American Conservatism • Donald Trump • Post • Steve Bannon • the Presidency • The Resistance (Snicker)

Trump’s Character and Trump’s Presidency

A few days ago, I had a dust-up on Twitter with National Review’s Jonah Goldberg. Our conflict was about Trump’s fitness to be president, a subject that has been broached millions of times on social media by other internet partisans. Twitchy posted the exchange and promoted it this way: “It’s On! Jonah Goldberg, David Horowitz Duke It Out Over Trump’s Character.” The donnybrook led to 500,000 impressions on my Twitter feed, including legions of anti-Trump zealots eager to demonstrate how creative they could be in devising insults to throw at me for defending Trump: beyond dumb, in need of psychiatric help, and probably receiving payments through offshore bank accounts.

As it happens, I’ve known Jonah for more than 20 years, admired his wit and insights, promoted his books, and put him on my platforms. I was distressed when he joined the NeverTrump chorus, but never wrote a critical word about him—hoping, I guess, that as Trump systematically undid the damage that the Obama regime had inflicted on the country, Jonah would return to his senses.

Other NeverTrump conservatives, on the other hand, just jumped to the other side. Bill Kristol even went so far as to collude with the Brennan-instigated witch-hunt by spreading talking points from the Steele dossier. It was easy to write these renegades off, though still wondering how they rationalized the betrayal of their lifetime principles, or were able to deny that they were doing so.

Afraid to Get Their Principles Wet
But a group of NeverTrumpers like Jonah adopted a less radical stance and conceded that many or even most of Trump’s policy actions were actually conservative, and ones they agreed with. What made them NeverTrumpers was his horrible, defective character. Most prominent among this group was Bret Stephens, whom I have also admired and promoted in the past. At the end of Trump’s first year, Stephens wrote a column for the New York Times—the position being an obvious reward for his defection—called “Why I’m Still A Never Trumper.” In it he praised Trump’s major policy actions since entering the White House. But then he attacked Trump’s bad character, which was unpresidential and indefensible. And averred: “I still wish Hillary Clinton were president.”

When I read his column, the first question that popped into my mind was: How can indefensible and unpresidential bad character lead to such admirable presidential decisions? I am not aware of any attempt by Stephens or Jonah or similar NeverTrumpers to provide an answer.

The posture of these NeverTrumpers is transparently self-serving. It preserves their intellectual credentials as “conservatives,” and simultaneously takes them out of the line of fire from an increasingly vicious Left whose goal is to destroy Trump and his presidency, and—incidentally—conservative America. Sitting on the fence affords them new career opportunities—appearances on CNN and MSNBC and columns in the New York Times. All that’s required is that they avoid taking sides in the political war that is engulfing the country. All this reminds me of a memorable Trotsky sneer about liberals, whom he accused of being reluctant to step into the stream of political conflict because they were afraid to get their moral principles wet.

So, when this tweet from Jonah appeared on my feed, I abandoned my self-restraint and answered it:

This was followed by a retweet and a new comment:

I don’t know whether it was the snide-ness of this comment or its absoluteness that triggered me, but it seemed so pigheadedly self-righteous, so oblivious of the complexities of human character, not to mention the nuclear dimensions of the Left’s war against Trump that I responded—and in doing so walked into a hornets’ nest.

Which drew this retort:

The nastiness of that last sentence shocked me. Evidently the hatred of Trump is so fevered it can burn through two decades of cordiality and acquaintance. I wonder if Jonah would be so hostile to someone who shared his view of Trump’s character but thought Trump’s policies were racist, and tyrannical.

Two Episodes in Trump’s Favor
As it happens, I am well aware of the vulnerabilities of what I tweeted. I should never have written it and fallen into the Twitter trap. Tweets don’t provide enough space to account for the complexities of this subject or provide sufficient examples to make one’s case. “Character” is notoriously mercurial, and complex to judge. As it happens, in referring to Trump’s loyalty I had in mind two episodes. The first was the topic of the week, Omarosa. Why did he stick with such a wretched individual for so long, despite warnings from everyone around him that she was no good? Loyalty to a fault.

The second was when the Left showed its teeth in his first days in the White House, and maliciously attacked Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions as white nationalists and racists and even neo-Nazis. Any other Republican, freshly in office, would have thrown them under the bus, however false the accusations. Trump’s fortitude, his refusal to back down under withering fire, is also a character trait, and an admirable one—actually the key to his success where Bush and congressional Republicans had repeatedly failed. Loyalty.

Making Compromises, Keeping Promises
Since Jonah brings up Trump’s three marriages let me ask the question: who can see inside another person’s marriage? I thought, moreover, that since Reagan—who had two wives—entered the White House and performed as a conservative hero, Republicans would have gotten over their puritanical prejudices. All politicians have flawed characters. It’s the nature of the job, which requires compromises, prevarications, dirty deals, and the like. In Trump’s case, what is important is not his loyalty to his wives (and none of them seem to be complaining) but his loyalty to the cause he champions and the people who support him.

Has Trump kept his promises to his supporters? Has he stayed the course he set for himself of making America great again? That loyalty is the character trait that matters most in a leader, and should matter most in any assessment of Trump. He has taken great personal risks and incurred great personal costs. His reputation for example, was pretty good before he ran against Democrats and their media, who fueled an epidemic of hate portraying him as a racist and neo-Nazi.

I’m betting there isn’t another Republican who would not have wilted under these attacks. Who would have had the fortitude to stay the course, and keep his promises. That’s really good character. And it’s presidential.

Photo Credit: Chris Kleponis – Pool/Getty Images

Conservatives • Defense of the West • Elections • EU • Europe • Immigration • Political Parties • Post • Steve Bannon

Bannon Builds a Bomb

Liberals keen to wake up from what they regard as a prelapsarian nightmare in which fascists have stormed the White House, and “The Handmaid’s Tale” is some kind of documentary, might want to invest more time in their painful misreading of dystopian fictions.

What therapists call dissociative behavior, liberals aghast at the warp and weft of democracy call Monday. Or Tuesday. Or . . . you get the point.

Because convincing oneself that an unkind and unforgiving world will soon revert back to what one would like it to be, might be comforting. But reality rampages on.

If one man animates the coping mechanisms of the “woke” more than President Trump, it is certainly his old pal Steve Bannon.

Bannon holds a dubious honor. He is one of perhaps three people whose name alone sparks a Pavlovian response among the throngs of the pro-establishment resistance.

He was barely mentioned within the pages of the Daily Beast last week before the familiar cries of “white supremacist!” punctured an already shrill din.

Bannon’s latest “outrage” it seems, is in birthing a new populist foundation called The Movement. Across a continent already bubbling with populist uprisings claiming the power centers of Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Italy, Bannon is fusing a dirty bomb with currency and credence.

Europe’s populist movement has the air of a ragtag insurgency. They like to fight dirty. Most importantly: they like to win. Bannon thinks melding this all together with stacks of cash, and political ballast will provide succor to a movement whose shoestring victories have rocked the continent.

The Movement will arm-up suitors with money, messaging advice, polling and data targeting, and intellectual meat from sympathetic think-tanks—something that famishes President Trump in a largely hostile Washington brain-center.

By capturing a third of lawmakers at next year’s seismic European Parliament elections, the Wall Street apostate wants to bomb the European Union into reform—or rubble. Bear in mind that a majority of European citizens think the beleaguered institution is “headed in the wrong direction.”

Such an achievement certainly would cause a ruckus. Populism’s detractors at the Financial Times cling to the hope that populists, once dehydrated of their heady for-the-people brew, will dissolve into the apparently botchy dunces the elite insists they are. But to the dismay of the old order, disruption isn’t all they have.

The hopes of detractors have been dashed in Austria and Italy, where Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has taken swift and popular action against immigration. The sober Foreign Policy even touted the Millennial as Europe’s future, given his deft synthesis of populist heart and conservative head.

In Italy, it took Lega supremo Matteo Salvini just one day to block incoming migrant ships. Despite the usual eruptions of pixel and paper, a full 80 percent of Italians supported the move.

What ails the European Union reaches far beyond our own “Carry On Brexit.” Voters in every member state have said that immigration, and terrorism—the EU’s siamese bête noireconcern them most.

But Bannon the blotchy bombardier should tread carefully. News of his new movement hasn’t been met with the expected bobbing of pitchforks. Populists across the continent are lukewarm at best. Perhaps his masterminding of the Roy Moore debacle still sullies his stock.

Or not. After Theresa May revealed her wildly insulting plan to leave the European Union in name only, her big rival for the top job stepped down. And fired up. Boris Johnson, ex-foreign secretary wasted no time in attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s faltering leadership. The carnival of stabbings on the streets paints a well-documented reality.

Buzzfeed reported that Bannon also has been talking to Boris. Though the substance of their “regular” chats wasn’t detailed, they’re probably not discussing the weather.

This really got the Resistance going. David Lammy MP, who backs a “People’s Vote” to overturn the people’s vote, this week called the will of said people “bollocks,” and tweeted his boiler-plated disgust.

No doubt, Lammy and the rest of them are a least a little worried. Boris is making moves. And he really wants to leave the European Union, not just mollify the plebs with a bankers’ Brexit. When Theresa May falls, the smart money is on the blonde, despite what the London enbubbled insist.

Yet, while they giddy themselves with fantasies of thwarting Brexit, and defenestrating President Trump, they’ve failed to notice that politics has changed. The debate is no longer Left versus Right. It’s what policy wonk David Goodhart calls the Anywheres versus Somewheres.

The Somewheres voted for Trump and Brexit. The Anywheres spit bile at both. As Goodhart points out, the traditional center-left’s collapse motors the populist right. Abandoned working-class voters don’t recognize their old parties now captured by the intellectual left.

Running to the now economically-prudent right, the Left’s abandoned voters have found a voice. Alas, 2 million nonvoters won Brexit for the plebs; the Rust Belt won it for Trump. The fix is in. Screaming at this week’s designated boogeyman won’t change a thing.

Photo credit: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

America • Big Media • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Post • Steve Bannon • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Michael Wolff Did Trump a Big Favor

You wouldn’t know it from the media coverage, but President Trump is emerging from the furor over Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” as the winner. For all the seemingly damaging headlines coming out of Stephen K. Bannon’s disclosures to Wolff, the book represents a political victory for Trump, one that could improve his party’s prospects heading into the midterm elections.

The reasoning underlying this counterintuitive conclusion is simple: Trump’s disavowal of Bannon, his former campaign chief executive and White House strategist, and Bannon’s ensuing contrition, reminds fractious Republicans that this is Trump’s party now. Political leaders must be either feared or loved. Trump showed that he should be feared by his rivals. This demonstration will help hold together the nascent congressional consensus that formed around the Trump agenda late last year after months of grumbling and inaction. The burgeoning sense of the possible and the politically necessary facilitated a long-sought tax bill that included a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

For Bannon, receiving a public excoriation at the hands of the president he once served must be excruciating. But for the president, it is liberating and politically beneficial.

Read the rest at the Washington Post.

2016 Election • America • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Hillary Clinton • Post • Republicans • Steve Bannon • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

Is Trump Really Crazy?

Michael Wolff’s sensational exposé of the supposed chaos of the Trump White House is no doubt largely a mix of fantasy, exaggeration, and some accidental truth. The postmodernist author even admits that his own methodologies defy verification, and so leave it up to the reader to distinguish his facts from fiction.

Wolff’s theme is that Trump is hopelessly petty, childlike, and uninformed. The few adults in the room around him—primarily, we are asked to believe, Wolff’s chief source, Steve Bannon—must cajole, pamper, and flatter him to get anything done, when they are not backstabbing one another.

Fair enough—Trump certainly may be naïve and uninitiated. No one doubts that he is thin-skinned and far too often goes down Twitter cul de sacs. But Trump’s naiveté is not quite what Wolff thinks.

Rather, no sane president should ever have let a writer with Wolff’s dubious and often discredited background into the White House. That such a rogue was even allowed through the door raises the question of administration sobriety.

Wolff at the Door
Not since the late Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone charmed his way into General Stanley McCrystal’s inner circle—only to trash his benefactors—has an executive team apparently proved so naïve with reporters. Certainly, in letting Wolff talk “off the record” to high officials, the Trump Administration showed poor judgment. That Wolff claims he easily got such haphazard access, if half true, could be a testament to Trump’s ego or the ego of those around him, such as Bannon. Did they really believe that they could charm and flip almost anyone—even among a media whose stories and reports are 90 percent negative to Trump?

Of course, any president lax enough to let a Wolff through the door inevitably would be embarrassed by the results, given that all administrations can be petty, even gross.

Lyndon Johnson had a repulsive habit of referring openly to his sexual organ as “Jumbo”—and occasionally displaying it to startled staffers—a felony in our present culture. Worse still, he often gave dictation while defecating on the toilet.

John Kennedy crudely seduced dozens of his own female staffers. One, Mimi Alford, who came to work a 19-year-old virgin, wrote an entire memoir of her mechanical trysts inside the White House with JFK, including his inaugural seduction, which, by any contemporary definition, would now qualify as sexual assault. She lamented that he once had pawned her off to fellate one of his aides. A perverted rapist as our beloved commander-in-chief? No need to imagine a Wolff version of the Clinton White House.

I could an imagine a Wolff in FDR’s White House circa early 1945 having a field day: jazzing up the clandestine nocturnal trysts between the wheelchair-bound president and his mistress Lucy Mercer. His daughter Anna would be exposed as the go-between, the upstart young proto-Ivanka who had moved into the White House and became virtually a ceremonial First Lady.

All the while the Roosevelt team would struggle to lie to the press about the president’s sky-high blood pressure, chain-smoking, martini drinking, and growing feebleness. In place of Steve Bannon’s shoot-from-the-hip notions of geopolitics, a Harry Hopkins or freelancing and estranged Eleanor Roosevelt could offer mini-interviews on the administration’s successful politicking with good old Uncle Joe at Yalta. The difference is that FDR had the press in his pocket and even was too crafty to trust any of his “friends” with unfettered access.

Petty and Petulant vs. Sober and Judicious?
For all his gossip and intrigue, Wolff offers little insight into why such a supposedly disruptive and dysfunctional campaign team won the presidency. The victory, according to Wolff, was to the surprise of Trump and his advisors themselves! The logic of Wolff’s argument is that a pathetic Trump team that did not really wish to beat Clinton, Inc. If true, that paradox would say what exactly about Hillary’s fate? That wasting a mere year to win something you do not want is preferable to spending 17 years scheming in vain for your life’s ambition?

Wolff’s ogre purportedly sloppily eats Big Macs in bed, golfs more than Obama did, has no hair at all on the top of his head, and at 71 is supposedly functionally illiterate. OK, perhaps someone the last half-century read out loud to Trump the thousands of contracts he signed. But what we wish to know from Wolff is how did his trollish Trump figure out that half the country—the half with the more important Electoral College voice—was concerned about signature issues that either were unknown to or scorned by his far more experienced and better-funded rivals?

Why did not a well-read Marco Rubio or later Yale Law graduate Hillary Clinton focus on unfair trade and declining manufacturing, illegal immigration, unnecessary and optional overseas interventions, and the excesses of the deep administrative “swamp” state?

Who discovered these issues or knew how to develop them? Was it really the feisty Corey Lewandowski? The genius Paul Manafort? How, then, could Wolff’s idiot grasp that these concerns were the keys to flipping purple swing-states that had previously been written off as reliably Democratically patronized clinger/irredeemable/deplorable territory by far better informed and more tech-savvy campaign operatives?

Once Trump was in power, how does Wolff explain the near phenomenal economic turnaround in the latter part of 2017? Does he not see that the stupider you make Trump in his successful first year, by inference the even stupider you make the supposedly smarter actors in their many failed years?

Although psychological in part, the upswing is not accidental. So far economic robustness seems predicated on massive deregulation, the expectation and then the reality of comprehensive tax reform and reduction, wooing home capital and industry, expanded energy production, loud business boosterism, recalibrating foreign investment and trade, and declining illegal immigration. Did Trump do that between scarfing down cups of Häagen-Dazs? Did his team act on their own while Trump was too busy scraping the crumbs out of the bottoms of his barrels of KFC?

Why did not the supposedly far more sober and judicious Obama comprehend how to achieve 3 percent GDP growth. Could not Larry Summers or Timothy Geithner have ushered in record consumer and business confidence? Why did not black employment reach 2018 levels in 2013?

Is not a man like Obama who eats arugula instead of daily swigging a dozen diet sodas far more studious and intellectually curious on all matters economic? Are we dunces really to believe merely building a high-rise in Manhattan takes more savvy than editing in near absentia the Harvard Law Review?

