The Legend of Trump the Outsider and the Same Old Ugly Politics

Whenever I’ve asked friends of mine who voted for Donald Trump why they aren’t more bothered by many of the things he does, they always reply by saying something about how he’s not a politician but that’s what they like about him.

Of course, that’s not all they say.  They also jump into the all too familiar, “anyone but Hillary” diatribe, but I dismiss that argument by saying that it’s ancient history to me and not an answer to my question.

So, I ask again… why aren’t you bothered by any of the things President Trump says and does that are clearly wrong and don’t seem to benefit anyone… including him. 

I mean, I don’t think anyone in the country would say that he handled his immigration ban all that well… it’s so tied up in the courts that it may never see the light of day.  His promise to quickly repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act went nowhere fast.  And let’s not even talk about the week he spent struggling to condemn white nationalists.

And what about his countless tweets that have run the gamut from being simply untrue to being needlessly offensive or just plain dumb?  Most Trump supporters that I talk to agree, by the way, they wish someone would take his tweeter away as much as the rest of us. 

(I was thinking of reprinting a few examples of Trump’s ridiculous tweets, but I don’t see any reason to do so… we all know what I’m talking about here, right?)

So, why aren’t they bothered by any of the things that make the rest of us, including politicians and political pundits on both sides of the aisle, question his stability and even his sanity?

The answer is always the same… he’s not a politician, and that’s a good thing in their eyes.  The more unusual his appears, the more it reinforces their image of Trump as the outsider here to “drain the swamp,” as Trump used to like saying during his campaign.

To be entirely honest, I also think many Trump supporters also like whatever he does as long as they see it as infuriating those they view as being on the left.  They had to put up with Obama, they remind me, so now the left has to put up with whatever “this” happens to be.

I guess I understand that sort of thinking, it’s human nature to some degree.  But, it made more sense in the first few months of the Trump presidency.  At this point we should be talking about (and hoping for) the new administration to do positive things for people in this country, regardless of whether Democrat or Republican… or Libertarian, Green Party or whatever other political affiliation.

In other words, if health care via the Affordable Care Act ends up worse instead of better, that hurts everyone and therefore everyone should be unhappy about that happening.  Those on the right shouldn’t be happy about that just because it makes the left mad, because in this example, it would be harming them as well.

Overall, however, it’s the legend of “Trump the Outsider” that makes Trump supporters able to either look the other way, forgive, otherwise ignore and generally not be bothered by the things the president continues to do that EVERYONE else on the planet recognizes as being highly inappropriate, irrational… and at times even self-destructive.

Even Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who during the campaign said,”it’s pretty obvious that he (Trump) doesn’t know a lot about the issues,” recently explained the president’s obvious shortcomings by saying…

“Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before.  I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”

What McConnell is saying, in so many words is… Yes, the president is wrong and not doing a good job in many areas, but it’s understandable… after all, he’s new to the job and to politics… he’s a Washington D.C. outsider, he just doesn’t know any better.

And the legend of “Trump the Outsider” lives on, providing comfort to his supporters who believe that his outsider status and willingness to break with all established norms will, in the end, be more beneficial to this country than his inexperience will harm it.

That’s it, in a nutshell, no pun intended.

Here’s the Problem…

I’d like to be comforted by the legend of “Trump the Outsider,” too.  I want to believe that his lack of political experience and acumen will prove to be good for the country in whatever ways.  I’d like to believe that “drain the swamp,” was more than just another meaningless campaign slogan. 

I’d like to believe all of those things, but I can’t because the evidence is saying otherwise.

Trump may be the outsider who lacks experience inside the beltway, but it’s become clear that he’s no stranger to politics in general, because what we’re seeing these days looks like the same old ugly and dishonest Washington D.C. political machinations that we all know and hate.

It All Started in Paris…

For me, it started with the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord on climate change, a decision that was opposed by… well, by everyone actually.

