Sunday, January 24, 2016

Had Enough Trump? Part Deux.

The debate continues. Yesterday’s post, “Had Enough Trump?” elicited a fine round of intelligent and sometimes heated comments, mostly favoring the Donald. Rather than respond in the comments section, I will post about them here.

Before that, I remark on the bouquet that the Donald threw to his supporters yesterday:

I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's like – incredible!

From what I can tell, he is probably right. And yet, this is not flattering. Before you all accuse me of insulting Trump's supporters, it’s worth noting that the Donald was insulting them… to their face. And they did not even seem to know it.

Trump’s supporters may love him beyond reason, but that is not necessarily a good thing. There are words for that level of devotion, and most of them are not very nice. Among those that come to mind are: idolatry.

Which makes a certain amount of sense. Only a god could accomplish what Trump says he will accomplish. And only an idolater would believe it.

I am sure you know this already, but compared to the antics of the Olympian gods, shooting someone on Fifth Avenue would barely count as bad behavior.

Of course, Trump’s supporters are not alone in thinking that he is a god. He believes it himself and has believed it for some time now. For example, in 1984 Trump explained to the Washington Post that he could negotiate a missile deal with the Soviet Union:

It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles. I think I know most of it anyway.

Let’s say that he is exaggerating for rhetorical effect, but if he believes that he can learn everything there is to know about missiles, in say a day and a half, we are not dealing with a common everyday run-of-the mill human being. We are dealing with a god. If you believe that he can do what he says, your devotion is idolatrous.

The rationale for the Trump candidacy, as many commenters have noted rests on the failure of the Republican establishment. About this failure Trump had precious little to say before a few months ago.

For those who think that Trump would be a fearsome warrior against the establishment, I would note that said establishment is currently flocking to Donald Trump. They are persuaded that they can deal with him. They are not worried about Trump.

Thomas Sowell explained it:

Yet there are even a few people with strong conservative principles who have lined up with this man, whose history has demonstrated no principles at all, other than an ability to make self-serving deals, and who has shown what Thorstein Veblen once called "a versatility of convictions."

With the Iowa caucuses coming up, it is easy to understand why Iowa governor Terry Branstad is slamming Trump's chief rival, Senator Ted Cruz, who has opposed massive government subsidies to ethanol, which have dumped tons of taxpayer money on Iowa for growing corn. Iowa's Senator Charles Grassley has come right out and said that is why he opposes Senator Cruz.

Former Senator Bob Dole, an establishment Republican if ever there was one, has joined the attacks on Ted Cruz, on grounds that Senator Cruz is disliked by other politicians.

When Senator Dole was active, he was liked by both Democrats and Republicans. He joined the long list of likable Republican candidates for president that the Republican establishment chose-- and that the voters roundly rejected.

With both establishment Republicans and anti-establishment Republicans now taking sides with Donald Trump, it is hard to see what principle-- if any-- is behind his support.

But then, what do these establishment Republicans know that you do not know?

They understand a point I have been making for lo these many months, namely, that in terms of government, Donald Trump is a rank amateur. While he certainly knew enough about real estate to negotiate real estate deals, that does not mean that he can or will know enough about every subject that falls within the purview of the American president. It is absurd to think otherwise.

Recently, the New York Times published a long article describing how Trump negotiated the Plaza Hotel deal. Certainly, he negotiated very skillfully. But, note well, he was negotiating, not just from strength, but from knowledge. He knew real estate and he knew real estate people.

Nevertheless, by his own admission, he overpaid for the Plaza Hotel. When the real estate market went sour and Trump was forced to hand the Plaza, along with a mass of his other properties over to the banks, they sold the Plaza for considerably less than he had paid for it.

Just because you are an expert deal maker, does not mean that you always make good deals.

Trump will surely try to hire good people to work for him, but that assumes that good people will want to work for him. And it ignores this fact: someone who is woefully uninformed about policy, politics, foreign affairs, military affairs and the functioning of the federal government will be completely dependent on his advisers. 

