Wright from Washington City
March 5, 2017


Trump’s big talk
Every man a king



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I have to say, when Trump sauntered down the aisle in the House chamber to deliver his address to the joint session Tuesday night, I said the same thing I've been saying at each of his public appearances since the Inauguration: "Holy Cow! That guy actually is the Emperor!"

It's true. The great vulgarian, a boaster in a floppy suit with absurd hair, who thinks gold-plated doors are the height of good taste and who is arguably the greatest American demagogue since Huey Long, has ascended the throne. The Left, Minitrue, and the Republican Party establishment are tearing their hair out. And I can't stop giggling.

Trump continues to infuriate his opponents by sidestepping, ridiculing, or neutralizing almost every attempt to attack him. He long ago discovered that he doesn't need to kowtow to Minitrue, otherwise known as the Mainstream News Media, because he can reach more people using social media and the right-wing alternative websites, and because Minitrue has generated such widespread distrust among the Great Unwashed. As with Reagan, the criticism just seems to roll off him like water off a duck's back.

Of course, that hasn't stopped the increasingly frenzied attacks, the latest of which portray him and his Minister of Love as agents of the sinister Designated Hitler, Vladimir Putin. Putin's got to be evil, because, you know, he's Russian, and everybody knows the Russians are out to rule the world, even though they have an economy the size of Italy's and armed forces a tiny fraction of the size of the Empire's. In any case, it's strange to see some of the same people who used to ridicule right-wingers for their fear of the Russians, now terrified of a Russian menace to our "democracy." Like advocates of the Reptilian Threat theories, they find the utter lack of any credible evidence no obstacle to fanatic belief.

Trump owns the office the way few in my time have ever done. Certainly Reagan managed to look "presidential," with his natural grace and gentlemanly manner. But Nixon was shifty and defensive. Ford was a nonentity, as was Carter: a weak man trying hard but not up to the task. Bush Il-sung's smug patrician arrogance greatly diminished him. And the less said about Slick Willy the better.

Then there was Clueless George's desperate grandiosity, masking an obviously well-deserved inferiority complex. As for Obama, he barely concealed his hostility to the masses, with a conceited manner less "presidential" than teenage mean girl. When he gave speeches, it was as if he resented the imposition. And don't get me started about his condescending fake black-preacher routine.

Trump, on the other hand, obviously likes people, and he behaves as if born to the office. The rabble-rouser of the campaign has moderated his manner to that of the dignified but dynamic CEO. His self-confidence is boundless; he seems completely at ease. Even his responses to criticism, though still aggressive, are less furious than before. And, paradoxically, the attacks don't seem to affect his overall sang froid.

As for his speech, Trump actually seemed to enjoy it. And what a speech it was. First he pointed out that his presidency is the result of a grass-roots rebellion, gleefully twisting the knife in the hapless Establishment hacks assembled before him. And then he promised a future of strong men, beautiful contented women, blue skies, milk and honey, and a unicorn in every back yard:

Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need. Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve. Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land. Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and, ultimately, stop. And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity. Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.
It was quite a sight: Trump holding forth like a Queens-bred Mussolini, while behind him Vice Emperor Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who manifestly hates his guts, gazed in adoration and nodded like bobble-heads.

The etiquette of these Imperial addresses is bizarre indeed. At every declaration of the Emperor, his faction leap to their feet in frenzied applause, while their rivals sit glumly, like a bunch of stuffed frogs. The exceptions are when the orator praises the military, which causes all to rocket up as one, and when he points out one of the many suckers stuck up in the gallery as symbolic victims to make him look compassionate. Then everybody on the floor stands, turns himself toward that person, and claps. It's a supremely creepy moment.

Some of Trump's boasts were of measures that seemed at least benign and at best possibly helpful:

We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials and a lifetime ban — (applause) — thank you — and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.
We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.
He proposed to end unhindered immigration in favor of a merit-based policy. And, characteristically, promised the moon:
Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits. It will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages, and help struggling families — including immigrant families — enter the middle class. And they will do it quickly, and they will be very, very happy, indeed. (Applause.)
Whether he can push through such a measure, and what its ultimate effect would be, is anyone's guess. But other proposals are simply daft. Early in his speech, Trump criticized Obama's spending:
In the last eight years, the past administration has put on more new debt than nearly all of the other Presidents combined.
He then correctly linked the national debt with the current economic slump. But later he turned around and proposed a huge spending program:
The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding. (Applause.) America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East — all the while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country twice, and maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate. (Applause.)

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs. (Applause.) This effort will be guided by two core principles: buy American and hire American. (Applause.)

So, he's going to raise military spending and "invest" $1 trillion in infrastructure boondoggles, after criticizing Obama for record spending? How does that work?