Many of America’s largest corporations tried to convince the president not to withdraw from the agreement, including Exxon/Mobil, IBM, Elon Musk of Tesla, Jeffrey R. Immelt of General Electric and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs who all said the decision would ultimately harm the U.S. economy because we’d lose future jobs in clean energy and technology to competitors overseas.  Even many in our coal industry opposed his decision to withdraw.

Also, 200 countries were part of the Paris Accord in 2015, and during this year’s G-7 summit, heads of government bluntly told President Trump that leaving the Paris Agreement would be a mistake.  And Trump’s own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his chief economic advisor Gary Cohn… and even his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner all tried to persuade the president not to withdraw from the international agreement.

For the most part, the only people pushing the president to withdraw from the Paris Accord were Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt, who Trump appointed to head up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

For months, Trump’s advisers reportedly debated the political implications of the decision to withdraw, with both Bannon and Pruitt insisting that withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would rally his base thereby further the president’s domestic agenda.

Now, please understand… climate change is not my issue. 

When I first heard that we might withdraw from the Paris Accord, I wasn’t sure whether I agreed or disagreed with such a move.  It’s not that I don’t support the Paris Accord, or that I don’t believe climate change is important, or that I don’t support environmental issues in general… it’s only that climate change is not a subject I know much about so I tend to leave it to the scientists to decide.

But, arguing that Trump should withdraw from the Paris Accord because it would rally his base and as a result further the president’s domestic agenda certainly shouldn’t be the motivating factor to leave an international agreement made by 200 countries that almost everyone says we shouldn’t leave.  That sort of thinking is nothing more than politically motivated crap.

Not only that, but Scott Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, was a good friend to the oil and gas lobbyists and about as anti-environmental legislation as anyone could be.  Pruitt is one of those who think the proverbial jury is still out on whether climate change is man made or a real problem, calling the issue “far from settled.” 

Pruitt prosecuted the legal battle against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and has received over $300,000 from the fossil fuel industry since 2002.  The bottom line is that he has built his political career trying to undermine the EPA and environmental regulations in general.

Okay, so we should all know why Pruitt was in favor of withdrawing from the Paris Accord.  He’s against anything that seeks to reduce carbon emissions.  As to Mr. Bannon’s motivation to persuade the president to withdraw… why, it would rally the base, of course.  Bannon loves anything that does that.

So, did we really withdraw from the Paris Agreement?

I read article after article the day the president announced that we were, in fact, withdrawing from the Paris Accord… and I was shocked.  It was hard for me to imagine that President Trump was choosing not to listen to the CEOs of many of America’s largest corporations, among others, and withdrawing anyway.

However, it only took a minute or two to see that we withdrew from the Paris Accord… sort of… maybe… could be… but not really. 

The president had announced that we would be withdrawing, his base was rallied and the rest of us were mostly shocked and saddened, but that telling of the story is woefully incomplete because the president also said that he would comply with the withdraw process contained in the agreement, and that means it will take four years before we actually withdraw.

Read carefully what the president said about our withdrawing in the statement he made from the Rose Garden that day…

”In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accords or really an entire new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.”

And, in case anyone missed it, he followed that paragraph with the following reinforcement…

“So we are getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.”

Okay, so yes… we withdrew from the Paris Accord, I suppose, but we did so in such a way that it won’t happen for four years and meanwhile we’re beginning renegotiations to re-enter the Agreement.

That’s like announcing that you and your spouse are getting a divorce, but not for four years and meanwhile you’ll be going to marriage counseling. 

Whether we actually end up withdrawing… in 2021, is anyone’s guess, but if I could find anyone to bet the other side, I’d bet against it.  I’d bet that either we’ll end up renegotiating and reentering the Paris Agreement, or the voters will decide in 2020.

Still, the Trump supporter base was rallied by the president saying that he was withdrawing from the Paris Accord, or at least people say it was.  Everyone else was disappointed by the president’s decision.  To me… it’s all just political posturing intended to manipulate his supporters.

