Desperately trying to see the glass as half full


Many people like me who strongly opposed Donald Trump are desperately looking for silver linings that his presidency will not be the disaster for the US and the world that his campaign rhetoric suggested it would be. Those hopes seem increasingly desperate since Trump’s election has created major openings for a lot of people and groups who have all manner of regressive agendas, even while Trump himself has, as usual, been saying all manner of contradictory things, causing people to wonder what his agenda is and if he has even got a coherent one.

Donald Trump tweaked the script of his transition again Tuesday, appearing to shift his stance on at least three major issues in the course of an afternoon but defending his right to continue involvement in his worldwide businesses despite the potential for conflicts of interest.

What seemed to be Trump’s ironclad belief that America must withdraw from the international climate change accord reached last year suddenly wasn’t so ironclad. He demurred when pressed on whether he would pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton — a signature promise of his campaign. And he backed off on his commitment to torturing enemies of state, saying a single conversation with a retired Marine general changed his mind.

The one thing he seems to be clear about is that he thinks ethics are a waste of time and do not apply to him anyway. He does not see any need to avoid any conflict of interests between his job as president and his personal business interests, and even with having his children be involved in the government while also running his business.

There are few written rules on conflicts of interest for the president and we know that Trump thinks nothing of using every possible loophole for his own advantage. The only real check is the potential for impeachment and conviction by Congress for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” under Article II, Section 4 of the US Constitution but this Republican Congress is never going to launch such a move unless Trump does something that directly and adversely affects them.

We know that Trump really cares about being rich. So perhaps the best we can hope for is that he will be so busy focused on using the office of the presidency to loot the US treasury to enrich and aggrandize himself and his family, and then have to deal with the resulting controversies, that he will not have the time to create chaos elsewhere.

Comments

  1. kyoseki says

    I’m pretty much expecting him to avoid prosecution, but his kids are a different matter, they’re not exempt, especially if they’re sitting in on meetings giving them information they shouldn’t be privy to.

  2. enkidu says

    Master: I’m going to rape you, and whip you and cut off your head.
    Slave: Please, Master, don’t do that.
    Master: OK, I won’t cut off your head.
    Slave: Thank you, Master!

  3. Seth says

    Hey Mano, this seems as good a thread to posit my question as any. I I remember you, Marcus, and others ’round these parts who aired your doubts about Russian involvement in the election (going so far as to suggest it simply a baseless whine, or even a smear, on the part of Clinton and the Democrats). I clearly remember you personally saying on more than one post that there was no evidence of Russian interference, either directly or through Wikileaks. It’s become clear that both of these assertions were categorically false, including acknowledgement by Russian actors both part of and only loosely affiliated with the state.

    Will you acknowledge being too skeptical, if not too glib, on this point?

  4. A Rash Anion says

    Even if Trump spends all his time focusing on getting rich, I’m still worried about the people he appoints to powerful executive branch positions who may not share his lack of interest in politics, like Sessions or Bannon.

  5. Silentbob says

    @ 3 Seth

    Sorry to butt in; it’s unclear to me whether you are saying there was evidence available at the time to Mano for Russian involvement, or whether this evidence came to light later. If the latter, I see nothing wrong in being skeptical of unevidenced politically expedient claims.

    Also (although this has nothing directly to do with your comment), the US is notorious for interfering in the governance of other countries, going so far as to organise coups. If US intelligence could disseminate information that would influence an election in Russia, you would have to be pretty naive to think they would hesitate to do so. The US complaining about getting a small dose of its own medicine seems a bit rich.

  6. Mano Singham says

    Seth,

    Could you give sources for your assertion that “both of these assertions were categorically false, including acknowledgement by Russian actors both part of and only loosely affiliated with the state.”?

    The two posts of mine that you may be referring to are likely this one on 10/14 and this one on 9/6. I do not see anything in them that requires taking back. The evidence was not there then.

    I am not condoning such interference, if it did indeed happen. But as I said in the 9/6 post:

    It can be taken as a given that it is wrong for countries to try to influence the outcome of elections in other countries by covert means. But I find it amusing that the US, of all nations, is complaining about this practice. Is there any nation on Earth that has a worse record than the US when it comes to interference in other countries in choosing their leaders? Apart from secretly funding individuals, private groups, and political parties in other countries, fomenting unrest and orchestrating so-called ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations, placing articles in their media, and so on, the US does not stop there and even sponsors coups, the murders of foreign leaders, and outright invasions if all those fail to achieve the goal of installing governments that will do the US’s bidding.

    US elites think that they have the right to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries but are outraged when others do it to them.

    Even if it is conclusively proven that the Russian government connived with Wikileaks to leak the Clinton emails, this is really small potatoes compared to what the US has done and continues to do.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    It’s been interesting to watch criticism of Trump here on FtB. Since July 2016, it was basically a two-pronged attack. On the one hand, he was an increasingly odious monster who was a clear and present danger to women, minorities, the country and the world, given his clear list of stated priorities: locking up Hillary, building a wall, completely ending Obamacare, bringing back waterboarding and so on. On the other, presumably none of that was actually important since he self-evidently had absolutely no chance of actually becoming President, because reasons. The message was, generally, “be scared, even though he DEFINITELY won’t be President”.

