Trumpism and the Philosophy of History


August 22, 2017

Trumpism and the Philosophy of History

by Mark S. Weiner*

https://www.project-syndicate.org

Mark S. Weiner is the author of The Rule of the Clan, winner of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. In 2015, he was a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Legal Philosophy of the University of Salzburg.

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Bannon and the destruction of the liberal order

 

Stephen Bannon may be out, but don’t breathe a sigh of relief. His exit poses a new, more fundamental danger for liberals worldwide. With the departure of the Trump administration’s foremost court intellectual, liberals may be tempted to maintain the strategic tack they took during the presidential campaign, when they criticized Donald Trump mainly for his temperament, not his ideas, and by implication characterized his followers on the same basis.

Such criticism is understandable but ultimately self-defeating, because it subverts the very basis of the liberal, open society famously defined by Karl Popper: critical, scientific engagement at the level of ideas.

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What’s more, failing to recognize what Bannon called “the Trump Presidency that we fought for and won” as a philosophical movement means missing an opportunity to develop liberalism’s core values in the context of our own time. Forging a path between elite managerialism and authoritarian populism – the daunting task of liberalism for our age – requires knowing precisely where we are starting.

In this light, now is a crucial moment to reflect upon Bannon’s worldview – especially his philosophy of history. Trumpism, as a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, was built from the start on an elegiac slogan: “Make America Great Again.” Temporality was at the core of its campaign brand, guided by nostalgia for “the good old days.” Bannon has sought to develop this brand into a robust popular historical consciousness, and his exit from the administration will only liberate him from the constraints of actually existing institutions.

Abundant evidence of Bannon’s views about the nature of historical change are found in his documentary film Generation Zero (2010), which in retrospect looks like a playbook for the 2017 campaign.

The film argues that the 2008 financial crisis was caused by the liberalization of American moral values during the 1960s, when the Baby Boomers’ narcissism led to a culture of political graft and economic greed, underwritten by the marriage of government and business elites. These elites socialized the Baby Boomers’ debts and foisted them onto future generations and the forgotten middle class, leading to economic carnage and lost faith in public institutions. From this nadir, Bannon explains, America will be either destroyed or renewed.

The film’s narrative structure, particularly its driving movement toward cataclysm and rebirth, is provided by William Strauss and Neil Howe’s The Fourth Turning (1997), a best-selling work of sociology. Many commentators have noted with alarm the influence of the book’s apocalyptic tone on Bannon’s worldview. But more troubling is the book’s essentially Jungian argument about the mechanism of historical change.

More precisely, the book superimposes Jungian psychological archetypes onto the view, drawn from historians such as Arnold Toynbee, that history follows predictable, recurring patterns. According to Strauss and Howe, a finite set of mythic archetypes characterizes not only individuals but also the generations to which they belong. Their differing qualities provide the engine for inter-generational conflict and historical change.

Just as there are four stages of an individual human life, so there are four stages within a hundred-year era. A “Hero” generation, like that which fought World War II, is inevitably followed by an “Artist” generation, which necessarily gives rise to a moralistic “Prophet” generation that makes way for a “Nomad” generation – which in turn gives birth to a new generation of Heroes.

The balance and interaction between these generations over time leads a society to undergo a predictable set of “turnings,” from an optimistic “High” to a rebellious “Awakening,” and from there through a corrosive “Unraveling” leading to a fraught “Crisis,” which ends with a new “High.” The Crisis stage always hits American society particularly hard, because the United States has so profoundly embraced a linear understanding of time. Yet come it will, and when it does, America will either collapse or be made great again.

For Strauss and Howe, history is cyclical, its content is mythic, and its study leads to prophesy. This perspective, they argue, offers a number of concrete personal benefits, assuming that readers can unlearn the teachings of linear history (including, bracingly, “obsessive fear of death”). Most important, it offers readers “a more personal connection with the past and future,” and the feeling of being “active participants in a destiny that is both positive and plausible.” It offers readers a sense of control.

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Popper had a name for such predictive historical thinking, so contrary to the scientific method. He called it “historicism.” His foundational contribution to modern liberalism, The Open Society and its Enemies (1945), is an analysis of historicism’s roots and implications for liberal democracy. In other words, our use today of the very term “open society” derives from a withering critique of the philosophy of history Bannon embraces.

Popper viewed Hegel as the main source of historicism in the modern era. But he traces the historicist attitude back to Plato, whose anti-democratic ideologies of permanent social hierarchy he interprets as a reaction to the breakdown of Greek tribalism – an effort to recover lost certainties.

