Gove on Trump

So Donald Trump gave an interview the other day, to Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann of Bild. Gove’s impressions were written up in the £ Times, it’s pretty interesting. So let’s look at some of it.

During the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump had an insult for every rival. Marco Rubio was “little Marco” and Jeb Bush was “low energy Jeb”. These jibes were more than just debating techniques to unsettle his opponents. They were carefully designed to draw a contrast between The Donald and The Others. Because when you meet him you realise there is nothing, absolutely nothing, small-scale or low-wattage about America’s president-elect.

Donald J Trump appears like a man who has been plugged into some power source where the dial has been turned up to levels well beyond what the safety regulations would recommend. His skin glows a sodium orange, his hair is blonder than any human you will have encountered and his clothes are in primary colours so bold they make everyone else in the room seem dowdy.

Ever since a Virginia farmer called George Washington launched his bid for glory, the British have had a tendency to underestimate American presidents. Especially Republicans. When Abraham Lincoln was in the White House, our government sympathised with the Confederacy. When Ronald Reagan was commander-in-chief, the British foreign policy establishment derided him as a trigger-happy cowboy who was in danger of pitching us into a third world war.

But no Republican, indeed no president, has come to office facing anything like the level of scorn and condescension from British politicians and commentators as Mr Trump. When we talked last Friday, however, he had nothing but kind words and generous sentiments for a nation he believes will be his strongest ally.

It’s true enough, the British do tend to denigrate beyond reason American (especially Republican) presidents. I’m inclined to think it’s at least partially because British conservatism is built on the shifting sands of governing efficiently rather than based on bedrock principles, but there is also a bit of condescending in it.

And, ultra-competitive as he is, the president-elect was particularly keen to remind me that, almost alone among international figures, he had had the natural good judgment to foresee our departure from the EU.

“I sort of, as you know, predicted it. I was in Turnberry [his Scottish golf course] and was doing a ribbon cutting because I bought Turnberry, which is doing unbelievably, and I’ll tell you, the fact that your pound sterling has gone down? Great. Because business is unbelievable in a lot of parts in the UK, as you know. I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing.”

And would he, as our government hoped, move quickly to seal a new trade deal with the UK? “Absolutely, very quickly. I’m a big fan of the UK, we’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides. I will be meeting with [Theresa May] — in fact if you want you can see the letter, wherever the letter is, she just sent it. She’s requesting a meeting and we’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and . . . we’re gonna get something done very quickly.”

The president-elect is much less sanguine about the future of the EU itself. A combination of economic woes and the migrant crisis will, he believes, lead to other countries leaving. “People, countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity. But, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it . . . entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. This was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. . . I believe others will leave. I do think keeping it together is not gonna be as easy as a lot of people think. And I think this, if refugees keep pouring into different parts of Europe . . . I think it’s gonna be very hard to keep it together because people are angry about it.”

Kind of strange those two paragraphs, that’s exactly what I think. Brexit, if they do it properly may be the greatest thing in 150 years for Britain, and the EU has basically committed suicide. And yes, they have created some huge problems for themselves, that I see few solutions for.

While he expresses admiration for Angela Merkel, Mr Trump believes that she made “one catastrophic mistake” by welcoming an unlimited number of Syrian refugees. More than one million migrants from north Africa and the Middle East arrived between 2015 and 2016. He adds that he believes the West should have built safe zones in Syria — paid for by the Gulf — to limit the surge. “I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from.”

And that mistake will echo in Europe for decades, very debilitating and possibly fatal. We will see.

Mr Trump’s view is that Europe is dominated by Germany, and Britain was wise to extract itself: “You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”

Well, there’s a reason some of us call it the Zollverein. In other words, he’s right. Once it was Germany and France, but France is declining and so now it is mostly about Germany.

Mr Trump’s hostility to the EU has been matched by his scepticism towards another pillar of the postwar order, Nato. But the president-elect was at pains to emphasise that he is committed to the defence of Europe and the West. His concerns are, principally, that Nato had not reformed to meet the main threat that we face — Islamist terrorism — and its members had relied too heavily on America. “I said a long time ago that Nato had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay. I took such heat, when I said Nato was obsolete. It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right. […]

He’s no Kissinger and you’d no more expect him to discuss Clausewitz and Kennan than set fire to his own hair. But intelligence takes many forms. And Mr Trump’s number-rich analysis of defence spending reflects a businessman’s ability to cut through jargon to get to the essentials of a case.

