Doug: Did you see that interview Donald Trump gave about running for president? Someone needs to debunk him – he’s dangerous.
L: No, I didn’t. I’ve never paid any attention to the man. But if not us, who? If not now, when?
Doug: I saw the interview with an important reporter from the Wall Street Journal, but it’s all over the Net now.
L: Wait, an important reporter? I didn’t think you believed such a thing was possible.
L: You said, an “important reporter” – maybe you meant an “important interview?”
Doug: I don’t know what I said, but I couldn’t have said “important” and “reporter” in the same sentence. That would be ludicrous, like an “important talking head.”
L: I know – that’s why I asked. I was afraid the "pod people" had grabbed you and left a mannequin in your place.
Doug: No, no, strike that. I couldn’t have somehow said “important reporter.” Let’s go to the tape. [Pause for a replay.] Damn. You’re right. I truly did misspeak. I wonder what Freud would have said about that...
Anyway, about Trump, I’ve got to say that, if nothing else, “The Donald” is certainly glib, and a skilled television performer. One of his main characteristics is the extreme certainty he projects about everything – mainly because he says it, and therefore believes it.
It’s disturbing that he might actually gain traction this time, for this very reason. In uncertain times, people want to believe in someone who is certain he knows what’s right and what should be done. At such times they also want a strong, aggressive leader, and based on everything he said, Trump would go beyond aggression to being an actively belligerent leader. He wants to be the alpha chimpanzee.
L: I’ve brought up an ABC interview on YouTube – he certainly sounds like a bully to me. Maybe that’s what it’s come to in what little is left of America; we need a bully in the White House to make ourselves feel strong again.
Doug: Sure. Jingoism plays well to an unhappy audience. One of the things that came up in the Wall Street Journal interview I saw was that the Chinese are taking “unfair advantage” of Americans by selling them inexpensive goods that improve their standard of living. To Trump, this is ripping us off, and he, as president, would make sure it doesn’t happen. He mentioned import tariffs, specifically. He also mentioned Colombia, among others, saying that although he believes in free trade, he also believes in “fair trade.” This, of course, is a contradiction; the moment you impose restrictions on trade for political reasons, no matter how “fair” some people think those constraints may be, it ceases to be free. I’m sure The Donald would come up with all manner of cockamamie schemes to make things suit his idea of “fair.”
L: It’s always astonishing to me the way people who would laugh at a girl who says she’s a “little pregnant” will, with a serious face, say that a “little” coercive government intervention makes markets work better.
Doug: That’s him; he thinks he’s a capitalist because he’s been a winner in the marketplace. But cutting deals with his banking and political buddies to make money in real estate, and using borrowed money while the property bubble was still inflating, is not like building a whole new business as Steven Jobs has done. And it doesn’t make him knowledgeable about economics. He believes in tariffs and quotas and all sorts of government interventions. He’s a classic fascist—
Doug: I mean it, literally. Let’s clarify a few common words. People always bandy terms around without having more than a vague idea what they really mean.
Fascism is based on the economic theory that government and business should work together as “partners.” Fascism posits that both private goods and essentially all the means of production are privately owned – but they’re all controlled by the state. Fascism is associated with jackboots and uniforms, because of Hitler, but that’s by no means its essence. It’s essentially an economic system.
Idiotically, fascism is often conflated with capitalism, which is also a system where everything is privately owned – but also totally privately controlled. A true capitalist country doesn’t currently exist anywhere.
Socialism is a system where consumer goods – houses, cars, and the like – are privately owned (albeit regulated), but all of the means of production are state owned.
In communism everything is state owned.
Anyway, all the countries of the world today are either fascist or socialist. It’s a mistake to say the U.S. is a capitalist country; it’s fascist, and gives capitalism a bad name. If The Donald somehow became president, he would make the U.S. even more controlled, with an even stronger, more intrusive government. He’d be a disaster in every way possible.
L: [Snort] Public-private partnerships. We all know which partner has the guns and calls the shots – but also which one pays the bribes and profits from legally sanitized corruption.
Doug: Right. In practice, that tends to lead to strongmen at the top, but it starts with this economic idea, obscured by large volumes of political rhetoric. The capite censi, the booboisie, come to think they can get something for nothing from the magic cornucopia of the state.
In Trump’s case, a lot of the things he proposes will sound like good ideas to an economically miseducated population. Some of them may even work, because he does have experience in business – unlike almost everybody in government. So it’s not out of the question that he would propose a few things that make sense, assuming they cut back state power. But, because of his basic worldview and flawed economic premises, he’d be a disaster.
L: For instance…
Doug: He’s a huge fan of the military. He’d likely be using it everywhere, spending absurd amounts of money creating more orphans and widows and future enemies.
He said that going in to Libya for humanitarian purposes would be okay, but that you’d have to get in and out quickly – a surgical strike to cut out the cancer at the top. But this is ridiculous. If you’re going to sanction what amounts to regicide in Libya for the common good, you’d have to do the same in Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and so forth, and that’s just for starters. It would be equally logical to do the same in most of the countries in Africa and Central Asia, plus a few more in the Western Hemisphere. It’s as if The Donald watched South Park’s movie Team America: World Police, and thought it was a documentary, not a comedy.
