Notes on Trump – 6

Healthcare seems to have ended up where Trump needs it to be. Pretty well everyone now knows there will have to be a bipartisan solution, even if they still pretend otherwise.

https://radio.foxnews.com/2017/07/27/senator-joe-manchin-d-wv-theres-an-awful-lot-at-stake-right-now/

Of course people can keep pretending and blame Trump for trying and failing to make things worse, or not trying to make things better. But healthcare has now reached a joint House/Senate conference from where it can only be resolved with bipartisan support for proposals that actually make it better.

Any such measures will also require increased deficits that are also needed by Trump for economic conditions conducive to re-election.

Meanwhile both wings of the Democrats are converging towards Trumpist popularism – with even the “lite” version preparing for a two party system with both parties isolationist, and protectionist:

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/national-party-news/343709-opinion-dems-new-agenda-a-recycled-copy-of-trumps

Before that consolidates I would expect a 4 way split in 2020 with Trump in the strongest position for a second term (from House of Representatives voting by States after Electoral College deadlock).

Other recent developments are easier to fit into the prevailing assumptions that Trump is blundering helplessly into oblivion.

(1) The appointment of Scarramucci certainly fits. Even a stopped clock gets it right a couple of times a day. I gave up trying to guess where Trump might go on international affairs after concluding that Mike Flynn was deranged. My guess is there is no better explanation than that this appointment was a total blunder:

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/27/politics/scaramucci-lizza-quotes-ranked/index.html

(2) Trump’s campaign against Sessions also looks like a blunder and one less easily corrected and more plausibly indicative of the wheels falling off.

But I’m not convinced of the popular explanations:

  1. It isn’t preparation for sacking Mueller to stop the Russia inquiry by first getting an (acting) Attorney-General that isn’t recused from interfering. Trump wants the focus on Russia as explained in previous notes in this series. Conceivably Trump is worried that Mueller may need to be stopped from going outside Russia issues to look into Trump’s shady financial dealings generally. But that doesn’t explain an approach that irritates so many Trump supporters that he needs for his primary focus on mobilizing his base.
  2. General craziness, stupidity and thuggishness isn’t an adequate explanation for anything. He doesn’t mind being “misunderestimated” as George W Bush would say.

I don’t have a good explanation but strongly suspect it isn’t just another blunder.

Best I can tentatively come up with are:

1. Reminder to “movement” activists that he’s the boss and the base they organize is his, not theirs. Both Fox and Breitbart can grumble but they have just confirmed that they have no potential to rally behind some alernative leader.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/26/opinions/breitbart-trump-sessions-opinion-bardella/index.html

This could become important as we get closer to an open fight around 2018 primaries. (Also for subsequent pivot to immigration reform that Sessions won’t support).

2. Now that Sessions is everybody’s hero could be a good opportunity for legal counter-attack against the fairly open coup-mongering by the deep state/Obama holdovers. Certainly if Sessions doesn’t start some prosecutions of leakers and investigations of Democrats “collusion” etc soon he would be confirming Trump’s complaint about “weakness”.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/26/politics/jeff-sessions-leaks/index.html

Could also be fun appointing a special counsel to investigate Democrat collusion with Ukrainian retaliation against US and Russia waging proxy wars in their elections. Comes just after hysteria that Donald Jr was willing to accept evidence of Clinton collusion with Russians from Russians!

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/07/russia-trump-ukraine-clinton/533394/

 

 

Notes on Trump – 5

Things still drifting along as weirdly as ever but an increased flow of articles starting to notice some aspects while still ignoring others.

Here’s WAPO’s Aaron Blake continuing the daily obsession with the latest incitement from Trump to please keep talking about Russia.

Why did Trump meet with Putin again? Here are three possibilities.

1. There is something nefarious going on

(preferred explanation, with several paragraphs of the usual)

2. Trump is oblivious to how this might be perceived

(Trump is so stupid he does not understand that being perceived talking to Putin with no other Americans present will cause journalists to blather endlessly – the default explanation of why they keep on blathering about Russia whenever he tells them to being Trump’s stupidity, not theirs)

3. Trump is simply addicted to causing controversy and/or sees it as a GOP base play

“Whenever a politician does something suspect, the analyst in me is trained to look for the political advantage. Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 election had plenty of folks hailing his little-understood political genius and suggesting the media simply missed what appealed to Trump supporters.

