Closing the Deal

Donald Trump wrote “The Art of the Deal” – but not really. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer recently interviewed Tony Schwartz, the fellow who wrote the actual words that were then packaged as the Donald Trump book. Now he’s sorry he ever did – he regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as beyond alarming. But it’s more than that. He knows Trump better than anyone, as a serial liar with no attention span who doesn’t care about other people and has no interests other than his own self-glorification – but he hid that. Now he’s sorry he did.

It’s a bit late for that, because Trump just closed the deal:

Donald Trump was formally nominated for the presidency by Republican delegates here on Tuesday night, a landmark moment in American political history that capped the business mogul’s surprising conquest of the GOP.

Trump formally reached the threshold of 1,237 delegates at 7:12 p.m. Eastern time, with votes cast by delegates from his home state of New York.

But the rest of the evening demonstrated that Trump has seized his party’s nomination – but not yet won the battle for its heart and its ideas. The speakers seemed to largely avoid the policy proposals that brought Trump so much success: building a wall on the southern U.S. border, barring foreign-born Muslims from entering the country, tearing up trade deals and deporting undocumented immigrants en masse.

Some also often avoided mentions of Trump himself. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) spoke at length about his own vision for the country – but rarely mentioned the nominee, who opposes some of Ryan’s signature ideas about reform of spending programs.

Ryan was received with quiet politeness. He’s the party’s nerd, a total policy wonk, perhaps necessary but boring, and he’s called Trump a racist – but a useful racist. Trump would allow him to implement his Ayn Rand policy ideas – no more social safety net of any kind, making Americans free and autonomous, individuals who rely on no one else and certainly not the government, at any level, for anything. Hillary Clinton would not allow that to happen. Trump would shrug – whatever, Paul. He’ll go with the authoritarian racist, for selfish reasons. He has his agenda.

Ryan was tolerated by the crowd – he is who he is – but the Bully of New Jersey brought down the house:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the one speaker who seemed to electrify the convention-hall crowd. He did it by talking not about Trump, but about the presumptive opponent: former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Christie, a former federal prosecutor, ticked off examples of what he said were Clinton’s bad judgments on foreign affairs, and her use of a private email server to handle government business. After each example, Christie turned the audience into an ad hoc jury: “Guilty or not guilty?”

“Guilty!” the audience roared. They repeatedly broke into chants of “Lock her up!”

They don’t want an election, they want her in jail, and then there was this:

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson used a biblical reference: He noted that Clinton had written about Saul Alinsky, a community organizer for liberal causes. Carson said that Alinsky had used the biblical story of Lucifer as a model, the fallen angel cast out of heaven, with ambitions to rule the world. “The original radical,” Carson said, citing Alinsky’s book, “Rules for Radicals.”

Carson seemed to conclude that Clinton had some sympathy for the devil.

“Somebody who acknowledges Lucifer,” he called Clinton. If the country followed her path, he said, “God will remove himself from us. We will not be blessed, and our nation will go down the tubes.”

Clinton acknowledges Lucifer? Who knew? And then Carson went after Lutherans. Anyone who worships Lex Luthor, after all the evil things he did to Superman, must be stopped!

Just kidding – Ben Carson isn’t there, yet – but this was all about Hillary:

Michael Mukasey – the former attorney general during the George W. Bush Administration – condemned Clinton for her use of a private email server to conduct government business. Clinton’s use of that email led to an FBI inquiry, which ended with FBI Director James Comey declaring her behavior “extremely careless,” because it might have endangered classified material.

“Hillary Clinton is asking the people of this country to make her the first president in history to take the constitutional oath of office, after already having violated it,” Mukasey said, meaning that Clinton had failed to uphold the law as secretary of state. “The message from this convention, to everyone watching this convention – No way, Hillary! No way on Earth!”

This may have been all about Hillary, but someone didn’t get the message:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) appeared onstage – one of the Republicans with the most power in Washington now, and someone who pioneered the hardline approach to battling President Obama that opened the door for Trump. McConnell was booed, by delegates who believe he is not hardline enough.

But he recovered:

The crowd did cheer when McConnell said Trump would sign bills that the Senate’s Republicans approved of, and appoint a conservative Supreme Court justice, to replace the late Antonin Scalia. “Obama will not fill this seat. That honor will go to Donald Trump next year,” said McConnell, whose GOP is blocking Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.

Mitch McConnell is still trying to figure out how he got left behind this year. Two of Trump’s children spoke. They like their father. Yawn. And that was that.

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers was not impressed:

It seems like we’re officially hanging out at the bottom of the pool when we can look at the speeches and “be impressed.” I work in communications, and what I find shocking is the complete chutzpah and lack of logic. Last night, even before we got into the plagiarized parts of Melania’s speech, I was pretty struck that they picked his 3rd wife to espouse that one of Trump’s greatest attributes is that “he never quits” and “once he starts something, he always finishes it.”

