Trump Goes Viral

the respect he deserves

Yesterday, the New York Times sucked its thumb at some considerable length on the theme Trump Keeps Talking. Some Republicans Don’t Like What They’re Hearing: Aides and allies increasingly believe the president’s daily briefings are hurting him more than helping, and are urging him to let his medical experts take center stage.

Amen.

And let all the people say: Amen.

Paul Krugman, meanwhile, sucked his thumb upon the question of whether American Democracy May Be Dying: Authoritarian rule may be just around the corner. His piece enlarged upon the travesty of the Wisconsin primary and the fact that goodly portions of the Republican Party believe that only Republicans have the right to vote and the right to win elections.

This is a truth, but it is not a new truth. Things have been headed in this direction for a long time.

Krugman thinks that we may turn into Hungary. That is a possibility. But, in Hungary, the political opposition is divided among themselves. Here, the situation is different.

I don’t think Trump can win in 2020, except maybe by massive voter suppression. If that does happen, I think the majority of the country will view him as an illegitimate president. I think that courts, governors, and legislators in progressive states will begin just to disregard what will be going on at the federal level. The overall situation will be really bad, but it won’t exactly be Hungary.

Meanwhile, as I advised in a fairly recent post: Orange Man, just keep on talking. Just keep on talking.

Just let it all hang out.

Onward Christian Soldiers

Three Commentators on the Barr Speech

Catherine Rampell, Is this Barr’s cry for help?

I sympathize with Ms. Rampell. I really do. When I attempt what I think is witty tongue-in-cheek humor, people sometimes think I am being serious—but weird.

Ladies and germs, please be advised: Ms. Rampell’s tongue is wedged deep within her cheek.

Paul Krugman, God Is Now Trump’s Co-Conspirator: Bigotry, both racial and religious, is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Professor Krugman’s tongue is not lodged within his cheek. No, Professor Krugman is as serious as a heart attack.

Krugman writes,

So what’s going on here? Pardon my cynicism, but I seriously doubt that Barr, whose boss must be the least godly man ever to occupy the White House, has suddenly realized to his horror that America is becoming more secular. No, this outburst of God-talk is surely a response to the way the walls are closing in on Trump, the high likelihood that he will be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Arius Aardvark, Onward Christian Soldiers

It’s possible that Krugman is right. But I fear the truth may be much worse than he imagines it to be.

I fear the truth may be that Barr was speaking from the heart and—in a monumental display of irony deficiency—meant exactly what he said.

Don’t Look at the Wall! Whatever You Do, Don’t Look at the Wall!

Mene Mene

My, my, my. Things sure are getting interesting, aren’t they?

Here are three good night/early morning suggested sources for your reading pleasure.

We’re Saved by His Idiocy

Paul Krugman, Luckily Trump Is an Unstable Non-Genius: His mental deficiencies may save American democracy

Krugman plows no new ground here, but I do like to see someone of national prominence agreeing with a point I have often made.

Losing the Military

Mark Bowden, Top Military Officers Unload on Trump: The commander in chief is impulsive, disdains expertise, and gets his intelligence briefings from Fox News. What does this mean for those on the front lines?

And it’s not just the top brass. Reports are beginning to come in telling of the despair of the Special Forces over the treatment of their Kurdish brothers.

And do, please, remember that every Trump-loving, Fox-viewing family out there in the great American heartland has sons and daughters and cousins in the U.S. military.

Losing the Evangelicals

Nancy LeTourneau, How Trump Betrayed the Court Evangelicals

That would be by letting the Turks have at the Kurds, who count many Christians among their number.

But mark my words, folks. The “court evangelicals”—the likes of Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham: Rabbi Jesus had their number. These folks are no more Christian than Xi Jinping is a Marxist.

They are glomming on to Trump’s weakness. The disembodied hand is beginning to write on the wall: “M E N E M E N …”

When the time comes, they’re going to toss Trump in the trash like a used condom.

I Think This All Calls for a Little Music. Don’t You?

Three Kneelings and Nine Knockings

kowtow

Paul Krugman, Trump and the Art of the Flail: Protectionism is worse when it’s erratic and unpredictable.

As you have probably Sherlocked out from the subtitle, Krugman—who has a Nobel Prize in international trade economics—contributes to the discussion by distinguishing predictable and steady protectionism from erratic protectionism. He concludes,

Protectionism is bad; erratic protectionism, imposed by an unstable leader with an insecure ego, is worse. But that’s what we’ll have as long as Trump remains in office.

And, now, follow the logic through to the next step. What Krugman knows, Xi Jinping also knows. Which means it should be, and very probably is, a very high item on President Xi’s bucket list to get the Trumpster out of the White House.

