Monday, July 16, 2018

Mr. Trump is Not Authorized to Speak For the Trump Administration, part 42

Art by Jim Cooke via the late lamented Gawker, March 2016, from a lovely and prophetic Ashley Feinberg piece.

Kenneth Adelman, of all people, Ronald Reagan's UN ambassador and lead arms control negotiator and, as I just learned, author of Shakespeare in Charge: The Bard's Guide to Leading and Succeeding on the Business Stage—but also a Republican who managed to denounce the Iraq invasion by 2006 and vote for Obama in 2008—showed up on both NPR and BBC this morning to provide some advance panditry on the Trump-Putin summit or whatever it is.

He said something I thought was kind of interesting: NPR's interviewer, Noel King, was confronting him with the line that the Trump administration had after all been very tough on the Putin regime, sanctioning them in various ways, and Adelman just said no; the US government did that stuff—I guess he meant primarily Secretary Mattis and the Congressional leadership—and he welcomed it, but Trump himself wasn't working in the interests of the US government, but his own, the political interest of satisfying his base. He could have gone further, I think, and said that Trump has worked consistently against the US government on the Russia issue, trying to stop the sanctions or counter them in any way he can, and he could have suggested that Trump works in his financial interests too, funneling taxpayer money into his businesses and continuing to look for opportunities: I'm absolutely convinced he hasn't given up on the idea of that Trump Tower Moscow. What else could he have meant in that bizarre pair of tweets?

He wasn't suggesting the "great city of Moscow" could be presented to the US as some kind of colony, he was suggesting it might be turned over directly to him, and while it was what he calls "joking", even a Trumpian joke has to sit in some view of reality. What else could he have been imagining "giving him Moscow" would entail other than a hotel-and-condo license? You might think he wouldn't dare to say such a thing in public, but I think it wouldn't bother his base at all—they'd congratulate him! What a dealmaker! And when the media complains, you see, he can't follow the ethical arguments; he hasn't got any room in his brain for somebody thinking "Trump is corrupt" (fake news!). The only criticism he can directly imagine in advance is somebody belittling the size of his hands or of one of his deals.

But the point I thought Adelman was hinting at was something I've long thought myself; that Trump isn't, in a sense, even in the government, or at least really doesn't think of himself that way. That explains another strange tweet:

Writers have generally interpreted this as a dig at Obama, which it is, but it's also aimed at right now, at the people in Congress and the defense and intelligence agencies who are doing more or less what Obama would wish them to do, and the Department of Justice pursuing the investigation of the Russian cyberattack on the US election process. Trump may be the president of the United States, but he regards the government as his enemy, like Mao Zedong on the verge of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. He may well be right, in a sense; slavish as his government generally seems, Mao's was even more slavish than that, and yet he worked to destroy it for ten years.

Trump certainly can't command the kind of backing Mao had, but our government isn't very well equipped to withstand him. Let's see if we can't give him a real enemy in November.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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