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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 7, 2018

Via the NYT comes proof that satire is dead:

Trump, in an extraordinary defense of his mental capacity and fitness for office, described himself on Saturday as a ‘genius’ and ‘a very stable genius at that.’

Very Stable Genius has the Biggest Button. Very Stable Genius could probably solve the opioid crisis on his first try, if only he would try. This is Trump’s version of Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” The fact that he has to say he’s smart says he has a really big problem. And if America doesn’t believe him, it could be enough to cripple him.

If he could read, shit would really hit the fan:

The vaudeville act ends:

Trump is the best negotiator:

The two Koreas are taking about NorKo participating in the Winter Olympics. What could go wrong?

Iran takes up Trump’s mantra:

Mitt looks for his principles. They seem to be missing:

Trump gives Congress a message about the 2018 legislative agenda:

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Saturday Soother – January 6, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Athabasca Glacier, Alberta, Canada. It’s the most visited glacier in North America – 2013 photo by Yan Gao

The publication of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” about Trump, seems to have validated what we on the outside already knew, that the election of Der Donald was a terrible mistake.

Wolff struck a chord that resonates by saying that everyone he talked to in the West Wing of the White House during his year researching the book agrees that Trump is “like a child”, and that every one of them agrees that Trump simply cannot function in the job.

Joe Scarborough asked in the WaPo if we can survive Trump: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

We are a nation that spent the past 100 years inventing the modern age, winning World War I, defeating Hitler and winning World War II, and liberating half of Europe by beating the Soviets in the Cold War. But today we find ourselves dangerously adrift at home and disconnected from the allies abroad that made so many of those triumphs possible. The world wonders how the United States will survive Donald Trump. And I ask, what will finally move Republicans to deliver a non-negotiable ultimatum to this unstable president? Will they dare place their country’s interests above their own political fears? Or will they move to end this American tragedy only when there is nothing left to lose?

A consensus seems to be emerging that we have a president who is not capable of performing his duties. And so the question before the GOP powers that be is: Should they try to remove him? It looks like denial of the obvious is no longer enough. The GOP’s dilemma is: which is worse, continuing to cover for Trump? Or cover in the 2018 mid-terms for a Congress that didn’t acknowledge the danger he poses?

This is where we are at the start of 2018: In the midst of an accelerating decline of America’s capabilities at home, and a weakening of our global reach. The gap between what the US used to be able to do, and what it can still do today is widening, and we really don’t know just how wide that gap is. We don’t know what has fallen into the gap, or what remains on firm ground.

With Trump in the Oval, each passing day looks more like a crap shoot, both domestically and globally. Egypt, a US ally, has quietly leased several air bases to the Russians. This is the first time since 1973 that Russia has had a military presence in Egypt. In the past, the US would have moved heaven and earth to stop this from happening; now Trump does nothing.

The pressure will be to wait and see if Robert Mueller comes up with something.

That is understandable, but Trump’s possible criminality isn’t the primary risk to the country. Events in the world may overtake Mueller’s investigation. Korea could erupt in a nuclear confrontation, the Iranian government is being challenged in the streets, and if weakened, Saudi Arabia and Israel may see a chance to attack Iran, something that would otherwise be far too risky.

We’re entering a period of great consequence. It is probable that some of the most crucial events in the year ahead (Korea, Middle East) will be decided by one man’s gut feeling that is set in motion by tweeting at three in the morning, in response to fragmentary data about a situation too complex for him to understand, or to solve.

And we’ll live with those consequences for decades to come.

Now it’s up to the GOP, who are in a position to solve this problem. They didn’t ask for Trump, but they got him. And then, they caved until he owned them. Every Republican has jumped on the bandwagon.

Otherwise, we must force Republicans from control of the House in the 2018 mid-term election.

Nothing soothing in any of those words. But, it’s Saturday, and time to kick back. If you are in the Northeast, the prime directive is to stay warm. Grab a cup of Death Wish coffee, the world’s strongest. Death Wish has a saying:

Be the best you can be with the clarity and focus that comes with strong coffee.

It’s probably not strong enough to turn Trump into a thinker, but your mileage may vary.

Now, listen to “Deborah’s Theme” from Once Upon a Time in America, a 1984 epic crime film co-written and directed by Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone and starring Robert De Niro. The music is by Ennio Morricone, who was Sergio Leone’s long-time musical collaborator:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Monday Wake Up Call – August 28, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Rats Restaurant, NJ Grounds for Sculpture – 2017 photo by Wrongo

The politics of disruption brought us Donald Trump. With hindsight, the evidence was everywhere. Americans were unhappy with our political system. Voters had lost faith in the government and political parties. About 10% of voters believed Congress was doing a good job. Both political parties had favorability ratings of less than 40%.

In 2008, people were frustrated and angry. By November 2016, with continued economic discontent, worsening conflicts in the Middle East, and serious public policy issues left unattended, people voted for the guy who promised to break our politics.

Trump won 53% of the over-65 vote, but was supported by only 37% of 18-29-year-olds. He won the white vote by 58% to 37%. And 51% of American women voted for him.

Mark Leonard  says that the election was decided by pessimistic voters. They were attracted by Trump’s anti-free trade arguments, his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, his (false) statistics about increased crime, and the loss of American jobs to Asian countries.

Trump said all of this was caused by Washington and could be fixed by a disruptive billionaire. The pessimists won, and felt very hopeful that Trump would change America.

Are they having buyer’s remorse today? No, most say that they still support their guy.