Which, in turn, means that Xi is not going to let the Trumpster off the hook like Mexico and Canada did with their NAFTA redux deal.

Which means that there won’t be a China deal at all. Or, if there is a China deal, it will be accompanied by a whole lot o’ kowtowin’ on Trump’s part.

**

The kowtow, or the three kneelings and the nine knockings. Kneel down, knock your head vigorously on the ground three times. Get up. Do it again. Get up. Do it again for the third time. Described as an athletic exercise designed to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about who was the superior and who was the inferior.

This is What Happens When a Very Stable Genius is Driving the Bus

trade tactics

Paul Krugman has a Nobel prize in economics; in fact, the scholarly work that won him the award was in international trade. I have neither a degree nor a Nobel prize in economics. Neither Krugman nor I have been awarded degrees or honors in mind reading. And, though I gave up my youthful start as a sinologist, I may know just a bit more than he knows about Chinese statecraft. Or maybe not.

In a recent post I attempted to reverse engineer what the Chinese are up to. If the topic is of any interest to you, you need to read Krugman’s August 8 column on the same topic.

I read the Chinese leadership as royally pissed off and offended by the Trumpster. I believe they have taken the first steps in a ruthless campaign to stick it to Donald Trump, deep in a place where the sun don’t shine. They have in fact given him a choice: go through with his threats and see economic chaos, or back down from his threats and look like a shmuck.

Krugman, who is probably a nicer person than I am, seems to see the Chinese leaders as gently trying to “teach Trump ecomics.” But, at this point, it’s pretty naïve to think you can teach Trump anything. And if the Chinese leaders are afflicted by any shortcomings, naivete is not among them.

But Here’s the Important Point

Or, rather, several important points, all made in Krugman’s piece.

Xi Jinping goes into this international trade poker game with a much, much stronger hard than Trump thinks Xi has.

Trump goes into this international trade poker game with a much, much weaker hand than Trump thinks he has.

Krugman, who possesses a Nobel Prize in the economics of international trade, spells out the details.

Trump does not understand what he is doing. That’s the kind of language we often use, as a rhetorical way of disagreeing with someone’s position. But it this case, it’s not rhetoric. It’s not hyperbole. It’s the God’s honest truth.

Earlier on, Trump did have some people around him who knew what they were doing. (We may question their moral character, in choosing to work for Trump, but at least they were professionally competent.)

Now, Trump has fired all the people who knew what they were doing. He has surrounded himself with boot licking idiots.

Even the idiots have recognized his international trade folly, and have tried to talk him out of it. And he has not listened to them.

And as to Trump’s supporters and enablers, including the farmers, the Prophet Hosea has a few prophesies you might wish to consider:

sow the wind

Some Things are Complicated, But Others are Bleeding Obvious

bleeding obvious

Fredda Foxy has called my attention to a message from Paul Krugman on the topic of how to run against a bad man. Fredda and Paul seem to have some kind of email relationship. I can’t find the Krugman message on the internet, so I reproduce it below, as Fredda forwarded it to me.* And I want to compare Krugman’s obsesrvations with this alarming news from Jonathan Chait: Democratic Progressives and Centrists Are Both Committing Strategic Suicide.

Now, ladies and germs, some things are complicated, while others are bleedingly obvious and dorically simple. Let me mention a few of the latter.

One. If you are fighting a war, you really need to understand the battlefield. Will you be fighting on the plains? In the hills? In swampy territory? And if you don’t know where your battle is being fought, then you had bloody well better make it your business to find out.

The Chait article has two points, the first of which is that the nice Democratic politicians who are talking about restoring the filibuster, so they can make nice on the playground with the folks from the Republican side of town—those folks really don’t know shit from Shinola.

The plutocrat/racist coalition is in a fight to the death to hang on to power. There are some people you just can’t be nice to. I don’t mean you need to yell at them and hurl bucketsful of epithets plucked from Roget’s Thesaurus. I mean you can’t give ‘em and inch, because, friends and neighbors, they will take a mile.

Two. If your adversary is shooting himself in the foot, then please don’t stop him. Just let him do the work for you.

A great principle of advocacy is Don’t Tell ‘Em, Show ‘Em. Yes, we should not normalize un-American behavior. Yes, we should “call out racism.” But mostly we should just let Donald Trump SHOW everyone exactly what kind of person he is.

Three. It will probably be a close election. But we have a 9.3 percent advantage (fivethirtyeight.com, likely and registered voters, as of this evening). Trump is now at 43.2 percent support. He will keep most of them, but I think a bunch more Nuremburg rallies will peel off a few, and he’ll be down at around 40. At that level, with any luck, his ass is grass.

