Losing Pittsburgh

Gertrude Stein was born in Pittsburgh. She left. David O. Selznick, the guy who hired Clark Gable to play Rhett Butler, was born in Pittsburgh. He left, early on. Gene Kelly and Oscar Levant were born in Pittsburgh. They left for Hollywood too. Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh. He left, for the gritty arty dens of lower Manhattan. Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring sort of kicked off the global environmental movement, was born in Pittsburgh. She left. Pittsburgh wasn’t her kind of place. The City of Pittsburgh did name a local bridge after her, next to the bridge they named for Andy Warhol, next to the bridge they named for Roberto Clemente – but everyone left, one way or another. All of us left.

So, who’s left there now? That might be those adverse to risk – the risk of new things and new places, and new people who look funny and talk funny. Screw that. The French eat snails, of all things. Who’s left? That also might be those who like things just the way they are, or the way they were. What’s with all those Andy Warhol paintings of soup cans? That’s art? What’s wrong with Norman Rockwell? Who’s left? That also might be those who are aggrieved at all this odd stuff, and resentful. The world moved on, without asking for their permission. That’s not right. Why can’t it be Pittsburgh in 1953 again?

In short, those that are left in Pittsburgh are probably Trump voters. They probably lean that way. They heard his words. Make America great again – and Pittsburgh in 1953 will do just fine. He does want to make America run on coal again. That plays well in Pittsburgh.

So does this sort of thing:

First daughter Ivanka Trump, who made wage equality and workplace protections for women one of her signature issues on the campaign trail and in her personal brand, declared her support for the White House’s announcement Tuesday that it will halt a proposal requiring businesses to disclose employees’ pay, gender, race and ethnicity.

No one had to report such things back in the good old days, and it really is a bother:

Neomi Rao, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, told the Wall Street Journal that the rule would have been “enormously burdensome.”

“We don’t believe it would actually help us gather information about wage and employment discrimination,” she said.

What? There’s no other way to gather the information, but the idea is that we’re choked with too much damned information:

Former President Barack Obama’s administration proposed the rule in 2016 to collect wage and pay data from employers for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to analyze.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House said the information that would be collected under the rule would be too excessive to comply with the federal Paperwork Reduction Act.

Okay, it’s back to 1953 again, a very early episode of Mad Men perhaps. Those who are left in Pittsburgh just shrug. Wage equality and workplace protections for women were never a big deal before. This might be a comforting return to the past.

So far, so good, but maybe not all that good:

Donald Trump seems to have lost Pittsburgh, at least based on a focus group held in the city Tuesday night.

The group, a mix of people who voted for Trump or Hillary Clinton (plus one Jill Stein voter), came down hard on the president and Vice President Mike Pence during the session, sponsored by Emory University. Three people called Pence a “puppet,” and several used variations of “waiting in the wings,” though he was also called “quiet” and “reasonable.”

They also hammered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Congress is an easy target, but they had a hero before:

Trump won Pennsylvania last year by 44,000 votes, the first Republican to carry the state since 1988. He cited his support in Steel City earlier this year at the White House, explaining his decision to pull out of the international climate accord by saying, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

They now rather he didn’t support them:

Brian Rush, a registered Republican, said he voted for Trump as a way of sticking it to the status quo, but not because the president would have been his first choice.

“I look at a president to be presidential, someone who is calm, focused. Ronald Reagan came in as an actor, but he goes down as one of our better presidents,” he said. “He came in not as a politician. In some aspects, Trump is almost turning into a politician in a different way, saying things he thinks his base wants to hear. He’s let me down.”

He senses there’s no “there” there – which is what Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, California, oddly enough – but it’s more than that:

Christina Lees, a Republican leaning independent, said she’d gotten tired of Trump.

“We know he’s a nut. Everyone knew he was a nut. But there comes a point in time when you have to become professional. He’s not professional, forget about presidential,” she said.

And there was this:

No one gave full support for Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border, which the president has now threatened to prompt a government shutdown to get Congress to fund.

Russell Stit, a Republican whose age was listed as 65-75, said he was a huge supporter of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan and what he felt it represented.

Eight months in, he’s confused.

“I guess I question what he’s trying to do. I don’t fully understand it,” he said.

That’s okay, Russ, no one does, and this bit of video is telling:

Trump voter Tony Sciullo, an insurance company president, said that while he still agrees with Trump on many of the issues the president ran on, he thinks that Trump’s larger-than-life personality has completely overwhelmed the focus that should be placed on his agenda.

“What most disappoints me is he’s such an incredibly flawed individual who has articulated so many of the values that I hold dear,” said Sciullo. “The messenger is overwhelming the message.”

Sciullo also takes issue with the president’s response to the violence committed by white nationalists during the Charlottesville rally earlier this month.

