Trump Wins on Principles

I don’t do many posts on politics, but am reblogging this essay as especially insightful. It comes from Loren Thompson, a Democratic political operative experienced with US Presidential campaigns, and who is not rooting for Trump. He writes in Forbes Five Principles That Will Power President Trump’s Reelection. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

If you are eagerly awaiting each new development in America’s quadrennial drama to select a president, then please regard the opening sentence to this commentary as a spoiler alert.

I have seen this movie before, and I know how it turns out. In fact, I have seen the movie several times.

I was there in 1972 when President Nixon soundly defeated the left-wing candidacy of George McGovern. I was actually in the McGovern campaign, and I was in on the early stages of the Dukakis campaign 16 years later, when George H.W. Bush defeated the liberal Massachusetts governor. I wasn’t associated with the Mondale campaign in 1984, but it was pretty much the same plot: left-wing Democrat wiped out by right-wing Republican. Mondale, like McGovern, only managed to carry one state (Dukakis won eight).

So, as the candidates seeking next year’s Democratic presidential nomination compete to outdo each other on issues like socializing medicine, opening borders and providing racial reparations, I think I have a pretty good idea of how this drama is going to turn out.

President Trump is going to be reelected.

With Democratic presidential hopefuls steadily trending Left, President Trump has good reason to be smiling about his reelection prospects. OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD

The American electorate simply doesn’t like left-wing ideologues. You can trace this pattern back over a hundred years to the defeat of William Jennings Bryan in three different presidential runs, during each of which he offered radical cures for what supposedly ailed the country. Even in the depths of the Great Depression, FDR knew he had to run as a centrist and populist rather than a socialist to bolster his chances of getting elected (Carter and Clinton successfully embraced the same lesson).

Today’s Democrats have decided they can’t win the party’s nomination unless they go far Left, and that will be their undoing come November of next year. As we have all learned the hard way, the Internet has a memory. Trying to move to the center after securing the party’s nomination doesn’t work the way it once did because the other side won’t let you forget all those awful things you said during the primary season about ICE, gun owners, coal miners et. al.

But wait, you say. Isn’t Trump different from past candidates—so eccentric that the usual rules applying to electoral outcomes aren’t operative? I don’t think so. His reelection campaign will massage the president’s policy initiatives and pronouncements into a platform that sounds like something Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan would have had no trouble supporting.

In fact, I can already predict in advance what that streamlined expression of Trump principles will look like. Unlike the Democratic platform, which will consist almost entirely of domestic economic and social issues, the Trump principles will be heavy on security and nationalism. When the smoke clears late on Election Day, Trump will have prevailed against the Democrats’ latter-day Dukakis. And here are the ideas that will do the trick.

Peace. Trump said this week that if he hadn’t been elected, the U.S. would be at war with North Korea. That’s a stretch, but he has demonstrated repeatedly that he is not eager to use America’s military overseas. In addition to smothering North Korean despot Kim Jong Un with love, he has signaled from day one he wanted to get along with a nuclear-armed Russia; refrained from bombing Iran; tried to pull all remaining U.S. troops out of Syria; avoided sending forces to remove Venezuela’s discredited dictator; and told his advisors he wants to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Having watched what happened in past presidential elections to parties that were blamed for unpopular wars, Trump is not going to let anybody accuse him of being a military interventionist.

Prosperity. The single most reliable indicator of whether an incumbent president will be reelected is whether the economy is doing well. Under Trump, the economy is going gangbusters—in fact, better than most economists predicted was even possible. With unemployment at record lows and the stock market at record highs, there isn’t even a hint of inflation. Trump stimulated an economy thought to be in the late stages of expansion, and gave it a new lease on life. Democrats will say his trade policies are undermining prosperity, but the nation’s yawning trade deficit actually cuts a full percentage point off the economic growth rate each year, so there’s a link between all his tariffs and bolstering prosperity.

Sovereignty. If a country can’t control its borders and can’t stop foreign entities from interfering in its domestic affairs, then it has diminished sovereignty. Nationalists like Trump believe the sovereignty of nation-states, at least legitimate ones, should be absolute. So of course the fact that apprehensions of illegal migrants on the southern border were averaging over 3,000 per day in April is an issue, especially given uncertainty as to how many illegals were not apprehended. And signing onto multilateral treaties like the Paris climate accords or the Trans-Pacific Partnership can also be construed as potentially infringing sovereignty. Trump’s campaign will say he wants to restore America’s control of its destiny. How the Democrats will explain their incoherent approach to border security is anyone’s guess.

Self-sufficiency. Like sovereignty, self-sufficiency is not a term Trump would likely invoke at a campaign rally. But the two ideas are related. Trump doesn’t subscribe to the theory of comparative advantage among nations, or to free trade, or to economic globalization, because he believes every nation is out to get the best deal for itself even if that means breaking the rules. In that regard, the international economy is not much different from the New York real-estate market where Trump made his fortune. So rather than sacrificing his generation to a principle (as Churchill might have put it), Trump wants America to be self-sufficient in key commodities and manufactured items. That’s why he tells Apple to make its iPhones here, and Mercedes to make its cars here. He doesn’t care if that violates trade rules—and neither do most voters.

