he doesn’t care how things actually get done.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (Photo credit:

Thus, President Duterte gets things done in his “war on drugs” by extrajudicial killings (that is, murders) of both “suspected drug dealers and users.” The resulting death toll has climbed into the thousands. If Duterte gets it into his head that you are corrupt, he may arrange to take you for a ride in his presidential helicopter and throw you out in mid-flight. It is reported that “in a brief call in December [2016] about the drug war,” then President-elect Trump told Duterte that he was waging his “war against drugs” in the “right way.”

There are others, of course, but this is a representative sample of the sort of people Trump likes – the type he “feels close to.” They seem to like him too.  Perhaps they are brothers under the skin.

The Larger Problem

Here is the larger problem. The U.S. president stands at the head of a government, the policies of which also have impact at home and abroad. These policies stand in for behaviors that shape the nation’s present and future by creating a sort of “national karma.”

And, all too often, for ideological reasons or because of plain stupidity and ignorance, that “karma” is bad. The various “blowback” episodes of the last 25 years, including the 9/11 attacks, are testimony to this fact. In many ways Washington created the context for those attacks by its own violent policies and behavior.

Presidents, who stand at the apex of this process, can’t do much about the country’s historic capitalist and imperialist worldview and ambitions.  Most U.S. leaders don’t think a change at this level is even needed. Yet presidents can and do tinker around the edges, putting limits on the militarism or giving it encouragement.

There seems little doubt as to the nature of Donald Trump’s tinkering. He seems to have a special affinity for the brutal and the barbaric. And, as he gathers to his side many of the thugs presently masquerading as foreign leaders, he helps define America’s present and near future – racking up an ever-growing list of aggrieved victims who will continue to see the United States as an active ally of their persecutors. Behavior, as an individual and as a nation, defines the human world. The forecast for Trump’s contribution?  Bad karma.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. He blogs at


25 comments for “How Trump Builds Up More ‘Bad Karma’

  1. M.L.S. Rao
    May 16, 2017 at 13:15

    God save America when Nemesis comes a calling. There is no god out there that will, coming to think of it,
    break his/her own laws to save the exceptional people from the consequences of their actions.

  2. Operation Dinner Outlaw
    May 16, 2017 at 07:11

    Zachariah: The apocalypse. Poor name, bad marketing, puts people off, when all it is is Ali/Foreman. On a slightly larger scale.

    Dean: What happens to all the people during your little pissing contest?
    Zachariah: Well, can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs. In this case, truckloads of eggs, but you get the picture.

    Zachariah: When you’ve won, your rewards will be unimaginable. Peace, happiness, two virgins and 70 sluts…

    Lucifer Rising

    Better name! Trumpalypse! We’re coming for the eggs and cheese. Trump is bringing home the bacon!

    Dean: You can take your peace… and shove it up your lily-white ass. ‘Cause I’ll take the pain and the guilt. I’ll even take Sam as is. It’s a lot better than being some Stepford bitch in Paradise. This is simple, Cas! No more crap about being a good soldier; there is a right, and there is a wrong here, and you know it. Look at me! You know it! And you were gonna help me once, weren’t you? You were gonna warn me about all this, before they dragged you back to Bible Camp. Help me, now. Please.
    Castiel: …What would you have me do?
    Dean: Get me to Sam, we can stop this before it’s too late!
    Castiel: I do that, we will all be hunted! We’ll all be killed!
    Dean: If there is anything worth dying for… this is it… (Castiel shakes his head) You spineless, soulless son of a bitch! What do you care about dying? You’re already dead. We’re done.
    Castiel: Dean.
    Dean: We’re done.

  3. Bill Bodden
    May 15, 2017 at 13:11

    Hold on. It could become worse:

    “As Trump Cozies Up to Saudi Arabia, War With Iran Becomes More Likely” by Patrick Cockburn –

  4. Stiv
    May 15, 2017 at 13:08

    Exactly. Trump has unleashed a national “mental illness” and has empowered the worst of what America has to offer. Killing this pathogen will be tough but Americans who care ( and those in other countries with a share in world prosperity ) should do everything possible to kill and eliminate these forces. Nothing short of that will do.

  5. Fuzzy
    May 15, 2017 at 09:55

    The world is nothing but organized crime families. Always has been.

