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Fake News Par Excellence

Trump and the Media

Trump’s tiff with the media this week was mostly a win.  For my entire lifetime, the press has almost uniformly abjured its core responsibility to tell the truth fairly and instead engaged in leftist information warfare.  Trump let them have it.  And, like so much else about Trump, one’s thoughts on this episode likely reflect one’s preexisting view of him:  he’s either a dangerous lunatic or a brash champion of the common people.

Whether Trump was impolitic or not, the media’s bad faith should not be deniable to anyone right of center.  It’s why we had so little reporting on the Fast and Furious scandal and constant, drumbeat-style repetition against the most minor scandals of Republicans. It’s why stories like Trayvon Martin or Ferguson designed to make whites and cops look bad are reported constantly and untruthfully to fit the “narrative, ” while we see under-reporting of black on white crime.  We hear about the national debt only during Republican administrations.  We don’t hear about the disastrous war in Yemen under Obama, but heard about Iraq constantly under Bush.  During the campaign, we heard little about Clinton’s email scandals–or her fraudulent actions in Whitewater or regarding cattle futures–while the media trotted out Trump’s ten year old jokes and ridiculous unverifiable accusations.  The media pulled out all the stops against Trump, but the people were wise to the game, and Trump won without ever pretending the media were anything other than what they really are:  the opposition.

On the whole, the media are dishonest, evil, malevolent people with a leftist agenda. They deserve no respect, no benefit of the doubt, and, on balance, they do more harm than good.  They are both a corrupt and corrupting institution.

Yes, we need freedom of the press, but that has nothing to do with media.  Anyone can report anything, and credentialism has nothing to do with it.  Indeed, the media are worse at it than ordinary people, because while professional journalists may know how to write or have established sources, their agenda blinds them.  In the age of blogs, big data, and twitter, the real truth often comes from obscure sources, personal experience, or primary documents getting out in other ways.  Of course, this is not ideal compared to a functioning, patriotic, and honest press corps, and yes there’s some frothing on the margins, with rumors circulating faster than they would otherwise, but, overall, the power of the legacy media as gate-keepers is over.

Trump’s blistering attack earlier this week, coupled with his rally in Melbourne today, are simply extensions of his successful electoral strategy.  It’s a strategy that reminds everyone who the media is and why most of what they say is not trustworthy, because they oppose what most ordinary people hold dear and that opposition is their foremost value, not honest reporting, balance, fairness, or anything else.  Trump’s strategy cuts out the middleman and gives unfiltered information to ordinary Americans.

Media and the Deep State

The media does not live on an island.  It’s part of, broadly speaking, the establishment:  the donors and leadership of the major parties, the universities, the CIA, the GS-14s, the think tanks, the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, the McCains and Petraeuses and Bushes and Clintons.

And those institutions and people share a broadly similar viewpoint on important matters:  pro-global trade, pro-immigration, pro-multiculturalism, pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-feminism, pro-welfare-state, pro-“big,” pro-“maintaining international stability,” which all is collectively an anti-white, anti-Christian, anti-tradition, anti-private-property, anti-freedom, anti-small-business, and anti-Middle America  agenda.  In other words, their end product is the corporatist leftist smog that floats throughout our society, which affects everyone and everything.  It includes every school that un-names itself for Robert E. Lee, every “diversity awareness” seminar in corporate America, every jobless millennial in deep student debt after doing what she’s told by counselors and TV, every general who thinks its ridiculous to protect our own borders, but normal to protect those of Iraq, every Church that cares a lot about Islamic refugees but never mentions priests killed by Islamists, and all the rest.  It’s Davos People, the Cathedral, elites, or whatever term you prefer.

More dangerously for Trump and his agenda, the Establishment includes the permanent bureaucracy of the entire federal government, whether in administrative agencies like the EPA, DOJ, or DOL, but also many career DoD and CIA personnel.  And every president has found what is now being called the Deep State an obstacle.

Career civil service protection and the independence of quasi-legislative administrative agencies gives them power that would otherwise be in the hands of the executive.  We saw examples of this opposition when the Army dragged its feet in Kosovo for Clinton, in the State Department’s griping about the Iraq Campaign under George W. Bush, and in the Air Traffic Controller strike under Reagan.  Every president deals with this to some extent, but the resistance to Trump will likely be the most impressive yet, because unlike his predecessors, he came to power self consciously in opposition to this entire apparatus and the status quo  it has created.  Where the post-WWII establishment reflected a national, centrist consensus, today it reflects the globalist values of the corporate left.  As in the later days of the Iraq and Vietnam Wars, it also now reflects a significant gap between decision makers and the ordinary people.

Trump opposes the Establishment and all of what they’re about.  As he stated in his inaugural address, “What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”  He won because those institutions have lost legitimacy in the truest sense of the word:  they no longer reflect approval by the majority, they have failed to deliver the goods that their policies promised, and people feel that the Establishment is hostile to their way of life . . . and they’re right.

