Sunday, April 30, 2017

Response to The Fear Factor

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Fear Factor)

Has it really been only 100 days? Jeez, it seems like it’s been an eternity! They say time flies when you’re having fun, which might help explain why it seemed so long.

Or it may be that, on virtually every one of those days, something would happen to make headlines, even if it was only something he said in a tweet, which helped remind us that old Tweetybird was still our president. But when I say “something would happen to make headlines”, I’m not saying something good or meaningful happened, I’m just saying something happened.

According to ThinkProgress, of the 36 things Donald Trump had promised on the campaign trail to do “on Day One”, he failed to do 34 of them. Apparently the only two promises he kept were "Pursue a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce workforce size”, and "Issue a temporary moratorium on new agency regulations.” 

And incidentally, somewhere along the way, Trump had amended his definition of “Day One”:
"...which I will consider to be Monday as opposed to Friday or Saturday. Right? I mean my day one is going to be Monday because I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration,” Trump said in an interview with the Times of London.
(Forget all the celebration, as I remember the actual full Day One, the day after the swearing-in, Trump spent disputing the media's estimates of the size of the crowd that came to watch. And was that not also the day he sent Sean Spicer to the briefing room to do his Melissa McCarthy impersonation? I forget.)

Okay, but back to those first 100 days:
Trump’s “Contract with the American Voter” listed 10 pieces of legislation in his “100-day plan,” and it’s a big deal that he and the Republican-controlled Congress have passed zero of the 10. He keeps saying he’s achieved far more in his first 100 days than any previous president, but other than the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and a tougher approach to undocumented immigrants, he hasn’t implemented many tangible changes to federal policy.
And of those two, only one — deporting illegal immigrants, including some of whom he had promised he wouldn’t — is remarkable. The other, which is confirming a new Supreme Court justice, was no actual achievement on his part. The only people who opposed him had no power to stop him. Let’s face it, he could’ve done that in his sleep.

And what was with that mysterious “tax plan” he sprung on everyone, including his own treasury department, a day or so before the 100 days ran out?

My own theory is that, at some future time, since that was the first of those ten legislative promises that went missing, Trump will claim that as a “First 100 days" accomplishment of sorts in that he introduced the plan in his first 100 days.

Or maybe he won’t, depending on whether or not he comes to realize, as we all do, that that would be just too stupid.

And as for that other elusive promise, the famous “Wall”?

Not only do I not want that useless and mostly ugly wall built at all, and not only do I not think we should pay for it, since I can think of many much better uses for the funds, but in fact, I don’t even want Mexico paying for the wall, and don’t really even understand the reasoning behind Trump demanding that Mexico, of all people, pay for it.

I guess the argument is that our immigration problem is Mexico’s fault? Think about it. Is that not stupid?

What does Trump assume, that Mexico wants its people flooding across our borders, getting low-wage jobs here and then sending some of it home to their families, instead of Mexico being able to keep their workers working inside their own country, where they can spend all their earnings in Mexico instead of in some foreign country  and also pay taxes locally on that income, instead of paying American taxes?

Maybe Trump's problem is that he’s too competitive, rather than cooperative, where there’s always got to be a winner and a loser, rather than two winners. Maybe he’s just not capable of understanding that cooperation with our neighbors was what NAFTA was all about in the first place, given that having a failed state right next door is exactly what we don’t need.

And while I realize we’re not supposed to blame Trump’s voters for the trouble he’s getting us into, I can’t help it. I do. Still, I think I figured out the 96% of the Trump voters who are not disappointed in him after all:

They never seriously expected, nor cared, what he might do when he got into office; they just like his attitude.

Forget that talking tough doesn’t work all that well, they can’t stand having leaders who don’t do it. Forget that cutting taxes on the rich never seems to pay for itself, they just prefer to vote for someone who insists that it does. They’re not looking for smart leadership, they’re looking for bold leadership.

