The Haberdasher, the General and the Imposter

Harry Truman, commenting about General Dwight Eisenhower succeeding him in the Oval Office, said, “He’s going to sit at this desk and say ‘Do this’ and ‘Do that’ — and nothing’s going to happen.”

As a general, Ike could order people to do things and they’d do them. As president, not so much.

Truman would be amused, but not surprised, watching Donald Trump struggle in the office the haberdasher once occupied. As a businessman, Trump could give orders to his minions and the orders would be followed. Dealing with people now who aren’t on his payroll and who aren’t afraid of him, he’s flopping around, mouth gaping, like a fish tossed on shore.

Giving Orders - WWI

It’s one more piece of evidence that the notion of running the government like a business is so very wrong. It’s wrong because it doesn’t work, and it’s wrong because, philosophically, it’s way off base. Business exists — especially in the grubby hands of bandits like Trump — for private enrichment. The government exists to advance and protect the common good.

It’s very clear that Trump and his family and his henchmen are blurring the line between running the government to serve others and running it to serve themselves. The ethical conflicts of interest Trump and his family have are so numerous and so glaring that there’s hardly a decision the president can make that doesn’t have a financial impact on him and his family. From pipelines to banks to hotels, Trump is using our tax money and mortgaging our national security to fill his Scrooge McDuck money bins. I think he can’t see any difference between his private pelf and the public good. That moral vacancy is frightening.

Business works to increase efficiency to grow shareholder value. And who are the largest shareholders? The white guys who run the company. The impact of business decisions that increase share prices or increase the sales and value of private companies is often damage to the community and the company’s employees. Government decisions have to take into consideration the impact on the public, on the economy, on the nation’s resources and the environment for decades and centuries to come, and on the nation’s security, values and reputation.

Whether it’s a toll road or a privately-built and -run prison or a school or retirement savings, the model of increasing shareholder value just does not cover all the bases. Even without Trump owning stock in two companies involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline, his coziness with big banks and big energy companies makes his approval of the pipeline  at the least raise questions about his motives — serve the public, protect the environment or backscratch his cronies? A spokesminion claims Trump has sold his stock in the pipeline partners — but with his history of lying and his refusal to release his tax returns, who can know?

Government is not a business. It has very different aims and responsibilities than a business has. Its moral purposes are completely different.

It’s actually refreshing to see Trump fail using his corporate pirate tricks. As a business bully he could get away with not knowing the details of the projects he was hustling. Underlings could marshall the facts and figures while figurehead Donald handled the bluster and the bullshit. When he didn’t know much of anything about the healthcare bill he was pushing, House members were shocked, and mocked him.

Trump said over and over during the campaign that he would make great deals. Snarking about President Obama playing golf, Trump said he would probably never play golf (!!!) as president because he’d just want to stay in the White House and make deals. But a president’s deal-making ability has to be in service of something, as LBJ’s was with Medicaid and the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Trump just likes to make deals, and then skips town before his victims can heat up the tar and pluck the feathers. And deal-making is only part of what a president does. Other qualities — leadership, inspiration, fairness, judgment, steadiness in crises, compassion, empathy, vision, diplomacy — are just as important. And absent in the current Oval Office pretender.

Harry Truman must have been smiling wryly if he paid attention, from wherever dead presidents reside, as Trump’s odious consigliere, Steve Bannon, tried to carry The Boss’s orders to vote for the Frankenstein health care bill to the Freedom Caucus in the House. Bannon tried the strong arm, telling them “Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.” Might have worked for LBJ, a master of carrots, sticks, pork and human nature. Didn’t work for the windbag who told us we’d be tired of winning by this time. One Freedom Caucus member — bless his pointed little head — replied to Bannon: “You know, the last time someone ordered me to do something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”

My friend Dave Kuhn, a fellow recovering journalist, taught me so much about helping senior executives deal effectively with the media. People from the military and business don’t like the press, Dave said, because it’s one of the few things they can’t control. So they’re not very good at handling the challenges journalists throw at them or at letting criticism slide off their backs.

Trump’s efforts at strong-arming the media aren’t any more successful than his orders to the House members of his own party have been. And thank god for that.

