J: So now we’re up to 44 congressional members not going to the inauguration, and the Capitol Police are bracing for an estimated million protesters… seems that people are not happy with our choice of President.
T: Really? Are you saying that our new president is not popular?
J: He’s going in with an approval rating of 40 percent, which is the lowest rating for a day-one president since Gallup started asking the question in 1976.
T: 40 percent, that seems low … didn’t he get close to 50 percent of the vote?
T: So … buyer’s remorse? Or is this some sort of Jedi mind trick?
J: He’s lost ground due to his poor handling of the transition and his various bits of ass hattery since then.
T: “Various Bits of Ass Hattery” would make a good movie title. What was his approval rating at the election? It seems to me that it was low then, too.
J: It was 44 percent on the day after the election, so 2.5 percent of his voters were probably the never-Hillary type.
T: When was the last time we elected a president with a 44 percent approval rating on Election Day?
J: I believe the answer to that is “never”. He’s in a historically weak position as he starts his term, and it’s only going to get worse.
T: So we’ve established that Mister Trump is not the most popular president we’ve ever moved into the White House. Has he done anything good? It can’t be all bad.
J: I suppose that depends on your definitions of “good” and “bad”
T: Well, I’ll give you one. Having a big mouth is generally a bad trait in the guy who controls the launch codes, but one good thing about Trump is that he is constitutionally incapable of shutting the fuck up – and that means we get information on his intentions far enough in advance to develop some sort of political karate defense.
J: Yes, that’s a good thing … He does have the habit of telegraphing what he intends to do and thereby allowing the opposition to mobilize.
T: He broadcast his ACA (Obamacare) intentions so far in advance that he might as well have opened the fridge in the middle of the GOP’s midnight raid.
J: And the opposition is mobilizing… he’s going to have a hard time on that one, especially after saying his replacement plan will have “insurance for all”.
T: Is it possible that by March the GOP is going to be begging him to shut up, while the Dems sit back and say “go on, Donald. You were saying?”
J: What he meant to say was “insurance access for all” but now the Dems can beat him with his own words.
T: Karate chop! Straight to the healthcare! Riposte! Riposte!
J: I’m sure that they will … I think there’s a good chance that he’ll say something so egregiously stupid that he’ll lose enough support to politically emasculate him.
T: At this point Donald might be an ally to the center. Honestly his ideological history is to the left of Clinton, so the GOP is not going to see things eye to eye with him anyway. The GOP might wind up hating him even more than the liberals think they hate him now.
J: I also read an article that said that he’ll be in violation of the Constitution on day one; there’s a clause in there that says that no federal officeholder can receive anything of value from a foreign government .t.. Trump Enterprises does a lot of foreign business and he hasn’t yet divested.
T: That’s scary as hell, in a tiger by the ears way. If he’s in violation right away, it’s going to be tough to do anything about him violating something more serious later. Nobody is going to institute impeachment hearings on the 20th of January.
J: His history doesn’t mean much … he has a long history of telling some people what they want to hear, and then telling other people what THEY want to hear, even if the two comments are 180 degrees in opposition.
T: How funny would it be if he can’t divest, because he’s broke?
T: Well, we can go on what his history is NOT, at least.
J: I’m sure he’ll be given some period of time to divest, but if we get six months down the road and he still hasn’t, he’s going to have a much harder time.
T: He’s really not conservative … actually, what is he?
J: If anything, he’s kind of libertarian-lite, wants government out of everything
T: I don’t think he’s as jingoistic as he claims, either. The man has been making deals overseas his entire life. That’s not a guy who wants to roll up the streets and build walls around the economy. To me, his tariff threats are like everything else with him: a negotiating ploy.
J: I think that the jingoism was red meat for the base, probably not something he actually believes.
T: Ok, John, the 64 trillion dollar question: what does Trump believe? In his cold, dark chasm of a heart, who is Donald Trump? Take your time.
J: He’s an opportunist, and a pathological liar, which is an extremely bad combination. He doesn’t have any true guiding principles, other than to do what’s best for Donald Trump. He demonstrated both of these aspects of his personality in the campaign; he saw the frustration of the working class and tapped into it (opportunism) and said whatever he needed to say to swing people behind him. He’s a master of the simplistic (“drain the swamp!” “lock her up!”), and he used that mastery to appeal to people who, while not stupid, don’t have a real grasp of the reasons that their jobs went overseas and aren’t coming back.
