Introduction: Why Track Trump?
Issues (an outline of categories in weekly compilations)
Week 1 -- November 9-15, 2016
Week 2 -- November 16-22, 2016
Explanatory Note for Weeks 3 and 4
Highlights and Trends
Week 3 -- November 23-29, 2016
Week 4 -- November 30-December 6, 2016
Week 5 -- December 7-December 13, 2016
Week 6 -- December 14-December 20, 2016
Week 7 -- December 21-December 27, 2016
Week 8 -- December 28-January 3, 2017
Week 9 -- January 4-January 10, 2017
Week 10 -- January 11-January 17, 2017
This project is designed to make available a daily update and a repository of the news and comment regarding President-Elect Donald Trump, from the time of the election to the time of the inauguration. It is organized both by weeks (this page will contain material from weeks 3 and 4) and by topics (click on "Issues," above, to see the annotated outline).
The outline of topics will remain constant throughout all weeks (even if there are no entries for a given topic). (Of course, the text can also be approached with a "find" or "search" request by an individual's name or other search term.) Because of the volume of material, it is organized by two-week segments. The links, above, to "Week 1" and "Week 2," go to the first post which contains the introductory material and news and opinion from the first two weeks. Subsequent material (this is the first of those) will go to what Blogger.com calls "pages" rather than "posts."
You may draw different conclusions from the first four weeks' of President-Elect Trump's statements and decisions, but here are some of mine:
- Having won with the support of the white working class, Trump has, so far, done nothing (of which I'm aware), with his appointments or post-election proposals, to serve the interests of consumers and working class Americans -- let alone proposals that would be opposed by Wall Street, corporate America, or the 1%.
- Trump has, however, demonstrated an ability and inclination to flip-flop from some of his campaign rhetotoric in directions that are (to me) desirable (e.g., waterboarding).
- Trump's inevitable conflicts of interest (as a president engaged in negotiations with other countries in which decisions will affect the profits of his global businesses) are becoming more obvious and serious as he is already blending the roles while President-Elect.
- Most appointees, so far, however bright or not, appear to have had little education, training, or experience to qualify them for the jobs they will hold (but see, e.g., Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland, below); Trump's total lack of government or military administrative experience results in his lack of a network of experienced ("trustworthy and loyal") former associates that, say, a former governor might have.
- Some of his appointees appear to have been chosen, not only in spite of, but perhaps because of, a single ideological focus; and for a nation that prides itself on "civilian control of the military," his Administration is becoming a little top heavy with generals in those "civilian" positions.
- There is a residual from Trump's use of hate as a motivating force in his campaign that continues to spike the numbers of hate crimes, is dangerous, counter to any goal of "bringing America together," and that Trump has done little to discourage (see, e.g., "Trump still facing concerns about white supremacists," in "Divisions," below)
Leaders. Ambassador to the United Nations: Trump broke today [Nov. 23] with his previously preferred Administration of old, white guys in suits to select his first woman: Maggie Haberman, "Nikki Haley Chosen as U.N. Ambassador," New York Times (online edition), November 23, 2016.
Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Diversifies Cabinet; Picks Nikki Haley and Betsy DeVos," New York Times, November 24, 2016, p. A1 ("Neither he [Dr. Ben Carson] nor Ms. Haley is particularly experienced for the posts they have been offered. Mr. Carson had even seemed to take himself out of the running for a cabinet position last week, [saying] he had concluded he was not qualified to run a vast federal bureaucracy. Some pointed to Ms. Haley’s experience as a legislator and trade ambassador for South Carolina as credentials for the United Nations post.")
Deputy National Security Adviser: Mark Landler, "Donald Trump Adds K.T. McFarland to His National Security Team," New York Times, November 26, p. A11 ("K. T. McFarland . . . has been highly critical of President Obama's approach to combating terrorism -- a view that aligns her with [Trump's national security adviser Flynn]. . . .Ms. McFarland’s national security experience dates to the Nixon administration, when she was an aide to Henry A. Kissinger. She was a staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, a speechwriter for Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, and the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.")
White House Counsel: Mark Landler, "Donald Trump Adds K.T. McFarland to His National Security Team," New York Times, November 26, p. A11 ("For the politically sensitive post of White House counsel, Mr. Trump chose Donald F. McGahn II, a Washington election lawyer who pushed to deregulate campaign finance and election laws. The counsel’s job may be even more daunting than it was in previous administrations, given Mr. Trump’s far-flung business empire, with which he shows no inclination toward severing ties.")
Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): Amy Goldstein and Philip Rucker, "Trump names Rep. Tom Price as next HHS secretary," Washington Post, November 29, 2016 ("Trump has chosen Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act and a proponent of overhauling the nation’s entitlement programs, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. . . . Price has not had executive experience or run an agency. HHS is a sprawling department with a $1 trillion budget. Its Medicare and Medicaid programs affect more than 100 million Americans young and old. It regulates the nation’s food and drugs. Through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it runs public health programs that reach into every state and around the world. It is an engine of biomedical research through the National Institutes of Health.")
Secretary, Department of Education: Betsy DeVos. Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Diversifies Cabinet; Picks Nikki Haley and Betsy DeVos," New York Times, November 24, 2016, p. A1 ("Ms. DeVos, 58, is one of the nation’s most avid supporters of school choice . . .. She favors charter schools, which are publicly funded but typically run independently of local school boards and teachers’ unions, and school vouchers, which give students tax dollars to apply toward private-school tuition. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, [said] that Ms. DeVos . . . had 'done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps.'”)