— Bruce Benidt

46 thoughts on “The Haberdasher, the General and the Imposter

  1. Dennis Lang says:

    That Ivanka may now be the most perspicacious, sensitive mind in the inner circle doesn’t foster much hope. Every act and gesture from this President stomach-churning detestable. Getting routed on immigration and health care warranted an end zone victory dance. Gutting the EPA, State Department, etc. etc… and It’s like he’s waged war against enlightened thought.
    It’s up to the press to keep digging and digging!!!

  2. Barbara J Gilbertson says:

    “Government…moral purposes are completely different (from business).” This is bedrock. In one sentence. Huzzah!

  3. It’s probably fair to say the Trumps are being aggrandized by the business world, and they are getting richer, and perhaps in ways kind of grimy. Trump’s ‘investment’ in pipelines is not really a persuasive example of that though. Reading what disclosures there were during the campaign in the summer of ’16, Trump’s ‘investment’ in Enbridge or whatever stood out rather transparently I think as a rather un-sophisticate strategy of trading into a high dividend stock to be in it on its ex-dividend date, maybe make 1 or 2% on money for a 3 day position… Kind of bush-league, day-trade-y-stuff… for which you figure, ya that’s very Trumpy… As a matter of timing, it made it onto a disclosure report where it looked like an ‘investment’. Not really though, and not very much money in the scheme of things. I think it was less than $1M, and he did liquidate his stake in the months after. Which is just to say, it was in fact day-trade-y.

    It’s to say, I think he approves pipelines, etc, because he believes in that sort of thing for job creation and commerce.

    1. Good points well made. He does have, maybe, some core beliefs — building creates jobs, for example. It’s just hard to give him credit for believing anything when he changes views for his own benefit, e.g. abortion, and when he doesn’t really follow through on those beliefs, e.g. not paying many of his contractors, which ain’t exactly job creating. But I admit I am totally biased against this … whatever he is.

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        Yeah. “Whatever he is” becoming even more troubling after reading the stunning profile of his billionaire corner people, the Mercers, their ties to Bannon, Sessions, and their reactionary beliefs that border on the bizarre (like this fellow Arthur Robinson the climate change denier), in the 3/27 “New Yorker”.

  4. Mike Kennedy says:

    Well, we certainly wouldn’t want government to be run like a business…..would we? The version of the Ebenezer Scrooge “I decree and you minions follow” as a perception for how private business is run is as outdated as a leisure suit at an East Coast cocktail party.

    True, some companies and corporations are run like that, but do you really think that the layers of bureaucracy, line reporting and top-down driven management are vacant in government departments, agencies and offices? The piece seems to be written imagining that government departments and agencies are run in a horizontal (don’t infer anything from this) rather than vertical management structure. I don’t think anything could be further from the truth.

    I also think you make a mistake when you compare Trump’s behavior with members of other branches of government and extrapolate that out to how he deals with department heads, cabinet members and agency employees. By all accounts, Trump is a consensus builder and does not dictate when making business decisions. He generally trusts the people he places in positions of authority. His dealing with
    other politicians, namely those from his own party who disagree with him, is political horse trading and strong arming. This is new? It didn’t take place during the Obama administration? I think you need to go back and read some of the comments Mr. Obama made to recalcitrant members of Congress or members of the Supreme Court…..in some instances as he stood before them and addressed the nation.

    Yes, progressives are in a panic that everything government did (much of it by executive fiat by Mr. Obama) will be undone under Mr. Trump. I guess what can be codified by one man can be undone by another, thankfully.

    Personally, I will trust vast numbers of businesses, companies and consumers to make the correct choices rather than a handful of department, agency and executive politicians issuing voluminous diktats about how we all should live.

    But then this comes down to a core argument of freedom and whether human freedom flourishes under more government or less. And I will gladly debate all day long what has enriched and made people’s lives exponentially better….government or private enterprise and the freedom to create. Private enterprise DOES exist to make profits, and as a result of those profits, people’s lives get better, from better technology, medicine, more abundant energy, transportation (think deregulated airlines), food and on and on. Let’s compare government’s contribution to innovation, job creation and
    increase in standard of living. Wait…..there is no comparison.

