Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Trump's Big CON: The Truth Doesn't Matter, Just Feel Good

Says Trump: "I don’t stand by anything. I just– you can take it the way you want."

Read the Washington Post, ‘I don’t stand by anything’: Trump withers under heat from CBS News’s John Dickerson.

Because it's all about making his supporters feel good.

"Trump fans think he is winning because he yells at the press, vilifies cities run by Democrats, denies climate change and demonizes immigrants. He talks and acts like they wish they could — demeaning women, stereotyping minorities, telling off experts. (According to polling, Trump’s voters really are more amenable to racial stereotypes than non-Trump voters.) It does not matter to Trump fans if the executive orders are struck down or are mere window dressing (authorizing an agency to study something it already has the power to study). He makes them feel as if they’re winning, as if they are now more important than the experts with the facts and the courts with the laws on their side. Trump fans, the quintessential Fox News viewers, revel in the know-nothingism of a hero who reflects their anger, grievances, frustration and, yes, prejudice. . .

Saying he’s the most successful president in the first 100 days ever may sound nuts to people who look at what he’s done; it makes perfect sense to the people whom Trump makes feel better. At some point, one wonders when it will dawn on Trump’s fans that they’ve been bamboozled."

Read  the Washington Post, Trump suspends disbelief — on most everything

Trump's Big CON: Bad News: He Has No Values or Beliefs, Good News: He Is No Conservative

UPDATE IV: I quote at length this editorial that explains why The Donald has no values or beliefs, and is no conservative:

"After 100 days we can see clearly the many false assumptions baked into that rationale [Paul Ryan had when he endorsed then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump].

First, I don’t know what kind of policy discussion he had, but we’ve seen Trump is entirely incapable of grasping and discussing particulars. Trump was either humoring Ryan ('Yes, Paul, that’s exactly the kind of thing we would do!') or Ryan was kidding himself that Trump, lacking any real policy views, would sign whatever the Congress passed. He should have listened more critically and figured out that Trump doesn’t stand by anything and would be entirely incapable of advocating for policies Ryan wanted. In fact, Trump has never bought into Ryan’s small government, restraint-of-executive party brand of conservatism. And worse, Trump’s ineptitude and lack of self-discipline has widened the divide within the House GOP and paralyzed members from fear that Trump would let them twist in the wind over an controversial vote.

Second, in all likelihood Ryan never expected Trump to win. . .

Third, entirely absent from Ryan’s endorsement and from his rationale for supporting Trump was any recognition that character, intellect and temperament are the predicate for any acceptable, let alone successful, president. 'Sure he’s erratic, but he’ll stick with our position on health care' is the sort of unsound thinking that leads one to endorse someone manifestly unfit to govern. If he is erratic, Mr. Speaker, he’s going to undermine your efforts on health care. And he did.

Ignoring Trump’s fondness for Vladimir Putin, Ryan bought into a man whose affection for strongmen is so contrary to American values and interest that he makes President Barack Obama seem Reaganesque. Instead of Clinton, we have a commander in chief who cheers for Marine Le Pen, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Xi Jinping and Rodrigo Duterte — and compliments Kim Jong Un. We have a president who has gotten into fights with Canada, Mexico and Australia — and has shaken European leaders to their core. Ryan should have paid attention to Trump’s inferior judgment, knowledge and capacity to learn.

How did things work out for Ryan? He has signed onto a spending bill that Clinton would have liked (Planned Parenthood funding, no wall, domestic spending restored, a little bit — but not enough — defense spending). He has not gotten health-care reform. His chances of obtaining tax reform are slim. . .

By ignoring fundamental questions of competency and character, Ryan vouched for a man who echoed Russian agitprop and encouraged Russian cyber-mischief during the campaign and who continues to deny the existence of mounds of evidence proving Russian efforts to meddle with our election. Ryan enabled an administration that has a bevy of ties to Russian officials, originally hired as national security adviser a man acting as an agent for foreign governments and still employs an aide (Sebastian Gorka) with ties to Hungarian fascists. Surely Clinton, for all her faults, wouldn’t have done all that.