Indeed, Popper views all forms of contemporary historicism, even the “remarkable” work of Toynbee himself, as an effort to resuscitate tribalism’s “closed society.” For Popper, prophetic history represents a misguided philosophical reaction against freedom, change, and individualism.

In the midst of World War II and the fight against fascism, Popper offered an alternative to the neo-tribalism of historicism: science and rationalist philosophy, or “the tradition of challenging theories and myths and of critically discussing them.” And he provided a view of historical change that rejects inevitability. Only this humane response to tribalism’s breakdown, he asserted, could set the world free and maintain its liberty.

Popper’s analysis is as important today as it was in his own time. Following Bannon’s departure, the worst thing liberals could do is to ignore Trumpism’s animating principles – for by doing so, they will subvert their own.

NY Times Frank Bruni: The Week Trump “Quit” for lacking in moral leadership


August 22, 2017

NY Times Frank Bruni: The Week Trump “Quit”for lacking in moral leadership

http://www.nytimes.com

As the worst week in a cursed presidency wound down, I spotted more and more forecasts that Donald Trump would resign, including from Tony Schwartz, who wrote “The Art of the Deal” for Trump and presumably understands his tortured psyche.

They struck me not as wishful or fantastical. They struck me as late.

Trump resigned the Presidency already — if we regard the job as one of moral stewardship, if we assume that an iota of civic concern must joust with self-regard, if we expect a president’s interest in legislation to rise above vacuous theatrics, if we consider a certain baseline of diplomatic etiquette to be part of the equation.

By those measures, it’s arguable that Trump’s Presidency never really began. By those measures, it’s indisputable that his presidency ended in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday afternoon, when he chose — yes, chose — to litigate rather than lead, to attend to his wounded pride instead of his wounded nation and to debate the supposed fine points of white supremacy.

He abdicated his responsibilities so thoroughly and recklessly that it amounted to a letter of resignation. Then he whored for his Virginia winery on the way out the door.

Image result for Mike Pence-- President in WaitingThe sober and Presidential Mike Pence

Trump knew full well what he should have done, because he’d done it — grudgingly and badly — only a day earlier. But it left him feeling countermanded, corrected, submissive and weak, and those emotions just won’t do for an ego as needy and skin as thin as his. So he put id before country and lashed out, in a manner so patently wrong and transcendently ruinous that TV news shows had to go begging for Republican lawmakers to defend or even try to explain what he’d said.

Those lawmakers wanted no part of him. The same went for the corporate chieftains he considers his peers. And for the generals he genuinely reveres. The heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines all went out of their way to issue statements condemning the hatred that Trump wouldn’t take on. A soft coup against a cuckoo: It confirmed how impotent Trump had become.

On Tuesday he “relinquished what presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan have regarded as a cardinal duty of their job: set a moral course to unify the nation,” wrote The Times’s Mark Landler, in what was correctly labeled a news analysis and not an opinion column. Landler’s assessment, echoed by countless others, was as unassailable as it was haunting, and it was prompted in part by Trump’s perverse response to a question that it’s hard to imagine another president being asked: Did he place the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., on the same “moral plane” as those who showed up to push back at them?

“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” Trump answered.

Indeed he wasn’t. And if you can’t put anybody on a moral plane, you can’t put yourself on Air Force One.

On Friday Trump finally dismissed his polarizing chief strategist, Steve Bannon. That’s excellent. And irrelevant. A president’s team doesn’t matter when he himself is this lost.

In The Atlantic, under the headline “Donald Trump Is a Lame-Duck President,” David Graham wrote: “For most presidents, that comes in the last few months of a term. For Trump, it appears to have arrived early, just a few months into his term. The president did always brag that he was a fast learner.”

In Axios, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei noted that the President had “systematically damaged or destroyed his relationship with — well, almost every group or individual essential to success.” They then listed these “methodically alienated” constituencies: “the public,” “CEOs,” “the intelligence community,” “every Democrat who could help him do a deal,” “world leaders,” “Europe,” “his own staff.”

In The Times, Michael Shear, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush reported that several of his top advisers couldn’t see how his presidency would recover. “Others expressed doubts about his capacity to do the job,” they added.

Striking a similar note, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who has not been among Trump’s frequent Republican critics, told reporters, “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate.”

This is a question of more than competence. It’s a question of basic interest, and when I look back through the lens of the present wreckage at all that’s happened since Trump descended that escalator in Trump Tower in June 2015, I see clearly that he never in fact wanted or set out to be president, not as the position is conventionally or correctly defined.

He revealed that repeatedly as he rejected the traditional rules and usual etiquette, refusing to release his tax returns, bragging about his penis size, feuding with the Muslim father of a fallen American soldier and electing puerility over poetry at nearly every meaningful moment.

