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Nederlog

Aug 15, 2016

Crisis: Trump's Nemesis, Trump's Damage, Clinton's Presidency
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Introduction

1.
The Making of Donald Trump, As Told by a Journalistic
     Nemesis

2. How Much Damage Could Donald Trump Really Do,
     After All?

3. Why President Hillary Clinton Will Need Bernie’s
     “Political Revolution” to Get Anything Done

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, August 15, 2016.

There are 3 items with 3 dotted links today: Item 1 is about the making of Donald Trump, by "a journalistic nemesis"; item 2 is about the real dangers that a Trump presidency would entail (I like it, and this is the most important item of today); while item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich (who is too optimistic, I think).

That was it, for today: This is all I could find that I wanted to review. It also is today precisely 39 years ago that I returned to Holland
, indeed also on a Monday in 1977, while I did so from Norway where I could have stayed and could have studied, since I had been living there for nearly three years already, while I very probably would have had a far happier and far more productive life if I'd stayed there.

But I didn't, and this was - by far - the biggest mistake I ever made (and I did make quite a few others). I had thought that I would reflect some on this but I decided to shift it forward till next year: I probably would be too pessi- mistic today, and also I want to go cycling later today.

Anyway... here is today's crisis review, in which I think item 2 is rather important for people who still doubt whether they should vote for Clinton:
 
1.
The Making of Donald Trump, As Told by a Journalistic Nemesis

The first item today is by Kathy Kiely on AlterNet and originally on BillMoyers.com:
This starts as follows:

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston isn’t happy with the way the press has been handling Donald Trump. “The coverage has been extremely poor in my opinion,” Johnston, who at 67 clearly still enjoys making trouble, pronounced at no less a lions’ den than the National Press Club on Thursday night in Washington.

So Johnston, as he is wont to do when he sees something going wrong, decided to tackle the problem himself.

His just-released book, The Making of Donald Trump, is a 288-page compendium of “basically everything Donald Trump wants to make sure you do not know,” said Johnston, who has been following the real estate mogul for decades.

I knew none of this. I like it that Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and he probably did follow Trump for decades, but this is also a very positive review of his book. And while I don't object to very positive reviews per se, I did not get very much about Trump in this review. Here are three bits.

The first is this:

It chronicles the rise of Trump’s fortunes, beginning with the Republican presidential nominee’s grandfather, a German immigrant who, as Johnston put it in distinctly un-Timesian style, ran a “whorehouse,” and continuing through Trump’s father, whom Johnston described as an industrious businessman with some unfortunate views.

It turns out that the "unfortunate views" of Trump Sr. were mostly of a racist nature (about which Woodie Guthrie (<- Wikipedia) also wrote, by the way). And I think Johnston is right in describing both Trumps as climbers and go-getters, which also was rewarded in both cases with (at least) considerable amounts of money.

Then again, there is not much wrong with being a successful climber in the USA, but the second point is rather typical for Donald (at least):

Vindictiveness is a point of pride for Trump, Johnston said. “His personal motto is ‘get revenge,’” said the reporter, who devotes an entire chapter to Trump’s speechifying and writings on the subject. Describing how Trump fired a female employee who, citing ethical qualms, wouldn’t call a banker friend on his behalf, Johnston quotes Trump’s own account from his book, Think Big:

“She ended up losing her home. Her husband, who was only in it for the money, walked out on her and I was glad… I can’t stomach disloyalty… and now I go out of my way to make her life miserable.”

Yes, although the story is rather vague. (For example: What were the "ethical qualms" of Trump's female employee? The same as Gretchen Carlson's (<- Wikipedia)? I don't know.)

But apart from the vagueness, it is true that Donald Trump is extremely vindictive and feels easily slighted, and that he prosecuted very many persons for somehow offending him.

This is also one of my reasons why I think he is temperamentally completely unfit for the US presidency.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

For all his denunciations of Trump, Johnston’s journalistic career has made him uniquely qualified to understand the Republican presidential nominee’s appeal. “I started documenting the growing inequality in America when I started working for The New York Times,” he said. “Government rules take from the many and give to the already rich few.” The people who are being inexorably pushed out of the middle class are on the edge of despair, not least because their plight is so invisible, he argued. “They get almost nothing written about them.”