Abroad, why did not the supposedly worldly Hillary Clinton as secretary of state tweet her support for the Iranian revolutionaries in the streets in 2009—in the manner that a supposedly buffoonish and semi-literate and combed-over Donald Trump instinctively did in 2018? Presidencies in purported shambles, after all, are supposed to leave the country in greater shambles.

Buffoon or Revolutionary?
Absent, then, in Wolff’s supposed Confederacy of Trump White House Dunces is any explanation how such supposed clueless amateurs reset economic and foreign policy in such a way as to achieve startling improvements in less than a year at home and abroad.

And that is the quandary is it not? The dunce Trump in his first year was supposed to prove an irrelevant dumbo, not a skilled conservative revolutionary who threatens to nullify 2009-2017?

The lurid revelations of Trump White House chaos make no sense, given the Trump electoral success and first-year record of governance—unless the stories are either fake news or perhaps a quarter true.

If the latter, then the answer might be while the Trump West Wing could at times resemble the pages of Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars, the Trump team—his cabinet officers and economic and national security advisors—were not only not much involved in such Bannon intrigue, they were most likely completely free from it.

Or cabinet heads won unsurpassed latitude from a supposedly novice and naïve West Wing—and benefitted through its directives to act boldly and without worry about past centrist protocol or having their initiatives being overridden by a control-freak president.

But that possibility, in turn, raises a further question: how can a vain man who is in constant need of reassurance from everyone from Rupert Murdoch to Joe Scarborough know enough to appoint the likes of a James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, or Nikki Haley? Would it not be more likely that Michael Wolff’s Howard Hughes-like Trump would have appointed his sister to the Supreme Court, or avoided the likes of the bulldoggish ramrod John Kelly as his chief of staff?

Furthermore, given that Wolff argues that the Trump inner circle seems to be little different from the Trump of “The Apprentice” reality TV fame, why, then, would half the country vote for someone who has orange skin and combed over yellow hair, and is supposedly paranoid to the degree of eating junk food out of fear of being poisoned?

What does that ribaldry say about the voters lack of confidence in the more normal Harvard or Yale Law alternative nursery of properly schooled presidents? Is Trump’s crudity tolerable given the 2016 alternative of breaking federal law by setting up a home-cooked email server, and lying about it, but doing so with the fawning admiration of bicoastal elite culture?

If, in reductionist terms, half of the country accepted the crude antithesis of refined New York-Washington establishment expertise, why exactly was that?

Could it be that for all the sophistication, education, and training of a Hillary Clinton or Susan Rice, they could be even cruder in their own way—whether lying about deaths in Benghazi or scapegoating and jailing a video maker on a trumped up charge of parole violations? Was it that voters did not trust the establishment’s collective judgment on the Iran or Bowe Bergdahl deals, or Hillary Clinton’s “We came, we saw, he died” sick giggle of an idea of a brutally murdered Gadhafi and bombing Libya to smithereens—and then leaving?

In short, an isolated Trump campaign and initial administration were, by the definition of its very character and intent, going to be very weird and strange—and orphaned from the halls of supposed expertise and sober establishmentarian protocol. Was that not the point of Trump’s blind Samson with his arms around the pillars of the Temple of Dagon campaign? 

What few people—Wolff least of all—understood is that amid the supposed chaotic palace intrigue, Trump on his own chose to receive some good advice from Mike Pence, congressional Republican leaders in the House and Senate, conservative activist organizations, the legal team in the White House, and others. Thus he made good political and legal appointments and liberated them with wide parameters and trajectories.

Wolff’s disclosures, if a few are even marginally true, are messy and the stuff of caricature—but not as funny and depressing as the fact that someone of Trump’s background and temperament saw more clearly than his supposed betters where the country should be headed and who might lead it in such a direction.

If that be chaos, then Trump made the most of it—and at least for now the result is preferable to the mannered mediocrity of the past. Such an admission says lots more about those who think they should be in power than it does those who voted for their antitheses.

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America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Donald Trump • Economy • Post • Republicans • Steve Bannon • the Presidency • Trump White House

I Voted for Trump, Not Bannon or Kushner

“Steve Bannon was a man of vision,” the columnist David P. Goldman told Alex Marlow of Breitbart News in August. Certainly. Goldman also is sound in his belief that “the loss of [Bannon’s] counsel to the president will hurt the United States.”

Bannon was the only one in the public eye warning of the economic threat China poses to the United States. He had tapped into the nationalist-populist zeitgeist that was bubbling to the surface years before working for Donald Trump. And, regardless what the White House may claim today, there can be little doubt that Bannon was a crucial player in Donald Trump’s victory (though, Trump is right: only Trump is ultimately responsible for his win in 2016).

The same thing could be said of President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner: he played a crucial part in Trump’s election. I never took the easy line of castigating the president for placing his son-in-law in a position of high responsibility—despite having several more qualified (at least on paper) people available.

Fact is, Kushner has accomplished successfully almost every task he’s been given. The president credited Kushner with the brilliant diplomatic move of selling arms to Saudi Arabia. This move shored up Saudi Arabia’s support for the administration’s vital efforts to contain Iran. Also, the president claims Kushner has played a large role in renewing our relationship with Israel.

But keep this in mind: many of Kushner’s efforts weren’t peculiar to him. The idea of selling arms to Saudi Arabia, for example, was in keeping with decades of U.S. foreign policy decisions in the Mideast. Meanwhile, the decision to shore up U.S.-Israeli relations was a no-brainer after eight years of malign-neglect under the Obama Administration. In other words, Kushner did not bring anything innovative or new to the table. He simply mimicked what other, more experienced people have done before him.

Michael Wolff’s forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” is the talk of the town this week. Wolff reports, among other things, that President Trump is “childlike” and that he and his administration “lurch” from crisis-to-crisis each day—particularly before the arrival of former Marine Corps General John Kelly as White House chief of staff. Many people blame Steve Bannon for much of the chaos that stunted progress for months at the beginning of Trump’s historic presidency.

However, we mustn’t forget that much of the chaos that the administration endured early on was due to the fact that Jared Kushner was on the warpath against Bannon and his economic nationalists (to say nothing of the ongoing “deep state” assault on Trump’s legitimacy as president). It was Kushner who aligned early on with the Goldman Sachs folks (who now dominate the Trump Administration’s economic policy shop). The financiers from Wall Street are democratic globalists, who are naturally at odds with economic nationalists. Bannon’s ouster was the inevitable result of the infighting. Bannon also took on the Republican establishment in Congress, as he was fighting against the democratic globalists in the White House.

All in all, Bannon simply made too many enemies in Washington. Clearly, Bannon was not an exceptionally skilled bureaucratic infighter (he was a self-admitted “street fighter”). In fact, Bannon’s problem was likely that he was too honest about his intentions for his own good.

President Trump says that Bannon is “crazy” (not so), and that he’s only in it for himself. Maybe so. One needs a bit of an ego in this business to make it. But, the one thing we should never deny is that Bannon and his economic nationalists were critical for Trump’s victory in 2016 because President Trump’s populist message was largely one of economic nationalism. To abandon that message, and those who believe in that message, would be dangerous going into the 2018 midterms.

What’s more, President Trump needs to understand that Kushner’s purported financial improprieties are fueling Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump Administration at this point. They—not Bannon (or economic nationalism)—are to blame for Trump’s current predicament. Trump should remember these truths and keep his ire trained on those in the White House responsible for the missteps of the administration’s first year.

So, while I appreciate Bannon’s worldview, I didn’t vote for him on November 4, 2016. I didn’t vote for Jared Kushner, either. I voted for Donald Trump. And, for the most part, I’ve been made very happy with that vote.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Administrative State • America • Americanism • Congress • Donald Trump • GOPe • Immigration • Post • Republicans • self-government • separation of powers • Steve Bannon • Trump White House

Bob Corker, Scion of the Ruling Class

Donald Trump has an uncanny ability to find and root out even the most entrenched members of the ruling class.

Retiring Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is now exposed as the next in a long line of undistinguished establishment Republicans captured by the very interests they were elected to rebuff.

In what has become a worn out routine among members of the GOPe, over the weekend Corker ran to the New York Times—the very epicenter of liberalism—to unload on Trump. Corker, who seems to have more regard for the views and opinions of liberal elites than he does for the voters who put him into office (61 percent of voting Tennesseans went for Trump), riffed on his personal feelings about the president for over 25 minutes.

He called Trump’s presidency “a reality show” and said that the president’s reckless actions are putting the nation “on the path to World War III.” Corker stated that Trump needs to have his aides constantly available “to talk him down.” Trump, he maintained, is pure “chaos” and “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

“He concerns me,” Corker declared. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Later, Corker continued his tirade on Twitter:

All this from a man who was once considered as a possible VP pick and served as an informal foreign policy counselor to Trump during the 2016 campaign.

And this from a man who in September, when he was still considering a run for a third term in the Senate, thought enough of Trump to seek out a lengthy one-on-one talk with him. Corker’s spokeswoman called that meeting “wide ranging” and “extremely productive.” Downplaying any rift between himself and President Trump, Corker at the time maintained that “for people to try to act as if there is daylight between us as a result is just not true.”

So in a little more than half a month, Trump went from close friend and trusted adviser to tin-pot dictator possessed of an itchy trigger finger? To the members of the ruling class, this behavior is what counts as “normal” politics in our age. But to most observers recalling this series of events, one of these two parties appears petulant and given to indecision—and that party is not the president.

Glancing over the record of Corker’s two terms in the Senate, voters should be relieved that Trump did not involve him in the administration in any meaningful way.

In 2006, Corker promised the hard working people of Tennessee, ”You’re going to have a senator from Tennessee, not D.C.” Since then, Corker has reliably fallen right in line with the ways of the Beltway ruling class.

Corker voted for Wall Street bailouts and approved President Obama’s radical nominee Loretta Lynch for attorney general.

On foreign policy, he represents a continuation of the feckless policies of the Obama Administration. Corker allowed the Iran deal to go through by subverting the Senate’s power to ratify treaties under Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution. Instead of insisting on the constitutionally required two-thirds of the Senate needed to approve a treaty, Corker issued a bill turning that provision on its head and making it necessary for two-thirds of the Senate to vote in favor of blocking the treaty. Senators would be required to register their negative assessment of President Obama’s deal rather than simply decline to vote for it.

As Andrew C. McCarthy noted back in 2015:

Under the Constitution, Obama’s Iran deal would not have a prayer. Under the Corker bill, it would sail through. And once again, it would be Republicans first ensuring that self-destruction is imposed on us, then striking the pose of dogged opponents by casting futile nay votes.

Corker maintained that his bill was necessary to stop President Obama from negotiating a secret deal with Iran. But the Iranians soon made the contents of the deal public, thereby undercutting Corker’s rationale. Corker helped weaken the Senate’s power over treaties and furthered Barack Obama’s radical agenda with the mullahs. All in a good day’s work for a member of the ruling class.

On immigration, an issue that is at the heart of Trump’s agenda to recover the sovereignty of the American people, Corker has been a disaster. In 2013, Corker attempted to save the horrendous Gang of Eight immigration bill by putting forward an amendment that would have granted amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants and the millions more who would have come streaming across the border in exchange for a paltry promise of doubling the number of border patrol agents. Corker took a “stand” for the same non-existent “enforcement” policies Republicans have been touting for decades but would have continued to invite millions more immigrants into our country no matter the wishes of the people who elected him or the effects on them and our nation as a whole.

For the members of the Republican establishment being “tough” on immigration is just a game they play. They know we don’t like the way things are going now or the increasing levels of toleration they seem to have for open borders, so they are happy to use the issue as a wedge that helps them to get elected. But they don’t really mean to solve the problem. In the first place, they’d lose the wedge. In the second, they don’t actually think we know what we are talking about on immigration. They’re quite sure they’re more refined and know better.  

The people of Tennessee deserve better—they deserve a senator who stands by the positions he promised to uphold. And so do all Americans. When consent is thus abused, it is hardly right to say that it is freely given.

Indeed, Bob Corker is their beau ideal of a senator.

How do we know? Just look at the  the ruling class and their reaction to the kerfuffle between him and Trump. For the likes of Mitch McConnell, being willing to violate the Constitution, vote for open borders policies, and further President Obama’s aims in the world reflects the kind of flexibility that makes Corker a “valuable member” of the GOP majority in the Senate. Never mind that this “flexibility” is not something Corker was willing to market to his voters while running for office.

NeverTrump U.S. Representative Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) praised Corker’s tirade against Trump and urged more of his colleagues in Congress to “speak out” in this manner. On Twitter, Joe Scarborough wrote of his “love” for Corker. Bill Kristol is calling on Corker to stay in office and “continue to represent” the people of Tennessee “to best of his ability using his judgment.” Apparently for Kristol, Corker is doing exactly what he was elected to do: override the consent of the governed with his own superior judgment (a judgment formed by other members of the ruling elite, of course).

The members of the ruling elite sure know how to come to the defense of one of their own when times are tough.

Steve Bannon is right: Corker should resign immediately. He represents a failed status quo—something that is, by now, obvious to all but Corker and his cronies. His two terms in the Senate have been nothing but a milquetoast blend of pomposity and neoliberal orthodoxies that have come to define our politics in recent years. The people of Tennessee deserve better—they deserve a senator who stands by the positions he promised to uphold. And so do all Americans. When consent is thus abused, it is hardly right to say that it is freely given.

Congressmen and senators are free to change their minds while they are in office, of course. But they should be honest about such shifts in position and make a real case for the new ones they’ve adopted. When GOPe politicians use wedge issues like immigration or feign support for a president popular with their constituents to secure their election but then turn in a different direction once elected, they dishonor their office and spurn the sovereign people who elected them. It is an abuse of their power and it is wrong.

In order to Make America Great Again, Congress needs to become great again. The Bob Corkers of our politics have been abusing our consent and their power for far too long, ingratiating themselves to the ruling elite and finally, becoming members of it themselves. It is high time that we show them in whom the powers of government are actually vested. We have the power to choose better representation. We should do it.

 

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2016 Election • Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Congress • Conservatives • Deep State • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Intelligence Community • Political Parties • Religion of Peace • Section 2 • self-government • separation of powers • Steve Bannon • Terrorism • The Culture • The Leviathian State • Trump White House

To Secure the Blessings of Liberty, Rein in the ‘Permanent State’

The following are remarks delivered by Dr. Sebastian Gorka at Hillsdale College’s eighth annual Constitution Day celebration in Washington, D.C. on September 19, 2017.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Never go anywhere without your copy of Imprimis.

It really is a high honor for me to address this august audience. My wife and I have been huge fans of Hillsdale for many, many years, and it’s always a race when Imprimus hits the door mat; who’s going to read it first. But I have a caveat to begin with. For the next 30 minutes, please don’t expect a discourse on de Tocqueville and Epistemology of the New Age. My first degree was philosophy and theology many moons ago, but I cannot match the erudition of the panels that we heard this morning. I’m going to bring it all down to earth and share with you my experiences inside the belly of the beast as a deputy assistant and strategist to the president, how we should move forward, and what we can expect in the years to come.

But first things first, I must make a plea to all those people who came up to me last night, and have done so since I left three weeks ago. Relax. Take a deep breath and count to 10. The fat lady isn’t singing, OK? I know that’s not politically correct, but who cares? We are in this for the long game. I’m going to be using Washington jargon, but this is about the long game. It’s not about the first eight months. It’s about eight years, and then another eight years, under President Pence. That’s the plan.

Lots of people got suicidal when my boss, Steve Bannon resigned. And then they really got suicidal when I left the building. But it’s OK. Bringing us back to the principles of the founding is not a function of where Steve sits, or whether I have a window in my office in the Eisenhower building. It’s a function of the ideas that brought a man (as we were reminded last night) brought a man who has never held public office before, or been a general flag officer, into the position of being the most powerful man in the world. There’s a reason for that, and it is much bigger than the few people who work in that wonderful peoples’ house just across the city. So, hold the line.

Common Sense, Truth, Sovereignty
The only philosophical things I’ll say is, words matter. Words matter. And the words for my address today are simple ones. The first one is a phrase. “Common sense.” The second one, which is allied to common sense, is the word “truth.” And the last one, which is the most important philosophical undergirding of everything that brought Donald Trump into the White House, and it formed his politics, is the word “sovereignty.” This is missed by the people inside the beltway. These aren’t random speeches. The war, defeating ISIS, pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, these are informed by the same philosophical idea: the importance of sovereignty and the nation-state. So that’s all the philosophizing I will do.