And then tonight, we had Donald Jr. talking about how Trump doesn’t need to listen to “Wharton MBAs,” even though Trump himself has a Wharton MBA. And then the whopper of all whoppers – that “my dad promotes on skill, not based on cronies” – this coming from his SON who is the Executive Vice President of Trump Companies?! Yes, I’m sure he was only promoted based on his skill and great hair!

I get this is basically just political theater, but to extend the metaphor, this wouldn’t even be Broadway, or off-Broadway. This would be more like Hyde Park Community Theater’s reproduction of Cats.

It was actually just another night in Cleveland, but Sullivan himself says this:

Today was a rather remarkable one in the degeneration of the conservative movement. The Trump convention has gotten off to a scary, shambolic, near-comic start. And Roger Ailes – whose foul propaganda helped create the toxic atmosphere in which this vulgar thug of a nominee could thrive – is about to be defenestrated, because of sexual abuse.

Imagine if Fox News changes from being a poisonous propaganda entity into a more conventional right-of-center news organization. Imagine if this neo-fascist experiment we’re now witnessing in Cleveland goes down in flames this November. Over eight long, brutal years, Obama played it on the ropes, waiting, waiting. And the over-reach now seems tangible and potentially transformative.

Something good will come of this? The previous evening Sullivan had said this:

I didn’t hear any specific policy proposals to tackle clearly stated public problems. It is almost as if governing, for the Republican right, is fundamentally about an attitude, rather than about experience or practicality or reasoning. The degeneracy of conservatism – its descent into literally mindless appeals to tribalism and fear and hatred – was on full display. You might also say the same about the religious right, the members of whom have eagerly embraced a racist, a nativist, a believer in war crimes, and a lover of the tyrants that conservatism once defined itself against. Their movement long lost any claim to a serious Christian conscience. But that they would so readily embrace such an unreconstructed pagan is indeed a revelation.

If you think of the conservative movement as beginning in 1964 and climaxing in the 1990s, then the era we are now in is suffering from a cancer of the mind and the soul. That the GOP has finally found a creature that can personify these urges to purge, a man for whom the word “shameless” could have been invented, a bully and a creep, a liar and cheat, a con man and wannabe tyrant, a dedicated loather of individual liberty, and an opponent of the pricelessly important conventions of liberal democracy is perhaps a fitting end.

This is the gutter, ladies and gentlemen, and it runs into a sewer. May what’s left of conservatism be carried out to sea.

That’s the good, and Josh Marshall, also on the previous evening, said the issue wasn’t the plagiarized speech that Trump’s third trophy-wife read rather well:

In substantive terms, the much bigger story from last night was a hastily thrown together program focused on violence, bloodshed and betrayal by political enemies. We’ve become so inured to Trump’s brand of incitement that it’s barely gotten any notice that Trump had three parents whose children had been killed by illegal/undocumented immigrants tell their stories and whip up outrage and fear about the brown menace to the South. These were either brutal murders or killings with extreme negligence. The pain these parents experience is unfathomable.

But whatever you think about undocumented immigrants there’s no evidence they are more violent or more prone to murder than others in American society. One could just as easily get three people whose children had been killed by African-Americans or Jews, people whose pain and anguish would be no less harrowing. This isn’t illustration; it’s incitement. When Trump first did this in California a couple months ago people were aghast. Now it’s normal.

And other things are normal now:

Even more disturbing, numerous speakers from the dais, including some of the top speakers of the evening, called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned. At least two – and I think more – actually led the crowd in chants of “lock her up!” There has never been any evidence of criminal activity on Clinton’s part. An investigation with a lot of pressure to find something amiss concluded that no charges should be recommended against her and that no prosecutor would bring charges against her for anything connected to her private email server.

It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that the opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we’ve ever gone down.

This is not a disagreement about a matter of law: it is a demand for vengeance and punishment, one rooted in the pathologies of the current Trumpite right and inevitably to some extent about the fact that Clinton is a woman. If you have a chance, re-watch the speeches by Rudy Giuliani or even more Ret. Gen Michael Flynn. These are not normal convention speeches. It is only a small skip and a jump to the state legislator in West Virginia who demanded Clinton by executed by hanging on the National Mall. In such a climate, don’t fool yourself: worse can happen.

And worse will happen:

The Trump campaign has always been about revenge and reclamation. Trump is a catalyst not a cause. It is all borne from the social and cultural transformation that is currently changing the country. Hillary Clinton has plenty of flaws. But they have no necessary or clear connection to the venom and increasingly violent anger directed against her. She’s simply the symbol and target. “Lock her up!” “Lock her up!” This is an American political convention. She’s the opposing party nominee. This is not normal. Not normal at all.