International. Greg Miller and Adam Entous, "Trump turning away intelligence briefers since election win," Washington Post, November 24, 2016 ("Trump has received two classified intelligence briefings since his surprise election victory . . .. A team of intelligence analysts has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats . . .. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, by contrast, has set aside time for intelligence briefings almost every day . . ..")
Conflicts. (1) Most of the discussion of Trump's "conflicts of interest" involve the muddy matter of decisions by a president that might affect his own wealth, or his ability to get favors from other governments regarding his businesses in exchange for presidential decisions not in our country's best interest. Some of these are discussed below. (2) There is the related matter of the integrity of the presidency that has caused all (or nearly all) recent presidents to make their tax returns public, and sell businesses and put assets in real "blind trusts."
(3) But there are other problems as well. Trump's properties in other countries might be targets for terrorists or others hostile to America. (4) If there is to be additional protection for those properties than what is accorded comparable structures, who will pay for it? Foreign governments? American taxpayers? Trump?
(5) Trump's Scotland golf course raises another category of problems. During the campaign there were stories of others hurt in Trump projects -- sub-contractors who were never paid, investors who lost money while Trump benefitted from bankruptcies. The story immediately below suggests a Trump treatment of another country's citizens that we would not wish upon our neighbors or ourselves. How much of the resentment created by his projects in other countries, once he is president, will carry over into hostility toward all "ugly Americans," or the United States as a country?
Katrin Bennhold, "In Scotland, Trump Built a Wall. Then He Sent Residents the Bill." New York Times, November 27, 2016, p. A27 ("[Trump] has already built a wall -- . . . on the border of his exclusive golf course in northeastern Scotland, blocking the sea view of local residents . . .. And then he sent them the bill. . . . [T]hey have seen him lash out at anyone standing in his way. [Trump accused one local homeowner of "'living like a pig' and called him a 'disgrace' for not selling his 'disgusting' and 'slumlike' home."] They say they watched him win public support for his golf course with grand promises, then watched him break them one by one.")
One of the lengthiest and most in-depth analyses of Trump's business-government conflicts of interest in Brazil, India, Turkey, The Philippines, Ireland and Scotland, was a page one story in the Sunday Times, November 27, 2016: Richard C. Paddock, Eric Lipton, Ellen Barry, Rod Nordland, Danny Hakim and Simon Romero, "Potential Conflicts Around the Globe for Trump, the Businessman President," New York Times, November 27, 2016, p. A1 ("Mr. Trump’s family appears to have been preparing for the transition to the Oval Office and ways to capitalize on it both in the United States and around the globe.")
In the New York Times report of the Trump visit to the Times offices, one more of hundreds of potential conflicts of interest (personal property vs. governmental policy) regarding a Trump golf course in Scotland is discussed: Michael D. Shear, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, "Trump, in Interview, Moderates Views but Defies Conventions," New York Times, November 23, 2016, p. A1 ("Mr. Trump did not dispute reports that he had used a meeting last week with Nigel Farage, the U.K. Independence Party leader, to raise his opposition to offshore wind farms. Mr. Trump has long complained that wind farms would mar the view from his golf course in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.")
Editorial, "Donald Trump and the Lawsuit Presidency," New York Times, November 25, 2016, p. A26 ("Donald Trump will take office as president facing a tsunami of litigation over his business practices and personal behavior. . . . [A]t least 75 other [than Trump University fraud suits] lawsuits are underway against him . . . more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades . . .. Trump could find himself in a near-constant stream of court fights while he tries to focus on running the country. . . . Now consider all the potential conflicts of interest . . . litigation involving a building he leases from the federal government? Or if the Internal Revenue Service — an executive-branch agency — recommends civil or criminal penalties based on an audit of Mr. Trump’s taxes?")
Editorial, "Donald Trump's Caldron of Conflicts," New York Tiimes, November 26, 2016, p. A20 (The editorial leads with: "In the short time Donald Trump has been president-elect, he’s already shown that he will freely mix his business affairs with his activities as president." It continues with examples: negotiating with a British official regarding the wind farms near his golf course in Scotland, meeting with his India developments partners, setting up companies in Saudi Arabia, foreign diplomats are booking rooms in Trump's D.C. hotel, and including Ivanka (his daughter, with major role in his businesses) in meetings with world leaders.) And see "Temperament," below. Regarding foreign diplomats booking Trump hotels, recall Jonathan O'Connell and Mary Jordan, "For foreign diplomats, Trump hotel is place to be," Washington Post, November 18, 2016 ("About 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey, gathered at the Trump International Hotel this week to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel. . . . Now, those venues offer the prospect of something else: a chance to curry favor or access with the next president. Perhaps nowhere is that possibility more obvious than Trump’s newly renovated hotel a few blocks from the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Rooms sold out quickly for the inauguration, many for five-night minimums priced at five times the normal rate, according to the hotel’s manager.")
Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, "Trump’s presidency, overseas business deals and relations with foreign governments could all become intertwined," Washington Post, November 26, 2016 ("[A] long-stalled plan for a Trump-branded tower in a [former Soviet republic of Georgia] seaside . . . resort town [is] now back on track. [T]the local developer of a Trump Tower planned for Buenos Aires announced . . . three days after Trump [and his daughter Ivanka] spoke with Argentina’s president, that the long-delayed [$100 million] project was moving ahead. [F]oreign government leaders seeking to speak with Trump have reached out to the president-elect through his overseas network of business partners . . .. [something] traditionally coordinated with the U.S. State Department. Trump’s election may usher in a world in which his stature as . . . president, the status of his private ventures . . . across the globe and his relationships with foreign business partners and the leaders of their governments could all become intertwined. . . . Trump took a break from selecting his Cabinet last week for a brief meeting in his Trump Tower office with the developers of a Trump project in Pune, India, shaking hands and posing for photos . . .. with the men.")
