Friday, June 22, 2018

A clear and simple message

Guerilla warrior

She won.


Trump can be beat by an opponent with the right biography and clear message.


She did what Hillary couldn't.


For the first time in the three years of the Trump era--the era that began when he came down the escalator and announced his presidency--Trump met an opponent whose story was more simple and powerful than his. This blog has repeatedly cast presidential messaging as a form of professional wrestling, a battle between archetype characters, with Trump playing the role of the "bad-guy" rule breaker who fights dirty on behalf of himself and his team. The Democratic field--and especially Hillary Clinton--was made up of "stiffs", i.e. people who were head-to-head opponents. Trump was the disrupter, Democrats were positioned as the establishment.

Democrats keep losing that fight. 

Hillary, of course, lost it, but also Pocahontas Warren and Crying Chuck Schumer and San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi. They talk about legislation while he demonstrates brute disdain for them. A governing plurality of people generally dislike Democrats or the federal government or the status quo international order. and they enjoy watching Trump play his role swatting them down.

Trump has his act down. He looks and dresses the part: presidential brute. 

Biography needs to complement message. Hillary Clinton could not tell a persuasive "log cabin" story, although I heard her attempt it by borrowing her mother's story. Clinton went to Wellesley and Yale Law and got rich doing politics, giving speeches, and having rich friends. She is stuck with that. Trump is a big-talking wheeler-dealer businessman, and he is stuck with that. She tried to deny or minimize her story, while Trump leaned into his and made it a qualification rather than a disqualification.  

The little girl has a credible biography. She is a toddler. 

The message has to be clear and simple and have emotional resonance. Trump's is that there are too many scary foreigners taking over our country and taking advantage of us in trade and diplomacy, and we needed someone tough to defend us.  A lot of people feel uncomfortable around "others" and while Democrats condemn and shame that feeling, Trump acknowledges it and acts on it. That works for Trump.

Actual photo
The little girl had a message of her own. Trump is too cruel. Her message does judo on Trump, using his power against him. Her message is not complicated by a solution. It stops with "Don't do this." A cute toddler can say that and we believe it. (We heard Democratic senators say it and we didn't care. When the toddler gave the message, we cared. Credible biography matters)

The Time Magazine cover is utterly false and manipulative--which is why the cover is commentary on the battle we just witnessed. 

The cover is "fake" as news, but accurate as analysis. The  actual photo is shown here, a toddler crying.  But the still photo of her, plus the sound of children crying, made a case the public sided with.  We saw it the way the cover art saw it. Big brute vs. toddler. We like her better. 

This blog has received criticism over the past two years observing--correctly--that it devalues issues and policy and that it treats politics as mere show business. Critics write that they care about issues and complain this blog values the facile and manipulative rather than the serious business of government. 

I agree with my critics. They are right. 

That is exactly what this blog reports because that is exactly what I observe. I believe the past two weeks demonstrate my point. The image of the toddler could do what U S Senators could not. That reality creates a prescription for 2020: at the presidential level I believe a Democratic opponent will succeed--or not--depending on what they represent, understandable and credible at a glance. 




Thursday, June 21, 2018

Trump Caves, and Declares Victory

Trump:  "There are going to be a lot of happy people."


I predicted this two days ago, but it was an easy prediction. It is classic Trump. 

Donald Trump said, "This has been going on for sixty years. Nobody's had the political courage to take care of it."

Trump calls it victory 
Nobody until Trump, the hero.

Donald Trump did the two things I predicted here on June 19.  He caved and called it a victory.

With his typical grand flourish and a bold tipped pen he signed an executive order ending the separation of children from parents who had entered illegally seeking asylum. 

This blog called it a "cave" to pressure--and that is how the media is covering it--but Trump does not voice it that way. Trump beams with pride. If he says its a victory, it is a victory.  (I consider it bravado, but as the Guest Post below details, perhaps there is method at work and this is a true victory.)

Trump has an uncanny understanding of human psychology. Trump created a crisis he could fix--and he fixed it. He made himself a hero and a great many people will focus on Trump as the problem-solver. After all, it was all the Democrats' fault in the first place, he said.

A big change is underway. We see a useful "tell" in how this played out. 