    1. Mike, welcome back to the crowd! Glad to hear from you. As usual, I agree with some of what you write. Not sure you’d say the same, but that’s what keeps things rowdy. I definitely do not want government running everything. I’m under no illusion that government is efficient or even effective in many cases. And yes absolutely the profit motive spurs innovation and can improve customer service.

      Has unregulated business made people’s lives exponentially better? Ask Upton Sinclair and Teddy Roosevelt. Business left to itself has too often polluted our environment, stiffed the people who make and deliver the goods and services and way too often lied and cheated. How’s that bank in Minneapolis working out for you? How about that S&L scam? Find me a river in coal country that runs untainted.

      What I think works is regulated business. Too little regulation hurts the planet, the future and the people with less power and resources. Too much regulation, I grant you, stifles creativity, nimbleness and entrepreneurism. It comes down to whom do you trust? I don’t trust business to serve the greater good without constraints and a countervailing power. I also don’t trust government to run everything. But I definitely trust government more than business to keep its eye on the common weal, not just the quarterly results. I’d say that’s the big difference between you and me, and in general between Democrats and Republicans. I trust government more than business, and you vice versa. Hard to find the right balance. I’ve met many businesspeople I like and respect and trust to do the right thing, and I’ve met many dedicated government people who clearly have the greater good as a goal and do good efficient work trying to serve it. The big difference is whom they ultimately serve. In my view, businesses ultimately serve people at the higher end of the wealth scale, while government ultimately serves all the people. Of course not everyone in either camp does their jobs well.

      We’ve been venting about Mr. Trump. Would you want to write a piece for us with your view of what’s going on? I’d love to read it and put it up on the blog.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Thanks, Bruce! I hope the weather in Fla. is great…am traveling for meetings to St. Pete early next month (damn it, why can’t they schedule these down there in Jan?).

        I am as perplexed as anyone by what’s going on. I’ve certainly never seen anything like it. I can’t figure out where Mr. Trump stands on a variety of things. You are right about the change of heart on issues (the Obamians would call it “evolving positions” or some such thing), the propensity to level charges…though some grain of truth to many of them often emerge, however small. He contradicts himself and really doesn’t play by the established political norms, yet he is shrewd in figuring that the only institutions that people hold in lower regard than him are the media and the Congress.

        Many of my friends voted for Trump because he was the polar opposite of Mr. Obama. The more isolationist Trump vs. the globalist Obama. That’s why the “Make America Great Again” went off so well with a lot of Americans.

        I don’t agree with his views on NATO (softened now I guess), the necessity of building a wall or the ban on open trade with other countries. I favor immigration and trade, though our immigration system is definitely in need of repair and not enforcing the nation’s laws on illegal immigration is both stupid and dangerous. I’d like to evade my tax liability….not avoid it, as is legal but to evade it. How long would it be before I wind up in jail?

        However, I do favor him reducing the reach of government. The abuse that has occurred by the IRS and the EPA is mind boggling. For the federal government to proclaim that streams, ponds and ditches on a private property constitutes “navigable waters” or that furrows made by farmers constitutes “mini mountain ranges” that need to be regulated are examples of “Government Gone Wild.” And we won’t get into the IRS being used to stifle free speech.

        This kind of intrusion in the lives of people has got to stop. It might not have taken Donald Trump’s election to send that message, but I think Republicans lost faith that any mainstream politician would curb this nonsense.

        Your reference to the difference between Republicans and Democrats has almost become irrelevant. Donald Trump is no Republican. I’m not even sure there is much of a difference anymore. I think many people between the coasts want a less visible government. Do they want the benefits they are receiving? Yes. It’s not religion that is the opiate of the masses. It’s government largesse, gladly consumed by people of all stripes and beliefs with the understanding that other’s benefits should be taken away but not mine.

        And we think business is greedy? lol.

        As far as your belief about the greater good, politicians are just as greedy (if not more so) than any corporate CEO. Perhaps that’s why the pal around together so much and feed one another with campaign contributions in exchange for favorable laws that curtail competition and favor certain businesses.

