Thursday, April 19, 2018

Trump Times Two

[T]radition approves all form of competition.
— Arthur Clough, The Latest Dialog

Although it wasn’t really a competition, a comparison of the numbers was nonetheless enlightening, and James Comey came in a disappointing second. Of course, Mr. Comey is trying to make up for it by having interviews on every possible outlet except Fox News.

The foregoing came to mind when considering that within three weeks of each other, Mr. Comey and Stormy Daniels had interviews on major television networks that, in advance, were touted as being among the most exciting interviews scheduled during March and April of 2018. It was, naturally, assumed that the interview with Mr. Comey on ABC’s 20-20, would be the most watched of the two interviews, since it would be the most substantive. That is because of the respective roles played by Mr. Comey and Ms. Daniels in Mr. Trump’s life.

Mr. Comey is the former director of the FBI, and it was anticipated that during his interview, he would offer some candid observations about Mr. Trump that he acquired during the time he was the director of that agency. Those discussions by Mr. Comey would, it was assumed, give the public an insight into how Mr. Trump governs, and whether or not he tried to obstruct justice in his interactions with Mr. Comey. Many reviewers, including this one, assumed Mr. Comey’s recounting of his time serving under Mr. Trump, would be of far greater interest to an American public concerned about how it is being governed, than an interview with Ms. Daniels, with whom Mr. Trump had only a one-night stand. To everyone’s great surprise, however, the interview with Ms. Daniels, in which she described her encounter with Mr. Trump in a bedroom in a fancy hotel, attracted a much greater audience than the interview with Mr. Comey, who described encounters with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office in the White House.

Ms. Daniels’ interview was conducted on CBS’s 60 Minutes on March 25, 2018. The interview attracted 22 million viewers, a number of viewers that exceeded the number of people who watched the 2018 Grammys (19.8 million) and the Golden Globes (19 million). Mr. Comey’s interview had fewer than half the number of viewers that Ms. Daniels enjoyed. A paltry 9.8 million viewers bothered to take the time out of a busy evening to watch Mr. Comey.

Ms. Daniels said nothing in her interview to demean Mr. Trump. She did nothing to cast doubt on Mr. Trump’s sexual skills. She was, as she always seems to be, quite reserved and matter of fact in describing her encounter. Nothing she said about Mr. Trump’s bedside or in-bed manner would have provided reason for Mr. Trump to take offense. And, as if to return the favor, Mr. Trump has never spoken unkindly of Ms. Daniels. He has never suggested that Ms. Daniels afforded him the least pleasure of any of the many women whom he has favored with his sexual prowess. And as if the foregoing were not enough to explain why Mr. Trump had nothing unfriendly to say about her interview, another aspect of the interview almost certainly gave him great pleasure, perhaps as much as Ms. Daniels had given him in their one sexual encounter.

Mr. Trump, likes to brag about the high numbers of admirers that he appears to see during various events he puts on. He almost certainly attributed the large number of viewers Ms. Daniels attracted to her 60 Minutes interview, to the fact that he was the subject she was addressing. His unseen presence, he almost certainly believes, is what made it interesting. He would have been doubly pleased with the fact that her interview about HIM attracted more viewers than any other program put on by CBS’s 60 Minutes since an interview in 2008 where the subjects were the much disliked, by him, Barrack Obama, who had just been elected president, and his wife, Michelle. And, as if that weren’t reason enough for Mr. Trump to be pleased by Ms. Daniel’s interview, he must also have been pleased by the paltry number of people viewing Mr. Comey’s interview, believing the small number to be more than adequate proof that people do not believe the obviously slanted views of a man he has called a “slime ball,” and described as the worst FBI director in history.

Knowledge of all of the foregoing was certainly more than enough to brighten Mr. Trump’s day. It does not have the same effect on the rest of the country. That is because it says something about the intellectual and moral climate in the United States, that an interview with a non-wife describing her one-night sexual encounter with the president of the United States, is of more interest to the American public, than the views of a former director of the FBI discussing possible felonious activities of that same man. In Trump times, of course, that does not come as a surprise. That is the climate in the United States that Mr. Trump has created.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Terrible Twos and DJT

The terrible twos are finally here, And this is the time that I really do fear.
—Gerard McNeil, The Terrible Twos_

It is the second year of the Trump reign. Many of the king’s tweets bring to mind the small child who, having fretted all night over a perceived parental slight, storms out of his or her bedroom early in the morning and enters the parents’ bedroom to awaken both the parents and the controversy that the parents mistakenly thought had been put to rest along with the truculent child. In Mr. Trump’s world, however, the early morning tweet gives the president comfort and permits him to awaken not just the parents, but the entire world, to his continued anger at perceived slights. Sometimes, of course, presidential petulance clouds that which would, were he possessed of any, be referred to as good judgement. In the recent case it demonstrates that in his infantile fury, he has chosen to express anger towards China, in the process failing to acknowledge a great benefit that was given him and his family by that country.

China is the country whose leader and the leader’s wife had been, less than one year before the emission of the tweets, entertained by Mr. Trump in his favorite playroom at Mar-a-Lago. At the conclusion of that meeting, Mr. Trump exulted that: “I think we have made tremendous progress in our relationship with China.   We’ll be making a lot of additional progress.” Although Mr. Trump did not refer to it, his exuberance may have been motivated by more than the congeniality that accompanied the dinner. It may be that he had advance knowledge of the great gift that China had bestowed on his daughter, Ivanka and her company, at almost the same time the dinner was taking place. That treatment pertained to intellectual property and, more specifically, trade mark protection in China for Ivanka Trump’s products. It was like the favorable treatment Mr. Trump’s brand had received.