The Deep State’s Soft Coup

Trump has faced particular opposition from the intelligence agencies, who claimed a scalp in the form of proposed National Security Advisory, Michael Flynn.  Their actions here should be worrisome, because the power of the spy agencies is immense:  they can gather dirt through exotic means, leak it to the press,  and present information to make Trump appear either irresponsible or unable to control his subordinates.

They’ve employed this playbook in such varied locales as Libya and Ukraine, and now they’re employing it at home.  This used to worry many Americans back when it was used by Nixon against “domestic enemies” in the form of COINTELPRO program, but now that the left has become the Establishment, much like the Soviet KGB, the left sees the intelligence agencies as guardians of the elite and the status quo.  I’ve done some reading regarding the last days of the Soviet Union, and the most common complaint of ordinary people did not relate to abstract freedom, nor concern for their human rights, but the hypocrisy, double standards, and special privileges of an elite, who were seen as self-serving and arrogant. People don’t need to be well versed in political theory to know when they’re being screwed, and they’re doubly insulted when they’re being told simultaneously that they’re not.

Equally worrisome, Trump’s enemies have cheered on this soft coup, in spite of, or perhaps because of, its anti-democratic nature.   Bill Kristol, the prominent Republican analyst who founded The Weekly Standard, wrote on Twitter, “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

Russia is just a prop in all this; the allegations against Flynn were flimsy, unsourced, and repeated breathlessly by the media and Trump’s enemies, but the recent hysteria directed against Russia–whether with regard to hacking the DNC or its actions in Crimea–are falling on deaf ears. Russia is not a communist country anymore with global ambitions, and people who were around during the Soviet Union’s prominence can easily see the difference.  Post-Soviet  Russia is also not a weak lackey to the West anymore, and they’re not so crazy about the West’s dictating how they deal with their neighbors and internal matters, such as gay rights, Islamic extremists, or meddlesome oligarchs. In addition, their traditionalism hits a positive note with the American Right; it is the “West” now fighting for transsexual rights and open borders to the Islamic World, and Russia is standing up for normalcy.  Thus where the Soviet Union (or Castro’s Cuba) had a progressive cachet, traditionalist white countries are always painted as nascent fascists.

Most Americans aren’t buying the Establishment’s propaganda on this or much else.  They don’t want wars in Syria to depose Assad, they don’t want war with Russia, they don’t want America to resemble Mexico City, and they don’t lose any sleep over deporting illegals.  In other words, they support what Trump said he will do, but the Deep State doesn’t like it and is trying to shame and bully and fear-monger them into supporting the status quo ante.

First, the Deep State believe in the Establishment’s views across the board, because they are coextensive with it. They want our money and troops and influence everywhere.   Second, they are self-interested, and know Trump is their enemy of business as usual.  Trump will reduce their influence, because he’ll shrink their portfolio. They’re not relevant in a world where American “leadership” doesn’t include wars in faraway places like Ossetia and Yemen.  Finally, they don’t want their sins exposed.  In addition to the Iran deal–which apparently Obama’s people left behind in the CIA are trying to protect–Flynn knew what they were up to in Syria, and the evidence points to something truly nefarious, namely tacit or possibly explicit support by the CIA for ISIS, which our government was ostensibly opposed to.  

Who Will Win?

Backing down on Flynn was a loss for Trump.  He may have also been annoyed at some fibbing by Flynn, as was the official explanation, but I fear he finally blinked.  He’s stood up to constant attacks for a year and a half, but every man has his limits. And this victory will embolden his opponents.

Desperate, self-satisfied, selfish and anti-democratic elements in the Establishment–that is to say the entire Establishment–will continue to wage direct and indirect warfare against his agenda, openly defy his directives, and have shown willingness to break the law to hurt him.  I’m concerned his experiences to date and the monumental task of dismantling and redirecting the infrastructure of the Deep State will be outside his level of expertise, as well as that of his team, if it were even possible for anyone.  Finally, I’m worried that folks in his team engaged in infighting–not always a bad thing–will selectively ally with the Deep State to oppose rival factions within the White House.  In other words, I’m concerned that Trump will try, but won’t succeed.  He’ll play whack-a-mole with the Courts, the Congress, and the Deep State, two out of three of which will be aligned against him regarding various issues at any one time.  And I’m concerned his full court press strategy–simultaneously issuing executive orders, nominating controversial people, cajoling businesses to invest in America, and dealing with other day to day issues–lacks the kind of single-issue focus needed to accomplish the dismantling of the Deep State piece by piece.

This opposition, of course, is superficially by design.   We have a system of divided government, with checks and balances, and a “run amuck” majority is supposed to be slowed down to catch its breath through these deliberately undemocratic checks.  But the system is not a perfectly balanced mechanism that always yields good results.  It depends on the integrity and composition of the American people, was not designed around modern party politics, and the founders did not consider that an unelected and powerful apparatus–the administrative state and the permanent bureaucracy–would have a say in all this.  It is precisely the presence and agenda of this extra-constitutional element to which Trump has directed his energies, and its powers are almost entirely alien to our constitutional structure.  It ostensibly works for and is accountable to the President, but it has been described by commentators accurately as the Headless Fourth Branch.  It will be the problem, along with its allies in the media and the courts.