There is also a significant chance that Trump loves the kind of coverage that ensues from these kinds of meetings. He’s got plausible deniability that anything unsavory happened — after all, who is going to contradict that? Putin? The interpreter? — and it gets the media in a fuss about what may have happened. Trump seems to love the idea of wielding all of that fuss and using it to decry the “fake news media” to rally his base.

And perhaps that’s the calculation. But at this point, Trump and his team have to be wondering: What’s the payoff? What is he really getting out of it? Trump’s approval rating is the lowest in modern presidential history, the GOP-controlled Congress hasn’t passed any signature legislation, his party split on one of his major promises on the health-care bill, and all Trump has to show for it is a mostly intact group of Republican voters who say they still like him.

If Trump has designs upon being a great president and winning so much that people would get tired of it, stuff like this sure doesn’t seem to be paying dividends.”

The above shows a faint glimmer of understanding. But only faint.

This guy’s job as an “analyst” depends on him not understanding the following:

  1. The media did not fail to understand what appealed to Trump voters. They actively helped him wipe out all the mainstream Republican candidates with masssive free publicity about what an outrageously anti-establishment outsider he was, knowing that this appealed to supporters and expecting it would result in the Republicans nominating him as a candidate so grotesque he couldn’t win even against Hilary Clinton and the completely degenerated party she represented.
  2.   Trump’s overall approval rating is indeed very low. But still well ahead of the media, Hilary Clinton and BOTH parties in Congress.
  3. Trump’s party has not split on health care. He DOES NOT HAVE a party in Congress. Pretending that the Republican representatives in the House and Senate are Trump’s party goes together with “forgetting” that the media helped him defeat the Republican party in the presidential primaries.
  4. The payoff for Trump is that by consolidating his base and keeping them fired up about the biased media he will keep his opponents in Congress intimidated for fear of defeat by Trumpist candidates in the 2018 primaries and will replace many of them, emerging with a large Trumpist party in Congress (even if the Democrats get a majority in the House of Representatives). Obviously having a party in Congress is a necessary preliminary to doing any “winning”, including on healthcare.

I haven’t got much new to add since I figured out this much in the first article in this series, written before inauguration day.

But it is really quite illuminating that six months later, even after starting to notice that their coverage helps Trump consolidate his base, the “analysts” still don’t get it. Their livelihood depends on them not understanding. How could they continue doing their jobs if they did understand?

Here’s a slighly less faint glimmer. The Atlantic explaining What Congressional Republicans Really Think About Trump and Russia

“Even as alarm has reached fever pitch among Democrats, most in the GOP see the reaction as little more than partisan noise.”

Reasonably clear that no chance of removing Trump from office with this Russia stuff that only strengthens his base.

As editor David Frum said It’s Trump’s Party Now.

A positive feedback loop is now well established that will ensure it remains Trump’s party at least through the 2018 primaries. Not only the “Never Trumpers” like David Frum, but many mainstream Republicans are simply giving up and ceasing to consider themselves part of the same party.

As usual, the New York Times can only look at this from a Democrat perspective Why Trump’s Base of Support May be Smaller Than it Seems

No doubt the 85% to 90% of Republicans who approve of Trump could be the same fraction of a shrinking Republican base as they drive others away. Great news for Democrats and the New York Times! But they are the people who will be voting in the 2018 Republican primaries. If any of these analysts had a clue they would be analysing the consequences of that. It doesn’t even require far sightedness. A completely different political situation is less than two years away.

Here’s Janet Albrechtson in the Australian on The Genius of Donald Trump: Liberal media in a frenzy over president it created

She gets it pretty well about how the liberal media is playing into Trump’s hands. But her obsessive hatred of her political opponents and delight in them making idiots of themselves results in her not even noticing that it is her own “conservative” side of what passes for mainstream politics that has been completely humiliated and wiped out by Trump.

