Aardvark writes midday January 11, nine days before the inaugurattionl
You need to read David Brooks’ column yesterday, titled Bannon Versus Trump. My summary does not attempt to do it justice. That said, these are my takeaways:
- The similarity, in many important respects, between the ideology of Steve Bannon and that of “Putin’s ideologist Alexander Dugin”—both “populist ethno-nationalists” opposed to the current “international order” of globalism,
- How reports of Russian hacking are bringing the conflict between “Republican regulars like John McCain,” who like globalism and the prevailing international order, and the populist ethno-nationalists to a boiling point,
- How “Trump planted himself firmly in the [populist ethno-natuibakust[ camp, and dragged Fox News and a surprising number of congressional Republicans with him,” but
- How the ethno-nationalists are unlikely to carry the day in the US because, while Putin is “theological and cynical, disciplined and calculating, experienced and knowledgeable,” Trump is “inattentive, unpredictable and basically uninterested in anything but his own status at the moment.” In short, although Trump may be temperamentally inclined toward a war of civilizations, he lacks the skill set to pull it off.
My friend Hans, citing Josiah Strong’s 1885 call for racial, religious, and civilizational conflict, fears that Brooks’ populist ethno-nationalists will fulfill this awful promise and unleash civilizational conflict. But Brooks would tell Hans not to worry so much: Trump is just too incompetent to get us in that kind of trouble.
As Brooks peers into his crystal ball, he sees Trump becoming distracted, enjoying the company of the Davos crowd, writing “a million astounding tweets,” but unable or unwilling to bring about “terrible policy-making.”
Alas, the last year shows that David Brooks, for all his insight, has a cloudy crystal ball—the biggest cloud of all being a bias toward optimism.
So let Aardvark say this about that. Aardvark deplores our current tendency toward hyperbole. He cringes when someone describes a medium sized disappointment as a “tragedy”—because, when a real tragedy takes place, what word do you use for it? He winces when a medium sized setback is called a “crisis.” He hides his head when a kid’s performance is praised as “awesome,” when an accurate description would be “minimally acceptable, all things considered.” If the kid ever does do something awesome, what word would you use?
Having made that point of personal privilege, I have to say—though I might be wrong—that multiple clusterfucks seem to lie just over the Horizon, whether or not Brooks is right to presict that it won’t rise to the level of a conflict of civilizations:
The Ethics Crisis. The Morgan Lewis firm has tried to lawyer their way out of this, but Aardvark recalls those times when he had to say to a client, “Sir, I am a competent lawyer, but you do not need a competent lawyer; what you need is Merlin the fucking magician.” Merlin the fucking magician is not a Morgan Lewis partner.
The Health Care Crisis. Push is rapidly coming to shove. In this morning’s news conference, Trump sounded as if he and his boys might conceivably have come up with a tweaked form of Obamacare that they can sell as Trumpcare. If they have done that, then Obama says he would support it, and so would I. But the Republicans won’t pass it, and there will be hell to pay.
The Roosian Crisis. Pretty clearly, we have only just begun.
The Environmental Crisis. That’s the one that will ensue once the EPA begins to side with the polluters.
The Infrastructure Crisis. That’s the one that will occur when the Republicans don’t support Trump’s infrastructure plans. And, probably not last, and not necessarily least,
The Fiscal Policy Crisis. That’s the one that will erupt when the Republican congressfolk try to rob from the poor and give to the rich.
Methinks yon David Brooks had better go ahead and retain a highly competent clinical psychologist, skilled in the treatment of depression.