Politics is more than politics.  Certain issues define the nation and its purpose as a whole. These questions–slavery, war, immigration–often yield Manichean conflict, because unlike tax levels, they’re not issues where the goals are largely agreed upon, but instead present questions of first principles:  Who does the government work for? Who should be in the country? What is our country’s defining characteristic?  Who are its friends and enemies?

Trump’s presidency is fundamentally a referendum on majority rule and the rights of the American majority:  do we reject open borders, job-killing trade, and endless foreign wars–as the American people want–or do we continue on this course because it is the desire of the Deep State, the Establishment, and its middlebrow cheerleaders?  The question is important for obvious reasons.  It is a question of what kind of country we live in, whom are our countrymen, and whether most of them will flourish or simply act as servants to the Establishment.  For Middle America, it’s fundamentally a question of survival and the survival of self-government.

The main feature of the dustup of Trump and the courts over his temporary immigration ban from 7 shit-hole countries is the philosophy of judicial supremacy, which holds that no action by any branch of government is beyond their reach, as defined by themselves, without any opportunity by those other branches for resistance.  In a system of checks and balances, this amounts to a blank check.

What started as a reasonable comparison of the broader Constitution (the supreme law) with a particular law in Marbury v. Madison has morphed into the assumption of the role of Platonic Guardians, who decree what “we the people” can and cannot do in areas over which the courts have no particular authority, expertise, or legitimacy.   They are simply making things up based on their own views of good and bad policy and invoke a few hoary sounding legal principles as cover.  It’s an insult to a self-governing people who have any pride.

Immigration policy is fundamentally part and parcel of broader foreign policy, and it’s long been outside the reach of the courts.  It’s the domain of the executive both through the basic principles of Article II and specific statutory grants.  Here, the president can prevent whole classes of aliens from immigrating for any number of reasons, and presidents ranging from Carter to Obama have done so.

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A Simple Matter of Executive Discretion that Did not Lead to Nationwide Protests

The Courts know this, but they don’t like it.  They equally don’t like that rednecks get to decide how to run their schools or punish criminals.  Thus, the courts have acted sometimes aggressively, sometimes gingerly, for more and more say in what every level of government does since the 1950s.

They decided how schools should be run, police should do their jobs, enemy prisoners of war should be treated, and whether states can outlaw things that have long been outlawed.  They do this in a variety of ways, but mostly through “penumbras” and “emanations” of the 14th Amendment and, barring that, through simply waiving a wand called “due process.” And sometimes, as in this case, with no real argument at all.  Their legitimacy is founded in their correct opinions, which miraculously happen to be the ever-changing prejudices of elites who went to places like Harvard and Yale.

There’s obviously a place for courts.  They’re supposed to decide cases before them in a neutral way, guaranteeing that procedures known in advance are adhered to in our adversary system. The courts, ideally speaking, are a neutral referee.  But a referee doesn’t get to call the plays.  More so than not, the Constitution is an organization chart.  It’s silent on most matters of substance.  It’s not a prism through which every matter on which people disagree can be resolved.  Since those areas of disagreement are nearly infinite, we have adopted democratic processes.  Counting votes is the most fair way to address the vast majority of things–its superior to counting bayonets in most cases–and courts are there simply to implement those decisions as written down in statute books.

The ultimate judicial virtue is humility. Many times they cannot act at all, and those tasks are left to other branches or to individuals themselves. Most judges embrace this; they don’t make the news and quietly perform their mostly technical job with skill and care.  But a certain type of judge with a certain type of education and a certain type of viewpoint is anything but humble; he is emboldened by his moral certainty and indifferent to the views of the people, whom he “knows” are wrong-headed and atavistic.

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A Judge Upholding the Dignity of the Office With Humility

It’s obvious something much more subversive is underway when the following statute is read to include a Court role:  : “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”  There is simply no room for the courts to have any say in this matter . . . . and they hate it.  On immigration, the legislature has spoken and left the matter to the President; the courts have no more role here than in deciding how many battalions to employ outside of Jalalabad.

Incidentally, the wartime analogy is an apt one, as we saw the courts abandonment of its traditional abstention doctrines during the Hamdan and Rasul cases under the Bush administration.  At the time, I wrote the following:

The Court’s decision ultimately betrays three major biases, all of which are very dangerous to our constitutional system and the future success of the war on terror.

First, the Court apparently will countenance no distinction between military and peace-time realities, demanding in effect the same level of US court involvement and scrutiny of decisions involving unlawful combatants that are not (and could never be) signatories to the Geneva Conventions entitled to their protections.

Second, the Court basically shows at every turn, in spite of its lip-service to the destruction of 9/11, that it does not think this is a real war, with a real enemy, where the safety of actual Americans is in grave danger. Why do I know this? Because the Court has resisted every demand to treat these military measures in a military operation against a military organization any differently from ordinary criminal procedures. Here, as in criminal cases, the burdens, procedures, rules of evidence, and likely outcomes are designed to favor defendants heavily under the Court’s recent line of cases.