Because of his victories in the Republican primary and then the general election, his campaign was hailed for its tactical genius. But it was driven by, and tailored to, his emotional cravings. All that time on Twitter wasn’t principally about a direct connection to voters. It was a way to stare at an odometer of approval and monitor, in real time, how broadly his sentiments were being liked and shared.

Applause. Greater brand exposure. A new layer of perks atop an existence already lavish with them. Utter saturation of Americans’ consciousness. These were his foremost goals. Governing wasn’t, and that was obvious in his haziness and dishonesty before Election Day and in his laziness and defiance after.

He made clear that conflicts of interest didn’t trouble him, drawing constant attention to Trump properties and incessantly pointing out that nothing in the law of the land compelled him to divest his business interests.

He opened the White House door wide to unmoored and unserious people, most recently Anthony Scaramucci, who, during his nanosecond as communications director, disparaged Bannon as someone engaged primarily in a limber act of self-gratification. That was on the record. Then Bannon disparaged his administration adversaries as being so threatened by him that they were “wetting themselves.” That was on the record, too.

A President is supposed to fill important posts. Trump dallied. A president is supposed to be involved in lawmaking, but members of Congress who met with Trump about the repeal-and-replace of Obamacare were aghast at his ignorance of the legislation and of the legislative process itself.

A president is supposed to safeguard the most sacred American institutions, repairing them if need be. Trump doesn’t respect them. He has sought to discredit and disempower the judiciary, the free press, the F.B.I., the Congressional Budget Office. He even managed to inject politics into, and pollute, the Boy Scouts. This is the course of a tyrant.

I haven’t mentioned Russia. How astonishing that it can be left out and there’s still a surfeit to rue. Trump hasn’t been exercising the duties of his office. He’s been excising them, one by one. The moral forfeiture of the past week was the capper.

And as I watched the Bushes and the generals and Trump’s former rivals for the Republican presidential nomination step into the public square to enunciate their own principles about murderous bigots and domestic terrorists, I realized that they weren’t going through any typical this-is-what-makes-us-Americans motions. They weren’t preening.

They were, in the words of The Washington Post’s James Hohmann, “filling the void.” If Trump wasn’t going to do his job, others had to.

I kept coming across variations on the verdict that he had “failed to lead,” and that phraseology is off. “Fail” and “failure” imply that there was an effort, albeit unsuccessful.

Trump made none. He consciously decided that he didn’t care about comforting or inspiring those Americans — a majority of them — who weren’t quick and generous enough with their clapping. He was more interested in justifying himself.

So he picked division over unity, war over peace. And make no mistake: He didn’t merely shortchange the presidency. He left it vacant.

Trump’s White House and Thailand’s autocratic descent


August 22, 2017

Trump’s White House and Thailand’s autocratic descent

by Matthew Phillips

http://www.newmandala.org/trumps-white-house-thailands-autocratic-descent/

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Header image: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meeting for talks with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha in Bangkok on 8 August 2017, via the US State Department on Flickr.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Bangkok as part of a tour of the region. Top of the agenda was Thailand’s relationship with North Korea, but Tillerson also confirmed arrangements for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to visit Washington in October and paid respects to the recently deceased King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Conspicuously absent from the Secretary of State’s remarks, both to Thai officials and later to staff at the US Embassy, was any criticism about Thailand’s deteriorating human rights record. This apparently pragmatic approach marks a significant shift in Thai–US relations, which had cooled considerably after the military coup of May 2014, led by General Prayuth.

It is a rapprochement that permanently threatens Thailand’s already struggling democracy.

In Thailand, symbols matter. Throughout the Cold War, pronouncements of US support for dictatorship were vital in securing the dominance of the Royal Thai Army. As long as Thai generals could point to American friends guaranteeing economic development, they could align themselves (however loosely) with the principles of freedom and democracy that legitimised their role. For their part, US actors, by claiming to respect Thailand’s cultural traditions (primarily through support for the Thai monarchy) helped frame communism as a threat to the Thai ‘way of life’.

This consensus changed in the early 1990s when a popular movement emerged from within the urban middle class calling for reduced military power and greater accountability. In May 1992 military leaders ordered the suppression of pro-democracy protesters leading to scores of deaths. For many within Thailand, the heavily-censored local media meant that international outlets became the only trusted source of news. With Thailand’s leaders condemned by the international community, it was the protesters who now commanded the respect of global peers.

Thailand, it was clear, was out of step. With the end of the Cold War, and communism no longer a threat, authoritarian regimes through Asia were falling or being forced to adapt. The emerging new order, led by the middle class, was characterised by a shift towards greater democratic accountability and underpinned by a shift toward neo-liberal economics. It was at this point that King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in the fifth decade of his reign, stepped in, aligning his own destiny with the forces of change.