    Now that all the confident predictions of Hillary’s easy win have failed, everyone seems to be in full-on meltdown mode. What’s really bizarre is that everyone
    (a) criticised Trump for saying he would build the wall/lock up Hillary/end Obamacare etc. and
    (b) criticised him for being a pathological liar
    Both of those are valid criticisms in isolation. But you can’t with any integrity claim people need to be scared that he’ll do those things if your number one complaint about him is that he says he’ll do things and then doesn’t do them.

    And now, as even before he’s inaugurated he rows back on promise after promise, everyone is criticising him again, only this time they’re saying that he’s… what? Lying about NOT doing those things? Pick one, ffs. The left commentariat right now seems to want to whip up a feeling of panic and hopelessness regardless of what’s actually happening. It’s at this point I’d like to know – is there anything, anything AT ALL, that the incoming Trump administration could do that would make people calm the fuck down?

    There are some legitimately worrying things – if I lived in the US my main concern would be Trump’s picks for the supreme court. That’s something he could do on a whim that would have effects that would long outlast his presidency. But the sight of people claiming the sky is falling because Trump says he’ll do A, then claiming the sky is falling because Trump’s saying he’ll do the opposite of A, is getting tedious. If there’s literally nothing he can do that you’ll not claim is terrible, then your opinion of him is worthless.

  8. John Morales says

    sonofrojblake:

    What’s really bizarre is that everyone
    (a) criticised Trump for saying he would build the wall/lock up Hillary/end Obamacare etc. and
    (b) criticised him for being a pathological liar
    Both of those are valid criticisms in isolation. But you can’t with any integrity claim people need to be scared that he’ll do those things if your number one complaint about him is that he says he’ll do things and then doesn’t do them.

    It establishes he’s a bullshitter and a facile liar. More to the point, you can’t presume that because he lies readily that he lies about everything. In short, he has already proven he is untrustworthy.

    And now, as even before he’s inaugurated he rows back on promise after promise, everyone is criticising him again, only this time they’re saying that he’s… what? Lying about NOT doing those things? Pick one, ffs.

    Here’s one: you can’t trust anything he says, you can only watch what he does.
    For example, he might easily back-out on his backing-out when he does get executive power.

    The left commentariat right now seems to want to whip up a feeling of panic and hopelessness regardless of what’s actually happening.

    You think the “left commentariat” should be sanguine about the incoming administration?

    (Panic, perhaps; hopelessness, hardly)

    It’s at this point I’d like to know – is there anything, anything AT ALL, that the incoming Trump administration could do that would make people calm the fuck down?

    Nothing credible — as noted, the man is a proven liar — but yes; for one thing, he could change the appointments he says he wants to make.

    If there’s literally nothing he can do that you’ll not claim is terrible, then your opinion of him is worthless.

    That straw dummy is not even propped-up — there is no such logical entailment.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    >>is there anything, anything AT ALL, that the incoming Trump administration could do that would make people calm the fuck down?

    >Nothing credible — as noted, the man is a proven liar — but yes; for one thing, he could change the appointments he says he wants to make.

    So… no but yes? Really? That’s your answer?

  10. jrkrideau says

    @ 6 Mano Singham

    follow-up to @3 Seth

    Re Russian involvement in the election

    You say The evidence was not there then.

    And there is now?

    I am not an American so I look at things differently but, so far, I have not seen anything showing “Russian involvement” that rises above the evidence for the Gulf of Tonkin incident or the case for the Iraq Invasion.

    Trump and his associates had business dealings with Russian oligarchs. Uh, Trump is a businessman.

    Apparently Putin termed Trump яркий meaning “bright” but яркий may not mean what most people think it does. I don’t have a Russian dictionary handy but according to Google Translation Russian has about 17 or 18 words that can translate as bright in English. Яркий seems to translate as bright, vivid, colorful, shining, flamboyant, glaring”. I am not sure that but that Putin was damming with faint praise. More than once I have gotten the feeling that Putin has a certain dry wit.

    I must say I like that word, яркий

  11. KG says

    But you can’t with any integrity claim people need to be scared that he’ll do those things if your number one complaint about him is that he says he’ll do things and then doesn’t do them. – sonofrojblake@7

    That is not anyone’s “number one complaint” that I’ve come across – other than those on the far right who are outraged that he’s backed away from persecuting Clinton. Can you produce any evidence that those on the left are using his backpedalling as anything other than further evidence of his dishonesty? Because the fact that he’s dishonest doesn’t mean he’s not going to follow through on the far-right agenda he won the electoral college majority on, and both his choice of VP, and his major appointments so far – Jeff Sessions, Betsy De Vos, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus – are completely consistent with that intention. Nor does the fact that he’s backtracked imply that he’ll remain backtracked: he will say whatever he thinks suits the purpose of the moment.