Finally, the Court does not countenance any other branch of government acting without its ultimate approval and involvement. It simply will not follow its traditional abstention doctrines when that means the Court cannot review decisions of criminal liability, even when those decisions come from military courts in wartime and even when those “criminals” are war criminals from an unlawful military organization.

For a constitutional system that is supposed to embody a balance of powers, in which unreviewable and uncontrolled action by any one branch is suspect, the Court never expresses any doubts about its own rectitude and authority, even when it interferes in traditional executive wartime responsibilities. As always, “Quis custodiet custodes?”

 

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 D-Day Was Delayed by Two Weeks Due to a Federal Court Injunction, Thankfully the Courts Eventually Lifted It . . .  Yeah that didn’t happen.

Week one is over.  Let’s summarize what really happened:

  • Obamacare:  He allowed more flexibility on Obamcare, to relieve the burdens on companies and individuals.  I understand he has also pushed the replacement part to the front of agenda for Republicans  in Congress.  This is a good thing. Historically Republicans get tarred as anti-little-guy by showing so little concern for the losers of their war on the welfare state.  Obamacare at least has 2 or 3 times as many losers as the status quo ante, so it shouldn’t be hard to do something better, cheaper, without a hugely negative outcome.
  • Trade:  He got us out of TPP.  As with NAFTA, any trade deal needs to keep American jobs here, avoid massive trade deficits, and retain vital industries.
  • Mexico:  He showed Mexico’s president–who conspires with his consular officials to break our immigration laws–who the First World Power is, announcing his intention to support a renegotiation of NAFTA.  Peso fell massively.  They have forgotten who needs whom.
  • Faux Outrage on CIA Visit:  He made some media flacks unhappy during his CIA visit, as if people who want to flood us with Syrian refugees, give two figs about national security. Did they miss the news from Berlin and Paris? As with their “Trump will start WWIII” nonsense, their endangerment of America and the West is not a bug but a feature of their Marxist repopulation scheme.
  • Smaller Govt. Where it Counts:  He vowed to deregulate and shrink the government, along with immediate regulatory and hiring freezes, echoing his inaugural address theme that the government has become divorced from its “customers” and become a permanent, out-of-touch, and parasitic elite.  The burden of regulations is so massive and not particularly on radar of anyone since Ronald Reagan, whose regulatory agenda did a lot to spur massive economic growth.  The never-been-in-private-sector Obama could care less, and our anemic growth made it plain.
  • Pro-Life:  He ended US funding for NGOs that promote abortion overseas.  So much for him not being a conservative.  Abortion is bad enough, but it’s disgusting our taxpayer dollars are used to promote and pay for it anywhere.
  • Energy Independence:  He greenlighted the Keystone Pipeline, which, like so many infrastructure projects, has become lassoed by a combination of ordinary environmental regulations and the lunatic Global Warming Theory, a tool to destroy the wealth of the Western World.
  • Immigration Security:  He announced “extreme vetting” on immigrants from unruly countries like Somlia, Yemen, and hostile nations like Iran.  He also said we would be building a wall, and directed DHS and other relevant agencies to implement these rules. Restrictions on immigration are well within the presidential bailiwick–see generally 8 U.S. C. Sec. 1182(f)–even Obama did it to Iraq when a couple of them turned up in Kentucky working for al Qaeda. Of course, there were no Soros-funded rent-a-mobs that time, but this time everyone knows the policy’s motive and goal is different; it’s a declaration that we’re a real nation, not just an idea, and we get to decide who can visit and live here.
  • Strong-Arming Sanctuary Cities:  Even better, Trump announced funding would be yanked from “Sanctuary Cities,” who take a lot of federal funds, but don’t cooperate with U.S. deportation of felons and others on whom there is an immigration detainer.  I’m all for federalism, but Immigration has always been decided at a federal level.  Ask Elian Gonzalez.  Cities taking federal money but defying federal law in one of the latter’s core areas of responsibility is a joke.  And it has been tolerated under Republican and Democratic presidents because, until now, no one was serious about addressing illegal immigration.

All in all an amazing week full of activity, energy, and a unifying theme:  the good of the country and the American people.  While there were some needless forays into a pointless debate on Inaugural crowd size, it was overall a focused pro-business, pro-labor, and pro-conservative agenda in all of its particulars.

It was a reminder of the tremendous power of the presidency; he, after all, controls the enormous armies of workers and bureaucrats in myriad federal agencies.

And, perhaps not surprisingly for an unconventional candidate, it showed a lack of the usual “thanks for your vote and now I’m going to do the opposite” stuff we saw from Bush and other Republicans.  Historically, elected Republicans have forgotten the interests and desires of their core constituencies on so many issues, especially immigration.  Or they have embraced the unpopular parts of the culture war and agenda–indifference to workers, sexual purity spirals–while ignoring the low hanging fruit on the national question, where the policy and the views of the majority are largely in alignment.