Energy. I’m not talking about fossil fuels here, I’m talking about initiative. Trump is an activist who is relentless about pursuing his agenda, whether the topic is deregulation of the economy or denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. His energy level surpasses the performance of any president in living memory, and once he decides what his goals are he doesn’t pay much attention to critics. Having an activist at the helm conveys a sense of dynamism about the administration and the nation that is largely missing from the politics of other nations. You don’t need to agree with Trump’s agenda to see why nobody in Republican circles is talking about “passing the torch.”

Peace, prosperity, sovereignty, self-sufficiency and energy are the ideas that will win President Trump a second term. A handful of Democratic hopefuls such as Mayor Pete might give Trump a run for his money in the general election, but any candidate espousing a left-leaning agenda in a strong economy is doomed to failure. That’s what the historic record shows. Trump’s low approval rating don’t really matter, because come Election Day, many voters will be casting their ballots against a candidate they can’t stand, rather than to support a candidate they like. That’s the way these things usually play out.

 

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Trump Just Cured Health Care (No One Noticed)

The Editorial Board of Issues and Insights tells the story ignored by others in their article Trump Just Revolutionized Health Care — And Nobody Noticed. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Few have ever heard of “Health Reimbursement Accounts,” but they could fundamentally change the nation’s health care system — for the better — and destroy the Democrats’ case for socialized health care.

Late last week, the Trump administration finalized rules that will let companies put money into tax-exempt HRAs that their employees could then use to buy an individual insurance plan on their own. Seems like no big deal, right? Except it will start to unravel a 77-year-old policy mistake that is largely responsible for many of the problems the health care system suffers today.

Back in 1942, the Roosevelt administration imposed wage and price controls on the economy. But it exempted employer-provided benefits like health insurance, and the IRS later decreed that these benefits wouldn’t be taxed as income.

The result was to massively tilt the health insurance playing field toward employer-provided insurance. Today 88% of those with private insurance get it at work.

The massive tax subsidy — now valued at more than $300 billion — also encouraged overly generous health plans, because any health care paid by insurers was tax exempt, while out of pocket spending had to come from after-tax dollars.

So not only did this Roosevelt-era mistake create an employer-dominated health insurance market, it made consumers largely indifferent to the cost of care, since the vast bulk of it was picked up by a third party.

But while health care experts across the political spectrum recognize this mistake, Democrats’ response has been to get the government even more involved in health care, with the latest proposal a total government takeover under the guise of “Medicare for All.”

Republicans, to their credit, have been pushing in the opposite direction. The introduction of Health Savings Accounts — a GOP reform idea Democrats fiercely opposed — 14 years ago helped to remedy one of the tax distortions, by allowing some people to pay out of pocket costs with pre-tax money.

Even with all the restrictions Congress put on HSAs, the market for high-deductible HSA plans exploded — climbing from nothing in 2005 to nearly 30% of the employer market today. By the end of last years, consumers had saved up $10 billion in these accounts.

The rise in these “consumer directed” plans was at least partially responsible for the slow-down in health spending in recent years, according to official government reports, as consumers increasingly started shopping around.

Trump’s HRA rules will have a far more profound impact.

Under the plan, employers will be able to fund tax-free Health Reimbursement Accounts for their workers, who can then use the money to buy an individual insurance plan — thereby taking another step toward fixing the 77-year-old tax distortion. The rule also lets employers fund a different account to buy cheaper “short-term” plans.

This subtle, technical tweak has the potential to revolutionize the private health insurance market,” wrote Avik Roy, one of the smartest health care experts around, in the Washington Post.

The administration figures that 800,000 employers will eventually move to HRA plans, and 11 million workers will get their benefits this way.

At the same time, Trump also loosened the federal rules that had needlessly impeded “association health plans.” These are plans that let members of various groups band together to buy insurance. The result will be more competition, and more affordable choices for millions of people.

The Democrats’ response? Attack these changes as another attempt by Trump to “sabotage” Obamacare. What they really fear, however, is that the two new rules will destroy their case for socialized medicine.

As Roy put: “Together, over time, these changes would give workers more transparency into — and more control over — the health-care dollars that are now spent by other people on their behalf. That transparency and control, in turn, would create a powerful market incentive for health-care payers and providers to lower prices and increase quality.”

Once that happens, the last thing these millions of newly empowered health care shoppers will want is to be shuffled into a one-size-fits-all government plan designed for the masses by socialists like Bernie Sanders.

It’s Curtains for Mueller

Special Counsel Mueller is exiting the stage.  In taking his final bow, he emulated Yasser Arafat, famous for never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  The editors of IBD explain how, instead of seizing the moment to do the right thing, Mueller completely failed his profession and his country.

Mueller’s Final Statement Turns Jurisprudence On Its Head. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller today spent 10 minutes publicly stating that his 448-page, two-part, $35 million and 22-months-in-the-making report speaks for itself, as he announced he was closing shop and retiring. In so doing, he said he couldn’t charge a sitting President with a crime, but if he could have exonerated him he would have said so.

This starkly politicizes presidential investigations going forward and indicts, if we may say so, the already-dubious system of weaponizing a lawyer with a blank check, no deadline, and an open-ended mandate for him to fish where he likes with minimal oversight.

“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime,” Mueller said. “We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime.”