In an exquisitely dramatised exchange, broadcast across state media, His Majesty sternly encouraged then Prime Minister General Suchinda Kraprayoon to reconcile with enraged civilian leaders. The King, in a single stroke, positioned himself in line with global trends, at the same time securing the enduring affection of Thailand’s middle classes. This Royal intervention also marked a historic breakpoint that was followed by economic deregulation and more democracy so that by the beginning of the new millennium, Thailand appeared to have taken its place within a world united around free market economics and liberal politics; what the political economist Francis Fukuyama had boldly described as ‘the end of history’. Portraying himself as a critical agent of change, King Bhumibol helped authenticate the moment as an intrinsically natural and necessary step for the Thai people. He also reaffirmed his status as a benevolent monarch who, by appearing to gift the next step toward democratisation, demonstrated his love and concern for the Thai people: the embodiment of Buddhist virtues that confirmed his divinity.

By 2005, however, the Thai establishment had grown weary of elections that repeatedly elected populist parties connected to Thaksin Shinawatra. In 2010, the army violently attacked Thaksin-supporting ‘Red Shirt’ protesters, many of whom had spent months away from rural homes to call for elections. Taking to the internet, the middle classes rallied to support the establishment view that force was necessary. They also joined a chorus of growing disdain for the international media, taking particular issue with what they felt was the uncritical reporting of Red demands for more democracy. Of all the networks, CNN was most notably earmarked for derision.

In late 2013, middle class groups were once again mobilised to topple a Thaksin linked government, finally provoking the May 2014 coup. Since then, Prayuth’s government and the royalists who support him have been relentless in attempts to extinguish both the influence of Thaksin and the political system that produced him. Many from the middle class have cheered them on.

Today Thailand is the polar opposite of what King Bhumibol’s 1992 military-civilian mediation was supposed to foretell. Journalists are silenced; sharing a critical Facebook post can land someone in prison; and many who oppose military rule have been forced into exile.

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His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn

The country also has a new King, Maha Vajiralongkorn,  whose erratic behaviour and strongman persona has helped stabilise autocratic rule. Elections are penciled in for next year, but the new constitution does more to diminish the institutions and symbols of democracy than reinstate them.

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Throughout this time, Barack Obama’s White House had made it clear that Thailand had veered off course. While US economic commitments to the Junta remained largely intact, the symbolic relationship and professions of friendship that secured it deteriorated rapidly, leaving Thailand out in the cold. Come mid-2016, the country failed to win a non-permanent seat on the United National Security Council, scoring a humiliating loss to Kazakhstan by a vote of 55–193.

The election of Donald Trump, however, has blurred if not obscured Thailand’s status as an outlier and threatens to normalise many of those indicators that mark its descent into autocracy. For years now, Thais opposed to Thaksin have rallied against CNN and its counterparts as unreliable, a stance parallel to the new American President’s daily denunciations of “fake news”. Having rejected mainstream international media, conservatives and pro-royalists have turned to a gaggle of Thai nationalists and alt-right American journalists to reaffirm their political positions. Thai hardliners rail against the conspiracy to topple monarchy in favour of a globalist corporate-led government ushered in by Thaksin and his shadowy backers. Trump’s reliance on the same marginal outlets, such as Infowars—hosted by alt-right radio host Alex Jones—combined with his disregard for an informed free press, not only resonates with key segments of the Thai elite; these global conspiracy theorists share much of the same world. At the same time, strong man politics appear all the rage and with two from which to choose, a King and a Prime Minister, Thailand would appear to be ahead of the game.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the highest level American diplomat to visit Thailand since a 2014 coup, met Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in Bangkok

Secretary of State Tillerson has already indicated that the State Department is considering dropping “democracy” from its global mission. On Tuesday, he kept his word. His meeting with Prime Minister Prayuth and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai has served to de facto legitimate both the ruling Junta and the anti-democratic forces that support it. Having spent a decade seeking to extinguish Thaksin-linked electoral politics, Thailand’s once liberal elite now sits comfortably alongside the most powerful populist movements of the age. History, with its faux teleology proclaiming the inevitable progression toward liberal democracy—so critical to the American balancing act during the Cold War and as embodied so brilliantly by King Bhumibol—has reached its natural conclusion. A dead end.

Dr Matthew Phillips is based in the Department of History & Welsh History at Aberystwyth University. His book, Thailand in the Cold War, looks at the role that Thai and American consumers played in securing the alliance.