It wasn’t the act of a Washington D.C. outsider, rather it’s the sort of political shell game that you’d expect from the shrewdest of D.C. political operatives.

Now, Trump is Canceling DACA… sort of.

Today, the president announced that he is canceling the DACA program.  It’s another that’s opposed by leaders of both parties and solely designed to “rally his base.”  And although he is canceling the program, he’s doing it in much the same way he withdrew from the Paris Accord. 

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  It’s a program created by President Obama that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as young children, that have lived in this country all of their lives.  There are just under 800,000 people in the program… a group often described as “Dreamers.”

Let’s be sure we understand, DACA didn’t provide a path to US citizenship or even legal permanent resident status.  DACA recipients had to apply for protection under the program, meaning that they had to come out of the shadows and register.  Once approved, they can obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college, legally secure jobs… and pay income taxes.

To be approved under the DACA program, applicants have to have come to this country before their 16th birthday and be under the age of 31 as of June 15th, 2012, but in addition they must be…

“… currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.”

In addition, applicants must not have “been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

The process of applying for protection under DACA is very involved.  The fee to apply is $495 and you need to submit an exhaustive list of documents.  You can click here to see exactly what’s involved: HOW TO APPLY FOR DACA.

President Obama described Trump’s decision to cancel the program as cruel, saying…

“To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?”

And you know something is askew when President Obama and House Speaker Republican Paul Ryan are in agreement on anything.  Here’s what Speaker Ryan had to say just a few days ago about the president canceling the program…

“These are kids who know no other country, who are brought here by their parents and don’t know another home.  And so I really do believe that there needs to be a legislative solution.  I believe this is something Congress has to fix.”

TRUMP: “We’re Going to Deal With DACA With Heart.”

President Trump has said all sorts of very nice things about DACA dreamers, including calling them “incredible kids,” saying, “We love the Dreamers,” and promising that, “We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion.”

This past January, while talking about DACA, Trump told Fox & Friends that it was “a tough situation,” but that his plan would “have a lot of heart,” and that… ”I think they’re going to end up being very happy.”

So, today he cancelled the DACA program… but, just like Paris, his cancellation of the program won’t take effect for six months, which means that Congress has time to pass a legislative solution that allows the program to continue… which I think is clearly what’s going to happen.

Meanwhile, work permits issued under DACA will be honored until they expire… new DACA applications received by today will be processed normally… and for those whose status is set to expire by March 5, 2018, have a month to reapply for a two-year extension.

Trump isn’t canceling anything here.  He supposedly is rallying his base once again, but if that’s even true, I don’t know why this would rally them.  Trump isn’t actually canceling anything, he’s just appearing to cancel something that his base is said to want canceled… while in reality he’s only passing the buck to Congress to pass DACA into law. 

Then, he can remind supporters he cancelled it… it was Congress that brought it back.

Already various state attorneys general have promised to file lawsuits to block the impact of DACA’s cancellation.  For example, attorneys general Bob Ferguson of Washington and Eric Schneiderman of New York both issued issued statements promising litigation in advance of Trump’s announcement, and New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo said the following…

“Ending this policy represents an assault on the values that built this state and this nation.  It will rip families apart, sow havoc in our communities and force innocent people — our neighbors, our friend, and our relatives — to live in fear.”

Washington’s AG also made his intentions clear, saying…

“If President Trump follows through on his reported decision to cancel DACA after a six-month delay, the Washington Attorney General’s Office will file suit to halt this cruel and illegal policy and defend DACA recipients.  We have been working closely with legal teams around the country, and we expect to be joined by other states in this action.”

And, if that’s not enough to convince you that this is what I’m describing, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has already announced that he will push for “meaningful immigration reform in Congress that provides a workable path forward for the Dreamer population.”

If anyone that’s a part of his base is truly rallied by this sort of move, I have to think that either they’re not that bright or they need to pay closer attention because this is just another ruse.  Think about it… if Trump truly wanted to cancel the program, he didn’t need to allow for the six month extension.  He could have simply asked Congress to address it legislatively.

