The Economist Asks: Has Donald Trump reinvented the American presidency?

 Economist Radio — Podcasts 

This week we speak to Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey, senior fellows at The Brookings Institution and the authors of “Unmaking the presidency”

AFTER BEING acquitted in the Senate, Donald Trump will be the first president to run for reelection having been impeached. Anne McElvoy asks Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey, the authors of “Unmaking the presidency”, about whether the verdict strengthens Mr Trump’s electoral hand. Will the way Mr Trump is reshaping the presidency outlast him and could he be changing the office for the better?  PODCAST RUNTIME: 28 min       

READ MORE: https://www.economist.com/podcasts/2020/02/06/has-donald-trump-reinvented-the-american-presidency?article-link-8

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  • Clyde Duncan  On February 7, 2020 at 11:47 am

    Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They Didn’t Rig the Iowa Caucus

    Conspiracy theories aren’t always true, but that doesn’t mean something isn’t up.

    Shuja Haider | The Outline

    If YOU, like me, were watching the disastrous Iowa caucus unfold on Monday night, you were probably already losing your mind when you first heard the words “quality control”.

    The Iowa Democratic Party cited this ominously vague factor as the reason it declined to provide the hotly anticipated results of its presidential primary caucus, which, two days later, have still not appeared in full.

    Stranger insinuations began to emerge. A state-wide technological glitch had inhibited data collection. An Iowa Democratic party representative hung up the phone on a CNN anchor, live on national television.

    If YOU, like me, then turned to the internet to fill in the blanks, YOUR SANITY MAY HAVE TAKEN A TURN FOR THE WORSE.

    Rumors began to spread that the smartphone app used for reporting data was developed by Shadow Inc, a subsidiary of ACRONYM. This is a better joke than the fictional agency CONTROL, in the Cold War-era spy thriller satire Get Smart.

    ANYWAY, THINGS GOT WEIRDER. Whatever the implication of these facts, they are facts:

    MULTIPLE FACTORS, BOTH PERSONAL AND FINANCIAL, TIE PETE BUTTIGIEG AND HIS CAMPAIGN TO SHADOW, which has also had ongoing dealings with the Democratic Party nationally.

    A week before the caucuses, the Wall Street Journal reported that “critics expressed concern about the reliability of the app amid warnings that cyber adversaries could seek to disrupt the 2020 elections.”

    As the chips began to fall, Joe Biden, who by all accounts appears to be the loser, implied that the process was somehow fixed, an accusation he has largely been permitted to say by those who usually tut-tut these kinds of claims.

    Buttigieg gleefully declared victory before any results had been announced at all, a brazen act of exhibitionism that seemed all the more suspect after a partial release of results showed him holding a narrow lead. I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I WENT TO BED SEETHING.

    IT IS NOT UNREASONABLE TO WONDER, IN AN EVENT LIKE THIS, IF THE OUTCOME WAS TO ANY EXTENT DELIBERATE, PERHAPS ARRANGED BY SOME SECRET COTERIE OF BUTTIGIEG OPERATIVES.

    THIS IS, AFTER ALL, A MAN WHO WORKED FOR A COMPANY THAT WAS FIXING BREAD PRICES.

    His campaign spiked the release of the Des Moines Register poll in advance of the caucus — which, if it corresponds to the popular vote from the caucuses, probably showed Bernie Sanders in the lead.

    The incident also follows a string of reports that showed general animosity from the Democratic establishment towards Sanders — statements disparaging him from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had circulated, the Democratic National Committee mulled over various procedural changes to obstruct him, and John Kerry was overheard considering entering the race to stop him.

    GROWN-UPS, HOWEVER, WILL ADMONISH US NOT TO ENGAGE IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES.

    This fiasco does not represent the machinations of power, they say, merely human error. “Folks who are claiming anything may be rigged sound like Trump,” said Neera Tanden.

    FORMER GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC REP. STACEY ABRAMS OFFERED A FIRM ADMONISHMENT:

    Voters need to trust the election process, regardless of who is operating the system. Mistakes were made in Iowa, and voters’ confidence has been shaken. But people should not lose faith in our democracy. We must keep voting, while we demand accountability and improvement.

    THIS IS AN ASTONISHING STATEMENT FROM ABRAMS, WHO LOST THE 2018 GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION DUE TO WIDESPREAD VOTER DISENFRANCHISEMENT — to the point that she never officially conceded the election.