Temperament. The fact that Trump often speaks untruths, and responds strongly and defensively when called on it, is provided here in the category of "Temperament." But for a president, lying is a quality that is much more serious than for a candidate. He's not just speaking to his supporters, and opponents, he's affecting (among other things) foreign government's evaluation of his trustworthiness and Americans' willingness to go along with whatever he may request of us. First an older story about the facts as discovered by fact checkers, and then a current example that is especially troubling.
Paul Farhi, "Think Trump’s wrong? Fact checkers can tell you how often. (Hint: A lot.)," Washington Post, February 26, 2016 ("No, Donald Trump, the unemployment rate isn’t 42 percent. And, no, it’s not true that President Obama wants to take in 250,000 Syrian refugees. Or that 'thousands and thousands' of American Muslims celebrated when the World Trade towers toppled on 9/11. Despite numerous accounts to the contrary, Trump has insisted on all these things. . . . PolitiFact found that 78 percent of the 96 Trump statements it reviewed were either 'mostly false,' 'false,' or 'pants-on-fire' false, the highest percentage by far in the current field of presidential candidates. Among others, PolitiFact dinged Trump for claiming that blacks kill 81 percent of white homicide victims . . .. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column has awarded Trump four Pinocchios — its lowest rating for honesty — 63 percent of the time . . .. A recent four-Pinoc: Trump’s claim that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would cost $8 billion. In naming Trump the “King of Whoppers” in its annual review last year, FactCheck.org . . . observed: 'In the 12 years of FactCheck.org’s existence, we’ve never seen his match. He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.'")
Michael D. Shear and Maggin Haberman, "Trump Claims, With No Evidence, That 'Millions of People Voted Illegally," New York Times, November 28, 2016, p. A1 ("[Trump] said on Sunday [Nov. 27] that he had fallen short in the popular vote in the general election only because millions of people had voted illegally, leveling the baseless claim as part of a daylong storm of Twitter posts voicing anger about a three-state recount push. 'In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,' [Trump] wrote . . .. Claims of wide-scale voter fraud have been advanced for years by Republicans, though virtually no evidence of such improprieties has been discovered -- especially on the scale of 'millions' that Mr. Trump claimed.") Editorial, "Donald Trump's Lies About the Popular Vote," New York Times, November 29, 2016, p. A26 ("[Trump tweeted,] 'In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.' This is a lie, part of Mr. Trump’s pattern, stretching back many years, of disregard for indisputable facts. There is no evidence of illegal voting on even a small scale anywhere in the country, let alone a systematic conspiracy involving 'millions.'” )
Philip Rucker and Marc Fisher, "Welcome to Washington's new normal: one Trump drama after aniother," Washington Post, November 23, 2016 ("Trump summoned two dozen television executives and news anchors to his offices Monday [Nov. 21] to berate them as dishonest and disobedient. He sought to strong-arm the British government to appoint his Brexit ally, Nigel Farage, as ambassador to the United States. He dropped his threat to prosecute Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton . . .. Tuesday’s meeting with the New York Times . . . was scheduled, then canceled, then rescheduled [where] he softened his position on climate change, floated the idea that his son-in-law could broker peace in the Middle East, voiced new doubts about the effectiveness of torturing terrorism suspects, savaged Republicans who wavered on his candidacy and left unresolved concerns about how — or even whether — he would disassociate himself from his global business holdings to avoid conflicts of interest.") Karen Tumulty, "Trump backs away from some of his strident campaign promises," Washington Post, November 23, 2016.
Here is the Times' report of the Trump visit November 22: Michael D. Shear, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, "Trump, in Interview, Moderates Views but Defies Conventions," New York Times, November 23, 2016, p. A1, along with this link to a full transcript of the conversation: "Donald Trumps' New York Times Interview: Full Transcript," New York Times (online edition), November 23, 2016.
Media. We're all generally aware of Trump's war on the media during, and since, the campaign. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich digs deeper to analyze his attacks, their precedents, purposes, and dangers. Robert B. Reich, "Trump's Seven Techniques to Control the Media,", OpEdNews.com, November 27, 2016 ("Democracy depends on a free and independent press, which is why all tyrants try to squelch it. They use seven techniques that, worryingly, President-elect Donald Trump already employs.") And see "Temperament," above.
Divisions. Bill Barrow and Jonathan Lemire, "Trump still facing concerns about white supremacists," Associated Press, The Big Story, November 28,2016 ("Members of the self-declared 'alt-right' have exulted over the Nov. 8 results with public cries of 'Hail Trump!' and reprises of the Nazi salute. The Ku Klux Klan plans to mark Trump's victory with a parade next month in North Carolina. Civil rights advocates have recoiled, citing an uptick in harassment and incidents of hate crimes affecting blacks, Jews, Muslims, Latinos, gays, lesbians and other minority groups since the vote. The president-elect has drawn repeated criticism for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists.")
John Woodrow Cox, "‘Let’s party like it’s 1933’: Inside the alt-right world of Richard Spencer," Washington Post, November 23, 2016 ("For years, [Richard] Spencer and his followers worked in obscure corners of the Internet to promote pride in white identity and the creation of an 'ethno-state' that would banish minorities. Then came the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, whose attacks on undocumented immigrants, Muslims and political correctness deeply resonated with them. . . . They exulted again when Trump announced that his chief White House strategist would be former Breitbart chairman Stephen K. Bannon . . .. Spencer envisions a world in which his ideals are embraced by the mainstream . . .. [He] has reveled in the coverage from traditional news outlets . . . and [drew] their attention . . . when a video of him at the conference shouting 'Hail Trump!' — and the Nazi salutes it elicited — went viral.")
