Morning BLO and the Power of Horseshedding

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On Morning BLO this morning they played a  clip of Trump’s cabinet nominees systematically rejecting all of Trump’s foreign and defense policy positions. Following which, Morning Joe delivered the Morning BLOviation along these lines: Well, all those witnesses were prepped for their testimony by the Trump transition team, therefore what they said must represent the true Trump position on foreign and defense policy—not the bullshit Trump was peddling in the campaign and the bullshit he continued to spew in his press conference—and therefore, per Morning BLO, it follows as the night the day that we all can and should all breathe a great sigh of relief.

Joe was implicitly addressing a broader question: how much of his own bullshit does Trump actually believe?

Joe’s line of argument this morning was too much even for the sock puppets. They pushed back, arguing in words or substance that we still don’t know how much of his own bullshit the man believes. Joe was reduced to arguing that, well, at least you have Mattis and Kelly, not Bolton and Giuliani, and isn’t that better? And so it is.

Joe was wrong for an additional reason not addressed during the Morning BLOviation session. It is this. As a retired shyster, Aardvark well knows that, when they take the stand, witnesses are frequently unwilling or unable to spit out the words that you forced down their throats during the horsesheddinig session the night before. What the witness actually says at the deposition is a pretty unreliable indicator of what he was told to so–especially where the witness is a strong individual with strong views on the topic of his or her testimony.

* * *

And one more thing. Many have commented on Rex Tillerson’s lack of credibility regarding what he knows and what he remembers. As a retired shyster, Aardvark thinks Mr. Tillerson was applying what he thinks he learned about how to bullshit his way through a deposition.

Six Clusterfucks in Search of a Presidency

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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.

WAS HE LYING THEN OR IS HE LYING NOW?

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In a recent post I drew one point of comparison and contrast between Trump and George Wallace: Wallace, though despicable, engaged in rhetoric that drew bogus conclusions from actual facts, and thus had some mooring in reality. Trump just makes shit up—and then comes to believe his own lies.

So which one, Wallace or Trump, would probably make a worse President?

Depressing, isn’t it?

In Politico this morning we have another important comparison and contrast—between Trump and Berlusconi. Aardvark—noting that, in Italy, they appear poised to elect an actual real life clown, not just someone who plays a clown on TV—highly recommends the article.

Also highly recommended is Garrison Keillor’s latest rant on the stupidity of the Trump electorate, “Thank you, Trump voters, for this wonderful joke.”. It begins with this ditty:

He promised the swamp would be drained,

Was elected, said “Rain!” and it rained

And the old crocodiles

Wore flesh-eating smiles

And the turtles were well entertained.

Keillor’s entertaining screed is an example of exactly what the Politico writer, Gianni Riotta, warns against as highly counterproductive: sneering at the unwashed masses. That said, I doubt that many of the unwashed are reading Garrison Keillor, and I hope he keeps it up, if for no other reason, just to make Aardvark feel a little better.

Finally, not to be missed is “Pizzagate: From rumor, to hashtag, to gunfire in D.C.,” which tells the story of poor Edgar Welch and how he came to believe the bogus story about Hillary’s pedophile ring at the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant.

And so, what is to be done about this mess? What do we do, and what do we say to acquaintances, friends, and family who supported Trump?

I don’t know, but I am pretty sure that there are two approaches that will not work. One is to sneer and yell. Another is to try to have a rational conversation.

We’ll have to improvise. Many are victims of a cult of personality, and so we have to ask ourselves what might break the grip of the cult. For example, most of them hate Obama. We might point to his recent friendly comments about our outgoing President.

If your Trump supporting friend responds by saying that Trump is just being a hypocrite when he says a few nice things about Obummer, try asking that most devastating of questions: Was he Trump lying then about Obama, or is he lying now?