 

 

Trump’s Crisis of Legitimacy


August 19, 2017

Trump’s Crisis of Legitimacy

https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/donald-trumps-crisis-of-legitimacy

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No President can survive without loyal and competent aides, a cooperative Congress and  a friendly media. Is Donald Trump an exception? He says he is mean and very rich.

Has there ever been a stronger argument for taking a proper vacation? On Thursday morning, the thirteenth day of his disastrous summer break from the White House, Donald Trump returned to Twitter, writing, over several tweets, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

As Trump was writing these words, yet again aligning himself with the white nationalists and neo-Nazis who have seized upon saving statues of heroes of the Confederacy as their primary rallying cry, the morning papers were full of stories demonstrating that his political legitimacy, or what small reserves he had left of it, was steadily draining away. After days of prevaricating, America’s business leaders were finally abandoning him en masse. Top generals from all five military branches were issuing statements implicitly rebuking him. Many White House staffers were despairing of him. And even some members of the Society for the Protection of Spineless Conservative Politicians, otherwise known as the leadership of the Republican Party, were starting to distance themselves from him, albeit hesitantly and anonymously, via leaks to journalists and statements from well-connected intermediaries. “This has done irreparable damage in some ways,” Joshua Holmes, a former aide to Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, told the Washington Post. “I don’t know of any Republican who is comfortable with where we’re at right now based on the president’s comments.”

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The mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, wants the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee removed from the city’s center, he said in a statement today(August 18, 2017) explaining that such “monuments were transformed from equestrian statues into lightning rods” at last weekend’s deadly white nationalist protest sparked by the city’s plans to remove the statue.

Meanwhile, as the world looked on in horror and astonishment at the sight of an American President legitimizing the likes of Richard Spencer and David Duke, some of the foreign leaders who had cozied up to Trump were hurrying to put some distance between them and him. “I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them,” Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, said in a statement. “I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far right views wherever we hear them.”

If a single one of these things had happened on a previous President’s watch, it would have been regarded as a major crisis for the White House. It is now clear that when Trump announced on Wednesday that he was disbanding two White House advisory councils made up of C.E.O.s and other business bigwigs, he was telling another one of his tall tales. One of the groups, a council on manufacturing, had already agreed to disband itself, because its members could no longer justify (to their employees, stockholders, and customers) coöperating with the cretin who said there were some “very fine people” among the torch-wielding protesters who marched through Charlottesville on Friday night, chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews won’t replace us.” “In American history, we’ve never had business leaders decline national service when requested by the president,” Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management,” told the Times.

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Bannon was summarily  fired

As of this writing, none of Trump’s aides has resigned in protest at the President’s statements. But a number of them have been busy getting the story out that they are mad as hell. Three different sources told the Times that Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, who is Jewish, was incensed by the President’s remarks. The Washington Post reported that John Kelly, the former Marine general who took over as the White House chief of staff a couple of weeks ago, with a mandate to impose some order on all the chaos, had been left “deeply frustrated and dismayed”; Bloomberg reported that Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, who was standing next to Trump at Tuesday’s Trump Tower press conference, had gathered his staff together and assured them that he had no idea that the President was going to say what he did.

Image result for Steve MnuchinSteve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary

 

Amid all this furor, one person who didn’t seem particularly concerned was Trump himself. Before composing his ode to the statues of Confederate leaders, he tore into two Republican senators who had dared to criticize him by name for what he said about Charlottesville: Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Jeff Flake, of Arizona. In one tweet, he described Graham as a “publicity seeker.” In another, he endorsed a little-known Republican politician who is challenging Flake in a primary race: “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!”

Apart from Trump, about the only Republican who seemed to be relishing his apparent determination to re-fight the Civil War was Steve Bannon, the senior political adviser at the White House, who just a few days ago seemed about to become another victim of Kelly’s housecleaning process. “President Trump, by asking, ‘Where does this all end?’—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln—connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions,” Bannon told the Times. “The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it’s all racist. Just give me more. Tear down more statues.”

In another new interview, with Bob Kuttner, of the American Prospect, Bannon described the Unite the Right marchers as “a fringe element” and “a collection of clowns.” But that seemed like an effort to have it both ways, which is a familiar Bannon tactic. As the head of Breitbart News, he gave an influential platform to elements of the alt-right but vehemently denied that the site was racist. More recently, of course, Bannon has served as the chief propagandist and rationalizer for Trump’s fevered id, seeking to dress up the boss’s base instincts and prejudices as a semi-coherent political philosophy, which he refers to as “economic nationalism.” “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats,” Bannon told Kuttner.

