Geopolitics

'All Leaders Lie' - Trump Takes A Truism To Its Logical Extreme

A leader can, in good conscience, conceal dysfunctions, hide problems or mitigate difficulties. Telling white lies allows him to restore hope for his allies, and rekindle their desire to act. But what happens when it is the very definition of self-serving

He has chosen his side: the simple, the false.
He has chosen his side: the simple, the false.
Isabelle Barth*

-Analysis-

"I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today October 5, 2020 at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!"

Another unbelievable tweet from the indescribable Donald Trump, the man who sets off media tsunamis every morning. Whether we like the president of the United States or not, it's hard not to be fascinated by his confidence — by his ability to utter outrageous comments with the deepest sincerity. What he says is not just exaggerated, it is simply not true. It is not even probable. And everyone knows it, even his most loyal followers, but this is a matter of magical thinking.

He doesn't even try to give any credibility to his declarations.

We are stronger than the virus, we will have a vaccine within three months ... Who doesn't want to believe this? There are those who follow suit without an argument. And there are those who laugh, or refute the comments, while saying they would like them to be true, and that this ability to bend the facts to one's desires is indeed fascinating. Napoleon considered leaders to be "dealers of hope" and that's exactly what Donald Trump is trying to do!

Is he lying? His relationship with reality is such that he doesn't even try to give any credibility to his declarations. He is absolutely sincere with himself.

"Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand," retired U.S. General and former Secretary State Colin Powell once noted. This ability to utter "sincere lies' with passion in a simple — and even simplistic way ... is it not what's required of all leaders?

Trump supporter in New York — Photo: Capturing the human heart

We know, thanks to French philosopher Paul Valéry, that "everything that is simple is false, but everything that is complicated is unusable." Trump has chosen his side: the simple, the false. Aren't executives and managers within companies also tempted to tap into the same resource?

They are taught that they must show a positive attitude, in order to get their teams on board. In a context of turmoil, the leader must always find "good news' to deliver. Who hasn't heard a leader, yet full of doubts, claim that everything was "under control"?

The leader can thus, in true conscience, conceal dysfunctions, hide problems or mitigate difficulties. These white lies are told for the good of the people. And there is no doubt that some of these lies provide relief, give hope, and rekindle the desire to act. Should we conclude then that the leader fears that sharing his doubts and bad news will weaken him? After reading many speeches from political, military and business leaders, one might think so.

To govern is to lie.

Churchill did succeed in galvanizing a people by beginning his speech of May 13, 1940, with: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." However, he continued with a promise, at a time which was just as uncertain as the arrival of a vaccine against COVID-19 today: "Victory at all costs — Victory in spite of all terror — Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival." The stance the leader has undertaken is clear: no weakness, no regret, no doubt, no nuance ... Hope at all costs.

"To govern is to lie," wrote French author Jean Giono. But there are two types of lies: the one that is made out of egocentricity and serves only the person — this is the case of Trump who exploits the would-be victory over the virus in order to be reelected. And there's lying to serve a cause, as Churchill did, to boost the morale of his fellow citizens.

This very particular relationship with the truth is characteristic of a leader. He knows that in the end, he will only be judged on his success. He tells himself that afterwards, we will forget, and we will forgive him for lying. This is the formula that has worked for Donald Trump, and that he will continue right through until November 3.



*Isabelle Barth is a professor in management sciences at the University of Strasbourg, France.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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