It’s just that they got tired of all those namby-pambies of both parties that have been running the country and just wanted, for once, to elect some politically-incorrect-but-attitudinally-correct nitwit to the White House. What he actually does once he gets there is just details that don’t concern them, which is why they don’t seem all that upset by losing their Obamacare.

There seems to be a disconnect in their brains between, on the one hand, the problems of their everyday lives, and on the other, the rockstar they proudly put in the oval office.

It’s just possible that we are witnessing the ultimate failure of the whole concept of people ruling themselves.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Response to Ending in China

Although not a “believer”, in the traditional sense, I actually do believe in Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking", but not in the sense that you, Alan, describe it — either a bit of slight-of-hand one invokes hoping to magically make things better, or else nothing but a bluff — but in the sense that, if you’re going to get some seemingly impossible task done (like FDR’s task of turning around the economy, for example), you’re not going to bother even seriously trying if you keep thinking it can’t be done.

Trump’s different. He’s a bluffer. He doesn’t bother learning how to do something, he just figures he can get people to do things by the force of his own personality. Someone who just bullshits you doesn’t really believe in a positive anything.

But while I’m here, I also want to reiterate, and join Paul Waldman in disputing something I’ve been hearing on TV all week from Republicans, and even some news people who ought to know better:
Ask any conservative about what they objected to in former president Barack Obama’s foreign policy record, and the first words out of their mouth will be “RED LINE!” 
They’ll tell you that Obama was weak and feckless, and that his unwillingness to attack Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s government after it used chemical weapons on civilians in 2013 sent a message to the world that the United States wouldn’t stand up for its principles or follow through on its threats.
Even after all these years, Trump still argues that line, even after revisiting his own tweets from back then, admonishing Obama not to give in to temptation and join the fight in Syria:
Donald J. Trump  
The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria, fix U.S.A. 
7:13 AM - 5 Sep 2013
Donald Trump has a tendency to “misremember” things he’s said in the past, helped along by another of his tendencies, to just not listen or acknowledge when reminded of things he’s said before, such as:
In a May 2016 interview on MSNBC, Mr. Trump said the United States had “bigger problems than Assad.” He added, “I would have stayed out of Syria and wouldn’t have fought so much for Assad, against Assad.” … 
“I think going in was a terrible, terrible mistake. Syria, we have to solve that problem because we are going to just keep fighting, fighting forever. I have a different view on Syria than everybody else,” he said during an interview with The New York Times.
And while Obama’s famous “RED LINE statement”, according to Trump, might have been "dumb", maybe because it set up public expectations of military action that would go unfulfilled, Waldman is right when he claims that Obama didn’t “back away”:
In December 2012, the Obama administration announced that it had intelligence demonstrating that Assad’s government was preparing to deploy chemical weapons. Obama said that any use of such weapons would constitute a “red line,” and “there will be consequences.” 
The following August, Assad launched a chemical weapon attack on civilians, and the administration threatened to begin a bombing campaign. Obama then sought authorization from Congress for military action, but it quickly became clear he wouldn’t get it, including from Republicans. In the end, the administration partnered with Russia to negotiate a deal under which Syria would hand over chemical stockpiles for destruction.
The point of which is, every time some Republican — and also some pundit or reporter, for that matter — goes on TV to state as fact that President Obama drew a red line, then totally ignored it, they need to be reminded that, first of all, the people’s representatives in Congress turned down Obama's requests for military action in Syria back in 2013 — something which our present president agreed with Congress on back then — but that, nevertheless, Obama continued on to work with Russia, of all countries, to destroy Syria's chemical weaponry — which, by the way, actually amounts to not walking away.

And in retrospect, it may be just as well that Obama didn’t get his way in 2013, since winning that fight would probably have been just as impossible as it seemed at the time, and even fighting it would have only added more death and destruction to the chaos.

But now President Trump has his own chance to bluff his way through this problem in Syria, giving not only all of us a real-life opportunity to second-guess his decision, but also to see how he spins his results when the next election campaign rolls around.