    Donald J. Trump:
    When will the Democrats start blaming RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, instead of their own incompetence for the voting disaster that just happened in the Great State of Iowa?

    “CONSPIRACY THEORY” HAS BECOME A SHORTHAND FOR SOMETHING THAT IS NOT TRUE, ALTHOUGH THIS IS NOT WHAT THE WORDS MEAN.

    THERE IS A LEGAL DEFINITION OF A CONSPIRACY, the agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal or secret act.

    The form that theories of conspiracy usually take in the popular imagination are of social control by a small group of powerful people exerting a secret influence.

    INCONVENIENTLY, THIS IS EXACTLY THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS.

    Indeed, if you believed that the incident that precipitated the Vietnam War had not taken place, you would be a conspiracy theorist. YOU WOULD ALSO BE CORRECT — THE GULF OF TONKIN INCIDENT of August 4, 1964, according to then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, DID NOT OCCUR.

    If you believed that the CIA funded the drug trade in one South American country in the 1980s in order to install a right-wing dictatorship in another one, THAT WOULD BE A CONSPIRACY THEORY — AND IT IS TRUE.

    All evidence, including that which was collected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, overseen by John Kerry, suggests that the US State Department under the Reagan administration funneled money to Colombian drug cartels in order to provide support for the Nicaraguan Contras. ARMS SALES TO IRAN WERE ALSO INVOLVED.

    IF YOU BELIEVED THAT THE NIXON ADMINISTRATION BROKE INTO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HEADQUARTERS ON THE TESTIMONY OF A GUY WHO NAMED HIMSELF AFTER A PORN MOVIE, THAT WOULD BE A PARTICULARLY GOOFY CONSPIRACY THEORY — AND IT UNDENIABLY HAPPENED.

    We now use its name — WATERGATE — as a shorthand for any scandal.

    HEY, REMEMBER HOW THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION MADE UP EVIDENCE FOR NONEXISTENT WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION IN IRAQ? — THAT IS A CONSPIRACY FACT, FRIENDS.

    LET US TAKE THE MOST RIDICULOUS CONSPIRACY THEORY IN RECENT MEMORY: — PIZZAGATE.

    Some people believed that the American ruling class was running a pedophile ring that included participation from the Clintons and took place in the basement of a pizzeria. The rational response was to say, there is no evidence for this. Beyond that, many people argued that such a thing was fanciful and unlikely on its face.

    But the fact of the matter is that if you were a rational observer who believed in the honor and straightforwardness of the American ruling class, YOU WERE MORE DELUSIONAL than any of the CONSPIRACY THEORISTS.

    REVELATIONS ABOUT JEFFERY EPSTEIN SHOWED THAT PIZZAGATE WAS EFFECTIVELY TRUE; it was merely the details that were wrong.

    Instead of being located in a pizzeria, the pedophile ring was on a private island, which was accessed on a plane known by the comically on-the-nose name “LOLITA EXPRESS”.

    That Epstein died in his jail cell during lapses in surveillance may well have a banal explanation, but the more meaningful question is whose interests it served – Cui bono?

    As Laura Wagner wrote about the Iowa caucus at Vice, “To sincerely believe in a villainous conspiracy ripped from a B-movie would miss an obvious explanation here, of course, BUT TO DISMISS THE ROLE OF MOTIVE WOULD MISS SOMETHING ALSO.”

    It is part of the point of social power that it does not require elaborate plots to carry out and enforce. This is why, when debating the details of whether or not some particular incident took place — say, the rigging of an election — WE RISK OBSCURING THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THE EXERCISE AND ABUSE OF POWER IS ABUNDANT.

    The BBC journalist Andrew Marr once interviewed Noam Chomsky on his critique of media, and took the implication that he served the interests of power somewhat personally. “How can you know I’m self-censoring?” he asked Chomsky.

    “I’m not saying you’re self-censoring,” Chomsky replied. “I’m sure you believe everything you say. But what I’m saying is if you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.”

    This is the meaningful question: Who gets to sit where they sit, whether it’s on CNN, in the DNC, or the Iowa Democratic Party. That question shouldn’t live or die with the details of one vote.

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 7, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    …. That question shouldn’t live or die with the details of one vote.

    While talking about ONE VOTE — Look what is happening in Thuringia, Germany

    SOME HISTORY BUFFS MAY RECALL THAT THE VERY FIRST NAZI PARTY

    CABINET MINISTERS WERE APPOINTED IN THURINGIA – IN 1931, TWO

    YEARS BEFORE HITLER TOOK OVER ALL OF GERMANY.