What kind of strange new standard is Mueller setting here?

Mueller had all the time and money he could want, recorded countless hours of testimony, compiled a mountain of documents, got multiple plea deals, chased down out every conceivable lead, and then says he couldn’t prove the president didn’t commit a crime.

Since when is the job of prosecutors to determine innocence beyond a reasonable doubt? And, short of that, feel free to dump all the evidence that didn’t lead to a criminal charge, but that makes the defendant look a suspect nonetheless.

How would the average American citizen like this said of him or her after a couple of years of 18 prosecutors scrutinizing his or her affairs? After reviewing all the evidence, we don’t have enough evidence to say that John Doe robbed that store. But we can’t say definitively that he didn’t rob that store, so here’s a bunch of embarrassing revelations about him that we uncovered along the way. Have fun.

When the Mueller report came out, I&I’s Tom McArdle noted “that in the United States, we don’t let prosecutors publicly blemish the reputations of law-abiding citizens for actions that fall short of criminality. At least we didn’t until special counsel Robert Mueller.”

A prosecutor’s job is — or at least used to be — to charge or not charge, not choose this or that shade of gray.

Mueller compounds this error with an equally nonsensical claim that he’s somehow protecting Trump. Mueller says the only reason he didn’t bring criminal charges against Trump for obstruction was because the President can’t be charged with a crime while serving in office.

“It would be unfair,” he said in his statement, “to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.”

But what Mueller has done is worse. He’s left the public with the impression that Trump is — nudge, nudge, wink, wink — guilty of something, even if Mueller can’t say what exactly it is. And in doing so, he’s laying the groundwork for Democrats to impeach Trump, without ever having to actually accuse Trump of anything. How exactly is that fair?

Ex-terrorism prosecutor Andrew McCarthy of National Review noted earlier this month that Mueller had options if he actually thought Trump had committed a crime. If there were a case against Trump, he says, “then it is the prosecutor’s job to recommend indictment. The question of whether the (Office of Legal Counsel) guidance should then be invoked to delay indictment should then be up to the attorney general. The guidance should not burden the prosecutor’s analysis of whether there is an indictable case. Yet Mueller chose not to see it that way.”

Mueller’s dark hints of wrongdoing will no doubt add fuel to the Democrats’ longstanding desire to start impeachment proceedings.

In the wake of what will go down as the most outrageous curtain call in the history of political Washington, it is now hard to explain his report and his concluding statement in any way other than impeachment having been Robert Mueller’s design all along.

Comment:  

We have reached the logical conclusion of identity politics:  Trump is guilty of being Trump.  That’s that, and that’s enough.  The tribe has spoken.

More Alarmist Hysteria: Trump’s China Tariffs

Brett Arends writes at Market Watch The media is lying to you about Trump’s China tariffs. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The hysteria must have a political agenda because the amount that’s being charged is peanuts.

Are you kidding me?

I’m used to partisan, inaccurate drivel from all sides these days, but the media’s coverage of President Trump’s tariffs and the so-called “trade war” takes some kind of cake.

There’s no serious doubt that some in the media would absolutely love to tank the stock market. They figure that would hurt Trump’s re-election chances in 2020. Monday’s stock market slump, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.48% tumble 2.4% and the Nasdaq Composite 3.4%, looked just like what the doctor ordered.

I write this, incidentally, as someone who is no fan of the president. But I remember when politics was supposed to stop at the water’s edge.

And, anyway, facts are facts. Most of what the public is being told about these tariffs is either misleading or a downright lie.

I’ve been following the coverage all weekend with my jaw on the floor.

Uncle Sam benefits
Yes, tariffs are “costs.” But they do not somehow destroy our money. They do not take our hard-earned dollars and burn them in a big pile. Tariffs are simply federal taxes. That’s it. The extra costs paid by importers, and consumers, goes to Uncle Sam, to distribute as he sees fit, including, for example, on Obamacare subsidies.

It wasn’t long ago the media was complaining because Trump was cutting taxes. Now it’s complaining he’s raising them. Confused? Me too.

And the amounts involved are trivial. Chicken feed.

President Trump just hiked tariffs from 10% to 25% on about $200 billion in Chinese imports. In other words, he just raised taxes by … $30 billion a year.

Oh, no!

The total amount we all paid in taxes last year — federal, state and local — was $5.51 trillion. This tax increase that has everyone’s panties in a twist is a rounding error.

Investors panic needlessly
Meanwhile, the total value wiped off U.S. stocks during Monday’s panic was about $700 billion. More than 20 years’ worth of the new tariffs.

Even if Trump slapped 25% taxes on all Chinese imports, it would come to a tax hike of … $135 billion a year. U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) last year: $20.5 trillion.

So even this supposedly scary “escalation” of this “tariff war” would, er, raise our total tax bill from 26.9% of GDP all the way to 27.5% of GDP.

Oh, and isn’t it interesting to see some people’s priorities? Apparently the most shocking part of this trivial tax hike is that it might raise the price of new Apple AAPL, +1.16% iPhones.

Last I checked, these were luxury items, right?

U.S. consumers gain
Meanwhile, the trade spat seems to be bringing down food prices. China is going to take less of our farm products. So wheat prices are down 20% since the start of the year. Soybeans are at 10-year lows.