So, let me talk to you about my experience for the last few months inside the White House. I’ll talk about three things: Who is the president? I’ll talk about what happened inside the building, and I’ll address this question that has become so popular today, of the ‘deep state’ and how it affects foreign policy going forward.

Who is the president? The president, behind closed doors, is exactly the same as he is in public. He’s not your average politician; when he sees a camera, flicks a little switch in the back of his head, and then switches on that “Washington grimace.” He is who he is. When I first met him in the summer 2015, I was asked to come brief him in New York on matters to do with national security. The man, in private, was exactly the man I’d come to know on the television screens. And that is, in itself, refreshing. There is no Janus-faced, bi-polarity with this individual.

Secondly, he is a preternatural, instinctual actor. It is not an exaggeration. Monica Crowley described him most accurately. The weekend of the election, we were with David Horowitz and his colleagues at his Restoration Weekend (which was either going to be a wake or a celebration.) But, the right candidate won. And two days after the election, Monica stated, “The people who misunderstand Donald J. Trump look at him through an ideological lens. And that is completely the wrong way to look at him. Because, Donald J. Trump wasn’t an ideological candidate; he was an attitudinal candidate.” And that is very, very much so. You cannot slap easy, lazy labels onto this man. Yes, the chattering classes would have you do so. The mainstream media would have you do so. But remember, this is a Republican candidate who strode along the campaign platform waving a “gay pride” flag. That’s not exactly a classic Republican candidate. He breaks the conventional taxonomy, and that’s important to remember.

What he is, is a man who cares about making this nation great again. That slogan is not pablum; it’s not empty rhetoric. He truly wishes to translate what he has done in the private sector, in terms of making a great brand, and translating that back to America’s position in the world and its founding principles.

A Hostile Takeover
What happened in the last seven months, until I left the White House? Well, what happened on January the 20th needs to be understood. Who likes the movie “Red Dawn,” the original one? Great movie, OK? Those of you who have not seen it, watch it. Not the remake; the original.

On November the 8th, it was very much like the movie “Red Dawn.” A scrappy band of insurgents won against the behemoth. And in this case, it was the establishment. Donald J. Trump was only accidentally the GOP candidate. He was as much an anti-establishment, right-wing candidate as an anti-establishment Democrat candidate. He was the antithesis of “the swamp.” As a result of wiping the floor with 16 candidates … Think about that; wiping the floor with 16 establishment candidates, and then trouncing a woman who had spent $700 million for a position she thought was owed to her. As a result of that unprecedented political event, on January the 20th, or the 21st, 8 o’clock in the morning, when we rolled into the West Wing, it was a hostile takeover. And it has to be understood as such.

If you look at the federal government, if you add in the armed forces, we have two plus million employees. And a couple of dozen people who are committed to the platform came in to execute a hostile takeover over of an institution with literally millions of employees. That’s not going to be easy.

As such, we fought a rearguard action inside the building, and at one point, for Steve it was earlier than me, he decided he can be more effective on the outside; he took his decision. And then, when I heard the president’s speech on Afghanistan, I knew it was time for me to relocate my desk and my chair. I came in because of my background in counterterrorism and my commitment to defeating radical Islamic terrorism. But when a speech was written for the president, which had that phrase removed, after its use multiple times: in Riyadh, in front of the joint session of Congress, in Warsaw, I knew that the swamp was in ascendance.

However, very important to remember, this is a temporary state of affairs. I predict, within the next few months, we shall see some very significant changes of personnel at the highest levels of the administration. Not because a cabinet member decides to do it, or a chief of staff, but because the president decides to do it. In the last seven months, most of the firings have had nothing to do with the president. In the next few months, I predict they will, and that is a good thing.

The Permanent State is “The Swamp”
Let’s talk about the deep state. I don’t like the phrase “the deep state.” I think it has a flavor of a conspiracy theory. I love conspiracy theories as fiction. OK? I have a bookshelf of them, but there’s a reason they’re called “theories.” They’re not conspiracy facts. OK? I prefer the phrase “the permanent state.” And that’s not a conspiracy theory. The permanent state is real. And it is a problem when you look at the values that it holds. I wasn’t part of the National Security Council, but I, thanks to some good people in the NSC, I attended numerous meetings on key issues, whether it was “the Qatar crisis,” whether it was “defeat ISIS,” “Muslim brotherhood,” and so forth.

And, to sit … I mean, look. I’m a child of people who escaped Communist dictatorship. My father, at the age of 20, was given a life sentence of being an anti-communist, and spent two years in a prison coal mine. So, I arrived to Washington with a sense that I was adequately cynical. I had no idea.

When you sit inside the Situation Room, or you sit inside an NSC videoconference facility, with members of the inter-agencies sitting at the table, and then out-stations, DIA, CIA, Department of Defense, so on and so forth, and you’re talking about a very important policy issue, at the highest level of U.S. government (policy coordination inside the NSC) and you just listen for an hour, hour and a half. And not one person in the room, or on the outstations, mentions the name of the president, what his objectives are, given the relevant issue, or what he said yesterday in Warsaw, we have a problem, Houston. Especially when you see that happen again and again and again.

And then, it’s left up to me, the guy with the funny accent, to remind everybody in the room, and on the outstations, “You do know what the president said yesterday about ISIS?” Or, “You do what he said yesterday about illegal immigration?” The lone wolf voice had to remind him. That’s the “permanent state.” It’s the GS15, who’s been at the State Department for 20 years, and thinks he knows better than the individual who was elected to run the federal government. This is something that will take years for us to rectify, but we shall.

War Rightly Understood
Second topic I’d like to talk about is based upon what I heard yesterday. You always plan great speeches, and then you hear people like Professor [Larry] Arnn, and then you have to throw it all out and start again. So, I’d like to address what the good professor said yesterday about war, and the great lessons we must learn from true statesmen like Churchill. Statecraft is dead. We haven’t had statesmen or women since the 1980s as far as I’m concerned. I grew up under Maggie Thatcher; she was a hero to me, as was the Gipper.

Let’s just ruminate for a moment on this word “war.” War is not a word you wish to use lightly; Churchill was absolutely right. But we must differentiate between different types of war. We are not in a total war. We don’t have children today collecting aluminum soda cans so we can build bombers. That’s total war. However … However, there are people who are engaged with war, in war, with us right now. And that’s, to begin with, irregular warfare. What groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda are doing on the streets of Boston, on the streets of Nice, on the streets of Orlando, is a form of warfare. It’s not “total war” in the Clausewitzian sense, but it is war.

And one of the reasons that I decided to assist the president, was in the first five minutes of meeting him in 2015, I realized that this is a man who understands we are at war with a new totalitarian enemy. Global jihadism is a form of totalitarianism. It has a connective tissue; it has a shared gene code with the fascists and the Nazis of the past, with the Communists of the Cold War. Why? Because you cannot negotiate with Abul Bakr al-Baghdadi, just as you cannot negotiate with Hitler. They will either kill or enslave you. Period. When I met Donald Trump, I understood immediately, this is not only a man who understands we are at war; he also wishes to win that war. And that is very refreshing.

But there are other forms of warfare we must be familiar with. There is political warfare, and there is the information operations. And we are being targeted right now. I’m not going to get into, you know, the Russia collusion delusion, but the fact is … What does my friend Kellyanne call it? The Russian Concussion. But the fact is, anybody who is surprised that Russia wanted to influence an election in a Western democracy has been asleep since 1917. That’s what the Kremlin does.

And the fact is, Russia has fine-tuned the tools it developed during the Cold War, which were called “maskirovka disinformazia.” And it is using them today in the cyber domain. This isn’t about Hillary. This isn’t about Podesta. This is about Russia’s tradecraft for the last, what is it? 100 years, with the anniversary this year. And we must take it seriously. We don’t. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been through in the Pentagon, where, when you said the word “political warfare,” people get all jittery. I mean, we did this. The OSS wasn’t a special forces organization. The OSS was a political warfare organization. We need to understand who’s using it against us, and to respond against it.

Economic Warfare: “One Belt, One Road”
And then lastly, the thing that … the scales fell off my eyes during my month in the White House, thanks to Steve Bannon, because of what I learned about economic warfare. I was brought in to talk about counter-terrorism, and represent the president in the media. But, if we have a long-term threat to this nation, it’s not the jihadists. We will deal with the jihadists. There will be no stone-upon-stone left, eventually. What we have to understand is what China is doing to us in the economic domain. And the rank, abject surrender that our private sector, especially Silicon Valley, and many partitions in this city have demonstrated by saying, “Oh, Chinese money; that’s like anybody else’s money. That’s fine; their money’s green, too.” Wrong. When Apple decides to put its latest artificial intelligence research center in China, that means China has successfully executed economic warfare against us.

And we need to take this seriously. If you don’t believe me, after this event, go home and Google one phrase. “One Belt, One Road.” “One Belt, One Road.” The Communist party of China looks at the last 100 years as the anomaly in more than 5,000 years of history. They see it as an embarrassment, and that it will return to its rightful place as the hegemonic power in the world, and it has an overt plan to do so. It’s not classified; Google it. “One Belt, One Road.” They know how to do strategy, and they are executing on that strategy, and the sooner we wake up, the better.

Does Ideology Look Dead to You?
So where does that leave us, with regards to future foreign and national security policy? Well, number one, we must remind ourselves that Francis Fukuyama was very wrong. When that former neo-con wrote, I think it was in 1991, a famous book that turned into an article, “The End of History and the Last Man” his argument was a very seductive one. “We defeated all the totalitarians. We defeated the fascists, now we defeated the Soviet Union, therefore the future of mankind is determined.” It was actually a quite Hegelian argument, yes? It was a natural progression of the dialectic. He said the future of mankind is (I’m going to date myself here) is simply a question of twiddling with the buttons on your graphic equalizer of democracy. You’re just going to have to fine-tune the bass, the treble … and it’s … There’s no serious threats; we’ve defeated all of them. It’s just about fine-tuning.

His argument was “ideology is dead.” That’s what we were told in 1991. Ideology is dead. I ask you today: If you listen to the president’s speech that he gave an hour ago at the U.N. If you look at North Korea, if you look at Venezuela, if you look at Iran, if you look at Russia, and tell me that ideology is dead, then I’ll check whether you’ve got a heartbeat and whether you’re breathing.

Ideology is reborn. Not in a bipolar sense, but there is a connective tissue that links Venezuela to Iran, to ISIS, to Russia, to China. They’re not all Communists; they’re not all jihadis. But their one ideological connection is that they all wish to undermine or destroy us. Iran . . . I totally agree that the threat from North Korea is a very serious one, as we heard last night, but Iran is more serious. Why? Because our last administration facilitated a regime that wished to destroy us. $150 billion. Signed a deal that doesn’t stop them from getting nuclear weapons; it mildly delays them.

To quote a survivor of the Holocaust, an old man who’d seen his whole family die in the labor camps and in the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, some facile reporter asked him one day, “What is your take-home from the last six years of the Holocaust? What’s your big lessons learned?” And he said, “Oh, that’s easy. There’s one lesson learned. When a group of people repeatedly says they will destroy you, sooner or later you should take them seriously.”

We need to take Iran seriously. And everybody else, who not only verbally is committed to our destruction, but is working on ways to acquire the capability to effect that destruction.

Neither Isololationist Nor Neo-Conservative
So, we need to understand that, on the Right, we have been far too superficial in our understanding of foreign policy. In the run-up to the election, the reason I actually agreed to work with Donald Trump initially was, I’d had enough of people saying, “On the Right, you only have two options when it comes to national security. You must be an isolationist, like the libertarians; pull down the shutters on the Pacific coast, and the Atlantic coast, and we’ll be fine.” (Just like we were in Pearl Harbor.) And the other option is, “Oh, if you don’t want to do that, if you don’t want to be a libertarian, you’ve got to be a dastardly neo-con and invade everybody’s country, and create democracy at the end of a gun battle.” Well, there’s a massive scale in between. There’s a massive palette of true statecraft between isolationism and neo-conservatism. And that’s who this president is.

I have been in the Oval; I’m not talking out of school, but when the president tells me one-on-one, “I do not wish to go to war with Korea,” that’s reassuring. He understands the consequences of his actions. But at the same time, when he sees men and women gassed to death in Syria, he’s prepared to take action. We didn’t talk about red lines; we didn’t bloviate; we acted. And the day after that attack, I bumped into the vice president as I was coming out of the West Wing, and he stopped, and he said to me (the day after the cruise missile attack) … Well, firstly he said to me was, “What do you think about last night? Go Navy!” Seriously, he said, “Go Navy!” And then he said, very seriously, “So, what do you think? Do you think they got the message about gassing unarmed women and children?” And I said, “Yes, Mr. Vice President. I think the world got the message.”

Defend America First, Defend the West
Strategic patience, leading from behind, created a Dantean inferno across the globe, which we inherited. We understand; it’s all about reckless application of force, but use of force when it is needed. But only in the national interest of the United States. That’s what “America First” means. I commend to you … I know the individuals who wrote it … If you haven’t closely done so, please go back to the president’s Warsaw speech. Because the president’s Warsaw speech is a reaffirmation of Judeo-Christian civilizational values, and a statement that we will not export, by force, our political system, but we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone that shares our Judeo-Christian values, whether it’s Poland, or whether it’s Belgium. Anyone. That’s who the president is.

The impediment, along the way, is the managerial elite. That’s the biggest obstacle. That’s the technical term for the swamp. They have a default ideology, which is really anti-national sovereignty. Cloaking itself in postmodern sophistication. Organizations like Hillsdale can pierce though that ideological default setting and remind us of the existence of objective truth, which I think is the basis of why blue-collar steelworkers in Youngstown, Ohio, who are registered Democrats, voted for a billionaire from New York. They may not know the difference between Sunni and Shia, but they know that something is rotten in the kingdom of Denmark, and therefore they voted the way they voted.

We have to return to true statecraft. I’m very excited about what I heard yesterday; the masters in government at Hillsdale will be pursuing. Because, to quote one of our greatest presidents, for the time we are living in right now, “As our case is new, so we must think anew.” Abraham Lincoln. We must think anew because this city is as intellectually bankrupt as it is morally. If we do so, then we … Let me quote Imprimis, a speech by a certain presidential candidate who’s now the Commander in Chief. “What is needed in Washington is a president who will rein in the executive branch, and work with Congress to make sure the legislative branch does its job.” That is Donald J. Trump’s objective. And if we help him to be successful; if Hillsdale can help him to be successful; if the graduates sorted across the administration can help him to be successful, then we will be able, once more, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves, and our posterity. Thank you.

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America • Americanism • Asia • Center for American Greatness • China • Defense of the West • Economy • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Obama • Steve Bannon • The Media • Trade

Unstoppable Easternization?

The Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman has written an excellent new book, Easternization: Asia’s Rise and America’s Decline from Obama to Trump. “The central issue,” Rachman argues, “is how the rise in Asian economic power is changing world politics” and we need to “understand how the governing elites of the big global powers see their roles in the world and the challenges facing them.”

Rachman’s analysis is fair, objective, and cogent. The implications of Rachman’s work for the United States are dangerous—especially since most policymakers are indifferent to Asia’s rise outside of a purely economic “everybody wins” point of view.

No, not everyone wins. They can’t.

Western Hegemony on the Wane
The process of Easternization began when economic power started shifting from the West toward the East in the postwar period. With the opening of China to world trade, this process accelerated. As the
Cold War came to a close in the early 1990s, the push for more globalization (what President George H. W. Bush called “the new world order”) began in earnest. What began as a massive increase in wealth in Asia has now become a seismic shift of geopolitical power.

Before the economic explosion in Asia, as Rachman documents, the West tended to shape world events. Western countries, first in Europe and then the United States, were able to lead the world because of their monopoly on economic and military power, as well as technological innovation. Yet, thanks to the massive transfer of wealth eastward, “the West’s centuries-long domination of world affairs is now coming to a close,” and the great advantages that the West has enjoyed over the East “are fast eroding.”

Throughout his tenure in office, President Barack Obama and his defenders intimated that America’s decline was natural and inevitable and, in any case. well underway. Rather than waste time and resources fighting it, the Obamians believed that they needed merely to manage America’s decline. We on the Right understandably were annoyed and concerned by such unwarranted defeatism. Those of us who voted for Donald Trump understood that innovative change was needed in our political system, to reverse the decline. Yet, the mere election of Donald Trump, in my view, has not been enough to stem the patterns of Easternization.

Reality repeatedly has sent America’s post-Cold War presidents (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now, Donald Trump) wake-up calls to begin focusing more intensely on Asia. Each time, those post-Cold War presidents have hit the proverbial snooze button. Instead, they opted mindlessly to continue the free trade policies that allowed China to sap America’s economic might and build up their own.