        Your example of The Jungle is a bit off. First, it’s a novel. As one fellow put it, “reading the Jungle and assuming it’s credible news is like watching the Blair Witch Project and assuming it’s a documentary.” There were meat plant inspectors on the job before the novel was published, and many of the large packing plants wanted tighter inspections, for it could be factored into fixed costs that the large employers could plan for but would be too onerous for many of the smaller plants to afford. In addition, Sinclair was a Socialist and much of the reason for him writing the book was because he wanted all workers organized. Portraying the conditions as he did certainly made that easier. Was it a total fabrication? No, but many reports say that Sinclair admitted in private he exaggerated the conditions.

        As far as the bank example, you picked one of the most regulated businesses in America. I defy anyone to find a business, other than mine (securities) and health care that are as tightly regulated as banking. Yet, we continue to see shit happen…..the S&L crisis (well, let’s regulate some more and that will stop it), then the meltdown of 2008 (let’s regulate more…that will stop it) then the minor fiascos, like Wells. Does anyone think banking is immune from another blowup?

        Never mind the World Bank and other economic studies that show that increasing regulation is a deterrent to economic growth. We have a great lab study over the past eight years that proves/demonstrates it.

        I agree that government has a role and a place in regulation. However, when it oversteps its bounds, as I believe it has over the past eight years, the pendulum swings the other way….with force. Welcome to that world.

        Our only difference is that you believe more good people exist…corrupt free….in government than in business and I think the opposite. I think a profit motive does instill a certain morality in business to do what’s best, especially if there is unfettered competition. It’s in the best interest of a business to produce something that people want, use and is safe. In addition, producing things for the good of society instills cooperation in people….and yes, even nations.

        I love the essay, I Pencil, an excerpt below:

        “There is a fact still more astounding: The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the invisible hand at work.

        … Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.
        … The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society’s legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed.
        — ”I, Pencil”, 2008 edition

    2. pm1956 says:

      Mike:

      I’ll make just one large counterpoint to your argument, which is to note that there are (to simplify) 2 different types of businesses–family owned and run businesses, and publicly owned businesses. Trump only has any experience in a family owned business, and only in a business that he (or his father) owned. Within his business he has no need to create consensus (maybe he needs to do this to make a deal, but not with the people who work for him), and there is no evidence that he operates this way. He is known for operating in a lean and mean style, relying on a very small number of insiders, and not creating consensus.

      In government, you need to create consistency among many different groups/organizations. On trade issues, you need to coordinate between the Department of Commerce, The Department of State, The Treasury Department, the US Trade Representative, the FDA, the Department of Agriculture, etc., etc. You can’t simply dictate changes, because much of trade is conducted through international treaties, which have the force of law (which emans that the Department of Justice would also be involved in enforcement actions)…..

      Bottom line is that this is all much more complex than any business. Coordination and knowledge and expertise are all required, and Trump and his people have basically gotten to where they are by disparaging all of that–at least as it is applied within government. Expertise in business is not the same as expertise in government.

      And, of course, the results so far demonstrate exactly what happens when you try to run a government on business principles. You screw it up, just like Trump has been doing so far.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        PM:

        Good to hear from you. I appreciate the simplified version of business structure but as you and I know, there are many iterations of how a bizz is run. True, Trump ran a family bizz, but it was a myriad of businesses….run under different incorporated articles and entities in a variety of different lines, real estate, consumer goods, golf courses, etc.

        There actually is quite a bit of background about how he operates, and it’s not true that he makes decisions in isolation.

        https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/01/17/politics/donald-trump-advisers/index.html

        The bottom line is this: Trump has a close inner circle that he listens to…no different than Obama, Bush or Reagan. Perhaps Bill Clinton was one of the few modern day presidents to cast a wide net.

        There is plenty to criticize Trump about that carries substance.

        We are less than three months into this presidency. I suspect his tactics of leading might evolve.

        In any case, he’s challenging the status quo for how government is run. There are a lot of people ok with that.

        1. Dennis Lang says:

          As at least one talking head noted Trump runs his empire as a zero-sum-game. We’ve no doubt seen that approach executed in the WH and how it’s been working so far. He has to win. Even if it means validating his tweets that have no factual merit. I’m not sure if this malignant narcissism is a consistent formula for success even in private enterprise.
          Challenging the status quo was an extremely attractive campaign trait, even to those of a liberal persuasion. Drain the swamp. All for it. Except advocating for him required overlooking that there was never a coherent policy expressed, domestic or foreign, or governing experience, or that he came off as a pathological liar and morally abominable, promising the glitter of Trump University on the grandest scale, or his ill-fated network-marketing gambit, or any number of exploitative marketing deceptions..
          63 million of us looked the other way.
          But heck, we’re less than 90 days in. Right?

