Friday, January 27, 2017

Game on in Washington

Perhaps Donald Trump swore an oath to himself… that he was not going to follow the example of George W. Bush and allow himself to be a media punching bag. We will see whether his punch-back twice-as-hard strategy works. For now Trump appears to be out-of-touch with the facts. A week into his administration,  he does not seem to have developed messaging discipline… yet.

Or else, it may be that Trump is gaslighting the media, baiting them with obvious falsehoods and provoking them to show themselves as emotionally overwrought. They are beginning to sound like a braindead celebrity yelling: The Nazis are coming! The Nazis are coming!

Glenn Reynolds offers this thesis in USA Today:

… Trump likes it this way, because when the press is constantly attacking him over trivialities, it strengthens his position and weakens the press. Trump’s “outrageous” statements and tweets aren’t the product of impulsiveness, but part of a carefully maintained strategy that the press is too impulsive to resist.

And also:

So he’s prodding reporters to do things that will make them less trusted, and they’re constantly taking the bait.

They’re taking the bait because they think he’s dumb, and impulsive, and lacking self-control — but he’s the one causing them to act in ways that are dumb and impulsive, and demonstrate lack of self-control. 

What should the press and the Trump opposition do? Reynolds offers sound advice:

The killer counter-move for the press isn’t to double down on anti-Trump messaging. The counter-move is to bolster its own trustworthiness by acting (and being) more neutral and sober, and by being more trustworthy. If the news media actually focused on reporting facts accurately and straightforwardly, on leaving opinion to the pundits, and on giving Trump a clearly fair shake, then Trump’s tactics wouldn’t work, and any actual dirt they found on him would do actual damage. He’s betting on the press being insufficiently mature and self-controlled to manage that. So far, his bet is paying off.

As for press bias, yesterday the senior State Department staff resigned en masse. The press declared that they were repudiating Donald Trump. It also explained that these staff members were effectively running the place, controlling the massive bureaucracy. They were leaving the incoming secretary without anyone with management skill. This is a bit bizarre considering that Rex Tillerson has considerably more management experience than all of them combined.

Others do not see this as a rebuke to the Trump administration. They believe that the officials were going to be fired anyway. Some have suggested that they were fired, but put out another story to save face. Besides, these officials did not have a very good record of accomplishment.

Roger Simon examines their track record: 

The State Department is undoubtedly chock full of those with dirty hands from the Clinton email scandal and its attendant coverup.  They're lucky not to be indicted, assuming they won't be.  And then there's the Benghazi episode.  The degree to which State and Mrs. Clinton colluded with the White House on that one is not yet fully known, despite the hours of testimony. Kennedy was involved in that too, as was Victoria Nuland, who was also let go.

And speaking of dirty hands, the  State Department is way past mere fingernail problems, but up to its elbows and neck in the shameful (and still opaque) Iran nuclear deal that bypassed Congress, not to mention the American people, to shovel boatloads of cash to the mullahs who are now busy spending them on such humanitarian enterprises as providing advanced munitions for Hezbollah, the Houthis, Hamas, various homicidal Syrian thugs, and who knows what other crazed Islamist terrorists who are about to drone a shopping mall near you.

Then again, they were diverse, and that must count for something.

While the press is fighting its war against Trump, the new president is making some interesting moves of his own. One does better to tamp down one’s emotions and to examine the game that is being played. Better the game than the drama.

Peggy Noonan writes this morning that Trump is working to produce an important political realignment. Pay closer attention to the White House meetings, Noonan says. Through them, Trump is identifying himself as a jobs president, as a president who cares primarily about American jobs. It might, as some have suggested, be a lot of PR. Surely, it looks more like mercantilism than free trade. And, many of the jobs that were announced were going to stay here anyway.

No matter. Trump is defining his presidency in terms of economic opportunity, at the expense of identity politics and political correctness. He has done so in a series of important White House meetings.

Noonan reports on a meeting with CEOs:

More important than the [executive] orders were the White House meetings. One was a breakfast with a dozen major CEOs. They looked happy as frolicking puppies in the photo-op, and afterward talked about jobs. Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin said she was “encouraged by the president’s commitment to reduce barriers to job creation.” In a statement after the meeting, the glassmaker Corning, whose CEO attended, announced plans to expand its U.S. manufacturing base significantly over the next few years. Because I live in New York and work at the Journal, I see and talk to American CEOs. I’ve never heard them bang on about a need to boost American jobs and manufacturing, ever. They usually talk about targeted microloans in India, and robots.

