Saturday, February 03, 2018

Matt 24 watch, 306: Understanding Mr Trump

Current US President Mr Donald Trump
The post World War II Presidency of the United States is both the toughest job in the world and one directly relevant (for good or ill) to the Caribbean. Notoriously, if the often despised Yankees sneeze, we catch the 'flu with complications all too likely to follow.

Now, too, in the Caribbean, it is fair comment to observe that political punditry, the media, our chattering classes, the degreed, the political advisor classes and power brokers generally reflect that saying in a narrowed sense: our views on American affairs (and thus on global views) typically simply reflect those of the US Congressional Black Caucus. Where, those views as a rule simply reflect the progressivist, cultural marxist agendas that are afoot, and accompanying agit-prop and lawfare

All of these remarks already imply that I fear that our predominant view of American matters and wider world affairs exhibit imbalances and want of objectivity and independence. 

Yes, after all, I have gone on record about the straight or spin test:

And yes, I am saying that we the educated and credentialled, influential classes of the region are clearly dangerously out of balance.

This becomes directly relevant when it comes to our perceptions of Mr Trump, current resident in chief at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Yes, yes, I don't particularly like him or his manners and style. 

Yes, yes, he has obviously had a nasty track record of womanising, is obviously foul-mouthed [he is a contractor on billion-dollar steroids], is of an age [seventy-plus] where racist leanings are to be presumed, and much more. 

However, we need to come to a more balanced appreciation for the new breed of political animal he represents, or we may well find ourselves in the position of grand dinosaurs mocking the mammals scurrying about underfoot. With a couple of asteroids a-coming that threaten to inundate our region in tidal waves. (Maybe, my tense is wrong, the impacts have happened and waves have begun to pound our shores.)

I suspect, we would be well advised to remind ourselves on the geostrategic peril of our time before we go on to reflect on a perspective from a noted US observer who has some sobering words:

Okay, duly sobered up, let us now ponder a few clips from Col. Victor Davis Hanson in a current opinion piece (one we would all do well to read in full, reflect on and re-read several times):

Radioactive Trump

Thursday, February 1, 2018 
Early on during the Republican primary, a conventional wisdom developed in the media and within political circles that it was suicidal to engage in ad hominem exchanges with Trump. The mainstream media meant that assessment as no compliment to Trump.
Journalists sneered that the showboating Trump had fourteen years of experience in repartee and ad hoc invective on his reality television hit show The Apprentice. They also conceded that Trump had long ago learned that, in the dog-eat-dog world of New York real estate, and in the nasty gossip of Manhattan’s celebrity scene, going on the preemptive offensive is a deterrence strategy, crude or not.  In such a landscape, gentlemanly forbearance was not interpreted as magnanimity to be appreciated but as weakness to be exploited.
Furthermore, in 2016, part of Trump’s message was that an overrated coastal elite played by stuffy rules of comportment to hide both their incompetence and hypocrisies. For Trump, the best way of radiating the establishment was saying anything to anyone at any time anywhere—especially by inventing schoolyard nicknames that savagely captured an opponent’s perceived weaknesses and flaws—and begged for a reply in kind.
The media’s analyses of Trump’s style were true enough. But the pundits forgot a few other key reasons why the radioactive Trump melted his opponents. In every one of Trump’s jousts, he was coiled and reactive—a fact known to his base who defended Trump’s fallout on the basis of ‘they started it, he finished it.”
Second, Trump’s personal invective was part of a larger assault on institutions and their representatives who were increasingly perceived both as hostile to half the U.S. population and hypocritically self-interested. Because there was merit in his coarse criticism, Trump’s opponents found themselves reactively defending the scarcely defensible. Being outraged at Trump often led them mistakenly to be outraged at his policies.

Conventional wisdom warns Trump that his retaliatory attacks are not presidential; that they are no longer needed now that he’s in the Oval Office; that they are counterproductive; and that they turn off Independent voters, especially Independent women whom Trump will need in 2018 and perhaps 2020.

The counter-argument?

Before Trump, politicians observed Marquis of Queensberry rules of comportment while they ran up $20 trillion in national debt, left the border unsecured with 11-15 million illegal aliens residing with impunity in the United States, failed to achieve significant economic growth in over a decade, saw middle-class incomes ossify, and could not translate interventions abroad into strategic victories, while allowing North Korea to develop nuclear ballistic missiles.
These are already a stunning indictment from someone who is a significant strategic thinker in his own right. 

The focus now shifts to wider themes. 

Some of which, echo uncomfortably in a region that is arguably feeling the destructive half of Schumpeter's creative destruction as the technical base of the global economy palpably shifts beneath our feet:
Globalization before 2016 was seen only as a positive gift. It certainly was often salutary for most in the world—but not always for many Americans. Received wisdom held that outsourcing and offshoring were good for the American economy. Meanwhile, companies fled the United States. More regulations and bigger government seemed fated. Free trade de facto was considered fair. Trade deficits like budget deficits were nothing much to worry about—even as middle-class wages stagnated, the red-state interior was deindustrialized, and the victims were written off as losers, deplorables, irredeemables, and clingers who foolishly had not prepared themselves for the coastal “knowledge based” economy of the “information age.”

In response, half the country—the more important electoral-college half—felt that the way politicians had treated their middle-class, post-industrial malaise was insincere and merely palliative. Then Trump came along and offered searing radiation treatments designed to kill the metastases shortly before it poisoned the rescued host—by loudly promoting seemingly archaic ideas like bringing back capital and jobs from abroad, deregulating the economy, lowering taxes, and making the United States more fossil-fuel independent.
Hanson is not finished:
Something similar happened abroad.  Most of the world’s signature establishment institutions beneath the veneer of their polite nomenclature and mannered protocols were ethically, or at least administratively, compromised. The United Nations often proved itself to be an anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Semitic, and anti-democratic organization, masquerading in tony Manhattan as the voice of global morality, subsidized by the American hosts it routinely attacked. The European Union was evolving into an anti-democratic statist project warped by German mercantilism and German cultural and political dominance on matters of finance, immigration, and foreign policy that brooked no dissent. Postwar NATO members had mostly ignored their commitment to spend 2 percent of their respective GDP on defense to share the burdens of defending Europe more equitably. Europeans had come to assume that protecting Europe was more important to Americans than it was to Europeans. The point is not that these heralded institutions are unnecessary or incapable of reform. Rather, to change they often need the sort of toxic criticism that Trump levels because they have consistently ignored more polite and diplomatic badgering from world leaders. 
He has much more to say, but that is a good starter.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to change our approach? As in, do we face:

Let us at least take a few moments to ponder. END