          1. Mike Kennedy says:

            You are right, 63 million were fed up with the status quo. Not much changed in 8 years. Poverty up, economy slowest growth of any post recession in modern history, health care costs continuing to rise, American influence in the world sinking and people’s trust in government eroding. For many, it’s time for something new.

          1. Mike Kennedy says:

            I’m not sure who to believe, but as this NYT article points out, things are changing and we will see over time how his management style stacks up. One thing is clear: Mr. Trump appears to be just as likely to avoid taking blame for anything as his predecessor was and even more thin-skinned, which I didn’t think was possible.

            http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-gives-military-new-freedom-but-with-that-comes-danger/ar-BBzmWtP?li=BBnbcA1&ocid=LENDHP

            1. pm1956 says:

              Interesting. I agree with you about Trump being thin skinned and doing everything in his power to foist blame onto others. I simply think that you are wrong when you say that you see Obama in a similar (but not quite as bad) manner. Particularly with respect to his being thin skinned. I don’t see that in Obama at all.

              What is interesting is that we are still arguing about Obama, and not Trump. Obama is, for better or worse, yesterday’s news. History will judge him (not really you or I, and it will take time for a consensus judgement to form–although I expect that he will be seen as a very good President–maybe not quite top 10, but right in that range. Better than all recent presidents with the possible exception of Reagan.) I do think that the fact we are still debating Obama strongly suggests that he was a hugely consequential (important) President.

            2. Dennis Lang says:

              Speaking of Truman. So, on a couple of occasions I’ve run into my European History Prof David Kieft at Lunds. This goes back to the 70’s. Most recently in the potato-chip aisle, He’s looking very good! As I recall, he considered Truman one of our greatest Presidents–the Marshal Plan and all that. Rebuilding Europe. Notable for a leadership quality. He chose to surround himself with the greatest minds to achieve it. We now have boy-wonder Jared at the steering wheel, Soon to have his own Marvel comic book series.
              BTW, these frequent references to the previous administration, its flaws and transgressions, now invoking Susan Rice. Does anyone think this approach is in any way meaningful other than the intentional distraction/deflection many have called it?

            3. I think the distractions work to a certain extent. News was full of Susan Rice yesterday, and for Trump’s base, which remains loyal, it gives a sense of “both sides do it so our guy is OK.” I think nobody is doing or has done what Trump has done. Both sides maybe do 2 or 3 on a scale of 10 and Trump’s doing 48 on a scale of 10. But I’m a lefty. I have to remember the right thought Obama was ruining the country. That’s the great divide. Are the Trump circus distractions working with the persuadable middle? I’d bet less so, but time will tell.

            4. Truman was a real red-ass. And yet you look back on his decisions, I don’t know which ones could be discerned as mistaken…. The bomb (it was the right thing to do, end the war…), Berlin, Palestine, integrating the mil, firing MacArthur….

            5. Mike Kennedy says:

              PM:

              Let’s do another bet for old time sake. Of course, we are going to have to wait a decade or so to see how this plays out.

              But I’m betting Mr. Obama doesn’t crack the top 15. His economic record was ok at best….jobs but painfully slow growth, no foreign policy standout accomplishments other than killing Bin Laden and landmark legislation in health care that while it has insured vast numbers of Americans, is bloated and terribly costly with no assurances that it can be sustained. I’m guessing he will rank as average to slightly above average. His average 48 percent approval rating, I think, reflected the fact that people may have liked him personally but weren’t impressed with his policies. He was very good at winning elections for himself…not so good for others.

              You may not have seen the thin-skin but Google that and there are any number of stories that detail it. And why not? When a fawning press basically is rooting for you, it’s difficult to hear any criticism and not be thin-skinned about it. Mr. Obama never quite lived up to the pedestal perch that was designed for him the minute he took office, nor will he go down as the transformational president he set out to be.