“Normal programming cannot resume until the media starts reporting news and offering considered analysis rather than trying to get even with a modern-day President it helped create.”

But why then does she not attempt some “considered analysis” rather than merely endlessly celebrating the stupidity of her opponents? She could for example consider and analyse the consequences of a large bipartisan majority supporting isolationist and protectionist policies that she and other conservatives oppose. With a Democrat majority and a mainstream Republican wipeout by Trumpists is she still going to be celebrating?

 

 

 

 

Notes on Trump – 4

Interesting interview with GOP Senator Lindsay Graham:

(1) Supports my view that Trump intends to offer path to legalization for undocumented immigrants after announcing success in cutting flow of illegal immigrants so that legalization does not become a magnet for more.

” It’s frustrating for me to want to help a man who I think will do big things no other Republican would do, like immigration.

Believe it or not, I think Donald Trump may deliver us from a broken immigration system.”

That alone could swing enough votes for a second term (less hispanics voting Democrat).

(2) Also supports my view that healthcare outcome will be a single payer improvement on Obamacare supported by Democrats – nothing like the House GOP bill that was rejected by Trump’s base and never intended to be passed by Senate, (and would have had to be vetoed by Trump if it did).

“The bottom line is, the Senate is divided between Medicaid expansion states, non-Medicaid expansion states, the proper role of government. Mitch is trying to bring this together. It’s going to be tough. My advice is if we can’t replace Obamacare by ourselves, to go to the Democrats and say this.

10% of the sick people in this country drive 90 percent of the cost for all of us. Let’s take those 10 percent of really sick people, put them in a federal managed care system so they’ll get better outcomes, and save the private sector market if we can’t do this by ourselves. That’s a good place to start.”

(3) “He can’t collude with his own government. Why do you think he’s colluding with the Russians?”

 

No soft Brexit

I haven’t been following British politics.

But after reading mainstream articles about the British election I feel just as entitled to bloviate.

Even the Economist is blithering that May’s campaign for a hard Brexit has been rejected but there are no grounds to reverse the referendum result.

My recollection is that May opposed Brexit and was given the job of recovering from Cameron’s blunder. She was forced to abandon the pretence that Britain could become the only member of the single market that did not comply with free movement of labor. There never was an option for “soft Brexit” nor any preparations for a “hard Brexit”.

So I assume there will now have to be a second referendum to cancel Brexit. The only reason I think this might be  worth mentioning is that none of the articles I have read agree.

Notes on Trump – 3

Looks like I will be preoccupied with other things for quite a while and won’t be able to keep up with current affairs well enough to write even half-baked articles.

Meanwhile, I will still try to do quarter-baked incoherent notes occasionally.

Latest developments still leave me convinced Trump is overwhelmingly focussed on keeping his base angry enough to mobilize for 2018 primaries and his opponents in the Democrats and media are actively assisting by their cluelessness. Trump’s opponents in the Republican party (the overwhelming majority of the GOP establishment) are not as clueless as the Democrats and are not actively helping him win but still don’t seem to have come up with a viable strategy to prevent a Trumpist takeover of the GOP.

Georgia special election in what used to be a very safe Republican district is a pointer towards mid-terms. Democrats are running a candidate who emphasizes bipartisanship, support for infrastructure spending etc backed with massive funding from Democrat establishment committed to that strategy (for contestable districts – with an opposite “identity politics” strategy for safe Democrat districts). The Republican candidate is mainstream GOP – avoiding any close identification with Trump. Serious possibility of a Democrat victory resulting in one more vote for the economic policies Trump needs to win a second term (jobs growth via big deficits, infrastructure projects etc) and one less traditional Republican blocking such policies.

Whether or not the Democrat actually wins in such a safe GOP district, that pattern is likely to be repeated in seriously contestable seats likely to swing to Democrats in the mid-term – doing Trump no harm whatever. (With side benefit that a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives not only guarantees less coherent opposition to Trumpist economic policies but also impeachment with no evidence that could result in actual removal from office by two-thirds majority of Senate and plenty of opportunities for Democrats to continue making idiots of themselves and really annoying everybody else as they just did with Comey).