Good for consumers, right?

No, no, of course not! Silly you. This is also bad news … for farmers!

And all this ignores the much bigger picture, anyway.

The tariffs are simply a means to an end. The president is trying to get China to start buying more of our stuff. He knows the so-called Middle Kingdom, which now has the second-biggest economy in the world, responds to incentives more than to nice words. These tariffs give China an incentive to open up.

OK, so China’s first reaction is just to retaliate. Big deal. That’s just posturing.

Right now we export less to China than we do to Japan, South Korea and Singapore put together. That’s the point. So the effect of China’s new tariffs on the U.S. are yet another rounding error. Even if China banned all imports from the U.S., that would amount to only 0.6% of our gross domestic product. And we’d sell the stuff somewhere else.

Don’t buy the hysteria. President Trump is simply trying to pressure our biggest competitor to buy more American goods. That should be a good thing, even if you don’t like him.

Footnote:

New York Post Editorial Board adds:

President Trump’s tariffs on China may well take a toll on the US economy, but the price of not confronting Beijing would be higher.

The president isn’t playing protectionist here. He’s pushing a single player who needs to be confronted, a cheater and a bully. For decades, China has gotten away with theft of others’ production techniques and other intellectual property, along with technology transfers and mistreatment of US companies. Moreover, it uses its ill-gotten gains to boost its military, adding another threat.

And Beijing just backed off key concessions it had already made in months of trade talks, expecting Washington to fold.

Instead, Trump goosed fees on $200 billion in Chinese imports to 25 percent, from 10 percent. China struck back with its own new tariffs on US products, and now Team Trump is eyeing fees on another $325 billion in Chinese goods (i.e., basically the rest).

The markets didn’t like it: Beijing’s new tariffs brought a 600-point drop in the Dow. Yet the index is still up 9 percent for the year, and nearly 30 percent since Trump took office.

And the Dow isn’t the US economy, which is now robust, with 3.2 percent growth last quarter and 3.6 percent unemployment in April, the lowest in half a century. If the country can’t afford to stand up to China now, it never will.

There’s a reason the president isn’t taking heat from Democrats on this one issue, even though top economic adviser Larry Kudlow admits “both sides will suffer” in this trade war: China knows it will suffer worse.

Short-term, US consumers will pay a bit more — on goods that make up less than 2 percent of the nation’s $20.5 trillion economy. But China is at growing risk of losing access to the world’s top market, because Americans can buy from other lower-wage producers if Beijing doesn’t blink.

And China’s leadership has no remaining claim to legitimacy if it can’t keep its economy booming: President Xi Jinping needs a deal far more than the US president does.

Trump didn’t start this trade war, but he’s well positioned to win it.

 

The Truth System Fail

It used to be that “Pravda” was a joke in the US. (Not Prada, you airhead). Pravda means “Truth” in Russian, and everyone knew whatever you read in that rag, the opposite was more likely to be true. Now, the tables have turned: You can’t trust most of what the traditionally reputable US media publishes.

Lee Smith writes at the Tablet System Fail The Mueller Report is an unmitigated disaster for the American press and the ‘expert’ class that it promotes

First, after nearly two years, the special counsel found no credible evidence of collusion. It found no credible evidence of a plot to obstruct justice, to hide evidence of collusion. The entire collusion theory, which has formed the center of elite political discourse for over two years now, has been publicly and definitely proclaimed to be a hoax by the very person on whom news organizations and their chosen “experts” and “high-level sources” had so loudly and insistently pinned their daily, even hourly, hopes of redemption.

Mueller should have filed his report on May 18, 2017—the day after the special counsel started and he learned the FBI had opened an investigation on the sitting president of the United States because senior officials at the world’s premier law enforcement agency thought Trump was a Russian spy. Based on what evidence? A dossier compiled by a former British spy, relying on second- and third-hand sources, paid for by the Clinton campaign.

Instead, the special counsel lasted 674 days, during which millions of people who believed Mueller was going to turn up conclusive evidence of Trump’s devious conspiracies with the Kremlin have become wrapped up in a collective hallucination that has destroyed the remaining credibility of the American press and the D.C. expert class whose authority they promote.

Mueller knew that he wasn’t ever going to find “collusion” or anything like it because all the intercepts were right there on his desk. As it turned out, two of his prosecutors, including Mueller’s so-called “pit bull,” Andrew Weissman, had been briefed on the Steele dossier prior to the 2016 election and were told that it came from the Clintons, and was likely a biased political document.

And now, after all the Saturday Night Live skits, the obscenity-riddled Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert routines, the half a million news stories and tens of millions of tweets all foretelling the end of Trump, the comedians and the adult authority figures are exposed as hoaxsters, or worse, based on evidence that was always transparently phony.

The Mueller report is in. But the abuse of power that the special counsel embodied is a deadly cancer on American democracy. Two years of investigations have left families in ruins, stripping them of their savings, their homes, threatening their liberty, and dragging their names through the mud. The investigation of the century was partly based on the possibility that Michael Flynn, a combat veteran who served his country for more than three decades, might be a Russian spy—because of a dinner he once attended in Moscow, and because as incoming national security adviser he spoke to the Russian ambassador to Washington. What rot.