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 7, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    Berlin Bulletin No. 173 February 7, 2020 — Victor Grossman – A FASCIST COUP

    While millions this week stared at Iowa and Washington with worried amazement, confusion or anger, Germany, too, had its own messy confusion – which turned into a frightening alarm signal!

    For the very first time, a state government – in Thuringia – was able to achieve rule with the support of the far, far right Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party whose leaders are in a continuous flirt with Nazi phrases, Nazi goals and Nazi methods.

    Every other party has sworn up and down never ever to have anything to do with AfD! Although there were suspiciously contrary murmurs in some circles of the Christian Democrats [CDU, Merkel’s party], this pledge had been kept. Until Wednesday, February 5, 2020.

    The events that day were astounding. Thuringia had not had a regular, stable government since its elections last October. The three-party coalition which ruled since 2014 – and since October on a temporary caretaker basis – was led by Bodo Ramelow of the LINKE (Left) party.

    It was the first and only state government ever led by the LINKE – together with the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens as junior partners AND BASED ON AN ULTRA-SHAKY MAJORITY OF ONE SINGLE VOTE IN THE LEGISLATURE.

    The LINKE minister-president is Bodo Ramelow, 63, a union leader who had moved to East Germany after unification. He proved to be not the radical Bolshevik fire-eater so many had almost hysterically warned about but rather a mild-mannered father-figure, always accompanied by his little terrier Attila, and with a somewhat leftist program.

    Last October his party defied East German trends and increased the LINKE share of the votes (to 31%) – and 29 seats (of a total 90). But both partners, the Greens and especially the SPD, had slumped – and now the three together had only 42 seats, INSTEAD OF THE ONE-SEAT MAJORITY now four seats short.

    And neither the CDU nor the equally right-wing, stoutly pro-capitalist Free Democrats (FDP) – misleadingly called the Liberals – was willing to join up with those blood-red “Honecker-followers”, no matter how mild and even anti-GDR, Ramelow had become.

    One other party had also gained votes in October – and that was the fascist AfD.

    With 23.4% and 22 seats they were in second place, a result of East German disappointment, insecurity about the future, and well-founded feeling of being second-class citizens in united Germany – plus the hatred of foreigners infused by the rightists, with more than enough assistance from the oh-so-democratic mass media plus vicious campaigns in the social media.

    But all the other parties had made that pledge – never ever with fascists! So, there seemed only one way out. Ramelow would continue the three-way coalition as a minority government, dependent in every vote on every issue in the legislature on at least temporary support from a few CDU or FDP voters. A very shaky set-up indeed, but seemingly the only possibility. And everybody reckoned with it – or so it seemed.

    But behind the scenes another scheme was being hatched out.

    The rules called for three secret votes. If, in the first two, no candidate won a full majority then, in a third vote, a plurality would suffice – simply more votes than anyone else. As expected Ramelow missed out in the first two. He expected to win out as the only candidate in the third vote – or possibly against a weaker AfD candidate.

    Then, suddenly, in jumped another counter-candidate, the almost unknown Thomas Kemmerich, 54, local head of the FDP, which had only barely crossed the necessary 5% hurdle to get seated at all.

    It got about 5.0005 % – with a plus of 71 votes, many from his own family with its six sons and daughters plus in-laws. But in that secret ballot he not only got his own five-man caucus votes but those of all AfD members as well, who had obviously made a deal to drop their own hopeless candidate.

    Even together the two had only 26 delegates, however. It was the secret support by the CDU delegates which, defying all their party’s pledges, joined the AfD to give Kemmerich the needed success: 45 to 44.

    Ramelow was out! And, like a thunderbolt from Hades, was the fact that the AfD, while probably not officially in the new government, would have veto power over its every decision.

    Far worse, the CDU, [Merkel’s party] the biggest party in Germany – or its local affiliate – had broken the taboo on the fascists.

    The AfD leader in Berlin triumphed: “It has finally become clear that there is a majority, not only on paper, against Left-Social Democrat-Green domination… away from de-industrialization, hatred of automobiles, climate hysteria as well as from gender gaga and antifa violence.”

