There has been an awful lot of comment about POUTS this week, mostly to the effect that he is bonkers. I realize that this may not come as much of a surprise, and it’s a theme which has always been part of the scenery in articles about him, but we seem to have reached something of a tipping point in the tone of coverage of him. There is less and less discussion of what he says, his various utterances being used more as jumping-off points for analysis of his character, for want of a better word.
It’s been some time since I quoted Patrick Cockburn, but he’s usually worth leading off with when he’s got a relevant piece. This week, he has some thought-provoking commentary on the disturbances in the Anglo-Saxon world:
Current political battles are so intense that they mask crucial long-term developments: Britain and America both look much more unstable today than they have done at any time since the Second World War. Some weakening of Anglo-Saxon dominance on the world stage had been expected in the wake of the Iraq war in 2003 and the financial crisis in 2008, but suddenly both powers feel as if they are starting to implode.
What the three political earthquakes in the Anglo-Saxon world – the Brexit referendum, the British general election and the US presidential election – have in common is that they showed that there are many more people unhappy with the status quo than anybody had suspected.
Loathing for Trump on the part of most of the US media is so intense as to make sensible commentary a rarity. They see Trump as a demonic conman who is ruining their country and they may well be right, but this makes it all the more necessary to ask what are the real grievances among voters that he was able to identify and exploit. Edward Luttwak, political scientist and historian, has a compelling article in the Times Literary Supplement pointing to an all-important but little regarded statistic for car “affordability” in the US which shows that almost half of American households have “been impoverished to the point that they can no longer afford a new car”. This is in a country where a car is a necessity to get to work or shop for food, but where wage stagnation and the rising price of vehicles makes it an increasing strain to buy one. Luttwak argues that Trump got “the political economy” right in a way that none of his opponents even tried to do and this made him invulnerable to attacks on his character that his opponents thought would destroy him.
Corbyn is a much better person than Trump, but both men benefit from the impossibility of putting somebody on permanent trial by the media without continually mentioning their name. Trump evidently calculates that it scarcely matters what he is accused of so long as he tops the media agenda. Corbyn likewise draws benefits from media hostility so unrelenting that it discredits itself and no longer inflicts real wounds.
Which of course takes us back to “economic anxiety”. Some of us are deeply suspicious of those who advocate a strategy focusing on economic anxiety, but it would be stupid to ignore it. I think the relationship is a bit more subtle than the economics-above-all-else crowd would have us believe: feeling not-well-off makes one grumpy, and grumpiness makes one feel like voting for people who promise to shake things up, especially if they promise to do something about hot-button issues. Such as immigration, Obamacare, abortion, terrorism or what have you. And the more outrageously they promise, the more they attract what are essentially protest votes.
Johnny Fallon reflects on this in the context of Scaramucci’s untimely departure:
In media, having a controversial opinion is often seen as a fast track to success. We hear it all the time about people who are ‘not afraid to tell it like it is’, ‘call a spade a spade’, and who ‘say what we were all thinking’.
Sometimes there is a very good reason that people did not say what they were thinking. They realised they might be misinformed, they realised it might require further thought. Too many opinions are not actually opinions at all – they are idle thoughts that should have been left in the recess of your mind. However, because the public is reacting, they will search out the controversial voice. The voice that agrees with them on a few things even if they disagree on a host of others. As a result, the media will look to employ such voices. They are given airspace and column inches.
In Scaramucci’s case, they are given a job they don’t know the first thing about. In Donald Trump’s case, they are elected president.
Being controversial for the sake of it is neither big nor clever and does nothing to advance an argument. Anybody can pontificate but real actions require something else.Trump is leading a White House that so far is failing to actually do anything, despite being one of the loudest machines on the planet.
Too many voices are like that – willing to tell us all ‘how it should be’ but never willing to do anything.