This meeting was less significant than the meeting that Trump took with labor union leaders. Noonan explains:

More important still—the most important moment of the first week—was the meeting with union leaders. Mr. Trump gave them almost an hour and a half. “The president treated us with respect, not only our organization but our members,” said Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, by telephone. Liuna had not endorsed Trump in the campaign, but Mr. O’Sullivan saw the meeting’s timing as an expression of respect: “He’s inaugurated on Friday and we’re invited in Monday to have a substantial conversation.” The entire Trump top staff was there, including the vice president: “His whole team—we were very impressed.” They talked infrastructure, trade and energy. “The whole meeting was about middle class jobs, how do we create more?” Mr. O’Sullivan believes the Keystone pipeline will eventually generate more than 40,000 jobs. Mr. O’Sullivan said he hopes fixing “our crumbling transportation infrastructure” will be “the largest jobs program in the country.”

Mark Lilla warned Democrats about continuing to play the identity politics card. They do not seem to have heeded his message. Now, Trump wants to bring back men's jobs and the environmental lobby is attacking the Keystone and Dakota pipeline executive orders.

Note what Trump is doing. First, as Noonan notes, he is picking the Democrats’ pocket by inviting one of its most important constituencies into his big tent. He is showing them respect and courtesy, something that they were not shown in the previous Democratic administration. Second, Trump was creating tens of thousands of guy-jobs, jobs in construction and manufacturing and industry. If the Democratic Party wants to be the Woman’s Party, as it identified itself during the last campaign and over the weekend, it might find out that it cannot hold the woman’s vote. As Hillary Clinton discovered, many women do not vote the feminist party line. No one seems to pay it much attention, but a lot of women strongly disliked Hillary.

Noonan also explains that the press would do better to stop attacking Trump and to try to understand what he is doing, and how much he appeals to the average voter:

It’s a mistake for observers in Washington and New York to fixate on Mr. Trump’s daily faux pas at the expense of the political meaning of what he’s doing. He’s changing the face of the GOP. It is a mistake, too, to see Mr. Trump’s tweet on how Chicago had better solve its problem with violent crime or he’ll “send in the Feds,” as merely stupid—just a tweet that raises the question “What does ‘send in the Feds’ mean?” If you’re a parent in a tough Chicago neighborhood, you’d be heartened to think the feds might help. You’d be happy the president noticed. You’d say, “Go, Trump!”


Ares Olympus said...

Journalists certainly are better of objectively focusing on the 5 Ws: What happened? Who is involved? Where did it take place? When did it take place? Why did that happen?

But there's still the open question over priority - which topics are newsworthy and which are not, OR which ones SEEM newsworthy but are in fact meaningless and even distractions from other more important topics.

The more I think about the more I realized I don't really know. Obviously "dog bits mans" is more important, than a crazy "man bites dog", but if you want people to pick up your newspaper or click on your headline, which attracts attention?

And dry fact checking is simply not that interesting, especially if the conclusion is "man really didn't bite dog".

And fact-checking can even be mean-spirited, like fact checking the weather when Trump says the sun came out during his inauguration.

You can imagine a married Couple - Papa Trump and Mama Just-the-Facts-News going out to a party, and every time Papa confabulates a story, Mama cuts in and says "That's not true." Poor papa might even admit the story was untrue in private, but once he's committed to it publicly, it just looks bad to be called a liar, simply for trying to be entertaining.

Myself I feel convinced that Trump is literally unable to recognize his own lies, and by that I mean that his ability to reflect is so hampered that he doesn't even want to know, since it would be too painful, so he just keeps flying forward, and doubles-down on whatever nonsense he said before if challenged.

So you imagine on a whim once he said "We're going to build a wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it." And he said it merely to sound tough, and if no one had cheered when he said that, and if no one complained when he said that, and if no one reminded him that he said that, it simply would have ceased to exist.

But since some people cheered, and other people were outraged, and others kept trying to get him to admit it is unreasonable, he is DETERMINED to be proved correct - that it is possible and reasonable to bully your neighbor to pay for your wall.

And Trump's bromance with Putin stands as a similar fantasyland. Because Putin said something neutrally positive about Trump, and Trump heard that translated that Putin called him a genius, now Trump feels like he has a new best friend, no matter what ever other Republican says, or the history of the Russian and American relationship. Suddenly the Dealmaker envisions a positive relationship with Russia, carried by Trump's genius, and now the hated ISIS can be stopped. Afterall, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, as long as you can figure out which enemy is scarier, and obviously bad people with swords are scarier than bad people with nukes.

Yet, this is all the drama right? But is Trump really going to create jobs for us? Republicans have always said the goverment can't create jobs, but that is their plan - saying more jobs will be created if we reduce regulations and let the billionaires manipulate the next market crash to their optimal timing. And every time there is a crisis, use it as an excused to demonize part of the government and outsource or privatize it into the hands of wall street.