Trump had expressed casual disregard for the feelings of people in the GOP leadership, and it was part of why his candidacy had appeal. He replaced unpopular neoconservatism with more popular ethno-nationalism. He positioned himself as the fearless man of the people, changing the old habits of the GOP. He swatted down some fifteen Republican politicians and scoffed at Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell. He changed historic GOP policy on Russia, on immigration, on trade. He took over the party and it adopted Trump's views; he didn't adopt theirs. He led the party to himself.

That was then. 

There is a new vulnerability.  GOP officeholders were starting to speak out, daring to disagree with Trump, even in the immediate aftermath of the Mark Sanford loss in South Carolina. In general the border and immigration issue is a winner for Trump, but the optics of crying children made officeholders nervous. They were distancing themselves from Trump. This time that mattered. Trump moved to them.

Trump is no longer the free agent he was. The Mueller investigation into Trump and his associates might expose something ugly. In the worst case scenario for Trump there is always the firewall of GOP support among officeholders. With them, he cannot be indicted, he can pardon whomever he wants, and he cannot be impeached. He is untouchable, when he has the firewall. 

Trump is now governing to maintain the firewall. Trump now has a Board of Directors to report to, GOP officeholders. 

It is a new era. Trump has a boss. 
                                                        - - - - -

But wait.  There is another way to look at this. Perhaps Donald Trump has been one or two steps ahead of this from the beginning. Maybe this is actually very good for Trump and very dangerous for Democrats.

Thad Guyer posits that Trump has long understood that the immigration issue is a winner for Republicans because Democrats in the past decade have pushed themselves into essentially advocating for open borders. Their response to Trump's provocations went as Trump planned.  

Guyer is an attorney specializing is representing whistleblower employees. His practice is worldwide and he observes American politics from wherever his laptop computer is, most frequently in Vietnam.
Thad Guyer

Guest Comment by Thad Guyer

"There's A Sucker Born Every Minute"

That expression originated with a banker David Hannum in describing the success of P.T. Barnum's hoaxes. Trump's hoax of creating a nationwide network of "kiddie cages" for illegal immigrants has fed the rage that keeps him in firm control of the national narrative on anything politically important.  The suckers believe the hoax,  thinking Trump blundered and now he retreats with his tail between his legs. Rachel Maddow was not one of the suckers. Before closing her show Tuesday night in emotional distress not seen on her face since election night showed how misplaced MSNBC's forecasts were, Maddow meticulously laid out the following case:  All the public rage we are seeing on incarcerated children is exactly how Trump has choreographed it.  

In my comment to Peter's post in which he predicted Trump would cave, I cited the New York Times podcast "The Daily"  in which Michael Barbaro argued we are seeing what Trump wants us to see, feeling what he wants us to feel.  Maddow, Barbaro, the Atlantic, New Republic and others including Peter Sage have cautioned against believing Trump's hoaxes and the delusion that he bumbles into "mistakes".  Trump told us from the start how "horrible" separating children is, and dispatched his Attorney General and DHS Secretary to condition us about a federal court injunction forbidding long-term custodial detention of minors.  In a midterm election strategy, Trump and his chief immigration strategist Stephen Miller turned the focus to Democrats, calling on them to stop just obstructing and support legislation that would modify the "consent degree" in Reno v. Flores (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reno_v._Flores#Holding). 

In Flores, the Supreme Court ruled that immigrant children can constitutionally be separated from from their detained parents.   Clinton's AG Janet Reno then negotiated a settlement agreeing that the children would be incarcerated for no more than 20 days before being sent away into foster care. The Trump administrations wants that consent degree modified to allow the immigrant kids to be incarcerated for a longer term until the child and parent-- 80% of them-- can be deported "as a family unit".  Only 20% ever win asylum.

So what is the big victory over Trump?  There is no victory, the "cave" is a hoax just like the "kiddie cages".  Yesterday he posed with a leather bound "executive order" the crux of which is Section 3(e): "The Attorney General shall promptly file a request ... to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores ... in a manner that would permit the Secretary ... to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings ..."  That's the victory--  to ask a court in the liberal Ninth Circuit to approve keeping the whole family locked up until they can all be deported together?  No such approval will likely be given and Trump knows it.  That's the hoax, that's the illusion.  Instead, he built a grand suspense-filled theater in which GOP midterm candidates benefited from a kumbaya moment of bipartisan rage against an inhumanity Trump himself had two days earlier decried as forced upon him by meddling courts and perpetuated by obstructionist Democrats. America "learned" GOP candidates can be trusted to break with Trump when it comes to humanity.