James McAuley and Griff Witte, "Clinton’s loss is one more nail in the coffin of center-left politics in the West," Washington Post, November 24, 2016 ("[I]n at least one critical sense, the result [Trump's win] couldn’t have been more European: Across the continent, parties of the center-left that have dominated politics for decades — and that have given Europe its reputation for generous social welfare systems — now find themselves beaten, divided and directionless. Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are just the latest members of a beleaguered club.")
One division in America, created by the election (and would have been regardless of who won the electoral college vote), is betwee the strong supporters of Clinton and Trump. Some Clinton supporters, understandably upset at the notion that their candidate could lose an election in which she got 2 million more votes than her opponent, are calling for a ballot recount in three battleground states. Trip Gabriel and David E. Sanger, "Hillary Clinton Supporters Call for Vote Recount in Battleground States," New York Times, November 24, 2016, p. A20. Because I haven't seen a numerical examination of this challenge, Here are some numbers.
(1) Electoral College. Each state has as many electors as it has members of Congress and senators. That's 535; there are 3 more from DC, for a total of 538. That is where the "270 to win" comes from (one-half, 269, plus one). (2) Right now [Nov. 25] Clinton has 232 and Trump has 290. That totals 522, meaning 16 are unaccounted for. Even if Clinton got all of them, it would still be a 248 to 290 Trump victory. (3) The three battleground states where the vote was closest are Pennsylvania (68,000-vote margin for Trump), Michigan (12,000-vote margin), and Wisconsin (27,000-vote margin).
(4) Those states have, respectively, 20, 16 and 10 electoral votes. (5) Thus, if a recount reveals that Clinton had the plurality of the popular vote in the two closest states (Michigan and Wisconsin) she would get an additional 26 electoral votes, or a 258-vote total, and Trump would be reduced to 264. Trump would still have the most, though neither would have 270 -- until the missing 16 were determined. (6) Only if a recount would award all three states' electoral votes to Clinton would it flip the electoral vote, and ultimate outcome: Clinton 278, Trump 244, plus however the missing 16 end up being allocated. And I assume this trifecta is statistically unlikely. And see, Richard Wolf, "Clinton's popular vote lead surpasses 2 million," USA Today, November 24, 2016.
Policy. David Ignatius, "Donald Trump pulls a bait and switch on America," Washington Post, November 23, 2016 ("Perhaps we should be thankful . . . for [Trump's] insincerity. In a breathtaking fortnight of flip-flopping, he has reversed many of his most reckless and damaging campaign positions. . . . He now admires President Obama, doesn’t want to harm (let alone lock up) Hillary Clinton, is waffling on climate change and thinks waterboarding might not work.") And see "Temperament."
Immigration. Alan Gomez, "Trump may empower local police to round up immigrants," USA Today (online edition), November 24, 2016 (" Deputizing local police officers from around the country to enforce the nation's immigration laws is one plan . . . on a sheet of proposals for the Department of Homeland Security . . . carried by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach [who] also addressed Trump's campaign pledge to cut off the program that accepts Syrian refugees and to enhance screening of people from countries with ties to terrorism.")
Education. Until now, there has been a disparity between American taxpayers' (and their elected representatives) approach to taxpayer funding of K-12 and higher education. There has been a willingness to have taxpayers fully fund the nation's K-12 schools (regardless of parents' ability to pay the cost of educating their children). Higher education, once thought to have equivalent public value worthy of substantial taxpayer support, has become increasingly corporatized, with ever-increasing tuition and ever-decreasing legislative/taxpayer support. Now, it appears, K-12 may be coming under an equivalent assault.
Total 2012-13 K-12 taxpayer support was $620 billion, or $12,296 per student, National Center for Education Statistics, for roughly 15,000 school districts, systems, and service agencies, "School District," Wikipedia.org, employing about 3.1 million full-time-equivalent teachers this fall (2016) for about 50.4 million students. National Center for Education Statistics.
This historic K-12 institution is now in line to be seriously challenged by the Trump Administration and its new Secretary of the Department of Education: Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Diversifies Cabinet; Picks Nikki Haley and Betsy DeVos," New York Times, November 24, 2016, p. A1 ("Ms. DeVos, 58, is one of the nation’s most avid supporters of school choice . . .. She favors charter schools, which are publicly funded but typically run independently of local school boards and teachers’ unions, and school vouchers, which give students tax dollars to apply toward private-school tuition. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, [said] that Ms. DeVos . . . had 'done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps.'”)
Valerie Strauss, "Trump terrifies public school advocates with education secretary pick," Washington Post, November 24, 2016 ("Advocates of public education [feared] an education secretary who would speed up the privatization of public schools, a move that many fear could destroy America’s public education system, the country’s most important civic institution. Well, they were right about the appointment — and then some. . . . School choice has become a central priority of the corporate school reform movement, which aims to have the U.S. public education system run on market forces.")
o Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President: Steve Bannon (Week 1/"Leaders")
o Chief of Staff: Reince Priebus (Week 1/"Leaders")
o National Security Adviser: Lt. General Michael T. Flynn (Week 2/"Leaders")
o Attorney General: Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (Week 2/"Leaders")
o CIA Director: Congressman Michael Richard Pompeo (Week 2/"Leaders")
o Ambassador to the United Nations: Governor Nikki Haley (Week 3/"Leaders")
o Deputy National Security Adviser: K.T. McFarland (Week 3/"Leaders")
o White House Counsel: Mark Landler (Week 3/"Leaders")
o Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): Congressman Tom Price (Week 3/"Leaders")
[Role of Goldman Sachs and the wealthy]
"Remember Trump’s talk about taking on the elites and the well-connected? Well, you can stick a sterling-silver fork in it. . . . [There are] at least three billionaires in Trump’s Cabinet and sub-cabinet, in addition to Trump himself: would-be education secretary Betsy DeVos, whose family worth is $5.1 billion, commerce secretary pick Wilbur Ross ($2.9 billion), and deputy commerce choice Todd Ricketts, whose family fortune is also in the billions. Harold Hamm, a possible energy secretary, is worth $15 billion. . . . [Trump] named former Goldman Sachs partner (and Hollywood executive) Steven Mnuchin to be his treasury secretary. And he’s reportedly in talks to hire Goldman’s No. 2 executive, Gary Cohn, to be his budget director. . . . Alt-right ally Stephen K. Bannon, to be Trump’s White House strategist, also used to work at Goldman." Dana Milbank, "Stick a sterling silver fork in Trump’s ‘populism,’" Washington Post, November 30, 2016.
"George W. Bush['s] . . . Cabinet in 2001 . . . dubbed . . . a team of millionaires . . . combined had an inflation-adjusted net worth of about $250 million — . . . one-tenth the wealth of Donald Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary alone. Trump is putting together what will be the wealthiest administration in modern American history . . . several multimillionaires, an heir to a family mega-fortune and two Forbes-certified billionaires, one of whose family is worth as much as industrial tycoon Andrew Mellon was when he served as treasury secretary nearly a century ago. . . . Their collective wealth in many ways defies Trump’s populist campaign promises." Jim Tankersley and Ana Swanson, "Donald Trump is assembling the richest adminiistration in modern American history," Washington Post, November 30, 2016.
And see, Landon Thomas Jr. and Alexandra Stevenson, "Trump's Economic Cabinet Picks Signal Embrace of Wall St. Elite," New York Times, December 1, 2016, p. A1.
[Leaders, Week 4]
Secretary, Department of the Treasury: "Steven Mnuchin, a financier with deep roots on Wall Street and in Hollywood but no government experience . . . was the national finance chairman for [Trump] . . . began his career at Goldman Sachs [ultimately a partner], . . . [created] his own hedge fund, [moved] to the West Coast and [entered] the first rank of movie financiers . . .." Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Binyamin Appelbaum and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Taps Hollywood's Mnuchin for Treasury and Dines With Romney," New York Times, November 30, 2016, p. A1.
Secretary, Department of Defense: General James Mattis. Aside from the fact that "civilian control of the military" requires a military person be out of the military for a minimum of seven years, he is probably a better choice than another billionaire with no government or military experience would have been. Besides, what I've earlier argued, only half jokingly, is that what we more often need is a military control of the civilian pro-war politicians. (See, "Military Control of the Civilians and the Powell Doctrine," in "General Semantics, Terrorism and War," September 8, 2006.) Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt, "James Mattis, Outspoken Retired Marine, Is Trump's Choice as Defense Secretary," New York Times, December 2, 2016, p. A1 ("General Mattis believes, for instance, that Mr. Trump’s conciliatory statements toward Russia are ill informed. General Mattis views with alarm Moscow’s expansionist or bellicose policies in Syria, Ukraine and the Baltics. And he has told the president-elect that torture does not work. . . . [He] also thinks that tearing up the Iran nuclear deal would hurt the United States, and he favors working closely with allies to strictly enforce its terms. . . . [He] does not own a television and has often been referred to as a 'warrior monk,' . . . famous for his extensive collection of books on military history. . . . He would need a special congressional waiver to serve as . . . federal law stipulates [the Secretary of Defense] be out of uniform for seven years.")
Secretary, Department of Transportation: "Elaine L. Chao . . . married to Senator Mitch McConnell . . . the majority leader [will be] charged with steering the infrastructure initiative through a divided Congress and the federal bureaucracy." Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Binyamin Appelbaum and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Taps Hollywood's Mnuchin for Treasury and Dines With Romney," New York Times, November 30, 2016, p. A1
Secretary, Department of HUD: Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson, but one of many Trump appointees with no experience or credentials for the job (as is the President-Elect), is distinguished as the only one of the lot who not only thought it relevant to mention his total lack of any experience but considered it disqualifying. Trip Gabriel, "Trump Chooses Ben Carson to Lead HUD," New York Times, December 6, 2016, p. A18 ("Weeks ago, as Mr. Carson seemed reluctant to join the administration, [Mr. Armstrong Williams, 'a close friend of Mr. Carson's'] was quoted as saying his longtime friend did not want to get in over his head. 'Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience; he's never run a federal agency,' Mr. Williams [said] . . .. Mr. Carson said . . . at the time that he had told Mr. Trump that 'I preferred to work outside of government as an adviser," . . ..")
However serious his critics find Carson's lack of experience, their primary concern is that he appears to have already taken public positions in opposition to a great many of the HUD programs. Michael D. Shear, "Carson Is New Sign Trump Plans to Govern From the Right," New York Times, December 6, 2016, p. A1 ("If he is confirmed, Mr. Carson will embrace a starkly different approach to those problems ["fight[ing] urban flight, provid[ing] rental assistance and help[ing] homeowners battle foreclosures"], compared with housing secretaries during Mr. Obama's tenure. He opposes government programs that he says encourage “dependency," and he has been fiercely critical of housing programs intended to end segregation.")