If that is the case, what will happen when two of your brilliant advisers disagree? Either you know enough to make a decision or you flip a coin. A leader who knows very little about his job will be the most easy to manipulate.

In other words, Trump does not know enough about the function of government to do anything that will upset the Republican establishment. If you disagree, and many of you will, ask yourself this: what do they know that you do not know?

As you also know, National Review and other members of the conservative intelligentsia have been subjected to withering criticism for noting that Trump is not a conviction conservative. He has always been a deal maker and has happily supported people on all sides of the political spectrum. Which is thoroughly appropriate for a businessman who wants to build buildings and golf courses and who needs to deal with government officials.

But Trump has not thought through the major philosophical questions. He has not thought through the major policy issues. There is no reason to believe that he would stand for principle when he does not really know enough about principles to know when he would or would not be yielding on them. Besides, when faced with the choice of standing up for principle or making a deal, which would he choose?

About that Thomas Sowell offered a couple of sobering thoughts. Admittedly, he, like Trump believes that many of Trump’s supporters have not really thought things through, that their support is more emotional than rational.

Sowell wrote:

Trump boasts that he can make deals, among his many other boasts. But is a deal-maker what this country needs at this crucial time? Is not one of the biggest criticisms of today's Congressional Republicans that they have made all too many deals with Democrats, betraying the principles on which they ran for office?

Bipartisan deals -- so beloved by media pundits -- have produced some of the great disasters in American history.

Contrary to the widespread view that the Great Depression of the 1930s was caused by the stock market crash of 1929, unemployment never reached double digits in any of the 12 months that followed the stock market crash in October, 1929.

Unemployment was 6.3 percent in June 1930 when a Democratic Congress and a Republican president made a bipartisan deal that produced the Smoot-Hawley tariffs. Within 6 months, unemployment hit double digits -- and stayed in double digits throughout the entire decade of the 1930s.

You want deals? There was never a more politically successful deal than that which Neville Chamberlain made in Munich in 1938. He was hailed as a hero, not only by his own party but even by opposition parties, when he returned with a deal that Chamberlain said meant "peace for our time." But, just one year later, the biggest, bloodiest and most ghastly war in history began.

If deal-making is your standard, didn't Barack Obama just make a deal with Iran -- one that may have bigger and worse consequences than Chamberlain's deal?

What kind of deals would Donald Trump make? He has already praised the Supreme Court's decision in "Kelo v. City of New London" which said that the government can seize private property to turn it over to another private party.

That kind of decision is good for an operator like Donald Trump. Doubtless other decisions that he would make as president would also be good for Donald Trump, even if for nobody else.

In response to which and in response to National Review, one Theodore Roosevelt Malloch denounced the conservative intellectuals for having been wrong all along and for taking the wrong side. Thinking that his being a descendant of TR himself made him something of an expert on TR, Malloch also pointed out that, to his mind, Trump recalled Teddy Roosevelt.

About the intelligentsia Malloch said to the Daily Caller:

“The motivation simply is: life or death,” the scholar told The DC. “They want their cushy jobs, going on talk shows, getting free lunches and cocktails, being important and the prestige it brings. They are in fact part of the ‘ruling political class’ and that will end [under a President Trump].”

For the record, Malloch is a writer, but not exactly a scholar. He runs a company that sells ideas about strategy and leadership. His argument against the conservative intelligentsia is quite simple. He does not address their ideas; he impugns their motives. It’s much easier to impugn motives than to argue the issues or the policies.

Why then are Republican politicians and lobbyists flocking to Trump? About that, Malloch has no answer.

Malloch, like many other Trump supporters likes the Donald because he’s:

…a doer — not an idle thinker or theorist. He represents a kind of national conservatism that has a popular rather than an elitist stance.

And yet, since Trump has never done anything as a public official or as an officer of the government, the thought that he can walk into Washington and actually do things rests on faith, not on evidence.