So where are we now?  The ball is where Trump put it-- in the courts and on the Democratic side of the aisle as the mid-terms fast approach.  Democrats, already railing against any legislative cooperation with these new humane Republicans, are right where Trump wants them-- advocating for what amounts to open borders.


 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Greg Walden gets boatloads of money from PACs

There is a $3,700,000 elephant in the room.

Lets talk about it. 

Sometimes the interests of an industry are in conflict with the interests of taxpayers and citizens.


Some think the donations compromised him..
First the simple facts.

Of 435 Congressmen, Greg Walden is the #1 recipient of PAC money from drug companies. 

He is also number one in donations from Medical Device Manufacturers, Health Care providers and the health care industry generally. Walden's committee oversees that industry.

See for yourself:  Click the black tabs for Industries and PACs


Some people think it compromises his loyalty to his district. 

PAC money can be given--or withheld. Taxpayers and voters have different interests from drug companies. The companies want drug prices kept high. Drug companies don't want Medicare to demand volume discounts. They want long patent protection before the drug goes generic. They want easy and expedited clinical trials. Citizens and taxpayers generally want the opposite. 

The PACs of companies Walden oversees are giving money for a reason. They want a congressman who represents their interests. This creates a conflict and opportunity for moral compromise.

How does Walden explain this? He doesn't. 

There is actually a simple explanation available to Walden: agreement.. He could say he agrees with the drug companies, that he sincerely believes that America is better off with high drug prices and long patent protections, and that he is voting both his conscience and what he considers to be the interests of the public and taxpayers. 

This isn't farfetched. The drug lobby gives him awards. We don't consider it strange that Walden presumably agrees wholeheartedly with the NRA and considers their positions to be in the national interest, so he votes their way and therefore receives NRA money. Why not drug companies, too? There need be no moral compromise if he agrees with the drug companies.

There is another explanation available to Walden: custom. He could say that the money he gets from drug companies are an exercise in a long-established DC custom of tribute to power. PACs buy generalized good will. Consider it a ritual, like calling Members of Congress "Honorable." It would be like the scene in The Godfather where the mafioso put wedding gifts in the purse of the daughter of Don Corleone. The gifts are a sign of respect.  

There is a third explanation available: talent. Walden could assert that he gets all that money because he is, frankly, a very able and high quality legislator of the kind purely public spirited people wish to keep in office. It isn't about being on their side, not at all. Quality rises to the top, and the drug companies want to reward good independent thinkers.

There is a fourth explanation available: everybody does it. He could say everyone raises money from their policy allies and no big deal. Besides, it is all reported, and therefore the public is given fair warning notice of potential compromise and influence. Presumably an alert citizenry and robust media are on the lookout and would call foul if they see something.

There are problems with these arguments so Walden is not making them. He would not want to say he supports drug companies over taxpayers, nor that he is chest deep in the swamp. 

Better to say nothing, and not enough is being said about this, which is why this blog has raised the issue. Public reporting of contributions is supposed to alert the public to conflicts. 

Media treats the issue as a horserace. 
For their own reasons, the media is silent about Walden's contributions except to announce them like a jackpot of success in campaigning. They have been silent, too, about the evolution of Walden from the moderate, empathetic Oregon congressman into a DC powerhouse and fundraising titan whose committee shepherded the effort to reduce Medicaid access for the working poor and end protection for people with pre-existing conditions--a direct contradiction of what he said repeatedly in local Town Halls.

Walden changed. What happened? Possibly the change simply reflects his big chairmanship, with its attendant responsibility to be a teammate in the GOP caucus. That had been the position of this blog.

Walden in Medford: protect access.
But I have also been startled by the source and amount of money Walden raises from the drug and health care industry. He has responsibilities to the GOP caucus to raise money and spread it around. The inherent moral compromise was to become captured by the industry, a friend among patrons, a man worthy of awards, a team player with the drug industry. 

Something happened to Greg Walden.

That is the $3,700,000 elephant in the room.












Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Trump: tough and cruel to outsiders

Trump has a method and a brand.


CNN: Click

Cruelty to outsiders and enemies is a feature, not a bug. 


Trump projects an image of toughness and domination over outsiders. His presidency is refining and expressing the themes that got him elected. 

Trump voiced an ethno-nationalist message: America under attack by outsiders who are worming their way into America, bringing crime and burdens on the insiders, the rightful heirs to America.  He described an America being taken advantage of by both friends and enemies. He said that it was happening because America was led by feckless weaklings of both parties, but especially Obama. Trump would change that.