In most safe GOP districts Trump opponents will be challenged by Trumpists in the 2018 primaries, whether or not Trump openly backs those challenges and whether or not the incumbents suck up to Trump or openly oppose.

The result can be expected to be a large Trumpist Republican party in Congress,  smaller and thoroughly disoriented traditional GOP still committed to being in the same party as the President, and badly split Democrat majority with hopelessly inept leadership.

Only one third of Senate seats up in 2018 most vacancies in Democrat States. No major change expected since nobody gets a 60% majority or an ability to abolish that requirement for legislation. But a small Trumpist faction might arrive there too and Democrats might become more split.

On foreign policy I still don’t feel confident in any prediction.

Trump’s declarations of support for Saudis against Qatar contrary to actual policy of State Department and Pentagon is very strong evidence for a plausible theory that Trump is ONLY interested in mobilizing his base (by shouting at terrorists as excuse for cosying up to Saudis) and not really coordinating a coherent foreign policy – which is being largely left to the establishment. Likewise for tweets annoying everyone by blaming Iranian regime for Daesh terrorist attack on it.

Europe becoming more nervous and spending more on defence won’t do any harm. Leaving the climate change agreement is also sensible as well as popular with Trump’s base. Isolationism and protectionism are still a “work in progress” – the real dangers more likely to emerge in a second term.

But the last superpower is now even weaker than before and therefore even more heavily into both strategic and tactical deception. I am still impressed with the fact that the George W Bush administration managed to convince the Iraqi Baathists they were only going to get rid of Sadaam even though that alienated the Shia and Kurdish forces they were actually allied with – and managed to get Turkey to stay out by asking it to join in – and managed to convince everybody including me that the war wouldn’t start until the 4th infantry division had arrived in Kuwait after being blocked from coming through Turkey.

There is some complex stuff going on in alliance with the Iranian supporting militias in liberating Mosul while negotiating ceasefire and transition from the Assad regime with them and getting Saudi support for safe zones and occupation of Raqqa. Having just confirmed the dropping of sanctions against Iran, the US may simply be sending confusing messages to keep the Saudis confused.

Some of the “derangement” that left me unable to figure out what having Mike Flynn as National Security Advisor implied is topped by confirmation that he was an unregistered foreign agents working for the (Muslim Brotherhood) Turkish Government. That is so cognitively dissonant that the media have hardly mentioned it and focus on “Russian connections” instead.

Conceivably the indisputable incoherence is once again, deliberate. Certainly Trump has a good grasp of such deception strategies as demonstrated by making it completely irresistable for the Democrats to go crazy over Comey by contradicting Trump’s staff reminding them that Comey should have been sacked over Clinton emails, suggesting it was to block the Russian inquiry (when in fact he knew and actually SAID he knew that the result of the sacking would be to prolong and intensify that utterly weird demonstration of extreme liberal bankruptcy). Inviting the Russians into the oval office the next day, and allowing their media in while excluding the US media was a bit of overkill, but it certainly confirmed there is no danger of liberals paying attention to any warnings that they are being played as their heads really and truly have exploded, splattering their brains all over the walls and carpet.

So I only feel confident in having a good theory about what’s happening domestically. Not at all confident about foreign policy (which is opposite of my usual situation).

Half Baked Articles – by Arthur Dent

I’ve asked Barry York, publisher of this blog, to provide a halfbaked tag to assign to this article and future articles from me.

Otherwise I would need to keep explaining in each article that I’m just bloviating like other bloggers and not presenting a careful analysis or even a view that I undertake to defend and explain in comments.

I assume that comments in a discussion forum are understood to be informal, similar to conversation, so I have felt less inhibited about just quickly typing them into a comments box. But I resent the fact that people write so much more than they have reason to, given what they have read and actually thought about, so I don’t like just bloviating.