While the length of Mueller’s investigative process may have protected the FBI from the president’s immediate rage, the release of the report has exposed the deep corruption and personal narcissism of the press and its professional networks of “experts” and “sources.” Instead of providing medicine, the press chose instead to spread the disease through a body that was already badly weakened by the advent of “free” digital media. Only, it wasn’t free.

The media criticism of the media’s performance covering Russiagate is misleadingly anodyne—OK, sure the press did a bad job, but to be fair there really was a lot of suspicious stuff going on and now let’s all get back to doing our important work. But two years of false and misleading Russiagate coverage was not a mistake, or a symptom of lax fact-checking.

Russiagate was an information operation from the beginning, in which dozens of individual reporters and institutions actively partnered with paid political operatives like Glenn Simpson and corrupt law enforcement and intelligence officials like former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and senior DOJ official Bruce Ohr to smear Trump and his circle, and then to topple him. None of what went on the last two years would have been possible without the press, an indispensable partner in the biggest political scandal in a generation.

The campaign was waged not in hidden corners of the internet, but rather by the country’s most prestigious news organizations—including, but not only, The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC. The farce that has passed for public discourse the last two years was fueled by a concerted effort of the media and the pundit class to obscure gaping holes in logic as well as law. And yet, they all appeared to be credible because the institutions sustaining them are credible.

Michael McFaul was U.S. ambassador to Moscow—he knows everything about Russia. He wouldn’t invent stuff about national security matters out of thin air. Jane Mayer is a national treasure, one of America’s greatest living journalists who penned a long profile of Christopher Steele in the pages of the New Yorker. Susan Hennessy is a former intelligence community lawyer, who appears as an expert on TV. And how about her colleague at the Lawfare blog, Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution fellow and a personal friend of James Comey? You think he didn’t have the inside dope, every time he posted a “Boom” GIF on Twitter predicting the final nail just about to be hammered in Trump’s coffin?

Many more jumped on the dog pile along with them, validating each other’s tweets and breathless insider sourcing. The point was to thicken the echo chamber, with voices from the right as well as the left in order to make it seem real. Hey, if this many experts are saying so, there must be something to it.

Except, there wasn’t—ever.

American democracy is premised on a free press that does its best to provide the public with information. Misinforming the public is like dumping toxic waste in the rivers. It poisoned our democracy—and it continues to do so. In fact, the most important thing for the public to understand is that Russiagate is not unique. It’s the way that the expert class opines on everything now, from immigration to foreign policy.

Take for instance last week’s big news that President Trump had decided to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The decision was universally praised in Israel, by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by opponents like Yair Lapid. Yet Obama’s former ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, insisted that the decision was politically motivated, telling the Washington Post that “the timing seems pretty transparent.” Surely, like his ambassadorial colleague, McFaul, Shapiro knew exactly what he’s talking about when he tweeted that the decision was made without “any policy planning process to consider potential reactions by Russia, Assad regime, Hezbollah, Arab states, Europe, etc., some of which may not be immediate. A decision like this should factor in such questions. No evidence it has.”

Shapiro was dead wrong. As the Atlantic noted in a detailed reported piece posted hours after Shapiro’s tweet, “the push for Trump to make such a move has been going on for more than a year, due to parallel efforts by Israeli officials and members of Congress.”

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But whatever. Experts can say anything they like—the Saudis hacked Jeff Bezos’ emails and photos of him and his girlfriend; Jamal Khashoggi was an American journalist; Jussie Smollett was nearly lynched by Trump supporters; Brett Kavanaugh was part of a rape gang, etc., etc. And reporters will print it, and editors will shrug, because that’s what the press is now—a pass-through mechanism mostly used for manipulative, ill-informed and often nonsensical propaganda.

Americans still want and need accurate information on which to base their decisions about their own lives and the path that the country should take. But neither the legacy media nor the expert class it sustains is likely to survive the post-dossier era in any recognizable form. For them, Russiagate is an extinction level event.

Lee Smith is the author of The Consequences of Syria.

New Sheriff Still in Town

Sheriff Trump has survived and prevailed in this gunfight.  After 3 years, two of them under the relentless Mueller, and after spending more than 30 million dollars investigating, the accusation of treason falls for lack of evidence.

(H/T  Tony Heller for video) But of course, the reporters and newscasters who foisted the fictional rumor upon the public will now double down on their deceit.  They are banking on something Mark Twain said:

Those who are fair-minded will say, “Enough.  Get Real, and get on with the nation’s business.”  Never-Trumpers, unfortunately, will have to find the courage to admit they bought into a lie, or else descend further into unreality by continuing to fool themselves.

no crime

Trump So far: A Balanced Reflection

The Trump presidency has this train wreck quality by which observers are obsessed with the unfolding drama, a presidency so unconventional and so volatile that both detractors and amused supporters do not know what is coming next.  It is easily the most captivating and entertaining US Presidency Evehhh!

Just now we have the best and most balanced reflection so far upon this amazing experience writen by the insightful Victor Hanson in the Spectator Donald Trump the paradox: Trump’s election caused a self-created contradiction  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

John Ford’s most moving scene in his best film, The Searchers, is the unloved Ethan Edwards’s final exit from a house of shadows, swinging open the door and walking alone into sunlit oblivion, the community he has saved symbolically closing the door on him.