We’ll go on with another couple of pieces from the Irish Independent, one from what history will no doubt term the Scaramucci Era, and one from after. First, Declan Lynch on POUTS’s outrageousness:
So it was that last Monday morning we found ourselves listening to a discussion on Morning Ireland about whether the president can pardon himself. A very serious-sounding man called Richard Painter, who was chief ethics lawyer for George W Bush, was explaining that any suggestion, however vague, in a tweet of the president’s that he might be able to pardon himself in relation to Russia, were wrong and had absolutely no precedent in human history.
First, let us just stand in awe of the achievement of a man who can rearrange the consciousness of this world to such a degree that there are educated folk on the radio debating in sombre tones the issue of whether he has the power to pardon himself. It is a scenario which could only be imagined in a Mel Brooks movie, or perhaps the story of Papa Doc Duvalier – or ideally in a Mel Brooks movie about Papa Doc Duvalier and his son Baby Doc.
The man on Morning Ireland, being serious, was evaluating Trump’s self-pardon in the light of events which happened in the world before Trump started to run for president. Unfortunately most of that doesn’t matter any more. It ceased to matter on the day that Trump mocked a disabled man in public by impersonating him – and proceeded to win the Republican nomination anyway.
At that point we all should have realised that olde worlde customs such as “fact-checking” mightn’t make much difference in this game. As the American Psychoanalytic Association put it last week, Trump’s behaviour is “so different from anything we’ve seen before”.
It is so different, partly because it mixes things which we normally regard as being mutually repellent – hooliganism and hilarity. With this intoxicating combination he has us where he wants us, reacting to him, always reacting – last week we were just absorbing the concept of the presidential self-pardon, when along came Scaramucci, to raise the levels of hilarious hooliganism another notch.
Gerard O’Regan takes a fairly similar line:
Meanwhile, tough guy Mr Kelly has just taken on his most unlikely assignment in a long life spent soldiering in times of war and peace. But he will discover sooner rather than later, the war in the White House is a conflict like no other; it’s a moot point whether he has the skills to survive.
But will he really have the authority to ensure that Mr Trump’s favoured golden daughter, Ivanka, and her over ambitious husband, Jared Kushner, will seek his permission if they wish to raise some policy issue with the president? Indeed the presence of various Trump family members – often doing solo runs depending on what they believe might be the latest thought in the president’s head – is one of the main reasons for much of the perceived chaos and dysfunctionality in the White House.
However, despite what seems from the outside world unrelenting turbulence, its a moot point whether all this jousting costs Mr Trump even the mildest concern. CNN and other ‘serious media’ on both sides of the Atlantic spend hours each week parsing and analysing what they believe to be the latest “crisis” in the White House. But such institutionalised squabbling has been a part of the Trump persona, and way of operating, long before he came into politics.
Presiding over sometimes orchestrated chaos – and letting it run its course – is when he feels most in control.
And his instincts also tell him, despite all those “fake news” outlets, his bedrock support base quite likes his way of doing things.
Despite a serious drop in his overall approval ratings, his core support in key marginal states has not defected to any other mainstream politician.
So he will insist on playing the game his way. He is absolutely certain he knows how the world works. It remains nigh impossible to get him to admit he may be wrong about anything. But then again that’s hardly surprising.
Each morning when he looks in the mirror, and fixes his hair to face another day, he does not see the President of the United States staring back at him. What Donald J Trump sees is a ‘Master of the Universe’.
David Usborne has another analysis of the POUTS style:
On the same day news leaked that special prosecutor Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury to help get to the bottom of allegations of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign, the man himself lashed out at an event in West Virginia, calling them a “total fabrication” and “made up” by Democrats still sulking over their losses.
That would be bad. People in Washington, people with power, are not meant to make stuff up. Those responsible for smearing Trump would have some explaining to do, because regardless of how this all turns out, so much damage to his presidency will already have been done.
But will he deserve an apology? Maybe not. Because fabrication and spinning fables is his favourite form of communication. He is himself intimately acquainted with mendacity. The country sees this. A new Quinnipiac poll says 62 per cent of Americans think that Trump is “not honest”.
After all this time, including months of investigation by the FBI, no evidence has come to light to warrant criminal prosecution of Clinton. And maybe nothing will come of Mueller’s Russia probe either, and Trump will turn out to have been a victim of “total fabrications” and “made-up” canards as he contends.