Yes, I think Johnston is quite right on the American government, though I think it should have been added that the government is usually (by far not always, but let that rest now) following the legal rules, while the legal rules have been systematically changed since 1980 by all governments since then (i.e. both Republican and Democratic ones) to make taking "from the many and give to the already rich few" a whole lot easier than it was since F.D.  Roosevelt was president - and this is one very basic problem (which also tends to be overlooked by the Left).

But I don't think Kiely has made it plausible that Johnston is (bolding added) "
uniquely qualified to understand the Republican presidential nominee’s appeal": Surely there are quite a few more who have uncommon but true insights in Donald Trump. (Noam Chomsky is one example.)

2. How Much Damage Could Donald Trump Really Do, After All?

The second item is by
Mark Kleiman on Huffington Post:

This starts as follows:

Some of the people planning to cast protest votes in November have a bedtime story they love to tell themselves. In the story, Donald Trump's election wouldn't be such a bad thing because the diffusion of power in the American political system would prevent him from carrying out the worst of his lunatic schemes.

Yes, indeed.

One example of this kind of reasoning is by Jill Stein (<-Wikipedia), who heads the Green Party (<-Wikipedia), and insists that you should vote for her, even if most voters for her will come from the Hillary Clinton camp or the Bernie Sanders camp, which again means that voting for Stein may be (also) voting for Trump (for Stein will not win).

Then again, this is the sort of argument Jill Stein would make. I think it is quite unreasonable in swing states, as does Noam Chomsky, but apart from that (which may turn out to be important) her argument is well-known and has been made before.

What is worse is that her argument convinced (or so it seems) a sizeable number of supporters of Bernie Sanders, who either do not see that, although Clinton is bad (from a Sandersian point of view), Trump is far worse, which means that one has to choose from two presidential candidates neither of whom is likeable, or else refuse to see that Trump is a lot worse than Clinton.

And it is these voters who should read this argument, indeed for the following reason:

Today a friend challenged me on this point: Make a list of ten really, really bad things that President Trump could actually do. A little bit of emailing around produced the following list. I've divided it into two groups: the "stroke-of-the-pen" things that a President could accomplish just by ordering them, and other things that would require Congressional approval or help from state governments. But let's not forget that Trump's election would almost certainly mean both that he had a Republican Senate and House to work with and that the Republican members of those bodies would mostly be terrified of primary challenges should they oppose the imperial will.  

Here are selections from both categories. I have taken the first five of each, but should add that there are 19 items in the stroke-of-the-pen category, and 8 in the other category.

First, what Trump could do, if he is president, without the support of Congress:

  1. Withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on global warming.
  2. Abrogate the nuclear deal with Iran, setting the stage for either war with Iran or Iranian development of a nuclear weapon. (Or both.)
  3. Deny hostile, or even objective, journalists and media outlets access to information by refusing them admittance to press conferences, instructing appointed and public-affairs officials to refuse all interviews, and subjecting even routine data requests to FOIA delays. That will have three effects: disabling the effective capacity of the independent media to exercise oversight; giving professional and business advantages to complaisant reporters and their outlets; and creating incentives for reporters and outlets alike to stay in the Administration's good graces.
  4. Institute criminal investigation and prosecution of political opponents. The Attorney General, the FBI Director, and the 94 United States Attorneys all serve at the pleasure of the President. (..) Now imagine FBI Director Chris Christie, reporting to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Those positions, and the U.S. Attorney slots, are all Senate-confirmable, but even if the Senate were to resist the President could appoint all of them on an acting basis.
  5. Use tax enforcement and the award or denial of tax-exempt status to punish enemies and rewards friends. The Director of the IRS is also a Presidential appointee. Civil-service protections would make it harder to replace IRS career staff with political loyalists, but the GWB Administration made substantial progress in filling the Justice Department with Republican apparatchiki, and the same could be done at the IRS.

Second, what Trump could do, if he is president, with the support of Congress:

  1. Appoint at least one and perhaps three Supreme Court justices on the Alito model, locking in a right-wing majority for a generation.
  2. Reduce tax rates for the rich.
  3. Block grant food stamps and/or Medicaid.
  4. Appoint anti-worker and anti-union members to the National Labor Relations Board.
  5. End federal support for the full range of women's health services, including ending the federal partnership with Planned Parenthood.
Third, observe that I have quoted just 10 from 27 points, which you are all recommended to read all of, after which you will know quite a bit better - or so I think - what harms a Trumpian presidency could entail (and probably will, if he becomes president).

