Trump’s Legacy: Lowering the Bar

Trump & Co. Have Set Pernicious Precedents for Everything

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There’s a unique requirement for appearing in this family photo: blind loyalty to Donald Trump.

As President Donald Trump fades, kicking and screaming, into history Americans are wondering what to expect of a post-Trump world. Today the United States looks nothing like the country he took over in 2017. It’s more cynical and more dumber than ever before. It lags behind its most important world adversaries in education, infrastructures, manufacturing, and morals. In fact, it’s behind in virtually everything but its war contraptions and predatory mindset, it’s steel circle of military bases around the world and it’s penchant for interfering in the affairs of other people’s countries. The United States has even slipped behind in leading-edge technology, its traditional strong suit.

Yes, those who follow Trump can undo some of the damage he and his cohorts have done over the past four years, but much of it is irrecoverable. We must not forget his campaign promise–to dismantle the backbone of the United States government, placing all its competencies and vital decisions in the hands of private enterprise and faith-based organizations. Otherwise, how does one explain the choice of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education? Or his naming of the colorful prosperity-gospel televangelist, his personal spirtual advisor, Paula White, as chair of his “evangelical advisory board.”

Trump Goes, Trumpism Stays

The seriousness of Trump’s privatize-and-degrade dynamic is such that, once installed in governmental protocols, it’s hard to get rid of. What starts out seeming scandalous and disproportionate to normal citizens , with time becomes traditional, accepted by large swaths of the population. For coming generations much of Trump & Co.’s tawdry ideology will assume the guise of precedents with the apparent legitimacy that entails.

It’s important to distinguish between Trump and Trumpism. Trump may go (though it’s not clear when) but the sordid seeds he has planted in the American body politic have put vigorous roots down into a substrate of dishonesty, ignorance and arrogance, unlimited opportunism, inhumane values, and government in league with voodoo religion. They will not be easy to uproot, especially if another right-wing populist president comes along who’s even smarter than Donald Trump.

By that time the Trump way of doing things will be considered business as usual in Washington, just as targeted drone assassinations, once considered too horrendous even to consider, have become commonplace today. Americans–excepting the most persnickety of them–will not be shocked by holders of high office who murder, lie, contract unqualified family members, embrace America’s seediest adversaries, cheerlead assaults on the nation’s Capitol and take advantage of high office to feather their nests. Future generations of Americans may come to consider those aberrations simply innovative governance or genial shortcuts to hillbilly heaven.

It Depends on Where You Stand

There are widely-varying standpoints on the subject of Donald Trump’s atypical presidency; the indulgent, ultra-patriotic view from his simple-minded followers; the rage of the rest of Americans, who let him get away with it all; and the cooler, more objective approach when seen from abroad. The unconditional loyalty of Trump’s hardcore followers is hard to explain to non-initiates. It hits the same buttons as miracle religion and the serial-killer’s mother’s love. It’s faith based, a valuable asset in a country where faith works wierd wonders.

Not all members of the Trump tribe are morons. Then how do you explain the Trumpeteers who are practically normal? It might have to do with their profound dissatisfaction with the unfair, tilted field that most Americans are obliged to play on. They’ve been told for their whole lives that this is the exceptional, individualist “American way of life,” the envy of the world. But not many of them have ever been anyplace else so as to be able to compare. In any case, though the quasi-normal Trump followers may not know how to explain their malaise, they’re sure they’re tired of it.

The Trump Follies Seen from Abroad

Foreigners are not emotionally involved in America’s problems. Most of them live in countries where everyone’s children attend good public schools and receive quality free or inexpensive education through university. They’re relatively certain their kids are not going to be caught in a crossfire at school or while coming and going. Virtually all of these foreigners work and receive fair pay in humane conditions and are supported by labor unions. If they have illness or accidents they just go to the hospital, knowing they won’t have to mortgage their houses to pay the bills. In fact, there are no bills.

If they are afflicted with serious chronic illness or disability they know they will be taken care of. They trust their elected representatives to do their best to keep their campaign promises. All countries of the European Union, and many others, enjoy a minimum month’s annual vacation. Americans get 10 days.

These citizens are not directly affected by the goings on in the United States, but they could be–at the press of a button. For now, more than anything else they are profoundly perplexed. America is nothing like their own countries and they have trouble relating to its brash facade and cruel and unusual customs. They lack the advantage of lifelong conditioning and Kool-Aid consumption. They will probably never understand America’s seemingly alien society.