During former President George H.W. Bush’s presidency, we had to respond to the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. Beijing faced some sanctions, but in the end the Bush Administration squandered a key opportunity to press for real change in China. Bill Clinton faced both a North Korean nuclear weapons scare in 1994 and the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996, when China looked poised to invade long-time American ally, Taiwan. In 2001, George W. Bush had to face China after they forced down a United States Navy E-3 spy plane flying near Hainan Island.. As these events continued and, even escalated, we ought to have seen a shift in policy. Yet, the greedy free traders in America used their influence and access to get presidents to back down.

30 Years of Economic Warfare
In the first nine months of the Trump Administration, Asia has become a topic of concern again. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump spoke forcefully about holding China (and other Asian states) accountable for unfair trade practices that damaged America’s economy and harmed American workers. During the transition, Trump
ruffled feathers when he accepted a congratulatory phone call from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan—disturbing the Chinese leadership, which views Taiwan as nothing more than a breakaway province. Of course, we’ve had to contend with the ticking time bomb that is the North Korean nuclear situation. And, there remains the irksome unfair Chinese trade practices that have persisted for more than 30 years.

During that time, China has practiced a form of economic warfare against the United States; it has used our free trade practices as a weapon against us. Thanks to these practices, America’s trade imbalance with China runs at around $347 billion. Although the U.S. economy remains the largest in the world (in GDP terms), China’s is now the second-largest and closing in fast. In terms of purchasing power parity, China became the largest economy in the world in 2014—the same year that America distracted itself with reigniting its age-old obsession with the Russian bear. We should be focusing on China’s rise, not Russia’s inexorable decline.

China’s economic growth has fueled an astonishing military modernization. The Chinese military is now a truly potent force that is rising to challenge the Western-led international order in Asia. While China’s technological capabilities remain subordinated to the West (theirs is a highly imitative rather than innovative technological capability), the Chinese are gaining on the West, thanks in large part to their cyber theft and industrial espionage capabilities directed against Western businesses, academic institutions, and governments.

It is only a matter of time, however, before China’s supreme economic prowess coalesces into dominant technological innovation. In fact, the accounting firm KPMG has long speculated that the next great innovation hub would be in China rather than the United States, given how far China has developed its technological capabilities.

Who Lost (to) China?
You can thank the free traders for this. The one group of influential people who were totally opposed to the kind of free trade that has empowered China were led by Steve Bannon, the chief economic nationalist in the United States today. Unfortunately, the economic nationalists have mostly been removed from the Trump Administration. Meanwhile, the faction that benefits most from maintaining the status quo with China, the billionaires who comprise Trump’s economic policy team, now have the ear of the president. And, the military leadership in the Trump Administration is more concerned with the War in Afghanistan and Russian irredentism in Europe than with China’s economic warfare.

Bannon still maintains a firm grasp on the reality of the world we’re facing: unless drastic action is taken to reverse the trend of Easternization through trade protectionism and an increased military focus on Asia, the United States will become a middle-rate power in a Chinese-dominated world.

“The strength of regional support for a continued strong U.S. role makes America’s determination to push back against Chinese hegemony both morally defensible and strategically feasible,” Rachman writes.

Yet, the pull of Easternization is great. The inability to push back against unfair trading practices will only ensure that any American resistance to Chinese hegemony will miss the mark, as the four post-Cold War presidents all have. Although Rachman believes that continued trade with China will mitigate the potential for future war, it’s more likely that Bannon’s view of restricted trade with China will provide the means for the United States to slow China’s rise and deter a future war.

Each day that the United States fails to reform its trade policies is another day that Americans (other than the upper 20 percent of wage earners) are left in the lurch. And the stronger China becomes, the more interested it will be in toppling America’s position as the global hegemon. So barring a serious course correction, it really is only a matter of time before Easternization permanently diminishes America’s power and standing in the world. Once that happens, there will be no going back.

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America • Americanism • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Healthcare • Immigration • self-government • Steve Bannon • The Leviathian State • Trade • Trump White House

Picking Up the Pieces of the Trump Agenda

Donald J. Trump campaigned on a necessarily radical approach to governing: he would listen to the vast majority of the American people and enact policies that would benefit them. The most important elements for Trump’s agenda were tougher immigration laws; revitalizing the economy and renegotiating bad trade deals; an America-first foreign policy; and repealing Obamacare (the failure of which is a blot on the president’s record thus far). Trump proposed radical departures from the accepted political orthodoxy to each of these issues when he campaigned for president in 2016. His innovative outlook on these issues gave Trump the momentum he needed to overcome the more conventional candidates in both parties while keeping the press in a perpetual state of confusion and outrage.

To achieve these policies, Trump named unorthodox leaders—most of them “economic nationalists”—to advise him throughout the campaign and once he became president. Men such as retired U.S. Army General Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Sebastian Gorka were instrumental to Trump’s success.

And now they’re gone. While Trump’s success is mostly his own, the presence of people like Bannon and Gorka helped to ensure that Trump’s agenda would be implemented effectively. Their departure may herald a fundamental change in course for Trump’s administration.

 

Foreign Policy

As a candidate and early on as president, Trump (advised by Flynn, Bannon, and Gorka, among others) was unafraid to call out radical Islamic terrorism by name. That’s changed. In his recent speech announcing the “new strategy” in Afghanistan, the term never appears (as Gorka pointed out in his resignation letter). That’s quite a turn from the president’s speech at the beginning of the year, when he purposely called out radical Islamic extremism as one of the greatest threats facing the nation. (In fact, I’ve argued that the president’s entire Afghanistan policy is a serious deviation from the principles of his campaign.)

Equally striking is Trump’s turnabout on the Iran deal. During the campaign, Trump called the Obama Administration’s executive agreement with Iran on its nuclear program “the worst deal ever negotiated” and “the worst deal I’ve ever seen.” Yet he has now recertified the agreement not once, but twice! He was right in the first instance: it was a bad and dangerous deal that should’ve been abrogated on the president’s first day in office.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has taken an increasingly harsh stance on its relationship with Russia—which is a deviation from what both Trump and Flynn outlined in the campaign. While the view often does change from the Oval Office, the fact remains that the view in question did not change until after former campaign aides, like Flynn, were forced out. These changes are not only antithetical to what the president promised us, but they are also dangerous to America’s national security.

 

Immigration

Reports are now surfacing that the president is backtracking on his previous stands on immigration. Trump has indicated that he’s open to compromise with Congress on amnesty in exchange the border wall he promised from the outset of his campaign. These reports are mostly unsubstantiated, but given the course reversals we’ve already seen, nothing can be ruled out.

Still, it’s hard to imagine such a breach of faith with the base. Millions of voters embraced Trump for his stance on immigration in general and the wall in particular.

Of course, the news is not all troubling. President Trump embraced Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-Ala.) plan for curbing legal immigration—and his stalwart Attorney General Jeff Sessions has continued cracking down on illegal border crossings. But, this is not enough to sustain the momentum that Trump voters demand. Trump needs to stay strong on immigration, the issue that is most responsible for catapulting him to victory in 2016.

 

The Economy and Tariffs

While the economy has experienced marked improvement since Inauguration Day, the fact remains that middle class jobs are still on the decline and those unemployed Americans who have abandoned finding gainful employment remains dangerously high also. In order to begin the kind of middle class resurgence that Trump envisions, he is going to need serious tax reform—particularly in the area of corporate taxes. If the president can accomplish this (and craft a budget that reduces government spending at any level), he will get the 3-4 percent growth in gross-domestic product he wanted. This, more than anything, will be what voters consider in 2020.

Also, Trump’s ceaseless cuts to the onerous regulatory state are vital, but these are being done through executive order. They are not permanent. So, Trump needs to move on tax reform, to ensure lasting victory.

For Trump to be successful, he must continue honoring the wishes and needs of the 62 million Americans who voted for him. 

Then, there is the issue of protectionism. Despite having removed Steve Bannon from his inner circle, the president apparently argued for tariffs at a recent meeting with Gary Cohn, his chief economic adviser (and one of the biggest opponents of trade protectionism). Trump did manage to overturn the onerous Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, saving the livelihoods of untold thousands of  American workers. However, that is but the start of protecting America’s industries. If he cannot enact key pieces of legislation that will protect American workers in the long-run, he will be politically vulnerable. Moreover, the abandonment of TPP occurred early in the administration, when the economic nationalist wing had far greater sway. There needs to be more movement in the direction of protectionism than we’ve had. Given the opposition from both parties (and the Chamber of Commerce) this will be one of Trump’s greatest hurdles. He must stay strong and remain committed to protectionism, and he will need people in the White House who share his vision.

 

Moving Forward

I still very much believe in the president. But, now is the time to recognize that grotesque missteps have been taken the last several months, and the pieces need to be picked up. It is obvious that the economic nationalist wing’s tenure in the White House is over. They will now use their sizable media platform to influence policy from outside the White House. As Bannon himself stated, the presidency we all voted for “is over.”

However, that need not be the end of the discussion. Trump was elected to enact a particular agenda. If he deviates too far, he will lose his critical base of support. Lose too much of that support and the president’s reelection is threatened.

For Trump to be successful, he must continue honoring the wishes and needs of the 62 million Americans who voted for him. He may not always win. In politics victory is not final and defeat is not always fatal. Trump needs to move forward now with intentions of undoing the last several weeks of turmoil. If he can do that, the recent missteps will be undone, and the movement which he leads will continue to batter down the orthodoxies of our self-indulgent political elite. This is how we will make America great again. Trump needs to return to the themes that won him office.

 

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America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Steve Bannon • Trade • Trump White House

Adam Smith, Closet Bannonite?

Adam Smith is universally recognized as the father of free market economics and modern globalist free traders like to point to him as the “first free trader” as well. But does their claim hold up in light of Smith’s curiously redacted teaching on the role of economic nationalism in creating conditions for the accumulation of great national wealth?

With Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House, it is worth pointing out that the president’s “Buy American, Employ American” position on trade—credited to Bannon’s “economic nationalism”—is actually on solid theoretical and historical ground, without respect to where Mr. Bannon works.

Adam Smith’s own words make clear that in today’s world he would sooner have been a Bannonite than a “free trader” as that term has come widely to be understood. This is because “free trade” is now “understood” in a way that is in opposition to the way Smith and, then later the American Founders conceived of it.  Our Founders set the stage for the transformation of the thirteen states of the original Union from a rag-tag collection of feuding colonies into an expanding economic powerhouse in an historic quick shift, in part, by consciously following Smith’s most important economic advice.

We should consider it, too, because the basic logic holds today and is expressed most cogently by Bannon and others who agree with him, especially against doctrines that have abstract goals apart from simply advancing America’s independence, peace, and prosperity.

In Book 2, Chapter 5 of his seminal work, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith analyzes the three high-level employments, or uses, of capital:

  1. The home trade (i.e, domestic production for domestic consumption)
  2. The foreign trade of consumption (i.e.,imports and exports)
  3. The carrying trade (i.e., the infrastructure and industry of international trade such as shipping)

The question he was answering was, “Given some quantity of capital, which of those three possible employments of that capital creates the greatest wealth for a nation?”

If you were going to guess “the carrying trade”—that is, international trade and the infrastructure supporting it —you should stop watching cable news debates about free trade, where the chattering class assures us with goose-stepping consistency that the historical “secret sauce” of American prosperity is opening foreign markets so we can sell our products into them.

This is what Smith concludes:

The capital, therefore, employed in the home-trade of any country will generally give encouragement and support to a greater quantity of productive labor in that country, and increase the value of its annual produce more than an equal capital employed in the foreign trade of consumption: and the capital employed in this latter trade has in both these respects a still greater advantage over an equal capital employed in the carrying trade. The riches, and so far as power depends upon riches, the power of every country, must always be in proportion to the value of its annual produce, the fund from which all taxes must ultimately be paid.

So that the reader has not lost the point of the whole exercise, he immediately follows up:

But the great object of the political economy of every country, is to increase the riches and power of that country. It ought, therefore, to give no preference nor superior encouragement to the foreign trade of consumption above the home-trade, nor to the carrying trade above either of the other two. It ought neither to force nor to allure into either of those two channels, a greater share of the capital of the country than what would naturally flow into them of its own accord.

His logic, spelled out more fully in that chapter, is that by definition domestic production for domestic consumption employs at least twice the productive domestic labor than the same quantity of capital invested in either imports/exports or the infrastructure for trade.

In this context, he makes an important conceptual distinction between the “employments of capital” per se, and foreign trade, which in his framework deals specifically with exporting surplus produce of the home market:

When the produce of any particular branch of industry exceeds what the demand of the country requires, the surplus must be sent abroad, and exchanged for something for which there is a demand at home . . . When the foreign goods which are thus purchased with the surplus produce of domestic industry exceed the demand of the home-market, the surplus part of them must be sent abroad again, and exchanged for something more in demand at home.

Smith’s laser-like focus on understanding what makes nations wealthy permits no quantity of capital to be wasted for this purpose, and all of it is always in the service of the domestic market, even if to service that home market it is necessary to trade domestic surplus abroad for something of equal or greater value not otherwise economically obtainable at home.

How different this emphasis is from the counsel of our modern economists and the chattering class! They tell us trade is America’s “secret sauce” and counsel us never to prefer American goods, if foreign goods can be bought more cheaply, as if it is immoral to choose a more expensive product if there is another good reason to do it. They neglect the significance of capital investment in domestic labor in maintaining a high wage-price structure. The cost of lower prices brought about this way is eventually to lower wages.

Smith clarifies further how irrelevant “trade” is to what makes a nation wealthy:

The carrying trade is the natural effect and symptom of great national wealth; but it does not seem to be the natural cause of it. Those statesmen who have been disposed to favour it with particular encouragements, seem to have mistaken the effect and symptoms for the cause.

All of this is leading somewhere. Once his subject moves on more to political economy in Book 4, Chapter 2, he crystallizes the thought in this famous “Invisible Hand” passage:

But the annual revenue of every society is always precisely equal to the exchangeable value of the whole annual produce of its industry, or rather is precisely the same thing with that exchangeable value. As every individual, therefore, endeavors as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end that was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. [emphasis mine]

Paul A. Samuelson’s famous textbook—used or decades at the Ivy League schools from which most of our current world leaders first learned about economics—ostensibly reprints this exact passage from Smith. But note the differences. As you will see, the words I put in bold in the quote above are the only ones both excerpts have in common:

Every individual endeavors to employ his capital so that its produce may be of the greatest value. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own security, only his own gain. And he is in this led by an INVISIBLE HAND to promote an end which was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.

To describe Samuelson’s quote as a paraphrase would be an extraordinarily generous interpretation of the deception he was clearly trying to achieve.

Photocopy of distorted Smith quote in the Samuelson text.

By axing, without so much as an occasional ellipsis, any and every reference to domestic industry, and, more to the point, every individual’s preference for domestic over foreign industry as it is the “thing” in which he seeks his own security and gain, Samuelson knowingly gutted the passage of its primary meaning, and replaced it with his own.

This general preference for domestic over foreign industry is, in fact, the outward manifestation of the very “Invisible Hand”—whether of God or simply human nature—that Smith sees as an essential difference between countries that attain great wealth, and those that do not. There is no amorphous thing called “market forces” like “supply and demand,” as some modern academics teach. He’s talking about a kind of economic patriotism or nationalism rooted in an understanding of God-ordained human nature.

Anyone who tries to tell you Smith’s invisible hand is “supply and demand” or mystical “market forces” simply hasn’t read the passage in its full context, because there can be no doubt what Smith meant to say. Nor can there be any doubt about Samuelson’s intent to suppress it.

Instead what jumps out in Samuelson’s dishonest rendition is a kind of Gordon Gecko Greed-Is-Good “morality of selfishness,” for which the Left routinely disparages “capitalism,” and which unthinking capitalists, particularly of the Randian disposition, foolishly glorify.

What Smith marveled at was the cultural inclination in successful nations to prefer domestic over foreign industry. This naturally encourages the one employment of capital that is guaranteed to increase the wealth and power of the nation—namely, domestic production for domestic consumption.

So what of the claim that Adam Smith was “the first free trader”?

Here is what Smith says just a few paragraphs after his scandalously abused “invisible hand” passage:

To give the monopoly of the home market to the produce of domestic industry, in any particular art or manufacture, is in some measure to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, and must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation. If the produce of domestic can be brought there as cheap as that of foreign industry, the regulation is evidently useless. If it cannot, it must generally be hurtful. It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy.

As we have discussed elsewhere, Smith’s conceptual framework for international trade was based on the absolute advantage of each country’s relative productive capacity. This, as we explained, is very different than the modern Ricardian framework based on comparative advantage.