  6. Sam & Shanti
    May 15, 2017 at 07:47

    We are Christians but hail from a country where the majority of people are Buddhists and Hindus and believe in karma. We too have come to believe the theory of karma is the only belief that prevents us from getting angry with God or being atheists considering the rampant violence and atrocities committed by those who have the most lethal weapons and the power to impose their will. Violence is barbaric no matter who commits or the means used. When good people suffer, it is because they are paying off their bad karma in previous life or lives. As Jesus said, we are responsible for everything that happens – good or bad. Perhaps, the innocent people killed or who flee their countries as refugees were responsible for doing the same things, in a previous life to some others! Our prayer is, God helps the human species to emulate the life of Jesus Christ and hope the martyrred death was not in vain. Being at peace with each other is a win win for all. Violence begets violence and hatred which lasts forever. Humans have achieved a great deal scientifically yet, remain barbaric in our behavior. Let us discard violence, pride, greed and ‘do unto others as we would others do unto us, and usher in heaven on earth! Let all people of conscience join forced to attain this goal.

  7. Skip Scott
    May 15, 2017 at 06:24

    As true as this article is, I think the same type of argument could be made about Hillary, Obama, W, and many others. Let us not forget especially Hillary’s “We came, we saw, he died”, and Obama’s “Terror Tuesday” kill lists. It would take a truly enlightened and spiritual person to hold the office of President and keep the wolves at bay. Those types never seem to make it into the halls of power. The vetting process doesn’t allow it.

  8. Realist
    May 15, 2017 at 04:15

    Davidson objects to Trump essentially because of his choice of “friends” or “allies” amongst international leadership and because, “judging from his public behavior, we see Trump is shallow, opinionated, self-centered and arrogant.”

    If I recollect correctly, Americans basically had a choice between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton in the past election. Ms. Clinton too has a quite well delineated line-up of friends and allies amongst international leaders and they are not all choirboys. In fact, most are thugs. In fact, most are the same thugs with whom Mr. Trump must deal on a daily basis. She also has an even more graphically defined list of leaders whom she hates with a purple passion and would never deign to do business with even if the future of the human race depended upon it. One of these is probably the key actor in any peaceful scenario that sees the continuation of our species, Vladimir Putin, and she would never deal with him, not fairly or rationally, to save all of Chelsea’s offspring and millions in bank accounts and stock options.

    If “shallow, opinionated, self-centered and arrogant” are disqualifying characters of Trump, according to Mr. Davidson, how does that possibly make Hillary Clinton, the only realistic alternative to Trump in our election, a preferable alternative? She is just as opinionated, self-centered and arrogant as Trump… probably more so, which is why she lost to the most unpopular president ever. The voters knew she would be worse. It was arrogance that allowed her to break all the rules for which she was castigated during the campaign. It was shear selfishness that caused her operatives in the DNC to systematically sabotage the Sander’s campaign. The most flawed opinion in the world model she has created in her mind is the overblown narcissism she constantly exhibits. Truly, it is more than the match of Trump’s self-adulation. And, if Trump the political novice is “shallow” for not navigating the dangerous shoals of the Deep State to perfection on his very first voyage out of port, what does it say about Hillary’s comparative skills, having foundered in multiple campaigns, especially since she had the advantage of being ensconced within the power structure of that Deep State personally over the course of over 40 years?

    Hillary was herself a major power center and string puller who alienated so many people with her dishonesty and ruthless behavior that she was rejected twice in favor of two political novices: first the callow half-term senator Barack Obama and later the slick TV personality and Madison Avenue mogul Donald Trump. Both times the public thought the unknown unknown was a better gamble than the known quantity from Liarsville via Park Ridge, Wellesley, New Haven, Little Rock, DC & NYC. With all her entrenched allies within the Deep State she could not make it happen… repeatedly. Obama was given eight years to fail at the job of the presidency, and his knee-jerk sycophants still offer him quite undeserved hosannas… to go with that Nobel “Peace” Prize. Trump the Deep State would destroy within the first quarter of calendar year 2017… after first driving him mad with the baseless allegations of treason and collusion with the Russian state to steal the presidential election. Unless they have all genuinely lost their minds, in which case we are really in trouble, all of the actors in the Deep State are actually in collusion with Hillary to i) excuse her repeated incompetence at the ballot box and ii) steal the office of the presidency from the legitimate winner basically because he espoused a set of policies that do not proceed directly to World War III with Russia, their preferred course of action.