Yesterday, we highlighted some findings of the Public Policy Polling (PPP) national poll taken after Charlottesville. PPP found that Donald Trump’s approval rating was steady despite all of his backtracking around the Charlottesville attack:

40% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing to 53% who disapprove, little change from the 41/55 spread we found for him in July.

This despite that just 26% of Trump voters think he has delivered on his promise to “drain the swamp”, to 53% who say he hasn’t. When asked if Trump has come through on “Making America Great Again,” just 33% of his voters say he has, to 59% who say he hasn’t.

PPP found that 57% of Republicans want Trump to be the party’s nominee in 2020, compared to 29% who say they would prefer someone else. That 28 point margin for Trump against “someone else” is the same as his 28 point lead over Mike Pence. Both Ted Cruz, with a 40 point deficit to Trump at 62/22, and John Kasich, a 47 point deficit to Trump, are weaker potential opponents than ‘someone else’.

All in, Trump is keeping his base together, while losing a few moderate Republicans. So the question is, what will it take to make Trump a one-term president?

If you want to defeat Trump, focus on how his political disruption has only caused destruction. It isn’t enough to tear shit down. Any president has to be a builder, and not just for a phony wall.

Have there been any gains from the disruption? Is there any evidence that Trump has the leadership skills to bring policies into law that will improve the lives of those who voted for him?

The winning message is about building: Build unity. Build the economy. Build a vision for a growing middle class.

Be a builder, not a disruptor.

Wake up America! Find a builder, or be a builder. To help you wake up, here is John Mayer with his 2006 Grammy-winning hit “Waiting On The World To Change”:

Takeaway Lyric:

It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

Now if we had the power
To bring our neighbors home from war
They would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door
And when you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want.

Don’t wait to be a builder. Dr. King didn’t wait, neither did Mandela. They changed the world. WE have the power to change America.

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Trump Can’t Lead

The Daily Escape:

Zion NP Utah, 2001 – photo by Wrongo

Leader of the Free World. Leader of the Republican Party. Commander-in-Chief. Leader of the US Government. Donald Trump holds all of these titles, but he isn’t a leader. We just lived through a lab experiment in Trump’s leadership, his curious response to the Charlottesville protests. Either he had a lapse in clear thinking, or he cannot show empathy when the rest of us need it.

Either way, he failed as a leader.

On Saturday, America reacted to a moment in which armed racism was celebrated by members of the KKK, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and white supremacists, who sought a confrontation to help them achieve high status among the far right. The ugliness of the rally – which included crowds of young white men carrying torches, an air of menace, and the offering of the Nazi salute — should make our president think about how not just to defuse the situation, but how to blunt this from becoming a wave of similar protests across the nation.

Trump’s remarks on Saturday said in essence, “All lives matter”. By Monday, when most of America thought that what he said was far less than the situation required, he gave a terse speech saying:

Racism is evil…Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

There was no emotion or believability behind it, he said what he was told needed to be said, not what he believed. Where was Trump’s sympathy for Jews, African-Americans, Muslims and others that these white-right protesters savaged?

And where was his leadership? Richard Neustadt wrote “Presidential Power” in 1960, a definitive book for its time. Wrongo read it as a freshman in college. Here is a quote:

The president’s primary power is to persuade and bargain, not to command. When a president has to resort to commanding people, he is showing weakness. Commands only work in very special circumstances. The essence of a President’s persuasive task is to convince…that what the White House wants of them is what they ought to do for their sake…

The power to persuade is perhaps the most important tool a president has. Power in our government is dispersed, so the president must bargain and persuade others that what he knows is in their best interest, and coach them to move in the right direction. Do you see Trump doing that?

Dr. Christine Porath of Georgetown thinks that “warmth” is the most important trait for a leader to have:

Warmth is the primary characteristic that people judge you by, and they make that judgment first…Can I trust you? If you seem warm, then that’s great…Leading with warmth, for leaders, has shown to be helpful. It’s a way to connect with people and again they’re more likely to work harder for you and perform better.

Do you see any warmth in Trump? Any empathy? It isn’t there.

Neustadt agrees. He calls how the public views the president, “public prestige”. Even though the public has no direct association to policymaking, the public’s view of the president affects how legislation moves through the Congress and into law. Neustadt also says that a president should think and act prospectively, so decisions he makes today aid his ability to persuade tomorrow.

Trump’s opinion polls are in the dumpster. A very small core of Americans find him believable.

Scott Adams the Dilbert guy, has said that Trump is a master persuader, and that he won the election because of his mad persuasion skills. But, those skills, which did seem to exist in the 2016 primaries and general election, have deserted Der Trump, and have been replaced by continuing Twitter attacks on a growing list of institutions, groups of people, and individuals.

Charlottesville was a protest by those who define themselves not just by who they are, but by who they hate. And they also define themselves as Trump supporters. There were shouts of “Heil Trump” on Friday night. They see no benefit in finding commonality with a diverse America, but pointedly, thrive off of hating our differences.

These people are content to blame “The Others” for their lot in life, and Trump persuades mostly by telling us what he hates, rather than what he likes.

In the 1960s we had much larger, and more violent (though mostly unarmed) protests. Those protesters didn’t want to jet us back to the past, but to propel us forward to a better future.

The white nationalist agitators in Charlottesville want to return us to an era that cannot (and should not) be recreated. All in the name of making America “great again.”

And they back Trump, a charlatan who pretends to lead.

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