Soon after Mr. Trump was elected, and after years of litigation over the Trump companies’ request for trademark protection in China, he was granted 38 trademarks for businesses such as hotels, insurance and bodyguard services. That good fortune was mirrored by Ivanka’s good fortune. At almost the same time that Ivanka, President Xi, his wife, Mr. Trump, his wife, and others, were being served their dinner in the Trump play house, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC was given three new trademarks for the Ivanka Trump brand by Chinese authorities. Those trademarks give her company monopoly rights to sell her products of jewelry, luggage and spa services in China. The award of the three new trademarks brought to seven, the number of trademarks her company had been granted by China since her father became president

According to reports, the Trumps’ other holdings also fared much better than the holdings of many other American companies doing business in China. According to the American Chamber of Commerce, in 2015, 77% of its members said they felt unwelcome in China and, by 2016 that number had increased to 81%. According to a report in The Guardian: “American businesses in China said they face one of the toughest climates in decades, largely due to increasing animosity towards foreign firms and slowing economic growth.” Ivanka’s company still has 32 requests pending. They may not fare as well as the initial seven.

That is because in an amazing display of ingratitude, the Terrible Tweeter has engaged in an astonishing display of biting the hand that feeds you. Instead of thanking Mr. Xi for the generous treatment received by the Trump brands, Mr. Trump has suggested that the way to deal with his benefactors in China is to engage in a trade war with them.

Almost exactly a year to the day following the wonderful dinner in the Trump playhouse, Mr. Trump announced that he would place tariffs of $50 billion on imported goods from China as punishment for what he described as thefts of American intellectual property. As Mr. Trump explained in a tweet: “Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue.” Trademarks that have been secured by Mr. Trump and his family are, of course intellectual property, and Mr. Trump was not suggesting that his or Ivanka’s trademarks have been stolen. Quite the contrary. They are what enable him and his family to profit from their trade mark protection. His terrible-twos tweets come from his anger over the treatment of those American companies that have not been as fortunate as he and his family in their business dealings in China. It is his way of saying that he feels their pain. That is probably small comfort to them and all the rest of the country that will be adversely affected if he follows through on his threat to begin a trade war with China. So sad. Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at For political commentary see his web page at

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Secretary and the Lord

Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life.
— William Lamb, From G.W.E. Russell, Collections and Recollections

It is going to be a whole new State Department! Mike Pompeo, when confirmed as Secretary of State, will bring a religious zeal to that institution that it almost certainly has never before enjoyed. Indeed, it may be that his enthusiasm for Christianity will convert the Department of State into a sort of missionary society, thus giving it an additional purpose to those purposes already described in the official website of the agency. The website says that the Department: “advances the interests of the American people, their safety and economic prosperity, by leading America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance.” With the advent of Mike Pompeo, the Department may alter its statement of purpose to add that it leads American foreign policy in order to promote Christianity throughout the world. If Mike’s tenure at CIA is a guide, evangelism and confidence in the ability of Mike’s Jesus to show the way, will almost certainly change State Department employees’ views of their roles in the world of diplomacy.

The CIA, of course, has a different mission from the Department of State. The Mission Statement of the CIA says in part: “What We Do: CIA’s primary mission is to collect, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist the President and senior US government policymakers in making decisions relating to national security. This is a very complex process and involves a variety of steps. . . .” There is no reference to bringing Christian beliefs into the activities of the CIA. “Foreign intelligence” as used in the mission statement, was not intended by its drafters to refer to Jesus or God. That did not, however, prevent Mike from introducing them to the Agency.

Mike invoked Christianity in expressing his views about Muslims in a speech he gave in a church in Wichita Kansas in 2014. Mike said that radical Muslims want “to wipe Christians from the face of the earth. . . . [T]hese folks are serious and will continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ, our Savior, is truly the only solution for our world.” Adherents of Islam, the second largest religious group in the world, with more than 1 million followers, would almost certainly find that a difficult proposition to accept.

After he became Director of the CIA, Mike announced plans to establish a chaplaincy on the CIA campus similar to what the military has at its installations. His speeches were reportedly infused with references to Christianity. He attends weekly prayer meetings in government buildings. According to a report, in Foreign Policy, there are concerns that his religious zeal is leaking into the CIA. Complaints from some employees are that supervisors want to hold Bible study sessions during work hours. Some of the senior people in the CIA are importuning lower ranking individuals at the agency to attend Bible study in the evenings. According to the report, veteran employees at the CIA are becoming estranged from the agency they have long enjoyed serving.

Responding to criticism of Mike’s remarks during agency speeches and other activities invoking Christianity, a spokesperson for the CIA said: “Director Pompeo is a man of faith. The idea that he should not practice his faith because he is Director of CIA is absurd.”

Those working at the State Department who lack Mike’s Christian zeal, may view his advent to the department with some trepidation. Although it is too soon to know how he will affect the overall work at the State Department, he may be able to convert some of the empty offices at the State Department that Rex Tillerson decided to leave empty, into small places of worship that Department employees can slip into during the day, in order to enjoy quiet reflection. They may even be used for employees to try to convert some non-believers in the State Department.

The Pew Research Center reported that in 2010 there were 50 Muslim-majority countries. