Unearthing the mole.

The issue of who wrote the anonymous “Resistance” op ed in the NY Times (about Oval Office insiders working to thwart and buffer Executive policy-making from Trump’s impulses and excesses) has dominated the media cycle in the US since its publication. Coming on the heels of the publication of excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book Fear, which chronicles the dysfunction of the Trump White House, the search is on for the “senior official” mole. The text has been carefully parsed in order to detect grammatical patterns that could identify the author. Attention has focused on the word “lodestar” in the essay, a word that has been used repeatedly by Vice President Mike Pence in public speeches but which has not been used by other senior Trump administration officials. Focus is also on the phrase “anti-trade,” which suggests to some that someone involved in economic policy making is the author. Others have pointed to phrases in the text said to be used by other senior officials, either as proof that they wrote it or as a cover and deflection from their real identity.

Since my opinion is about as good as anyone else’s when it comes to speculating about the author, and since I have not seen this particular angle covered as of yet, let me offer the following possibility:

The op ed is a joint effort by mainstream Republican insiders now serving in the White House. It was released with at least the tacit knowledge of the Republican congressional leaders, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and it has been done as a way of terminally undermining Trump in the run up to the November 2018 mid term elections. The reason is that the authors and GOP leadership may well believe that they are headed to a landslide loss in November if they continue to ride Trump’s coattails. For them, it is not so much the possibility of Trump being impeached that is a primary concern (if the Democrats regain a majority in the House he certainly will be impeached), but of the disruption to their legislative agenda if they lose control of Congress. Should they lose the House and even more so if they lose the Senate as well, the GOP will be dead in the water when it comes to advancing its policy agenda. And although the economy is strong, they know that Trump’s disapproval ratings are at record levels and his divisiveness is corrosive to the national well-being, something that has prompted a rise in youth and ethnic minority political involvement and a shift to the Left in Democratic congressional primaries at the same time that cleavages between mainstream and populist Republicans in their primaries grow larger. None of this augers well for Republican electoral chances on November 6.

By the tone and language of the op ed, the authors are mainstream “traditional” Republicans, not Tea Party adherents, economic nationalists like Steve Bannon or alt-Right freaks like Stephen Miller. They clearly exhibit insider knowledge of beltway politics and congressional dynamics.  The language used in the essay suggests that the two retired generals that are senior administration officials–Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis–are not centrally involved even if phrases attributed to them appeared in the text (although they may have been aware of the drafting process).

Pence could be  involved as an author. As Vice President he stands to gain much if Trump resigns, and as a former congressman before becoming Indiana Governor, he has close ties to the GOP Congressional caucuses. But Jeff Sessions could also be involved in the drafting of the op ed. A former Senator and current Attorney General who has been the subject of relentless attacks by Trump for recusing himself from the Mueller investigation into Russian involvement with the Trump presidential campaign, Sessions shares the views outlined in the Times piece. He  has ties to Congress that go back decades and he has a motive for revenge. Kelly Ann Conway is another likely conspirator. Married to a long-standing GOP operative who despises Trump and herself a long-time Republican strategist, she has the worldview presented in the op ed and the connections to the “steady state” that is said to be running things in the pursuit of stability and consistency under the nose of the irrational fool in charge.

So my take is this. Regardless of who exactly are involved, no one individual in the White House would have the courage to write the Resistance essay alone. But a group of mainstream Republican senior officials stuck with an incompetent, ignorant, narcissistic sociopath as leader of their own party as well as president, one who could well be leading them to a historic defeat that could in turn irretrievably fracture the Party, might well have decided to put their heads together and come up with a plan to undermine Trump in order to force his ouster via resignation. They will not come forth and give their names because to do so would allow Trump to regain some initiative by firing them.  Remaining anonymous and in the shadows so close to the Oval Office has and will send Trump into a witch hunting frenzy that, given his obsessive personality, will dominate every aspect of his routine. And in the measure that he obsesses about leakers and scurries to rallies in order to seek comfort and solace far from the isolation he feels in Washington, the more nothing else will get done when it comes to Executive policy-making. Along with the ongoing vendettas, feuds, insults and scandals that are the daily circus that is Trump’s “crazyland” (as General Kelly purportedly referred to it), that makes it easier for Republican candidates to abandon him in all but the most die hard pro-Trump districts. Since those districts alone cannot keep a GOP House majority, it is in contestable districts where the GOP choice to ride his coattails or jump ship is starkest. The Resistance op ed is a signal to them as to which way to go.

So, as others have already pointed out, there is a slow moving coup at play here. It is not coming from the armed forces and/or Democratic Party. It is coming from within the Republican Party in an effort to save itself from the cancer that is Trump. The questions are whether the Resistance coup will succeed and whether it will be enough to save the Republicans from what they have become.

Bonus media link: Mitch Harris and I talk about the Resistance essay and more during our latest radio conversation.

36 thoughts on “Unearthing the mole.

  1. Justin


    Interesting angle, have you think about dropping this theory in the middle of all those major US political forums/debates just to stir up the hornets more closer to centre of power?

    Say a question would international powers sever their links with the GOP or use it hard as they could for whatever gains before the GOP and Trump burn up?

  2. James Green

    I’m pretty sure Republicans are incapable of a conspiracy. Remember back to how well they organised to stop Trump during the primary season (gods, that feels like eons ago already).

  3. Pablo Post author


    I am content to leave my speculation here. If it is deemed worthy of wider circulation others can do it. Your question about how foreign governments might deal with the GOP is an interesting one, especially in light of the Resistance essay’s claim that there is a parallel foreign policy line being run to counter/buffer the Trump approach to international relations. We should look to which foreign dignitaries have met with GOP leaders since Trump came into office. That might be hard to do given the lack of transparency surrounding such visits but would be worth unearthing as a means of seeing who is talking to who, even if not about what.


    You underestimate the GOP. Compared to the Democrats they are a seamless machine. Plus, they have learned, however belatedly, from the mistake of letting Drumpf advance unimpeded just because they thought they could secure short term political advantage from his presence in their ranks. Now that Drumpf has become a glaring liability in the eyes of all but the racist base and short term economic and political opportunists, the knives are out. The Woodward book is a king hit on him, but the Resistance op ed is the first of what will be a number of GOP insider cuts on him. Blood is now in the water.

  4. Andrew

    Whoever it proves to be, and despite the fact most reasonable people will probably be wishing them success I think David Frum is right that we should be deeply concerned about the implications of (probably) unelected officials carrying out a soft coup. It’s not just the implications for US democracy, but in the short term there’s every chance it’ll backfire and embolden Trump & his hardcore support. It’s also questionable as to what these actors end game is, or if they have one.
    On one level and it’s evidence for Trump’s populist rhetoric about elites thwarting the will of the people.
    Any resistance needs to be using the constitutional mechanisms available, and the fact that it may prove to be a move by those at the top of the GOP doesn’t change that.

  5. Pablo Post author


    Desperate times call for desperate measures, athough so far no move has been made against Drumpf other than this expression of discontent (which, quite frankly, has only confirmed the obvious from the inside). Frum’s point is obvious as well, although it is a bit rich for him to make this statement when he was silent about the disloyal machinations of career bureaucrats and congressional staffers during the Obama administration. I guess it is Ok so long as his side does it.

    Someone has pointed out that this is a way for the GOP to reclaim some degree of honour before the midterms, and that there will be a rush by GOP types to say they were part of the drafting party once they lose the midterms and the score-settling begins. In that I agree. But for the move to turn into a soft coup something actionable has to happen. Disparaging words do not matter even if from the inside. Someone will have to take action against Drumpf and that can only come from a dark corner within the GOP.

    Here is an example of a quandary presented to unelected career officials by Drumpf and his minions. I have an old friend who is a senior member of the US intelligence community. When Drumpf entered office with Bannon in his entourage, my pal’s community was faced with either telling Drumpf and the others highly sensitive classified information, including sources and methods, knowing that within a short time the Russians would have that information; or, not tell POTUS and his senior staff the full details of any intelligence operation, etc. Both choices presented an ethical dilemma: the latter was unconstitutional and a usurpation of the president’s authority, whereas the former would put lives and many years of investment at risk (you may recall that when Drumpf told the Russian ambassador and Foreign Minister about a Daesh bomb-making operation in Mosul during that infamous Oval Office visit, he effectively outed an Arab Israeli asset inside of Daesh, who was promptly killed).

    I shall leave you to ponder which choice my friend and his colleagues have chosen. But one thing is clear: they would not be making the choice if the seat holder in the Oval Office had a shred of stability and competence. The Resistance authors may not be so honourable (as they claim to be), but I fully understand that the need to save the GOP from the monster that they have created.

  6. Andrew

    That all makes a case for ensuring evidence comes out to strengthen the possibility of impeachment, or they work to getting the 25th invoked, or they resign and go very public with their reasons.
    What they’re doing is actually pretty self serving, making it seem like they have no responsibility for what the regime does, but not actually doing anything constitutional to end it, despite making it abundantly clear it needs to.
    It’s slightly absurd to say Trump needs to be removed because he’s an existential threat to the Republic, the constitution it’s institutions and the rule of law, whilst covertly doing things that violate all those things.
    Also, I’m sure Frum is perfectly capable of being a hypocrite but it’s ridiculous to suggest this and any obstruction under Obama are even remotely equivalent.

  7. Pablo Post author


    Did you intend to write something in your last comment? If not I can take it down.

  8. Pablo Post author


    The bleating about “patriotism” and courage and that old canard about Clinton aside, the author ignores a basic fact about the DC crowd: pretty much all are cowards and no one advances by saying “no” to the bosses. This move comes from within the GOP for the GOP’s self-preservation. This is not the work of a career intelligence professional but that of political appointees. The careerists knew all along what Drumpf represents but, even if they might drag their heels and give his short attention span the limited information it can handle, they did plot this move. As I said in the post, it is a group of Republicans who are behind the letter–look at the language they use–and it is to them that the Nat Review’s concerns should be addressed.

  9. Tom Hunter

    Since my opinion is about as good as anyone else’s
    Chuckle. Me too. So here we go, though each theory is expressed as a question:

    – If you’re really a part of some WH GOP-e (establishment) group that’s trying to keep Trump controlled, would you actually want to blow your cover and start a mole-hunt?

    – Why would anybody want to do Trump’s work for him in raving about a “Deep State” and a “Swamp” in DC of permanent bureaucrats thwarting the will of the voters? This article has just confirmed some tinfoil hat conspiracy theories about all that. This helps the Democrats (and the GOP-e) how?

    – If you’re part of MAGA, wouldn’t it be cool to light a fire that burns out your GOP-e enemies inside the Whitehouse?

    – If you’re part of the left side of “The Resistance” (an Obama appointed holdover, of which there are many), wouldn’t it be cool to light a fire that burns down the Trump administration with a paranoid molehunt, or at least throws sand in the gears?

    – If you’re part of the GOP-e outside of the WH why not get stuff out like this that will lay the blame for a mid-term pasting (at least in the House) on Trump rather than the GOP’s own failures of pursuing policy?

    Having put all those fun questons out there I’ll make some more serious points.

    First, it’s an awfully suspicious correlation between the publication of Woodward’s latest tomb, and this Op-Ed, both saying the same things. Is this Woodward’s source – or one of them? So how genuine are they?

    Second, this is the umpteenth version of The Resistance is winning and This will destroy Trump, that I’ve seen in the last 30 months or more. But these things follow one another in such quick succession that even the outrage loses track. Was it one or two weeks ago (or six months ago) that it was McCain’s funeral, or Aretha’s, or the feared Omarosa audio tapes or Cohen’s plea bargain or Manafort’s convictions or the fearsome Trump-like Avanatti or …. yada, yada, yada.
    Honestly – it’s exhausting, and it has not led anywhere that would not have been entirely predictable without it; that the GOP will likely lose the House in mid-term elections, as almost all sitting Presidents have over recent decades.

    Third, this near batshit level of insanity enabled, even encouraged by the Democrats, is Trump’s world. He loves this shit. He’s not worn down or miserable about it. It’s the ultimate reality TV show, with him as the ringmaster, Who will be fired? What traitor will be uncovered? And it’s been this way since he first threw his hat in the ring in mid-2015 and people laughed.

    Are we still laughing?

    Well I am, despite predicting throughout 2016 that he’d lose – although I did win $100 against a Kiwiblog Lefty by betting in August 2015 that Hillary would lose against any GOP nominee. At that stage I never thought it would be Trump and when it was I did a covering bet with a Trump supporter.

    One more thing. Aside from the op-ed, this is pretty standard for every Administration, always filled with people who think they could do better than the President on various issues, or preventing them from making a mistake. The anonymous hero is a theme in history – and fiction.

    I’m reminded in particular of Richard Darman, who spent much the 1980’s inside the Reagan Administration, crowing about the need to “save Reagan from himself”. Sound familiar? He’s now a non-event in history. As the saying goes:

    The dogs bark. The caravan moves on.

  10. Tom Hunter

    Here is an example of a quandary presented to unelected career officials by Drumpf and his minions. I have an old friend who is a senior member of the US intelligence community.

    Nothing new here either. Here’s retired CIA officer Mike Morrell with another NYT Op Ed, this from 2016, announcing he will vote for Hillary because “Drumpf” is such an ignorant doofus.

    Made no difference. Maybe the CIA and FBI don’t count for as much as they used to with ordinary Americans?

  11. Pablo Post author

    Thanks Tom, for the double dose. Surprised to see you slumming over on this part of the blogosphere.

    Your questions are interesting and some have been covered (even if obliquely) in part in my post. It is true some Dems could be involved. Your references to the GOP-e reinforce my point that the Drumpf takeover of the GOP is far from complete and in fact actively resisted. And as far as Drumpf thinking that he is a ringmaster running the circus that is this administration, well, I have to presume that you have been hitting the mushrooms. Nice political comfort food if you can get it but not dealing with the real organic concerns. Drumpf is a cancer. And like a cancer he is the symptomatic result of a larger malaise in the US body politic. I could continue but since you have made clear over at KB that you think of me as an intellectual wanker who gets pleasure in watching your beloved Cubs go down late in the season, I will simply say that you are wrong on two out of three counts. :-0

    The aspersions cast on career intelligence and security professionals in and out of uniform are irritating. If they are acting in the way that they are it is because there are grave issues involved and the crisis is real and growing. Drumpf is deeply compromised, as is the GOP Tea Bagging wing, by foreign forces. The GOP-e are corrupt and compromised in their own way but see the threat to themselves if they allow things to continue. So the people with any semblance of honor are working quietly to do the damage control that keeps the ship of state afloat. They leave it for the GOP (-e or whatever) to engineer the “soft” coup.

  12. Andrew

    I’m never quite sure what those on the right thing they’re achieving by trying to claim there’s nothing out of the ordinary about the Trump Presidency and the circus surrounding it. They either look extremely cynical (by which we’re supposed to be impressed?), or simply glib an unserious.
    You don’t need to start bandying about terms like ‘fascist’ as some do to see what’s happening is well outside the parameters of normal politics, if not utterly unique.
    Trump has already done enough to show that the 25th should be invoked. If for no other reason than he clearly doesn’t believe in the constitution he swore to uphold. There’s aspects of at least the 1st and 14th Amendments he quite obviously doesn’t believe in.
    Whatever the involvement of him and his team, his mere attitude to principle of foreign interference in the election is further evidence he’s unfit to be President, as is his attitude to his power to interfere in agencies enforcing the law.
    That’s before you start asking questions about his mental fitness based on on numerous statements.

    Having said all that, it’s true Trump will love this shit and I simply don’t buy that these people are keeping the ship of state afloat. All they’re doing is possibly showing down the speed at which it’s heading for the rocks, whilst doing little to get the drunk out of the wheel house.

  13. Tom Hunter

    Surprised to see you slumming over on this part of the blogosphere.

    I grew tired of commenting on Kiwiblog because I found that I was saying the same things I’d said 5 or even ten years ago on the same subjects, starting with the uselessness of the National Party and the Tweedledum Tweedledee nature of our politics. Having predicted in 2008 that Key would do little to change the course of the country, I lost enthusiasm for joining in with the usual ra, ra, National crowd at KB, as they eagerly await 2020 – more like 2023 or 2026 – for their 0.5% tax cuts and keeping every Labour-Green idea locked in place.

    Beside that, discussing the USA is far more interesting, not least because there is a real contest for ideas going on there and real political realignments, even if it’s hard to see through all the partisan fireworks & smoke. And changes in personal circumstances may see me moving back there in the next few years.

    who gets pleasure in watching your beloved Cubs go down late in the season

    I would expect nothing less from a Comiskey Park boy (and No, I refuse to call it “Guaranteed Rate Field”, FFS). I can only imagine that the love for The Tribe was never so high on the South Side as in October-November 2016.

  14. Pablo Post author


    TBH what puts me off KB is the slide into misogyny and think veiled racism that Farrar allows, on top of the usual name calling. It is as if KB and WO are starting to merge.But you can always be the contrarian here. Phil Sage is good at that, although for the life of me I cannot understand his drift into MAGA land.

    Truth be told I am more of a Red Sox than a White Sox fan. Most of my US family are from the NYC-Boston corridor and I went to undergrad school in Vermont. I supported the White Sox while living on the South Side because Comiskey was close and the neighbourhoods around it were a lot grittier than the genteel streets of Wrigleyville (and yes, the corporate re-branding of old parks sucks). Plus, although the Sox habitually stunk I watched the old Chicago NASL team there and, as a bonus, went to that 1979 disco demolition put on by KLUP that turned into a riot.