If he is lucky, President Trump may well experience the same self-inflicted fate. By his very excesses, Trump has already lost in conventional terms of being admired or considered presidential, but in his losing he might alone be able to end some things that long ago should have been ended.

No one can still quite calibrate whether Trump’s combativeness and take-no-prisoners management style always hurts him as president, or is a necessary continuum of his persona that ensured his unlikely election and early political effectiveness as president. And no one quite knows either whether Trump’s inexplicable outbursts are sometimes planned by design to unnerve his critics and the media, or are instead spontaneous expressions of indiscipline and crudity. Conventional wisdom squares these circles by concluding that Trump’s ferocity shores up his base, but his base is not large enough to give him a reliable 51 percent popularity rating among voters. Most also have concluded that Trump’s unorthodox style, speech, and comportment likewise are designed to advance his agendas, but are usually overtaken by his fury. But how often the last three years has conventional wisdom been right?

When Trump entered office, he was immediately faced with a self-created contradiction. He had won the key midwestern and purple swing states on promises of ‘draining the swamp.’ That refrain was taken by his base to mean both dismantling the permanent deep state and staffing his administration with unorthodox appointments that would lessen the opportunities for corruption.

Yet Trump needed some tried old hands who knew the deep state and yet were not part of it. But how many such loyal fellow iconoclasts were there?

Added to Trump’s conundrum were two other challenges. One was certainly political. Trump’s agendas that had won him the presidency were deeply antithetical to those of most of the bipartisan Washington hierarchy. In terms of economic policy, Trumpism, at least in theory, did not appeal to many Republicans with prior government service, blue-chip academic billets, and directorships of major companies and corporations. The usual Republicans eager for high office were precisely those most likely to oppose Trump’s promises to leave Afghanistan, avoid most overseas interventions, level tariffs, or build a border wall.

Trump also forged a management style foreign from almost all prior presidents, born from Manhattan real estate brokerage, reality television, and entrepreneurial salesmanship. Drama, even chaos, was considered ‘energy,’ even creativity. Loyalty and compatibility above all were prized, even over competence. Looks and fashion mattered, on the principle that both drove up ratings. How something was said and who said it were as important as what was said.

Hiring and firing for Trump were also organic processes. Trump consulted outsiders in the private sector almost as frequently as he did his own team. Turnover was a necessary means of finding those with ‘talent’ whose personalities jived with Trump’s own mercurial moods.

In prior administrations, ‘stability’ and ‘continuity’ were more prized. Difficult or even unimpressive figures who should have been promptly fired often were not, on the principle that their abrupt departures might signal poor presidential judgment or incur crises of confidence at the center of the global order, or, more mundanely, earn a spate of incriminating, get-even, tell-all memoirs.

Did the apparent bedlam bother Trump? Hardly.

Amid the disruptions, lost was the fact that in terms of process, Trump met the press frequently. He was far more candid and accessible than had been Barack Obama. His inner team was as diverse in terms of race, sex, class, and prior political leanings as most prior administrations. His tweets held back nothing. And yet that accessibility and informality were mostly lost on the press. Or such familiarity with Trump only bred more media contempt.

As far as the nation’s soul was concerned, America’s elites — academic, journalistic, and political — were ironically revealing to the American people the sort of crude put-downs, stereotyping, and biases about Trump supporters that questioned the value of their cultural advantages, higher education, and privilege, given that they had proved so unsteady, profane, and unhinged since the appearance of Trump in 2015. No establishmentarian quite figured out that any success that Trump enjoyed was often seen as a de facto negative referendum on the past performance of the status quo—and by extension themselves.

It was hard to see how US relations with key allies or deterrent stances against enemies were not improved since the years of the Obama administration, at least in the sense that there was no more naïve Russian reset. China was on notice that its trade cheating was no longer tolerable. The asymmetrical Iran deal was over. And the United States was slowly squeezing with sanctions a nuclear North Korea. Was chaos or predictability the more dangerous message in dealing with thuggish regimes?

Yet an ‘adults in the room’ anti-Trump narrative was hyped through deliberate media massaging and disloyal leaking. ‘Anonymous’ senior officials winked and nodded on ‘background’ to reporters that, if had it not been for their own sober stewardship, the entire Trump administration would have imploded. . .

Still, the real moral question is not whether the gunslinger Trump could or should become civilized (again defined in our context as becoming normalized as ‘presidential’). Rather, the key is whether he could be of service at the opportune time and right place for his country, occasionally crude as he is said to be.

After all, despite their decency, in extremis did the frontier farmers have an orthodox solution without Shane? The town elders of Hadleyville in High Noon had no viable plan without Marshal Will Kane in the streets. Even Agamemnon’s ego did not convince him that he would ever have had any chance of killing ‘man-slaughtering Hector’ without use of a petulant and dangerous Achilles.

Trump’s dilemma was always that at some likely point his successes on the economy and in foreign policy might create a sense of calm prosperity — and thereby, in counterintuitive fashion, allow voters the luxury of reexamining the messenger more so than the message. In other words, if crudity got results, then the results might appear no longer to hinge on further crudity. Every tragic hero realizes that he can be driven out of town, not just after the original threat is ended, but the moment it first appears that soon the danger will be neutralized. For civilized society, the perceived coarseness of the tragic hero always remains nearly as repugnant as the threat that brought in its deliverer in the first place.