The Recuperation of the Republican Party

At the beginning of the Trump presidency the vast majority of Republican Party members rallied round him, even if a few of them had to hold their noses. There were some exceptions, such as Mike Pence who at first shunned the crass New York real-estate operator as the Republican presidential candidate but later figured out which side his bread was buttered on and slipped back into the fold. He was to become one of President Trump’s most loyal followers till the bitter end on January 6, 2021, when he again thought about his future in politics.

Now that Trump’s ship is on the rocks, particularly after his enthusiastic horde assaulted the US Capitol, many Republicans are abandoning ship. After Trump’s invaders had left the Capitol or been carted off, his deceitful backout speech dripped with hypocritical slime, lacking any hint of regret or decency, just more self-serving, sociopathic cant. His capture-the-Congress gambit had failed and he needed to cover his retreat with counterfeit sincerity.

The Only Way Out of the Swamp

Though the idea is much bandied about, Washington DC is no longer a swamp. A swamp has a harmony about it. There’s a natural cycle of birth and death, beauty and balance. The location of the new nation’s capital in the Washington swamp was chosen by the United States’s first President in 1790. Little by little that natural habitat was perverted by politicians ruling for themselves. Today opportunism and bad faith rule. Hypocrisy has replaced beauty in the swamp and privilege has trumped balance. The only way out of that degenerate ecosystem is through an educated electorate but, given Americas’s ever-declining education system, that will probably not happen.

President Donald Trump’s great luck was that the mediocrity of his own mind and values meshed nicely with that of enough of his countrymen to get him elected President. Once in office he limited himself to promoting a retrograde agenda that pandered to a simple-minded electorate. His legislative henchmen razed the American government like devilish wrecking balls while he thrived on junk food and golf. It’s remarkable how far back the Trump government took the country in four short years. Nor are his critics free of responsibility. They never should have lost sight of the fact that Donald Trump didn’t create America. America created Donald Trump, and just getting rid of him doesn’t cure the rest.

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Is the Trump Tail Wagging the American Dog?–1/2

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No, Like Everything Else It’s More Complicated Than That

It’s a long story but the brief answer is no, the tail is not wagging the dog. Donald Trump did not give rise to sordid, amoral America. As much as right-thinking Americans would like to pretend otherwise, Donald Trump is not responsible for white-trash America. That happened much earlier. Trump was just a semi-literate opportunist, a billionaire’s proxy who grabbed the brass ring and rode his merry-go-round pony into the White House.

It was the wave of ignorance, greed and pitch-to-the-lowest-common-denominator opportunism that had been growing lustily since World War II that permitted a person like Trump to run for president and actually win. At the same time this grimy ideological mix provided those right-thinking-Americans with the scapegoat they needed to evade responsibility for the mess their country is in. “Just blame it on Trump and his barbarian horde.” Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not that simple.

A Little History

After World War II—and even before, at the 1944 Bretton Wood Conference–while other countries of the world were struggling to create decent lives for their people, including health care for their underclasses, the war-glutted American oligarchies were busy turning their backs on their own citizens and laying the groundwork for the Cold War and eventual unique superpower status. We’re talking about the creation of institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, NATO, SEATO, the CIA, the NSA, the multinationals, the oil-and-gas cartel, the suffocating American worldwide information regime, and let’s not forget their favorite bugbear, their all-pervading anti-communism (…blame it on the Russkies…).

Though this preparation for world domination wasn’t quite so evident in the beginning, the Neocons appeared at the end of the nineties and jerked the blanket off the seamy bed where all the promiscuous American powers-that-be were cavorting. It was their Project for a New American Century which in 1997 described the United States as the “world’s pre-eminent power,” and affirmed that the nation faced a challenge to “shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests.” In order to achieve this goal, the statement’s signers prescribed the usual bromides: “significant increases in defense spending, and the promotion of the “political and economic freedom abroad.”

Calling for a Reaganite policy of “military strength and moral clarity,” they concluded that PNAC’s principles were necessary “if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.” This declaration of principles, adopted by succeeding Republican governments, clearly revealed their sinister medium-and-long-term geopolitical intentions for all who had eyes to see. (That said, how many of us have eyes to see, eyes that have not been occluded by the myths and lies about the United States as a hilltop beacon of democracy, illuminating the way for less-fortunate peoples around the world?)