According to Bloomberg, Mnuchin also told his staff that they should look ahead and focus on the Administration’s economic agenda, particularly tax cuts. But in order to get any trade or tax legislation through Congress, the White House will need the overwhelming support of Republicans in Congress, which Trump is endangering by equating shaved-headed white supremacists carrying Nazi flags with the protesters who sought to block their way, and also by his repeated attacks on individual G.O.P.ers, including McConnell and Flake. “Trump is using the precious capital of the bully pulpit to talk about confederate monuments in between savage attacks on fellow Republicans,” Holmes, the former aide to McConnell, told Politico Playbook. “Just think about that. Not tax reform. Not repeal and replace. Not North Korean nuclear capabilities. No focused critiques on extremely vulnerable Democrats who have opposed him at every possible turn.”

Of course, it would be wishful thinking to suggest that the Republican Party establishment is preparing to make a decisive break with Trump. While McConnell and Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, have both put out statements saying that racism and white supremacism have no place in the G.O.P., neither of them has explicitly criticized Trump. Even now, most Republicans are too intent on pursuing their regressive policy agenda, and too frightened of incurring the wrath of the Trump-supporting hordes going into the 2018 midterms, to do what almost all of them must know, deep down, is the right thing.

But, even assuming that Trump will survive this latest horror show, as he has survived many previous ones, his Presidency will be further diminished and tarnished. Outside the arena of national security, the Presidency is a weak office; to get anything substantial done, the person in the Oval Office has to put together coalitions, bringing along powerful people and interest groups. As the health-care fiasco demonstrated, Trump wasn’t very good at that stuff to begin with—forgive the understatement—and he has just greatly compounded his difficulties. By dint of his pigheadedness, or prejudice, or both, he has moved onto political ground that makes it virtually impossible for other people in influential positions, such as C.E.O.s, or the heads of other organizations, or senior government officials, or celebrities, or even his own Cabinet members, to stand with him, or even to be seen to coöperate with him. That is what happens when a President throws away his own legitimacy.

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“Trump may have convinced himself that he doesn’t need political allies, or corporate advisers, or anybody else—that he can bully his opponents into submission and succeed through simple force of will.”–John Cassidy

Trump may have convinced himself that he doesn’t need political allies, or corporate advisers, or anybody else—that he can bully his opponents into submission and succeed through simple force of will. Maybe he thinks that invoking the memories of Lee and Jackson, the Southern battlefield commanders, will help his cause. It won’t: the fate of the Confederacy was settled more than a hundred and fifty years ago, and right now, Trump’s Presidency seems headed to a similarly ignominious ending.

Trump’s White House Strategist, Steve Bannon, shown the door


August 19, 2017

Trump’s White House Strategist, Steve Bannon, shown the door

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40980994#

Image result for Steve Bannon fired

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is the latest top aide of President Donald Trump to leave his post. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Friday was his last day.

His exit follows a review of his position by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Mr Bannon, a right-wing nationalist and former head of Breitbart.com, helped shape the “America First” message of Mr Trump’s election campaign. But critics had accused the 63-year-old of harbouring anti-Semitic and white supremacist views.

Mr Bannon is known to have competed for influence in the West Wing against more moderate factions, including members of the Trump family.

Mr Trump raised eyebrows earlier this year when he elevated Mr Bannon to the National Security Council, the main group advising the President on national security and foreign affairs.

But he was subsequently removed from the council in a move that was seen as a sign of National Security Adviser HR McMaster’s growing influence over the President.

Mr Bannon has reportedly feuded with Mr McMaster as well as Gary Cohn, the director of the President’s National Economic Council and a former Goldman Sachs chief viewed as a globalist.

Mr Cohn, along with President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter, Ivanka Trump, were viewed as threats to Mr Bannon’s White House agenda.


Taking credit did him in

By Anthony Zurcher, BBC North America reporter

Steve Bannon may be out as a senior White House adviser, but Bannonism – if that’s what it can properly be called – is still firmly entrenched in the White House.

Donald Trump has repeatedly boasted that the success of his presidential campaign should properly be attributed to him, not Mr Bannon. And, in the end, Mr Bannon’s desire to take credit for that win may have been what did him in.

It certainly wasn’t because of any sharp ideological divides between the President and the former head of Breitbart News.

Border security, aggressive trade protectionism, immigration reform and a certain kind of cultural nostalgia – all were themes that Mr Trump ran on from the start, which Mr Bannon only sharpened and focused. They’re also issues Mr Trump has pushed in recent weeks, even as Mr Bannon has been increasingly marginalised.

Mr Bannon’s firing will be seen as a win for Chief of Staff John Kelly, whose attempts to instil discipline in the White House will get a boost without the free-wheeling Mr Bannon roaming the hallways.

Trump was Trump before Mr Bannon came on the scene, however. And as the rollercoaster ride that was politics this week indicates, the President isn’t changing anytime soon.