And how soon we forget the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which officially cost $831 billion and "invested" in ... well, infrastructure boondoggles, among many other things. Now, to be fair, only a large fraction of that amount went to construction; $275 billion went to tax credits or other reductions, and a chunk went to such things as health care, "renewable energy" handouts to favored corporations, and other shibboleths. Still, if nearly a trillion dollars in "economic stimulus" didn't do much at all for the economy then, what makes you think it's going to work now?

On the other hand, Trump rightly pointed out that Obamacare is a disaster, and called for its repeal:

Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare — (applause) — with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and, at the same time, provide better healthcare. (Applause.)
But his health insurance proposal is a real mixed bag. He calls for freedom of choice, using healthcare savings accounts, and allowing insurance companies to offer programs across state lines, while also preserving coverage for preexisting conditions. The idea of getting the State out of healthcare, of course, isn't even on the radar screen. Trump, like all modern politicians, believes that all you have to do is adjust the government intervention machine to the correct settings, and everything will be wonderful:
Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing and hope.
And every man can be a king.

In that respect, Trump has much in common with Hillary's unsuccessful rival, Bernie Sanders, who also challenged the Dark Suits, and who also thinks all societal problems can and should be solved. Sanders is a real character. He wore a ratty-looking parka to Trump's coronation that made him look as if he'd taken a wrong turn on the way to the hardware store, and apparently he did it as a comment on the Trump regime. But he recorded a rebuttal to Trump's speech that put the official Democratic Party rebuttal in the shade.

With his eyes burning behind crooked spectacles and his delivery feverish, he was that close to coming off as Crazy Uncle Bernie, the guy in the beret and the "Smash Capitalism!" button whose demented rants embarrass everyone at family dinners. Only, not quite. He got in some good shots at Trump's speech: for instance, why didn't Trump mention Social Security and Medicare, when he had made their preservation the "cornerstone" of his campaign? And how could Trump talk about preserving the environment when he'd appointed the most anti-EPA EPA head in history? And so on.

In fact, Bernie's rebuttal was coherent and well presented, albeit pure, unadulterated Old Leftism. In a time when the Left has devolved into storm troopers for the billionaire elites, when their debate tactics consist of point-and-shriek and their ideology simply of hatred for anything traditional, Christian, and white, Sanders's old-fashioned Norman Thomas radicalism is actually refreshing. His approach is, if people are suffering, a government program can fix it; he can't understand how decent people could stand in its way. And he uses actual facts and argument to support his points.

Sanders's outrage seems utterly genuine: for instance, that Republican officials continue to try to "make it harder for young people, low-income people, senior citizens, and people of color to vote," by such onerous measures as requiring identification at the voting place. He urged his followers:

Those of you who attended rallies or town hall meetings: Keep showing up, keep calling Congress, and continue to fight. If you haven't taken action yet, we need your voice. Only together when millions of people stand up for economic justice, for social justice, for racial justice, for environmental justice, only then can we create a political revolution that will turn this country around.
Arise, ye prisoners of starvation! Too bad Trump has co-opted your revolution, Bern.

One can understand why the Sanders contingent was so furious with the way their campaign was assassinated by the party hacks: where the Hag was worn, nasty, boring, and unlikable, Bernie is full of vim and fire. Where she was an obvious cynical tool of the Establishment, obsessed with power and money, Bernie is an old-style socialist True Believer. Unlike her, there's little doubt he believes what he says. When he sends you to the firing squad for being an Enemy of the People, you can bet he'll be sincere.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party response was guaranteed to put you to sleep, although it might hint that the party leadership is waking up to why they lost so spectacularly: Former governor of Kentucky Steve Beshear was shown sitting in a cafe with a bunch of Down Home Ordinary Americans, and he declaimed with a thick Kentucky accent of the kind that city Democrats think confers legitimacy in the eyes of all those hicks out there. Unfortunately, however, the message itself was the same old stuff: defense of Obamacare, outrage at treatment of immigrants, Russia fear-mongering, and accusing Trump of being a tool of billionaires, which is pretty rich considering Hillary's connections. The Democrats may have identified the reasons for their loss, but they haven't yet come up with the will or the vision to do anything about them. [*]

We're in uncharted waters here. It's as if Huey Long had come back to life and made it to the White House. I can't help but enjoy the rage and frustration of the elites and the party hacks on both sides. And I allow myself some small optimism regarding a possible diminishing of the flood of uneducated immigrants, and the possibility that we might avoid a confrontation with Russia. But Trump's triumphalism, his unpredictability, the Goldman Sachs people in his regime, his protectionism, and his technocratic approach all bode ill for America's long-term economic health and our freedom. Also, like Long, another man who challenged the established rulers, there's still the possibility that he will be removed more or less violently. It's going to be a wild ride. Ω

March 5, 2017

Published in 2017 by WTM Enterprises.

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* Beshears oddly identified himself as both a Democrat and a Republican for some reason. A friend of mine says, "It's like he's trying to attach himself to two turds, to have a better chance of swirling down the bowl last."

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