    It was thus in peaceful Thuringia, Germany’s “green lung”, with its handsome hilly forests and wonderful old castles and historic cities – Weimar, Eisenach, Erfurt, Jena – that the AfD had its first major success – and where it has long been most virulent. Its up-and-coming boss, Björn Höcke, is notorious for comments against JEWS, AFRICANS, the LEFT:

    “Christianity and Judaism are an antagonism. That is why I cannot comprehend the term ‘Christian-Judeo Occident’”.

    Or, denouncing the monument to Holocaust victims in Berlin, Höcke said:

    “We Germans, our people, are the only people in the world to plant a monument of shame in the center of their capital.”

    “I don’t want Germany to have only a thousand-year past. I want Germany to also have a thousand-year future.” – It was Hitler who constantly spoke of his Thousand Year Reich!

    Looking forward to a future AfD rule, he said: “A few corrections and small reforms will not be sufficient, but German resoluteness will guarantee that we will grasp things decisively and basically. When the change-over takes place we Germans will not take half-way measures, the garbage dumps of modernism will then be removed.”

    Making his plans even clearer, Höcke, when a TV moderator dared to disagree with him, responded:

    “I can assure you that this will have massive consequences… perhaps someday I will become an interesting personal and political personality in this country:

    It can happen. And then I wish you great success in your career.” SOON AFTER HE GOT UP AND WALKED OUT.

    With the pledge by all other parties never to collaborate in any way with the AfD now broken by two of them, and its resultant taboo-break and gain of influence in Germany, other omens took on added significance:

    The leading cop in a Berlin borough seen lunching, chatting and driving off with a leader of a pro-Nazi gang which has been threatening anti-fascists, smearing Nazi symbols on their homes, burning one of their cars. There was more news of pro-Nazi elements in the armed forces.

    Of down-pedaled connections or even collusion between serial murderers of immigrants and police agents supposedly observing them, with evidence locked away (for 120 years) by a top CDU leader.

    OF YEAR-LONG ATTEMPTS TO COVER UP THE BURNING TO DEATH OF AN AFRICAN IMMIGRANT WHILE SHACKLED IN A JAIL CELL.

    Or the friendly relationship between the ex-head of the FBI-equivalent Constitutional Protection Agency with AfD leaders.

    Or current attempts to remove vital tax exemption from the Victims of Fascism-Anti-Fascist Union (VVN-BdA).

    ALL ARE CAUSES FOR ALARM IN A COUNTRY WHICH, AFTER BREXIT, EXERCISES A DOMINANT ROLE IN EUROPEAN UNION RE-ARMAMENT, MILITARY MANEUVERING AND EXPANSION, BOTH WITHIN AND OUTSIDE NATO.

    AND SOME HISTORY BUFFS RECALL THAT THE VERY FIRST NAZI PARTY CABINET MINISTERS WERE APPOINTED IN THURINGIA – IN 1931, TWO YEARS BEFORE HITLER TOOK OVER ALL OF GERMANY.

    I REGRET WRITING SUCH A WORRISOME BULLETIN. AND THERE IS ALSO GOOD NEWS – A MAJORITY IN GERMANY – AND THURINGIA – OPPOSE SUCH TENDENCIES.

    Many are fighting back – vigorously in the field of climate change, against rent increases with a key new law in Berlin, plus a referendum now gaining strength to confiscate the worst of the giant real estate moguls. And many, especially young people, are fighting back against the fascists. Which side will grow faster? I will have to put that question off to the next Berlin Bulletin.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    LATE NOTE. The anger of so many people, demonstrating all over Germany, plus many politicians, even Angela Merkel, repudiating Thuringian members of her party, caused Kemmerich to step down after one day. He called for special new elections in Thuringia.

  • Trevor  On February 7, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    Trump’s AmeriKKKa:

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 8, 2020 at 6:16 am

    IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: A FASCIST COUP – Lasted ONE DAY ….

    Then, suddenly, in jumped another counter-candidate, the almost unknown Thomas Kemmerich, 54, local head of the FDP, which had only barely crossed the necessary 5% hurdle to get seated at all.

    It got about 5.0005 % – with a plus of 71 votes, many from his own family with its six sons and daughters plus in-laws. But in that secret ballot he not only got his own five-man caucus votes but those of all AfD members as well, who had obviously made a deal to drop their own hopeless candidate.

    ….. the thunderbolt from Hades – the fact that the AfD, while probably not officially in the new government, would have veto power over its every decision … — Could NOT survive the Fire and Brimstone of Angela Merkel and the rest of Germany.

    Thomas Kemmerich resigned and called for new elections AFTER ONE DAY!

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