What’s Trump Gonna Do?

Before answering the unanswerable, we have to go over the ground rules.

I learned what I am about to share with you under the Chatham House Rule. It goes like this: “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

When the rule is invoked, it typically means the gathering took place at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, but this gathering did not. It took place at a venue that also does not want its name mentioned so the whole thing has an extra air of mystery.

It is entirely possible that these customs and practices serve mostly to make writers seem more important than we might actually be.

To the extent Donald Trump is knowable the speaker knows him. I’ll share some observations and a rule I have been living by for the last few weeks.

Steve Bannon, the Goldman Sachs / Breitbart guy (bet you never thought you’d see those words strung together) who drove insiders crazy when he was named Chief Strategist and Senior Advisor, is obsessed with globalization and populism. He is fascinated by William Jennings Bryan, the Nebraskan who ran for President three times (1896, 1900, 1908) on what would today be called an Occupy Wall Street platform (“Do not crucify me on a cross of gold”). Like Hillary Clinton, Bryan then supported himself giving paid speeches and got to be Secretary of State.

Watch for populist ideas and disruption, perhaps with a soupcon of mainstream conservatism. Trump relies on unpredictability as a source of power.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer will succeed Nevada Senator Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader. His relationship with Trump and vice versa will be a key to getting anything done. Both are dealmakers and what do dealmakers do? They make deals. Partisan purity or compromises to get results: you can’t have both.

White working class Trump voters supported him as intensely as any candidate has been supported by any group in recent years. They don’t think in right-left terms. Better to think in terms of those perceived to be protected or unprotected in determining who fits where. The unprotected are angry.

Trump might act like a child but he is an amazingly street smart adult who likes to keep people on their toes by being combative.

As to dealing with the Washington establishment, Trump is clueless, so he will have to depend on his VP, Mike Pence with whom he has virtually no relationship.

Son-in-law, Jared Kushner (mid-30s married to Ivanka) will be a major influence.

If you care about debt or describe yourself as a deficit hawk, this will not be your favorite presidency. They rank nowhere on Trump’s agenda.

If you like military spending, watch for more emphasis on preparedness than intervention.

2017, with GOP House and Senate majorities, will be the year for an aggressive conservative agenda that will enable Trump to be seen as a man of action.

It is hard to tell which group is in greater disarray the Democrats or the press. The worst punishment for both is to be ignored.

Here is the rule I have been living by these last few weeks. Those who actually know what Donald Trump will do are keeping their mouths shut and those who are talking are probably guessing.

I am not sure there are many of the former, maybe not even President-elect Trump.

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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10 comments

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  • I know not the wisdom nor value of the electors choice; but I’m pleased with the disruption of established assumptions.
    DJT isn’t a lawyer! Trump enterprises produce physical (mostly) things. His transactions are international. Gvt can be limited to security – trade, people, institutions, etc. Gvt shouldn’t precluding nor subsidize economic participation.
    Power returned to the People of Fly Over Country

  • “White working class Trump voters supported him as intensely as any candidate has been supported by any group in recent years. They don’t think in right-left terms. Better to think in terms of those perceived to be protected or unprotected in determining who fits where. The unprotected are angry.”
    They do think in left-right terms. And they know the left favors certain groups and screws other groups. They do not want protection; they want the government to stop screwing them.

    • I was concerned about that quote but it accurately reflected the views of the speaker.

      You are closer to the voters being described than the speaker is.

  • I will be amazed if Trump does one thing that benefits anyone other than himself and his entourage. The ones scheduled to suffer the most are the ones who voted for him

    • I think it is always a good assumption that the most disappointed voters will be those who voted for the winner. Their expecatations will have been raised the most before being dashed. Could be even worse this time.

  • I keep reading that the average income of the folk who voted for Trump is $72,000. So, it would appear lot of middle class folk and perhaps some upper middle class folk voted for Trump as well as white working class folk. Maybe the evangelicals are responsible to a large degree for this elevated average income.