J: I forgot “build the wall!” I think that he would consider getting his tax plan passed a success. I don’t think that repealing the ACA is as important to him; that’s Ryan’s baby and he’s the one taking the lead on it. He’d probably like to get a protectionist tariff passed, but that’s unlikely because the big retailers are solidly against it because it’d hurt their profits. The wall is a very low priority.
T: What does he want? In his mind, what would a successful presidency look like? What does he want his legacy to look like?
Do you think he wants a tariff, or a negotiation under the threat of a tariff?
J: I think he wants negotiation; I do believe that he’s smart enough to understand that actually passing a protective tariff, particularly against China, would have immediate and drastic negative economic consequences, which he (and his party) would fully own. It’s always been interesting to me that he’s so focused on Mexico when in fact Canada is the larger trading partner under NAFTA; I suspect that it ties into the “build the wall” thing and the perceived threat of millions of Mexicans in the US illegally.
T: I think it’s important to separate what he says from what he thinks, and not just because it’s Trump. I’ll explain. Politics isn’t getting things done in our system so much as it’s getting things approved. First is getting approved for the job – getting elected. Second, getting approval for how you do your job – approval ratings, reelection. Third, getting approval for various things that you have decided your constituents (your voters, more specifically) will like enough to approve – back to the second one. The process never really gets to the point where things like “build the wall” or “end abortion” or kill flag burners” unless the approval seeker makes such a big god dammed deal out of it that he (or she) is forced to back talk up with action, or risk losing approval number two again. Trump has been systematically backing away from his election promises since the election.
J: That’s a fair point, but Trump HAS made a big enough deal out of some of those issues that his voters are going to demand some kind of action… for sure on the wall and the ACA.
T: Do you really think so, or are we just too close to it? The general sense I get is that people want to keep the ACA, and nobody more than 2 blocks from the Mexican border gives one shit about the wall unless they are the type of unstable racist that has bigger problems. That’s what it looks like to me, anyway. I am not sure Trump’s voters care about much of anything unless they are prompted, honestly. The GOP cares about a lot of stuff – mostly “fuck you Obama” but also “fuck you Hillary” – but Trump doesn’t care about that stuff, and I don’t think his voters care, either. That’s a good question … what do Trump’s voters care about? Not the GOP voters in general, but the specific people who voted for Trump? The Midwesterners who want meth and OxyContin out of their schools,; and that crowd. Better question: who are Trump’s voters?
J: The national polling is actually pretty evenly split on the ACA, 48-47 in favor of repeal; predictably, most Republicans favor repeal, most Democrats are opposed, and independents are about evenly split. I think you have a point about Trump voters not really caring until someone rings their bell… Romney didn’t tap into that disaffection in 2012, neither did McCain in 2008 … but Trump did, with his call to the disaffected to rally around him as their champion. I think Trump’s voters are the Rust Belters who want the good old days back, who want those manufacturing jobs back… that ain’t gonna happen. Also the coal miners in West Virginia who think that Trump will roll back environmental regulations and reopen the mines … again, unlikely to happen, but that was what he was selling and it went down like candy to those people. And, of course, the reflexive voters who vote for anyone with an R by their name because that’s what they’ve always done
And the evangelicals who think Trump will use his power to name a conservative to the SC to overturn Roe v. Wade.
T: They care about winning, but really nothing else. In actual political matters, they are only interested when they are, as you say, getting their bells rung.
J: Trump’s voters … what I think I’m aiming for is the voters specific to Trump, not the ones who are selfishly voting for stuff that had nothing to do with Trump.
I think that might have been a big part of Trump’s early strength, the idea that he was somehow more sympathetic to them because he wasn’t a career politician. “He’s not politically correct, he speaks his mind…” and all that bullshit.
T: I don’t think there are 46 percent, or 40 percent, or even 20 percent actual Trump voters. The number is probably about double the difference between the bottom of the GOP range – about maybe 38 percent – and the actual vote he got (46.5 percent). That’s about 17 percent. I think there are several demographics that add up to that 17 percent, and they all watch reality television. I don’t think he got 100 percent of that vote … maybe 75-80 percent? So that would mean that maybe 23-25 percent of the voters fit that loose demographic?
