Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Emperor Trump

Up on my list of things to be giving thanks for on the holiday is that President-Elect Trump is breaking so many of his campaign promises, to build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it, to prosecute his Democratic opponent for crimes unspecified and unspecifiable, to restore torture to the CIA's toolbox, to withdraw from the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers, to dump the Paris climate accord, and to accept the backing of the alt-white movement, which he rejected in his meeting with the Times executives and pandits yesterday. I hope he decides to break more of them! And I hope the betrayed voters don't react too violently.

I also hope he never holds a press conference, as Michael Gerson (G.W. Bush's faith-based speechwriter, you'll recall) was suggesting on NPR. Because presidential press conferences are really dangerous with a president who's unable to control his tongue. Controlling one's tongue, also known as "political correctness". A careless word can jolt a market or put somebody's life in jeopardy. Reported hate crimes in New York City are up over 400% since this time last year because of the words of a politician who isn't even president, yet. I hope he never appears in public without a script and his words are as anodyne as Eisenhower's speeches were.

The worst fears of Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street ("The Trump Revelations"), appear to him to have been confirmed: the man's a secret liberal, "in his heart"!—
the overall policy impression Trump left was that he would be very happy to play a Nixon-Rockefeller Republican, with lots of public-works spending, pump-priming economic policy and attempted deal making overseas. If this posture was a pander to my colleagues’ pro-government sensibilities, it was also a plausible one — consistent with Trump’s New York background, his past (and in his heart, probably present) social liberalism and many of his pre-2016 pronouncements.
—but I think that's oversimplifying. For the eleventieth time, conservatives are always pro-government when they're running it and anti-government otherwise. There's nothing un-conservative about spending money on magnificent projects as long as the ruling class isn't paying the tab and the spending doesn't lead to too much liberation among the lower orders. And "social conservatism"—the advocacy of a theocratic regulation over people's sexual activities in particular—is not a primary thing, but a characteristic tool used by conservatives to maintain the system of patriarchal control that keeps them in power, which is what conservatism has always really been about, that and industrial deregulation and regressive taxes of course:

I tell you, one thing I would say, so, I’m giving a big tax cut and I’m giving big regulation cuts, and I’ve seen all of the small business owners over the United States, and all of the big business owners, I’ve met so many people. They are more excited about the regulation cut than about the tax cut. And I would’ve never said that’s possible, because the tax cut’s going to be substantial. You know we have companies leaving our country because the taxes are too high. But they’re leaving also because of the regulations. And I would say, of the two, and I would not have thought this, regulation cuts, substantial regulation cuts, are more important than, and more enthusiastically supported, than even the big tax cuts.
That's the part of the program he's truly committed to, not the pump-priming. He believes in it so much he can speak fairly coherently about it—as compared to when they ask him about infrastructure:

SULZBERGER: We’ll go with that. I’d like to move to infrastructure, apologies, and then we’ll go back. Because a lot of the investment you are talking about, a lot of the jobs you are talking about — is infrastructure going to be the core of your first few years?
TRUMP: No, it’s not the core, but it’s an important factor. We’re going for a lot of things, between taxes, between regulations, between health care replacement, we’re going to talk repeal and replace. ’Cause health care is — you know people are paying a 100 percent increase and they’re not even getting anything, the deductibles are so high, you have deductibles $16,000. So they’re paying all of this money and they don’t even get health care. So it’s very important. So there are a lot of things. But infrastructure, Arthur, is going to be a part of it.
SULZBERGER: It’s part of jobs, isn’t it?
TRUMP: I don’t even think it’s a big part of it. It’s going to be a big number but I think I am doing things that are more important than infrastructure, but infrastructure is still a part of it, and we’re talking about a very large-scale infrastructure bill. And that’s not a very Republican thing — I didn’t even know that, frankly.
The infrastructure program won't be big-government spending at all; it will be getting private companies to front the money as investment and then extract the rent, privately owned and operated toll roads and bridges, located not according to need but marketability, and constructed by foreigners, the way they started doing when G.W. Bush was president. Trump doesn't have a very clear idea what's in the infrastructure program, I wouldn't think—he hasn't asked too many questions of whoever drew it up. He's probably right in thinking it's not big, though. Ross doesn't seem to have any idea at all.

Trump is a libertine, not a liberal; he believes in sexual freedom for very wealthy men, particularly himself, not for poor people and still less for women. That is a completely conservative stance. The more Ross continues to imagine that it's conservative to deny one's own classy whims and desires as opposed to the crude longings of the commoners, the more he demonstrates that he has never been initiated into the higher Straussian mysteries and isn't really a conservative himself, just a second-rate wannabe.

Ross also suggests that Trump is a king, with the famous quote from Mel Brooks (you don't suppose he's been reading me, do you?), which is fairly shrewd, but I think he's more of an emperor, with his immense panoply of international interests, of which administering one country in North America can never be more than part.

That's why it makes sense for him to keep his main headquarters on Fifth Avenue, in the capital of the world, rather than Pennsylvania Avenue in the capital of the US. The profusion of doors and service entrances and subterranean connections and elevators and helipads helps him carry on important business without the rest of the US government finding out too much about it, and the 68 stories of opulence soaring over Central Park lend him a splendor that is independent of the States.

But there's nothing un-Republican about him, really, just his own personal brand of smoke and mirrors.

Hey, what a great name for a cologne, incidentally: Smoke and Mirrors by Donald Trump. In the stable alongside Donald Trump The Fragrance, Success, and the sinfully suggestive Empire.

Image via xovain.
Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

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