Saturday, December 30, 2017

Good Swamp

On September 26, 2017, according to the Los Angeles Time's Brian Bennett

Trump dined with about 150 donors from New York’s real estate and financial industries at the famous circus-themed Le Cirque restaurant on the Upper East Side. Some attendees paid six-figure sums for the company of a president who often decries what he calls Washington's pay-to-play "swamp."

The Republican National Committee and the Trump Victory Fund expected the event to raise about $5 million to help protect Republicans' majorities in the Senate and the House in next year's midterm election.

The White House declined to let reporters traveling with the president attend any part of the fundraising activities or hear Trump's remarks. In years past, reporters typically have been allowed to at least attend a president's speech at fundraisers.

Yahoo News' David Knowles cites five main strategies in which President Trump is betraying one of his prime campaign themes:

a) "the lobbying boom," featuring "more than 100 lobbyists named to positions in his administration, the majority serving at the very agencies they once tried to influence;"
b) "amended staff disclosures," once by Michael Flynn and 39 times by Jared Kushner;
c) "the Trump orgainziation," including "deals around the globe," profit-making from Trump golf courses, Washington hotel, and foreign real estate transactions, and lodging and more for the Secret Service when Trump is at a property he owns;
d) "financial opacity," the refusal to release his tax returns;
e) "all in the family," featuring Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and promotion of the latter's clothing line by presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway.

It's an impressive list and impressive record. However, underlying every article and comment about the buying and selling of Donald Trump (Kremlin promotion excepted) is one premise: the assumption that Trump believes- in general- that the swamp is bad.


Obviously, Trump believes he and his immediate family are entitled to roam the swamp at will for their own profit. But he may in fact believe that the purpose of government should be the care and feeding of the President of the United States, whomever that is. Consider this excerpt from the interview of Trump on Thursday by the New York Times' Michael Schmidt:

TRUMP: No, no, they thought it would be a one-day story, an excuse, and it just kept going and going and going. It’s too bad Jeff recused himself. I like Jeff, but it’s too bad he recused himself. I thought. … Many people will tell you that something is [inaudible].

SCHMIDT: Do you think Holder was more loyal to. …

TRUMP: I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the I.R.S. scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest, I have great respect for that.

Ezra Klein remarks

Read that again. Trump’s premise in this section appears to be that President Obama engaged in a wide array of criminal, undemocratic, and negligent behaviors but his attorney general protected him from justice. And Trump’s conclusion is that Obama’s attorney general did his job well. To Trump, the attorney general doesn’t serve the country, or the Constitution, but the president.

Recognizing the other disturbing aspects of the interview, Klein then leaves this subject without speculating.  However, for a guy obsessed with it, the degree to which Trump has made "the swamp" larger and more dangerous is striking. Striking, but perhaps not surprising, given that he never was asked whether "the swamp" was a per se bad, and rarely if ever asked to describe it.

It's difficult to get straight answers from this guy as he wanders from subject to subject, fantasy to fantasy, and lie to lie. He is like no other President- or perhaps any other person- and few assumptions ever should be made about him or what he believes.

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