January 23, 2017 – TRUMP AND HIS SPEECH

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Some of our regulars are enthusiastic about Trump. Others are not so sanguine. Among the enthusiasts was Jesse Jackson. Yes, you read that right. No, he’s not one of the regulars, but if he keeps talking sense he will make the cut.  A news story from Atlanta Journal-Constitution recounts an interview with Jackson. Under the rubric of “man bites dog” we’ll make that the lede today. 

… “The speech was full of hope and inclusion and he reached out to cities in a way they’ve not been reached out to for a long time,” (Jackson) said. …

… Jackson pointed to Trump’s low approval ratings and issued a challenge.

“What does a man with so much power do? Grace can expand your power. Arrogance can diminish it. I hope he’ll have the grace and commitment to put all of us under one big tent.”



In “Tale of Two Speeches,” Roger Kimball writes on reactions to Trump’s speech. Kimball’s piece is long so we have abridged. Follow the link to read it all.

… Friday afternoon, I wrote a brief piece about the inauguration for the Financial Times,UK (requires registration) in which I described Trump’s address as “gracious but plain-speaking.” My, how the readers of the FT disliked that!

To be fair, the legacy media in America hated Trump’s speech, too, as did — and this is the more interesting thing — the anti-Trump Right.  The Chicago Tribune described the speech as “raw, angry and aggrieved,” “pugnacious in tone, pitch black in its color.” OK, par for the course. But Andrew Ferguson, writing in The Wall Street Journal, said that “the candidate who campaigned as a sociopath shows signs he may yet govern as one.” (“Sociopath”? Caligula was a sociopath. Donald Trump?) Sure, Chris “Old Reliable” Matthews, ready as ever with the Godwin Expedient, described the speech as “Hiterlian.” But just about every mainstream outlet from The Weekly Standard on down referred to the speech as “dark.” I was a bit taken aback to hear a politically mature friend describe the speech as “disgusting,” “nasty,” “borderline un-American” and then go on, listing Godwinwards, to invoke “beer halls” (you know what that means!) in connection with the speech.

I said that Trump’s speech was gracious.  Here’s how he began:

“Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.”

“Raw”? “Angry”? “Nasty”? “Disgusting”? …

 … Trump began with a few general observations:

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.

Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth.

Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.”

Which of those statements do you find “Dark”? “Nasty”? “Aggrieved?” “Disgusting”? Or, more to the point, which do you find untrue? …

… As he neared his conclusion, his tone became hortatory: “We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.” And then came this dollop of poetry:

“It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”

“Raw”? “Dark?” …



Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit sees many things he likes. Among them;

… The appointments. The appointment of retired Marine general James Mattis as secretary of Defense all by itself represents a major step toward turning our military back into warriors, as opposed to the social justice warriors they were being turned into under the Obama administration. Mattis, of course, has gotten bipartisan support, but many other appointments also look good. I originally thought (and said) that Rex Tillerson was a bad pick for secretary of State, but hearing him talk since then I feel pretty good about it. Sessions wouldn’t have been my first choice for attorney general (I don’t like his record on the drug war or civil forfeiture), but otherwise he’s a solid guy and even many of the Democrats attacking him now were happy to work with him over decades in the Senate. …



David Goldman as Spengler has a look at Trump.

… Most of all Trump wants to protect Americans from globalization, and rightly so. At the peak of its technological dominance in the decade after the Cold War, when America fielded the technologies that made the modern economy, America opened its gates to China (allowing it into the World Trade Organization) and Mexico through the North American Free Trade Agreement. This occurred during the Clinton Administration at the peak of America’s investment boom in technology. We invented semiconductors, lasers, optical networks, sensors, displays, virtually the whole of the modern economy.

But America was too complacent. Its share of global high technology exports (as defined by the World Bank) fell from 18% to 7% between 1999 and 2014, while China’s share soared from 3% to 26%. (Europe remained steady at around 30%). China used every lever of industrial policy, including state subsidies, loans from state-owned entities, and so forth, to create employment in tech industries. That is the Asian industrial model, and in many cases it works. It is hardly fair to expect America to play by free market rules while its competitors indulge in aggressive mercantilism. …

… The problem is how to protect Americans. The global supply chain is so closely integrated that it is hard to discourage some imports without doing real damage to American industries. The border tax proposed by House Republicans would prevent corporations from deducting imported inputs as costs for tax purposes. For industries like oil refining, that would create enormous distortions, while providing windfalls elsewhere. My own preference would be to use selected tariffs for products that benefit from government subsidies overseas, which is entirely permissible under World Trade Organization rules.