    Speaking of karma: I hate to think what awaits America’s future if it allows the entrenched warmongering elites within the Deep State to have their way, ditch Trump, and peel out full speed ahead into major military confrontations with Russia, China, North Korea and Iran under Mike Pence, who will be a truly useful idiot totally under the corporate media’s radar. What Davidson is essentially saying is that the country needs a do-over of the election because the scenario that the Deep State powers-that-be had all mapped out, with Trump as the thoroughly groomed palooka hand-picked to take the fall, did not go according to script. Hence, it’s been one lame attempt at a soft coup after another ever since Hillary gave her concession speech. Heaven help this country if such regime changes become a routine mechanism for changing out juntas in mid-term.

  9. mike k
    May 14, 2017 at 21:37

    Very few have had the courage and tenacity to thoroughly look into the evidence pointing to our near term extinction – but it is all out there and fully authenticated by science, and it is critically important for more of us to realize how close we are to ending all human life on this beautiful planet. Those with an interest in obscuring this knowledge (like climate catastrophe and other vectors) have succeeded in making most folks think extinction is all nonsense. Not so. Look into it yourself. If enough small study groups would form to focus on this, it might make a real difference….

  10. May 14, 2017 at 21:31

    I ask:

    Will there be a day of reckoning, and justice for the oppressed?
    Those hapless, miserable, unwanted millions who have nothing left
    Refugees living in numerous camps with nowhere to go
    Once they had homes, then along came the “helping” foe

    Invaders and “liberators” bringing “order” and “democracy”
    “Responsibility to protect:” Are these the words of hypocrisy?
    Bombs, missiles, tanks and planes deliver the carnage of deadly “gains”
    Cities destroyed, civilians killed and smouldering ruins just remain

    Others have had their lands stolen, and possessed
    By those in positions of power by “legalized” theft
    Corporate cannibals swallow and plunder the earth’s resources
    Aided and abetted by politically corrupt forces

    The system has been captured and evil rules
    Endless war is the plan of these bloodthirsty ghouls
    The stupid serfs kill, and obey, for their satanic masters
    Some of them even get medals from these warring bastards…

    [more info at link below]

    • mike k
      May 14, 2017 at 22:21

      Right on Stephen! Keep writing your hard hitting poems. Somehow we have to get the sleeping people to stir from their sleep and see the nightmare that is being enacted before their uncomprehending eyes.

      • May 14, 2017 at 22:42

        Thanks Mike K.
        Cheers Stephen J.

  11. Bill Bodden
    May 14, 2017 at 20:49

    Yet I do trust in karma, and so I accept that this wretch is somehow payback to our nation for allowing our government to do all the wicked things it has done here and around the world for the last 225 years and counting

    Excellent point.

  12. May 14, 2017 at 20:27

    We just can’t win, I guess. Our previous president was articulate, personable – but was a consummate liar, in word and deed, about so many important things. Our current president can barely express what he means, knows very little about most things [except how to screw people out of money] and will probably be the nonpareil deceiver of all those who have so far held the office.

    If I were a believer, I’d spend my days and evenings in prayer on my knees or even prostrate, begging god or the gods to deliver us from this scourge and the nefarious actions he and his minions will deal out to all of us, here and overseas. But I’m not such a believer. Yet I do trust in karma, and so I accept that this wretch is somehow payback to our nation for allowing our government to do all the wicked things it has done here and around the world for the last 225 years and counting. With MLK, Jr. I recognize that our government has been, for quite a while, the greatest purveyor of violence and mayhem in the world.

    Perhaps we’ll finally come to our senses, rise up, and cast off all the greedy, hateful, and bloodthirsty bastards. Hoping against hope, I think maybe love in thought, word and deed will bring us through this dark night of the soul.

    • mike k
      May 14, 2017 at 21:28

      It will take all the love we can muster Gregory, and something more. But one thing is sure – violence will not solve our problems, and nuclear or other weapons will not keep us safe. As the psychiatrist Smiley Blanton titled his book years ago – Love or Perish. This actually is possible if enough of us choose it, but a world that continues to opt for violence and greed will not be viable for much longer. Human extinction is nearer than most people realize. The biggest lie we have been sold, and let ourselves buy into is that this world can continue the way it is going.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 14, 2017 at 21:51

      Well said Gregory.

