Saturday, June 13, 2020

Why Trump Is in Trouble

Trump is staggering.  He’s plunging in the polls, and his behavior has become erratic and unhinged.  I don’t mean he’s being crude, infantile and wrapped in a world of fantasy—he’s always like that.  Rather, I see him as suddenly incoherent, fumbling with threats and catchphrases as if he were locked out of his house at night, frantically trying one key after another to see if any will work.

Why?

Here’s my theory: throughout his career, Trump has been resolutely self-defining.  He selects his issues, positions and attributes (clever deal-maker, hardass boss, financial/sexual/political winner, tough guy warrior for patriarchal values, underdog rebel against the Establishment) to construct a persona of his own choice.  He takes the initiative.

2016 was a great year for him.  While much was wrong with America, none of it was urgent in a screaming you-can’t-look-away-from-this sort of way.  There was plenty of political space for Trump to define what he thought the country should be focused on and why he would be the one to fix it.  The media provided invaluable service, making a big deal of every tweet, boastful claim or rally-fueled hyperbole.  Through them, Trump told us what the election was about: the invasion of dangerous immigrants pouring through our undefended borders, the humiliation of the America by China, and the haughty, corrupt elitism of Democratic politicians.  Even by disputing his take on these things, the media reinforced the notion that these were the main issues facing the country.

What has collapsed for Trump, finally in 2020, is not just the economy, the health of the population or the racial order, but his ability to determine what the issues are: he has lost control of the narrative.  This is not because the Democrats have beat him at his own game.  On the contrary, they are as clueless about these things as they’ve always been.  His problem is that we are facing real crises that demand our attention whether we want them to or not.  Trump has almost no influence over what politics are about in an election year; the pandemic, the economy and the revulsion against racism and police violence define the political moment on their own.  This is why he seems to be flailing: his entire career has been based on his projection of his needs onto the world, and he has hardly any capacity to respond to the demands of others.

Bad news for Trump: we don’t know how long the current challenge to the racial order will last, but the pandemic and the economic crisis will be with us well beyond November.  They will call the shots.  Trump can blather about some other fantasy issue being the real problem, but few will listen.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Robert Dorman:

What has collapsed for Trump, finally in 2020, is not just the economy, the health of the population or the racial order, but his ability to determine what the issues are: he has lost control of the narrative....

[ Perfect, from my perspective as well. For all the power of the presidency, which I take as too far-reaching no matter the president, I do not think Donald Trump can define policy any longer. ]

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

All true. But another things happening now tht he has just hit 74 is that he seems to be losing it. Age? Apparently he was barely able to drink a glass of water during his West Point speech, and then he had trouble walking down the steps. This is on top of such new bizarrenesses as his claim that 75-year old Martin Gugino is an antifa provocateur who faked his fall that had him bleeding from the ear and who supposedly was blocking police radio transmissions with his cell phone.

ilsm said...

I am choosing none of the above.

We have the choice of two old white men.

One of whose supporters are incited to mayhem by ambulance chasers on CNN. The other's adherents listen to Sean Hannity!

I will vote against the incumbents!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant to write above

"Peter" Dorman.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

I was going to put a separate post up on this, but it follows too closely on my earlier comment here.

Looks like Trump played it mostly safe with his speech, mostly boilerplate about how wonderful and diverse the grads are and how the nation should unify. Seems to have stuck to the script pretty carefully, not whiz bombs or off the cuff outrageous ramblings. Largely not very newsworthy.

I do note one sneaky detail in his speech which readers of Anonymous here will appreciate (even you, ilsm). It seems that Trump mentioned only two generals, at least he mentioned them together as generic examples of heroic West Point grads even if he mentioned others elsewhere. Well, a curious detail those two share is that it was the two of them that brought in the tanks and heavy artillery to drive the Bonus Army off the DC mall in 1932, the most massive use of US military against peaceful civilians in US history. It seems he did not make a connection to or explicit comment about the current situation, but I am sure that even with his mind dribbling away, Trump was fully aware of this connection when he mentioned those two in his commencement speech.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

ilsm,

If you think all these demonstrations that have now gone on for nearly three weeks and have now spread to other nations are all just due to "ambulance chasers at CNN," well, this looks very silly and foolish indeed.

