1. The Making of Donald
Trump, As Told by a Journalistic
2. How Much Damage Could Donald Trump Really Do,
3. Why President Hillary Clinton Will Need Bernie’s
“Political Revolution” to Get
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
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
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
first item today is by Kathy Kiely on AlterNet and originally on
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
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
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
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
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).
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.”
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
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
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
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
What is worse is that her argument
convinced (or so it seems) a sizeable number of supporters of Bernie
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:
- Withdraw the United States from the
Paris Agreement on global warming.
- Abrogate the nuclear
deal with Iran, setting the stage for either war with Iran or Iranian
development of a nuclear weapon. (Or both.)
- 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.
- 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
- 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:
Third, observe that I have quoted just 10
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).
- Appoint at least one and perhaps
Court justices on the Alito model, locking in a right-wing majority for
- Reduce tax rates for the rich.
- Block grant food stamps and/or
- Appoint anti-worker and anti-union
members to the National Labor Relations Board.
- End federal support for
the full range of women's health services, including ending the federal
partnership with Planned Parenthood.
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
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
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
item is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
It looks increasingly likely that
Clinton, a self-described “progressive who likes to get things done,”
her chance starting next January. But how much that’s
progressive will she actually be able to get
The Senate may flip to the Democrats but
almost no way Democrats will get the sixty votes they need to stop
from filibustering everything she says she wants to do.
She’s unlikely to have a typical
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
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
laws and regulations that make big money even bigger, and prevent laws
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
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
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
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'
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