J: It seems like most of the traditional republican constituencies swung behind him eventually… but a lot of that vote was anti-Hillary rather than pro-Trump.
T: The low-education, instant gratification crowd.
J: The words-of-one-syllable crowd.
T: Sift all that out, it is meaningless in the specific Trump picture. Trump could get shot into the sun and they wouldn’t be any different, or vote any differently.
J: But would they vote at all? How many voters were motivated to actually get out and vote for Trump because he reflected their values?
T: The low-education, instant gratification crowd consists of the alcoholics, the drug addicts, the fats, the smokers, the lunch box hard hats who go home and tell Edith to get them a beer … the older versions are somewhere in the Archie Bunker-Gran Torino range. The younger ones are the King of Queens guys, the straight versions of the Village People.
J: Even if it was only one or two percent, it was enough.
T: Oh, it was in the 15-20 percent range. They turned all the swing states, and by such small margins that it would be a huge upset if there wasn’t skullduggery involved. And I don’t think Trump reflected their values. He just agreed with them that no fucking liberal bitch was going to tell them what to do.
J: Something like 90,000 votes would have swung the election to Clinton in those three states.
T: Yep. All this talk about Russia is a mistake. We should be looking hard at those elections.
Putin was just doing what hostile foreign powers have always done. What we do.
J: More misdirection.
T: Trump is naturally evasive, reflective, Teflon-ive. The perfect mafia don.
J: He’s a pathological liar, but his supporters don’t care. At least not until it impacts them directly.
T: One saving grace about him, maybe…. he’s not particularly disingenuous. He’s not smart enough to be truly Lex Luthor-ian evil .He’s just really fucking selfish, really fucking greedy, really fucking evasive, and really fucking shallow.
J: He doesn’t have sufficient grasp of how to govern to be really bad.
T: I find the deep looks into his possible criminality strangely reassuring. He is about as big a weasel as you can find, but he’s basically honest.
J: I’m more concerned with Congress and the things they’re going to try and put through for him to sign.
T: That’s the worry. Trump is going to be the same giant ass clown he’s always been, but what’s happening behind the scenes? Sheldon Adelson is still back there, and so are a bunch of other greedy fucks who can’t come out in the sun for fear of bursting into flames. It’s Mordor in the Trump cabinet.
J: Do you think all his picks are going to get confirmed?
T: I bet they toss one for show, but the rest get in. Insert school joke here. What was it she said? I should make a meme about it.
J: “yes, these are bears. They’re still more qualified than Trump’s Cabinet picks.”
T: What did the school lady say about bears that has so many people pissed?
J: She said that schools in Wyoming should not be gun-free zones because they might have grizzlies.
T: Oh, OK. That’s why everyone is so pissed? Can’t they find something really fucked up to be pissed about? I mean, it’s low hanging fruit season and they want to climb a fucking redwood?
J: Well, that and she doesn’t know that disability accommodation is a federal law.
T: Does she want to repeal it?
J: She said the states should decide about that and one of the senators said “you mean you don’t know that this is a federal law?”
T: “Fellas, let’s jackhammer those ramps. Those lazy fucks will never learn to walk if we pamper them.”
J: And she said “I may have confused it”
T: I’m still not seeing the (comparatively) hubbub. Is that all she’s done wrong? Confused a statute that would only get to her if it was so obvious that even a blind turd would be familiar with it by then, and thinking Wyoming is a place where kids might commonly carry guns because of wildlife? I don’t see the problem. Trump’s cabinet picks are like Dick Tracy villains. Why concentrate on that shit? Can’t they worry about an oil man running the EPA first?
J: Well, someone who wants to be Secretary of Education really ought to know the relevant laws… but I agree that there are bigger villains out there to be vilified.
T: I mean get real – don’t worry about parking enforcement while the towers are on fire, OK guys?
J: Yeah, there’s bigger problems among those picks… they gotta shift their focus.
T: I found a picture of ’em.
J: Puzder won’t get in, Tillerson very well may not get out of committee.
T: Let’s hope so … it’s the biggest bunch of backwards-assed fuckwads I’ve seen since the KKK headhunted Hitler’s storm troopers.