At the start of “Notes on Trump” I warned:

“Even if I had a deep understanding of US and world politics and economics I could not hope to figure out what’s happening at the moment. We are at an important turning point in multiple processes, many of them dependent on unknowable contingencies.”
https://c21stleft.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/notes-on-trump-by-arthur-dent/

Basically that is my view on pretty well everything at the moment. I will just repeat it here instead of in each article.

That article was based on several hours a day following news on Trump from the election day right through to the day before inauguration. I thought that was necessary to come to grips with a different political situation from what I had got used to and had expected to continue. I am still reasonably happy that I did explain something important. I followed up with more than 100 quick numbered notes so far but I still haven’t been able to produce a series of carefully considered articles based on the much larger number of links I have collected

What I want to do is contribute some serious theoretical analysis towards a future revolutionary left, especially on economics and political programs dealing with capitalist crisis and the transition from capitalism. As noted at the end of that article:

“If there was a left, we would be in a good position to finally rid ourselves of the pseudo-left who can be shown to espouse essentially the same anti-globalist and isolationist ideas as Trump. But in order for there to be a left,we have to be able to present a coherent economic program that explains how to unleash the productive forces of a globalized world for the benefit of the majority who only work here rather than primarily for the owners.”

Unfortunately I have not been getting much done at all. Although bloviating is a distraction from getting on with far more important things I am hopeful that it may still be of some interest to others and even if not, that it will at least help me get into writing and improve my morale as it does for other bloviators.

The time stamp at the end of each item indicates the start and stop times for actual writing and number of minutes spent.

2017-04-21T1812-1851 (39)

OCCUPY SYRIA NOW!

by Arthur Dent

The missile strike against an Assad regime air base was a “limited” and “proportional” response to chemical weapons. That is the opposite of what U.S. allies should be saying. One might as well stress that it was militarily pointless since the warnings given enabled those planes not grounded for repairs to escape.

The real point was explained by the International Red Cross – there is now an “international armed conflict” between the United States and the Syrian regime. Pretending that will not end in invasion and occupation does not prevent the far right and the pseudo-left jointly mobilizing against it, helped by “opinion leaders”. Pretence only delays understanding why we must fight.

For domestic reasons the U.S. government needs to maintain ambiguity. It was elected on an isolationist “America First” platform in a country where most “opinion leaders” are actively hostile to getting involved in another war and where much of the “mainstream” mass media has recently been devoted to deranged conspiracy theories appealing to the intelligence agencies to do their patriotic duty by undermining the elected government who are supposed to be in collusion with the Kremlin. But U.S. allies should help by clarifying that we are ready to fight.

Typically Australia just echoes whatever the latest U.S. pronouncement happens to be, obediently switching positions whenever the U.S. does. Usually such switches are executed more smoothly than the latest one, in which U.S. policies were reversed over a few hours and Australian policies followed immediately but pathetically maintaining the same ambiguity when the opposite is needed.

The U.S. policies for Syria followed for the last few years have been completely absurd. Inaction has resulted in half the population displaced, nearly half a million killed, millions of refugees throughout the region and a serious threat to European unity. Even distant Australia has been affected by the increased terrorist threat resulting from the callous Western indifference to the slaughter. Cowards have attacked muslims here instead of actually fighting our common enemy.

Things can only get worse the longer intervention is postponed. Safe Zones to protect the displaced civilian population were required long ago and must be implemented soon.

The Srebrenica massacre in the Bosnian war occurred in a “safe area” protected by U.N. armed forces under Security Council resolution 819. About 100,000 were killed in the Bosnian war until a NATO occupation force of 80,000 ended it. Two decades later there are still some troops supporting an international “High Representative” supervising the two competing governments.

The Syrian war has been left to fester for so long that it is much more savage and will require a much larger occupation force for much longer. There is no question of “peace enforcing”. There is no peace to enforce. Making peace requires international forces able to kill people and blow things up until other armed forces surrender and are interned.

Only the U.S. has the logistics capacity to maintain such a force. Other countries will be expected to pay for it as well as contribute to it.

The longer it is delayed the more it will cost, to the world as well as it already has to the Syrian people. Australia should help speed things up, not add to the confusion.

2017-04-12T0120