Review of Joshua Green’s Devil’s Bargain

Subtitled “Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Nationalist Uprising,” Joshua Green’s book about the 2016 election explains how Trump pulled off an upset. Green interviewed Bannon and other major players. The journalism and writing are of highest quality, like what you can read in publications such as the New Yorker. I like that the writing doesn’t draw attention to itself but flows well.

I have a greater appreciation now for how Trump won and for the role Bannon and other nationalists played in his victory.

Trump won by

  1. Appealing to nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and economic populism;
  2. Relentlessly attacking Hillary and Bill Clinton as corrupt;
  3. Saying outrageous things that generated free publicity;
  4. Firing Paul Manafort in late August of 2016, hiring Steve Bannon, and listening to advice from the Mercer family;
  5. Concentrating on the swing states; (A week before the election, Hillary was campaigning in Arizona.)
  6. Getting a lot of help from the Mercer family and Cambridge Analytics;
  7. Getting a lot of help from millions of angry, young white males who spend time on the Internet as trolls and in the Dark Web of right-wing hate groups;
  8. Getting a lot of help from Jame’s Comey’s announcement about email investigations a week before the election;
  9. Riding the wave of populist, anti-establishment anger related to the Tea Party; (The Mercers at first supported Ted Cruz, another outsider who wanted to overthrow the establishment.)
  10. Repeating many of the populist themes of Bernie Sanders’ campaign; (One of Trump’s videos sounds almost exactly like a Sanders video: attacking the corrupt corporations and political elites.)
  11. Taking advantage of solid opposition research that appeared in the book Clinton Cash, which exposed apparent corruption in the Clinton Foundation and which resulted in headlines in the New York Times and other legitimate media outlets.

Though Steve Bannon was an extremist, and though he later was kicked out of the White House, he was smart (a former Goldman Sachs executive) and played a large role in many of these strategies.

In fact, Green is convinced that Bannon departure from the White House in August of 2017 was largely due to Trump’s annoyance at being overshadowed by Bannon.  Some people called Bannon Trump’s Karl Rove.   Trump wanted people to believe that he is a self-made man. In a tweet, Trump ridiculed Bannon and said he played a small role in his win.    Green suggests otherwise.

It’s easy to ridicule Trump as being dumb. In some ways he is. In other ways, he’s rather a genius. He is skilled at insulting and tearing down opponents. He beat Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christi and the other Republican candidates and then pulled off an upset win against Hillary. His repeated attacks against “Crooked Hillary” stuck. He had a knack for self-promotion and for appealing to voters’ primal views.

But he also appealed to economic concerns of the middle class. Green quotes Steve Bannon on Trump’s victory:

“Trump,” Bannon proclaimed, “is the leader of a populist uprising…. What Trump represents is a restoration—a restoration of true American capitalism and a revolution against state-sponsored socialism. Elites have taken all the upside for themselves and pushed the downside to the working- and middle-class Americans.” Bernie Sanders had tried to warn them, but the Democrats hadn’t listened, and didn’t break free of crony capitalism. “Trump saw this,” Bannon said. “The American people saw this. And they have risen up to smash it.”

Of course, as Green says, this spin is belied by the fact that Trump’s economic policies have favored the rich and have led to a dismantling of regulations that protect the public from predatory capitalism.   Bannon was more anti-establishment and more anti-Wall Street than Trump turned out to be. Bannon and his cohorts hated the corrupt GOP establishment and wanted Trump to overturn it.

Several times during the election, Trump campaign staff and Republican operatives were convinced Trump was in serious trouble. Trump’s attacks on Megyn Kelly for her aggressive questioning at Republican debates led to a quarrel with Fox News owner Robert Murdoch; but Breitbart News and other far-right groups were able to come to Trump’s defense and attack Megyn as a traitor to the cause. The Access Hollywood tape (“Grab’em by the pussy”) almost ended Trump’s campaign, but WikiLeaks released DNC emails, and Trump pivoted to attacking the Clintons about Bill’s infidelities and apparent corruption in the Clinton Foundation.

Trump was the Teflon Don.

Up until election night, Republicans were expecting to lose, though their polls showed the race tightening after Comey’s announcement.

After Trump clinched the election, a reporter asked Bannon if the outcome was worthy of a Hollywood movie.

Without missing a beat, Bannon shot back with a reply worthy of his favorite vintage star, Gregory Peck in Twelve O’Clock High.

“Brother,” he said, “Hollywood doesn’t make movies where the bad guys win.”

(The book has many such gems.)

Despite Trump’s relationship with Bannon and other nationalists, Green writes, “Trump doesn’t believe in nationalism or in any other political philosophy — he’s fundamentally a creature of his own ego.” Green predicts that Trump will disappoint most of his supporters, just as he disappointed and betrayed most of his business associates over the years. Green says that Trump’s presidency has mostly been chaos and failed policy initiatives.

Green seems wrong on two points. Trump’s anti-immigration policies are having a real, damaging effect. And he has launched an anti-globalist trade war with China. (This happened after Green wrote the book.)

42% of Americans still support Trump, according to some polls. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins re-election in 2020.

Listen to the music of Donald Trump’s face

This is what Donald Trump’s photo sounds like when I feed it to my software for converting images to music:


Donald Trump
Here’s a second rendering of Trump’s face, using a different algorithm:


Here’s what Barack Obama’s photo sounds like:

Barack Obama
Here’s a second rendering of Obama’s face, using a different algorithm:


Here’s what a young woman, Brenna, sounds like:


Here’s what a photo of a plant sticking up through a grate sounds like:

Plant sticking through a grate


Here’s what a photo of a pair of Northern Gannets sounds like:

Northern Gannets


Here’s what a photo of a cute child sounds like:

On Trump’s comments about “shxxhole countries”

Trump said something, per WaPo, about “allowing all these people from shithole countries” to come in, and how we need to get more people from places like Norway to come.