It is no exaggeration to say the driving themes of last night’s program – with a brief interlude of uplift from Melania Trump – were a pervasive vision of insecurity, violence and bloodshed, committed by national outsiders and abetted by the betrayals of political enemies. We debate the definition of fascism and just what governmental structures it involves. But setting that largely academic and mostly unhelpful debate aside, this is precisely the kind of febrile victimology and demands for aggression and revenge against enemies that gives rise to it. ‘Fascism’ is a distraction that is more a cudgel than an explanatory device. What Trump is, however, is a would-be authoritarian ruler. And authoritarian rulers require violence and disorder because it is their justification for rule.

The fact that the current First Lady’s speech from eight years ago showed up in Melania Trump’s speech is largely irrelevant in comparison to these developments. It is simply another example of the amateur grifterism and slapdash Potemkin village that is everything Trump. He is a dangerous man for a dangerous moment.

And Marshall is not even considering this:

If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

The idea is to change the civil service laws. Career civil servants appointed in the Obama years would lose their jobs. This is parallel to what Paul Bremmer did in our first year in Iraq – all members of the Baath Party were purged from the government, even low-level paper-pushers. Suddenly there were a hundred thousand or more Sunni clerks and whatnot without jobs, without an income, and without hope. And they were angry. And they were desperate. Erdogan is doing the same thing in Turkey now, purging the government of people who may or maybe could disagree with his policies. The coup failed. It’s his country now. A hundred thousand or more bewildered low-level functionaries will now be wandering around without jobs or hope – and probably pretty angry. What could go wrong with that? What could go wrong with Trump’s plan?

And there are these two ideas:

Christie also told the gathering that changing the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, long a target of Republicans concerned about over regulation, would be a top priority for Trump should he win in November.

Trump has previously vowed to eliminate the EPA and roll back some of America’s most ambitious environmental policies, actions that he says would revive the U.S. oil and coal industries and bolster national security.

Christie added that the Trump team wants to let businesspeople serve in government part time without having to give up their jobs in the private sector. Trump frequently says he is better equipped to be president because of his business experience.

What could go wrong with that? Let the oil and coal companies go big, and let the bankers keep their job as bankers as they simultaneously regulate the banks, including their own.

That’s curious, but so is this:

The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has been dismissive of calls for supporting the Ukraine government as it fights an ongoing Russian-led intervention. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked as a lobbyist for the Russian-backed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for more than a decade.

Still, Republican delegates at last week’s national security committee platform meeting in Cleveland were surprised when the Trump campaign orchestrated a set of events to make sure that the GOP would not pledge to give Ukraine the weapons it has been asking for from the United States.

Paul Manafort is still working for the exiled (in Russia) Viktor Yanukovych:

Inside the meeting, Diana Denman, a platform committee member from Texas who was a Ted Cruz supporter, proposed a platform amendment that would call for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, increasing aid for Ukraine and “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military.

“Today, the post-Cold War ideal of a ‘Europe whole and free’ is being severely tested by Russia’s ongoing military aggression in Ukraine,” the amendment read. “The Ukrainian people deserve our admiration and support in their struggle.”

Trump staffers in the room, who are not delegates but are there to oversee the process, intervened. By working with pro-Trump delegates, they were able to get the issue tabled while they devised a method to roll back the language.

On the sideline, Denman tried to persuade the Trump staffers not to change the language, but failed. “I was troubled when they put aside my amendment and then watered it down,” Denman told me. “I said, ‘What is your problem with a country that wants to remain free?’ It seems like a simple thing.”

Finally, Trump staffers wrote an amendment to Denman’s amendment that stripped out the platform’s call for “providing lethal defensive weapons” and replaced it with softer language calling for “appropriate assistance.”

That amendment was voted on and passed.

And that’s that. Putin will be happy:

Trump’s view of Russia has always been friendlier than most Republicans. He’s said he would “get along very well” with Vladimir Putin and called it a “great honor” when Putin praised him. Trump has done a lot of business in Russia and has been traveling there since 1987. Last August, he said of Ukraine joining NATO, “I wouldn’t care.” He traveled there in September, and he told Ukrainians their war is “really a problem that affects Europe a lot more than it affects us.”

In short, he doesn’t give a shit – so you can imagine, in early 2017, President Trump and President Putin sitting down together, perhaps sipping Trump Vodka, and divvying up the world – all of Ukraine goes back to Russia and whatnot – while swapping manly stories.

The folks in Cleveland, the new Republicans, wanted a strong leader, and Trump closed the deal. They got one. Of course they don’t have the final say.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to Closing the Deal

  1. tmezpoetry says:

    I can’t tell you enough, your articles are right on! Excellent post.

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