The same Trump who uses gladiatorial press conferences and CAPITALISED tweets to hurl huge crude blocks of rhetoric at opponents is also the master of the P&L accounts and the determined negotiator who sees government as a failing corporation ripe for re-engineering.

I don’t know about you, but I think that a fair description of the swamp.

“Well I don’t want to say what I’m gonna do with the Iran deal. I just don’t want to play the cards. I mean, look, I’m not a politician, I don’t go out and say, “I’m gonna do this” — I’m gonna do, I gotta do what I gotta do . . . But I’m not happy with the Iran deal, I think it’s one of the worst deals ever made, I think it’s one of the dumbest deals I’ve ever seen . . .

It is not just foreign leaders at whom he vents spleen. The invasion of Iraq, he argues, was “one of the worst decisions, possibly the worst decision, ever made in the history of our country. It’s like throwing rocks into a beehive.”

Despite a strong desire to improve relations with Russia, Mr Trump was unequivocal in his condemnation of its role in Syria. He was also implicitly critical of President Obama for failing to restrain President Assad and Mr Putin. “It’s a very bad thing, we had a chance to do something when we had the line in the sand and . . . nothing happened. That was the only time.

Talking of Russia inevitably brings us to the allegations that the Kremlin has compromising material garnered during a Trump visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe contest. The president-elect is, unsurprisingly, dismissive of the allegations but he did express disquiet at the involvement of a former MI6 officer.

“That guy is somebody that you should look at, because whatever he made up about me it was false. He was supposedly hired by the Republicans and Democrats working together. Even that I don’t believe because they don’t work together, they work separately and they don’t hire the same guy. What, they got together?

Sounds pretty sensible to me. And yes, why this clown of a former MI6 officer has clients would bear looking in to.

Mr Trump’s conversation flows like a river in spate, overwhelming interruptions and objections, reflecting the force of nature that is the man. But it would be a mistake to think that he is all instinct and impulse. He wants to bring to governing the same calculating business style that he has brought to communicating. While he has been criticised for tweeting attacks on everyone from Meryl Streep to the civil rights hero John Lewis, he has no intention of abandoning Twitter because he believes it gives him a direct connection to the American people.

He’s right, Twitter has become a direct channel for him, and one of the keys to success for an even moderately successful president is to find a way around the media, if he doesn’t they will destroy them, and him.

via Donald Trump: ‘Brexit will be a great thing . . . you were so smart’ | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

There’s lots more at the link, I took out lots of interesting things here, so do read it.

All in all, Donald Trump sounds like a pretty capable guy, and more or less ready for the job. One hopes so, his watch begins at noon on Friday.

Cultural Blasphemy ? More Like Americanism

0108trumpculture02Ace quoted this piece the other day and called it very good. I agree. Yes, in Newsweek, and also yes, its liberal bias is pretty obvious. But you know we all filter things through our experiences and thus are biased. No less me than Michael Wolf. But things do work better when we talk to each other rather than at each other. I think he’s trying here to understand the rest of us here, and maybe share some of his insights, with other liberals. He’s not wrong, at least in broad strokes. In truth “Shut up, we won”, isn’t going to work much better for us than it did Obama.

That doesn’t mean we ought to be compromising things we believe. It does mean that we should return civility when civility is offered. When it’s not, well the left probably hasn’t seen The Shootist lately. They should because a whole lot of America still lives by that.

 

Here’s the article ( autoplay video)

If all his other cultural blasphemies did not finish off Donald Trump, his grab-them-by-the-pussy line, in the overwhelming opinion of the liberal media, would. That it did not might suggest that many cultural certainties are a lot less firm than most of the media and culture industry thought. Twenty years (or so) of rule tightening about how we talk about sex, gender, race and our multicultural society—what is disparagingly called political correctness, or, more inclusively, the liberal point of view—was put up for review by Trump’s election.

The ongoing expressions of shock on the part of the cultural establishment—expressed on a daily basis by The New Yorker, New York magazine and The New York Times, anything, apparently, with New York in its title—reflect their fears that the development of a more careful, regulated and corrected world is about to be undone. That the unapologetic white male has returned. You could hardly find a more threatening and throwback version of that than Trump—a rich, voluble, egomaniacal, middle-aged pussy hound. To write him you would need some combination of authors like Norman Mailer, Terry Southern, Harry Crews and Gore Vidal, all notably out of step with current cultural norms.

