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Special Post-Election Bulletin 225: President-Elect Trump; letter to colleagues in government
November 9, 2016
Reminder: The Study Group will host a special talk and discussion on "New Directions in Nuclear Disarmament" on Friday, November 11, at 6:30 pm in Santa Fe at the Center Stage Performance Space, 505 Camino de Los Marquez (map).
Dear friends –
Many of our members and friends are grieving this morning about the coming Trump presidency, with a majority in both houses of Congress, so many elderly Supreme Court justices, and some pretty terrible Trump policy statements during the campaign, e.g. about climate change and energy, just to pick two we believe are critical. We share some, but by no means all, of that grief.
A lot of the grief we see is over the demise of a country (and a democracy) which do not exist. That grief is good. It’s part of the awakening process, frankly. It is easy to be in denial about the state of the country today, its prospects, what the US has been doing in the wider world, and – most relevantly here – the degree to which Ms. Clinton was a kind of mafia candidate. The fact is, a lot of US “soft power” around the world derives from the corruption of foreign leaders, governments, and economies. The Clintons made that a two-way street.
Mr. Trump’s sometimes-loathsome personal qualities, fantasy policies (e.g. in economic affairs), shoot-from-hip temperament, and general inexperience blinded many people to the extensive pattern of what appear to be “high crimes and misdemeanors” – constitutional grounds for impeachment proceedings, in other words – which Ms. Clinton would have brought into the White House.
Barrels of ink have already been expended already today analyzing this election – and entire train-loads over the campaign season – so I will mention and quote from just a few articles that might shed some additional light on this event. In the process I hope to call your attention again to some of the information and analytical sources in the blogroll of Forget the Rest (in the lower right-hand corner).
We find Consortium News to be an unsurpassed source of objective analysis of foreign policy news. Last night Robert Parry wrote (in “Why Trump Won; Why Clinton Lost”),
In the end, Hillary Clinton became the face of a corrupt, arrogant and out-of-touch Establishment, while Donald Trump emerged as an almost perfectly imperfect vessel for a populist fury that had bubbled beneath the surface of America.
The war choices of the neocon/liberal-hawk coalition have been disastrous – from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya to Syria to Ukraine – yet this collection of know-it-alls never experiences accountability. The same people, including the media’s armchair warriors and the think-tank “scholars,” bounce from one catastrophe to the next with no consequences for their fallacious “group thinks.” Most recently, they have ginned up a new costly and dangerous Cold War with Russia.
So, the American voters have plunged the United States and the world into uncharted territory behind a President-elect who lacks a depth of knowledge on a wide variety of issues. Who will guide a President Trump becomes the most pressing issue today.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona. March 21, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Will he rely on traditional Republicans who have done so much to mess up the country and the world or will he find some fresh-thinking realists who will realign policy with core American interests and values.
For this dangerous and uncertain moment, the Democratic Party establishment deserves a large share of the blame. Despite signs that 2016 would be a year for an anti-Establishment candidate – possibly someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders – the Democratic leadership decided that it was “Hillary’s turn.”
Alternatives like Warren were discouraged from running so there could be a Clinton “coronation.” That left the 74-year-old socialist from Vermont as the only obstacle to Clinton’s nomination and it turned out that Sanders was a formidable challenger. But his candidacy was ultimately blocked by Democratic insiders, including the unelected “super-delegates” who gave Clinton an early and seemingly insurmountable lead.
With blinders firmly in place, the Democrats yoked themselves to Clinton’s gilded carriage and tried to pull it all the way to the White House. But they ignored the fact that many Americans came to see Clinton as the personification of all that is wrong about the insular and corrupt world of Official Washington. And that has given us President-elect Trump.
The Saker, a thoughtful and informed Russian/Swiss/Dutch/American political-military analyst with whom we often find ourselves in agreement AND disagreement, emphasizes Trump’s apparent foreign policy pragmatism, first quoting Trump’s victory speech and President Putin’s immediate positive reply, saying:
This exchange, right there, is enough of a reason for the entire planet to rejoice at the defeat of Hillary and the victory of Trump.
Will Trump now have the courage, willpower and intelligence to purge the US Executive from the Neocon cabal which has been infiltrating it for decades now? Will he have the strength to confront an extremely hostile Congress and media? Or will he try to meet them halfway and naively hope that they will not use their power, money and influence to sabotage his presidency?