In sum, the nation may believe that it could not withstand the fire and smoke of a series of Trump-like presidencies. But given the direction of the country over the last 16 years, half the country, the proverbial townspeople of the classic Western, wanted some outsider, even with a dubious past, to ride in and do things that most normal politicians not only would not, but could not do — before exiting stage left or riding wounded off into the sunset, to the relief of most and the regret of a few.

 

Pssst. Trump is Winning the China Trade Dispute

Car sales in China, the world’s largest car market, plummeted by 19 per cent in December.AFP Getty file photo

Keep it under your hat, but Trump is getting the best of China in the trade confrontation.  Lawrence Solomon explains in a Financial Times article Remember Trump’s supposedly ‘lose-lose’ trade war? He’s winning. China’s losing. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The tariffs clearly hurt China’s economy more than America’s

Not that long ago, China’s economy was seen as a juggernaut that would soon overtake America’s to become the world’s largest. “Made in China 2025,” the Chinese government’s blueprint to take over manufacturing, was seen as an existential threat to U.S. technological leadership. Speculation had the Chinese yuan replacing the United States dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

What a difference a trade war makes. No one marvels at the Chinese economy today.

Car sales in China, the world’s largest car market, plummeted by 19 per cent in December, capping a six-per-cent decline in sales for the 2018 year, the industry’s first fall in 20 years. Goldman Sachs predicts the decline will steepen to seven per cent in 2019. More broadly, China’s private and public manufacturing sectors both contracted in December.  China’s mainland stock markets, which declined 25 per cent in 2018, aren’t doing well either. Neither is growth in consumer spending, which is at a 15-year low. The government is backpedalling on its targets for “Made in China 2025,” and its other high-profile initiatives — the much-ballyhooed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative — are falling short.

In fact, the entire Chinese economy may not only be falling short, it may never have performed as well as claimed. Many believe that China’s official economic growth rate, a fabulous 6.5 per cent, is more a fable. A World Bank estimate for 2016 put China’s economic growth at 1.1 per cent, with other estimates showing low or even negative growth. Also worrying is the potentially catastrophic hidden debt that fuelled China’s growth — as much as US$6 trillion by China’s local governments alone, according to S&P Global Ratings, which called it “a debt iceberg with titanic credit risks.”

Many authorities point to the trade war to explain in part these poor metrics, typically adding that trade wars are always lose-lose. Yet while China clearly seems a loser, the same can’t be said for the U.S., whose economy is on fire.

In contrast to the 15- and 20-year lows logged by China’s economic indicators, the U.S. is racking up 20-, 30-, 40- and 50-year highs.

Wages are up, especially for those traditionally worse off, while unemployment rates for blacks, Hispanics and women are at lows not seen in decades. The U.S. economy has added 4.8 million jobs since Donald Trump was elected president, with U.S. manufacturers last year adding 284,000 jobs, the most in more than 20 years. Americans are ditching food stamps and disability payments for well-paying jobs. “Put it together, and this is the best time for the American labor market in at least 18 years and maybe closer to 50,” The New York Times noted in November.

So much for the claims of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which warned that Trump’s tariff policy on imported products “endangers the jobs of millions of workers”; of the Tax Foundation, which predicted that Trump’s tariffs would decrease Americans’ wages; of Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who stated the trade war with China would reduce U.S. GDP; and of the Heritage Foundation, which called Trump’s tariffs “ineffective and dangerous”.

While China’s demise and America’s rise can’t all or even mostly be attributed to Trump’s tariffs, the tariffs clearly hurt China’s economy more than America’s. For one thing, the “tax” that tariffs represent has mostly been paid by China. According to a recent policy brief from EconPol Europe, a network of researchers in the European Union, U.S. companies and consumers will pay only 4.5 per cent of the 25-per-cent tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese goods, with the other 20.5 per cent falling on Chinese producers. The EconPol report found that the Trump administration selected easily replaced products, forcing China’s exporters to cut selling prices to keep buyers. “Through its strategic choice of Chinese products, the U.S. government was not only able to minimize the negative effects on U.S. consumers and firms, but also to create substantial net welfare gains in the U.S.,” the authors determined, adding that the tariffs will accomplish Trump’s goals of lowering the trade deficit with China.

More importantly, the tariffs have spurred investment confidence in the U.S., not only in steel and aluminum, where dozens of plants are either being built or reopened, but in the broader economy, too. A UBS Wealth Management Americas survey found that 71 per cent of American business owners support additional tariffs on imports from China, with only one-third believing tariffs would hurt them. A Bloomberg Businessweek article in October bore out the view that tariffs hitting steel and aluminum imports would be beneficial: “Employment in metal-using industries has risen since the tariffs went into effect last spring, (more than) the increase for overall manufacturing.”

The American public likes tariffs, too: According to a Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies poll in October, nearly 60 per cent of likely voters deem it important for Trump and Congress to “place trade restrictions on countries that violate trade agreements.” When the tariffs apply to China, the public doubtless also likes them for non-economic factors — to rein in one of the world’s worst human rights offenders and America’s chief military threat.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, this trade war is anything but lose-lose. This one is a big win for the U.S.