The culture norm is as starkly confronted as the political norm with proof that it’s not speaking to the lives of a sizeable part of the nation: that same pussy talk that shocked cosmopolitans turns out not to be of much concern, and even to express a casual day-to-day reality, for many Americans. Media fragmentation has created all sorts of thriving niches that accommodate the views of eager consumers, lessening the need to speak to a broader, more difficult-to-reach audience—the once-great mass market. (With no one speaking to it, it’s had to largely contend itself with an expanding diet of sports—another overlooked point of the Trump voter connection, his several decades of red carpet presence at major sporting events.) And, too, convincing higher-fashion cultural consumers that their concerns are paramount ones.

These are just “white man’s problems,” said an agent who in 2013 rejected a collection of short stories about middle-aged terrors and angst by 53-year-old Pennsylvania and working-class son Kevin Morris (transformed by the mysteries of American life into a top Hollywood entertainment lawyer), who promptly took that as the title for his book—think Richard Ford, John Cheever and Bernard Malamud, all writers who are also out of fashion—which he then self-published through Amazon. (The self-publishing world is an extraordinary and vibrant parallel culture, hardly recognizable to the official bookish world). When Grove/Atlantic’s Morgan Entrekin shortly thereafter bought Morris’s first novel, All Joe Knight, about sex and race and money, told through the eyes of a lower-middle-class white kid who grows up to be an alienated middle-aged white guy, “we struggled,” he said, “to think of like-minded writers who could blurb the book and could hardly come up with any.” The book, published shortly after the Trump election, and, in its political incorrectness and protean language, something of an instant samizdat-like favorite at least among other older male writers, has yet to be reviewed by The New York Times.

 

via The Trump Establishment’s Cultural Significance, Explained

Video Saturday

So, it’s Saturday. How about a video round up, of some others views. Let’s start with Pat Condell

 

A bit harshly stated, perhaps, but I can’t say that I disagree with him. The Right Angle guys have something to say, as well.

 

And a bit on fake news, and where it comes from.

 

Yep. And if you have ever had the nightmare of dealing with flat pack furniture, especially IKEA’s well, you’ll understand.

 

von Richtofen Day

hev43nen_originalWell, we missed this one yesterday, but GreatSatan’sGirlfriend reminded us.

Gott Mit Uns!
100 years ago today, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was awarded Imperial Deutschland’s highest military award – Pour le Mérite – often informally referred to as the “Blue Max.”  Pour le Mérite was awarded strictly as a recognition of extraordinary personal achievement, von Richthofen earned his for shooting down 16 confirmed French and British fighters and observation planes (not counting two unconfirmed kills).
With Red Baron as his nom de guerre, von Richthofen in his all red fighter wrecked havoc on Allied Air Forces for the next 15 months, shooting down 80 aircraft in very close combat.

For comparison, the highest-scoring Allied ace, the Frenchman René Fonck, achieved 75 confirmed victories. The highest-scoring British Imperial fighter pilots were Canadian Billy Bishop, who was officially credited with 72 victories, Mick Mannock, with 61 confirmed victories, Canadian Raymond Collishaw, with 60, and James McCudden, with 57 confirmed victories.

via GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD: von Richthofen Day Fair amount more at the link, and well, you know.

 

But who killed him, really? Well, that argument has gone on for a solid 100 years now. This sheds some light on it.

Is there any real importance in the event, or in who shot him down? Probably not. But it is well for us to remember that once upon a time, our enemies were honorable men, who lived and died by the same code as did ours. Knights of the Air seems simplistic, in a way, but like knights, they were warriors who did their duty for their cause. That will have to do.

Freiherr von Richthofen was above all an able tactician and leader of men, as well as a superb marksman, and his heritage is still celebrated. Last I knew there is still Jägdgeswader Richtofen in the German Air Force. That too is as it should be.

 

National Sovereignty Rising

2272458246_b77147169e_zWell, we all made it through 2016 for better or worse. It was quite a year, with many political things roiling the waters. A lot of them were merely personal, and of no account to the rest of us. Especially for us Americans, who have dealt with a president for 8 years who is a god in his own mind. Nobody gets to be president without an over-blown ego, the process makes sure of that, but most have a realization that they aren’t God. With Obama, I’m not so sure.