              All in all, I think Bruce was right originally when he theorized that you can’t run government like a business. His piece made me realize several things in this debate….politicians favor parochial interests over sound economics; they need headlines even when doing nothing would be better than doing something; they use other people’s money unlike corporations using their own; the government doesn’t tolerate competition, for government enterprises are always monopolies; government is regulated by….government; and government was designed by the founders to be messy and inefficient with many competing interests, not to be run by a CEO.

              Thanks Bruce. You’ve once again made me think and re-evaluate.

              Six pack, PM?

            6. pm1956 says:

              Mike, I will gladly give you an opportunity to win back that six pack (which is long gone, of course. actually, I can’t remember exactly what the bet was, either!).

              I am hoping that waiting a decade won’t be a problem, so lets see if this Rowdy Crowd can keep it up for that long!

              Long may double entendres live!

  5. You could open this up a little… I went to conversion therapy, had my inner trolls exorcised….

    I want to riddle the crowd this…

    Ya know, Neil Gorsuch…. I’m pleased with this. As an eyes-wide-open conservative type, I’m seeing we get one term of Trump… most of it will have been a debacle…. But we got Gorsuch as opposed to Merrick Garland, who probably never, ever would have ruled against the government under any circumstance. And what I’ll assert is, that’s not a good thing, a Garland type judge…

    With the Gorsuch hearings I thought the conservative vs liberal perspective on constructionism and the ‘living constitution’ was revealed pretty well. IE, conservatives want judges to apply the law and liberals want judges to ‘rule for the little guy’.

    Don’t you liberals grasp the danger there of the law not protecting anyone or anything if justice is to be determined as a function of the who superficially deserves some redistribution? I thought that was appalling, basically.

  6. Say the status quo needed some disruption and wrecking by a POTUS (….and I think it did…a little disruption and wrecking is cathartic at times…) can we expect that universe of characters who might bring that disruption and wrecking to provide a more admirable character than Trump? I kinda think not, unfortunately. This is what we get with disruptors and wreckers.

    I don’t really believe the basic proposition was “Trump is going to make govt run like a business”. The politician who makes ‘govt run like a business’… the earliest example in my lifetime was probably Perot, but I’m sure there were predecessors. I dunno, Hoover maybe even. Its bullshit of course. But what the the businessman as POTUS is supposed to be able to provide is a quality of executive decision making that’s better, and able to break through the sclerosis of DC. Meh… we’re talking about Donald Trump here. It would be misguided to be invested in his decision making qualities. Just hope for some cathartic disruption and wrecking.

    Mitt Romney would have been a very decent President, businessman type or otherwise, can we acknowledge that now crowdarians?

    1. pm1956 says:

      Yes, I think he would have been decent, competent, and generally, ethical.Despite being a businessman, he would not have tried to run the government like a business. He most certainly would not have been a disruptor–he was a card carrying member of the GOP establishment, and would have faithfully worked to enact their preferred policies (which Trump is sorta/kinda trying to do, in his generally incompetent fashion). But I don’t think that he would have been as good a President as Obama, and I happen to think that those GOP establishment policies would not serve our country well.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      Agree. Very thin line up on our side. He also appears to have again flip flopped on holding China’s feet to the fire on Taiwan, stealing intellectual property and subsidies to state owned industries that inhibit American companies and farmers from competing. But this isn’t even running government like a business. A smart CEO would bring in qualified advisers on any serious issue…so would a smart president.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        On another issue, stupid and foolish move by Senate Democrats on SCOTUS vote. Filibuster is gone. Dumb to pick a fight on conservative replacing a conservative. Suppose it rallies the base but not much more.

        1. pm1956 says:

          I would disagree with you, sort of, on this one.

          Basically, I think that the filibuster is already dead. If not on this issue, then on another one. The reality is that you can not legitimately blame its death on one party or on another–increasing partisanship is what killed it. Generally, I do think that the GOP is/has been more partisan, but the GOP is basically responding to changes in society (cultural, economic, etc.).

          Thinking as a Senate Democrat, you know that Gorsuch is going to make it to the Supreme Court. That is a given. You also know that the filibuster is going to die sooner or later. You also know that your base is upset, and still resentful about Garland. So make a grand gesture here (despite the futility), do something that will make your base think you have a backbone, and, at the same time, force the GOP to pull the trigger on killing the filibuster, and do you best to make them look bad.