We get it that you want to make an equivalence between the ongoing and repeated multiple lies issuing from the mouth of Hannity every night, but, sorry, there really is no comparison, and he has a much bigger audience for his lies than do the alleged ambulance chasers at CNN. You really need to get real, ilsm.

Anonymous said...

Barkley Rosser:

Trump mentioned only two generals, at least he mentioned them together as generic examples of heroic West Point grads even if he mentioned others elsewhere. Well, a curious detail those two share is that it was the two of them that brought in the tanks and heavy artillery to drive the Bonus Army off the DC mall in 1932, the most massive use of US military against peaceful civilians in US history. It seems he did not make a connection to or explicit comment about the current situation, but I am sure..., Trump was fully aware of this connection when he mentioned those two in his commencement speech.

[ I thought this was important. ]

pgl said...

"We have the choice of two old white men. One of whose supporters are incited to mayhem by ambulance chasers on CNN."

This from someone who is so old that his Russian bot programming has gone haywire!

ilsm said...

JBR,

Why not tell perpetrators "it is dangerous to fight with cops"?

I listened to that ambulance chaser CNN had up Saturday night, flipping back to Fox who was covering the insurgents' denying freedom of movement on I75/85. I have been through there on many occasions.

The ambulance chaser was totally one sided. He was introduced as the "Brooks family lawyer" Totally making the case the police were wrong. He was trying the cops using the official faux liberal mouth piece. With no one to 'instruct' the radicals on the CNN jury.

The two cops were thoroughly whupped by Rayshard Brooks. It was wrong to shot him, the event was an escalation of a violent assault which the two cops lost badly.

Linking that to racism is convenient for revolting.

I will not 'get real' with the 'group think' going around this revolting situation.

Whatever 'get real' may be.

pgl said...

"He was trying the cops using the official faux liberal mouth piece. With no one to 'instruct' the radicals on the CNN jury."

What a load of rubbish. I watched the video many times. #1 - they did not need to cuff him simply because he was drunk. They had the keys to his car. They could have had someone drive him home. Yea - the dude overreacted when they tried to cuff him. So they tried to taser him? Pathetic. Oh wait, he took the taser. And what was he doing when they killed him? Oh yea - running away. And you are OK with this? Look you pathetic Russian bot - I grew up in Atlanta and have relatives there. Do not take your Russian bot nonsense to my home town. Ever. They do not need Trumpian excuse makers like you as they have other issues to resolve.

ilsm said...

pgl,

rang your bell...... again.

I spent a night or two in Atlanta over the years.

Who said anything about okay. The two cops should have won the scuffle. I said it was an escalation that ended badly. There is due process for the officers.

The deceased could have done what he was told. Waiting on the toxicology which will never be headlined.

I see the mob is doing Altanta as WT Sherman did in 1864, I hope they do as well.

I've been through Atlanta enough to conclude burning would improve the place.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(It's been suggested that it's his height-enhancing elevator shoes.)

Trump’s Halting Walk Down Ramp Raises New Health Questions

President Trump faced new questions about his health on Sunday, after videos emerged of him gingerly walking down a ramp at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and having trouble bringing a glass of water to his mouth during a speech there.

Mr. Trump — who turned 74 on Sunday, the oldest a U.S. president has been in his first term — was recorded hesitantly descending the ramp one step at a time after he delivered an address to graduating cadets at the New York-based academy on Saturday. The academy’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, walked alongside him. Mr. Trump sped up slightly for the final three steps, as he got to the bottom. ...

Mr. Trump posted defensively on Twitter late Saturday night about the video circulating of his walk, and offered a description that did not match the visuals.

“The ramp that I descended after my West Point Commencement speech was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery,” Mr. Trump wrote. “The last thing I was going to do is ‘fall’ for the Fake News to have fun with. Final ten feet I ran down to level ground. Momentum!”