So I do worry about those things more than Trump's wall or his love of imaginging people calling him a genius. I hope reporters can stay on this track and show where the swamp is really draining into next.

Trigger Warning said...

I was delighted to read that the Benghazi/IranDeal/AntiSemite/Pay4Play wingnuts quit the premises of Foggy Bottom. Pity it wasn't a conga line.

Ares Olympus said...

p.s. Here's a newest takedown of Trump's theater of actions, painting Steve Bannon as play-director mastermind.
And as it turns out, governing by Breitbart op-ed has its drawbacks. For example, Trump’s executive order on the Keystone XL was drafted without the consultation of the State Department, despite the fact that the company behind the pipeline is suing the U.S. for $15 billion — and aspects of the order could plausibly strengthen the company’s case: Among other things, the order requires any company building a pipeline to use materials manufactured domestically — a provision that may contravene various trade treaties that the U.S. is bound by.

I admit when I first read the requirement that building materials for the pipeline had to be US made, I imagined Trump was smart enough to ask the pipeline companies if that would be convenient for them or not, but now I'm not so sure.

Obviously the best plan for Trump is to ask companies for what they want to do to make themselves look more patriotic and then Trump can publicly demand they do what they already want to do and they'll look patriotic and Trump will look like an effective leader who gets things done.

But if he actually is trying to strong arm everyone into capricious demands, all based on his daily bad moods, and doubling down when anyone complains, his 100 day "progress" is surely going to look snail pace very soon.

Sam L. said...

Trump's outrunning the media.
"Ares Olympus said...

Journalists certainly are better of objectively focusing on the 5 Ws: What happened? Who is involved? Where did it take place? When did it take place? Why did that happen?"

Those are things they are not doing objectively. They are doing them subjectively.

Shaun F said...

I don't think the mainstream media is paid to "understand". Call me cynical, but they have to shill an agenda, like Hollywood "stars".

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares, you sound upset.

You're meager intellect is clearly becoming unglued. You're concerned about corporate interests AND patriotism. This is new for you.

I find your "bromance" comment about the Trump-Putin rather funny in light of British Prime Minister May's remarks today. Perhaps you've been reading too many "what, who, where, when, why?" journalism because I assert there have been too many media speculations as to WHY things can and do happen, informed by their own Leftist prism.

You say Trump has "capricious demands." You are hilarious. That's what sovereignty is all about. Making demands. Making decisions. And not having to answer to phony, illegitimate and impotent multilateral bodies. Perhaps you are too wrapped up in all these caveats and considerations that you cannot make a decision. Trump can. It is an advatntage.

The pipeline is being built. The wall is going up. Visits are welcome, and visits are canceled. Very amusing to watch the Left (the media) react to these things.

So Ares, can we do to console you?

Anonymous said...

Ares said: "I admit when I first read the requirement that building materials for the pipeline had to be US made, I imagined Trump was smart enough to ask the pipeline companies if that would be convenient for them or not, but now I'm not so sure." (my emphasis)

What? That's not exactly how business works. "Hello, Ford? Would it be convenient for you to make a car for me today?" Companies make goods, consumers consume them. Convenience doesn't really enter into the equation unless you just really need a Slurpy.

Good news, though. If it isn't currently 'convenient' for them, it soon will be.

Dennis said...

I generally never comment on Ares because he does more damage to himself and his causes than to anyone else. The perfect leftist who tends to alienate far more people than he would ever convince. The definition of "brain freeze." Though sometimes I am amazed at how little Ares actually knows.
Keep up the good work and someday you may find your self all alone in a room with no one to rage agains't.

Dennis said...

I am beginning to really enjoy a lot of what is taking place. Trump does a version of what Obama did with a shorter time frame and the always offended turn out to condemn and too make terrorism easier. Where were they when Obama did that to Iraqis for the basic same reason and for a longer time period? Maybe the media was spending so much time lauding Obama to do their jobs? The media is almost a joke in that it condemns itself. So it seems that the incompetence of the media is the excuse. Why would anyone trust a media that is this incompetent and desirous to create "Camelot?"
What is interesting is that it is so easy to tie Soros, CAIR, et al to these useful pretenders. I would not be surprised if Iran is not helping to finance these so called protestors with money Obama paid them. Anyone ever notice that most of these protestors seem to come from the inbreeding of the urban feed lots of "blue" malcontents? The takers in this culture.
It would seem that Trump picks his enemies in a manner that exposes them for the hypocrites they are as people. Trump throws a shiny object and they go slobbering after it like Pavlov's dogs mewling "We got him now." Or better yet having the opposition represented by Madonna, Ashley Judd, SJWs, et al.
Again this is beginning to be fun to watch.

Trigger Warning said...

Dennis: "urban feed lots"

Nice turn of phrase. Resonance.