Lisa Rein and Elise Viebeck, "HUD job to pit Carson ideology against long-standing housing policy," Washington Post, December 6, 2016 ("Trump’s selection Monday [Dec. 5] of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development sets up what could be a collision between the nominee’s philosophical aversion to social safety-net programs and an agency that administers some of the government’s most expansive programs for helping minorities and low-income people.")
Secretary, Department of Commerce: Wilbur L. Ross. Matthew Goldstein, "'Vulture' or 'Phoenix'? Wilbur Ross, Risk-Taker, Is Eyed for Commerce Post," New York Times, November 26, 2016, p. A1 ("Wilbur L. Ross, the billionaire investor . . . nominated [Nov. 30] as the next commerce secretary, has made his fortune through the tricky business of buying deeply troubled companies. . . . [He] has been considered either a hero or a villain during his career. There is not a lot in between. . . . Ross and Carl C. Icahn, another billionaire investor and supporter of Mr. Trump, were both bondholders in the Trump Taj Mahal casino . . . [and] worked with Mr. Trump . . . to structure a more orderly bankruptcy filing in 1991. . . . [His] business ties may pose potential conflicts of interest. . . . [B]usinesses in Europe, China and India . . . could raise questions about his relationships with foreign leaders and businesspeople from China and Russia.")
Deputy Secretary, Department of Commerce: Todd Ricketts. "Ricketts, 47, the son of Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, brings a vast entrepreneurial cachet to his post of deputy commerce secretary.. . . Trump called him 'an immensely successful businessman with unparalleled knowledge of the finance industry.' Ricketts' Cubs won the World Series last month, the team's first since 1908." Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware, "Trump picks billionaire Ross as commerce chief, Cubs' Ricketts as deputy," U.S. News/UPI, November 30, 2016.
The following story about Trump's "recognition of Taiwan" has implications for his international policies, the conflicts of interest they create with his business interests, and the potential serious consequences that can flow from his impulsive temperament when unrestrained by a knowledge of U.S. foreign policy, the President's Daily Briefings, and counsel from the State Department.
Mark Landler, "Donald Trump Thrusts Taiwan Back on the Table, Rattling a Region," New York Times, December 4, 2016, p. A1 ("Over the past two decades, Taiwan has slipped from its position atop the list of flash points in the complex relationship between the United States and China. . . . [I]n in a single protocol-shattering phone call with the president of Taiwan, [Trump] has thrust it back on the table. Not since . . . 1972 . . . has an American leader so shaken up the diplomatic status quo on the issue. . . . Trump has rattled the entire region. Representatives of several Asian countries contacted the White House on Saturday [Dec. 3] to express concern . . ..")
As Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT) tweeted regarding this and other instances of Trump's cowboy diplomacy during the prior 48 hours, "These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start. It's probably time we get a Secretary of State nominee on board. Preferably w experience. Like, really really soon.” Mark Landler and David E. Sanger, "Trump Speaks With Taiwan's Leader, an Affront to China," New York Times, December 3, 2016, p. A1 ("Trump spoke by telephone with Taiwan’s president on Friday [Dec. 2] . . . , a striking break with nearly four decades of diplomatic practice that could precipitate a major rift with China even before Mr. Trump takes office. . . . He is believed to be the first president or president-elect who has spoken to a Taiwanese leader since at least 1979 . . .. [He] has shown little heed for the nuances of international diplomacy, holding a series of unscripted phone calls to foreign leaders that have roiled sensitive relationships with Britain, India and Pakistan. . . .
"The call also raised questions of conflicts of interest. . . . [A] Trump Organization representative had visited the country, expressing interest in perhaps developing a hotel project adjacent to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, which is undergoing a major expansion. The mayor of Taoyuan, Cheng Wen-tsan, . . . [confirmed] that visit. . . . He also spoke on Friday with the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has called Mr. Obama a 'son of a whore' and been accused of ordering the extrajudicial killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers. . . . [He] appeared to accept an invitation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan, a country that Mr. Obama has steered clear of, largely over tensions between Washington and Islamabad over counterterrorism policy and nuclear proliferation.") See also, Mark Landler, "Trump's Breezy Calls to World Leaders Leave Diplomats Aghast," New York Times, December 2, 2016, p. A17.
In another frightening story for our "International" section: During our presidential campaign season, when Donald Trump spoke glowingly of Vladimir Putin, there was much more going on that met the eye -- or got the attention of our media. As the Times' Alan Feuer and Andrew Higgins lay out in global detail in their page one story in the December 4 Sunday edition, Putin is the poster boy of the global alt-right, nationalist, traditionalist, white supremacist movement -- which includes a significant element of Trump's U.S. base. Alan Feuer and Andrew Higgins, "Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin," New York Times, December 4, 2016, p. A1 ("[W]hat seemed inexplicable when Mr. Trump first expressed his admiration for the Russian leader seems, in retrospect, to have been a shrewd dog whistle to a small but highly motivated part of his base.")
Trump's insensitivity to what "conflict of interest" even means is illustrated by the following advertising passage that appeared on his taxpayer-funded transition Web site as a part of his personal bio. The Transition Team was eventually shamed into deleting it, but it is still preserved in archives:
"The Trump organization owns some of the world's top properties, including, among many others, the world-renowned Fifth Avenue skyscraper, Trump Tower, as well as Trump Parc, Trump Palace, Trump Plaza, the Trump World Tower, Trump Park Avenue, and, most recently, the transformation of the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. In addition to properties that occupy the Manhattan skyline, Mr. Trump owns many of the premier golf clubs around the world, some of which include Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, NY, Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, CA, Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, FL, Trump National Doral Miami, and Turnberry Golf Club ikn Scotland. Mr. Trump owns properties around the globe in locations such as Brazil, Canada, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Panama, Scotland, Ireland, and others." (This quote is taken from Amanda Sakuma, "Donald Trump '.gov' Transition Website Plugs Firm's Properties," NBC News, November 11, 2016.)