Kleiman ends as follows:
This is not a game. Institutions do not maintain themselves. Not all damage is reversible. I do not believe that Trump will be elected, and I do not believe that, if he were elected, that would be the last relatively free and fair election for President. But it's not impossible. Let's not do the experiment.

I agree with Kleiman that everything should be done to prevent that Trump wins the presidency, but I also insist that one's beliefs about the probable outcome are not very relevant.

What matters far more than one's uncertain beliefs about the outcome is one's knowledge (if one is a real leftist, to be sure) that a Trumpian presidency would be horrific. (See above.)

And this is why people who like Sanders or Stein far better than Clinton should
vote for Clinton (in swing states, at least), simply because either Clinton or Trump will be the next president, and while Clinton will be bad, Trump will be horrible - as the above lists of points imply.

3. Why President Hillary Clinton Will Need Bernie’s “Political Revolution” to Get Anything Done

The third item is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

It looks increasingly likely that Hillary Clinton, a self-described “progressive who likes to get things done,” will have her chance starting next January. But how much that’s progressive will she actually be able to get done?

The Senate may flip to the Democrats but there’s almost no way Democrats will get the sixty votes they need to stop Republicans from filibustering everything she says she wants to do.

She’s unlikely to have a typical presidential honeymoon because she won’t be riding a wave of hope and enthusiasm that typically accompanies a new president into office. She’s already more distrusted by the public than any major candidate in recent history. On Election Day many Americans will be choosing which candidate they loathe the least.

She hasn’t established a powerful mandate for what she wants to get done. Her policy proposals are admirably detailed but cover so much ground that even her most ardent supporters don’t have a clear picture of what she stands for. And she’s had to spend more time on the campaign trail attacking Trump’s outrage du jour than building a case for a few big ideas.

I look upon this in a somewhat different way, for I just don't trust Clinton.
In fact, I don't think she can be relied upon for almost anything she says now, because she will say almost anything if she thinks this will increase her chances of becoming president.

To be sure, this is similar to many other presidential candidates (and Trump is not so much the same as much worse, for he lies a lot more), but it is quite serious with Clinton (who - I agree - very probably will be more reliable once she has been elected as president).

But the above is just too uncertain. This is not the case for the following bit - except for the "now", which is simply false:

The heart of American politics is now a vicious cycle in which big money has enough political influence to get laws and regulations that make big money even bigger, and prevent laws and rules that threaten its wealth and power.

Before Hillary can accomplish anything important, that vicious cycle has to be reversed. But how?

First about the first quoted paragraph: This is not just "now" the case. This is the case since Reagan took office, and has been steadily growing worse and worse, indeed because presidents from both political parties - including Bill Clinton, including Barack Obama - did the same.

And by now there is a tradition of 35 years of successive cycles in which "big money" got assigned more and more "political influence to get laws and regulations that make big money even bigger" - which means that the whole legal structure of the USA needs reviewing, simply because the present one (1) allowed most big businesses to be transferred to places where the payments to the laborers are much less than in the USA, while also (2) it allowed deleting most taxes on the rich, and thus (3) it allowed removing large parts of the middle class.

So I agree with Robert Reich that this "vicious circle", that meanwhile has been working to ever greater legal effects for 35 years now, should be reversed. But - to turn to the second paragraph - I don't think Hillary Clinton will do it.

I think she will be - if she is elected, which I do hope, in the present circumstances - a president like Bill Clinton was and like Obama is, which also means that she will try to sound progressive while doing quite a few things that are not progressive at all. I also think that is all that can be expected from her - which indeed will be a lot less bad than what a Trumpian presidency would entail, but not by far as good as Sanders might have been if he were elected president.

And that is it. Oh, and as to Sanders' Revolution:

I don't know whether this will still exist in half a year or a year's time, although I hope it will. But I do not think it will have much effect on Hillary Clinton's presidency. It may help to get a good progressive candidate in 2020.

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