Archive for the ‘Donald Trump’ Category

The Stench of Corruption

December 13, 2016

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I think it’s possible to make too big of a deal about the revelation that Putin tried to meddle in the presidential contest. I think it should be clear that Russian interference was not the decisive factor in the election, rather the fact that Clinton didn’t run a very good campaign. A better candidate would have beaten Trump regardless of any Russian interference. However, I disagree with some of my leftist friends that this is no big deal. Trump has just appointed the CEO of Exxon, who has no political experience and who has business ties to Russia. I don’t think this is a coincidence. There is more than a whiff of corruption about this. The Trump administration is already set to become the most corrupt administration since Harding’s. And it looks as though Russia is going to play a big role in this.

Trumped

November 29, 2016

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I’ve been trying to find some sort of silver lining in this election, but I can’t. This election has been a disaster on every level. We will be living with the consequences of this election for decades to come.

Last summer I expressed incredulity at the idea that the Clinton campaign would win the election by appealing to “moderate” Republicans – you know, the same moderate Republicans who failed to stop Trump from getting the nomination. Well, it appears that was actually their strategy. Sen. Chuck Schumer explained the idea: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” Clinton lost Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. What is odd about Schumer’s argument is that he seems to assume that suburban Republicans are socially liberal. That sure as hell wasn’t true of the suburban Republicans that I grew up with. Such people vote Republican precisely because they are not socially liberal. The notion that they would choose Clinton over Trump was simply delusional.

I’m told that during the final weeks of the election, Bill Clinton vainly urged the campaign to reach out to working class voters – you know, the party’s actual voter base.

One can only shake one’s head.

The Principled Vote

October 31, 2016

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Eugene Debs

From time to time, I have heard a quote attributed to Eugene Debs: “I would rather vote for what I want and not get it, than vote for what I don’t want and get it.” Now, Debs happens to be one of my favorite historical figures. I think, however, it should be pointed out here that Debs lived in a political environment very different from our own. Let me give an example of what I’m talking about.

During the 1912 presidential election, there were actually four major candidates: William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Eugene Debs. Of these four candidates, three could be considered progressive (at least in terms of economic issues): Wilson, Roosevelt, and Debs. Now, with the progressive vote split three ways, the conservative incumbent, Taft, still ended up losing the election. He came in third. America really was a different place in those days.

Now we have an election in which one of the major candidates is clearly mentally ill. I can’t be sure what Debs would do in this situation, but I think he would know better than to commit suicide.

Some Thoughts about the Election

July 31, 2016

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Donald Trump now claims that his comment about getting Russia to look for Hillary’s missing e-mails was meant to be sarcastic. I don’t know about that. It didn’t sound like sarcasm at the time. Besides, Trump doesn’t do sarcasm. He does dismissive put-downs and childish insults, but not sarcasm. He deliberately pitches his rhetoric to people who can’t understand sarcasm (let alone irony).

I love these conservatives who are now recoiling in horror at Donald Trump. These people helped create the political base that enabled Trump’s rise to power. We should let them stew in their misery. The Democrats should not reach out to them. It was a mistake having Leon Panetta and Michael Bloomberg speak at the convention.

Contrary to Jeffrey St Clair’s claims in Counterpunch, Sanders did not betray his supporters. He said all along that he would support the party nominee. It’s not his fault if some of his supporters weren’t listening.

The Democrats set a neat little trap for Trump when they had that Muslim couple whose son was killed in Iraq speak at the convention. They expected Trump to say something stupid about this, and the Orange One obliged. Can you say “Pavlov’s dog”?

Trumpery

June 30, 2016

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The whole Donald Trump phenomenon has me baffled. I’ve been following Trump’s career since I was young, and he has always struck me as an obvious fraud. One would think that after his first bankruptcy, investors would have been leery of him. Yet he’s never had trouble finding people willing to throw money into his half-baked schemes. P.T. Barnum famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Trump seems to have dedicated his life to proving this statement.

There are some on the left who argue that Trump would be a better president than Clinton. They make this argument by quoting Trump selectively. At times, he sounds like an isolationist, and they contrast this to Clinton’s hawkishness. Yet Trump also sounds hawkish at times. (He says he is going to destroy ISIS. Gosh, how do you think he’s going to do that?) He has also expressed a creepy enthusiasm for torture. (“I like waterboarding”, he said.)

Trump embodies everything that is wrong with our culture: the emphasis on style over substance, the inclination towards macho bluster, the worship of hype, the mindless jingoism, and, of course, the racism. He must be defeated.

The Nation Magazine Goes Soft on Trump

May 26, 2016

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The Nation recently published an article titled  When Donald Trump Says His Foreign Policy Is ‘America First’—What Exactly Does He Mean?. The article consists of contributions from four different people: Sherle R. Schwenninger, Heather Hurlburt, Stephen Kinzer and Juan Cole. They take turns imagining what Trump’s foreign policy might be like. This is a tall order, considering that Trump’s statements on foreign policy have been vague and contradictory.