Michael D. Shear and Eric Lipton, "Trump Vows Steps to Avoid Appearance of Business Conflicts," New York Times, November 30, 2016 ("Trump on Wednesday [Nov. 30] said he would take steps to separate himself from his vast, global business empire in the hopes of preventing the appearance of a conflict of interest . . . in a series of early morning posts on Twitter, [which] drew an immediate rebuke from legal and ethics experts . . . who said . . . Mr. Trump is not planning to take sufficient steps to eliminate the conflicts.")
The story regarding Trump's unprecedented phone conversation with the president of Taiwan raises questions of international relations and his temperament. See "International," above, for extensive excerpts. But "The call also raised questions of conflicts of interest. . . . [A] Trump Organization representative had visited the country, expressing interest in perhaps developing a hotel project adjacent to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, which is undergoing a major expansion. The mayor of Taoyuan, Cheng Wen-tsan, . . . [confirmed] that visit. . . ." Mark dLandler and David E. Sanger, "Trump Speaks With Taiwan's Leader, an Affront to China," New York Times, December 3, 2016, p. A1
Most of the public discussion of Trump's conflicts of interest has focused on his properties. However, given his heavy use of borrowed money there are also significant conflicts involving creditors. Here's one involving the Deutsche Bank in Germany, the U.S. Department of Justice suit against the bank, and Trump's current outstanding debt owed the bank.
"Since 1998, Deutsche Bank has lent Trump and his organizations approximately $2.5 billion and has made loan commitments worth another $1 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Currently, Trump owes Deutsche Bank more than $350 million stemming from loans on properties. . . . For the Old Post Office project, Trump borrowed $170 million from Deutsche Bank. He has borrowed $125 million from the bank for two mortgages on his Trump National Doral golf course in Miami. . . . " Russ Choma, "Trump's Giant Conflict of Interest Just Got Bigger; The US government is cracking down on Trump's largest financial backer. What will he do if elected president?" Mother Jones, September 21, 2016.
Earlier in the story Mother Jones reports, "The US government has charged that [Deutsche Bank] misled investors into buying bad mortgage-backed securities . . . [and] is demanding that [the bank] pay $14 billion to settle legal claims. . . . [W]hat Deutsche Bank ends up paying . . . might depend on how tough Trump's Justice Department will be with the bank to which he owes so much money."
Nor is it clear that even with these credit lines his businesses will survive. Imagine the distraction for a president, and the diminution of his international reputation, if he has to battle bankruptcies (as he has in the past) during his time in office. See, e.g., Russ Choma, "Here's Why Donald Trump's New DC Hotel May Be a Financial Flop; His Controversial Campaign Isn't the Only Problem," Mother Jones, September 9, 2016.
Among the most concerning qualities and unknowns about Trump are the echos, in both his words and actions, of authoritarian leaders, both living and dead. I am not saying he will do everything all of them did; that would be unfair, and besides how could I know. But the warning signs are already there, and have been described and analyzed by a former CIA officer and chief policy director of the House Republican Conference. Here are excerpts from his recent [Dec. 5] column:
[At a meeting with Republican House members a] congresswoman asked [Trump] about his plans to protect Article I of the Constitution, which assigns all federal lawmaking power to Congress. . . . Shock swept through the room as Mr. Trump confirmed [that he] lacked a basic knowledge of the Constitution.Evan McMullin, "Trump's Threat to the Constitution," New York Times, December 5, 2016.
[H]is campaign rhetoric . . . demonstrated authoritarian tendencies. He . . . questioned judicial independence, threatened the freedom of the press, called for violating Muslims’ equal protection under the law, promised the use of torture and attacked Americans based on their gender, race and religion. He . . . undermined critical democratic norms including peaceful debate and transitions of power, commitment to truth, freedom from foreign interference and abstention from the use of executive power for political retribution. . . .
Authoritarians often exaggerate their popular support . . . to weaken the democratic institutions that limit their power. Eroding confidence in voting, elections and representative bodies gives them a freer hand to wield more power.
As a C.I.A. officer, I saw firsthand authoritarians’ use of these tactics around the world. . . . For a despot, all of [the} checks on power must be ignored, undermined or destroyed so that he is all that matters.
We can no longer assume that all Americans understand the origins of their rights and the importance of liberal democracy. . . . We cannot allow Mr. Trump to normalize the idea that he is the ultimate arbiter of our rights.
Yesterday [Nov. 29], at 5:55 a.m., Trump tweeted, "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag -- if they do, there must be consequences -- perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail." Charlie Savage, "Trump Calls for Revoking Flag Burners' Citizenship. Court Rulings Forbid It." New York Times, November 30, 2016, p. A17 ("Trump wrote the post shortly after Fox News aired a segment about a dispute at Hampshire College . . . [where] during one demonstration someone burned a flag. . . . [A]nyone convicted and sentenced could point to clear Supreme Court precedents to make the case [that such a law would constitute] a constitutional violation." Precedents provide the government can't take away one's citizenship for such an offence, and that flag burning is protected under the First Amendment as "speech.")
