Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jack Ryan and Tom Clancy - interpreting Donald Trump

Holga the Dane is a sort of semi-mythological Arthurian style figure who will come to life to rescue the Danish people should they ever face annihilation. Explaining his failure to appear, our guide at Kronborg Castle suggested that it had not been necessary, that somehow the Danes had sort of muddled though.

I mention Holga now because some of the reporting and almost despairing commentary on Donald Trump carries a flavour that might not unfairly be described as where is Holga? We need him to rescue us from this man! There is very little analysis, rather sets of personal reactions driven by perceptions.

In What policies will be pursued by the author of "The Art of the Deal"?, Winton Bates sought to use Trump: The Art of the Deal, a 1987 book written by Trump and journalist Tony Schwartz, as an entry point. For my part, I have used that book (I read it a long time ago and liked it), the views I formed from watching The Apprentice plus reporting on Mr a partial entry point. However, perhaps the most useful works of all have been Tom Clancy's books and especially the John Ryan series.

I am not equating Jack Ryan with Donald Trump. They are very different people. However, Clancy did capture accurately certain aspects of US right wing populist thinking (I am using that phrase in a descriptive not pejorative sense) including distrust of those within the Beltway and of career politicians, a belief in bureaucratic inefficiency, a belief in the people, a belief in US military power and a somewhat mercantilist view of trade.

Executive Orders is perhaps the clearest presentation because this sets out descriptions of Ryan's political actions and ethos having unexpectedly become President of the United States, including successful action (using Mr Trump's phrase) to clean out the swamp. In doing so, President Ryan has to deal with a media and political establishment that constantly tries to interpret his actions against existing models, paradigms, of thought and action.

I think that the last is important, for that's what people are trying to do, judge Mr Trump against existing models that don't quite fit. I think that we have to watch and wait to see what it really all means. I really don't know!


I see that  Paul McGeough in the Canberra Times has picked up the Tom Clancy theme: "Americans are trapped in the pages of a Tom Clancy political thriller"

.We now have President Trumps inauguration speech. The print version follows. I think that we can use this as a base for objective analysis since this sets out the benchmark for the presidency.

 "Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: Thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.

Together, we will determine the course of America, and the world, for many, many years to come.
We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.

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.

Today's ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another - but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.

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.

Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes - starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.

This is your day. This is your celebration.

And this, the United States of America, is your country.

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.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now.

You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the centre of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.

Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighbourhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.

These are the just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealised potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation - and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;

Subsidised the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military;

We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own;

And spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.

We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.

But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.

From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.

From this day forward, it's going to be only America First, America First.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

I will fight for you with every breath in my body - and I will never, ever let you down.

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

We will get our people off of welfare and back to work - rebuilding our country with American hands and American labour.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world - but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example - we will shine - for everyone to follow.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones - and unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The Bible tells us: "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity."

We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.

When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

There should be no fear - we are protected, and we will always be protected.

We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we will be protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger.

In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.

We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action - constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.

The time for empty talk is over.

Now arrives the hour of action.

Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.

We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

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.

A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.

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.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:

You will never be ignored again.

Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together, we will make America strong again.

We will make America wealthy again.

We will make America proud again.

We will make America safe again.

And, yes, together, we will make America great again.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you. God bless America." ENDS


2 tanners said...

One of the main things I am waiting to see is how far Trump can move against the inertia of the bureaucracy and the existing laws of the US which are rambling, contradictory and split between Federal and State (not implying that Trump is out to break laws, but existing laws will almost certainly impede some of his policy aims). I think he has made a huge mistake in his widespread purge in that many of his appointees also only know the bureaucracy from the outside and by sacking appointees before they can deliver (in fact before he is President), he has no real power left to threaten those at the coalface. He may succeed, but it's hard to drain the swamp when your order for pipes hasn't been filled or paid for because you don't know how to do that.

Jim Belshaw said...

Happy new year, 2 tanners. You may well be right. It takes time (and people) to learn how to manage a system

We now have President Trump's inauguration speech. A lot of the coverage has been concerned with rights and wrongs, good and bad. I think that we can take the speech as a base for objective analysis.

Anonymous said...

McGeogh is a bed-wetting partisan hack, and I don't like him.

I particularly don't like the fact that his articles never allow for comment - but I understand the editorial decision on same, because his partisan hackery would probably require any resulting comment stream to be constantly monitored by a crew of a dozen or more.

Speaking of partisans, maybe have a quick scan of this WaPo article on the "freedom of the press":

Now it will never be pointed out by the likes of PM or his mates, but the "freedom of the press" referred to in the First Amendment in the words "Congress shall make no law [....] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" refers NOT to our media sources - be they newspapers, television or internet, but ACTUALLY TO a more broader useage, common in the days of pamphleteering: the written (usually printed) word.