That shopworn set of lies about the United States exporting democracy no longer washes anywhere except, ironically, inside their own country where it’s still being fed like toxic kibble to their ingenuous choir of methodically-dumbed-down true believers.

“We Will Nuke You”

Then, in a document released in 2000 as DOD Joint Vision 2020, came “full-spectrum dominance,” a term coined by the gaily-decorated uniforms at the Pentagon. It called for “full spectrum dominance” over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively. (Emphasis mine. Translation: We reserve the right to nuke anyone and everyone, anywhere in the world, at any time.)

Harold Pinter referred to the term in his 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

“I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as “full spectrum dominance”. That is not my term, it is theirs. “Full spectrum dominance” means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.”

Not since Hitler’s Germany has any country in the world arrogated to itself such an awesome prerogative: the right to kill everybody, everywhere, indiscriminately, this from a country that spends more on arms than the following 18 countries combined, a country that vociferously declares itself a bastion of democracy worldwide. Lincoln once said to an office seeker, “What you are speaks to me so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

The Bizarre Billionaire Card

Another factor in the creation of American policy that doesn’t get discussed as much is the influence of right-wing billionaires on U.S. policy both at home and abroad. Here’s a link to an enlightening half-hour documentary that discusses the billionaire card in American politics: The Bizarre Billionaire that Backed Bannon and Made Trump President.

 Nor is this American policy limited to rhetoric. Throughout the past century they have materialized it in the form of gratuitous, unprovoked war-making on a series of sovereign nations in total disregard for international law. These attacks formed part of a rich American tradition dating from Colonial times: the wars against Native Americans on their own lands, the failed attempt to annex Canada, the 1848 “Mexican Cession” land grab…

In our own time the Americans’ omnivorous taste for other people’s countries has manifested itself in Vietnam and Iraq, to name just the most egregious cases. Vietnam was doubly cursed, both by the history of French colonialism there and the facile Cold War perception of that little Southeast Asian country as a catalyst for a “domino effect” of Communist expansion. That gossamer theory was the “justification” for 20 years of total (including chemical) warfare against and utter destruction of that tiny storybook country.

The end of the Vietnam War took the Americans by surprise. They lost. A combination of General Giap’s military and President Ho Chi Minh’s political genius, and the incredible capacity of the Vietnamese people for sacrifice, coupled with the influence of American anti-war activists, forced the United States armed forces and their running-dog allies out of Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

Coming hard on the heels of the 9/11 terror attack, the Iraq invasion was somewhat different, though it shared the use of lies and false pretenses the Americans employ regularly. How could we ever forget the pot-calling-the-kettle-black “arms of mass destruction” claims? Those assertions aside, the Iraq War was a straight American attempt to grab the country’s natural resources. The Iraqui oil fields are some of the most important in the world. Combine that fact with their geostrategic position in the Middle East and Iraq was an irresistible candidate for a dose of American democracy delivered from the air.

“Mission Accomplished!” Really?

According to President George W. Bush, nattily dressed in a U.S. Air Force costume-party getup for his “Mission Accomplished” speech to the troops of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, the Americans won that one. As it turned out, however, the issue was somewhat more complicated than President Bush could have conceived. Up there on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, surrounded by unconditional admirers, he was either whistling irresponsibly in the dark or malevolently twisting the truth to his own belligerent purposes. In any case today, 14 years later, the fate of Iraq is still up in the air and the Americans are no closer to grabbing the Iraqi oil than they were on day one.

Go to the second part of this post

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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A Left-Handed Defense of Donald Trump

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President Donald Trump Is Not Responsible

Although this blog is entitled “Trump and All the Rest,” what you will read here in the coming weeks and months won’t be mainly about Donald Trump. There are lots of other issues we need to look at. Nevertheless, some reference to the most recent US president is unavoidable. Donald Trump is as ubiquitous as ants at a picnic. I’m not, however, as down on him as most of my friends, who blame him for everything and want his head.

The bottom line here is, I think, that Donald Trump is not responsible.  In the first place he has neither the intelligence nor the professional level to be responsible for much of anything. He is burdened as well by a narcissistic, egocentric and truculent character that may actually be pathological. Add to this the fact that he delegates so many of his duties and decisions that we suspect that he’s not actually in charge, that he’s being “handled,” first by Steve Bannon, then by we’re not sure who else.
Continue reading “A Left-Handed Defense of Donald Trump”

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