Defending Trump, Malloch asserted:

“Donald Trump is perhaps best viewed as the 21st century Theodore Roosevelt. The two leaders have much in common — from style and swagger to substance and outlook,” he wrote in a Forbes column in December.

According to the scholar, Trump is like Roosevelt in understanding “the value of capital and labor;” advocating a “strong policy of American Nationalism;” creating “another kind of conservation;” and believing “good government is rooted in good citizenship.”

Of course, Theodore Roosevelt was also one of the founders of the American progressive movement, but why quibble over details. TR was a great president, but he was also a great intellectual. He counts among the best writers we have ever had in the White House. TR was a prolific author and wrote his own books. They were invariably well written and showed a commanding grasp of the workings of government, of world politics, of the military. He had served in the military, had been assistant secretary of the Navy, a commissioned military officer, the Police Commissioner of New York City and the governor of New York State.  

TR wrote his first book when he was an undergraduate at Harvard. It was published when he was 23 and was entitled The Naval War of 1912. It might not have sold as many copies as some of Trump’s books, but it was widely respected  as one of the best studies of its subject.

TR’s contemporaneous op-eds about World War I count as brilliant analyses of the foreign policy and military issues. They are collected in four volumes, the first of which is America and the World War.

True enough, the Republican establishment of the day was horrified at TR, someone who was not really one of them and whom they did not believe they could control. Why did they not like TR? The reason must have been that he had considerable experience in government and knew more than they did, about almost everything.


Marsh said...

Morning, Stuart. I'm on my way out the door to take my kids sleigh riding, so I'm only going to comment on one point right now.

Go read Jenna Johnson from the Washington Post, who was the only one who reported correctly what Trump said about the shooting on Fifth Ave. comment.

He was repeating what someone else had said about the loyalty of his voters. It was a joke. And believe me, no one looks at Trump as a god. We see all his flaws very clearly.

Leo G said...

What I am enjoying lately is the comparison of Mr. Trump's stated objectives to Mr. Sanders stated objectives.

It appears that on a lot of issues, both Gentlemen see the same solution, just through different lenses.

Anonymous said...

I worry that Trump is too volatile, and doesn't know about the inner workings of govt. The latter might be good - he hasn't been "captured" by the Elite Poo Bahs. Now the Repub "Establishment" is moving his way. That's suspicious and worrisome.

Hillary? She was fired from her first DC job - for malfeasance & misfeasance. She flunked the DC bar exam. She may be sicker than we know. She's been massively corrupt & incompetent all her life. The FBI just indicted her.

Cruz. All his colleagues, both sides of the aisle, Loathe Him. Not good.

Going back, the POTUS w/a Ph.D. in Poli Sci was awful. Plus, he should have stepped down due to many strokes. He of all people knew that.

TR? Phenomenal man in every respect, became POTUS by accident. He served w/distinction. Got Wilson elected out of spite & hubris.

Who to look to now? I have no idea. -- Rich Lara

Ares Olympus said...

What makes me reflect now is the contrast between Trump and Cruz. Ted Cruz rose to power through tea party obstructionism, symbolized by useless filibustering, and reading Dr. Seuss "I don't like green eggs and ham."

And he'd proud of his conviction not to compromise.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is known for sticking to his principles, but that might trip him up if he were to become president, a position that requires compromise, said CNN host Dana Bash.

"Give me an example where you have successfully compromised in the United States Senate with Democrats," Bash asked Cruz on CNN’s State of the Union March 29.

Cruz mentioned his sponsorship of a bill that denied admission to the United States any United Nations representative who poses a national security threat (a response to Iran’s chosen U.N. representative). The bill passed unanimously in both the Senate and the House.

But that bill that was non-controversial, and it is the only bill Cruz has passed in his two years in office, Bash added.

"It's fair that there's just one piece of legislation that is now law with your name on it?" she asked.
"Cruz paints himself as an ideological outsider," he said. "That stance isn't conducive to lawmaking in a chamber built to foster bipartisan consensus."

In fact, Cruz essentially agreed with Bash in the interview, but blamed former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "We passed next to nothing," Cruz said.