The difference between Smith and Ricardo is very important to remember in this context because all Smith is saying here is that distorting this absolute advantage through regulation intended to benefit a “particular art or manufacture” in order to create a “monopoly of the home market” can be at best useless and at worst harmful to creating national wealth. This is certainly true.

Micromanagement of private industry in this way, however, is essential in the Ricardian framework upon which modern free trade is based. And it is for this reason that such regulation is widely accepted today as a practical political function of our federal government by the D.C. elite.

In fact, the whole point of comparative advantage is to “direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals” specifically to create a “home market monopoly” in whatever industry is determined to be its comparative advantage, so that some supposedly greater good—presumably higher global production than would otherwise naturally occur, or lifting up poor nations economically—can be achieved.

In other words, Ricardo’s whole exercise was to “spread the wealth around,” so to speak, and his comparative framework is a refutation of the Smithian approach that assumed each nation was in fact “selfishly” pursuing its own economic interest, for the benefit of its home market.

All things considered, one must insist Smith would have objected even more strenuously to regulations of the sort that are all-too-familiar to American workers during this current enlightened era of international “free trade” than he would to ad valorem tariffs that our Founders used for national revenue. Today’s income tax and regulatory regime actively discourages domestic industry and induces American capitalists to prefer foreign over American labor.

In any event, he would have been clear that whatever we claim are our reasons for doing these things, it certainly cannot be for the purpose of making America wealthier.

Yet this kind of micromanaging is something about which modern free traders, much as they pretend to loathe market interferences (when they are tariffs), seem curiously never to offer any strong objections—except, of course, during election campaigns when it is considered permissible to play with opinions of the “rabble.” At this point, however, their winks and nods are unmistakable.

Conservatives should be grateful that after the last thirty or forty years of declining American power, about which the elites have been prophesying the whole time, we now have this unexpected window of opportunity opened, as it seems, by an invisible hand, to reverse this economically unsound and unpatriotic trend.

Foreign tax credits, huge government land-grabs, onerous regulations to discourage specific private industry (for example the determination of Democrats under Obama to shut down the coal industry), income tax credits to encourage specific industries (like solar), and countless other heavy-handed federal polices popular with today’s Democrat and GOP establishments are features of their legislative initiatives and their beloved, massive, unreadable trade deals—but they are all the exact opposite of what Smith would advise, and the opposite of what our Founders actually did to make America great in the first place.

President Trump continually highlights the need to buy American, hire American, and invest in America. Some of his most impressive early achievements include encouraging companies to invest in American labor—whether they were domestic producers considering a move of their factories overseas, or foreign capitalists considering whether to open plants in America.

Trump’s instinct on this issue—perhaps the single most consistent feature of his public platform for the last 30+ years—is not only patriotic, but also, as we have seen, good Smithian economics. His bully-pulpit encouragement to invest in American labor and his promise to eliminate harmful regulations and inducements that prefer foreign over American labor is surely something for which Adam Smith would have given him high marks.

Conservatives should be grateful that after the last thirty or forty years of declining American power, about which the elites have been prophesying the whole time, we now have this unexpected window of opportunity opened, as it seems, by an invisible hand, to reverse this economically unsound and unpatriotic trend.

Contra Gordon Gecko, greed is not good, and Adam Smith never said it was. It’s time modern American conservatives stopped their mindless embrace of the abstract concepts of capitalism and free trade as if they were religious dogma and remember the thing for the sake of which these ideas were developed as guides. America’s original free market system, as it was designed and functioned until the advent of the modern administrative state, put America’s freedom and prosperity first. The so called “free market” dogma, combined with today’s administrative state, on the other hand, have caused us largely to forget what America, not to mention the free market, was all about.

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2016 Election • Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Big Media • Conservatives • Deep State • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Steve Bannon • The Left • Trump White House

Bannon is the Avatar of the Trump Agenda

The long knives are out for Steve Bannon. Again. Or maybe it’s still. Every month the media narrative pits the president’s Chief Strategist against some other member of his inner circle. Bannon’s bete noire used to be Jared Kushner, but for the past few weeks the stories have all been about an internal feud between Bannon and H.R. McMaster.

NPR’s Morning Edition asked me to join them to discuss the debate going on in the White House because of my relationship with Bannon. My answer was simple: he’s a principled and tenacious former Naval officer who wants to advance Donald Trump’s agenda. And if there’s a debate, it should be about how best to implement that agenda. You can listen to that interview here: 

Naturally enough, they asked if I thought Bannon’s job was in jeopardy. How could they not? Especially in light of McMaster’s appearance on CBS Sunday where he said he could work with “anybody” in the White House but when pushed refused to say that “anybody” included Bannon. Everyone got the joke: McMaster wants Bannon gone and used his television appearance to let the nation know it.

There has been an ongoing battle—a war really—to undermine the president and overturn the election. The campaign of character assassination waged against Bannon is one of the fronts in that war. But neither Bannon nor even Trump are the real target. The war is against the 63 million people who voted for Trump and, more importantly, his agenda. These forgotten Americans had been cowed into silence or tricked into supporting candidates who sold them out as soon as they arrived in Washington for years. But in 2016 they woke up and voted for a pro-America and pro-American agenda. They wanted a candidate who would change the way Washington works because Washington is broken. It is parochial, self-serving, corrupt, and heedless of the rights and interests of average Americans. If you’re not connected to the courtier class you’re out of luck.

The equation is simple: What’s good for the president is bad for the D.C. establishment and what’s bad for the president is good for the D.C. Establishment that wants desperately to go back to business as usual. “Vote all you want, but we’re the ones in charge.”

Steve Bannon understands that dynamic and has been a keen supporter of the president and his agenda—which is why he has been the object of sustained attack since last year.

The president’s political enemies both Democrats and Republicans believe that if they destroy Bannon they can alienate the president from his base which will see it as a betrayal of what they voted for. It will leave the president more isolated in the White House with fewer people who were with him during the campaign and who believe in his agenda of reducing foreign military adventurism, moral imperialism, a pro-worker trade policy, and a pro-citizen immigration policy.

I think they’re right about that. Bannon is one of the few representatives of the political movement that elected Trump holding a high position in the White House. But that’s not the media narrative—for them it’s a personality driven Game of Thrones with daily installments.

Those stories are salacious, but not helpful when we should be talking about which of the perspectives—which of those agendas—vying for ascendancy in the White House is good for the country.

Do we really want more military involvement in the Middle East? Bannon doesn’t. And most of the people who voted for Trump don’t.

Do we want to be ruled by the unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats of the deep state or by the people and their representatives? Bannon has outlined a strategy to dismantle the deep state.

Do we want to live in a country that believes that citizenship and a healthy middle class are the essential building blocks of a healthy polity or one in which America becomes a plantation state of rulers and ruled? Bannon describes himself as an “economic nationalist” who wants government policy to favor American workers.

For base Trump voters, Bannon is their voice in a White House they see as increasingly populated by representatives of the very establishment they voted to evict. Perception plays a large role in politics and symbols matter—especially in a political climate rife with suspicion and mistrust. That’s why I told NPR that I think any move to fire Bannon is more dangerous to the future of the Trump Administration than anything Robert Mueller can do.

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America • Democrats • Donald Trump • Identity Politics • Republicans • Steve Bannon • Terrorism • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

Blame Game is Only Played One Way

Having revealed himself to be the biggest jerk in the world, and getting himself thrown out of the White House, Anthony Scaramucci is casting himself for a new role: moral conscience of the nation. We had thought that the murder in Charlottesville was the work of a lone idiot, who had been encouraged by some Nazi loonies. Ah non, says Scaramucci. Let’s blame Steve Bannon.

Look, I’m guessing here, but from his comments, I don’t think the Mooch and Bannon got along. So I guess I understand it. But when there’s a tragedy, as there was in Charlottesville, we need to step back from weaponizing it through indiscriminate blame.

When that happens, there’s only one criminal. But thinking back to the shooting in Alexandria in June, it’s fair game to ask whether the shooter took seriously Senator Tim Kaine’s call for progressives to fight in the streets. Or Kathy Griffin, who held up a bloody head of a decapitated Trump. Or Stephen Colbert, whose “Late Show” on CBS put Stephen Miller’s head on a spike. Or Sarah Silverman, who suggested the military stage a coup against Trump. Or Madonna, who said “I’ve thought a lot about blowing up the White House.” Or CNN, which speculated about who would take over if Trump were assassinated on Inauguration Day. Or former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, who tweeted, “I don’t care how many different songs you set (white nationalist) Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.” Or the Washington Post editorial board, which compared Trump to Hitler, and carries puff pieces about antifa rioters. Or Hillary Clinton, who announced she had joined the “resistance.” None of these were meant literally, of course, but perhaps the subtleties were lost on the gunman.

Somehow they all get a pass, and Steve Bannon doesn’t. I don’t recall Bannon offering anything like the encouragement to violence that I just mentioned, but that doesn’t seem to matter, does it?

The president, too. Trump clearly and unambiguously condemned the bigotry, violence and hatred which took place on the streets of Charlottesville, and didn’t dignify the names of these groups of people. He didn’t have to. We know who they are.

You know who came up with the slogan, “no enemies to the left”? Alexander Kerensky. We know where that got him, but the Left still hasn’t figured it out. But the Right knows it has enemies on the Right. You don’t have to tell us. We know.

 

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Administrative State • American Conservatism • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Deep State • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Obama • political philosophy • Steve Bannon • The Leviathian State • The Media • Trump White House

Steve Bannon, Superstar: Are You Really What They Say You Are?

Let’s face it: nothing pleases the Left more than Republican-on Republican-violence—especially when it aids the Regressive agenda. So, if you’ve discerned snickers and smirks amidst the latte-sipping social justice warriors patronizing the Starbucks you pass on your trek to 7-Eleven for a Big Gulp (before it’s banned), this untoward occurrence is the consequence of a recent GOP internecine warfare trifecta.

On August 8, in response to conservative calls for the firing of President Trump’s National Security Advisor, General H. R. McMaster, the Wall Street Journal—a.k.a., the Republican Establishment’s version of Tiger Beat—advocated his retention. Fair enough. The Journal has traditionally, and successfully, advocated American internationalism, especially in the area of trade. (Folks, there’s a reason it’s named the Wall Street Journal.)

But the editorial also called for the ouster of President Trump’s chief political strategist, Steve Bannon. Uncool.

The paper’s reasoning for proposing Bannon’s dismissal was premised on the same mistaken memes emitted ad nauseum by the Left: twisted-genius Bannon sired the alt-right (whatever that nebulous epithet means—it’s really just an all-purpose slur now); he commands his unholy, slovenly legions with a wink and a nod against his more respectable enemies inside and outside the White House—i.e., everyone else; and, ergo, he has created within the Trump Administration a “poisonous atmosphere.” (This, you can expect, will be added to a Green Peace lawsuit against EPA Chief Scott Pruitt.)

But is Bannon really the far-right superstar/omnipotent evil bastard as portrayed?

A Conflict of Visions
First, the inside joke: He’d like you to think so. After all, a swamp built on quicksand measures everyone—friend or foe—by the
perception of power. Thus does the swamp breed and teem with irony (or, less charitably, perversity); consequently, the Wall Street Journal has unwittingly played into Bannon hands by repeating the Left’s and GOP Establishment’s caterwauls about his clout.

Then—ahem—there’s reality.

In the instance of McMaster—a warrior-patriot who in the past has served our nation well—one need not be a placard carrying member of Bannon’s “alt-right brigades” to worry the general is draining the swamp’s foreign-policy eddy with a Dixie cup: the NSA’s purging of Trump loyalists; a perceived failure to the foreign policy as it is currently, contentiously constituted—a cage match between “leading from behind” and “America First”—but as a chummy club of enlightened elitists subverting our superpower status to shepherd America into a multipolar world. The accusation by Circa’s Sara A. Carter, that McMaster is allowing “unfettered and continuing access to classified information” to former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice only fed the fire. The worst of the accusation has been debunked—Rice retains a security clearance, as do all other living former national security advisers, so that the current NSA can discuss prior and ongoing operations with them if necessary. To date, White House sources say that Rice, while retaining the clearance, has no independent access to information and has not been briefed by McMaster.

But again, the perception matters. This is the Susan Rice the woman who blamed Benghazi on a video, helped execute the Iran nuke pact, and, by the way, may well be involved in the previous administration’s surveillance and unmasking abuses and criminal leaks. Clearly, one need not be in Bannon’s minions to privately or publicly differ with the Journal’s “What, Me Worry?” opinion about McMaster; nor does it require the cue of Guru Bannon to do so.

While the Democrats, media elite, and “NeverTrump” foreign policy establishmentarians are loathe to concede the point, a popular component of, Donald Trump’s electoral appeal was his foreign policy platform, “America First.”

Though insidiously mischaracterized as an echo of Charles Lindbergh’s isolationist call for America’s retreat from the world, the foundational principle of Trump’s foreign policy is the prioritizing of America’s strategic interests over those other nations and international organizations. Where there existed a mutually beneficial convergence of interests, there would be engagements, accords and alliances. Thus, Trump’s foreign policy approach is essentially that of “Win-Win,” wherein the bad dudes lose.

In a saner age, Trump’s approach would be recognized as traditional American foreign policy.

But after eight years of President Obama and his foreign policy team subordinating and rationalizing away America’s strategic interests to those of sundry globalist gaggles and rogue regimes, the world is not a saner or safer place. Consequently, upon his election, supporters eagerly anticipated President Trump would help rectify this situation by ending the inane, failed policy of “leading from behind,” and, indeed, implement an “America First” foreign policy. In fact, many of the president’s initial foreign policy, national security, and homeland security appointments (including now-Chief of Staff John Kelly) are champions of American strategic interests.

The Truth About Bannon
Unfortunately, however, leap frogging America’s strategic interests to the front of the line where they belong has proven more difficult than expected; and, as noted, the concerns of Trump’s base have focused upon McMaster as the cause. Whether he is or is not is the crux of the present debate it remains the case that neither Steve Bannon, Superstar, nor his “alt-right brigades” or “minions”are the cause of it.

Because, again in reality, there are no Bannon “alt-right brigades” or “minions.” There are tens of millions of Americans who supported Bannon’s boss, President Trump. Tired of a waning American Dream, they trusted and voted for Trump to put their freedom and their nation’s interests first. Having long recognized this yearning amongst Americans, especially in the heartland, then candidate Trump discovered a kindred soul in Steve Bannon—who did not create but recognized and helped articulate working Americans’ loathing of Washington. With Bannon’s political assistance, candidate Trump connected with these concerned sovereign citizens to “drain the swamp” and win what was supposed to be an “unwinnable” election.

Still, painfully aware of how the swamp’s enticements and entanglements have preyed upon other elected officials and administrations, Trump supporters keep a wary eye on all those they’ve just sent to drain it. In short, they practice the Reagan dictum of “trust but verify”; and, while unsure of others, to date they believe the president and his advisor Bannon have met the test and kept the faith of Trump supporters. In sum, Bannon is not a superstar or svengali; he is a public servant who has become a symbol of good faith to Trump supporters.

Thus, in yet another swampy irony, and contrary to the paper’s angst, should the Wall Street Journal’s opinion be heeded, the firing of Bannon would not result in an orchestrated outcry by his supposed outside minions or torch-lit, pitchfork marches by alt-right brigades.

Across the spectrum of Trump supporters, Bannon’s firing would be viewed as an abandonment of the “America First” agenda; and, in consequence, a breach of faith with the president’s base.

In reality, if the president pushes Bannon out the White House window, the administration’s alleged “poisonous atmosphere” would not be let out. Instead, the swamp’s miasma would be let in. In this toxic climate, the president’s supporters’ faith in him and their hopes for “Making America Great Again” would be snuffed. The resultant darkness, though, wouldn’t come from Bannon’s eclipse as a political “superstar.” It would stem from the dying light of Americans’ “shining city on a hill” as its descends ever deeper into the murky bogs of a brimming swamp.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Americanism • Big Media • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Education • EU • Foreign Policy • Free Speech • Germany • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • political philosophy • Russia • self-government • Steve Bannon • The Culture • The Left

Donald Trump vs. the Post-West

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Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, our civilization and to set free suffering humanity . . . and we know that by thy grace, and the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.”

Who wrote those words? Someone from the alt-Right? A white nationalist, perhaps?

In fact, they were composed personally by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a D-Day prayer and read to the nation in a radio address on the evening of June 6, 1944. They exemplify the high-water mark of a confident mid-20th-century American liberalism that did not hesitate to attach the possessive pronoun “our” to concepts such as nation, religion, civilization, culture, and freedom.