This really was a special week, and, in some ways, a pleasant confirmation of all the reasons I supported Trump from the beginning.

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What Revolutionary Change Looks Like.

A lot of people have been critical of Trump’s alleged gaucheness in his visit to the CIA, where he did praise the field agents and analysts, although also praised himself and did not act typical.  Nonetheless, it’s clear that there is at least a faction in the CIA hostile to him. And the reasons are obvious.  He is neither deferential nor overawed by the permanent Deep State, is suspicious of the intelligence community’s affinity for terrorists in Syria as a means of undoing the Assad regime, and he wants friendlier relations with Russia, against whom the CIA and the permanent national security bureaucracy is hostile out of Cold War habit.

It’s also said he is showing a lack of understanding of those he must woo and impress to do his job.  This is the permanent claim of insiders.  That expertise is necessary to handle the Byzantine machinery of government, the numerous factions and counter-factions, and the amour propre of the permanent bureaucrats.  But Trump has wooed and impressed the American people, he is empowered by them to be in charge of the CIA and the other instruments of government, and his Inaugural Address dramatically and correctly stated that the government has, until now, showed little concern for the consent of the governed. Rather, it has engaged in policies at home and abroad that are neither in the interest of the American people, nor adequately explained to them.  Americans have not asked to be replaced by foreigners, nor to risk a nuclear war with a non-communist Russia, yet the Obamas and Bushes and Clintons and the establishment whom they represent have agreed on all of these things.

I’m reminded of the famous photo above:  the military governor Douglas MacArthur’s first appearance with Emperor Hirohito.  Notice the triumphant American’s posture and dress.  He is in charge.  He is the one to be respected.  The old order is dead.  And far from placating and working within the old pieties of Imperial Japan, it’s very clear that something new and revolutionary has taken place.  The old order has been undone, along with its standards and its ruling class, and its undoing is represented symbolically by MacArthur’s casual and confident appearance along side the erstwhile god-emperor.

While I think the criticism of Trump is mostly being vented dishonestly by desperate legacy CIA interests and their media friends opposed to Trump, nonetheless, even if he were not showing them sufficient respect in their eyes, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  They, like Trump himself, are all subordinate to the American people, from whom they obtain their power and their authority.  And the American people, through their champion Trump, are now in charge, not the anti-American establishment. It is good that the Deep State be reminded of who is really due respect.

 

America First

Rubio’s little dust up with Rex Tillerson got me thinking.  Rex Tillerson defended his approach as realism in the service of America’s fundamental idealism.  I don’t think that’s such a bad approach, but the ultimate foreign policy ideal, just like the ultimate domestic policy ideal, should be the good of our nation.  Basic things:  safety, security, prosperity.  The stuff of the Constitution’s Preamble.  Whether realist or idealist, a hazy concept of national interests is the big sleight of hand of all foreign policy theorists.  Almost all of them substitute intermediate goals–access to sea lanes, stability, NATO dominance of Europe, democracy in the Middle East–as national interests.  They often forget to ask and rarely show how those things directly or even indirectly promote America and its people’s safety and flourishing.

Strategy is supposed to be a tailoring of means to ends.  But in this arena, the ends are often themselves simply means to other ends, which requires value judgments about what is the national interest.  So these intermediate goals are bandied about as if they come up from on high, even though their connection to real national interests is obscure.  There is little attempt by any of the “talking heads” to think critically about whether these intermediate goals actually do anything tangible and beneficial for the American people.

Even Gen. Mattis, whom I like and respect, seemed to engage in this kind of thinking, noting that our interests are not aligned with Russia, while Trump, with brute simplicity, simply says the ultimate goal is America First.  This formula puts each of these intermediate goals in perspective as subordinate to a broader, unifying policy.  That is heresy to the foreign policy establishment, in which most of the apparatchiks are very committed to their intermediate concerns of one kind or another.  Indeed, they ignore evidence that these goals could lead to real costs and harm, such as, to pick some examples at random, a life-changing conventional or nuclear war with Russia or a mass influx of terrorists into Europe through regime change and chaos in Libya.

Kissinger in his work World Order does a good job of showing how he is a kind of savvy, principled realist, who is also concerned with historical American concerns for expanding freedom, democracy, and American-style government around the world.  Wise as he undeniably is, as a Burkean I’m skeptical of this tinkering with foreign countries’ governments as a goal, both insofar as it is difficult, but also because I believe it leads to endless conflicts in the way the old Westphalian system, with its sharp distinction of internal and external affairs, did not.

On the other hand, being an American, I do think we can trust, get along with, and predict the actions of similar countries like the UK or France more reliably than authoritarian nations like China, Russia, and Iran. So, while I’m a realist, I part ways from the so-called structural realists because I believe internal affairs matter for how countries act, how our interests align, and how much we can realistically depend on them and predict what they’re likely to do.  In either case, our real interests must always come first.