So Cruz more accurately stands as a radical insurgent against a government that has gotten too powerful, willing to fight his own party to stop any legislative action. That's what he stands for - ending ethanol subsidizes, even when Iowa republicans support it. He's on the side of reducing federal powers over our lives. Unlike Trump's "versatility of convictions" Cruz can be said to be focused exactly on what Republicans claim they should be focused on, when they don't have to compromise on anything.

So that's curious is Trump in this regard is completely opposite. He's closer to Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America", with his "Make America Great Again." Trump wants to build things. He wants walls, big ones. He wants military power, big power. He wants everything that shows how great America is over every other country on earth.

But all of that costs money, and Trump is willing to spend. He's willing to not only compromise with the republicans, but he might want to compromise with the Democrats even more, just like Reagan did. Trump even promises to raise taxes at times. There's no end to the "bigness" that is Trump and give him TR's bully pulpit.
“You know what? There’s a point at which: Let’s get to be a little establishment,” Trump told the crowd at the South Point resort and casino. “We’ve got to get things done folks, OK? Believe me, don’t worry. We’re going to make such great deals.”
“Between Trump and Cruz, it’s not even close,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a longtime House moderate who has not endorsed a candidate. “Cruz isn’t a good guy, and he’d be impossible as president. People don’t trust him. And regardless of what your concern is with Trump, he’s pragmatic enough to get something done. I also don’t see malice in Trump like I see with Cruz.”…
“With Trump, hey, it’s just a deal,” said Alex Castellanos, a longtime Republican strategist. “The primary’s one deal, that’s done. If he were to be the nominee, the next deal’s a general [election]. You can see him saying, ‘We had to do what we had to do to win the primary, but now’s the general, and we’ve got to beat Hillary.’ You can see him pivot on a dime.

Trump IS big government personified.

Ares Olympus said...

I was curious what Trump has to say about the National debt, and he does claim he supports a balanced budget, something that hasn't existed since Bill Clinton's "Its the economy stupid" and NAFTA, ending Glass Steagall separation of investment banks, and still only if you can count borrowing from Social Security surpluses.
HANNITY: Would you insist on a balanced budget as president?

TRUMP: I would insist on it relatively soon. Right now, we're so under, we're so far under that you can't go too quickly. But I would absolutely insist on it relatively soon. And I would make deals that would be so good and fast.

And Trump would do this by getting America back to work. He wouldn't just look at the current 5% official unemployment figure, but he'd look at the "labor force participation rate", which for men has fallen from 86% in 1950 down to 68.9% last year, falling continually, but ever faster since the 2008 economic crisis.
HANNITY: How do you get 93 million Americans back in the work place? How do you get 46 million Americans off of food stamps and 50 million Americans out of poverty?

TRUMP: We're going to be thriving as a country, thriving! It can happen. I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created! I tell you that.

TRUMP: We have people that aren't working. We have people that have no incentive to work. But they're going to have incentive to work because the greatest social program is a job. And they'll be proud and they'll love it and they'll make much more money than they would have ever made.

And they'll be -- they'll be doing so well, and we're going to be thriving as a country, thriving! It can happen. I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created! I tell you that.
HANNITY: ... You say you'd be the greatest jobs president. Let's get specific. How will you create those jobs?

TRUMP: I mean, what's going on is unbelievable. So what's happening? Other countries have taken our jobs. China has taken our jobs. Mexico is the new China. They are killing us on jobs. ...
TRUMP: We have to take it away and take it back from all of the countries that have just ripped us, and they're just tearing the money out of our pockets. We have to bring jobs back to our country. We have to bring manufacturing back to our country. We have to bring our money back.

We have tremendous potential in this. But you know what, Sean. If it's not done soon, if we go another four or five or six years like this, we're never going to be able to bring it back...