There was no evidence that the ramp was slippery, and the skies were clear during the ceremony. ...

Roger Fox said...

When Trump was elected, I thought: well, he’s run every organization he’s ever led into the ground. So the only question is which organization he’s going to screw up now: the republican party, or the United States of America.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Anonymous,

I should have named the generals in question: MacArthur and Patton. There is an argument for him mentioning MacArthur, of whom there is a large statue right by where he spoke. But adding Patton to MacArthur kind of gives it away.

I would also note that he made numerous incorrect claims about his military and foreign policies, although that is completely de rigueur for him. Among the several areas he lied about included statements about military funding as well as a claim that he defeated ISIS "100%" and that Obama had nothing to do with setting up the campaign against them.

Fred,

Not only were skies clear, but he did not "run the last ten feet."

ilsm,

Let us see. Brooks was shot in the back. I do not have anything further to say on that one.

As for other stuff, let me note a few further things where things have gotten much worse for the Trump side of things.

One is the matter of the 75-year old protester pushed to the ground, with Trump saying that was fine because he was an "antifa provocateur" who staged his fall, despite bleeding when he fell and stiil in the hospital with a fractured skull. Of course he was not remotely violent when shoved and left to lie on the ground by passing police, and apparently is a long time pacifist and member of the Catholic Worker movement.

Going beyond that is that there are more and more reports on what a total fake news story all this ranting about Antifa being done by Trump, Barr, and others in the admin. It does not exist as a group. There have been a few small demos in the northwest by local groups claiming that name, but zero people have been killed by them. It is also the case that while Trump admin has claimed they have thrown Molotov cocktails, they have not, total lie. instead, right wing groups have been arrested for bringing Molotov cocktails to demos recently. And those groups have killed 144 people since Trump became president. The FBI views these right wing groups as the main danger and threat in the current demos, but one does not hear that out of the Trump admin or Fox News, which was actually caught altering images to make Antifa look not only like an actual group but one engaged in violent and destructive actions that they were not involved in.

Then we have the long and careful report in WaPo today. it is now clear that the attack on the peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square was due to a last minute decision following Trump saying he wanted to cross the square after his Rose Garden speech to do his photo op with an upside-down backwards Bible. The various excuses given by Barr and the Park police have now been shown to be just plain out lies from testimony by numerous officials involved in all the planning associated with this.

Sorry, ilsm, you still need to get real, unless you have just completely lost touch with reality. Are you also having trouble drinking glasses of water and walking down non-steep and non-slippery ramps?

Oh, and Brooks grabbing a cop's taser was clearly a dumb thing to do, but that did not justify them shooting him in the back, and it certainly does not obviate the massive discrepancy in reporting by various media, with Fox being caught red-handed distorting images and fully lying, in contrast with CNN and other MSM.

So, get real, ilsm.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(An article in The Atlantic from
before to the infamous 2016 election.)

Donald Trump and the Generals

James Fallows - October 10, 2016

In most of his speeches Trump mentions those same two generals. Reader Marcus Hall assesses what the reliance on Patton and MacArthur might tell us about Trump:

It is easy to see why these two military legends are attractive to Trump:

1) Both were known as showmen and motivators. This is clearly Trump’s modus operandi as well; he is most comfortable being the showman and motivator. ...

2) Both were known to take personal animus against rivals on their own side to extremes. Think of Patton’s constant infighting with Montgomery, and his less than amicable relationship to Bradley after Sicily.

3) Both were known for strident aggressive stances against an enemy without consideration for larger picture effects. MacArthur’s blunders with antagonizing the Chinese after Inchon, and Patton’s immediate post-war desire to go to war with the Soviets before the armed forces and the country (or its non-Russian allies) could even recover from WWII.

4) Both faced disgrace at the hands of the media and at the hands of those who were better able to handle the larger context of events (Eisenhower for Patton, and Truman for MacArthur).

5) Both had authoritarian tendencies supposedly in defense of freedom.