But it was a year of ideas, as well, especially one: National Sovereignty. What do I mean? Let’s let Ben Peterson start us off.

The year 2016 demonstrated the enduring relevance of political ideas. A political idea is distinct from and more fundamental than a stance on a policy or issue. It is a way of understanding political phenomena in light of a worldview. A political idea connects the dizzying array of available facts, forming a coherent vision of what is really happening in the world.

Nearly every political idea involves at minimum three components, corresponding to these questions:

  • What is a good society—in other words, what should the world look like?
  • Why doesn’t it look that way?
  • What would set things right?

Many of the major events of last year revolved around the political idea of national sovereignty. Scholars, journalists, and analysts have attributed Trump’s victory, Brexit, and other nationalist advances to the forces of populism, demagoguery, and xenophobia.

As Mene Ukueberuka, reviewing The Shipwrecked Mind, Mark Lilla’s timely new book on reactionary political thought, argues in the New Criterion, there is also a tendency toward explanations that psychologize these movements and their supporters. Far from signifying mere “irrationality,” the global wave of populist nationalism is partly based on an explicit political idea: that national sovereignty matters.

Trump advisor Steve Bannon—“the man with the idea” as journalist Michael Wolff described him—has presented the national sovereignty idea most clearly, if sparingly. The best place to look for his expression of it is a Skype-in lecture he gave for a 2014 conference at the Vatican. In answering the second question above, Bannon in effect summarized his political views, saying:

I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis . . . and it is a crisis both of capitalism but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian West in our beliefs.

The “crisis of capitalism” stems from the twin corruptions of statist crony capitalism and excessive libertarianism, which have estranged elites from common people. The financial crisis of late 2007 to 2009—which financiers and securities traders caused, but for which none was really held accountable—is a key episode in the story of how corrupt, globalized capitalism favored elites and left middleclass workers behind. Underlying the corruption of capitalism is a “crisis of faith,” an “immense secularization of the West.”

This decline of faith has crippled the West, which cannot summon the will or foresight to prosecute the “global war” against “jihadist Islamic fascism.”

via National Sovereignty, Political Idea of the Year – Online Library of Law & Liberty. Go and read the whole thing, right now. I’ll wait for you. And then we’ll talk a bit

Back? Good. He makes some really good points, doesn’t he? He also says some things, especially quoting Bannion, that I disagree with. Well, no real surprise there, I wasn’t a particularly strong Trump supporter, and part of the reason is some of his economic beliefs, I think we’d be far better off if the government got out of our business, more or less completely. But it is still a major improvement.

Nor does it preclude international cooperation. A strong United States infers a strong United Kingdom, France, Germany Russia, whoever, and when our interests coincide, we can cooperate, when they don’t we can compete. Doesn’t mean we have to fight about every detail. The world is big enough for us to differ as well as agree.

I think the United States has turned the corner, going back to nationhood. The UK may have, but is much more hesitant, but will eventually, I think. The rest, well, we will learn much this year. But it may well be the year of the nations, rather than the Davos elite. We shall see.

 

Obama’s Legacy Of Deceit

obama-fail4It’s been quite a while since we featured Victor Davis Hanson, no good reason for it, it simply hasn’t happened. But he wrote one of the best articles on why Obama’s legacy is so tainted with most of us. Here’s some

In its remaining days in power, the Obama administration suddenly punished Vladimir Putin’s Russia for allegedly interfering in the U.S. presidential election. It claimed that Russian or Russian-hired hackers tapped into the records of the Democratic National Committee as well as the correspondence of John Podesta, a Clinton advisor.

But what the Obama administration did not say was that such cyber-crimes are by now old hat. Both the Russian and Chinese governments have been hacking into far more important U.S. records and government archives for years without earning retaliation

The administration also did not mention that the election hacking occurred largely because of Podesta’s own carelessness in using his security password. Moreover, it failed to acknowledge that the Republican National Committee was likewise targeted, but apparently had enough safeguards to prevent successful entry into its records. Finally, the administration refused to mention that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange went on the record saying that he did not receive the email trove from the Russians.