Does Trump's "Art of the Deal" means the U.S. has to get tough on U.S. businesses that export jobs to other countries, things Americans could do for themselves. So maybe like his wall with Mexico, to help keep poor Mexicans out of our produce farms so American can pick vegetables. Can we bring back manufacturing jobs to America so people can live middle class lifestyles without a college education?

I almost want to imagine a "Its a wonderful life" alternative future, or "Christmas Carol", or Back to the Future, with Biff's sports result book that made him a billionaire?

I rather expect the future is full of chaos because the government has overpromised everything, and this is where conservatives are right. And Trump doubles-down on every promise, a chicken in every pot, and enough well paying jobs for all, but no need for minimum wage.

So we know Trump's grandiose promises will fail, even if its not his fault. But what sort of failure do we want? Is an ever more powerful centralized government the path to less chaos, or a guarantee of larger future chaos.

We need some imagination to help us decide the slowest road to Hell.

Ares Olympus said...

Articles are flying a week before the Iowa Caucus, like this long detailed one in support of Cruz over Trump, but it sounds more like someone reading a resume, than someone reading a man.
These Cruz economic policies include all the four components of the Reagan economic recovery plan:
--Reduced tax rates to promote economically productive activity;
--Deregulation, to reduce regulatory burdens and barriers on such activity.
--Reduced federal spending, to reduce the federal drain on the private sector;
--Stable dollar monetary policy, to maximize investment from across the globe.
Why would any conservative vote for the erratic Donald Trump, with no grounding in conservative policy or philosophy, and no history of conservatism, when they can vote for one of the sharpest minds ever elected to Congress, the proven political winner Ted Cruz, who has been steeped in conservative policy and philosophy from an early age, and raised with the training and development to be one of the most skilled advocates for conservatism in history? You can’t tell where Trump is going to come out on any issue. But you can be sure of where Cruz is going to stand, based on his consistent public record of conservatism.

Cruz may not have a single personality trait that overlaps with Reagan.

Well, on rhetoric there was Reagan's first First Inaugural Address in 1981 "In our present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem".

And meanwhile Reagan's actual legacy was the start of the financialization and globalization of the economy, completed by Clinton's trade expansions and deregulations, and bailed out by Bush, and enabled by Obama. So we're in a completely different world than the one Reagan inhabited.

The world we live in now is one where there's $100 trillion dollars of net assets that are worth $25 trillion when the Federal Reserve's fiat madness is finally halted. So its a world of musical chairs where billionaires have just a few more years to position themselves in the post-growth world.

And now we have uber-billionaire Bloomberg, willing to follow Trump with a billion dollars of his own money for a third party run?

We might yet have a 3 way race - New York Hillary, New York Bloomberg, and if New York Trump is defeated, Texan Cruz will be the poor guy, only having his Goldman Sachs loans to lead him to victory, no strings attached?

Marsh said...

You need to respect the will of the majority. We should be a grass roots party. And the grass roots agree w/ Trump on most issues...especially on immigration. Which is far and away the most important issue in 2016.

We have two choices.

Trump: The GOP base's lovable "moderate" and "murder weapon". He is refreshingly conservative on immigration and has devastated the party's amnesty wing. He is our only chance to bring sanity into America's immigration system. Other pluses: he answers to no one and is not owned by corporate donors.

The Rest: Corporate Whores. They answer to the highest bidder and can modify their positions on any issues to suit their donors. Some talk a good game, but will back stab you once elected.

To modify the statement of the late WFB only slightly: " The CORRUPTION of establishmentarian contenders (awakens the voting public) and (it) says on voting day, CUT IT OUT!!!"

Ares Olympus said...

One last perspect, this blog paints Trump as escaping the traditionally assumed Left/Right polarity and going straight into class warfare, dividing America into 4 classes: investment class, a salary class, a wage class, and a welfare class, and sees Trump's support comes from the wage class.
...It’s by no means certain that Trump will ride that resentment straight to the White House, though at this moment it does seem like the most likely outcome. Still, I trust none of my readers are naive enough to think that a Trump defeat will mean the end of the phenomenon that’s lifted him to front runner status in the teeth of everything the political establishment can throw at him. I see the Trump candidacy as a major watershed in American political life, the point at which the wage class—the largest class of American voters, please note—has begun to wake up to its potential power and begin pushing back against the ascendancy of the salary class.