As for the cause of clean government, Ryan supported Trump with no assurance he wouldn’t defy the Constitution by receiving foreign monies, maintain ownership in companies creating massive conflicts of interest, hire relatives who have their own conflicts and refuse to release his taxes ever. Ryan thought Clinton would bring corruption to the White House?"

Read the Washington Post, How did Ryan’s Faustian bargain with Trump work out?

UPDATE III:  "Nobody ever said that Donald Trump was a man of firm principle. Indeed, apart from a couple of rancid ideas about race and foreigners, one struggles to find anything Trump has consistently believed over the course of his life when it comes to political issues.

But recently Trump has racked up an unusual number of flip-flops, with some interesting implications for the rest of his presidency. To begin, let’s look at what he has changed his mind about just in the last few days:

    He now thinks NATO is no longer obsolete
    He won’t label China a currency manipulator
    He now thinks the Export-Import bank should stay
    He now likes Janet Yellen and may renominate her as Fed chair
    The federal hiring freeze he ordered has now been lifted

You can look at each of these reversals and come up with an ideological interpretation. For instance, on the economic ones, you might say they represent the ascendance of the Wall Street wing of Trump’s advisers.

But what they have more in common is the maintenance of the status quo.

Here’s how it works. Trump the candidate makes all kinds of promises about radical change, blowing up the system, sweeping into Washington and remaking it from top to bottom. Many of the things he says are substantively ridiculous and born of ignorance, but none of his aides bother to tell him. Because who really cared back then? He wasn’t going to sit down for extended policy instruction, and the campaign seemed to be working pretty well anyway.

But now he’s president, and instead of just making statements he’s making policy. So when one of these issues comes up, there’s a good chance someone will say, 'Well actually sir, that could be a really bad idea.' They’ll explain why, and since Trump doesn’t really care about the substance of any of it, he’ll change his position.

In many cases, the flip-flop is a simple matter of Trump learning about something he never understood. "

Read the Washington Post, What’s really behind Donald Trump’s flip-flops

UPDATE II:  There is a war in the White House between "the alt-right, the white nationalist movement that [Stephen] Bannon appealed to as head of Breitbart News" and Trump's family who realize this is a deadend.

"[T]here is a gaping leadership void in the West Wing, and it’s caused by Trump’s complete lack of a clear vision or agenda. . .

Trump’s agenda, of course, was encapsulated by his campaign slogan, 'Make America Great Again.' Crucially, however, the White House is being run by people who can’t seem to agree on what 'making America great' entails. . .

Remember: It was under Bannon’s guidance as chief executive of his campaign that Trump gave an October 2016 campaign speech, claiming that Hillary Clinton 'meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special-interest friends and her donors.' His closing campaign ad evoked similar anti-Semitic imagery, showing philanthropist George Soros, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, who are all Jewish, complete with narration about 'those who control the levers of power in Washington,' 'global special interests' and 'a global power structure.'

It was under Bannon’s tutelage that Trump believed these moves would win him the White House — and perhaps they did help him get there by appealing to at least some of Trump’s voters.

But now the 'globalists' are crucial members of Team Trump, and they are inside the White House, in the form of Kushner, Ivanka Trump, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, both former Goldman Sachs executives. To Bannon’s base, the 'globalists' are the enemy: They haven’t put America’s economy or America’s interests first — so it’s hard to see how Trump will ever get these two camps to unite behind a cogent agenda, much less get them to function as a White House staff.

The problem is that Trump himself is a man without ideas or an ideology. His political instincts are more frequently driven by the likes of Bannon, and it’s obvious that Trump will be reluctant to cast Bannon aside. Yet at the same time, Trump is plainly loyal to his family. There’s no clear way for Trump to reconcile this, however, precisely because Trump does not have any clear policy agenda of his own.

Put it this way: Imagine that Camp Bannon and Camp Kushner were to somehow truly reconcile with one another. What exactly is the agenda we are supposed to believe this pair is going to implement together?

Read the Washington Post, The real reason for the White House infighting: Trump has no clear vision or agenda.

UPDATE:  "During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump summed up his approach to foreign policy this way: 'We must as a nation be more unpredictable.'

But now that he is commander in chief, anxious allies say that unpredictability might be better described as incoherence — a dangerous tendency at a moment of high tension with Russia and Syria, and with U.S. warships heading toward the Korean Peninsula.

