Wednesday, May 15, 2019


I'm a congenital pessimist, but Yastreblyansky has me persuaded that President Trump isn't on the verge of going to war with Iran. It's not just that Trump disputed a report that said his White House is considering deploying 120,000 troops to Iran. There's also this:
Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane blasted the report that the Trump administration has updated plans to send more than 100,000 troops to counter Iran if necessary.

“It’s a distortion of what really happens,” he said on “The Story with Martha MacCallum.” “The president doesn’t even know what they are talking about.”

... Keane said the Trump administration isn’t looking for a regime change or a war, and that the president wants to negotiate with Iran and make better diplomatic deals.

He added, “President Trump is measured in dealing with Iran.”
Yastreblyansky writes:
That absolutely fits the Art of the Deal pattern: violent threats against Mexico and Canada provoking the NAFTA renegotiation, "fire and fury" talk on North Korea leading to the Singapore summit, even his behavior over the Affordable Care Act, which is meant to lead Congress to create something like Obamacare only with lots of marble and gold, the design of which is their problem, not his. [Trump's] fundamental playbook is really that narrow: scream until you get what you want or, more likely, an opportunity to pretend you got what you wanted, and what he basically wants from the presidency is just to get rid of Obama, obliterate him from human memory, and to have some self-esteem.

... He himself just wants to do his own deal, with his name on it, that will be the best deal ever made.

... he really wants to fall in love with old Khamenei, take pictures in one of those exquisitely furnished rooms, and sign a document. Not that Khamenei ever will, but Donald is full of hope....
That really might be what's on Trump's mind: I beat my chest, I scare the other side, then I make the greatest deal of all time, not like that wuss Obama. George W. Bush, after spending decades of his life being told that he was the black sheep of the family and wouldn't amount to anything, decided that war would prove he was a consequential person. You'd think Trump, who's never sure he's living up to what his father expected of him, would want to prove his worth by fighting a war, but instead he seems to prefer acting as if he's the world's greatest dealmaker.

If that's really what's going on -- if that's why we're not at war now -- were we spared thanks to the work of Tony Schwartz thirty-odd years ago?

You remember Tony Schwartz. He wrote a very negative story about Trump for New York magazine in the mid-1980s, but Trump inexplicably loved it. Eventually Schwartz was asked to write about Trump again, for Playboy. A 2016 New Yorker story by Jane Mayer explains what happened next:
... to [Schwartz's] frustration Trump kept making cryptic, monosyllabic statements. “He mysteriously wouldn’t answer my questions,” Schwartz said. After twenty minutes, he said, Trump explained that he didn’t want to reveal anything new about himself—he had just signed a lucrative book deal and needed to save his best material.

“What kind of book?” Schwartz said.

“My autobiography,” Trump replied.

“You’re only thirty-eight—you don’t have one yet!” Schwartz joked.

“Yeah, I know,” Trump said.

“If I were you,” Schwartz recalls telling him, “I’d write a book called ‘The Art of the Deal.’ That’s something people would be interested in.”

“You’re right,” Trump agreed. “Do you want to write it?”
Trump the Consummate Dealmaker was Schwartz's invention. Mayer goes on to explain how Schwartz massages the truth to make Trump seem brilliant and "palatable" to readers. (Schwartz thought he was odious.) But Schwartz succeeded, and now much of the world believes that Trump is the greatest dealmaker on the planet. Trump believes it.

I suppose we also need to thank whoever inspired Trump to acquire a taste for the company of strongmen and thugs. (Roy Cohn?) They're the only people (apart from his eldest daughter) Trump seems to love.

In any case, a man you'd think would be itching to go to war might not be, for these reasons. Thank you, Tony Schwartz -- and maybe Roy Cohn as well.

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