J: DeVos seems to have ethics problems too… well, more serious ethics problems than the garden-variety Trump appointee.
T: They are like an offensive line in football … they are all so fucked up that some of them will slip through. The refs can’t call holding on every down.
J: I suppose not.
T: That weasel Ryan started to look good during the campaign because the rest were even worse … that’s what Sessions is going through now. That worm, compared to the rest of that oozing cabinet of slime, is starting to look almost not completely slimy.
J: Oh, no, he still looks pretty slimy… but when you’re dealing with that degree of sliminess, it’s all relative.
T: That’s the idea. You can hold if the next guy pulls out a knife … all the attention is elsewhere. So we switch partners…
J: BOHICA, as they used to say.
J: An acronym… “Bend Over, Here It Comes Again”.
J: Well, it’s been since 2008, but yeah.
T: So how long until Trump threatens to bomb North Korea into submission?
J: Oh, he’s already doing that.
T: You have a reference?
J: Trump wants to nuke North Korea
Trump’s North Korea red line could come back to haunt him. In three words of a tweet this week, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump vowed North Korea would never test an intercontinental ballistic missile.
T: That’s the nightmare – not Obamacare, and not tariffs. We are already sideways with China.
J: Military action wouldn’t sit at all well with the Chinese… or the Japanese or South Koreans, for that matter. We would destabilize the entire region.
T: It’s going to take subtlety – something Trump ain’t got.
J: No… he deals in absolutes, and saying something like “it won’t happen” is definitely an absolute.
T: So how does he prevent it? That’s the scary part. We’ll find out if his negotiating savvy runs to military and diplomatic matters. In his mind I think that’s what he believes; that a deal is a deal, and that he can fix all that shit.
J: I think that he believes that about everything… he sees everything connected with governance as a deal. He doesn’t understand that politics is a zero-sum game, there are winners and losers.
T: Yeah … now we are getting closer to the original question … who is this guy, anyway?
J: Well, you could say he’s a deal-maker, he’s made deals all his life… some better than others.
T: What’s in his head? What’s his romantic self-image? I know what we see. I want to know what HE sees.
J: I think that in his heart he sees himself as the champion of America… he sees himself as the guy who can solve the country’s problems, the man in the white hat who will bring the establishment to heel.
T: I agree. What’ so strange is that he’s never really done anything well, other than to brag.
He’s so George Steinbrenner, in so many ways.
J: No, he really hasn’t done well, looking objectively at his record… but braggadocio, that he’s got.
T: Rich asshole fathers who never played catch with them, went into business with a shitload of money and no need to spend it because they had the ultimate platinum credit rating – their fathers – built successful businesses into disastrous, bankrupt messes, cheated to survive, were removed from control so others could restore the businesses, then they came back and basked in the glory of what they claimed they did.
J: An American “success” story.
T: Born on third, somehow wound up back at second, their fathers came out and dragged them back to third, then they pounded their chests and proclaimed “I hit a triple!” Is that a president, or the retarded kid who everybody lets win?
J: The three-year-old that’s too young to play, but they let him hit it off the tee anyway and everyone runs around and falls down pretending to try and get the ball while the kid runs around the bases.
T: Richie Rich.
J: He has staff to hit the ball.
T: Except Richie Rich is Peter Griffin but with a shitload of money.
J: I thought he was Stewie.
T: No, Stewie is smart. Sheldon Adelson is Stewie. Trump is EXACTLY Peter Griffin but with money. I assume you’ve seen Family Guy.
J: Yeah, I’ve seen it.
T: Oh, except he’s from Queens, not New England, so he’s more of a Flatbush tough wannabe than a longshoreman wannabe. He wants to be Gotti.
J: Well, he did have to deal with the mob back in the day.
T: Oh, he was associated, I think that’s common knowledge … I personally doubt he ever knowingly broke any laws – bent ’em all the time, but never broke ’em – but I think he admired the dons.
J: If you were in the construction business in the 80s in NYC, you had to deal with the mob… that was well known. I think he tried to keep them at arm’s length as much as he could but I agree that he probably admired tough guys like that.
T: It shows in how he deals with everything – he’s basically made himself into a stereotype of every De Niro character ever. Every New York De Niro character.
J: Pretty much.
T: I don’t count Fearless Leader.
J: No one counts Fearless Leader.