On net, the sounds of children crying for their parents hurts Trump, but it is a mixed situation for him and not all bad for him. He is getting hand-wringing within his base. Some Catholic bishops and evangelicals are uneasy. The most visible critics are women or men with a reputation for having a soft streak: John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Laura Bush is troubled by it. First Lady Melania sympathizes. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine says this isn't right. 

Dissent within Republicans is not good for Trump. Part of Trump's power is that he cannot be removed by law or politics. His impeachment-proof power comes from fear among Republicans that Trump nay-sayers get defeated soundly. Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Mark Sanford are trophies for Trump. Note that Paul Ryan is among the critics--but he announced he is retiring. Ryan's apostasy helps prove the rule that only has-beens can be critical of Trump.  Still, Trump is stronger when no Republican dare criticize him and he is getting some from within the tent. 

Even White House itself is conflicted. Some say the cruelty is necessary and good to send a message (Jeff Sessions) while others say it is bad and the fault of Democrats. The lack of message discipline documents that the issue has problems. Kids are sympathetic, especially when they cry for their mommy.


On the other hand. . .  

There are some benefits to Trump in this controversy. He is communicating that he will be the tough guy, the disciplinarian. Trump isn't soft.

When Trump changes policy--and he can at any moment and will be praised for it--he will present it as having  strongly and firmly proved his point. 

Greece: 1944
The criticism of Trump from Democrats helps Trump by reinforcing his brand for promise-keeping in adversity. My parents returned from a trip to Greece in 1980 and told a story of conversations Greek relatives that shocked them. The Nazi occupation of Greece was noteworthy for its cruelty. The population was starved and terrorized. There was a Nazi edict that for every German soldier killed they would execute 100 Greeks. Greece has monuments to entire villages destroyed, every woman raped and killed, every male hanged. My parents heard stories over meals with these survivors of the occupation and they heard two messages. One was of the unspeakable cruelty and the other was of grudging respect. "If they said they would do it, they would do it." Trump shows he isn't bluffing.

Stopping an invasion. Photos of migrants seeking asylum cause wide angle photos of masses of people crowded together in camps. The unsaid message here is of "hoards" of people. That triggers the fear many Americans have of uncontrolled, mass immigration. One crying child is sympathetic ,but thousands seen together seem like an invasion.

Moreover, the migrants look foreign. They have odd clothes, they are tired and unwashed, most don't speak English well. Seen as a group their individual humanity is obscured, and the viewer perceives foreign hair and clothing styles. In Trump's authoritarianism, the distinction between inside and outside is key. The implied message: he is cruel to them because he is nice to us.

Prediction: Trump will tough this out for a few more days, then change policies and call it a victory, a tremendous victory. He will come out OK. The pundits who say this will be a big mid-term issue for Democrats are mistaken.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Walden and the Opioid Drug Industry

Opioid drug manufacturers gave Walden $39,000 so far this cycle.


Drug company PACs lavish money on Greg Walden. It makes good business sense. He is chair of the committee that oversees them.


All this information is public. Any citizen can look it up and share it. I consider it newsworthy.

A Republican restauranteur asked me a reasonable question: "Have the opioid drug makers we are hearing about donated to Greg Walden's campaign?"  The query came from a good guy. Civic minded. Generous. Smart. He has a photo of himself and Greg Walden in a prominent place in his restaurant. I didn't know the answer.  Now I do. The answer is yes. 

I invite readers to check my work. www.opensecrets.org  Click

First, some background. Greg Walden is the number one recipient of drug PAC money of all of the 435 Members of Congress.  He even edges out Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. Click  

He holds a similar number one ranking in other industry PACs, for example TV broadcasters: Click.  Also, number one ranking in PAC gifts for the Health Services industry, the Medical Devices industry, the Electric Utility industry, and several others.

Today let's focus on health care and opioids.

Start of a long, long list
Greg Walden gets money from nearly all drug companies, big and small. Here are the drug manufacturer contributors, listed in alphabetical order, from Abbott Labs all the way to Zimmer: Click

There is a similar alphabetical list for companies categorized as "Health Services"and another for "Nursing Homes" and another for practitioner associations.



Opioid drug manufacturers donated at least $39,000 to Greg Walden.