          Sure, those are cheap political points, but better to do it this way than to have the GOP do it to you after 2020 when you are putting the next Supreme Court justice on the bench.

          At least, that is how I would game it out, and I think that this is logical. Not really any down side for the Dems.

          1. Mike Kennedy says:

            No benefit had they held off and waited until a conservative nominated to succeed a Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

    2. I don’t know that the Chinese can negotiate circles around Trump’s band of amateurs what with the band of amateurs default position being that they are going to get some kind of clawback on trade from the Chinese that they are not going to get…. Seems like a recipe for stasis more so than the US getting screwed.

      What is definitely pure fantasy is the belief / notion that Trump can negotiate away all the differences for whatever existing partisan logjams there might be. Truth: he’s not a negotiator of any achievement whatsoever, and the Ds and the RS don’t have anything they will give up in order to compromise.

      Some things:

      I don’t think Chait gets this right, mostly because he overestimates how much peo0ple ‘regret’. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/04/republicans-are-going-to-wish-hillary-clinton-won.html

      Analysis: True http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/4/6/15205032/trump-infrastructure-plan

      I don’t at all think ‘1984’ is analogous to Trump’s capture of the POTUS. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-film-1984-cinemas-idUSKBN1761VQ False analogy that comes from the hysterical nature of the ‘resistance’.

    3. Dennis Lang says:

      And I had to google Truman again to see what the former haberdasher achieved in his time, and why my History Prof. thought so highly of him. Apparently one great virtue was that he had no reservation in surrounding himself with experienced professionals “a lot smarter than he was.” From google for what it’s worth:
      Domestic economic recovery
      Racial integration of military
      United Nations
      Truman Doctrine
      Marshall Plan
      State of Isreal
      Berlin Air Lift
      Creation of NATO

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        If you haven’t yet, read David McCullough’s masterpiece biography “Truman.” It is worth every minute. Chapter 14, which is 66 pages, is so good that a friend said it constitutes for him, standing by itself, the greatest American history essay he’s ever read.

        1. Have read it, Mike, and I agree. Will go upstairs and look at Ch. 14. The Little White House in Key West is also a highlight of a trip to the end of the road. Best part is the custom poker table he had built — with cupholders! The General vs. The President, about Truman and MacArthur, by H. W. Brands, is also very good.

          1. Mike Kennedy says:

            Bruce,

            I heard the Brands book is excellent. It’s on my list. I read his bio on Franklin The First American,” and enjoyed it very much.

            1. I know, right? As I get older, and look at all the books on my shelf, and I read about 50 a year, I’m not sure I’m going to make it through them all. Of course, stopping buying books would help…

  7. Mike Kennedy says:

    I think you will enjoy it immensely. I’m with you, Bruce. Love buyingvthem with the intention of reading all of them! One of life’s simple pleasures.

    1. And this is when we need to trust the president’s competence, honesty and judgment. Assad is a bastard and this may be a good move, although fruitless in the long run probably in terms of solving any problems. But the question has to be asked … is this at least in part a move by this incompetent knee-jerk uninformed so-called president to distract the country from his woes? Presidential approval usually goes up during war or military action, and Trump needs a boost. Sad to say I don’t trust this lying infant in any crisis.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Three coincidences? North Korea increasing belligerence, China coming for a visit and sitting on the fence on North Korea and a chemical attack in Syria. Interesting timing. Maybe the message isn’t just for Syria.

      2. Dennis Lang says:

        “Presidential approval usually goes up….” Yeah, I’m so bent out of shape over this President, with all the horrific stuff going on in Syria and elsewhere around the globe, one of my terribly biased first reactions to this strike is “damn, his approval rating will go up, and Trump advocates will claim he can’t possibly be in Putin’s pocket, proving the Russia stuff is nonsense.”

        1. And he looks like a man of action, where Obama didn’t strike after Assad used chemical weapons. Some international journalists are reporting that activists who want help with the Syria tragedy are applauding this move, tepid and probably ineffective as it is. I hate to give this infant any credit, but some around the world are saying this was needed. And as Mike Kennedy wrote, this sends a signal to other maniacs not to mess with Trump.

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