For example, while I feel blood and historical kinship with the Australians and British and Europe generally, their defense must not be our concern.  With regard to certain popular “national interest” goals, I’m skeptical of how Russia dominating its neighbors harms that interest.  And, even if I conceded that outcome did harm our interests–Kissinger makes the argument that anyone dominating the Eurasian landmass is a problem that the U.S. must concern itself with–I’m skeptical that it’s worth the cost in blood and treasure to prevent it.

After all, as Washington said, “Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?”

In his attempt to get Rex Tillerson to label provocatively a powerful foreign leader a “war criminal,” Rubio has shown himself to be a neocon hack, and not a terribly bright one, which is precisely why I don’t want him or anyone like him to be President.  Even so, we must be skeptical of all of the foreign policy experts, because they leave unsaid the tenuous connection of our claimed interests and our real and enduring ones.

Immigration reform is popular, but the impact of immigration is very uneven by region.  The coastal states, large cities, Texas, California, and Florida are all impacted significantly.  The impact is far less in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Iowa.  These states look like America circa 1960.

The reason there is less immigration in these places is complicated, but it’s partly economic:  these states are on the downswing from their economic peaks. The general economic decline of the Midwest has a lot to do with its low immigration.  There is simply less demand for labor, unlike the growing states of Florida, California, and Texas.  While I think Trump’s immigration message helped him win in places like Florida, it may not have carried the day in the Midwest without another important message:  his commitment to renegotiating trade deals to serve the interests of American workers.

The “Rust Belt” states were built on the manufacturing sector, and the manufacturing sector has been bleeding jobs since the 1970s.  The jobs first went to Taiwan and Japan, whose managerial acumen and nationalist trade policies had a role, and this has accelerated after the opening of China’s markets and its low-cost (that is low wage) manufacturing sector in the 1990s.  And some jobs disappeared altogether due to automation; while the impact of that may be somwhat inevitable, it is not the entire story.  Workers are working and things are being built in Mexico, China, and elsewhere, and our workers used to do that work.  There are jobs to be had in manufacturing.

Romney lost Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin.  Trump won them all. It was close, but he did it. And he did it because he communicated a radical message on trade that was quite contrary to GOP conventional wisdom.  Both parties’ leaders have been united in their support for free trade orthodoxy since NAFTA.  Outsourcing was seen as an acceptable cost of doing business, a consequence of economic efficiency.  Obama with little compassion said “those jobs aren’t coming back.”  Hillary promised to put coal miners out of work.  And the tin-eared Jeb Bush said he wanted more millionaires, when most of these people would be happy with $40K a year.  Those adversely affected by trade had no real advocate in either party, until now.  These disaffected and demoralized voters, sometimes first time voters, responded as one would expect when someone pays attention to their concerns and problems.

These are not extremely conservative places, and lack some of the small government radicalism associated with the GOP strongholds in the South and West. But disaffected working class Democrats, who remained put off by the GOP’s traditional free trade message, were likely put off equally by the anti-white vibe emanating from the Democrats.  These are hard-working, moderate, law-and-order people, who played by the rules, and rightly feel they have seen the American dream recede further out of reach.  They’re worse off than their parents.  They seemed to have no home politically, but a plain-speaking billionaire promised to fight for them, and they voted for him.

The case for free trade is perhaps the shakiest in all of economics.  We know historically that many countries prosper with protective tariffs, and some of the best periods of U.S. growth and economic health were periods of high protective tariffs, such as the late 19th Century, the age of Standard Oil and U.S. Steel, or when we were an exporting nation, as we were in the devastation following the Second World War.

One of the sleights of hand of economists with their goal of increasing aggregate welfare is to treat the welfare of foreigners as identical to that of Americans.  Thus trade has probably done a lot to create a larger middle class in Asia, and this benefits them as well as Americans in their capacity as consumers, and may even be on aggregate “wealth increasing,” but the “wealth redistribution effects” including lower wages and structural unemployment are treated by economists as a non-factor.

Economics is concerned with increasing aggregate welfare and is largely indifferent to wealth redistribution effects.  But politics is not economics.  There is an implicit value judgment in the very concept of nation-states to place the collective welfare of their citizens as being above that of other nation-states.  Nothing in economic science requires this, but the science part of economics does not dictate how its teachings are applied.  Indeed, many of a cosmopolitan bent are indifferent to the welfare of Americans vs. that of non-Americans, so long as the practice or policy is “wealth increasing,” but so what. This is ultimately a policy choice, and “cui bono?” should be a big part of that discussion.

The retort that trade restrictions are just a subsidy to some workers at the expense of consumers misses something important about jobs and what they mean.  Nations are not just consumers.  They consist of workers, families, and communities. A person without a job or the prospect of a new one makes that person lose purpose, that family lose security, and that community lose hope.  We can afford more expensive things more than we can afford structurally unemployed people.  Consider the recent news reports on rising death rates among middle aged whites. The root causes in alcohol and drug abuse, are themselves rooted in hopelessness from economic and social conditions.