Mr Trump fuelled speculation when asked last week about Mr Bannon’s future as he replied: “We’ll see.”

Mr Bannon’s interview this week with the American Prospect, a liberal magazine, reportedly infuriated the president.

The White House aide was quoted as dismissing the idea of a military solution in North Korea, undercutting Mr Trump. He told the magazine the US was “at economic war with China” and that he aimed to push out moderates whom he believed were soft on China.

Mr Bannon told associates he thought it was an off-the-record chat and did not realise he would be quoted.

He has pushed for imposing additional tariffs on China and other trade partners to reduce deficits with those countries. He also advocated for a travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries.

Ms Huckabee Sanders’ statement said: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

Source familiar with the decision said Mr Bannon had been given the chance to leave on his own terms.


Who else left Trump’s White House team?

Anthony Scaramucci, Communications Director – 31 July

Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff – 28 July

Sean Spicer, Press Secretary – 21 July

Mike Dubke, Communications Director, 30 May

Michael Flynn, National Security Adviser – 14 February

This photo sums up White House turmoil


Mr Bannon took over as Chief of Trump’s presidential campaign in August 2016.

He was formerly a US Navy officer, Goldman Sachs investment banker, Hollywood movie producer and head of Breitbart News. He has reportedly told friends he could go back to the right-wing outlet that has boisterously supported Mr Trump.

In a potentially worrying sign for the White House, Breitbart’s senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak tweeted: “#WAR”.

 

Beleaguered Bannon speaks his mind amidst Trump’s Charlottesville snafu


August 8, 2017

Beleaguered Bannon speaks his mind amidst Trump’s Charlottesville  snafu

by Staff writers, APNews Corp Australia Network

http://www.news.com.au

DONALD Trump’s right-hand man Steve Bannon has slammed far-right Republicans as a “collection of clowns” and claimed his enemies are “wetting themselves” in a bizarre interview.

 

Fox News reports the White House Strategist, who was also the former executive chair of far-right US news outlet Breitbart, called a reporter with left-leaning magazine The American Prospect.

“Ethno-nationalism — it’s losers. It’s a fringe element,” Bannon said. “I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.” He added: “These guys are a collection of clowns.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Bannon also said that his adversaries within the State, Defense and Treasury Departments are “wetting themselves” as he works to push them out of the administration.

Bannon said he called the writer, Robert Kuttner, because the strategist agreed with a recent article explaining how China would benefit from the nuclear threats between the US and North Korea.

Steve Bannon has slammed the alt-right in a rare interview. Picture: AFP

Steve Bannon has slammed the alt-right in a rare interview. Picture: AFP  Source:AFP

 

Bannon detailed his push to punish China with tougher trade sanctions and talked of plans to oust opponents of the move. “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State,” the strategist said.

 Bannon’s interview also covered North Korea. Despite Trump’s claims of “fire and fury” against the regime, Bannon said “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it.”

“Until someone solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no military solution here, they got us,” Bannon said.

Steve Bannon claims his enemies are ‘wetting themselves’. Picture: AFP

Steve Bannon claims his enemies are ‘wetting themselves’. Picture: AFP Source:AFP

 

Bannon has been the target of speculation across the country about his future in the Trump administration. The President refused to express confidence in Bannon during an impromptu news conference on Tuesday, saying: “We’ll see what happens”.

Trump asked to delay rally

President Trump has been asked by Phoenix Major, Greg Stanton, to delay a rally scheduled for August 22 following the backlash over the Charlottesville riots on the weekend.

In a statement he released on Twitter, Mayor Stanton expressed his disappointment in the President’s decision to hold a campaign rally as “our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville”.

“If President Trump is coming to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to inflame emotions and further divide our nation,” he wrote. Arpaio, who dubbed himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and has been found guilty of violating a court order for racial profiling.

Trump has said he is “seriously considering” pardoning the former sheriff. “He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him,” Trump said.

Mayor Stanton said he hopes that he hopes the President uses “sound judgment” and delays his visit.

Meanwhile, Trump has scrapped two business councils as more CEOs quit and former Presidents join Republicans in attacking his comments on Charlottesville.

Mr Trump pulled the pin on the manufacturing council after eight CEOs resigned in the wake of his remarks on the white supremacist attack in Virginia.

He also said he would disband the strategy and policy forum, which includes business leaders such as JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi and Boeing’s Jim McNerney.

“Rather than putting pressure on the business people of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” he tweeted.

The strategy and policy forum, which is separate to the manufacturing council, chose to act as a group and informed the White House last night that it would be disbanded.