    My family and I spent five months in the US last year, most of that in Boston (where even got to go to Fenway to see Chris Sale pitch). Should you go back, at least why Drumpf is still around, you may find that having civil political discussions will be difficult. It may have been worse for my wife and I as political scientists but my sense is that people try to avoid political conversations and just get on with their lives (at least in public and/or social settings).

  15. Tom Hunter

    The Red Sox eh? Well you must be bouncing up and down then, given that they might even win 110 games this season? They’ve been overpowering so far and I’ll certainly be looking to my MLB.com streaming package this Fall to see them go up against Houston, who I supported last year since the poor old Tribe did not make it to the WS. But with wildcard teams you just never know.

    I wouldn’t get too cocky about the racism or misogynistic aspects of KB though, given that a year or so ago I listened to a BBC report looking back at that Great Disco Demolition of 1979 you attended – with glee I suspect, that was certainly the reaction of all my school mates when we saw it on TV. Anyhoo, the reporter revealed that the event showed the deep racism and homophobia of America – since Disco was a product of both the black and gay communities you see! So what you thought was the destruction of overpimped, corporate dross was actually an attack on oppressed minorities.

    Contained in that story is one of the secrets of Trump’s win.

  16. Pablo Post author


    Apropos the disco demolition. I went with other U Chicago Ph.D. candidates to watch first hand the social experiment that was the event. I was a jazz DJ at the time on WHPK so I was fully aware of what we were wading into. It was better than expected for many reasons, not the least of which was the realization that the US is a deeply racist closet authoritarian society no matter what the myth-makers say. Drumpf just proved that 30+ years later.

  17. Tom Hunter

    was the realization that the US is a deeply racist closet authoritarian society no matter what the myth-makers say.

    That is one of the most depressing opinions about America, written by an American, that I have ever read, outside the minds of the likes of Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. I’m surprised that you were ever willing to defend such a society.

    By contrast I arrived in the USA decades ago, believing many bad things about the place, only to find that almost none of them were true, or at least were not as prominent as I had thought. I worked and played with people of many races and cultures who rubbed along pretty well together. Admittedly that was in Chicago, but other plarts of the country I stayed in over the years had similar characteristics. It was also before the age of Identity Politics.

  18. Barbara Matthews

    Aftermath of OpEd: The ghastly image of Trump’s servile, sycophants entreating him to believe “Dear Leader, it wasn’t me!”

  19. Pablo Post author


    I believe in the perfectibility of humankind including political organisations and social institutions. I also specifically thought that the US was getting more tolerant as the years went by. My USG service was based on the former, to which was added my belief that it was not enough to stand on the sidelines and shout criticism. So I found a way to enter the machine and did what I could to improve it. Alas, there was little I could do and much of what I was involved with was later undone.

    Equally unhappy is my realisation that when it comes to toleration and equal rights the US has regressed since the mid 1990s. It reminds me that societies evolve dialectically rather than linearly, and that they are subject to reversal, decline or weakening in a historical ebb and flow. So the attitudes of working class whites that I saw in 1979 at Comiskey Park have resurfaced with a vengeance in recent years, now enabled and promoted by communications technologies non-existent back then. It is a scourge.

    I do agree that the post-modern/post=industrial Left, with its prioritising of identity over class and its insistence on protections from all forms of offence, have contributed to the malaise of Western democracies. The irony being that this orientation has made it easier for the corporate and alt-Right to attack and defeat it. That is why Steve Bannon is such an evil genius. He understands the Left better than it does itself and knows how to wage a war of position against it far better than it understands how to fight the Right.

  20. Tom Hunter

    I believe in the perfectibility of humankind including political organisations and social institutions.

    Frightening. No wonder you’re making excuses for “real” socialism in your next piece, on Venezuela, which I regard as simply another marker of death and destruction on the road to that “perfectability”.

    It’s thoughts like yours that led to The New Soviet Man and other bullshit. Incredible that you still believe – and believe is the perfect word here – in this terrifying concept. Even from a pragmatic point of view, have you never heard of or seen in action the term, the perfect is the enemy of the good, because that’s damned sight more intelligent belief to hold than the one you’ve expressed.

    For myself – and not to sound religious – I most definitely do not believe that man and his systems can be “perfected”. I think we’re at our best when we develop rugged, flexible systems that can tolerate human flaws or even use them for the good of the whole. The various forms of Democracy around the world are an example: nobody would claim they’re perfect – just better than the alternatives. Same with market places and trading – capitalism, if you prefer that Marxist term.