However, there is one point on which Trump has always been clear and consistent: he is going to build a wall along the border with Mexico (which is our ally), and he is going to make Mexico pay for it. Gosh, how do you think he is going to do that? This is an important question, yet none of the four contributors to this article even mentions it. (Although Hurlburt indirectly alludes to it.)

So, what do these people talk about? Sherle R. Schwenninger starts off on an optimistic note, by arguing that Trump can simply reverse long-standing US policies towards Russia and Europe and on foreign trade. It apparently doesn’t occur to her that this would put him in opposition to most of the executive branch and both houses of Congress, as well as much of the military. The idea that the president can simply change pre-existing policies with the flick of a switch is the sort of naivete I might expect to hear from a freshman college student, not someone who is director of the World Economic Roundtable at the New America Foundation (which, I’m told, is a non-partisan thinktank).

It is left to Heather Hurlburt to point out the obvious: “The belief that large swaths of humanity are sub-human would inform Trump’s policy decisions.” She points out that in Trump’s view:

    … large swathes of humanity are essentially sub-human. Trump’s many comments reveal disdain for Muslims, Hispanics, poor and middle-class people, women, and the disabled. These are not merely personal prejudices. They would inform his policy decisions.

Ah, but then Stephen Kinzer takes us down the rabbit-hole. He predicts that Trump will form a grand alliance with Russia, Bashar al-Assad (who is pretty much a one-man band at this point), Hezbollah, Iran, and the Kurds, which will “turn the tide” against ISIS. Most of these forces are already fighting ISIS in already fighting ISIS in one way or another (although Russia seems more interested in bombing hospitals in Aleppo), so I don’t see how this would change much. Where Trump would break new ground, though, would be in his approach to Iran:

    It is not difficult to imagine Trump reopening the US embassy in Tehran.
    Buoyed by turning the tide against ISIS, Trump might then look again at Iran. Throughout this campaign, he has denounced the nuclear deal repeatedly, but he has not denigrated Iran itself. Many Iranians would welcome his victory, since they call Hillary Clinton “sanctions lady” and blame her for making their daily lives worse. Unbound by the anti-Iran fanaticism that reverberates in Washington, Trump could recognize Iran as a potential partner in the Middle East, even beyond the fight with ISIS. It is a young, modern society, fully committed to destroying the Sunni terror embodied in ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Trump would see that Iran shares our Middle East security interests more fully than some of our so-called friends in the region. It is not difficult to imagine him reopening the US embassy in Tehran, and saying, “We should have done this long ago.”

There is so much confusion and wishful thinking here, it’s hard to know where to start. Kinzer thinks that once in office, Trump, who has displayed nothing but contempt for Muslims, will suddenly decide that the Islamic theocracy in Iran is actually pretty peachy and the Iranian people are just swell and we should be their friends. Yeah, right. I don’t know what Kinzer has been smoking, but I’d like some of it myself, because it seems pretty powerful. I’m told that Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

Juan Cole brings us back to reality, pointing out that most of Trump’s policies would be counter-productive. Yet out of the four people The Nation asked to contribute to this article, two actually take a benign view of Trump. The idea that a racist demagogue would make the world a safer place is so absurd, I don’t see how anyone could take it seriously. The Nation’s readers deserve better than such swill.

What Moderate Republicans?

May 7, 2016

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According to Yahoo News, the Clinton campaign is considering ways to woo moderate Republican voters. My question is: what moderate Republican voters? Trump steamrolled the other Republican candidates. The “moderate” Kasich went nowhere. The only candidate who managed to put up any kind of fight against Trump was Ted Cruz, who is on the far right. So, where were all these moderate Republicans? Were they too busy watching Duck Dynasty to go vote? So, Clinton expects these moderate Republicans who didn’t stop Trump to help her stop Trump. Could it be that, outside of a few policy thinktanks, there aren’t many moderate Republicans left? I am old enough to remember a time when there were such things as liberal Republicans. They have gone the way of the dodo bird. Ever since Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, the Republican Party has been moving ever rightwards. (And this has been true of the Democratic Party since the 1980’s.) There probably aren’t many moderate Republicans left. Most of them have likely become either Indpendents or Libertarians or conservative Democrats.

Earlier this week, the Clinton campaign released a “brutal” ad attacking Trump. It’s all clips of Republicans, most of them the ones that Trump defeated in the primaries, criticizing. Who, exactly, is this ad supposed to appeal to? The Republicans who didn’t vote for these candidates? Democrats and Independents who despise these same politicians?

It doesn’t appear to me that the people in the Clinton camp know what they are doing.