“The thinking was it was important to do as a group,” a member told CNBC. “As a panel, not as individuals because it would have more significant impact. It makes a central point that it’s not going to go forward. It’s done.”

Mr Trump’s tweet came as two more CEOs quit his manufacturing council before he pulled the plug on it.

 

Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison was the last to quit the council before it was disbanded. Picture: AP

 

Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison was the last to quit the council before it was disbanded. Picture: AP Source:AP

 

3M's CEO Inge Thulin has quit Donald Trump's manufacturing council. Picture: Supplied

 

3M’s CEO Inge Thulin has quit Donald Trump’s manufacturing council Picture: AP Source:AP.

 

Inge Thulin, the Chief Executive of 3M, and Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison, both said they would no longer be a part of the group.

“Following yesterday’s remarks from the president, I cannot remain on the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative,” Ms Morrison said in a statement. “Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville.”

 

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also quit on Tuesday. Picture: AP

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also quit on Tuesday. Picture: AP Source:AP

 

Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank quit the council on Tuesday. Picture: AP

Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank quit the council on Tuesday. Picture: AP  Source:AP

 

They joined Scott Paul from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and AFL-CIO’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Thea Lee, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier who had previously quit.

Disney CEO Robert 'Bob' Iger quit the council over Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the Paris Climate Change Accord. Picture: Supplied

Disney CEO Robert ‘Bob’ Iger quit the council over Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the Paris Climate Change Accord.

 

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was the first to quit the council over Donald Trump’s travel ban. Picture: Getty

 

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was the first to quit the council over Donald Trump’s travel ban. Picture: Getty Source:Getty Images

The council had already seen Uber’s Travis Kalanick resign over Mr Trump’s travel ban and Disney CEO Bob Iger and Tesla Elon Musk resign over the president’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Accord.

Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush rebuke Trump’s comment

It came as former US presidents George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush issued a tough joint statement condemning racial bigotry and anti-Semitism, in a thinly-veiled rebuke of Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump sparked a political firestorm when he said that counter-protesters appeared to be equally to blame for violence over the weekend at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms,” the father-son former presidents said in a statement issued from Kennebunkport, Maine, where they have a family home.

George HW Bush and George W Bush issued a joint statement condemning racial bigotry. Picture: Supplied.

George HW Bush and George W Bush issued a joint statement condemning racial bigotry. Picture: Supplied.Source: Supplied

 

The statement by the Bushes did not mention Mr Trump by name. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also weighed in on the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, castigating Mr Trump without naming him.

“We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-nazis, ”Mr McConnell said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Picture: AFP.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Picture: AFP. Source:AP

 

Mr McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, stood next to Mr Trump on Tuesday as he insisted both sides of the weekend’s clash bore some responsibility for the violence that led to one death and nearly two dozen injuries.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (R), the wife of Mitch McConnell, looks on as President Donald Trump makes more comments about Charlottesville. Picture: Getty

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (R), the wife of Mitch McConnell, looks on as President Donald Trump makes more comments about Charlottesville. Picture: Getty Source:AFP

 

Senior White House officials have been reported as saying Mr Trump had gone off the rails at the press conference and that much of what he said was not agreed on.That could be evident in the body language of his new chief of staff General John Kelly who hung his head as the event descended into chaos.

Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich was more direct in his attack on Mr Trump’s comments overnight. “Pathetic, isn’t it just pathetic?” Mr Kasich said in a TV interview. “The President of the United States needs to condemn these kinds of hate groups.”

Ohio Governor John Kasich said Donald Trump’s response to Charlottesville was “pathetic”. Picture: AP.

Ohio Governor John Kasich said Donald Trump’s response to Charlottesville was “pathetic”. Picture: AP.Source:AP

 

Mr Trump insisted on Tuesday that many on the political right who gathered in Charlottesville were peaceful protesters themselves who aimed to save a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from the scrap heap.

Former Republican candidate Mitt Romney said the sides Mr Trump was discussing were from “morally different universes.”

Confederate Monuments Removed in Baltimore, Maryland

Work crews in Baltimore took down four monuments to the pro-slavery Civil War Confederacy on Wednesday before dawn without drawing protests of a sort that greeted the planned removal of a statue in the neighbouring state of Virginia.

Workers load statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on a flatbed truck in the early hours of August 16, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. Picture: AFP.

Workers load statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on a flatbed truck in the early hours of August 16, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. Picture: AFP. Source:AFP

 

Monuments, including one of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate army in the American Civil War, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate general, were dismantled overnight and taken from the Maryland city’s Wyman Park Dell after the city council on Monday approved the removal.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said she and the city council decided to carry out the removals “quickly and quietly.”