Trump's knowledge of U.S. foreign policy, its history, process, significance for our national security and world peace is as limited as his knowledge of the Constitution (see item immediately above). It's not fair to fault a president-elect for not arriving with the wide ranging information, knowledge and wisdom of TV's "The West Wing" (1999-2006) President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet. However, it is not only fair but essential to fault a president for a failure to exercise the caution and restraint dictated by their lack of experience and knowledge. As Donald Rumsfeld once famously said, "There are things we know we know; things we know we don't know; and things we don't know we don't know." It's one thing, however unacceptable it may be, to engage in exaggerated or downright known lies during a political campaign. It is an altogether different, and far more serious matter, to govern on the basis of things one should know they don't know -- or should be aware may be things they don't know they don't know. That is what Trump is failing to do. Mark dLandler and David E. Sanger, "Trump Speaks With Taiwan's Leader, an Affront to China," New York Times, December 3, 2016, p. A1 (see the extensive excerpts from this story under "International," above).
Policy. See "International," above, for extensive excerpts from Mark dLandler and David E. Sanger, "Trump Speaks With Taiwan's Leader, an Affront to China," New York Times, December 3, 2016, p. A1.
There was so much wrong with Trump's approach to "saving jobs" at the Indiana Carrier plan it's hard to know where to start.
During the campaign, Trump had promised to save Carrier employees jobs at its Indiana plant. Called on it, he and Vice President Mike Pence, in his continuing role as Indiana's governor, arranged for $7 million in Indiana taxpayers' money to go to Carrier. That, plus the company's fear that a failure to go along might jeopardize its $6 billion in defense contracts, resulted in its accepting a deal that it has earlier rejected. (There's even speculation that Pence's unusual decision to hang onto the governorship after becoming vice president-elect may have been because of the Carrier deal -- for it is only as governor that he would have the authority to give away to Carrier, on Trump's behalf, $7 million of Indiana taxpayers' money.)
(1) The Washington Post has expressed its editorial approach to economic stimulation and globalization by noting the contrast between "the $1.3 billion that Subaru, a Japanese carmaker, has invested since 2012 in its Lafayette, Ind., plant, enabling the creation of 1,400 jobs. . . . [and that] Carrier has announced that it will keep half of its 2,000 workers in Indianapolis, in return for $700,000 per year in state tax breaks." Editorial, "Don’t reward companies like Carrier with tax cuts — or punish them with taxes," Washington Post, December 1, 2016.
(2) Whatever one may think about Sarah Palin, when it comes to capitalism she shows much more insight than most politicians -- whether Republican or Democrat. It's not new with her; I praised her for her "crony capitalism" critique she delivered at a Reagan tribute five years ago. "Palin Attacks 'The Corporatist Agenda,'" February 9, 2011. So I wasn't surprised when she repeated this analysis with regard to Trump's Carrier giveaway. Sarah Palin, "But . . . Wait . . . The Good Guys Won't Win with More Crony Capitalism," Young Conservatives, December 2, 2016 ("When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favoring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent. Meanwhile, the invisible hand that best orchestrates a free people’s free enterprise system gets amputated. Then, special interests creep in and manipulate markets. Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail.") And see Phil McCausland, "Sarah Palin Calls Out Trump's Carrier Deal, Warns Against 'Crony Capitalism,'" NBC News, December 2, 2016.
(3) For someone who claims to be a "great negotiator," and who paid a ghost writer to produce The Art of the Deal, Trump didn't get a very good deal. All that was saved for the $7 million were "About 800 of those [1100 jobs that will remain in Indiana] were manufacturing positions that had been scheduled to move south of the border . . .. An additional 300 to 600 Carrier positions at that plant, as well as roughly 700 jobs at another facility in the area, will still be cut." In other words, Carrier is still going to end up doing more manufacturing in Mexico. Ylan Q. Mui, Matea Gold and Max Ehrenfreund, "Trump threatens ‘consequences’ for U.S. firms that relocate offshore," Washington Post, December 1, 2016. Ironically, this kind of taxpayer-funded crony capitalism is precisely what Trump indicated during the campaign he would end. During his visit to Indiana Trump "said more companies will decide to stay in the United States because his administration will lower corporate taxes and reduce regulations. He also warned that businesses that decide to go abroad will pay a price through a border tax on imported goods." Whether or not those are good ideas, they were not what was done in Indiana -- nor what Trump does with his own businesses: "Trump’s aggressive stance toward outsourcing comes despite the fact that his family companies profit from low-wage laborers around the globe who produce Trump-branded merchandise."
(4) From the same Washington Post story we learn that, "Some state officials also noted that the federal government is a major customer of United Technologies [the parent corporation of which Carrier is a part]. United Technologies’ sales to the government have dropped in recent years, from $6.3 billion in 2013 to $5.6 billion last year, making up about 10 percent of its total revenue."
For "the rest of the story" -- Trump's future plans for saving jobs -- a thoughtful and detailed report and analysis can be found here: Nelson D. Schwartz, "Vowing to Squeeze Businesses, Trump Has Tactics Challenged," New York Times, December 5, 2016, p. A1 ("Trump . . . warned of retribution for other companies [other than Carrier] contemplating moving production abroad [in Dec. 4 tweets]. Trump tries to put the bully in bully pulpit [but] the question of whether his approach is smart economic policy, improvised showmanship or a bit of both is another story. . . . [A] range of experts [say] his approach may be ineffective at best, and crony-capitalist and caudillo-like at worst. 'Blackmail is implicit in this approach,' . . . said Tyler Cowen, a conservative . . . economist . . .. 'It’s a lot of political theater, but that’s not even my biggest criticism. Trump is negotiating with individual businesses outside of the rule of law and bureaucratic procedure.'”)
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