The Appeal of Trump

April 22, 2016

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Donald Trump’s recent victory in the New York primary has revitalized his campaign. By all the normal standards, Trump’s campaign should have collapsed a long time ago. His boorish behavior and the violence at his rallies used to be the sort of thing that would kill a politician’s career. Not any more. Trump once boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” When you think about it, this was actually an insulting thing for Trump to say about his supporters, yet his popularity didn’t suffer as a result. It’s as though, at the end of A Face in the Crowd, Andy Griffith calls his supporters idiots, but they continue to support him anyway.

Murray Kempton once observed that Americans tend to think that someone who uses profanity must be telling the truth. I think there is something similar at work with Trump. Because he says hateful things – things that aren’t “politically correct” – some people assume he must be “telling it like it is”. This is flawed logic, of course, but some people do seem to think this way.

There is speculation that once Trump gets the Republican nomination tied up, he will move back to the political center. If this is true, then what Trump has done is amazingly audacious. He threw away the dog whistle and brazenly appealed to the far right, and by doing so he steamrolled the other Republicans candidates. However, he will have to walk back a lot in order to move back to the center, which may lose him some of his original supporters. And polls repeatedly show that most Americans don’t like him.

So I’m guessing that Trump won’t be our next president. Don’t quote me on that, though.

The Rise of Donald Trump

August 24, 2015

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I had hoped that Trump’s support consisted entirely of old white people. However, looking at photos of his recent rally in Mobile, Alabama; I was dismayed to see a lot of young people, although they were all white. (I did see one black guy in one of the photos, although he may have been doing security. Either way, he didn’t look terribly enthusiastic.) Trump’s message seems to resonate with people from all walks of (white) life.

I recently watched the documentary, Trump: What’s the Dearl?, which was made in the early 1990’s. It was never realease at the time, because Trump sued the filmmakers. (Trump has a thing for suing people. He once sued an architecture critic who panned one of his buildings.) It has recently been made available online. The film only follows Trump’s career up until the early 1990’s, after he filed for bankruptcy due to the failure of one of his Atlantic City casinos. It is nevertheless a revealing account of Trump’s early career.

Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was a wealthy Brooklyn real estate developer. When Trump set out to break into the real estate business in the 1970’s, the then mayor of New York, Abraham Beame, happened to be a childhood friend of Fred Trump. Beame used his influence to arrange Trump’s first big real estate purchase. Later, when Trump bought the Commodore Hotel, Beame arranged to give him a huge tax break. Trump’s whole career was made possible by the fact that he happened to have a wealthy father who was politically well-connected.

His business model apparently consists of borrowing a lot of money while doing things on the cheap. When he tore down the old Bonwit Teller building, to make way for his Trump Tower, he hired an inexperienced firm that used undocumented Polish immigrants as workers.(I guess Trump only objects to immigrants when they happen to be Mexican.) They were not given protective equipment, even though they had to remove asbestos. This approach usually works well for Trump, but it sometimes gets him into trouble. During the 1980’s, he borrowed so much money to buy up real estate in Atlantic City that the revenues from his casinos were not enough to keep with his debt payments. With his characteristic crassness, Trump tried to blame three managers of his casino, who had recently died in a helicopter crash, for its failure.

I have to admit that the appeal of Trump escapes me. He lacks charm, and he actually strikes me as being a dull person. Yet so many people in the media seem to want to regard him as an interesting person. Trump is an invention of the media, and they must take responsibility for the harm he is currently doing.

What Donald Trump Tells Us About Ourselves

July 23, 2015

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I normally don’t watch CNN, but they show it on the TV at the food court at my local Gelson’s, so I couldn’t help watching it while I was waiting to use the men’s room. Donald Trump had given a speech at a retirement community somewhere, and he had gotten a good reception. However, one woman who was interviewed said, “He frightens me.” When asked why she gone had to see his speech anyway, she said, “He’s a celebrity.” Trumps’ candidacy shows the triumph of celebrity in our society. Trump is a celebrity, so he must be listened to. Fame trumps all other considerations.

Trump first came to national attention during the 1980’s. The eighties were a decade of make-believe. President Reagan presided over a humiliating military retreat from Lebanon, nevertheless we were told that he had made America “great again”; he had shown the world that we were not to be trifled with! Trump was another fantasy. A man who filed for bankruptcy three times, he was touted as a financial wizard, a man who had mastered “the art of the deal”. Does the re-emergence of Trump suggest that we are heading into another period of make-believe? Perhaps we don’t want to deal with the disappointments we’ve had. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were a bust. Obama’s promised “hope and change” have merely been a weak economic recovery and a deeply flawed health care bill. Trump offers us a fantasy world in which one only has to proclaim oneself great, and – hey presto! – one is automatically great.

The election of Ronald Reagan was seen as a symbol of how movies have come to dominate our culture. Trump promises to do the same thing for tacky reality TV shows.