Indeed, consumerism is completely secondary to the necessities of life, not least of which is the spiritual necessity of useful work to the self-image and self-confidence of a man with a family or who hopes to have one.  Even assuming arguendo the price of more restricted trade is paying a few bucks more for TVs, towels, and trinkets, it is likely a worthwhile trade.  As the Catholic Catechism states, “The development of economic activity and growth in production are meant to provide for the needs of human beings. Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community. Economic activity, conducted according to its own proper methods, is to be exercised within the limits of the moral order, in keeping with social justice so as to correspond to God’s plan for man.”

There are other concerns with trade, including trade deficits, which tend to increase the power of our foreign creditors, and the fact that our trade policy with China has allowed them to accumulate vast wealth, which they are using to build a first class navy.  That is, trade with friendly countries similarly situated–Europe, Latin America, free Asia–has fewer collateral and negative consequences than trade with hostile nations that are our geopolitical rivals.  Indeed, I am less chagirned at NAFTA, because it is America’s interest that Mexcio remains stable and prospers.  But China is the most important player; it’s super-low-wages have sucked jobs not only from the United States, but from Mexico too.  Even if were less a military rival, the impact on jobs at home is reason alone to rethink trade.  The legacy policy is hollowing out a huge portion of our country, leaving people too old to retrain to fend for themselves, or, worse, rendering them demoralized and expensive members of the dependent classes.

Trump has shown that the trade message allows for good optics from good outcomes.  The recent news from Carrier Air Conditioners and Ford Motor Company are tangible successes, quite distinct from the usual statistics-based arguments in favor of free markets and free trade.

And, even if one does not buy all that, the legacy GOP message, well told by Romney, simply didn’t win an election against a very vulnerable opponent. It kept losing in Michigan and Pennsylvania, even in 2000 and 2004.  Trump’s message was fundamentally nationalist on trade, immigration, and foreign policy, and it was reasonably popular.  Indeed, it prevailed in spite of his unorthodox and controversial style, but perhaps also because of it.  He talked like the people he aimed to help.

There is a lesson  here to those opposed to leftism.  You have to build a coalition, with some give and take by the different members of that coalition.  Without the Upper Midwest, you likely cannot create a winning national election coalition.  A modest deviation from free trade orthodoxy on nationalist grounds is a useful wedge, even if one views at as a sacrifice from good policy, which I personally do not.

Fool Me Once

Americans used to trust their government and their leaders.  The leadership was elected.  They were presumed to have access to important, secret information.  They were educated.  And, most important, they were presumed to have the best interests of the country as a whole in mind.  They delivered America from a massive world war victoriously, and America stood astride the world powerful, prosperous, and free.

Then came Vietnam.  And Watergate.  And the Church Committee.  Trust went down considerably.  The leaders were not being straight with the people.  Their promises of victory did not come to fruition.  And the unsavory influence of ideologues and interest groups distorted the decision making process.  We had, for a time, Vietnam Syndrome, malaise, cynicism.

The First Gulf War undid some of this.  The facts were pretty straightforward and, more important, George Bush made the case to the American people that our oil supplies and the basic structures of world peace were implicated.  Coming off a bloodless victory in the Cold War, things seem to be happening the way they were supposed to.  The war was over very quickly.  The military performed marvelously, and its stock (and the stock of the American foreign policy establishment) was at an all time high.

This stock slowly began to be diminished.  We began to engage in “humanitarian” interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and Liberia.  In these cases, there was little debate and little attempt to persuade the American people of the necessity of military action.  We relied more on airpower and other nations’ ground troops for proxies, as the support for these actions was thin and tolerance for casualties was low.  The Republican opposition acquiesced, as they wanted an even more “muscular” foreign policy.

Then came 9/11, Afghanistan, and, most disastrously, Iraq.  A robust response to 9/11 was a given.  Our experts, our national security apparatus, and our policies had resulted in an enormous, tangible disaster on our own soil.  Something needed to be done.  But Iraq was a stretch.  The case for that campaign relied on the presence of WMDs, which turned out to be incorrect.  And the substitute rationale for the war–expanding democracy–ultimately led to a long counterinsurgency campaign that ended inconclusively.  Coupled with this foreign policy disaster, we had a domestic economic disaster, which was inseparable from the experts and their failed efforts at supervision.  Obama ran for office against McCain, in part, by rejecting this approach, and the American people, including many Republicans, were more skeptical of military action and the claims of experts generally after Iraq.  The nationalist persuasion was latent within the American people.

In spite of his campaign themes, the experts seduced Obama.  The Arab Spring surprised him, and he and his team thought the way to capitalize on it was to get involved in Libya.  After all, unlike Iraq, European nations were making the call to arms this time. He (and Hillary and Samantha Power) all thought the defect of the relatively stable 90s was that we coddled dictators, whose subjects channeled their frustrations towards their leaders’ foreign patrons.  So we took the lid of Libya, and it resulted in anarchy, the rise of ISIS, a massive flood of immigrants to Europe, and the death of an American ambassador.