Whether he wins or loses, that pushback is going to be a defining force in American politics for decades to come. Nor is a Trump candidacy anything approaching the worst form that could take. If Trump gets defeated, especially if it’s done by obviously dishonest means, the next leader to take up the cause of the wage class could very well be fond of armbands or, for that matter, of roadside bombs. Once the politics of resentment come into the open, anything can happen—and this is particularly true, it probably needs to be said, when the resentment in question is richly justified by the behavior of many of those against whom it’s directed.

If this is true, then we can consider not only is Trump not a "true conservative", but his supporters don't want him to be one. He is "The Chosen one" in the same way Obama was, a movement looking for a leader, with "Yes we can" as their motto of empowerment. And that's why Trump's followers have such blind loyalty. His followers are now directing him in some intuitive way, and if it is a class thing, we can imagine, especially if Left Populist Sanders is eliminated, that Trump can gain support from the wage class on the left as well. Afterall, Trump says he has the biggest heart, so he can play on Liberal fantasies as well as Conservative ones.

Its also interesting the blog considered this honest and troublesome class resentment can promote a much less civilized candidates than Trump. And like the Rancher protestors in armed rebellion out west, fantasies of taking power in one's own hands against a corrupt elite is easy to picture on the right. So these people need to see a way forward without stockpiling weapons and building bunkers to defend them.

So Trump might be the perfect left/right bridge, someone who can offend everyone, and not play favorites, and in the end pull the largest class movement in the history of American to the forefront?

And on that line here's a new article from CSMonitor, suggesting Trump could become the next FDR, completely rethinking what social nets are available to Help people, without making them simply dependent upon government handouts, all in line with Arthur Brooks's view of conservativism.

You never know. What we do know, is MANY people have chosen Trump, and perhaps he is like Gandhi who supposedly said: "There goes my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader."

Marsh said...

Stuart, where's your piece on Glenn Beck' s endorsement of Cruz? It was spectacular. I especially enjoyed watching Beck swear Cruz in as POTUS.

What was Cruz thinking?

Anonymous said...

An open letter to Mark Levin

Martin said...

Had enough of WRITING about Trump?

In the West, we have the luxury of navel-gazing, or in the case of the punditry, frittering away the time, space and energy with indolent diatribes in answer to false queries posed by those whose perceived command of the word "conservative" is not only imaginary, but isn't based in experience, let alone moral authority. The concept has been so abused, Americans don't know what it means anymore; frankly, they no longer care. That it's all you've got is equally clear.

The problem is, you don't have an alternative, now do you?

Not unlike liberals attacking fossil fuels when no viable alternative exists, there is no candidate with the acclaim - you know, that most basic of political forces - that the one you so despise, seemingly, has in abundance.

At some point, the punditry will divorce themselves from their obvious love of being situationally correct, but generally in a state of losing. The American people are well acquainted with that, and having tired of their interests being exchanged for the love of money, want to see the ruling class utterly destroyed. Staking a claim as a mouthpiece for its usury of political capital does not go unnoticed.

Trump's support is not imaginary; you cannot force the issue, and what you are doing is not meaningless, nor is it without consequence. Better you should examine WHY he excels, than rail against HOW he does it. At the cost of your credibility, American and party unity, and your mental well-being.

It isn't about Trump, but what he represents. You may as well try to put the proverbial toothpaste back into the tube.

Anonymous said...

This article reads like an overly-verbose one-dimentional, cartoon-like criticism of someone (and that's the author's first mistake: he doesn't understand the SOMETHING that is the driver, propelling "the someone"). The author clearly does not WANT to get it.

Simply said, Americans love America, and betrayal has its limits.

Think about that, author.

Maybe this:
will help.
If not, maybe this:

In any case, enjoy the coming Trump Era.