Over a Barrel

Over a Barrel

Several recent posts have raised the question, what is the Chinese strategy in the current trade war? I have offered my views and commented on those of Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman. Today, Morning Joe weighed in, prognosticating that in the next few months, Xi Jinping will use his negotiating strength and Trump’s negotiating weakness to cut a really good deal—from China’s perspective.

I disagree. I do think Xi might be tempted by a deal so transparently one sided that it would expose Trump, even to those of the meanest intelligence, as a weak, incompetent charlatan, and thus cost Trump reelection.

But I do not believe Xi will be tempted by a deal that leaves Trump any wiggle room to claim victory and thus to escape the consequences of his own folly.

Here is why I reach that conclusion. Some people are obnoxious, but you can do business with them. Others, you cannot do business with. Mainly because, if you reach a deal, the deal with not stay pinned down. They will enter into a contract to sell Blackacre for a million dollars—and then demand a hundred thousand more at the closing.

I believe Xi wants, and desperately needs, Trump to lose in 2020. Because if he wins, any deal that Xi does in 2019 or 2020 will be up for renegotiation in 2021.

For several millennia, Chinese statecraft has consisted mainly of understanding the barbarians and manipulating the barbarians. They are still at it today.

China has a strong motive to create a recession that will cost Trump the election. It has the means to accomplish this result. And Trump has offered China a wonderful excuse to use its abundant means in support of the goals that motivate it.


Trump is by Way of Taking a Long Walk Off a Short Pier

short pier

Last week’s Fox News poll, along with today’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, offer compelling evidence that Trump is on a trajectory to lose the 2020 election. This is as it should be.

But how might this trajectory be changed? The answer is that Trump would need to do each of two things. And if he did both of those things, he would have a shot at victory. (I still think he would lose, but the election would be a damn sight closer than it’s going to be, given how things are going right now.)

Thing One

With respect to the trade wars—and most especially the trade war with China—Trump would need to do what Senator George Aiken proposed, back in the Vietnam War era. That is to say, he would have to declare victory and then retreat.

In doing so, he might save us from a recession.

Thing Two

He would also have to dial back his batshit craziness—from about a 9, where it is now, to maybe a 2 or a 3.

Dialing back the batshit craziness might allow some of the fetus people, the judge people, and the tax cut people to remember how much they love the fetuses, the judges, and the tax cuts, so that they can refocus from how much they hate Trump’s batshit craziness.

That would probably increase Trump’s vote by about three percent, and might put him in spitting distance of a victory.

“He Doesn’t Have it in Him”

Some pundits shake their heads and mutter sagely, “But he doesn’t have it in him” to do what he needs to do. But I really don’t know. Faced with annihilation, people often have it in them to do things they would not otherwise be willing to do. So I just don’t know.

The Wall Street Journal Would Like You to Know that the WSJ Poll Makes the WSJ Pee in its Pants

The Journal buries its report on today’s NBC/WSJ poll so deep that the article can hardly be found. Once you find it, the headline ludicrously spins the results: 2020 Democrats See Favorability Ratings Slide: Three leading Democratic presidential candidates are viewed more negatively by Americans than positively, a new WSJ/NBC News poll finds.

After expatiating on this theme for five paragraphs, the article finally gets to the part where the man bites the dog, and discloses that

Still, registered voters in the new survey picked a generic Democratic candidate over President Trump, by a margin of 52% to 40%. Among suburban voters, there has been an 8-point decrease in support for Mr. Trump from 2016 exit polling.

After which, the article abruptly ends.

Slip Sliding Away

Today’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is consistent with the picture painted by last week’s Fox News poll. Among the highlights:

  • 43 percent say they “approve” of Trump, but they are squishy: 29 percent “strongly approve” him, while the remaining 14 percent only “somewhat approve”—and all those numbers are a little worse for Trump this month than they were last month
  • 55 percent “disapprove” and they are not nearly as squishy as the “approvers”; of the 55 percent, about four fifths of them “strongly disapprove”—and, again, the numbers are a few points worse for Trump this month than last month
  • 29 percent of registered voters will “definitely vote” for Trump and another 11 percent will “probably vote” for him
  • “definite” and “probable” Trump voters add to 40 percent—very similar to the 39 percent Trump ceiling as shown in last week’s Fox poll
  • meanwhile, “definite” Democratic voters are at 41 percent, i.e., one point ahead of Trumps “definite” voters PLUS his “probable” voters
  • on top of the 41 percent “definite” Democratic voters, ANOTHER 11 percent say they will “probably vote for the Democratic candidate”
  • the Trump “definite” and “probable” voters (40 percent) plus the Democratic “definite” and “probable” voters (52 percent) add to 92 percent; of the remaining 8 percent, some say “it depends,” some say they plan to vote for a third party candidate, some say “a pox on both your houses,” and some are just “not sure”

Last but not least, please observe that in the new poll, as in the Fox poll, there are about three percent of us who are willing to tell a pollster that they “approve” of Trump, but who are not going to vote for him again unless the Democrats nominate Beelzebub.