But he should know a thing or two about that, which is why not very many of us will feel sorry for him even then. Chickens coming home to roost, and all that.
And Matthew Norman gets in on the act while examining the speech to the Scouts:
The least astounding revelation of this week, or any, is that Donald Trump was never a Boy Scout. Had the US movement of the mid-1950s introduced merit badges wrought from 24-carat gold, and awarded them for such wholesome tasks as Whites Only Property Renting, Dodging The Draft On Spurious Medical Grounds, and Avoiding Social Encounters With Children of Non-Multi-Millionaires, who knows? But it didn’t, and he wasn’t.
Given the safe assumption that Trump regards getting dirty outdoors and doing stuff with rope as a profit-less waste of time for sad losers who are far less altruistic than they’d have you believe, it seems that here, as elsewhere, he follows the teaching of his presidential role model. “Nobody’s a Boy Scout,” said Francis Underwood in House of Cards. “Not even Boy Scouts.”
This in mind, a huge hats-off to Trump for faking the love in yesterday’s speech to the National Scout Jamboree. Some 40,000 Boy Scouts gathered in Glen Jean (not a guns’n’God-clinging country singer from Louisiana, as the name suggests, but a town in West Virginia) to be inspired by the timeless grace and wisdom for both of which “Trump” has become the thesaurus’s go-to synonym.
In celebrating the elements of scouting he holds dearest, Trump’s sincerity was striking. Just as you needn’t read them to understand intelligence briefings better than anyone else, you need never have been a Boy Scout to embody the very soul of scouting. What is his presidency if not perpetual homage to the movement’s credo that the very best way to learn is on the job? Learning From Experience is even more valuable than Learning From Paying Trump University $35,000 For A 50-cent Piece Of Paper.
The tangerine Baden-Powell of the Oval Office must be the greatest Scout leader in history. In just six months, he has taught all of us to be prepared for absolutely anything, other than a public display of presidential sanity, in the age of Trump.
I could find you pieces from just about every paper in Europe saying similar things, but it would get a bit monotonous — even if it’s a lot of fun seeing POUTS vilified.
But I have discovered that we have a small plumbing problem here at Jackalope Tower which demands some of my attention, so I’m just going to leave you with a wholy unrelated piece from Norway’s Dagbladet:
Saturday night a Boeing 737-800 arrived from Miami at Oslo Airport.
According to the Danish website check-in.dk there is no flight, but the plane used by US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s election campaign, rented from the airline Xtra Airways.
Thanks for last time
«Xtra Airways will fly for us in August with the possibility of extension. They will operate with a Boeing 737-800, which is the same type of aircraft we use on European flights, “said Norwegian information director Daniel Kirchhoff to the website, which states that Norwegian flights start August 1st.
For Norwegian and CEO Bjørn Kjos, the renter gives an opportunity to say “up yours” to the former US presidential candidate, who in November last year lost the election to Donald Trump.
“Hillary Clinton calls on the Obama administration not to proceed with the final approval of Norwegian Air International’s application,” said the “Hillary for America” campaign Nikki Budzinski in a press release last May .
“Is this an up yours>,” asks Dagbladet Norway’s communications manager Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen.
“We think it’s a fun match, but for us it’s all about the need for airplanes and crews to ensure that passengers get out. The most important thing is that those we rent from meets the safety requirements, “says Sandaker-Nielsen.
He says it was unknown to Norwegian that the aircraft had been used by Hillary Clinton until check-in.dk told it.
Flying from Oslo
According to Sandaker-Nielsen, the airplane in the next few weeks will be put in traffic from Oslo.
Thus, there is a possibility for passengers traveling from Oslo to land on the same plane as Hillary used during the election campaign.
According to check-in.dk, Xtra Airways is an American charter airline based in Coral Gables, Florida. The reason for the hiring is that Norwegian does not have enough own aircraft and pilots to cover the busy summer program.
So, should you wish to fly to Norway this summer, fly Norwegian!