Why Cohn and Mnuchin are in Trump’s Administration…

Lastly, there are two in Trump’s administration that aren’t there for the reasons some might think.  One is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the other is the chief economic advisor to the president, Gary Cohn.  They’re both there with only one goal in mind and it has nothing to do with helping the economy or the middle class.  (I’ve written about Mnuchin before, so I’ll just concentrate on Mr. Cohn.)

Gary Cohn is considered to be one of the most influential members of President Trump’s administration.  His title is Director of the National Economic Council.  Prior to serving in the Trump Administration, Cohn was President and Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs.

Cohn is Jewish… very Jewish, even.  He and his wife donated enough money to Kent State University that the campus now features the Cohn Jewish Student Center as a result.  Cohn is also a lifetime registered Democrat.

So, not surprisingly, following the riots in Charlottesville, Cohn was under a lot pressure to speak out or even resign after the president’s statements implied that both sides were at fault, making it sound like he equated the white nationalists with those that showed up in opposition.

Last week, Stuart Varney of the Fox Business Network asked Cohn why he chose to stay a part of the Trump Administration and what he said hit me like a slap in the face.  He’s there for one reason, and maybe two: TAX CUTS… and if there’s a second reason, it’s because he’s in line to be tapped to head up the Federal Reserve.

“Look, tax cuts are really important to me. I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We haven’t done tax cuts in 31 years. So, to be a part of an administration that gets something done that hasn’t been done for 31 years is enormously challenging, enormously interesting to me.”

Are you feeling me here?  He’s there to get the tax cuts passed and then he’ll either be Chairman of the Federal Reserve… or he’ll be heading back to Wall Street with his mission having been accomplished.

Look, the tax cut proposal will favor the wealthiest Americans no matter what.  Cohn’s clients, as president at Goldman Sachs, are some of the wealthiest folks around.  Is it so difficult to imagine that he’d like nothing more than to be able to return to Wall Street able to report that he went to Washington and saved or made them hundreds of billions of dollars via tax cuts that he was instrumental in passing?

Larry Summers broke down the proposals this way…

“The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was all reform, with no net cut. The current effort is mostly cuts, with very little structural reform. TRA 1986 was about raising taxes on corporations. The current effort is about reducing business taxes. TRA 1986 was about facing down well-heeled lobbyists; these groups seem centrally involved in the current effort. TRA 1986 was all about bipartisanship as President Ronald Reagan worked closely with Democratic leaders. There is nothing bipartisan about the “Big Six” driving the current effort.”

Trump’s tax cut proposals are right in line with every Republican tax cut proposal of the last few decades… a moratorium on financial regulations, cutting corporate taxes, and slashing the top rate on personal income taxes. 

Oh, and one more HUGE thing… they want to get rid of the inheritance tax, or as the GOP refers to it… the death tax.  Eliminating the inheritance tax ONLY benefits the wealthy. 

Eliminating the inheritance tax only reduces revenue by $25 billion a year, but that’s $25 billion that goes to the people rich enough to leave multi-million dollar estates to their heirs.  I’m sure that both Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin would love to be responsible for putting $25 billion into the pockets of their friends, family and clients of Goldman Sachs, of course.

The Legend of “Trump the Outsider?” 

All of this flies in the face of the legend of Trump the Outsider, a man come to Washington, not for political or financial gain, but to drain the swamp, restore the middle class, make America great again.

What’s happening at the moment doesn’t look like that’s what the Trump Administration is working towards to me, does it to you?

This isn’t about racism or Civil War statues.  It’s not about a wall along the southern border.  Nor is it about creating jobs.  I’m not saying things won’t change and I hope they do, but at the moment, it doesn’t look good to me.

Donald Trump may not be a product of Washington D.C.  He’s certainly not a career politician, I can agree with all of that, but he’s also proving to be a highly skilled political operative who knows how to lead the media and the people towards one thing, while he does another.


Mandelman out.

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