The truth is that Obama, throughout his presidency, has appeased Putin. As president, Obama ended the previously agreed-on Eastern European missile defense; he made open-mic promises to be more flexible with Putin after his reelection; he barely responded to Russia’s aggression toward Crimea and Ukraine; and he constantly criticized both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney for being inordinately tough on Russia.

Until now, he saw no reason to stop enabling Russia. Had Hillary Clinton won the election, Putin’s alleged hacking would not have earned any administration attention. But this time around, an emboldened Putin allegedly went too far and crossed the only red line that Obama might have enforced by supposedly enabling the release of information that might have turned off some voters on Clinton. Blaming Putin for Clinton’s loss was a more convenient narrative than admitting that Obama’s own policies have turned off even traditional Democratic constituencies and for now reduced the Democratic Party to a minority coastal party.

All administrations play fast and loose with the truth. It is the nature of high politics to fib, cover up, and fudge in order to ensure the success of a so-called noble agenda for the greater good. But not since the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations have we seen a president so institutionalize misrepresentation.

There are ample examples. It was clear from Clinton’s own leaked emails and from real-time memos from intelligence agencies that the September 11, 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was nota spontaneous riot over an insensitive video produced by a reactionary Coptic zealot residing in the United States, as the administration claimed. But such a concoction fit Obama’s 2012 reelection narrative: the recklessness of right-wing Islamophobes endangers national security abroad. In contrast, the reality—a preplanned al-Qaeda-affiliated attack on an unprepared and semi-covert American consulate—challenged Obama’s reelection myth that Al Qaeda was “on the run” and that the administration was vigilant in ensuring security for our diplomatic personnel in the Middle East.

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Susan Rice, went on five Sunday morning talk shows to insist, quite wrongly, that the deaths of four Americans in the attack were the tragic result of ad hoc furor over intolerance. The video-maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was abruptly jailed on probation violation charges, in a display of swift American justice never matched by a commensurately prompt arrest and prosecution of real terrorists.

One question that I have had for months is this. Why exactly would Putin favor Trump, a man who believes in, if not perhaps, the American Dream, some version of it, and not Hillary Clinton, an experienced and proven appeaser? Huh? Why? Just doesn’t make sense, does it? Continuing.

More recently we learned that Iran got the sanctions lifted before it met all its obligations outlined in the deal. Ben Rhodes, an architect of the swap and deputy national security advisor, boasted about the administration’s affinity for deceit. Rhodes, described by a New York Times interviewer as “a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal,” explained the methods of concocting an Iran narrative to a guidable media: “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” Rhodes intoned. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. . . The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

Rhodes’s cynicism was reminiscent of the boasts of another administration advisor, the MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who bragged of the administration’s ability to get passed the Patient Protection and affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), largely through deliberate deceit about the inevitable consequences of higher premiums and deductibles, the dropping of existing coverage and doctors, and increases in federal outlays. Some of the bill’s more obvious and unpopular elements—such as the employer mandate—were not enforced until after Obama’s 2012 reelection bid. Gruber admitted that the law was composed “in a tortured way” to delude people into accepting that “healthy people pay in and sick people get money”—a subterfuge that was both necessary and worked because of “the stupidity of the American voter,” a fact confirming that the “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage”

via Obama’s Legacy Of Deceit | Hoover Institution

You know I live out here with average Americans, and yes, I’m one myself. What’s our common characteristic? We’re uh, average. Neither rich nor desperately poor, brilliantly smart nor imbecilic, completely informed nor apathetic. Something else, which doesn’t apply as much to me anymore, we’re quite busy trying to make a living, and so don’t spend all that much time watching the swamp circus in Washington. We care, we always have, but we have mortgages, families, and all that stuff to do, so… But we can easily tell when the bullshit meter pegs, and it’s been going off almost constantly lately.

In many ways, the last administration reminded us of a stroppy teenager, who won’t shut up, and won’t go away. These are the kids that a sensible policeman arrests for disturbing the peace or some such. That this was our government became an embarrassment to us. And so we’ll try Trump. Sure he’s a noisy self-promoter, but we all saw The Music Man long ago, and kind of like town bands, in any case.

Is this the cure? We really ain’t got a clue but are convinced that it’s an improvement, and we’ll think about it for next time. Kicking the can down the road? Sure. But that’s better than scoring an own goal, after all.

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