“He is almost totally lacking in empathy,” he said. “That’s why he scores so poorly on all of these issues. He cannot put himself in the other person’s moccasins, whether it be racial or international or socio-economic. He’s incredibly obtuse. And I voted for him.”

Let’s see. Trump is incredibly obtuse. This guy voted for him. Oops. Donald Trump has lost Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, here in California, there’s odd rationalization:

Duncan Hunter of California was one of Donald Trump’s first backers on Capitol Hill, long before it became fashionable. But like other Republicans, Hunter is showing signs of buyer’s remorse.

“He’s just like he is on TV,” the congressman reportedly told colleagues on Friday. “He’s an asshole, but he’s our asshole.”

The comment was reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, which said it was recounted by four people present when Hunter spoke at a Riverside County Young Republicans meeting at a sports bar in Murrieta, California.

The San Diego Union-Tribune confirmed that Duncan Hunter likes assholes. No, not in “that” way – he’s not Jerry Sandusky – but something is wrong here:

Hunter, whose father served 14 consecutive terms in Congress, is under criminal investigation by the justice department for allegedly misspending tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds – including flying the family rabbit on a plane. Democrats are considering a bid to target his normally safe seat.

They might win. Duncan Hunter and his father are legendary out here, and now not in a good way. Imagine the campaign slogan – Vote for Duncan Hunter! Support our asshole president! He’s OUR asshole! And rabbits fly for free!

That won’t fly, not out here, not in Pittsburgh, and maybe not anywhere now:

Voter satisfaction with the direction of the nation is down by double digits, as a majority says President Donald Trump is tearing the country apart.

That’s according to the latest Fox News Poll.

Yes, this is Fox News, but they couldn’t fudge these numbers:

The number of voters happy with how things are going in the country is down 10 percentage points since April and stands at just 35 percent. It hasn’t been that low since 2013. At the same time, dissatisfaction jumped to 64 percent – an 11-point increase.

It gets worse:

That shift is not, as is often the case, tied to the economy. Positive views on the economy are higher than in more than a decade: 36 percent say it is in either “excellent” (6 percent) or “good” (30 percent) shape. The last time conditions were rated this positively was August 2004.

The same isn’t true for Trump. His job ratings are increasingly negative – and 56 percent feel Trump’s “tearing the country apart,” versus 33 percent who say he’s “drawing the country together.”

Of course he still has his base:

About two-thirds of Republicans feel Trump is drawing the country together (68 percent), while 15 percent say tearing the country apart and 18 percent are unsure. Nearly all Democrats (93 percent) and over half of independents (59 percent) say Trump is tearing the country apart.

Someone is a bit isolated here, and it’s not the Democrats and independents, and maybe not a lot of ordinary Republicans:

In addition, a record 55 percent of voters disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, while 41 percent approve. That’s a net negative by 14 points and his worst score to-date. In April, around the 100-day mark of the administration, his ratings were at net negative three (45-48 percent). Trump’s first job rating on the Fox News Poll is the only one that’s been in positive territory: 48-47 percent (February 2017).

Since that time he’s lost the most ground with conservatives (down 7 points), Republican men (-9 points), and whites without a college degree (-9 points).

And the hits just keep coming:

He receives net negative ratings on North Korea (43-50), taxes (37-45), immigration (43-54), Russia (35-56), the environment (36-56), and health care (34-60).

His worst marks are on race relations (33-61 percent), where disapproval outweighs approval by 28 points.

Here’s why. Over half don’t think Trump respects racial minorities (56 percent) – and only about one-third approve of his response to events in Charlottesville (35 percent), where conflicts between neo-Nazi protesters and counter-protesters led to deadly violence.

Many seem to think he’s nuts:

When asked who poses a greater threat to the United States, nearly as many say the media (40 percent) as say white supremacists (47 percent). Another nine percent say that the threat is “the same.”

Most Trump voters (75 percent) say the news media are the bigger threat. Most Hillary Clinton backers (80 percent) say white supremacists.

Overall, by a 70-13 percent margin, voters think Trump dislikes the media more than white supremacists.

They know their man, an angry confused madman, and Mike Allen knows why this president is so angry:

Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are going their own way on tax reform. Hill sources believe his original targets, including a 15% corporate rate, are dead.

Secretary of Defense Mattis didn’t immediately embrace his full ban on transgender troops.

His Justice Department won’t drop the Russia probe.

Courts won’t allow his full Muslim ban.

Mexico won’t pay for his wall.

Congress won’t pay for his wall.

The Senate won’t pass his promised health-care reform.

Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Tillerson won’t tolerate his Charlottesville response.

North Korea won’t heed his warnings.

China doesn’t fear his trade threats.

