Thursday, September 6, 2018

I AM A PART OF all that I have met

Galactic heroes via Target.

I think it was watching Lawrence O'Donnell on the TV claiming to have discovered that the author of the I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE letter was old Dan Coats that convinced me I knew who it really was, because all his reasons were wrong, and it obviously wasn't Coats, who may well be pretty distressed over Trump's stupidity and mercuriality but—particularly if he is actively resisting anything—is too smart to express it in such a futile, self-defeating way as this invitation to Trump to become more paranoid and ungovernable than ever.

My theory, fed by narrativium, is that it must have been TV economist Larry Kudlow, who took over the National Economic Council from Gary Cohn in April, after Cohn fled, not in protest against Trump's admiration for the murderous neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan demonstrators in Charlottesville, August 2017 (though we understand Cohn threatened to resign at the time) but in recognition of his inability to persuade Trump to listen to reason on the subject of steel and aluminum tariffs. As we now begin to learn from Bob Woodward's research, Cohn was the heart and soul of the RESISTANCE in his time, or at least convinced Woodward that he was—the guy who stole papers off the sacred presidential desk.

Cohn's a believer in a conventionally conservative kind of economics, who wasn't bothered by the radical Trump overhaul of corporate and pass-through income and other taxes on the very rich, or the push toward radical deregulation in the finance industry and de-fanging of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but is genuinely bewildered and upset by Trump's hatred of international cooperation, especially on trade (and as you know I don't like it either and don't @ me to tell me I'm a neoliberal). That's what he was resisting, in fact: the paper he stole from the Resolution Desk was an order to dissolve the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. And Kudlow is the same kind of economist, or has played one on television, and so is I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE:

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.
Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.
No, there are not bright spots. And "resisters" from inside the military, of whom there undoubtedly are some, aren't excited about the "more robust military" because they know it's not happening, at least not yet.

Cohn's staff was PART OF THE RESISTANCE too, aware of the Purloined Letters and whatnot, and it is through their gossip that Kudlow started learning about what things are like in the White House. And there's something about Kudlow that could easily dress up as naïve and fresh readiness for action: that fact that he's new, just starting on his political career, and not exhausted the way anybody is who's been in the Trump administration for more than a few months. It seems to me that I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE is somebody aware that this administration is crumbling and FUBAR, and anxious to have a reputation left after it's over—Kudlow's no kid, he's 71, but he's got a career that isn't politics to go back to, and he might like to package himself as an independent thinker who realized early on that the Trump ship wasn't going to make it into port.

So it really just made sense, and then there was this, in the midst of the explosion of analyses about who might have used the peculiar word "lodestar" as PART OF THE RESISTANCE did:
I started looking around and quickly found the literary stylistic analysis of Kudlow's prose, and there it was, in a piece for Medium by somebody who rejoices in the nym of Le Petit Anglais:
Firstly, the article talks about economics in unusually specific detail. It also *doesn’t* mention immigration which makes the Sessions wing less likely or even *judges* which would probably be the number one thing most establishment Republicans would choose, especially if they were Christians (Kudlow is Jewish and seemingly quite socially liberal).
Then, it uses a couple of phrases which are uncommon outside of economists. Specifically “steady state”....
One person who has used “steady state” in writing before is … Larry Kudlow.
Another phrase much commoner in economics than out is ‘first principles’ — it is not unusual to hear this term mentioned in graduate classed, academic talks and papers.
One person who has used “first principles” in writing before is … Larry Kudlow.
The single most unusual word used in the article is ‘lodestar’.
One person who has used lodestar in writing before is … Larry Kudlow.
And there's more, involving Kudlow's extravagant use of hyphens and sentences starting with "But".  So at this point I'm completely convinced. So far Kudlow remains one of the few publicly visible senior officials who hasn't denied writing it (Kellyanne Conway, who used to say she needed a shower after defending Trump, is another.