This, friends and neighbors, is an anomaly. A lot of the pundits are trying to explain the anomaly by saying that these are folks who “approve” of Trump because they like the economy, and I am sure there is some truth in that. But I think a goodly number of them are thinking fetuses, thinking judges, thinking tax cuts, and thinking deregulation. But much as they like the fetuses, the judges, the tax cuts, and the deregulation, they have just had a belly full of Donald J. Trump and long to see his fat ass out from behind the Resolute Desk.

Whatever the best explanation may be, the bottom line is that a little slice of the Trump “approvers” just are not going to vote for him again.

And, like profit or loss, winning or losing elections is often the small difference between two large numbers.

Two Pieces of Good News

You all know me. Mr. Glass Half Full. Always looking on the bright side. This evening I have two pieces of good news about our political and economic circumstances. At my daughter Polyanna’s urging, I am sharing these welcome developments with you.


This will be found in the title and subtitle of a longish piece by someone named Alexander Sammon. It’s The Last of the Ayn Rand Acolytes: This year’s Objectivist Conference revealed that her cult of hyper-capitalism has a major recruiting problem: All the young people want to be socialists!


We will absolutely, positively, most definitely not have a recession during the remainder of the first Trump term.

The Director of the National Economic Council gave this assurance on Meet the Press.

The same person who is now Director of the National Economic Council gazed into his crystal ball back in December, 2007. The longer he gazed, the clearer the image became. And thus he was able to share this prediction: ”There’s no recession coming. The pessimists are wrong. It’s not going to happen. The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth consecutive year with more to come.”

Remember 2008?

Isn’t it nice to have good news?


Trump and Greenland

We are indebted this morning to my old friend Vasari and to someone named Lawrence Douglas, writing in the Guardian, for this breaking news:

Donald Trump tweeted today he had purchased Greenland from the Kingdom of Denmark for $15bn plus Kanye West and the state of Massachusetts.

Still, the announcement has been questioned abroad. Prime minister of Greenland Kim Kielsen, reached this morning before the sun set for the winter, commented: “Clearly, the president’s mind is melting faster than our ice sheet.”

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen tried to strike a diplomatic note, saying: “May God deliver us from this delusional maniac.”

These comments did not stop the president taking a victory lap before an enthusiastic audience at a campaign-style rally in West Virginia.

A partial transcript of the president’s remarks follows:

People are calling it the greatest deal in American history – maybe all of history. People are saying that only Trump could have made this deal. Maybe so, I don’t know. I guess it’s true, if everyone is saying it, I mean, I suppose it’s true. All I know is the Dutch paid, what, 60 guilders for Manhattan? I could have gotten it for 30 with Staten Island thrown in.”

[Laughter and chants of MAGA! MAGA!]

And the Louisiana purchase? Napoleon fleeced Jefferson! 512 million acres for $15m? It sounds like a great deal, but I could have done better, I could have done better. Could have got Texas, too, for not another penny.

Now there is one deal I feel bad about. Alaska. Folks, I hate to say it, but we kind of stole it from the Russians. They needed our dollars back in 1867 so we got a lot of land for what – two cents on the acre. That’s not a deal my friends, that’s robbery. Now you know I’m a good guy, a great guy – [wild cheers] – and frankly that deal troubles me. It does. So today, I called my friend Vladimir Putin and said, ‘Vlad, you can have it back. You can have Alaska back.’”

[Cheers and chants of “No collusion, no obstruction!”]

Read the whole thing here.

Beelzebub for President


Writing in the Washington Post, Aaron Blake sees 2 troubling signs for Trump in this new Fox News poll. The first of the two signs is the one I addressed in my post on Thursday: in Mr. Blake’s words, “roughly 4 percent of registered voters say they approve of Trump but they’re not ready to vote for him.”

This same four percent of registered voters told the Quinnipiac pollsters that they “would consider voting for Trump.” Apparently, what they meant was that they would consider voting for Trump if the Democrats nominate Beelzebub. But if, instead, the Democrats wind up picking any of their four current front runners, then it’s ixnay on the otevay for Rumptay.

The second problema for the Trumpster, which I didn’t discuss previously, is that, among people who say they don’t like Trump and they don’t like Biden, 43 percent would hold their noses and vote for Biden while only ten percent would hold their noses and vote for Trump.

Big switcheroo from 2016, when a whole lot of the people who didn’t like Clinton and didn’t like Trump decided to take a flyer on the Orange Man.

Mr. Blake sucks his thumb trying to explain the mystery in these numbers. I do not believe there is any particular mystery in it. When you are a miserable, rotten human being, that tends to dampen your popularity.

Now Before You Hop Up and Down …

hop up and down

… and accuse me of advocating complacency, let this be said. Yes, it’s a long way to the election. Yes, a lot could happen. And no, it is not God’s gospel truth that Trump’s absolute 2020 ceiling is 39 percent of the vote.

Even so, all the data currently available, taken together and interpreted with reason and common sense, point toward the conclusion that he’s circling the drain.