Click
Out of the long lists, which ones are deeply implicated in the opioid manufacture and distribution system?  These: Purdue, Johnson and Johnson, Endo, Cephalon, Insys, Malinckrodt, McKesson, Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen, Mylan, Allergen.  

These eleven companies are the ones identified as leading manufacturers and distributors in lawsuits by Texas, Ohio, Mississippi, and a growing list of other states, cities, and counties that are attempting to recoup some of the costs of a pervasive system of over-prescribing and mass distribution of opioids. They are defendants, identified either because they made the opioids, encouraged their widespread use, or turned a blind eye to the crisis. There is lots of news on this:  Click: New England Journal of Medicine    Click: Fortune

Eight of the eleven gave to Walden, and he kept the money:
Click: www.opensecrets.org

Johnson and Johnson: $ 10,000
Teva: $3,500
Endo: $2,000
Allergan: $5,000
Amerisource Bergen: $6,000
Malinckrodt: $7,500
Mylan: $2,500
McKesson: $2,500


Four takeaways.  

1. Greg Walden is smiling in the photo of him used to illustrate his extraordinary fundraising prowess. In politics these gifts are proof that a candidate enjoys the support of the company or industry, and they are tools to assure his re-election. Walden is not ashamed of the money he gets from lobbyists. They are a trophy, and he keeps raising money.

2. Yes, Walden gets money from opioid manufacturers and distributors. They are his benefactors. While states and cities treat these companies as dangerous and go to court to stop them, Greg Walden maintains friendly relationships with them. 

3. He gets money from nearly everyone whose industries his committee oversees. The money Walden gets from the opioid industry is a drop in the bucket for him. His support from the opioid industry isn't unique or surprising. He is friendly with all the drug companies; Some of them just happen to make and distribute opioids. 

4. Swamp. Walden gets money from the people he is supposed to regulate. The greater principle here is not that Walden is supported by an opioid industry that created a crisis that has killed 4,500 Oregonians in the past decade--and 350,000 people nationwide. It is that Greg Walden chairs a committee that oversees the drug industry, and they shovel money at him, and he takes it.







Sunday, June 17, 2018

Trump: "I hate the children being taken away."

Two year old at border

Trump makes a messaging error.


Trump called removing children a negotiating tool with Congress. Jeff Sessions called it a message to parents coming here seeking asylum.

It looks like extortion because it is extortion. 

Trump has been crafty in his messaging, and he has beaten Democrats and the media and his Republican opposition. It made him president. Trump presents himself as the strong and dominant hero, voicing policies of ethnic nationalism. 

He miscalculated when he picked on young children. Even people who generally like Trump's dominance and cruelty are uncomfortable.

Trump proved to be on safe ground attacking adult upstarts and rivals. His base loves it. He dislikes what they dislike: Hillary Clinton, black millionaire athletes, Hollywood celebrities, media celebrities, universities and their micro-aggression sensitivities, anti-gun hectoring by snotty nose kids, and opposition politicians. These are the culture war mighty, and Trump brings them low, with humiliating nicknames or withering criticism.

But crying children are backfiring on Trump. Trump is stuck with having positioned this as a negotiation tactic with Congress and a message to parents seeking asylum. Look how your children suffer. It looks like extortion. In a world with TV, it is a step too far. We see the children. What King Leopold could do in the Congo, Donald Trump cannot do at the US border. What a mob enforcer can threaten, the Justice Department cannot. 

Trump is trying to blame this on Democrats and this, too, is coming across wrong in his messaging. He keeps citing Democrats, Democrats, Democrats. The deflection seems desperate. It is a familiar story in salesmanship; the customer isn't buying, so the salesman raises his voice and repeats the pitch harder. Both salesman and customer sense what is happening. Desperation. No sale.

Not even Fox News can sustain the Trump message. Fox New has anchors on the air who are allowing it to be said by themselves and guests that the policy is, in fact, Trump's policy and not the Democrats'. Fox guest and anchors acknowledge that the children are blameless and the policy is cruel. They show faces of concern for the children and misgiving that Trump is pushing this policy. 
They run the story of this clearly being Trump policy, yet keeping up the chyron script withTrump's assertion that it is the Democrats' doing. The two together have an un-mistakable message: Trump is lying, trying to deflect blame regarding something shameful. 

Trump's own DOJ admits this is an area where Trump has discretion. Democrats are on message: blame Trump. The media has its story straight: blame Trump.