CEOs won’t sit on his councils.

Mexico and Canada won’t bend to his will on NAFTA.

That’s quite a list, and those people in Pittsburgh are calling him names too, and Mike Allen adds this:

Imagine where Trump would be today if he had instantly (and only) condemned the racist violence in Charlottesville, blown off the Arizona meltdown rally, and held off on the Arpaio pardon till the usual protocol could be followed.

The press would be writing about a new, late-summer Trump who had managed two crises like a normal president, and cleaned house of the most toxic “America First” true believers. His Texas trip would have gotten a high grade, with his trademark brio and well-received remarks.

Now snap back to reality: Instead, Trump has escalated his war with the judiciary, media and Republican establishment. At the same time, he has created a monster on the outside in the form of Steve Bannon and his merry band of Breitbart brawlers.

That’s bad enough, but Travis Gettys adds more:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been publicly challenging the White House, but advisers say President Donald Trump can’t afford to fire him.

A source close to the president said Trump was angered that Tillerson and economic adviser Gary Cohn criticized his response to a Charlottesville white supremacist rally, but there’s not much he can do about it, reported Politico.

“I think that cuts him to the quick,” the source told the website.

That’s just too bad:

Trump’s advisers don’t believe they could find a qualified candidate to replace Tillerson, who has feuded with the White House for months, because they don’t think UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is ready to take over.

“I couldn’t name you a guy who would take the job or get confirmed,” the source said.

And that leads to dark places:

Trump returned from a 17-day vacation to find his influence shrunken, as the Russia investigation continues to consume his administration and congressional Republicans openly questioning his leadership.

That has left the president’s mindset as “the worst it’s ever been,” according to the Politico source.

“He feels like this is not what he signed up for, and his accomplishments are being underplayed,” the source said. “He just looks around and says, ‘When is this going to get better?'”

Everyone is asking that question. There was Daniel Drezner four weeks ago:

President Trump cannot get major pieces of legislation through Congress, cannot seem to get his own Cabinet officials to respond to his whims, cannot give a speech without his hosts distancing themselves from his rhetoric, and cannot get foreign countries to defer to U.S. leadership.

Other than that, everything is peachy.

There is Daniel Drezner now:

Things have gotten worse for Trump since then. His foreign economic policy has hit multiple snags. He is woefully behind in staffing his administration. His polling numbers have continued to trend south. Trump’s own Cabinet officers and White House staffers are now publicly distancing themselves from his rhetoric. Despite reports of Trump’s frustration with these public rifts, he has yet to fire anyone this week.

“I couldn’t name you a guy who would take the job or get confirmed.” Trump is too politically weak to fire anyone, and weak in general:

This is the weakest president that the country has experienced since the days of John Tyler. Which would help explain why FiveThirtyEight’s Julia Azari compared Trump to “a throwback to a previous era: Trump is – in some ways – a normal 19th-century president.”

But at this moment, it is worth pausing to appreciate that even a commander in chief as weak and feckless as Trump still has policy accomplishments…

The rollback of Obama-era regulations has continued apace. Indeed, this might be the Trump administration’s most significant policy achievement to date.

But that’s all there is:

Trump craves big, tangible achievements as bright, shiny objects to brag about. He craves them so much that he does not necessarily care what is in the bills he wants passed. He has displayed a willingness to bargain badly just to try to get any such accomplishments. But his offensive rhetoric, bullying demeanor and complete lack of strategic thought handicaps him so badly that he will be unable to get anything good passed by Congress or agreed upon by other countries.

All that Trump can proclaim as a success is the deregulatory efforts of his executive branch. These are negative rather than positive accomplishments, in that they reverse what prior presidents have done. They are still achievements, but they are not sexy, and they’re not exactly populist achievements either. As Matthew Yglesias writes, “The winners here are not ‘anxious’ working-class heartlanders, but the owners and managers of big companies who have the government off their backs and barely even need to defend their stances in public with Trump’s antics sucking up the bulk of attention.”

It’s no wonder that the guy is unhappy:

Trump is a weak president, but even his administration has accomplished some things. But they are not things Trump can brag about publicly. This must drive him crazy.

That’s okay. Listen to his former supporters in Pittsburgh. He’s driving them crazy. Look at the results from the Fox News poll – the same thing – and note this:

George Clooney took the blunt route in criticizing President Donald Trump.

“It becomes increasingly clear how in over his head and incapable this man is of being president of the United States,” the 56-year-old actor told The Associated Press in an article published on Tuesday.

Okay, Hollywood actors don’t know anything about anything, really. That’s a given – but neither do those folks in Pittsburgh – and neither do all those folks that Fox News polled – unless they do know a few important things. Donald Trump lost Pittsburgh. It doesn’t stop there.

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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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