L: Maybe the U.S. should launch multiple surgical strikes on itself to cut off the heads of our home-grown hydra. It could be for the common good.
Doug: [Chuckles] Hey, turnabout is fair play. Going to war for humanitarian purposes opens Pandora’s box; any government can say any other government is misbehaving and can then launch attacks, surgical or otherwise.
Look, Libya is in the news today, but why is it getting so much more attention than any of the other despotisms in the region? Of course Gaddafi’s a criminal – someone the planet would be better off without. But, as criminally idiotic kleptocrats go, he’s actually one of the better ones, from the point of view of the average man on the street – especially among the tyrants of Africa and the Arab world. But he spoke out, poked at the beast in Washington, and now he’s being made out to be the worst bête noir since the last enemy du jour. That’s the reality.
To his credit, The Donald says his only real interest in Libya is the oil. I thought that was refreshing candor. He says he’s got no great interest in Iraq, except that we should keep their oil – this would repay us for freeing them from their tyrant at the cost of the blood of American soldiers. If he had a sense of humor – something he appears to lack totally – he would simply have said, “What’s our oil doing under their sand?” This is the sort of fascist populism that’s really dangerous. Their blood doesn’t matter, but ours is sacred – never mind the lies about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction that were used to justify the Iraq debacle.
I have sympathy for those soldiers who get maimed, physically and psychologically, actualizing the foolish adventures some politician imagines. But they did volunteer, knowing they would be asked to go and kill people in their homes – people they know nothing about. That’s risky, because those people are going to defend themselves and their property. “You pays your money, you takes your chances.” U.S. soldiers aren’t heroes by virtue of wearing a uniform. They’re basically just government employees, a heavily armed version of the post office. Soldiering for a government is basically a job for thoughtless kids who have too much testosterone and not enough other options.
Trump also mentioned “keeping Iran out” as a reason to steal Iraqi oil. Not only is this attitude akin to throwing rocks at a hornet nest, it shows that he doesn’t understand that Iran is in a state of flux. The clique of old theocratic criminals who now run the place will soon join the ranks of the departed. Many – if not most – of the young people in Iran are pro-West. They get plenty of Western movies and videos, both on DVD and from the Internet. They’re tired of missing out on a good thing. There’s living memory in Iran of a more modern lifestyle, something many Iranians want. And because the U.S. hasn’t bombed them yet, they are not as anti-American as many Muslims are. Doing the wrong thing, The Donald could turn this around and create a fresh new wave of enemies for the U.S.
Anyway, the idiocy – and ethical paucity – of Trump's view that we should take other peoples' resources as virtuous plunder – justified by the price the U.S. paid intervening where it was not invited – is staggering. It’s essentially the theft of resources, just because you want them, and you can. The man appears to have a basically criminal personality. I’d never do business with him if I could avoid it. Fortunately, I can.
He thinks he’s a maven in foreign policy, but that’s exactly where he’d likely do the most damage.
L: He must have been one of those kids who took other kids' toys away in the sandbox.
Doug: Could be. He certainly seems to have a predilection for consorting with low-life political thugs.
L: That strikes me, too: I notice the reporter in the video I see going through a list of potential competitors for the White House. I think he was trying to seem knowledgeable and gentlemanly, while still making the case for himself. So he kept saying what nice guys or good people they were, even while pointing out their weaknesses.
Doug: Exactly – he spoke of them all as personal friends. But what kind of person has friends like that? I can’t imagine inviting such rabble over for dinner. I’d have to count the silverware afterwards. Maybe even my fingers…
L: Not a great character reference.
Doug: Sure. And it’s not just a few odd ducks he might have gotten to know over the years; he consorts with all of these people, as a matter of business policy. The way he was pandering to Sarah Palin, in particular, struck me as a shrewd move. He partially did it to reward her for backing him up about the birth issue with Obama – also because he knows Boobus americanus likes Palin. They see her as a salt-of-the-earth type; she’s no Boston Brahmin. They figure she must have a lot of common sense because she comes from the lower middle class, espouses conservative values, and so forth. They can relate to her because she has a reality show, and the type of family that could do Jerry Springer. But she’s a dim bulb without any knowledge or experience of consequence. She’s like a female George Bush.
L: Ouch! That’s a pretty harsh thing to say about a lady…
Doug: Is she a lady, or just some woman who is good-looking? Look, anyone who presumes to rule invites scrutiny and criticism – the harsher the better. Not nearly enough harsh things were said about Bush, who will vie with Obama for being the worst president in U.S. history.
L: Do you think Trump’s kind words about Palin were an overture towards a VP invitation?
Doug: During the interview I saw, The Donald very deftly deflected that question. He’s definitely a very skilled TV celebrity who knows how to deal with reporters. I liked it, for example, when the reporter asked him a snarky question, and he came back, told the reporter it was a snarky question and dismissed it. You’ve got to at least give him points for style – except for his haircut, of course.