It is hard to see a good ending for Trump on this one. Republicans have the votes to govern. The best result for Trump would be to change the policy and hope to be credited as a hero for ending a cruel policy, but even in that case, the stink will likely linger.  

If Trump "wins" and a wall gets built or Trump gets some other part of what he wants, the victory will have been tainted with memory of extortion. 

Trump would have had to make little children cry to get what he wanted. 





Saturday, June 16, 2018

McLeod-Skinner says Walden is scrambling. I check her work.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner says Greg Walden is "finally waking up. He's suddenly noticed the opioid crisis. He was oblivious to it when it really mattered."


She said Walden had "damaged himself" on the health care issue and he is trying to repair his image.

I decided to check her assertion, with a close look at Greg Walden's own official web page. (She is right.)

Jamie McLeod Skinner called me from the road. She said her campaign is getting traction and that a theme is developing. The catalyst is the health care issue. She said it is changing how people think about Walden. She said "I'm hearing people say 'He's forgotten where he's come from. He isn't who he used to be.'"

Yesterday, on the road near Redmond, Oregon
She said people had figured out that Greg Walden's efforts to end the Affordable Care Act would hurt them. "What he has done with the ACA is an albatross around his neck, and he knows it."

She said public health officials have calculated that 64,300 people in the 2nd District would have lost health care access had the House bill Walden shepherded through his committee passed. 

She said his public relations repair strategy was to change the subject--to opioids. "All of a sudden he discovered the opioid crisis. There were 350,000 deaths in America in the past decade, 4,500 of them in Oregon, but this only now becomes a big issue for him."  

Is this really johnny-come-lately PR, or is the opioid crisis in his District something he has been talking about for years? 

This is all public information available to anyone. We don't need to wait for the media to read it for us, or have campaign ads interpret it. We can look for ourselves, now.


https://walden.house.gov
His official government-paid web page highlights his public statements on all issues. Readers are free to check my work. Click, read, and count.

Opioids are now front and center, coming in a rush. Walden has several stories this week alone, and 19 separate stories on opioids since February 28 of this year, when the PR spigot suddenly turned on. 

What about before that? Nothing prior to that in 2018. In all of 2017 there were 11 stories on opioids. In 2016 there were 3 stories. There were none at all in 2015. 

Jamie McLeod-Skinner was right.

The fact that there is a sudden flurry of stories promoting Walden looking concerned over opioids, when prior to 2018 his focus was on repealing the ACA, does not by itself mean that this is an insincere public relations repair strategy. 

But his public focus on the issue is, in fact, new, and it is very convenient politically. It reverses the image of him as someone who in fact worked to reduce health care to exactly the people--the working poor--who are the people most affected by the opioid crisis. He doesn't publicize the work that was the centerpiece of what he did in Congress.  He sells the opposite. It muddles the argument that he worked against the interests of his own District, and it positions him against drug companies, obscuring what is in fact his close policy and fundraising relationship to drug companies and their PACs.

It may be clever politics. It is cynical, but crafty, and it may well work. It distracts. It sells what he wants to sell.

I said this to McLeod-Skinner in her call to me. She objected. "People are smarter than that, and they recognize cynical manipulation. They want something better. I am the antidote to that cynicism."

Maybe. Greg Walden built a giant reputation over two decades, emphasizing good-guy moderation and empathy. His actual legislative work in DC created a huge challenge for him. McLeod-Skinner calls it an albatross around his neck.

Between his taxpayer-paid resources and his campaign war chest, he can focus public attention whichever way he wants. He can sell the image he want to sell. 

He cannot remove the albatross, but he can try to make us forget it. 



Friday, June 15, 2018

Battle of Paradigms

Trump: "I think the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited."


Chicago Tribune
The Mueller investigation is finding increasing evidence of wrong-doing close to the president.


Donald Trump has governed to sustain the support of a majority of Republicans. They want to stick with him, and he is giving them every chance to do it. Upton Sinclair made an observation that has been quoted for 80 years: "it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
The Trump base is invested in Trump, making it in effect, their salary. They are going to hear what they want to hear, believe what they want to believe. It is hard to change an opinion that people are invested in keeping.

Trump handled this mess masterfully.

Democrats appalled by Trump have a hard time understanding his persuasive talent when they are presented with it, indeed when they are being routinely beaten by it. Trump has self-inflicted disadvantages, and yet still wins the message war. People could learn from him. He is dong something effective.
KUOW News

He gave people an excuse to ignore the facts regarding Mueller revelations about his campaign and business dealings with Russians; he created a counter narrative; he gave people a target for their frustration; and he sticks to his story head held high. 