    PS with PHIL101 gone your comment could now be interpreted to saying that I’m a troll :) I’ll assume otherwise and roll on here contrarian-wise.

  21. Pablo Post author

    No Tom, you may be wrong on most everything political but you are not a troll. Do try to keep the language in your comments civilised as I am a bit prissy about curse words.

    As for my comment about perfectibility. “Perfectibility” is not equivalent to “perfection” nor does it mean that perfection is achievable. What it does mean is that human beings are perfectible in terms of their social organisation, ethical mores and moral orientation as well as their standard of living, life expectancy, etc. The end point for human improvement is in fact open ended but that does not mean that we would should not try to perfect ourselves, resign to our failures or that that the organising principle of social institutions should be to corral and harness human flaws.

    None of this even remotely approaches a prescription for the Soviet Man or some such. It actual argues the other way, in favour of toleration, consent, mutual exchange and compromise as the foundation of the political order. But hey, you think commies are socialists and that socialism failed under the commies in Venezuela, so I might as well talk to my dog about the distinction between the three (and I say this with affection rather than as an insult, less you take it as such).

    The cartoons are amusing. Reminds me of the cows/economic/political system memes that are a favourite amongst mischievous high school teachers.

  22. Tom Hunter

    Fair enough. And although it used to be interesting to me to explore the fine differences between the grades of the far left, you are correct that I no longer give a damn, based on the simple observation that after the election/revolutuion, they all meld together into the usual Personality Cult nutfest of insane, prescriptive rule of every aspect of whatever sad country indulges in the stupidity.

    So… back to earlier comments….

    I could continue but since you have made clear over at KB that you think of me as an intellectual wanker…

    I’ve certainly expressed my doubts to you about “Political Science”, at least on the “science” part. But I suspect you’re referring to a long-ago debate on Kiwiblog where you were advocating the use of NZ soldiers in some war zone and found yourself confronted by retired Wainuiomata farmer, “Johnboy”, who had no hesitation in telling you in his defiantly non-PC way, that it was all too easy for a jumped-up academic to recommend young men and women going in to face death. Given how right-wing he was I was rather impressed with his 60’s, Left-type argument. He may have called you an “intellectual wanker”. :)

    In my case it’s more that I get irritated by your political science version of Jon Stewart’s ”Clown Nose On, Clown Nose Off” approach to these subjects. Which is to say that I enjoy intellectual analysis of geopolitical and domestic US politics, including yours, even when I disagree, but that when it comes to this blog or your comments, the “intellectual” mask falls away to reveal a nakedly partisan and very Left ideological person who comments just like any other such person. If that’s what I want to read I can just thumb through my wife’s Facebook; there’s dozens of screamers there (sadly most are friends or acquaintances of ours) who say the exact same things as you, often in the same way. Perhaps you put a line between academic papers and a blog, but I don’t think the divide should be so stark.

  23. Tom Hunter

    And as far as Drumpf thinking that he is a ringmaster running the circus that is this administration, well, I have to presume that you have been hitting the mushrooms.

    ? Trump is a narcissist and egoist beyond measure, even by past Presidential standards. I hardly need to be eating magic mushrooms to see that leads to him thinking he’s the ringmaster here, and it’s a comment that has been echoed many times on both the Right and Left of American politics. As such I don’t think it’s a particularly radical thought.

    But however real or not, there’s no doubt that he’s played the media – and often his political opponents – in the manner of a man getting a cat to chase a laser pointer. It was his secret weapon in gaining some $2 billion of free advertising for himself during the GOP primaries. Despite probably knowing it was bad, the social and MS media just could not help themselves because it got ratings, eyeballs, and clicks. But then the MSM was what created Trump decades ago, not the likes of The Weekly Standard or National Review.

    BTW – “Drumpf”. I’m sure this is funny to you, it’s even a little funny to me, but again, it seems at odds with your background. But if that’s the standard I’ll just refer to the previous President by the term I always thought was so appropriate to him: Obambi. Deal?

  24. Tom Hunter

    but not dealing with the real organic concerns…..like a cancer he is the symptomatic result of a larger malaise in the US body politic.

    I’ve lumped these two comments together because perhaps you could just address both in a separate blog thread. As it happens I could not agree more with both sentiments, though I’m sure we differ as to what the organic concerns and larger malaises are. For me the concerns are the debt, the endless growth of government spending, especially on Social Security (which can be fixed) and Medicare/Medcaid (which can’t be), and prescriptive government growth in general. And the “malaise” that produced Trump is that the Right and Left increasingly hate eachother’s guts, even down to the formerly off-limits level of personal and family relationships. There is no longer any place to escape from politics, whether it’s beer or football.