In recent weeks, the president has held meetings with his counterparts from other countries. But in some cases, those sessions have only heightened doubts that Trump has a clear sense of what direction he intends to take U.S. foreign policy. . .

Ambiguity has always had a place in diplomacy, of course. But Trump adds to that a freestyle approach to international relations. He has a disregard for norms and protocol, an impulsive nature and a tendency toward making contradictory statements.

Compounding the chaos is the fact that those who claim to speak for Trump — Cabinet officials and top White House advisers — also have offered conflicting pronouncements on basic questions about the direction of U.S. policy. . .

In interviews over the past few weeks with a half-dozen foreign ambassadors based in Washington, most complained — diplomatically, of course — that thin lines of communication have made it difficult for them to explain U.S. intentions to officials in their home capitals. That is creating strain on traditionally solid alliances, they said.

'Nobody can tell us on Russia what the American policy is, on Syria what the American policy is, on China what the American policy is,' one ambassador said. 'I’m not sure there is a policy. They will listen to me and tell me, 'We will get back to you when there is a policy.'?' . .

'I don’t know what will happen,' one said. 'You had a president who took three months to make a decision, and now you have one who takes three seconds. It’s very worrying.' . .

While some diplomats and leaders puzzle over how to decode an opaque and often contradictory presidency, they have figured out one language to which Trump responds: flattery.

In his joint appearance with Trump, Jordan’s King Abdullah II lathered the president with praise for a 'holistic approach' to the Middle East, which he said is 'a move in the right direction.'

It was their second meeting since Trump’s election, and Trump returned the compliments, calling Abdullah a 'warrior.' Their joint news conference was the first of Trump’s presidency to be held in the Rose Garden. . .

Several added that they have tried to be creative in their approaches to the Trump administration, increasingly going outside the normal channels. Some said they have tried to leverage friendships with people in business who have ties to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner or daughter Ivanka Trump to get access to those key members of Trump’s inner circle. . .

'The question is: Will the close allies maintain that same natural cooperation that we have had for 70 years?' one ambassador said. 'The leaders of those allies want to maintain a relationship of trust with the traditional leader of the Western world. But today we have the impression that the chair of the leader of the Western world is a little bit empty. We are reaching out to test those relationships, but we have no answer.'

Said another: 'It’s quite distressing that the Americans are so unpredictable. Unpredictability is the worst.'"

Read the Washington Post, Trump promised an ‘unpredictable’ foreign policy. To allies, it looks incoherent.

The Republi-CONs have been conned.

Whether it is Syria or health care, "inconsistency is the most consistent theme of Trump’s young presidency. During the campaign, he opposed entitlement reform, yet his health-care bill contained the most fundamental entitlement reform — moving federal Medicaid spending from an open-ended match for state spending to a capped amount per person — that Congress has recently considered. He campaigned as a tribune for the working class, yet his economic approach seems heavily tilted toward the interests of the wealthy.

This has been attacked as lying. It also indicates a complete unfamiliarity with the issues and debates at the heart of American politics. He never encountered these matters during previous government service (which he did none of). He was not forced to explain his views during primary or general election debates (a few lines from the stump speech more than sufficed). Trump was not hiding an inner sophistication. His ignorance was presented as part of an anti-establishment package — as contempt for the quibbles of smaller men.

In this context, the current palace intrigue between Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, actually matters. This is not the normal circumstance in which a president with developed policy views is influenced at the margins by a diverse group of advisers. What we are seeing is a president without settled or tested policy convictions, influenced by advisers with sharp knives and fundamentally different views of the world. On Breitbart this is described as a conflict between 'national populists' and 'liberal NYC Democrats.' It is the high-stakes struggle to provide the soul for a soulless presidency.

This inbuilt discord has turned normal West Wing tension into a red-carpeted cage fight. . .

And it should concern conservatives that neither side in the main White House conflict — ethno-nationalists or moderates related to the president — is actually conservative. It would be better for the Republican Party (and for the world) if the family were to win this contest, as it almost certainly will.

That change would make the administration marginally more humane. But it would not, for the most part, be a victory for conservative policy ideas."

Read the Washington Post, The struggle to give a soul to a soulless presidency.