Ignore facts. Trump says there is no "objectively true" information, only politically weaponized information, so readers are free to choose what information to believe. 
Dismiss it. "Fake news" is news critical of him and his version of facts. He points to examples of errors--and there are some--and generalizes them.  

Counter-narrative. There is a conspiracy out to get him. That is the big story, not the story of alleged Trump crime, Trump says. People in the Deep State, political opponents in both parties, the Clintons, and the FBI have created the entire "witch hunt" with the evil purpose of reversing the people's choice in the 2016 election. Trump: "Comey was the leader of this whole den of thieves." It was a plot and it all fits. They are out to get me.

Bloomberg: Mueller had been the most trusted man in America
Target. Trump gives his supporters someone else to look at: Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe. At the FBI "the top people were terrible." Look at what they have done. What about them? If someone appears to waver from the team--as did John McCain, Mark Sanford, or Trey Gowdy--then Trump or Fox blasts them as turncoats. Keep the landscape simple: good guys and bad guys.

Sticks to his story. Trump this morning summarizes the Inspector General report for viewers. Trump says the FBI has been totally discredited. There has been no collusion whatever and the FBI has been totally corrupted by its biased investigators. He stands tall. He doesn't waiver. He doesn't give an inch. He doesn't apologize or admit to anything.

Trump understands that in politics as in scientific understanding of the world, people have an operating paradigm, a sense of how the world is ordered. Either the earth is still and the sun goes around it, or the sun is in the middle and the earth rotates and revolves around the sun.  Stick to the paradigm.

The Mueller investigation had the potential of creating a powerful, dangerous message: that Trump and his campaign was corrupted by Russia or others and that he--and his election--were illegitimate. People are being indicted and people are pleading guilty. Surely something was wrong there. Or not. Maybe the whole thing was a conspiracy of evil people, backed by fake news. In that case, people get to keep the president they like and want to like.
Trump has played the long game, creating an entirely different way to see the events as they unfold: the corrupt Swamp is doing a witch hunt.

It is a battle of paradigms.  











Thursday, June 14, 2018

Trump Doctrine: "We're America, Bitch!"

Do readers wonder what the rest of the world thinks about Trump?


Let's hear from a Canadian. 

Or maybe we shouldn't bother. We are America. What do we care what Western democracies think?

Trump's words and behavior at the G-7 meeting in Quebec reinforced that a policy change was underway. The Western Alliance is dissolving into something else.


Click: National Review
Trump had spoken at the United Nations and said clearly and proudly that the era of globalism and multilateral treaties was changing. All countries should look out for their own interests, he said, and in fact they already do look out for their own interests and always have, but Americans were too naive to realize it, so we got played.   

Trump arrived late to the G-7 meeting, did not sign the accords, criticized Canada and its Prime Minister personally, accelerated the trade war, and said the G-7 should become G-8 to include Russia. The "body language" of change is unmistakable.

Trump was underlining the policy shift away from the post-WW2 bipartisan formula to protect American interests based on multilateral trade and multilateral treaties, led by the developed democracies. That has been American policy, therefore NATO, ASEAN, TPP, NAFTA, UNESCO, the UN. 


Click: The Atlantic, June 11, 2018
An Atlantic Monthly article this week articulated the Trump point of view as "No Friends, No Enemies."  Rules-based multilateralism means our allies and trading partners get too comfortable. They need to feel some risk and doubt about the USA or else they don't fear and respect us, and therefore we give away too much in defense cost sharing and foreign trade. The essay concluded with the metaphor that expresses the new understanding that the USA was not the biggest dog among many in a pack, but rather the top dog, the one who made its own rules for its own benefit, including at the expense of others, summarized as "We're America, Bitch!" 


America on top. White Christians on top. Men on top. Trump is president and there is a new sheriff in town. The social order is restored. Make America Great Again.

How does all this look from Canada?


Sandford Borins is a political scientist teaching public management at the University of Toronto.  

Borins says Trump is an imperialist and the world resents it, and should resent it. He says what Trump is doing is dangerous and will have generational consequences. Trump is making trouble.

Here is the beginning of his short essay. Click the link on the caption to go to his site and read the whole blog essay.


Click: Sandford Borins.