Ultimately, no government can protect American workers unless productivity growth resumes. American productivity growth has fallen to zero for the first time since the stagflation of the 1970s. Without productivity growth, American living standards will fall, irrespective of whether the government pursues protection or free trade. I have argued elsewhere in this publication that reviving military and aerospace R&D is the key to productivity growth.

Donald Trump could be a character in a Frank Capra film or a Sinclair Lewis novel. He is our generation’s incarnation of Bunyan’s pilgrim. I do not mean that as praise (I never liked Bunyan, as it happens). That simply is the kind of people we Americans are, or rather the sort of people we have become at two and a half centuries’ distance from our Revolution. We never have succeeded in training an elite. Whenever an American elite finds itself in power it chokes on its own arrogance. I cheered Mr. Trump to victory in the last election out of disgust for the do-gooders and world-fixers of both the Republican and Democratic mainstreams. Now I wish him good luck. He’ll need all the luck he can get.



A WSJ OpEd author writes about coming out the second time.

Since Election Day, I’ve mentioned to friends my hope that America and its people are in better shape four years from now than they are today. Everyone I’ve shared this with has rebuked me and asked if I voted for Donald Trump. So far I’ve given evasive answers, saying something like I respect the election results and agree with President Obama that the “peaceful transfer of power” is a “hallmark of our democracy.”

This makes me feel the same way I did for most of my life as I hid my sexual orientation. Born in the 1950s, I began having gay relationships at 25 but remained closeted. I hated lying to people, but in the 1980s and ’90s I feared that coming out would estrange me from family and damage my career.

Similarly, I now find creative ways to avoid answering whether I voted for Donald Trump. …



And Andrew Ferguson, also in WSJ, shows less enthusiasm.

… Unfortunately, the candidate who campaigned as a sociopath shows signs he may yet govern as one. His refusal to submit to daily intelligence briefings on grounds that he’s “a smart person” suggests the presidency will pump Mr. Trump’s already world-class ego into something even more obtrusive, more dangerous. His childish tweets continue unabated and, what’s worse, no one close to him has the nerve to tell him to put a sock in it. His overpromising grows daily more extravagant (“health insurance for everybody . . . with lower numbers, much lower deductibles”), and in this he rivals President Obama, who once pledged to stop the rise of the oceans.

After the past 18 months, only an idiot would bet against Donald Trump. He has banged his way from one unlikely triumph to another. Now, with the stakes much higher, the conservatism of Trump’s cabinet may save him. If, over the next few years, parents begin to feel they’ve regained control of their children’s schools, if wages start to rise and business owners feel liberated from the dead hand of overregulation, if the military recovers its strength and self-confidence—then Mr. Trump’s ignorance and vulgarity won’t matter. He’ll lay claim to the unlikeliest triumph of all: a successful presidency.



Yuval Levin writes on the inaugural speech.

Being a sucker for civic rituals, I’ve attended every presidential inauguration since Clinton’s second in 1997. Regardless of my opinion of the person being inaugurated—when I have voted for him and when I have not—I’ve stood in the rain or the cold and relished the opportunity to observe the ceremony and hear what the new or returning chief executive has to say. …

… Observing these ceremonies every four years is a reminder that the presidency is for the most part a pre-defined role in a larger political drama—a niche that can be occupied by different people with different goals and characters, and used by them to their different ends while largely keeping its shape. That shape has itself changed over time, of course, mostly expanding in our living memory. But the office has grown through use (and over-use) and every president has run to fill the role. The inaugural ceremony helps to highlight this: It is essentially the same every time, with a different glutton for punishment taking the same oath as all who came before, and setting out to occupy the same position in the same system. 

But Trump’s way of speaking about his vision and intentions suggests his case will be different. He did not really run to occupy the presidency as it exists, and does not seem to think of himself as stepping now into a role he is obliged to carry out. He ran to disrupt a broken system, and to be himself but with more power and authority. He is our president, but he has not taken on the job with any clear sense of the presidency as a distinct function and office which he should now stretch and bend to embody.

This has not been easy to accept, and so we have tended implicitly to wait for the moment when Trump would put aside his childish antics and step up into the role. Or else we have inclined to think about the prospects for Trump’s presidency in terms of whether he would be too strong or too weak a president. But this is probably the wrong way to think about what Trump is doing. He is not filling the role in a certain way. He is playing a different role. He is being himself. 

This suggests a different way to think about the challenges and opportunities the Trump presidency may pose. Trump seems inclined to leave largely unfilled the part traditionally played by the president in our system while playing another part formed around the peculiar contours of his bombastic, combative, and at times surely disordered personality. That means that Trump’s team, the Congress, the courts, and the public will need to confront the implications of both the absence of a more traditional president and the presence of a different and unfamiliar kind of figure at the heart of the constitutional order. These are two distinct problems. …

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