The conceptual core of liberalism has been drastically altered since the halcyon days of FDR, Truman, and JFK. The reaction of mainstream 21st-century liberalism to President Trump’s historic Warsaw speech clearly reveals what today’s progressives value and what they debase. Thus, the president’s speech (besides presenting a clear vision of democratic sovereignty and a broad understanding of what constitutes the West), has the added advantage of having flushed out, for all to see, what progressive liberals really think of the institutions and ideals that have for centuries been at the center of any decent society.

When President Trump concluded his speech stating, “Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival depend upon [the] bonds of history, culture, and memory” and forthrightly declared “let us all fight like the Poles—for family, for freedom, for country, and for God”—the proponents of mainstream liberalism reacted with dismay and disgust. They bristle against all that “God and Country” talk and with unabashedly positive references to Western Civilization.

And so they came after the president’s conception of the West—not only from the fringes of the Far Left, but from the mainstream of American liberalism—“news” stories in the New York Times; Peter Beinart and James Fallows at the Atlantic; Jeet Heer from The New Republic; Lawrence Summers, E.J. Dionne, Anne Applebaum, Richard Cohen, Eugene Robinson, and the editorial board of the Washington Post; William Galston, the Wall Street Journal‘s token liberal commentator; and many others.

We were told, the president’s speech was “dark,” “negative,” and “nativist.” For Peter Beinart, Trump’s “West is a racial and religious term” and “His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means.” James Fallows sees echoes of the Nuremberg rallies and is reminded of the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. Richard Cohen declares that on the plane to Warsaw, “President Trump opened the door and threw out American values.” Jeet Heer fulminates that Trump’s rhetoric “is meant to conjure blood-soil-nationalism.” Eugene Robinson thought Trump’s speech “might have been appropriate” for a time when “Europe’s great powers held dominion for ‘lesser’ peoples around the globe.” Lawrence Summers agrees with “the fears of those” who believe that the President’s “conduct” in Europe “is currently the greatest threat to American national security.”

What a Simple Google Search Would Show
Perhaps the silliest critique of Trump’s speech comes from Molly McKew (formerly with the Podesta group, the American Enterprise Institute, and an advisor to Georgian President Saakashvili.) Writing in Politico, McKew insists that Trump’s references to defending “civilization,” “history and religion,” “traditional values” and “sovereignty” parallel Putin’s worldview. Trump, she writes with contempt, “repeatedly spoke of souls and God.”

Further, McKew criticizes Trump “[going] so far as to say, ‘We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy at the center of our lives.’” According to McKew, this is just like “Putin [who] frequently refers to spiritual tradition as a core part of identity . . . [and lauds] the ‘ideals of the family.’” Apparently, if Putin says 2 plus 2 equals 4, an American president is supposed to say it’s really five. If Putin claims to be for God and Country, we must endorse the devil and treason.

Behind McKew’s smears there is the real issue of Putin making inroads with social conservatives in the West by appearing to champion traditional institutions and values against leftist activism in the EU. The situation was made worse by the Obama administration’s actions, promoting initiatives and groups working against traditional conservative European social and family policy and by collaborating closely with George Soros and leftist NGOs on these “progressive” cultural issues (e.g., abortion, LGBT, radical feminism, etc.)

If McKew had done so much as a Google search, she would have found one of the earliest and clearest responses to Putin’s challenge on the social values front came from Stephen K. Bannon in his (widely available) Vatican conference speech in the summer of 2014. Bannon noted that Putin was attempting to influence social conservatives by claiming to support traditional values and that “we have to be very much on guard” against Putin’s machinations. “Because at the end of the day, I think Putin and his cronies are really a kleptocracy, that are really an imperialist power that wants to expand,” Bannon said. 

Given Bannon’s prescient understanding of Putin’s anti-Western goals, it is absurd to suggest that the Warsaw foreign policy vision that he apparently had some role in developing was in tune with Putin’s governing philosophy.

Trump Presents an Inclusive West
Interestingly (and, for many, ironically) the West outlined by Trump in the Warsaw speech is broader and more inclusive than the pinched secular and exclusionist West presented by Western progressives. The Trumpian version includes Christianity, the Judeo-Christian ethical tradition, and our classical patrimony of Socratic questioning, as well as the Enlightenment and modernity.

On the other hand, the progressive version of the West, or more preferably for liberals, the post-Western “global community,” often pits a militant and narrow secularism against traditional Christian and Orthodox Jewish faiths and long accepted cultural and family values (although progressive secularism often makes an exception for Islamic practices).

Indeed, the once almost universal concept of a “Judeo-Christian West” is put into scare quotes and mocked as a Bannon trope by E.J. Dionne (a practicing Catholic) as he excoriates Trump’s Warsaw framework in the Washington Post. Like Tocqueville (and Leo Strauss), but unlike Voltaire (and American liberals and EU elites), Trump’s speech portrays traditional religious belief as fully compatible, and indeed complementary, with modern liberal democracy.

Perhaps, not surprisingly then, the establishment center-right almost unanimously praised Trump’s speech.  The day after the speech the editors of the Wall Street Journal lauded the president for “taking a clear stand against the kind of gauzy globalism and vague multiculturalism represented by the worldview of, say, Barack Obama and most contemporary Western intellectuals.” Charles Krauthammer declared, “this is the best speech he’s given. It was very Reaganesque.” Michael Barone found similarities to the great presidential speeches in Berlin of Reagan in 1987 and John F. Kennedy in 1962. The editors of National Review praised Trump’s defense of the West, noting, “This is not about race. It is one of the obvious achievements of Western civilization that its values and norms . . . have spread throughout the world, and wherever they have taken hold have contributed to the advance of human liberty and welfare.”

Democratic Sovereignty vs. Post-Democratic Bureaucracy
The 21st century Left in Europe, and to an extent in the United States, is often described as post-national and postmodern, seeking to move beyond the nation-state and the rational norms of modernism towards a more global and antinomian future.

The Left could also be considered Post-Western, as its elites have “deconstructed” the idea of the West using the ideological tools of postmodernism and multiculturalism. This deconstruction has made Western leaders for the past decade or so hesitant explicitly to articulate a public defense of our civilization. Twenty years ago, foreign policy scholar and Swarthmore professor James Kurth predicted in The National Interest, “The real clash of civilizations will not be between the West, and one or more of the Rest. It will be between the West and the Post-West, within the West itself.”

We see this clash being played out today between EU elites attempting to expand their supranational bureaucratic authority and independent nation-states within the EU, such as Poland who are fighting to preserve their democratic sovereignty. In other words, the Poles are insisting on the right of a free people to rule themselves. And Trump to his credit has given them aid and comfort. This desire for independence and sovereignty was the impetus for the British people’s decision to withdraw from the European Union.

Trump’s speech was criticized by a former Clinton State Department official for not endorsing the EU. For years, the U.S. position has been on autopilot, mindlessly advocating more European integration meaning more power to the Brussels bureaucracy and less to the nation-states. Todd Huizinga, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, has written the definitive work for understanding the European Union. In The New Totalitarian Temptation, Huizinga captures the essence of the EU as “a soft utopia,” a proposed secular heaven on earth, based on the ideology of “global governance.” This means it is inherently at odds with the concept of democratic sovereignty and, thus, not surprisingly, often in tension with nations that take self-government seriously such as the United States, Poland, and Israel.

“After sixty-five years,” Huizinga writes, “the EU has conclusively shown itself to be inherently undemocratic, unaccountable and unresponsive to the voters.” Put otherwise, the framework of the EU is post-democratic.

Restoring “Government by Consent of the Governed”
The time for the United States to promote more EU integration is long past, and it appears the Trump administration may have put an end to this policy. There are, after all, competing visions of a free, prosperous Europe. While the Merkel-Macron framework promotes more centralization in Brussels, both Margaret Thatcher and Charles de Gaulle advocated a more decentralized Europe of democratic nation-states. Significantly, Trump did reassure the Poles and warn the Russians by strongly endorsing NATO, which is an intergovernmental alliance of nation-states, not a transnational pan-European institution like the EU.

The chief organs of the EU constitute an administrative state that rules without the consent of the different peoples of Europe. A perfect example of this problem is the EU’s migration policy. The EU leadership backed by the governments (but not necessarily the people) of Germany and France have insisted that all EU member-states take a fixed quote of migrants/refugees from the developing world.

The Visegrad nations of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic (now Czechia) are resisting this EU diktat. The stakes for liberal democracy could not be higher. What is at issue is that old Lockean liberal notion of “government by consent of the governed.” Clearly, if democratic sovereignty (that is democratic self-government) means anything at all, it is the right of a free people to determine for themselves who may be residents and citizens in their own country.

EU elites, Merkel, and their transnational progressive allies are attempting to strip government by consent of the governed from the peoples of Central Europe and force new populations upon them without their consent.  This is a moral argument and Trump, the Poles, the Hungarians, the Slovaks, and the Czechs are on the side of the angels—the side of “Philadelphian Sovereignty,” that is, the side of the republican principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

In short, “We, the People” decide who we shall admit within our borders. These fundamental issues are not decided for us—and against our consent—by foreign leaders and institutions.

William Galston wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “along with Hungary’s Victor Orban, the current Polish government is Europe’s leading threat to liberal democracy.” Galston could not be more wrong. The threat to democracy comes from the transnational EU elites and the enforcers of the EU administrative state in Germany and France.  These are the same nations, after all, that several years ago, forced the ouster of democratically elected leaders in Italy and Greece.

Trump’s Warsaw speech has given hope to the peoples of Central Europe and crucially reiterated the core Enlightenment doctrine of “government by consent of the governed.” If Steve Bannon and Steven Miller had anything to do with formulating this new strategic outlook of democratic sovereignty, consensual government, and affirmation of the Judeo-Christian-Enlightenment basis of Western Civilization, then perhaps those persistent conservative critics of Bannon and Miller ought to rethink their Pavlovian carping about these two gentlemen.

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2016 Election • America • Americanism • Black Lives Matter • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Greatness Agenda • Identity Politics • Immigration • Law and Order • Michael Anton • race • Steve Bannon • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Ridiculous ‘100 Days’ Report

The Southern Poverty Law Center is at it again.

At the hundred-day mark of President Trump’s administration, the center has released a report that purports to expose the rampant “white nationalism” the president and his “alt-right” advisors have unleashed upon the nation.

Instead of judging President Trump’s actual record, the report rehashes left-wing conspiracy theories and tired Democratic National Committee talking points. Dressed up in somber but hilariously misplaced language, the report reads more like an article from The Onion than anything of actual substance. It is replete with lies, overstatements, calumnies against upstanding Americans, Soros-approved talking points, smears, and a militant close-mindedness typically found on elite college campuses. The report is a testament to the depths to which anti-Trump forces have sunk to try to overrule the will of the people who put Trump into office.

The SPLC’s report opens by speaking of the “themes of a campaign that had electrified” white nationalists across the nation. We are led to believe that it is racist to have discussions about our crumbling infrastructure, one-sided “free trade” deals, rising crime in major cities, mass acceptance of unassimilable numbers of illegal immigrants, lack of attention to American interests abroad, and a political class that couldn’t care less about the common good of their fellow citizens. Apparently, the nearly 63 million Americans who found cause to vote for and continue to support Donald Trump are white nationalists because no other explanation makes sense to the geniuses at the SPLC.

This is the pathetic nature of the “arguments” found in this piece. And the more one digs in, the worse it gets.

The report slanders individuals such as Steven Bannon, Michael Flynn, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka, and Michael Anton. Their claims regarding Gorka are borderline libelous, as they engage in the baseless calumny that he is “associated with Neo-Nazis in his native Hungary.” This reductio ad Hitlerum gained traction in the fever swamps of the Left because Gorka wore a medal during the inauguration called the Order of Vitéz (or Vitézi Rend), which had been awarded to his father (and many other Hungarian nationalists) for fighting communism. Sorry to break it to the SPLC, but this award represents something far bigger than the person Vitézi Rend, a Hungarian who was associated with the Nazis during World War II.

Readers are expected to believe the Trump administration’s effort to deport “undocumented immigrations [sic] charged ‘with any criminal offense’ or who ‘pose a risk to public safety or national security’” is evidence of “white nationalist” policies. Readers are supposed to be appalled because the administration now publishes “a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants.” But in issuing such commonplace orders (also known as enforcing the law or doing his job), Trump has simply taken a cue from President Bill Clinton, who in his 1995 State of the Union said:

All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.

Under the SPLC’s rubric, Clinton would qualify as a stone-cold white nationalist. And so would at least 59 percent of Americans who, in a recent Gallup poll, say they worry a “fair” or “great” amount about illegal immigration.

If the vast majority of Americans are  irredeemably racist, why would so many foreigners want to come here? Wouldn’t it be unjust to invite more immigrants to suffer racial discord and institutional oppression? The SPLC is silent about this and other basic logical inconsistencies.

Laughably, the SPLC routinely trots out its “Hate Map,” which tracks actual Neo-Nazi organizations along with mainstream conservative groups, such as  the Family Research Council, as purported evidence for the claims that litter the new  report. What’s wrong with the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies according to the SPLC? Their opposition to unrestricted immigration earned them a place on SPLC’s list of “hate groups.” In other words, the proof that FRC, FAIR, and CIS are “hate groups” is that the SPLC says they are. This is the extent of their reasoning skills.


Though it might put a damper on fundraising, the SPLC would do well to heed the advice of former President Obama, who during a recent interview cautioned against labeling supporters of restricting immigration as automatically racist.

The SPLC’s report cites actual white nationalists such as Richard Spencer and David Duke, who generally approve of Trump, and judges the president guilty by association. But like Ronald Reagan, Trump has repeatedly denounced the support of that infinitesimally small group of individuals (see here, here, here, here, and here). Only an organization with a tunnel vision focus on taking the president down at all costs would continue to make such spurious assertions.

Laughably, the SPLC routinely trots out its “Hate Map,” which tracks actual Neo-Nazi organizations along with mainstream conservative groups, such as  the Family Research Council, as purported evidence for the claims that litter the new  report. What’s wrong with the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies according to the SPLC? Their opposition to unrestricted immigration earned them a place on SPLC’s list of “hate groups.” In other words, the proof that FRC, FAIR, and CIS are “hate groups” is that the SPLC says they are. This is the extent of their reasoning skills.

The SPLC also finds evidence of latent white nationalism in accusations that mainstream media outlets peddle “fake news”—a claim that President Trump has used to great effect prior to his election and throughout the early days of his administration. But the SPLC might be shocked to learn that Americans trust Trump’s White House more than the national media, by a margin of 37 percent to 29 percent. In fact, 48 percent of Americans think the media has been unduly hard on Trump compared with its treatment of previous (liberal) administrations. Is the SPLC really willing to argue that these Americans, many of whom also voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, are secretly white nationalists as well?

“100 Days in Trump’s America” is Exhibit A of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Launching wild accusations and using scare tactics, the SPLC has found it profitable to widen the divide between Americans by inciting hatred and violence among citizens. Morris Dees, the SPLC’s founder, lives a lavish lifestyle and and the coffers of the SPLC are flush with cash.

Fortunately, Americans have had it with the bullying tactics of hard-Left organizations like the SPLC. They know that Trump’s first 100 days—to the extent that such a measurement even matters—have been an overwhelming success. He has issued a vast array of executive orders that have overturned much of Barack Obama’s legacy, nominated now-Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, begun enforcing immigration laws, which has already put a major dent in the number of illegal immigrants coming across our border, put forward an ambitious tax plan, expanded offshore oil drilling, and strategically deployed American power in Syria and Afghanistan that has shown the world that America will not hesitate to secure its interests.

Let’s hope that the next 100 days are even better.

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2016 Election • Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Big Media • Conservatives • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • GOPe • Greatness Agenda • Jeff Sessions • Political Parties • Section 1 • Section 2 • self-government • Steve Bannon • The Left • The Leviathian State • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

Foolish to Choose Morning Joe Crowd Over Bannon and Voters

The empire always strikes back. And permanent Washington wants to retake the power and prestige it lost at the hands of Donald Trump over the past 18 months. The bipartisan media monopoly closed ranks in opposition to Trump and he won anyway. Desperate and discredited the same forces that opposed Trump before the election doubled down after he won.

Look at the desperate measures deployed against President Trump. There was no honeymoon period, no benefit of the doubt, no coming together—even if only temporarily—for the good of the country. There has been nothing but total war. From day one it’s been a take no prisoners, burn the boats, salt the earth, destroy the president by any means necessary, all out war on the Trump Administration.