• Lawrence Solomon is a policy analyst with Toronto-based Probe International.

The Real Reason They Hate Trump

David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale.  I first learned of him when he wrote The Closing of the Scientific Mind, which is a plea for scientists to celebrate and enhance humanity rather than belittle human life. My synopsis was How Science Is Losing Its Humanity

Now Gelernter has written an insightful essay on what to like and not to like about Donald Trump (President of the United States).  Reprinted below in italics with my bolds.

The Real Reason They Hate Trump

Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues. The economy is booming and America’s international position is strong. In foreign affairs, the U.S. has remembered in the nick of time what Machiavelli advised princes five centuries ago: Don’t seek to be loved, seek to be feared.

The contrast with the Obama years must be painful for any honest leftist. For future generations, the Kavanaugh fight will stand as a marker of the Democratic Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, the flashing red light on the dashboard that says “Empty.” The left is beaten.

This has happened before, in the 1980s and ’90s and early 2000s, but then the financial crisis arrived to save liberalism from certain destruction. Today leftists pray that Robert Mueller will put on his Superman outfit and save them again.

For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.” This is an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America. The implications are important, and painful.

Not that every leftist hates America. But the leftists I know do hate Mr. Trump’s vulgarity, his unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable. Worst of all, he has no ideology except getting the job done. His goals are to do the task before him, not be pushed around, and otherwise to enjoy life. In short, he is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents.

Mr. Trump lacks constraints because he is filthy rich and always has been and, unlike other rich men, he revels in wealth and feels no need to apologize—ever. He never learned to keep his real opinions to himself because he never had to. He never learned to be embarrassed that he is male, with ordinary male proclivities. Sometimes he has treated women disgracefully, for which Americans, left and right, are ashamed of him—as they are of JFK and Bill Clinton.

But my job as a voter is to choose the candidate who will do best for America. I am sorry about the coarseness of the unconstrained average American that Mr. Trump conveys. That coarseness is unpresidential and makes us look bad to other nations. On the other hand, many of his opponents worry too much about what other people think. I would love the esteem of France, Germany and Japan. But I don’t find myself losing sleep over it.

The difference between citizens who hate Mr. Trump and those who can live with him—whether they love or merely tolerate him—comes down to their views of the typical American: the farmer, factory hand, auto mechanic, machinist, teamster, shop owner, clerk, software engineer, infantryman, truck driver, housewife. The leftist intellectuals I know say they dislike such people insofar as they tend to be conservative Republicans.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama know their real sins. They know how appalling such people are, with their stupid guns and loathsome churches. They have no money or permanent grievances to make them interesting and no Twitter followers to speak of. They skip Davos every year and watch Fox News. Not even the very best has the dazzling brilliance of a Chuck Schumer, not to mention a Michelle Obama. In truth they are dumb as sheep.

Mr. Trump reminds us who the average American really is. Not the average male American, or the average white American. We know for sure that, come 2020, intellectuals will be dumbfounded at the number of women and blacks who will vote for Mr. Trump. He might be realigning the political map: plain average Americans of every type vs. fancy ones.

Many left-wing intellectuals are counting on technology to do away with the jobs that sustain all those old-fashioned truck-driver-type people, but they are laughably wide of the mark. It is impossible to transport food and clothing, or hug your wife or girl or child, or sit silently with your best friend, over the internet. Perhaps that’s obvious, but to be an intellectual means nothing is obvious. Mr. Trump is no genius, but if you have mastered the obvious and add common sense, you are nine-tenths of the way home. (Scholarship is fine, but the typical modern intellectual cheapens his learning with politics, and is proud to vary his teaching with broken-down left-wing junk.)

This all leads to an important question—one that will be dismissed indignantly today, but not by historians in the long run: Is it possible to hate Donald Trump but not the average American?

True, Mr. Trump is the unconstrained average citizen. Obviously you can hate some of his major characteristics—the infantile lack of self-control in his Twitter babble, his hitting back like a spiteful child bully—without hating the average American, who has no such tendencies. (Mr. Trump is improving in these two categories.) You might dislike the whole package. I wouldn’t choose him as a friend, nor would he choose me. But what I see on the left is often plain, unconditional hatred of which the hater—God forgive him—is proud. It’s discouraging, even disgusting. And it does mean, I believe, that the Trump-hater truly does hate the average American—male or female, black or white. Often he hates America, too.

Granted, Mr. Trump is a parody of the average American, not the thing itself. To turn away is fair. But to hate him from your heart is revealing. Many Americas were ashamed when Ronald Reagan was elected. A movie actor? But the new direction he chose for America was a big success on balance, and Reagan turned into a great president. Evidently this country was intended to be run by amateurs after all—by plain citizens, not only lawyers and bureaucrats.

Those who voted for Mr. Trump, and will vote for his candidates this November, worry about the nation, not its image. The president deserves our respect because Americans deserve itnot such fancy-pants extras as network commentators, socialist high-school teachers and eminent professors, but the basic human stuff that has made America great, and is making us greater all the time.

Mr. Gelernter is computer science professor at Yale and chief scientist at Dittach LLC. His most recent book is “Tides of Mind.”