6) Both are seen as the epitome of the “masculine” general—the ones who take action and get the job done, rather than the kind of general who sees complexity and takes a more complicated approach (Patton v. Eisenhower and Bradley, or MacArthur v. Ridgeway).

7) Both had great strengths but fatal flaws that ended (or almost ended) their careers. Patton’s consideration of PTSD as cowardly is particularly insightful, as some of Trump’s comments seem to indicate a similar attitude.

Trump’s use of these particular generals fits in line with both his own, and his base supporters’, attitudes towards conflict, war, and masculinity. These men chose to see events in binary paradigms and reacted accordingly—hero/coward, friend/enemy, good/bad—with deliberate elimination of room for something in-between or more complex. With Trump, if something’s good, it is The Greatest. If something is bad, it is totally The Worst. His choice of dichotomy helps make issues simpler and condenses them for people who don’t want to spend a lot of time (or can’t spend a lot of time) determining complexity, or who don’t want to be bothered with complexity. ...

RW said...

ISTR Eisenhower was MacArthur's aide at the time and would probably have been involved in some phase of planning and/or implementation of the attack. Patton was cavalry and certainly involved in the attack. Neither Eisenhower nor Patton were generals at the time AFAIC but, regardless, Eisenhower was clearly not Trump's idea of a model military dude.

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rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

RW,

Eisenhower was "involved" in the Bonus Army matter as a major under MacArthur, but criticized what MacArthur did then and there, although I do not know exactly when and how he communicated that view.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

During the (Bonus March) military operation, Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, later the 34th president of the United States, served as one of MacArthur's junior aides. Believing it wrong for the Army's highest-ranking officer to lead an action against fellow American war veterans, he strongly advised MacArthur against taking any public role: "I told that dumb son-of-a-bitch not to go down there," he said later. "I told him it was no place for the Chief of Staff." Despite his misgivings, Eisenhower later wrote the Army's official incident report that endorsed MacArthur's conduct. (Wikipedia)

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(On July 28, 1932) At 4:45 pm. commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, the 12th Infantry Regiment, Fort Howard, Maryland, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, supported by six M1917 light tanks commanded by Maj. George S. Patton, formed in Pennsylvania Avenue while thousands of civil service employees left work to line the street and watch. The Bonus Marchers, believing the troops were marching in their honor, cheered the troops until Patton ordered the cavalry to charge them, which prompted the spectators to yell, "Shame! Shame!" (Wikipedia)

Anonymous said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/world/europe/dexamethasone-coronavirus-covid.html

June 16, 2020

Low-Cost Drug Reduces Coronavirus Deaths, Scientists Say
A steroid, dexamethasone, is the first drug proven to reduce coronavirus-related deaths, according to scientists at the University of Oxford in Britain.
By Benjamin Mueller

LONDON — Scientists at the University of Oxford said on Tuesday that they had identified what they called the first drug proven to reduce coronavirus-related deaths, after a 6,000-patient trial in Britain showed that a low-cost steroid prevented the deaths of some hospitalized patients.

The steroid, dexamethasone, a well-known anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to help patients with severe cases of the virus: It reduced deaths by a third in patients receiving ventilation, and by a fifth in patients receiving standard oxygen treatment, the scientists said. They found no benefit from the drug for patients who did not need respiratory support.

Medical experts said that further study was needed to determine precisely how the steroid helped patients but that it appeared to reduce damage to lung tissue. Experts said it appeared that the steroid tamped down the overactive inflammatory response to the virus in some patients, known as a cytokine storm, rather than inhibiting the virus itself.

The trial results have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but the findings will be welcomed as scientists around the world race to find ways to treat a virus that has killed nearly 440,000 people and infected more than eight million.

Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, said doctors in the country’s National Health Service would begin using the steroid as the standard treatment for hospitalized coronavirus patients on Tuesday afternoon.

The government started stockpiling dexamethasone several months ago based on signs that it could help patients, Mr. Hancock said, and now has 200,000 doses on hand.

“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in Covid-19,” one of the chief investigators for the trial, Peter Horby, who is a professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment.”