This is really turning out to be my Predictor Pandit moment, this week, because I was talking about a "coup" of sorts back before the inauguration, in December 2016, which I thought at the time was most likely to be an actual coup or coup proper by the national security establishment, for which the president-elect had been showing his deep contempt; but a quiet one, in which Trump would be allowed to play president in public, like Sukarno in 1965-67, and push his agenda of tax cuts and deregulation, mostly agreeable to the Republicans that would make up his cabinet, but prevented from doing anything too dangerous, like ordering an attack on North Korea.

And then by October 2017, after Kelly had been moved from the NSC and installed as manager of the Imperial Household, I had a pretty clear idea of how it had been worked out:
when Gessen refers to the coup as a "nightmare scenario" of which Kelly's press conference could be a "preview", I think she's missing the possibility that it might have already taken place, which is the kind of thing I've been thinking about a lot since Kelly took over the White House chief of staff position in August, with the more or less express mission of keeping the president isolated, trying (hopelessly) to separate him from his usual sources of information and (with somewhat more success) to stop him from interfering with the operations of not just the military, who are clearly under military control in the form of General Mattis, but also Trump's new enemies Sessions and Tillerson, as Trump grinds his teeth in impotent rage.
When Gessen thinks of coups I wonder if she's thinking classical coups where the emperor gets murdered by the palace guard, or put under arrest, or shipped to the UAE. The coup she knows from personal experience was a soft and squishy one, in the Soviet Union of the Brezhnev stagnation, where a doddering emperor stumbled through the motions of rule while the power was held and wielded by out-of-control government-department satrapies, especially the basically autonomous military, which virtually ate the economy with its relentless demands while the wider public remained hypnotized with May Day parades and mawkish movie memories of Stalingrad and the widows of 1942.
This is pretty much how it's worked out in the administrative coup, as far as we can see from the excerpts of Woodward's Fear, with Kelly in charge of running the president and of hiding the situation from the public, which nobody can pretend is successful any more: Trump's rage isn't completely impotent, he can make all sorts of serious trouble, though he seems to have been stopped from some of the worst things he's wanted to do. If Kudlow is a key figure IN THE RESISTANCE, he's a very ineffective one; nothing good has happened in his department since he took over. Cohn made the right decision when he gave up. But Kudlow, if he's really the author, could be doing the right thing career-wise, and if he's seeing the administration as closer to collapse than you may have expected, he could be right. And the publication of I AM A PART could be part of what drives Donald over the edge into free fall.

I think I'm going to have no patience, by the way, for pieties like those of Jeet Heer, of whom I'm normally a big admirer, worrying that a RESISTANCE of people refusing to obey the crazy president's orders is worse, constitutionally speaking, than Trump being president:
It's not great. It's absolutely not great that people like I AM PART OF can exploit it to make themselves look good in some future where we won't even want to look at them. But it's a fucking crisis (you won't mind me reminding you I've been saying that for two years). Do we want to be obsessively following established procedure when Trump might get his way and invade Syria at any moment? The established procedure doesn't have a chance of operating as long as Republicans hold Congress, and disasters are happening now.

Another point is that the actual resistance, should there be one, isn't the same as the Woodward Resistance of Senior White House officials like Kudlow and Conway and whoever else, the politicals appointed by the president. Whoever's been making sanctions on Russia work, for instance, if they have been, is career civil servants, low-level bureaucrats, and so are the ones who are helping the Affordable Care Act survive (Obamacare premiums are actually stabilizing in the coming Open Enrollment season, and the ACA is in some respects healthier than ever). And I  believe what they are doing, to the extent they're doing it, is more important than the Constitution, as was established at the Nuremberg trials, if you want to know. Anybody who stopped that attack on Syria, or snuck through to reunite some Central American children with their parents when the politicals were saying it couldn't be done, is acting in defiance of the Constitution in a good cause.

And I don't know if Corey Robin is thinking along similar lines, but when he says we should stop being so concerned about "norm erosion"
and more aware that what's going on is a redefinition of the terms the norms are built out of, I think that's a thought worth following (Corey may muck it up with his own journalistic clichés of a "left" trouncing a "center", as if nothing was going on but that, but that's OK, the big idea is worth looking at).

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