And now  Morning Joe, a reliable mouthpiece for the self-interested D.C. uber alles crowd, has decided they want another scalp. Realizing that sidelining a Mike Flynn, a KT McFarland, or an Andy Puzder isn’t nearly enough, but encouraged by their ability to draw blood, they’re hunting bigger game. This time they have set their sites on Steve Bannon and the stakes are significantly higher because of what he represents to core Trump supporters.

Donald Trump succeeded where so many other Republicans had failed because he had the strategic vision—and the courage—to forge a partnership with populists like Bannon and base Republicans like Mike Pence. That’s the Trump coalition and it works. Nonetheless, at least 50% of the Republican establishment alternately fears and despises Trump and are either actively working against him or secretly hoping he will fail so that they can regain lost status. Among rank and file Republicans that number is less than 10%. Remember: Donald Trump won more votes than any Republican ever.

That’s why Republicans who refused to campaign with Trump before the election and denigrated him publicly now appear to have undergone deathbed conversions. They are eager to appear to be working with the president but how many, in their heart of hearts, have really changed their mind?

Full frontal assaults on the Trump juggernaut failed spectacularly. If anything, they empowered him by making the D.C. Establishment—an amorphous blob but one generally despised by voters—appear corrupt and impotent. But Beltway insiders are nothing if not adaptable survivors able to shapeshift and change tactics as necessary. 

The battle isn’t Bannon v. Kushner as some in the press would have us believe, it’s Washington v. Trump.

Unable to defeat Trump with a year of attacks that turned into kamikaze missions and have left reputations for political acumen in tatters they have adopted a more subtle strategy designed to break up his coalition. If his political adversaries can separate Trump from his base he will be defanged. Part of that strategy is to take down Bannon who is one of the only representatives of the populist wing of the coalition with a prominent role in the White House.

Coalition government isn’t difficult to understand but it requires a deft hand to maintain. The partners are naturally suspicious of the others and are always seeking the upper hand. But they can be both durable and effective if all of the partners realize that without each other they will lose power. That requires a strong, active executive that enjoys the trust and respect of all the members of the coalition. Reagan did it. And Trump can too. But it’s a new coalition—as Reagan’s was in the spring of 1981—and it requires nurturing in these early, tentative days.

Yet, Trump is in a more difficult place than Reagan was as he enjoyed the support of the major conservative, libertarian, and social institutions that formed his coalition. Many, if not most, of those institutions opposed Trump during the election and remain overtly hostile or maintain a wary silence even now. That makes Trump even more reliant upon his Main Street base who expect to see campaign promises kept.

Steve Bannon, like Jeff Sessions, embodies those promises to a significant part of the Trump coalition.

All presidents listen to someone—that’s not a knock on any of them, presidents need advisers—and voters want to know who has the president’s ear. Is it someone who is aligned with and believes in the president’s agenda like Bannon or Sessions or is it a representative of a revanchist counter-reformation?

The forces arrayed against the president couldn’t win the war at the ballot box so now they’re trying to steal the victory. Ronald Reagan won two massive electoral victories but it was Republican senators who blocked him from achieving some of his key domestic promises like shuttering the Department of Education. And though Reagan and Reaganism captured the imagination and loyalty of rank and file voters, it was the Bushes who captured the party and killed Reagan’s legacy.

The same dynamics are at play today. Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp. A lot of people make a very good living in that swamp—just look at housing prices in and around Washington, D.C.—so he shouldn’t be surprised that the plethora of parasitic fauna dependent for their survival on the swamp’s ecosystem see him (correctly) as a threat to their survival. Nothing unites like a common enemy.

What they couldn’t take with brute force they’ll try and get with fraud and fulsome words. But as the preacher in Ecclesiastes says, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” The formula is the same as it’s ever been: Whisper, flatter, promise the world and everything in it. The temptation of the president has the goal of separating him from his base and thereby from power.

Permanent Washington wields only one weapon: the promise of its own warm embrace. They’re the Mean Girls of American political culture. Fall in line and we’ll write nice things about you in our papers and say nice things about you on our shows. We’ll stop calling you a fascist and start calling you a statesman.

But as Reagan gamely observed, there’s a difference between critics and box office. A movie can succeed without the critics but never without the box office. Voters are box office. And voters want the Trump they saw during the campaign. Part of the attraction is the agenda but voters were also attracted to a man they saw was willing to take on the establishment and who would stay loyal to his friends and loyal to ordinary Americans not to permanent Washington.

The people who want to see Trump fail understand that if they can convince him to give up his advisers one by one that they will slowly separate him from his base. The promise of good press will prove ephemeral. Washington is built to destroy Republican presidents and right now the road to victory runs right through Steve Bannon’s office.

Giving him up won’t change the hostility to the president. It won’t make the forces arrayed against him suddenly support enforcement of immigration laws or an America First national security policy. It won’t make them give up on crony capitalism or the administrative state. And Jared and Ivanka won’t get the Camelot coverage they’re being promised.

And those making the promises? Their lips drip honey and their speech is smoother than oil, but in the end they are bitter as wormwood and their path leads to destruction. The more likely scenario is that if those calling for Bannon’s head get it they will target the Kushners next. That’s because the battle isn’t Bannon v. Kushner as some in the press would have us believe, it’s Washington v. Trump.

Donald Trump and the people who want to see him succeed need to remember a few things:

  1. The flatterers, phonies, and sycophants who disparaged him during the campaign, the transition, and the early days of his presidency still want his presidency to fail. They denounced him, his agenda, and his supporters in the most personal and vicious terms possible: fascist, thug, racist, etc. Nothing has changed.
  2. Democrats and the D.C. media will never support Trump or his agenda. The idea that there are 45 House Democrats who will form a bloc of swing votes to move that agenda is laughable. If you don’t think so, just try and make a list.
  3. As long as Trump can keep conservative populists and “the party” working together he has a 55%-60% governing coalition with broad, deep support.
  4. Throwing Bannon to the wolves is a political trap set by the president’s enemies to break up a new coalition that Democrats can’t beat.
  5. The perception is the reality—if the president is believed to lack loyalty then people who work with and for him will adjust their calculations accordingly. This will affect everything. It will encourage his enemies, harm his ability to pass legislation in Congress and make it more difficult to hire and retain smart, dedicated staff committed to prosecuting his agenda.

Newt Gingrich recently said that “Bannon is a brilliant pirate who has had a huge impact. But White Houses, in the end, are like the U.S. Navy—corporate structures and very hard on pirates.” Perhaps. But Queen Elizabeth made the piratical Sir Francis Drake an admiral so that he could defeat the Spanish Armada. There is an armada assembled against President Trump. Maybe this White House could use a pirate.

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American Conservatism • Conservatives • Deep State • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Michael Anton • Steve Bannon • The Media • Trump White House

A Potty-Mouthed Legacy Journalist

The malignity is easy to read. “Oh, Mike Anton, I recognize your quotes and so will Jared,” tweeted the hard-line NeverTrumper John Podhoretz yesterday morning.

John is the scion of two extraordinarily gifted writers, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter. They were liberals in the old-fashioned sense, and the intellectual founders of the neoconservative movement. Norman publicly endorsed Donald Trump as the preferred alternative to Hillary Clinton. “Many of the younger—they’re not so young anymore—neoconservatives have gone over to the Never Trump movement. And they are extremely angry with anybody who doesn’t share their view,” he told the Times of Israel.

John became one of those not-so-young men who were “extremely angry with anybody who doesn’t share their view.” So angry, in fact, that he all but endorsed the woman whose repellent values churned the stomachs of most Republicans, and not a few Democrats.

Podhoretz’s potty-mouthed tweets reek of malignity.

So angry, that he’s now trying to destroy the Trump presidency. So angry, that he’s trying to destroy even the life and livelihood of a brilliant young academic, Michael Anton. Anton’s a 47-year-old married man and father of two young children, who gave up a lucrative job in banking to join the Trump team. He’s also my friend. Long a Trump supporter, he now serves as the deputy assistant to the president for strategic communications on the National Security Council.

So why’s Podhoretz trying to destroy him by tweeting that he’s responsible for leaking anti-Jared Kushner information to The Washington Free Beacon? Hotair.com printed Podhoretz’s story in an article suggesting that Anton was part of a cabal trying to get Jared Kushner fired. As if that could happen.

It seems that the extremely angry not-so-young men see a battle for Trump’s soul unfolding in the Administration between the pro-Bannon and the pro-Kushner camps. They want a winner to emerge and they want the Kushner camp to win.

But that’s not how Trump operates. I know this for a fact as I was an informal and unpaid advisor to the Trump campaign in its early days, along with my husband, Frank Buckley. Trump would solicit viewpoints on a subject from a wide variety of people whose views spanned the spectrum of possible positions. From these divergent views Trump would craft his own speeches. They were always 100 percent Trump.

When Trump told the New York Post that he was his own strategist, he wasn’t dissing Bannon. He was stating a fact. He wants to hear from different voices, just as Ronald Reagan did with regard to the Soviet Union when he had two teams—one for and one against détente—advise him.

The New York Times correctly acknowledges that, as he has done throughout his career, “Mr. Trump plays advisers off one another, encouraging a sort of free-for-all competition for influence and ideas within his circle, so long as everyone demonstrates loyalty to him.” Trump has spoken dismissively of Jared’s recent Iraq trip and his newly-created office to overhaul the government. And he’s curtly told Bannon that his presence at certain meetings was unnecessary.

One doesn’t know in advance whose side Trump will take when all of the viewpoints have been considered. Jared wanted Trump to get involved in Syria. Bannon not. And Trump got involved. As the president, it’s Trump and only Trump who’s charged with making policy decisions. Everyone else must carry out what the president decides.

Unfortunately, what works for the president, doesn’t work for the extremely angry not-so-young men who get upset by “anyone who doesn’t share their view.” The people who don’t share the views of these angry old men must be drummed out of the Administration by any means possible. And that is why John Podhoretz has put a target on Michael Anton.

Anton is alleged to have leaked to The Washington Free Beacon, and Podhoretz’s tweet refers specifically to an article that yet again is covering the perceived “civil war” between Kushner and Bannon. Yet the article says that its anti-Kushner material comes from “sources both inside and outside the White House.” So what’s with fingering Anton as the person responsible for the anti-Jared comments? And after the article was published, a White House spokesperson told the Beacon that the article was inaccurate: “The NSC is running beautifully under the leadership of General McMaster who has installed an exceptional team to execute on behalf of the president.” This can’t sit very well with the not-so-young angry men of the right who want to destroy the Trump presidency if they cannot bend it to their will.

Podhoretz’s potty-mouthed tweets reek of malignity. They further no one’s interest but his own. He is the Chelsea Clinton of the conservative commentariat, a legacy figure devoid of interest save for his parents. I cannot imagine that his parents are very proud of him.

*A previous version of this article contained a typo in which the names of Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner were reversed, reading that Bannon supported the Syria bombing and Kushner did not.  We regret the error and have corrected it.

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Big Media • Donald Trump • Steve Bannon • The Media

Don’t Fall for Morning Joe’s Propaganda on Bannon

Morning Joe has a mission: Take down the President. Watch the show—if you must—and you will get the idea rather quickly. Every story and every guest are carefully crafted to create a sense of chaos and inevitable failure around the Trump White House. And they have allies. Scarborough and company are actively aided and abetted by the coterie of D.C. media stalwarts who regularly appear on the show.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The destruction of Republican presidents has been the white whale of almost every Washington journalist since 1974.

Scarborough warned President Trump in February, “And as I always say, don’t fight the press, the press always wins. Ask Richard Nixon. The press always wins!” In the face of an impressive set of Trump achievements—Neil Gorsuch now sits on on the Supreme Court, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines move forward, illegal immigration is down 67% through March, and job creation is on the rise—Scarborough uses his show as a redoubt of Trump opposition in a transparent attempt to assert the primacy of permanent Washington over elected officials who want to reassert the power of voters.

It may not fit the media narrative, but there was an election less than 6 months ago and Donald Trump won. Before the election Scarborough repeatedly warned Republicans to cut and run from their nominee. In August, he gravely warned that for Republicans the election is “about saving the Senate, it’s about not getting wiped out in the House, it’s about not getting wiped out in the state legislatures and governorships. We have a lot to lose.”

Morning Joe has become the avatar of the political class in the same way that Steve Bannon—who says little in public—has become the representative of the voters who supported Donald Trump when the bipartisan political establishment vigorously opposed his candidacy and his platform.

Instead, Republicans won big in 2016 with Donald Trump. Not only did Donald Trump beat down the Democrats’ vaunted Blue Wall of states from Wisconsin to North Carolina and win the White House, Republicans also retained control of both Houses of Congress and expanded their already impressive dominance at the state level—leaving wise men like Joe Scarborough with egg on their faces. As a result of last year’s election Republicans now control 32 governorships and 67 of 98 partisan state legislatures and have a trifecta (control of the governor and both state houses) in 25 states. In the year of Donald Trump, Republicans even won the governor’s mansion in deep blue Vermont. So much for Scarborough’s insight into the American electorate.

But he stills wants us to take him seriously when he says that Steve Bannon is stupid and can’t implement the putting together of a ham sandwich. Yet Scarborough’s only claim to authority is that he had a brief stint as a Congressman and now has a show on MSNBC. That show is, presumably, built around his alleged insights or practical wisdom. That is, at best, a tautology.

Let’s review the bidding: Steve Bannon was instrumental in building Breitbart into one of the most influential media organizations in the country. He went on from there to become Donald Trump’s presidential campaign manager and is now a trusted advisor to the President. It may have escaped the notice of folks who appear regularly on Morning Joe, but Bannon and Co. won. What’s more they tapped into an innate political sensibility that bridges the Right-Left political settlement that has ruled for the past 30 years and, in so doing, they threaten the established political order.

But in Joe Scarborough’s world Bannon, who got the election right, is “stupid.” The 2016 election was about one thing: Who rules? Will it be the permanent political class or the people.

Morning Joe has become the avatar of the political class in the same way that Steve Bannon—who says little in public—has become the representative of the voters who supported Donald Trump when the bipartisan political establishment vigorously opposed his candidacy and his platform. Those voters supported Trump before Bannon became his campaign manager and they continue to do so. But the constant media attacks on Bannon have made him the personification of what was at stake in the campaign. Bannon is attacked by the same people and for the same reasons that Trump himself has been attacked for the past 2 years. As a result he has become a symbol of the agenda that propelled Donald Trump to victory and that is characterized by three basic themes:

The crowd that regularly appears with Scarborough and Brezinski are eager to feed the narrative that those ideas lack support, that they are, to use the media’s favorite scare-word “extreme.” And so are the moral imperialists who have been looking for a way to regain influence in the Trump-era. No wonder we have seen everyone from anti-Trump gadflies like John McCain, Bill Kristol, and Elliot Abrams to Chuck Schumer and Fareed Zakaria attempt to spin the Syria strikes into a return to business-as-usual American interventionism in the Middle East.

We should not be surprised. The foreign policy advanced by Donald Trump during the campaign and supported by a broad cross-section of the American people does not threaten the “established international order,” as the recently dethroned but long discredited bipartisan foreign policy establishment would have you believe, but instead threatens the D.C. pecking order of sinecures and preferences. Their sotto voce praise for Trump’s action in Syria is an attempt to regain credibility—and make the best of the circumstances for themselves. They’ve been mostly frozen out of government, television appearances, and speaking gigs and they want back in.

Iowa Congressman Steve King had it right: “Steve Bannon is the lynchpin to your energized base.” This is not because Bannon is more important than the presidenthe’s not. It’s because the constant stream of media hits have made him representative of Trump’s battle to drain the swamp. The forces arrayed against the president have been taking scalps: Mike Flynn resigned, KT McFarland was sent to Singapore, and Devin Nunes was forced to temporarily recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Now they want bigger gamethey want Bannon.

Morning Joe has become a dressed-up, self-regarding version of TMZ for the D.C. crowd reporting anonymous rumors that feed MSNBC’s anti-Trump narrative. For it’s viewers it’s a multi-million dollar exercise in confirmation bias built on nameless, faceless, baseless gossipthe inevitable texts that Scarborough gets from “top White House insiders” and “sources close to (Ryan/Kushner/Ivanka/Whomeverisinthenewstoday)” and reads to his viewers with a sense of awe and reverence last seen on Moses’ face after he descended from Mt. Sinai.

Scarborough seems unaware of what most of his viewers must intuitively know: that his interlocutors are using him as a conduit to conduct their own palace intrigues for personal benefit. Or maybe he thinks he’s pulling a fast one and that they’re not smart enough to see through the greasepaint pantomime.

