Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trump Cabinet Possibilities: At Least Meatloaf is Out of the Running

If the question of the day is whether the neocons would capture the Trump presidency, his cabinet suggestions do not yet answer that question. There are indicators that he will indeed become the lapdog of right wing ideologues, John Bolton being considered for Secretary of State being one strong example of an acquiescence to that school of thought. Bolton is one of the great chickenhawks of our time, famously confessing that, “…I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy,” but who was elemental in laying out the WMD bed of lies that served as pretext for the war in Iraq, and who gets visibly moist when speaking of chemical weapons.

Fair enough on the rice paddy situation, but Bolton’s enthusiasm for military solutions to nearly everything over the course of his administrative career can I think fairly be considered through this lens, and whether or not personal hypocrisy factors into assessing Bolton’s possible appointment, if you thought Hillary was a hawk, this guy is a cassowary. Mitt Romney, under “active consideration” for secretary of state, would be the wiser choice. If it turns out to be Bolton though, defense manufacturing stocks would be an excellent investment right now.

Also in the neocon hawk (but not chickenhawk) department is James Woolsey, who is reportedly being consulted heavily for security advice; Woolsey has never met a devastating military incursion he didn’t like. The refreshing aspect of Woolsey’s world view though is that he is a staunch environmentalist, driven in large part by his I think correct disposition that energy is a security issue. Add to that Trump’s hot-off-the-presses appointment of four-star general James Mattis as secretary of defense, and you have to think that Trump is getting ready to kill people and break things. Mattis is not a neocon doctrinaire like Woolsey, and he’s certainly not a chickenhawk like Bolton. He’s a serious choice, but in the chain of envision, strategize and implement, he is the big gun at the end of that process. My guess is he will be blowing things up fairly soon and my guess is also that he will be doing it extremely well.

I do not feel at all good about the other general Trump has on the team. In reading about General Flynn, I am surprised that he was promoted as rapidly as he was. He seems like a fool. Inconsistent in communication style and content, he is famous for leaving great chaos in his wake and a palpable grumbling dissatisfaction among his staff and colleagues, hardly desirable attributes of a leader at that level. In reading General Flynn himself, his writings are undisciplined and beneath standards I would expect of someone in his position in terms of organization and clarity. He doesn’t strike me as smart. When I read accounts of him in a hunt for positive reports, the terms “high-energy,” “workaholic” and “passionate” are what come up frequently. In my opinion, high-energy, workaholism and passion can be detriments rather than virtues if they are aimed in a twisted direction, and with Flynn, they are.

We could go down the line and make predictions, but as far as military spending and doing, “Give War a Chance” seems to be the aborning Trump administration plan, though the appointment of Romney over Bolton would install a governor on proactive militarism as a strategic preference. In any case, I am relieved that Meatloaf is apparently out of the running for any and all cabinet posts.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Maybe We're Best Off Letting Trump Be Trump (Within Reason)

Well, what to say about this whole mess apart from assessing it for what it is: a catastrophe. It’s a catastrophe for the world and it’s a catastrophe for the United States. We have elected tyrants and we have elected fools in this country, but never have we elected a psychopath. Nixon was close, but with Trump, we have installed into the White House a deranged and uniquely unqualified amateur whose capacity for damage is worth worrying about.

The presidency of course has checks and balances, and on issues of consequence a stubborn minority opposition can present dramatic obstacles as we observed throughout the Obama administration. On the other hand as the Iraq War attests, a president can lead the charge into great damage. It is hard to imagine that Trump won’t wish to fiddle with this new thing, the presidency, with much the energy a child might express toward a new toy, and it’s even harder to imagine his caprices succeeding, but it’s easy to imagine them courting disaster. How big a disaster depends on how big the idea is and as we all know, Trump thinks big league.

Trump is not firm in his ideology and has swayed dramatically over the years on key issues, always tilting toward whatever was most expedient financially or for brand enhancement. It is my belief that he doesn’t subscribe personally to a lot of the racial and religious antipathy that buoyed his candidacy. However, he now has to follow through and present some cardboard replica at least of the grander idiocies he promised his base. Not that railcars teeming with weeping families and disrupted international travel over some clumsy implementation of the Muslim ban would incur any cognitive dissonance that would effect a crisis of the presidency on Trump’s part. As I’ve suggested before, his ideology is a moving target, his moral compass a weathervane, his personal ethics a vast wasteland.  

All of this though, makes him a real target for pernicious forces that are not nearly so circumspect about their antipathy toward the rest of the world and elements of American society deemed less worthy. I nudge of course to the neocon crypt that opens up once every four years and looses its ghouls to see if it’s possible to throw more American kids into the meat grinder in devil’s trade for the Halliburton and Bechtel bottom line. The great question as I see it is whether Trump has enough energy left after this bruising campaign to be himself, the obstinate rule breaker, the one who steers his own course against all advice good and bad, or whether he will be captured by the cabal of neocons that have been wringing their hands and salivating, hopeful for another manageable president in the tradition of George W Bush.

It’s anybody’s guess. I am hoping for four years of what we might want to think of as a casino presidency; a kleptocracy where the house always wins and so do a few customers, but where most people more or less have a good time and the bouncers keep the broken noses to a minimum. The other option is for him to fall captive to the neocons, and we’ve already seen what they can do.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Coming Together as a Nation

I am reading a lot of the “we have to come together as a nation” rhetoric from some of the most reasonable of my friends. I am not certain that is so. Don’t forget that Trump ran on the promise of oppressing a variety of American demographics, and he won’t just leave these racial, religious and sexual orientation grievances unaddressed. For me at least, that leaves not much room for coming together. As much as I suspect he would personally love to, he can’t just blithely betray the southerners and Midwesterners who ushered him in.    

My honest impression is that he would rather spend his energies rewriting trade deals, shredding the ACA and unbuttoning business and environmental regulations than he would expressing the racism and bigotry of his constituency. The guy is from New York. He doesn’t personally mind gay people, black people or Hispanics. I think he does sincerely hate Muslims. But their usefulness as an aggregated bogeyman proved useful as an election strategy. He’s a charlatan, but he needs to keep the ruse going. The identification of “the other” as the architect of the white man’s misery is at the heart of what got him elected, and he will not be permitted to pay it mere lip service.  

Trump won’t be able to build the wall. It will stand as a monolith, a hypothesized nothing that will ever stand as a metaphor for the gullibility of his base. Such a project would involve an endless string of eminent domain land seizures, each from someone bearing a strong resemblance to Cliven Bundy, the very ilk who elected him, and that would never happen. The wall will go down as his great unkept promise, his Guantanamo if you will.    

What he will be able to initiate on the immigration front, however, is the mass deportation squad he promised, and that is an ugly thing. In order to slake the peasant bloodlust, it will be a requirement of the coming administration that brown families howling in pain be seen on television with some regularity, otherwise out come the hoes and pitchforks.    

I have nothing in common with these people and I don’t intend to do much coming together with them. A massive schism presented itself this election, and it carved itself along gender lines, age lines, race lines and education lines more perfectly than any election in the modern era. It was my demographic, the working class white male, that saw the dying of its light and desperately clawed it back using the politics of fear. They are a sad, pathetic lot, and what they condone, I revile. What they seek, I seek to dismantle. What they love, I hate. So, as far as “coming together,” I don’t see much of that for me. I recommend dramatic, committed resistance in word and deed.    

And away we go…