    All that started long before Trump and frankly I put that down to the term, Everything is political, which was not birthed on the Right.

  25. Tom Hunter

    If they are acting in the way that they are it is because there are grave issues involved and the crisis is real and growing.

    Again, this needs more explanation in a thread of it’s own. Are we talking in terms of the Intelligence agencies? National Security? Domestic Policy?

    As far as Foreign Policy is concerned, and frankly even domestic policy – excluding or ignoring what he tweets or says – he has actually governed pretty much as I would have expected from a more normal GOP president. Yes, he’s been blunt, offensive like no other President with the likes of NATO nations about their spending, or with China, or North Korea and so forth. But although the talk is different it’s not like Clinton, Bush and Obama had not expressed similar frustrations, albeit expressed more diplomatically, which seems to be the real problem.

    In terms of actions, well the ME as markedly quieter than it was under Bush and Obama, North Korea a little less scary, Iran’s bastard theocrats finally under some real pressure, and Russia more irrelevant than ever. True, there’s the canker sore of Venezuela, Turkey’s mischiefs and the slowly growing power of China – but those are all problems rather than crisis. I’d note that Trump has not started a war or tried to overthrow a government yet, in keeping with his nationalist, isolationist tendencies, and certainly those could be a problem, but they seem to fit the mood of an American public grown weary of wars and democracy-building.

    Similarly with all the screaming about his abuse of the press. But it’s the same deal: words, abuse. In terms of actions he’s been less of a scary figure to the US media than Obama was! How many times did the latter prosecute journalists and others under the 1917 Espionage Act: 8 wasn’t it? More than all his predecessors. Where was the similar outrage about that? There was some in the WaPo and NYT, New Yorker and others, but not on the scale of the screams about the Great and Terrible Trump.

    With regard specifically to the intelligence agencies, well I’ll deal with that separately.

  26. Pablo Post author

    Ha Ha. If my comments are no better than your wife’s FB friends–assuming that she is not surrounded by people with advanced degrees and real world experience in political affairs–then stick to spying on her page. Because arguing with such people is very different than spouting an opinion based on the latest things that you have read based on your prejudices and the fact that you are not challenged by such people on a daily basis, thereby leading you to believe that your opinions matters as much as those of people who actually study, teach and try to make politics something more than a lolly scramble for people like yourself.

    Your wife seems to be a very reasonable and patient person.

    As for the rest. Johnboy is a reactionary moron, full stop. My comment was directed at you referring to me as a f***ing wanker White Sox fan” on some old KB thread. As I said before, wrong on those counts.

  27. Tom Hunter

    Well there we go again:

    Clown Nose Off: assuming that she is not surrounded by people with advanced degrees and real world experience in political affairs

    Clown Nose On: “Drumpf”, “Teabaggers”

    And then there’s this whole thing:

    The aspersions cast on career intelligence and security professionals in and out of uniform, BY THE LIKES OF YOU, are irritating.

    You edited out the bit I put in CAPS….. but not for long….

    thereby leading you to believe that your opinions matters as much as those of people who actually study, teach and try to make politics something more than a lolly scramble for people like yourself

    Chuckle. Yes. People like me. Ordinary people: family, business, no advanced degrees. Opinions! Combined with the Internet. The horror. We observe things like intelligence agencies fucking up on things like 9/11, or we watch the creepy performance of the likes of the FBO counter-intelligence chief, Peter Strzok. Seriously, how did that guy pass the psych tests? One word, creepy. And then we wonder if the opinions of our betters can be trusted. They might be wrong, despite all that study, thinking and qualifications.

    And of course, we vote!

    You really seem to have become very disenchanted with the working class early on. And while my wife is reasonable and patient, twenty years of the sort of crap I’ve described, have slowly turned her from a Gore-voting, Democrat to somebody who will likely vote GOP on a straight ticket next time – although she’ll probably draw the line at Trump, whom she’s hated since the 1980’s, for reasons entirely to do with his personality.

    But I suspect she’s become a reactionary moron. Like millions of others.

    Are you sure you’re approach is smart? Intellectual?

  28. Pablo Post author

    Opinions combined with the internet are equal to years of study and practice when it comes to political argument. Let that be the final word.