That said,

Four. We must not press our luck. Chait has it exactly right. We need to push for those parts of the progressive agenda that poll well, and not take chances on those parts that don’t poll well. Chait elaborates:

A new poll by NPR tests most of the ideas Democrats have debated so far. The party has a wide array of proposals that enjoy public support — a Medicare option for everybody, a $15 minimum wage, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are in the country illegally, a wealth tax, and other things. But several of the issues Democrats are running on poll badly. In particular, decriminalizing immigration laws, giving health-care subsidies to undocumented immigrants, and replacing private insurance with Medicare are ideas that sound bad to most Americans.

Progressives have waved away such objections by insisting people who have private insurance don’t like it and would be glad to be moved onto a public plan. …

Well, we do have polling on this. NPR’s data shows that letting people “choose between a national health insurance program or their own private health insurance” is a 70 percent issue, while a Medicare expansion “that replaces private health insurance” is a 41 percent issue. And that is without accounting either for the large tax increases that would be needed to finance it or the effect of a massive countermobilization by insurers and the entire medical industry. These risks are all the more difficult to fathom given the much safer alternative available to candidates: a Medicare expansion plan that could be financed exclusively by taxing the rich and which would leave employer insurance in place.

Despite these grim numbers, activists have pressured leading Democratic candidates to put themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. Just 27 percent of the public supports decriminalization of the border, and 33 percent favors the extension of health-insurance benefits to undocumented immigrants, yet during the second Democratic debate, the latter position was endorsed by every candidate onstage. …

Centrism is not a political panacea, nor is it a myth. Its value matters in some ways, and not at all in others. Popular opinion is sensitive to high-profile public issues that can easily be reduced to understandable slogans on the news — “take away your insurance,” say. It is not sensitive to obscure Senate traditions — “Senator Jones refused to vote to restore the judicial filibuster” does not sound like a devastating attack. …

For the moment, the Democratic Party is clinging to centrism in the places where it has no value, and throwing it aside in the areas where doing so comes at great cost.

* Paul Krugman, Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The great majority of Americans consider Donald Trump unpresidential. A plurality consider his recent Tweets racist; half believe his campaign coordinated with Russia. It’s fair to say that most of America finds Trump pretty vile.

The question for Democrats is what to do with that reality. The thing is, it’s a lot less relevant politically than you might imagine. Most of the people who consider Trump vile would never have voted for him anyway, and many of the rest will vote for him despite their personal distaste, because they hate liberals more.

Yet it would also be wrong to say that Trump’s unique awfulness is irrelevant. His approval rating is remarkably low given growth over 3 percent and unemployment under 4 percent. And perceptions of character do drive votes: the Clinton email “scandal” — yes, it was fake, but it was relentlessly hyped by the media and fueled by James Comey’s misbehavior — almost surely swung the 2016 election.

So how should Democrats be handling this election? I’ve seen a lot of commentators lecturing the Dems about not making the election all about Trump. But who’s actually doing that? On the campaign trail, the leading progressive candidates barely talk about Trump; Elizabeth Warren, for example, spends most of her time laying out her policy proposals. The only major contender who really does seem to put attacks on Trump at the core of his campaign is … Joe Biden.

On the other hand, not making the campaign about Trump at all — in effect, normalizing him — would surely be foolish. Maybe only a few percent of the electorate can be swayed by reminders that a terrible man sits in the White House, but that could easily be the margin of victory.

The question is how to balance these concerns; and that’s mainly up to Nancy Pelosi, not the presidential candidates. I think I understand why Pelosi isn’t moving forward with impeachment, although she knows as well as anyone that it’s richly deserved: She probably doesn’t have the votes, even in the House, and doesn’t want to give Trump anything he could call a win. On the other hand, it is puzzling how low-energy House Democrats have been at pursuing Trump’s multiple scandals — and his tax returns!

At the same time, Democrats need to sell their policy agenda. For the most part, concerns that they’re moving too far left are, I believe, overblown: centrists may be horrified at proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy and expand social benefits, and they may imagine that the nation as a whole shares their horror. But polling actually shows that such proposals are highly popular.

The one thing that worries me is the rush to embrace a purist version of “Medicare for all” that eliminates private insurance. That seems like an unnecessary political risk on an issue where Democrats have a huge inherent advantage, since there are less disruptive ways to achieve universal coverage.

So can Democrats walk and chew gum at the same time? Can they run mainly on things Americans want, like guaranteed health care, while also reminding voters that a terrible person occupies the White House? The fate of the republic may hinge on the answer.