The attacks on Bannon are an assault on the President himself. They are an attempt to separate the President from his base and thereby isolate him in the White House, hobble his administration, and stop his agenda in its tracks. The President’s friends should see it for what it is and close ranks. An attack on one is an attack on all.

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Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Conservatives • Declaration of Independence • Democrats • Donald Trump • Obama • Political Parties • political philosophy • self-government • Steve Bannon • The Media • Trump White House

Looking Down on Trump’s Brain

According to Ross Douthat, in his April 1, 2017 New York Times article, “Trump Needs a Brain”:

Trump himself doesn’t know what he wants to do on major issues and there’s nobody in his innermost circle who seems to have a compelling vision that might guide him.

Douthat says in an “ideologically unstable age” Trump needs ideological expertise. “The dearth of Trumpists” is a major problem because “Trump himself doesn’t know what he wants to do.”

Trump needs no such experts. The information Trump needs about what to do—information about the character of good citizenship and the good of the whole—is not technical in nature. A better theoretical understanding of Trumpism by Trump would make Trump worse, not better.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle described wisdom as divided into practical and theoretical wisdom. While theoretical wisdom can provide advice to practical wisdom, as Aristotle did in the Ethics, it is not theory that chiefly informs statesmanship. Theoretical wisdom examines the true nature of the whole for the sake of knowing. While theoretical wisdom for Aristotle is in the superior position for the sake of understanding, it is in an inferior position with respect to direct application for practical enterprises.

In Metaphysics [1072b], Aristotle describes his theoretical understanding of God as pure actuality, as thinking, thinking about thinking. Following this description of the divine as understood theoretically [1074b], Aristotle explains that almost no one actually understands divinity in this way. Instead, ancient Greeks understood the divine as many anthropomorphic gods.

Harry Jaffa’s Thomism and Aristotelianism lays out in Chapter VI “Magnanimity and the Limits of Morality” (pg. 121) the dichotomy between the incentives of the statesman and those of the philosopher. The statesman and philosopher both direct their intellectual powers toward the highest thing, the imitation of the divine. But the philosopher imitates the divine—thinking, thinking about thinking—through contemplation. The statesman has a different view of the divine and imitates the divine—the gods of the city—acting as a benefactor to the people he serves. Think of how the anthropomorphic gods of polytheistic faiths are praised for conferring benefits on mortals, as—for example—Athena confers benefits on Athens. If the statesman had a theoretical understanding of the divine, he would not have a compelling incentive to do what he does. He would sit around some think tank in D.C. or worse, write a column for the New York Times.

We do not live in a polytheistic age, but this same basic understanding of the whole persists for many adherents of monotheistic faiths. In practice, these faiths allow for lesser participations in divinity, such as angels, saints, and heroic figures. Within each particular faith doctrinal distinctions exist that are crucially important. Polytheism, of course, is a heresy, but psychologically the views of our religions bear some comparisons with to those in the ancient world of gods, demigods, and heroes.

On some occasions, Trump personally has revealed these views. Trump is nominally Presbyterian, but he made clear with comments like “Two Corinthians” and “little wine and little cracker” and his comfort with other faiths and interfaith marriage, that the specific doctrines of the sects with which he affiliates are unimportant. On at least two occasions has discussed things even more revelatory of these views. He referred to his father, Fred Trump, as “looking down” on events and approving Trump’s conduct in securing the presidency. In addition, in his February 28 joint speech to Congress, Trump referred to U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens as follows:

Ryan died as he lived:  a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation . . . Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.

When the applause finally subsided, Trump, addressing Ryan Owen’s widow, said extemporaneously:

And Ryan is looking down, right now—you know that—and he is very happy because I think he just broke a record.

For Trump—and his “you know that” suggests he presumes this is the view of every decent person—the heroic dead are very much alive, and they are judging our conduct. They want to us to break records, or as Aristotle would say, achieve excellence.

If, for Trump, the heroic dead are very much alive as were the gods of the city to the ancient Greeks, then Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and other heroes of the American past are, for Trump, very much alive and judging Trump’s conduct. Washington, D.C.’s monuments to these men are laid out to overlay these heroic dead on the pattern of the ancient Greek polytheism—not to establish polytheism—but to establish a civic religion that can serve as a guide to citizens and statesmen alike.

Such a civic religion can be a guide only to people who are open to such a view, and Trump clearly is. Imitation of the divine for Trump consists in measuring up to the  standards and judgment of these heroes of the past. In that sense, Trump the statesman can be said to have the right opinions for practical wisdom, opinions that do not require any further ideological underpinning to tell him what to do.

These opinions are ones that progressives—who speak of faith traditions rather than of faith, consider unscientific and from the realm of the superstitious. President Obama placed importance of his father as a personal hero but modern psychology defined his view. Obama’s father was not “looking down;” rather there were “dreams from my father,” subconscious impulses, subject to the technical evaluation of Freudians and their kith. Obama, if I understand him, would not think of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln as heroes against which his own actions could be judged, but merely as several of many parts in an irrational past up for evaluation only by the progress of science and ever-improving expertise. There is nothing inherent in the wisdom of our forebears to inform us today—only an openness to “progress” as such. Obama, I submit, could not be open to being informed by our classical civic religion as is Trump. As a result, Trump appeared to Obama to lack the temperament for the office, not just for policy reasons, but because his worldview seems to Obama to be genuinely alien.

A civic religion which calls us to live up to the judgments of the Founders is superior to the progressive worldview, despite the generous way in which progressives seem happy to  interpret themselves. Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln worked to confer the benefit of securing self-government for their fellow Americans in the hope that each American could, in some sense, be molded after themselves, capable of and willing to live up to the equality before the law that their nature as men deemed proper and their inheritance as Americans promised. Below are illustrative quotes:

From Washington on rule of law:

The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

Lincoln on Jefferson regarding equality:

. . . in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, [Jefferson] had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.

From Lincoln regarding equality and liberty:

As I would not be a slave, I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.

These statesman knew what to do because they knew themselves—which is to say that they knew what sort of being they were and what sort of dignity that demanded. No further “ideology” was necessary, and there was little further useful formal expertise. The practical character of the American Founding is why it defies attempts—and there have been and will continue to be many such attempts—to impose upon it an ideological strait jacket as wholly defined the Enlightenment.

If one interprets Trump using this lens, Trump makes perfect sense. He wants for the American people the things he wants for himself: nationhood, rule of law, self-government, and economic opportunity. He says this all quite plainly:

  • restore the idea of American nationhood (“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.” – Trump Inaugural),
  • restore the sovereignty of the people (e.g., “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.” –Trump Inaugural),
  • restore rule of law (e.g., “To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question:  What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?” – Trump Joint Address to Congress),
  • rescue the economy and the American people an out-of-control administrative state (e.g., “For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost” – Trump Inaugural),
  • end perpetual war and invest in the United States (“The thing I do best is build. When you have an infrastructure of a country like ours that is absolutely decaying and rotting and falling apart and we—by the way, we’re spending $5 trillion in the Middle East instead of doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We have to knock the hell out of ISIS and all, but we have to get back to rebuilding our country because you look at our airports, our roadways, our tunnels, our bridges—67 percent of them are in trouble.” – Trump on Morning Joe, February 9, 2016), and
  • rescue the middle class from unfair trade and globalism (e.g., “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry.” – Trump Inaugural; “For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries. We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, and so many other places throughout our land.” – Trump Joint Address to Congress).

Trump does not need a hired brain to tell him what to do. What Trump needs is loyal help implementing what he already knows. #Nevertrump Republicans and conservatives, such as Katie Walsh—a part of a disloyal opposition styled as “Resistance”—and even some so-called “non-partisan” employees of the executive branch have undertaken to impede the new administration. These are not checks on power as were envisioned by the Framers. These are bad actors. The help Trump needs now will come from those who know best how to break through these impediments, so he can do the work of the American people.

Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Deep State • Defense of the West • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • First Amendment • Foreign Policy • Free Speech • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Infrastructure • Middle East • political philosophy • Republicans • Steve Bannon • Technology • Terrorism • The Constitution • The Culture • The Leviathian State • Trade • Trump White House

Looking at Trump as a Turnaround Executive

The 2016 election outcome was an unexpectedly loud declaration by the American people about their dissatisfaction with the direction of the country.

Further, the magnitude of the post-election polarization has ensured the historical habit of “happy talk” promoting the need for bipartisan initiatives that bring us together is absent and not going to happen.

We are in a cultural crisis due to two fundamental and, as yet, largely unaddressed areas of disagreement, disagreements which are so basic that there are no differences to split so we can meet in the middle.

 

Those two areas of conflict are cultural Marxism and the administrative state. Both have spread like invasive kudzu through our cultural and governmental institutions. And each are mortal threats to liberty in America.

Such a crisis creates a clarion call for a turnaround. But turnarounds do not happen without leaders willing to do unpopular things, clarity about the real issues, the building of a large enough coalition, and the ongoing delivery of short-term wins.

Does America have the will to address its deep challenges? How does Donald Trump fit into this picture?

Conventional Wisdom Still Does Not Explain Trump

Many people continue not to understand Donald Trump because they continue to measure him based either on conventional political terms or on conventional ideological terms. Neither approach works. Approaching Trump with conventional assumptions has led nearly everyone to underestimate the impact of his message during all phases of the 2016 campaign.

I believe two themes have emerged that go a long way toward explaining why Trump is unconventional and has succeeded thus far:

  • The Fighting Post-Modern Man:  Part of him is a post-modern man who knows how to match wits with the postmodern Left. He knows how to take them on and beat them at their own game. He knows how to and relishes branding his targets and taking the fight to his opponents, and this quickly set him apart from the GOP establishment politicians of the sort voters had found wearisome and determined were more weak than polite. He has shown himself to be quite clever and has frequently been able to move onto the next skirmish, while the Left finds itself still fighting yesterday’s tired battle. The Left has never had to battle anyone like this before in the public square and it may be that Trump’s skillset is a necessary precondition for neutralizing the Left.
  • The Competitive Businessman: Another part of him is a highly competitive Queens businessman who is used to figuring out how to succeed in the marketplace and then playing to win and this gave him a different mindset from the political elites of both parties. Along the way, he has shown great instincts and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, something business people have to do in a world of transient competitive advantages.

But even these themes do not fully explain Trump and his appeal in this last election and I would like to propose evaluating him through the lens of a corporate turnaround operating executive. Like all analogies, it is an imperfect match but I believe it can provide some missing insights as well as a roadmap to future successes.

Characteristics of a Crisis Situation and How to Respond

I spent an earlier part of my career involved in leading corporate turnarounds and here is what a turnaround executive often finds in a crisis situation:

  • The situation is unstable.
  • Time is the enemy.
  • There is a broken culture that does not talk honestly or openly about what is wrong, about the elephant(s) in the room. This often paralyzes and politicizes an organization.
  • The situation will continue to deteriorate if the status quo remains in place. If that status quo persists too long, it becomes impossible to pull out of the doom loop.

Another characteristic of turnarounds is that many people in the organization know at least something about what is wrong, usually have ideas about what to do, and are blocked from either speaking up or galvanizing action by a leadership team who enabled the broken situation in the first place.

Entering into that cauldron, turnaround executives begin their roles knowing nothing specific, other than that a crisis is present. They have to quickly determine enough about what is going on so they can figure out a plan, build a coalition of people committed to change, and deliver short-term wins that begin to effect a turnaround.

Turnaround executives aren’t paid to be deep thinkers. But they are paid to rapidly identify the problems that will kill the company if left unchanged and to act on them quickly, adapting over time to changing circumstances. They cannot do it by themselves so having some strong colleagues is essential.

Turnaround leaders frequently have different temperaments and management styles from long-term company builders because the nature of their respective leadership challenges are different. Furthermore, turnaround leaders are usually transitory figures because ensuring delivery of significant change often requires major upheaval and a subsequent leader may then be needed to consolidate the restructuring gains.

When I parachuted into companies in crisis, I rapidly took four steps.

First, I interviewed people and asked three questions:

  • What is working?
  • What is not working?
  • If you were in charge tomorrow, what would you do differently?

Then I listened. I found that many of the same themes came up across the interviews. When that happened, I took those comments to be the facts on the ground. Other things might not have been so clear, so I filed them away as “possible facts” to be watched moving forward.

The interviews altered the dynamics in the company. It created subsequent hallway conversations among people where they acknowledged someone was actually listening to them and wanted to hear their ideas. That created hope that change might happen, and hope is something usually missing in a crisis.

Second, I got everyone together and we talked openly about what I had learned from the interviews.

Suddenly it was acceptable to talk openly about the elephant(s) in the room. Now the hallway conversations really exploded about how change felt imminent.

Third, I took the lessons learned from the interviews and group conversation and worked with the team to develop new plans that would stop the bleeding and create the possibility of winning again. These plans made the change real and gave people something tangible to grab onto.

The new goals were then publicized and performance metrics measuring progress against them was publicized on a regular basis. These results meant ongoing change was happening in undeniable ways and short-term wins would begin to follow. The latter is essential to maintaining momentum and hope.

It meant people understood how they could personally make a difference. People like to be part of a winning team. This galvanized the good people to jump in and converted some previous fence-sitters into joining a team dedicated to doing things differently.

I was not shy about firing people who resisted change and openness or who had a bad attitude. The good people already knew who these people were and the terminations only invigorated them more while also removing unnecessary obstacles.

Fourth, I encouraged the formation of non-executive teams to address specific issues close to their work responsibilities.

These teams deepened the personal ownership of change throughout the company, ensuring greater initiative and buy-in to ongoing change.

Finally, a turnaround focuses attention on a limited number of issues that really matter, recognizing that resources are limited and energy cannot be dissipated by tackling too many different initiatives.

America’s Crisis and Turnaround Plan

America needs a turnaround because our crisis is deep and ongoing:

  • We have $20 trillion of national debt, doubling the debt in just the last eight years. We have over $100 trillion of unfunded public sector liabilities for Social Security and Medicare. Those amounts are simply unsustainable, especially given the West’s below-replacement birthrates. Our children and their children will pay dearly for our fiscal irresponsibility.
  • We have also slashed defense spending to pre-World War II levels at a time when many parts of the Middle East have blown up, rogue nations are building nuclear weapon capabilities, and Russia and China are on the move.
  • Radical Islamic terrorism has targeted Western Civilization, creating mayhem in many parts of Europe and creating the possibility of the same here in the United States.
  • Global elites have become dominant, fighting to bring down the cultural identities of nations while many of our citizens no longer know the truth about their own American heritage and have the ability to defend its unique value.

How does knowledge of leading turnarounds impact an assessment of Trump?

Trump’s campaign stops amounted to interviews with the American people. Over time, he figured out what mattered to many Americans who felt marginalized and gave them a voice. In doing that, he accomplished something no other 2016 presidential candidate was able to do, a remarkable accomplishment for a non-politician and another example of how many have underestimated his ability to instinctively grasp what is important. That informed his thinking about what was important and gave them hope that change was possible.

I watched many of Trump’s rallies online as the election drew close and had a distinct sense that his tone had changed and he was connecting to people. He talked openly about the elephants in the room in American society in a way that few others did, challenging the existing political correctness and signaling how he didn’t care about ignoring it. He let people know he had heard and felt their pain and was conveying to them that he understood their plight.

Trump developed many specific plans during the campaign and has been moving on them since his inauguration. Both he and Bannon have said he is laser-focused on delivering on his promises. In a world where politicians lie routinely (and certainly Trump has told a few himself), Trump is treating the delivery of his campaign promises in the same way that a turnaround executive tracks performance against their plans.

But I think the turnaround analogy yields even richer insights when you look more closely at three things Trump has chosen to focus on over the months:

Whether intentional or instinctual, Trump has already grasped and moved on the first two topics and Bannon said at CPAC that the third topic—defeating the administrative state—is critically important to the Trump Administration’s agenda.

As important as a rebirth and recovery of the lost culture is, it won’t happen if these three problem areas are not successfully turned around first. If there is no oxygen, there will be no life. Or, in turnaround lingo, if you run out of cash, it won’t matter how pristine your aspirations for change were.

Much public debate about the administrative state still needs to be led by the Trump team in order to build a societal consensus about how to dismantle it. In parallel, we citizens have to answer two questions that are foundational to constitutional government:  Do we believe in liberty and that our rights come from Nature’s God, not from government? Do we believe in self-government and the personal character required by it?

Building a large enough coalition of people who believe in liberty and self-government, and then regularly delivering short-term wins that free citizens from the clutches of cultural Marxism and the administrative state will determine if America’s turnaround will be successful.