    But also a word of caution (and decorum). Next time try to stick to the subject of any given post rather than engaging in spurious diversions and gratuitously attacking me, again, from a poorly grounded analytic position that exhibits more opinionated prejudice than basis in fact. I will no longer engage with the ad hominems and will give no further license to them.

  29. Tom Hunter

    so I might as well talk to my dog about the distinction between the three (and I say this with affection rather than as an insult, less you take it as such).

    I took it in good humour, partly because, as I explained, there’s some truth to it. But then….

    ….and gratuitously attacking me, again, from a poorly grounded analytic position that exhibits more opinionated prejudice than basis in fact.

    Surely you’re aware of the quite serious analysis of Jon Stewart’s approach to news (the source of my “clown nose on/off” comments)? Given the importance he held with young people a few years ago and his ongoing influence with the likes of Maddow, John Oliver and others, niether his coverage of stories nor the analysis of that should be dismissed. The word “clown” is not meant as insult to you, but as part of describing a person who veers between serious analysis and unserious. Which is it?

    Is calling President Trump, “Drumpf”, and the GOP Tea Party faction, “Tea Baggers”, really the result of a strongly grounded analytical approach? Is that serious or unserious? Is it not merely “opinionated prejudice”? Genuine question.

    But fair enough on the distractions. It seems my last major comment – which did actually circle back to the topic of this post – may have been lost or spammed. I’ll wait and see.

  30. Tom Hunter

    Opinions combined with the internet are equal to years of study and practice when it comes to political argument. Let that be the final word.

    I did not say they were equal. If I thought that I would not be here.

    I merely wanted to impart the rather ancient idea that wisdom is not necessarily possessed solely by the learned. They can be wrong and make mistakes, and seeing as they’re smarter and often in greater positions of power, their mistakes have greater impact.

    Ah – and i see I did use a swear word after you had asked me not to. Sorry about that.

  31. Erewhon

    “I’ve certainly expressed my doubts to you about “Political Science”, at least on the “science” part”

    I can’t speak for Pablo, but I am a political scientist, and I think I speak for a lot of political scientists when I say we don’t really consider ourselves to be “scientists” in the sense that, say, a physicist or biologist is. I think most people would be happy to instead have a degree in Political Studies, or just Politics.

  32. Tom Hunter

    I think that’s a good point: Studies rather than Science.

    On that I note there have been recent and increasing efforts by Economics departments to move themselves under the STEM wing of universities and away from the Humanities Departments. Regrettable, given how much the subject is tied to humans rather than math.

    And as far as Political Studies are concerned I very much enjoyed Pablo’s visit to Flyover country in his US visit (Yes, Pablo, when you referred to the trip I knew about them). Which is why I’m looking forward to a thread devoted to those three things he mentioned:
    – the real organic concerns
    – a larger malaise in the US body politic.
    – there are grave issues involved and the crisis is real and growing.

    I’m sure these have been covered before, but perhaps only in glancing fashion amidst other analysis. I’ll have to look back through the archives, but even if there, they deserve to be revisited.

  33. Pablo Post author


    You will know the joke that “political scientists want to be economists, economists want to be real scientists and real scientists want to be clowns.” The best that can be said is that all social sciences, for all their mathematical and statistical sophistication these days, can only act as quasi-sciences. The fact that the study of human political behaviour cannot be replicated in laboratory settings, that it is not uniformly reproducible over time and numerous iterations, that independent variables cannot be controlled and intervening variables have second and third order effects that make for unanticipated variance in dependent variables all conspire against a true “science” of political behaviour.

    Even so, the use of small-N (qualitative) and large-N (quantitative) analysis in tandem or as complements, coupled with advances in comparative methodology that refine the “most similar” and “most different” typologies, all have added precision to political analysis. So it may not be science but it sure ain’t opinion.

    I will leave for another time the contributions of political philosophy to normative and positive theory. But if one thinks of the relevance of Hobbes to current IR theory (and practice) or the ongoing contributions of such as Plato, Rosseau and de Toqueville to our understanding of democratic societies, then it is clear that even if it were able to be subject to “real” scientific scrutiny, there would still be much left unexplored in the political realm.

  34. Kumara Republic

    “It was better than expected for many reasons, not the least of which was the realization that the US is a deeply racist closet authoritarian society no matter what the myth-makers say. Drumpf just proved that 30+ years later.”

    In a worst case scenario following an increasingly possible Trump indictment, his most rabid fanboys & fangirls could well relitigate the outcome with AR-15s. This time round though, things likely wouldn’t be so violent that a 2nd American Civil War would erupt, but rather something more like an American Troubles.

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