The FA is simply stating that you may speak or write whatever you wish without government hindrence. But somehow over the aeons, this has been corralled, and turned into a shield by that specific class of vermin we refer to as "the press".

But you won't find that in the WaPo article, nor even remotely acknowledged by PM, except with a sneer.


Jim Belshaw said...

Afternoon, kvd. Freedom of the press has a more specific historical meaning in an English or Australian context. I'm not quite sure, however, of the point you are trying to make.

Jim Belshaw said...

Ended too early. Are you saying that the press has used this to create a shield limited to itself?

Anonymous said...

Yes - of course. Except I would put it that 'the press' has assumed such a stance. kvd

Anonymous said...

Another example:

"Today we celebrate one of democracy's core attributes: the peaceful transfer of power. And every day we stand up for core democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution: the rule of law; equal protection for all under law; the freedom of speech, press, religion -- the things that make America America."

- from Schumer's address at the inauguration.

Notice how the word 'press' has been removed from its original, intended, position as a placeholder for "written/printed word" and elevated to stand distinct beside 'speech' and 'religion'.

If you are going to talk about core democratic principles, you'd think a proper understanding of such was fairly important.


Jim Belshaw said...

Expressing a degree of frustration, kvd. Not at you, but the paucity of on-line sources that I need.As best i can understand it, freedom of the press was included as a specific item not as a place holder but because of British restrictions on the American colonial press in the immediate period. Freedom of the press was a specific variant associated with the emergence of newspapers. I stand to be corrected.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, you mean like this?

"Despite popular misunderstanding the right to freedom of the press guaranteed by the first amendment is not very different from the right to freedom of speech. It allows an individual to express themselves through publication and dissemination. It is part of the constitutional protection of freedom of expression. It does not afford members of the media any special rights or privileges not afforded to citizens in general."

- from here:


Anonymous said...

Second attempt to publish this?

Perhaps Cornell University might assist: "Despite popular misunderstanding the right to freedom of the press guaranteed by the first amendment is not very different from the right to freedom of speech. It allows an individual to express themselves through publication and dissemination. It is part of the constitutional protection of freedom of expression. It does not afford members of the media any special rights or privileges not afforded to citizens in general."



(my emphasis)

2 tanners said...

Watching in disbelief as Trump puts a proposal to force Mexico to pay for the wall by imposing a 20% tariff on Mexican (and others') goods. Certainly a country can breach its trade agreements but it's often not tit-for-tat: e.g. you slap a 20% tariff on us, we decide to exclude all American products from IP protection. If done officially, it's not even piracy, it's legally copied content. It would make for interesting legal arguments in 3rd country markets.

More importantly, it's the American public who end up paying the 20% price increase, so they'll end up paying twice.

Jim Belshaw said...

I do not think that Mr Trump knows much about economics, 2 tanners. If they slap a 20% tariff on, it is the US consumers who pay the higher price, so they pay for the wall. To the degree that demand is reduced (this will lower the US take) or the price increase is compensated by Mexican producers, then there is a cost to Mexico in reduced production or reduced profit margins or some combination.

You note the possibility of retaliation by Mexico. That's possible, although I don't think that countries (Mr Trump has threatened China as well, for example)will retaliate in ways that impose hurt on them. However, they will look for alternatives.

The legal position in all this is not clear to me either in the US or in agreements such as the WTO of which the US is presently part.

If you apply the deal making model, Mr Trump may be attempting to establish a base from which he can negotiate down. Negotiating dynamics in the national/international create difficulties here.

2 tanners said...

The WTO agreements let countries fix tariffs at a given level and then allows measures of a substantially equivalent economic impact in retaliation for violation of agreements or other breaches (eg dumping, misuse of quarantine rules etc.). There is no provision for a 'stay' in retaliation while proceedings progress. A (allegedly) hurts B, B applies countermeasures, one party complains and the WTO moves its investigatory and legal processes into action. It can take years, even if someone complains. Trump may not realise that the instigator (first mover) in any action carries the presumption of guilt which puts them on a playing field tilted in favour of the other party.

In other news, he seems to have accepted the resignations of the top four foreign affairs officials. These are standardly offered pro forma, and some are of retirement age, so I'm not reading anti-Trump sentiment into this, but it's going to be a hit.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks for this, 2t. Roughly what I thought with WTO. The lack of transition continuity is a weakness. You don't have to agree with advice, but it is helpful to have it. There is some vetting going on. The leaks of some earlier versions of orders would appear to confirm this. But its all a dreadful rush. So far the pattern is consistent with earlier statements. The scope for mess of one type or another is substantial.

Tikno said...

Trump succeeded in burning the spirits of American cowboys but in front of them was a cop :)

Jim Belshaw said...

I laughed, Tikno, although I wasn't absolutely sure of the cop part!