L: [Laughs] I shouldn’t laugh, but really, that was almost painful to watch. Maybe straight on, in the mirror, it looks fine, but in the camera angle I saw, the hair flopped about like a giant piece of French toast on his head.
Doug: I know. It becomes more bizarre as time goes on and he loses more of his hair. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were him, but I’d be embarrassed to be caught on TV looking like that. And he has more hair left than I do. Or appears to. But what amounts to a bouffant comb-over really isn’t very flattering. On the other hand, “De gustibus non est disputandum.”
L: He could adopt the Yul Brynner look from The King and I. Go ageless.
Doug: That’d work. Or, being such a fan of the military, he could get a crew cut. After all, he did go to a military high school.
L: That’d fit – but we’re straying into ad hominem territory here. What matters is what’s between his ears, not what’s on top. Do you think this is another case of an idiot savant venturing beyond his field of strength? He says he smart. Do you agree?
Doug: I think he does have a high IQ, but I think he’s… how shall I put this? I think he’s mildly deranged. He’s actually, clinically speaking, a megalomaniac. His arrogance is just overwhelming. This is an extremely dangerous type of person to have running a country with a large military. It’d be “my way or the highway.” He’s the kind of person who’d be willing to start a war almost anywhere, with almost anyone, if he thought it would be to his advantage. He has no principles that would restrain him, no guiding philosophical principles at all. He’s totally unscrupulous. He’d wind up doing whatever seemed like a good idea at the time, as long as it was his idea, because he thinks he’s always right. He’s a complete pragmatist, but not even a very thoughtful one.
L: For those who may not have made the connection before, “pragmatic” is often used as a compliment – describing someone practical who gets things done. But to be philosophically pragmatic means to adhere to no principles, to shift with the winds of fashion and expedience. That’s extremely dangerous when dealing with the chaotic and unpredictable – like human nature and history. The lack of solid principles can lead to adopting horrific policies that may seem practical at the time.
Doug: Yes. One question the reporter asked that I thought was good was why anyone should trust him to run the country when he’s filed for bankruptcy. His answer was that he’s never personally filed for bankruptcy, merely used the law of the land to negotiate business deals. I suppose that’s true, but whether or not it’s true, it highlights the fact that he may be a billionaire at present, but he’s come close to the edge with some frequency over his career. I remember during one of his corporate bankruptcies, The Donald negotiated to keep a salary and expense account while he was running the company through the bankruptcy process – almost as though he needed the money. It was unseemly at best. He’s promiscuous with money, especially if it’s OPM (Other People’s Money).
L: And whether or not it’s legal, it is without question an ethical problem to default on debt and other promises to employees and business associates. That violates one of the only two laws you say are justified: do all that you say you will do, and don’t aggress against other people.
Doug: Yes, and it’s hiding behind the skirts of the state when you want to default on people for whom you’ve taken on obligations. That said, he does have business experience – cutting costs, making layoffs, etc., so it’s hard to see how he could be worse than Obama... but then, I didn’t see how Obama could be worse than Bush, nor how Bush could be worse than Clinton.
It’s as I’ve always said about the Roman emperors: People thought it couldn’t get any worse after Tiberius, but then they got Claudius, then Caligula. They really thought it couldn’t get any worse than that – and then they got Nero. And then a civil war. This is exactly the way it’s going in the U.S. now. The people who actually want to be president now are among the worst among us. It’s hard to imagine a decent person wanting the job at this point, or at least anyone who’s not an egotistical fool, since it’s impossible – at least in my opinion – to salvage the current ship of state. Whoever is at the helm when it sinks will be blamed for it, even if he isn’t directly at fault. I see Ron Paul’s efforts as being only… educational… in nature.
L: So, do you think Trump could actually win the Oval Office?
Doug: I’m the worst political handicapper there is, partially because – perpetual optimist that I am – I perennially give the voters much more credit than they deserve. But no, I don’t think so. He’ll likely end up in bankruptcy again soon, and that will knock him out of the race. Remember, he’s in real estate. The losses among real estate speculators in places like Florida are staggering, and I have doubts about the posted profits of many real estate companies. The bear market in real estate isn’t nearly over, and he’ll be a casualty of that, if nothing else.
He claims to have $600 million in spare change he can put into a presidential bid, but he could end up on welfare before he could take office.
L: Maybe that’s why he wants to be president. The friends in high places he has now are not high enough to save his bacon.
Doug: Could be. I just wish we could get a real capitalist on stage, more like Uncle Scrooge, instead of another Donald.
L: If I could have my wish, I’d wish for U.S. persons to remember that they are Americans, to stop submitting to voluntary servitude, and vote for None Of The Above.
Doug: I’ll drink to that.
L: So… Investment implications?
Doug: I’d say this conversation is more of a general public service announcement: if he doesn’t implode on his own, don’t trust The Donald. We’ll be following more political developments that impact our investments in The Casey Report.
L: Okay then. We’ll talk next week.
Doug: Very well – look forward to it.