He seems not to notice that people from places like Norway have things like universal health care, not-for-profit legal systems, and actual education.

He forgets that he and the GOP are bent on turning this place into a “shithole” country, what with their giveaways to the rich, the elimination of the educational system, the absence of a decent health insurance system, and the driving of the middle class into poverty in order to give the fat cats whatever the hell they want.

MAGA [Morons Are Governing America] my freaking ass.

No Norwegian with a brain wants to come here now.

Why would they?

Trump’s broken campaign promises

From Robert Reich:

Almost one year in, it’s time for another update for Trump voters on his election promises:

1. He told you he’d cut your taxes, and that the super-rich like him would pay more. You bought it. But his new tax law does the opposite. by 2027, according the nonpartisan analyses, the richest 1 percent will have got 83 percent of the tax cut and the richest 0.1 percent, 60 percent of it. As Trump told his wealthy friends at Mar-a-Lago last week, “You all just got a lot richer.”

2. He promised to close “special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors but unfair to American workers,” especially the notorious “carried interest” loophole for private-equity, hedge fund, and real estate partners. You bought it. But the loophole is still there. The new tax law keeps it.

3. He told you he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “beautiful.” You bought it. But he didn’t repeal and he didn’t replace. (Just as well: His plan would have knocked at least 23 million off health insurance, including many of you.) Instead, he’s doing what he can to cut it back and replace it with nothing. The new tax law will result in 13 million people losing health coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

4. He told you he’d invest $1 trillion in our nation’ crumbling infrastructure. You bought it. But after his giant tax cut for corporations and millionaires, there’s no money left for infrastructure.

5. He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. But he’s brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses, and he’s filled departments and agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who are crafting new policies for the same industries they recently worked for.

6. He said he’d use his business experience to whip the White House into shape. You bought it. But he has created the most dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history, and has already fired and replaced so many assistants (one of them hired and fired in a little more than a week) that people there barely know who’s in charge of what.

7. He told you he’d “bring down drug prices” by making deals with drug companies. You bought it. But now the White House says that promise is “inoperative.”

8. He promised “a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.” You bought it. But foreign lobbyists are still raising money for American elections.

9. He told you “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.” You bought it. But he and House Speaker Paul Ryan are already planning such cuts in order to deal with the ballooning deficit created, in part, by the new tax law for corporations and the rich.

10. He promised “six weeks of paid maternity leave to any mother with a newborn child whose employer does not provide the benefit.” You bought it. But the giant tax cut for corporations and the rich doesn’t leave any money for this.

11. He said that on Day One he’d label China a “currency manipulator.” You bought it. But then he met with China’s president Xi Jinping and declared “China is not a currency manipulator.” Ever since then, Trump has been cozying up to Xi.

12. He said he wouldn’t bomb Syria. You bought it. But then he bombed Syria.

13. He said he’d build a “wall” across the southern border. You believed him. But there’s no money for that, either. Chief of staff John Kelly says it is “unlikely that we will build a wall, a physical barrier, from sea to shining sea.”

14. He promised that the many women who accused him of sexual misconduct “will be sued after the election is over.” You bought it. He hasn’t sued them.

15. He said he “would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off,” and he called Barack Obama “the vacationer-in-Chief.” You bought it. But he has spent nearly 25 percent of his days at one of his golf properties for some portion of the day, according to Golf News Network, at a cost to taxpayers of over $77 million. That’s already more taxpayer money on vacations than Obama cost in the first 3 years of his presidency. Not to mention all the money taxpayers are spending protecting his family, including his two sons who travel all over the world on Trump business.

16. He said he’d force companies to keep jobs in America, and that there would be “consequences” for companies that shipped jobs abroad. You believed him. But despite their promises, Carrier, Ford, GM, and the rest have continued to ship jobs to Mexico and China. Carrier (a division of United Technologies) has moved ahead with plans to send 1,000 jobs at its Indiana plant to Mexico. Notwithstanding, the federal government has rewarded United Technologies with 15 new contracts since Trump’s inauguration. Last year, Microsoft opened a new factory in Wilsonville, Oregon, that was supposed to herald a new era in domestic tech manufacturing. But in July, the company announced it was closing the plant. More than 100 workers and contractors will lose their jobs when production shifts to China. GE is sending jobs to Canada. IBM is sending them to Costa Rica, Egypt, Argentina, and Brazil. There have been no “consequences” for sending all these jobs overseas.

17. He promised to revive the struggling coal industry and “bring back thousands” of lost mining jobs. You bought it. But coal jobs continue to disappear. Since Trump’s victory, at least 6 plants that relied on coal have closed or announced they will close. Another 40 are projected to close during the president’s four-year term. Utilities continue to switch to natural gas instead of coal.

18. He promised to protect steel workers. But according to the American Iron and Steel Institute, which tracks shipments, steel imports were 19.4 percent higher in the first 10 months of 2017 than in the same period last year. That import surge has hurt American steel workers, already struggling against a glut of cheap Chinese steel. For example, ArcelorMittal just announced it will soon lay off 150 of its 207 steel workers at its plant in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

19. He said he’d make America safer. You believed him. But according to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have been 377 mass shootings so far this year, including 58 people killed and hundreds injured at a concert in Las Vegas, and 26 churchgoers killed and 20 injured at a church in Texas. Trump refuses to consider any gun controls.

20. He said he’d release his taxes. “I’m under a routine audit and it’ll be released, and as soon as the audit is finished it will be released.” He hasn’t released his taxes.