Professor Horby said that dexamethasone should now become the “standard of care in these patients,” noting that it was inexpensive, widely available and could be used immediately.

Some doctors urged caution about the results. With scientists rushing to identify treatments for the virus as the outbreak spread around the world, some high-profile findings have had to be retracted or walked back in recent months.

But outside experts said the early results were promising.

“This outcome for patients suffering from severe Covid-19 in need of respiratory assistance is of tremendous importance,” Dr. Stephen Griffin, an associate professor in virology at the University of Leeds, said in comments to Britain’s Science Media Centre. “The low cost and broad availability of this drug means that there is potential for considerable clinical impact by including it as part of standard treatment.”

Dr. Griffin said further research would be important in establishing how the steroid might be combined with virus-targeted therapies like remdesivir.

As part of the trial, about 2,100 patients were given low doses of dexamethasone, orally or intravenously, once a day. Their outcomes were compared to another 4,300 patients who received the usual care.

Based on their findings, the Oxford scientists said, the drug would prevent one death for every eight ventilated patients.

Anonymous said...

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

June 16, 2020

Coronavirus

US

Cases   ( 2,186,923)
Deaths   ( 118,431)

UK

Cases   ( 298,136)
Deaths   ( 41,969)

Notice the death to confirmed coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom is a startling and distressing 14.1%.

Anonymous said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/upshot/coronavirus-test-cost-varies-widely.html

June 16, 2020

Most Coronavirus Tests Cost About $100. Why Did One Cost $2,315?
U.S. health care prices are unregulated, opaque and unpredictable. When Congress required insurers to cover Covid-19 testing, a few providers decided to take advantage.
By Sarah Kliff

In a one-story brick building in suburban Dallas, between a dentist office and a family medicine clinic, is a medical laboratory that has run some of the most expensive coronavirus tests in America.

Insurers have paid Gibson Diagnostic Labs as much as $2,315 for individual coronavirus tests. In a couple of cases, the price rose as high as $6,946 when the lab said it mistakenly charged patients three times the base rate.

The company has no special or different technology from, say, major diagnostic labs that charge $100. It is one of a small number of medical labs, hospitals and emergency rooms taking advantage of the way Congress has designed compensation for coronavirus tests and treatment.

“We’ve seen a small number of laboratories that are charging egregious prices for Covid-19 tests,” said Angie Meoli, a senior vice president at Aetna, one of the insurers required to cover testing costs.

How can a simple coronavirus test cost $100 in one lab and 2,200 percent more in another? It comes back to a fundamental fact about the American health care system: The government does not regulate health care prices.

This tends to have two major outcomes that health policy experts have seen before, and are seeing again with coronavirus testing.

The first is high prices over all. Most medical care in the United States costs double or triple what it would in a peer country. An appendectomy, for example, costs $3,050 in Britain and $6,710 in New Zealand, two countries that regulate health prices. In the United States, the average price is $13,020.

The second outcome is huge price variation, as each doctor’s office and hospital sets its own charges for care. One 2012 study found that hospitals in California charge between $1,529 and $182,955 for uncomplicated appendectomies.

“It’s not unheard-of that one hospital can charge 100 times the price of another for the same thing,” said Dr. Renee Hsia, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and an author of the appendectomy study. “There is no other market I can think of where that happens except health care.”

There is little evidence that higher prices correlate with better care. What’s different about the more expensive providers is that they’ve set higher prices for their services.

Patients are, in the short run, somewhat protected from big coronavirus testing bills. The federal government set aside $1 billion to pick up the tab for uninsured Americans who get tested. For the insured, federal laws require that health plans cover the full costs of coronavirus testing without applying a deductible or co-payment.

But American patients will eventually bear the costs of these expensive tests in the form of higher insurance premiums. In some cases, they are paying for additional tests, for flu and other respiratory diseases, that doctors tack onto coronavirus orders. Those charges are not exempt from co-payments and can fall into a patient’s deductible.