    It’s at this point I’d like to know – is there anything, anything AT ALL, that the incoming Trump administration could do that would make people calm the fuck down?

    1) Announce a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
    2) Announce that it fully accepts the overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic global warming, intends to abide completely by the Paris agreement, and will direct research and infrastructure spending to the urgent task of reducing the USA’s greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible.
    3) Announce its intention to abide by the 6-power agreement with Iran.
    4) Announce that as a gesture to bipartisanship, it will support the appointment of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court vacancy and similarly, support all judicial appointments proposed by the Obama administration up to November 8th.
    5) Issue an unconditional apology to undocumented immigrants and Muslims for the hatred deliberately fomented against them by Trump during the campaign.
    6) Announce that all of Trump’s assets will be placed in a blind trust.
    7) Announce that no legislation further restricting the right to abortion will be signed by President Trump.
    8) Announce that no legislation making it easier for public figures to win libel actions they initiate will be signed by President Trump.
    9) Announce that no legislation allowing businesses or public officials to discriminate against gender-sexual minorities will be signed by President Trump.
    10) Rescind the appointments of Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and Betsy De Vos.

    That would be a start. Of course, it wouldn’t undo the appalling damage to the political culture of the USA which Trump has already inflicted.

  12. Holms says

    ^ So basically, be a completely different person to that which he is. Alternative phrasing: the actions required to make people stop complaining about Trump are so totally beyond him there is no point even asking the question.

  13. KG says

    Holms@12. Exactly, Telling people to “calm the fuck down” when a corrupt, lying, ignorant narcissist with no conscience, zero respect for the rule of law, and the backing of religious extremists, science denialists and neo-Nazis is both stupid and insulting.

  14. KG says

    #13 should read:

    Holms@12. Exactly, Telling people to “calm the fuck down” when a corrupt, lying, ignorant narcissist with no conscience, zero respect for the rule of law, and the backing of religious extremists, science denialists and neo-Nazis is about to take power in the word’s most powerful country, and to have control of a huge nuclear arsenal, is both stupid and insulting.

  15. Seth says

    Mano,

    We have evidence of Russian influence in spreading propaganda (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html, paywalled), the director of the NSA practically admitting that Russia colluded with Wikileaks (http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a50738/russia-wikileaks-2016-election/), and Russians themselves admitting to colluding with the Trump campaign before the election (http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a50598/russian-talked-to-trump-campaign/). Samantha Bee has provided evidence of state-sponsored Russian trolling and other activity, as well.

    You say that even if this bears out, it pales in comparison to the injustices perpetrated by the US. Fair enough, but those injustices do not make this one false, and they do not make this one right. The fact that Putin has been the most-contacted foreign leader of the president-elect (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article116798988.html), taken with the evidence (and logic) of Russian interference in the election, should be one of the most alarming facts to come out of the presidential campaign. To blithely dismiss it because of the US’s foreign meddling, or out of distrust of institutions such as the NSA, is to misunderstand the gravity of the situation.

    Yes, the US has been puppetmaster for much of the 20th and 21st centuries, and in so doing has built a massive military and technocratic machine, the biggest and most dangerous in the history of the world. Now we have every reason to think that this machinery is headed by a strongman who owes a political (and financial) debt to the strongman in Moscow. If that does not terrify you, that’s fair enough. But it terrifies me.

  16. deepak shetty says

    And now, as even before he’s inaugurated he rows back on promise after promise, everyone is criticising him again, only this time they’re saying that he’s… what? Lying about NOT doing those things?

    No its that he got elected using false promises , but he is still going to do tremendous damage even if he doesnt stick to what he said before the election. As a parallel , take Brexit – A lot of false promises were made , its possible if those false promises werent made , maybe, maybe , the vote would have gone the other way. The fact that as soon as the referendum was done , the promises were dropped , doesnt mean that Brexit wont happen or that it wont cause damage.

    Similarly Trump may have made a bunch of false promises , but he is still going to do tremendous damage to education , the EPA etc. The criticism isn’t from the left that Hey he isnt prosecuting Hillary – Its that he knowingly played to the right , even though he knew there was nothing prosecutable about Hillary’s actions. The fact that he cant have a religious test to block Muslims isnt going to stop the fact that animosity towards Muslims is going to increase.

  17. komarov says

    It’s at this point I’d like to know – is there anything, anything AT ALL, that the incoming Trump administration could do that would make people calm the fuck down?

    At this point, given Trump’s track record with his promises, comments and opinions, I’d be sceptical if he said the sky was blue. It might be blue. It might just as well be grey, pitch-black or be shades of octarine as far as I trust this guy. All this really tells me is that Trump has noticed the sky and is thinking about it. So it may be time to start worrying about the sky because this idiot might actually try do something awful to it.

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