I don’t know. Nobody does.
Ideally, the next step would be for Trump and Putin to meet, with all their key ministers, in a long, Camp David like week of negotiations in which everything, every outstanding dispute, should be put on the table and a compromise sought in each case. Paradoxically, this could be rather easy: the crisis in Europe is entirely artificial, the war in Syria has an absolutely obvious solution, and the international order can easily accommodate a United States which would “deal fairly with everyone, with everyone — all people and all other nations” and “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict“. The truth is that the USA and Russia have no objective reasons for conflict – only ideological issues resulting directly from the insane ideology of messianic imperialism of those who believe, or pretend to believe, that the USA is an “indispensable nation”. What the world wants – needs – is the USA as a *normal* nation.
The worst case? Trump could turn out to be a total fraud. I personally very much doubt it, but I admit that this is possible. More likely is that he just won’t have the foresight and courage to crush the Neocons and that he will try to placate them. If he does so, they will instead crush him. It is a fact that while administrations have changed every 4 or 8 years, the regime in power has not, and that US internal and foreign policies have been amazingly consistent since the end of WWII. Will Trump finally bring not just a new administration but real “regime change”? I don’t know.
Invariably, Counterpunch is helpful. See for example today's essay by James Luchte, "Trump vs. the National Security Establishment: Will There be a Revolution in US Foreign Policy?"
As we wrote in Bulletin 224, the incoming president faces a multifaceted, existential crisis. It is, above all, concerning this crisis that the liberal world is in denial. Raul Ilargi at The Automatic Earth focuses on one aspect – the US economy – calling it the “poisoned chalice” for any incoming president:
It’s private debt, consumer debt, that will offer the winner his or her poisoned chalice. With 94 million Americans not counted as part of the workforce, and untold million others in jobs that pay hardly or no living wage, with so many millions of jobs that no longer pay sufficient or even any benefits, consumer spending has nowhere to go but down.
In an economy where that spending is good for 70% of GDP -perhaps a bit less by now, a bad enough sign-, taking spending power away from people is deadly. The only way people have been able to either keep up appearances or even just make ends meet is going into debt.
In just 9 years, from let’s say Bear Stearns to roughly this summer, consumer debt in America has gone up more than 50% ex-mortgages. And it’s not as if it was low in 2007, quite the contrary. The graph shows us what the American economy has survived on. It’s as plain vanilla as that. It’s the only graph you need, all the rest is just decoration. And it’s every inch as scary as it looks.
There was a time when America worked for its money, for its homes, for its cars, its healthcare, for the education of its children. There was a time when America produced and sold enough to be able to afford all that. Those days are long gone. Today, the prospect is one of borrowing more money to be able to pay back what you borrowed yesterday.
As regards arms control, that community seems to function better with a Republican in the White House. The temptations of "access" and prestige can prove too great to overcome in a Democratic administration, as was the case under Obama. Not one single effective nuclear disarmament step has been taken so far under our Nobel Peace Prize winning President, while, during this administration, the liberal, agenda-setting Peace and Security Funders Group, the higher reaches of which blend seamlessly into the US foreign policy establishment, gave in the ballpark of $1.5 billion (with a “b”) in grants.
We got instead a trillion-dollar nuclear modernization program, a new nuclear arms race with Russia, and a total collapse of cooperation with that country in virtually all areas, from terrorism to nonproliferation. Oh wait: the US and Russia are cooperating in opposition to a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
Letter to colleagues in government
Some of you may be interested in a letter we sent yesterday to some congressional and executive branch staff and others: “Today begins a time when significant reforms in nuclear policy can be made”.
In closing I can only repeat: it is very much a propitious time for major changes in policy -- nuclear weapons policy as well as others. Mr. Trump has proven he can turn on a dime. We have a lot of work ahead of us but his election has salutary aspects. In any case it is what it is, and is the terrain we are given. We hope you will take heart and see, with us, that the situation is just fine.
The trumpet of morning blows in the clouds and through
The sky. It is the visible announced,
It is the more than visible, the more
Than sharp, illustrious scene. The trumpet cries
This is the successor of the invisible.
This is its substitute in stratagems
Of the spirit. This, in sight and memory,
Must take its place, as what is possible
Replaces what is not.
Wallace Stevens, “Credences of Summer,” 1947
Greg Mello, for the Study Group