Those kinds of bills could make patients wary of seeking care or testing in the future, which could enable the further spread of coronavirus. In an April poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that most Americans were worried they wouldn’t be able to afford coronavirus testing or treatment if they needed it....

Anonymous said...

Thinking to this column by Paul Krugman, * I have 2 questions. First, the stock market is moved primarily by institutional investors rather than small speculators and a movement of current magnitude must show institutional buying. Second, the stock and bond market rebound has meant that institutional and pension oriented investors have in general recovered all losses from the sudden decline, so why not credit the Federal Reserve for necessarily stabilizing values?

* https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/15/opinion/coronavirus-stock-market.html

June 15, 2020

Market Madness in the Pandemic
Why are investors rushing to buy junk?

Anonymous said...

The understanding I have is that the Federal Reserve has stabilized bond and stock markets for institutional investors, and this is important in providing for general economic recovery. That there is no doubt speculation in the stock market is of little importance given the protection of pensions and non-speculative institutional portfolios.

Anonymous said...

Rephrasing:

Thinking to the column by Paul Krugman, I have 2 questions.  First, since the general stock market is moved primarily by institutional investors rather than small speculators, doesn't a movement of current magnitude show institutional buying?  Second, the stock and bond market rebound has meant that institutional and pension oriented investors have in general recovered all losses from the sudden decline, so why not credit the Federal Reserve for necessarily stabilizing values?

ilsm said...

Covid 19,

Learning all the time, and sharing!

"dexamethasone" an anti inflammatory is consistent with use of similar compounds on Covid 19 patients in the US.

While "Ivermectin" (a generic, used to treat parasites) in the US has also shown reduction in morbidity among critical patients, these both need further study, but early compassionate use may be coming.

A lot is learned in NY Metro and other US centers!

There seems to be a relationship with Vit D deficiencies and Covid 19 complications. A strong immune system is needed.

There is talk of anti coagulants as well as early application of NSAIDs, especially aspirin.

MIT and several other tech schools are applying super computers and their expertise in data mining to sort out candidates for further use and testing.

I am hopeful for an effective arsenal of "treatment tools" soon, likely before a vaccine.

ilsm said...

According to the only "news letter" I read each day, and usually just skim, Mr Powell's comments yesterday described a 'facility' which would assure a "market" for corporate bonds which the issuer was somewhat solvent before March 2020.

On Jun 10 2020 the fed's "assets" were $7.169T up from $4.172T on Feb 19 2020. Remains to be seen how much of the new facility is backstopped by the fed.











Fred C. Dobbs said...

Kamala Harris rises to a top Democratic VP contender

via @BostonGlobe - June 20

WASHINGTON — As protests continued after the killing of George Floyd, community organizers in a recent virtual town hall pressed California Senator Kamala Harris on what should be done about racist cops and whether Congress would be “a wet blanket” on the hopes of young activists clamoring for big change.

In a warm but direct tone, the moderators also hit on perhaps the most significant concern regarding Harris as a top potential running mate for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden: How can people trust you to change the criminal justice system when, as California’s attorney general for six years, you were part of that system? ...

In recent weeks, Harris has seemed to hit her stride in making the case that she is a match for this moment as Biden prepares to face off against President Trump.

She marched with protesters in Washington, D.C. On “The View,” she skillfully defined protesters’ calls to “defund police” as a reimagining of how communities see public safety in America: less officers on the streets, greater investments in education, mental health resources, and affordable housing.

And in the virtual town hall, Harris didn’t hesitate on the tough questions about her record. She spoke with conviction of her decision to become a prosecutor after law school to spark change from within the office. Of course, she said, that was before Black Lives Matter existed to put on the pressure.

“To have those activists on the outside coupled with having some of us on the inside,” she said, “that’s where I believe the beauty is, in the ability to actually force the change to happen against — and believe me — very powerful forces that are against that change happening.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Now it's Tammy Duckworth ...

As for Trump...

America deserves better.

COVID-19 is ascendant, while White House leadership hits rock bottom. ...

Boston Globe editorial - June 30