  13. Bill Bodden
    May 14, 2017 at 19:30

    So who is Donald Trump drawn to and who is drawn to him?

    Netanyahu, al-Sisi, and Duterte. Okay. They are the leading actors. But what about the rest of the cast in this play that may prove to be a 21st century version of a Greek tragedy?

    For openers, there are almost all of the American politicians who have held and still hold office in the White House and Congress. Some of them have displayed by words and deeds that they know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, but they have no apparent problem voting for wrong and evil. Consider the 29 standing ovations almost all of the 100 senators and 435 representatives gave Netanyahu on one occasion and similar craven displays on other occasions. Nevertheless, the voters dispensing “karma” at the polls reelect these wretches to continue their vile behavior.

    • CorBu
      May 15, 2017 at 21:46

      “Nevertheless, the voters dispensing “karma” at the polls reelect these wretches to continue their vile behavior.”

      Bill, I really appreciate your posts. We citizens have karma coming our way too…I truly believe that we vote for those individuals who mirror our own inner life. For decades, most of us have been passively complicit with events that have contributed to what’s happening now, and all that’s unfolding. The Dalai Lama says that we can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. Carry on…

  14. Chet Roman
    May 14, 2017 at 18:47

    The author is too kind when describing Netanyahoo who is a war criminal, corrupt and a shameless racist. Also, I very much doubt that 9/11 was Karma, more likely it was an engineered event by those that wanted the expansion of the U.S. wars and strengthening the executive powers of an autocratic presidency. I suspect that they succeeded beyond even their own expectations.

    • ML Ramprakash
      May 16, 2017 at 12:15

      I agree. 9-11 was certainly a conspiracy successfully executed by of the neocon deep-state manipulators who make and unmake kings around the world, and are the de facto rulers of the US in the White House.

  15. May 14, 2017 at 18:25

    The writer states: “The U.S. government – and now President Trump – have a long record of palling around with oppressors,…” Very true, and being a NATO Member is part of the War Gang mentality.
    [more info at link below]

  16. May 14, 2017 at 16:52

    America’s bad karma is coming due, very soon. It’s been building for a long time, however, way before Trump. I just hope that the many good people of this country have enough spiritual and material resources that they can weather the damage done by selfish, egocentric capitalists who haven’t cared a damn about their planet or the good folks who do care.

    This weekend Eurasia is launching the One Belt One Road economic project spearheaded by China and secondarily Russia, with other Eurasian countries involved who are signaling that they’re fed up with Uncle Sam’s militaristic and economic dominance. The dollar is seriously challenged, and the foolishness of the US thinking they can just print out of thin air may soon go up in a puff. The US karma is about to run over their dogma!

    • Bill Bodden
      May 14, 2017 at 19:10

      I just hope that the many good people of this country have enough spiritual and material resources that they can weather the damage …

      The odds are the “good people” will get it where it hurts if past events are prologue. Those among the “good people” who have been active and rose to resist the evil creators of the catastrophe deserve better, but the other who have been like the “good Germans” of the 1930s will have no one to blame but themselves. Then there are the perpetrators of evil who, like the British, French, Dutch, and other colonists, who will still manage a comfortable future so their progeny can ensure problems for future generations.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 14, 2017 at 22:23

      Jessica I’m going to leave a link to an article about Julia Ward Howe who in 1870 wrote ‘the Mothers Day Proclamation’. Howe became a peace activist after being a proponent of the Civil War, and she regretted her success when she wrote the song ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’. Once Julia Ward Howe saw how war effected the returning soldiers she then became a advocate for peace. Read this article…

      I thought of you Jessica, because Julia Ward Howe was a protesting abolitionist and war critic.

    • ML Ramprakash
      May 16, 2017 at 12:08

      No individual or a community or nation can hurt others and remain unaffected by the just retribution that follows in the arithmetic of the universe. Karma is not just axiom of Hindu, Buddhist or Jain ; it is as much an axiomatic truth in the Christianity, albeit Christians have forgotten it. “With what measure you mete, it would be measured unto you again’ (Mathew) is an axiom of the Karmic law which Jesus taught. So did St Paul : “God is not mocked, as you sow, you shall reap.” (Not the exact words)

      Heavy retributive Karma will fall on the U.S. which nothing can avert. Self-made destiny.

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