A Cluster of Clusterfucks

clusterfuck

The Immigration Clusterfuck

Why Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Could Sink U.S. Home Prices

 President Donald Trump’s immigration policies threaten to crack a foundation of the American economy. … “If Trump gets the immigration plan he wants, the housing market will get hit harder than any other,” said Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute. If “millions of people get deported and more people don’t come in to take their place, then you’ll have downward pressure on home prices, especially in urban areas.”

The Infrastructure Clusterfuck

Here’s One Reason Why Trump’s Legislative Agenda Is Flailing

 In a December interview with The New York Times, Trump confessed that he was still figuring out exactly what he wanted to do ― and that he hadn’t realized FDR-style infrastructure building might alienate conservatives. “That’s not a very Republican thing ― I didn’t even know that, frankly.”

The Empty Government Clusterfuck

Cabinet picks clash with White House over hiring

Many Cabinet nominees joined the administration believing they’d have wide latitude to pick lieutenants, but they’re beginning to realize Trump’s powerful advisers are looking over their shoulders. The White House’s approach has already slowed hiring — and the dozens of vacancies at key agencies could make it more difficult to implement some of Trump’s policy proposals.

So far, Trump has nominated fewer than three dozen of the 550 most important Senate-confirmed jobs, according to an analysis by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that advised Trump officials during the presidential transition.

The Health Care Clusterfuck

Here you go: Pick a politician, watch them get yelled at

 Pick a politician on our YELL-O-MATIC™ and watch them get yelled at.

Yes, There Will be Clusterfucks

canute

Ross Douthat—though far from Aardvark’s favorite pundit, even among conservative pundits—does ask the right questions this afternoon:

Will [Trump’s] rhetoric actually define the policy that gets made in the halls of Congress, where a more Reaganite conservatism still theoretically holds sway? Or will his words be a Buchananite patina on an agenda mostly written by supply-siders and Goldman Sachs appointees? Or will the conflict between the two tendencies simply make his administration less epochal than incoherent, less transformative than simply ineffective?

Trump believes in Winning Through Intimidation. That is his life strategy. Just as some people’s life strategy is being beautiful, some succeed by working harder than anyone else, and some succeed by mastering a professional discipline, Trump has enjoyed success by intimidation, bluster, and showmanship.

He told the Republicans today that he bloody well intends to intimidate them to a fare thee well, by exploiting their craven fear of the folks who have bought into Trump’s cult of personality.

There are limits to life strategies. Being beautiful doesn’t improve your SAT scores. And intimidation has its limits.

First, some people are more subject to intimidation that others, especially on some subjects. Who thinks that John McCain is going to be intimidated into loving Russia?

Second, while you can intimidate some people, some of the time, you can’t intimidate reality. You cannot, for example, intimidate the health care system into providing costless, generous universal coverage, nor can you intimidate away the robotic revolution in manufacturing.

Third, while there remain millions of cultists, some are already beginning to leave.

So, yes, there will be clusterfucks. As old Ross puts it,

Combine … brute political facts with Trump’s implausibly expansive promises, and a Carter scenario — gridlock, disappointment, collapse — seems like the most plausible way to bet. But on the evidence of this speech, Trump has no intention of playing it safe: He will either remake conservatism in his image, or see his presidency fail in the attempt.

***

Aardvark is grateful for his readers in Germany and the United States, welcomes new readers in China and South Africa, and continues to be a little concerned about the readers in Russia.

And by the way, the painting depicts King Canute, whose relation to the subject matter of the post will be apparent to anyone who knows the good king’s story.

It was, incidentally, a hard choice between Canute and Æthelred the Unready.

ethelred

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.