At the time same, we tried to decapitate the Syrian regime, which appeared to be inevitable.  But Syrians rallied to the government, and Russia went to their aid. It was too much.  We were skeptical that these bearded guys saying “Allah Akbar” would be good stewards of freedom and democracy.  The American people recoiled at Obama’s “red line” and claims of “WMD use,” particularly when they were being used to authorize another war in the Middle East.  We did not forget the false assumptions behind Iraq, nor that Iraqis who welcomed us with flowers soon began to attack our soldiers with IEDs.  In addition, the fact we would be fighting one of ISIS’s biggest enemies also played a part, as their repeated Satanic acts of terrorism offend decent people everywhere.  Americans want as little to do with the Middle East as possible and, to the extent we are involved, we only want our troops killing terrorists, not supporting them or creating conditions in which they flourish.

Enter Russia and the elites’ demonization campaign against Putin.  Starting in 2008, we were supposed to see them as the bad guys in Georgia, when it was our uncontrollable ally Saakashvili who started the campaign.  Future inquires confirmed this, and Americans saw no reason to start WWIII over a disputed province in Russia’s near-abroad.  Following our earlier meddling in the form of the Orange Revolution, the Maidan protests and civil war in Ukraine also gave Americans pause.  Our elites told us it was “good guys” vs. “bad guys,” and they tried to gin up a cassus belli in the form of the unfortunate downing of a civilian airliner, but the missing piece of the puzzle–a clear American interest–resulted in widespread apathy.

While the Ukrainian Civil War was brutal and unfortunate and likely involved some Russian support for the Donetsk rebels, without knowing all the details, it was hard to see Russia as the arch-enemy of the Cold War.  After all, had they not rejected Communism?  It was Muslims whom our elites recklessly wanted to continue to import into our country, and it was the Muslims that were killing us and our European friends, not Russians.    Americans sensibly are more afraid of terrorists who are actually killing us than the remote possibility of an conventional war with other nations, the prevention of which depends on waning trust in elites and their prognostications.  In other words, we are more afraid of a Merkel at home than a Putin abroad, and rightly so.

The election hacking story has thus been met with widespread skepticism.  If it were such a bad thing, why hadn’t Obama done something earlier?  And where is the proof?  Before the Vietnam era, this kind of claim might have met with credulity.  But now?  After the “Youtube Videos Caused Benghazi,” “Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” “Obamacare Will Lower Your Insurance Rates,” and “Iraqi WMDs” exaggerations of recent years?  No way.

Trump’s victory was part of a broader rejection of the claimed legitimacy of an elite and its technocratic experts that have not delivered, whether on issues of war and peace, economics, or the general tone of life.  Indeed, many Americans feel they’ve been lied to, swindled, and had their patriotism used and abused.  They won’t be easily led into a new conflict with a powerful nation that has done nothing visible to hurt the American people. We are told, with almost no facts in support, they “hacked the election,” but the American people’s street knowledge likely matters here.  Anyone familiar with the internet knows international scammers will try to break in to your accounts, steal data, send viruses, and otherwise do whatever they can get away with, and that it’s almost impossible to figure out who is behind it.  They can spoof IP addresses, use TOR browsers, and otherwise conceal their identities quite easily.  Like “fake news,” it’s something we are all aware of and, if we are intelligent, take appropriate precautions to avoid.

Obama, who is, if nothing else, extremely petty, is no doubt feeling the heat from his party whose malevolence was exposed by Wikileaks and is going to show Putin what a tough guy he is during his last weeks in office and, at the same time, undermine his successor.  This is a break from tradition, and he knows it.  But Obama is an arrogant narcissist with no regard for the will of the American people, nor the constraints of tradition.  Like the dangers of the web, this is all baked in the cake.   Americans remain as skeptical as ever about the latest crisis, having seen disasters unfold all over the world, where the cure turned out to be so much worse than the disease, and where our leaders’ claims and predictions turned out to be completely wrong.

The desperation of the elite is manifest, and it stretches across both parties.  They funded spoiler candidates, unleashed rioters after the election, tried to bribe and cajole electoral college members, and even desperately attempted a recount in select states.  It all has failed.  So the only thing left is to demonize other countries and thereby discredit Trump’s victory, after saying for months and months he should respect the result. The elite said Trump would start World War III, but the only person provoking anyone is Obama with his outlandish hacking claims and the recent expulsion of Russian diplomats.  In contrast to our own foolish elites, Russians have behaved with restraint there, even going so far as not to respond in kind and instead inviting our diplomats to their Christmas party.  They showed similar restraint with their ambassador’s recent assassination by a Jihadi in Turkey.  While our interests are not identical to Russia’s, Russians leaders are clearly working broadly to foster their national interests, and the contrast to our own unpatriotic elite is telling.  Iraq-Libya-Syria-Obama Syndrome is a healthy one, the opposite of disease, and instead a prudent instinct of restraint and skepticism after our nation’s decline under the globalists’ leadership.  We won’t be fooled again.