    Trump has to do something about immigration. This issue has been his most prominent from the beginning of his campaign. He will put up steel fences as well as a wall. Fences are a lot cheaper, and you can see through them, which helps our border patrol people. Two fences, with a DMZ between them. With lots of fancy new sensors.

    He will try to locate and kick out all illegal alien criminals. How hard is that going to be? Unknown, but there will be little political resistance from Congress on that issue. Sanctuary cities provide a considerable impediment, but there are ways of dealing with them. As to the rest, I doubt he’ll unleash
    storm troopers into the casas and taquerias of non-criminal illegals, but perhaps if they get caught during
    routine bureaucratic activity, they will be sent back, to re-enter legally if and when possible. This might comprise an acceptable middle ground between the two opposing camps.

    Jobs. Another biggie. I think serious, expensive, wide-ranging re-training will yield more jobs than trying to claw back manufacturing jobs, though some of that may occur, in response to corporate tax cuts and regulation cuts. This country has never been very adept at retraining its workers on a national basis for the jobs of the future. Germany is very good at it. Let’s study their methods, and ape them when feasible.

    Trump wants to cut corporate taxes a lot, and cut income taxes a good deal more for the rich than for the middle and working classes. This income tax approach seems politically dangerous to me. Plus, the old trickle-down theory of the Reagan era worked for most people, but in 8 years the national debt tripled. Spending cuts, not so much, and tax revenues did not yield what the tricklers would have hoped for. In our current position of national indebtedness, a tripling of our national debt would cripple the country. A conundrum.

    I wish we would hear more about simplifying the tax code. He has chatted some about this, but not nearly enough, in my view. Vast sums could be saved by cutting the 70,000 page tax code book down to a nice
    pamphlet about the size of a Cliff notes, with the added attraction of putting out of work a madding crowd
    of corporate tax lawyers.

    Health care. Here is a shoal upon which the S.S. Trump may founder. The problem is containing costs, but
    the American health care system is owned and operated by insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, and these companies know one thing: people have to buy health care, no matter how expensive it is. So, when they raise prices year after year way beyond the commensurate rise of inflation, they know in the end they can get away with it, despite the howls. Trump has some ideas about this, but only time will tell
    if they are effective.

    China. I think a nice approach to his imbroglio would be to ask of China that over a period of years China methodically ramp up its purchase of U.S. goods, so that in the end we have balanced trade with China. This should be politically bearable to both leaderships in both countries, and would avoid the dangerous option of tariffs. Will the Trumpeters adopt this rather sensible policy? Only if they are avid readers of this blog. If they are not, then surely they are fools.

    Russia. Trump must make it abundantly clear to Putin that any invasion of a Nato country, no matter how
    much he resents their location on his doorstep, will bring war. A war that in the end Russia cannot win. This must be made crystal clear. A deal should be struck vis-a-vis Ukraine, whereby the Donbass region will receive increased federal powers, and the west will never attempt to influence an election in Ukraine, which will never join Nato or the European Union. Ukraine must be a neutral buffer state between Russia and the west. This will be entirely acceptable to Russia. I think this is a deal Trump can make with Putin.

    And, once Aleppo falls to Assad, a de facto rump state of Assad’s Alawite remainder may be contrived, leaving the field to whoever wishes to attrit the various Jihadists who control some of the Sunni sections of Syria. This will take years. With Russian, U.S., and Turkish co-operation, slow achievement is possible, just as a good deal has been recently achieved in Iraq. Eventually, some Sunni strongman would likely emerge, but he would have to be simultaneously sensitive to Russian and American interests. He would provide a nice mini-bulwark to the growing and malign influence of Iran in the region, and the various powers that now meddle in Syria would have no objection to this, save Iran itself.

    Iran. Leave the imperfect nuke deal with Iran in place. The alternative is worse. Khomeini may be dead in ten years, and a new Supremo may be marginally easier to deal with. Maybe not, but why not play for time.
    There’s a chance. Most Iranians loathe the theocracy. Let them whittle it down, if they can.

    Oh, there’s more stuff, but I tire, and I’ll bet you do too.

    Luck to Trump, who isn’t short of pluck. And to us all, good luck!