Friday, December 6, 2019

Circumlocution Office

From Sir George Staunton's An historical account of the embassy to the Emperor of China, undertaken by order of the King of Great Britain, 1797, via Dumbarton Oaks.

I think I finally have a handle on what Jared Kushner's job is, with this latest news of his assignment to negotiate a China trade deal on top of the other tasks in his portfolio, alongside directing the Middle East peace process; leading the Office of American Innovation to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs, solve the opioid crisis, and develop ideas for Trump's perpetually upcoming infrastructure proposal; running the criminal justice reform; managing US-Mexico relations; managing US-China relations; managing US relations with international Islam; and overseeing the construction of the wall at the Mexican border.

I think Jared is a one-man Circumlocution Office, as described in Dickens's novel Little Dorrit in a chapter with the title, "The Whole Science of Government":
The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.
This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving — HOW NOT TO DO IT.
That is, in particular, when Trump wants to make sure something he promised doesn't happen, Jared is his go-to guy to make sure it doesn't.

With perfect deniability, because Jared doesn't know he's being used that way, because he's even stupider than Trump is, hard as that may be for readers to imagine. He can be relied on to fail without knowing it, and thus without becoming aware of his own incompetence.

Maybe it was Netanyahu who first suggested it to Trump, because preventing a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine issue has been the central aim of his entire political life, maybe the only one he truly cares about. Now, unable to form a government after two elections in a row and under indictment for bribery, he's on the verge, thanks to Trump and Kushner, of total success! Ready to annex all of the West Bank other than some of the land where Arabs have their actual houses so that Israel finally will really be a miniature apartheid South Africa, tiny Bantustans and all!

Or maybe it was some other bright spark recognizing how much money pharmaceutical giants could lose from the end of the opioid crisis, or private prison contractors from the end of mass incarceration, or how much better it was to have an unbuilt Wall stymied by the president's relentless enemies than an existing Wall running billions over budget and failing to keep anybody on the other side of the border.

But what really got me was this new thing today about Jared taking over the China trade deal, because that would end the import taxes imposed on Chinese goods, and Trump really loves import taxes, or tariffs, in a strange and deeply personal way, as Dr. Krugman noted:
Trump does not want a deal with China. He really likes tariffs. He's given the job to Jared because that's the best way of ensuring it doesn't happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment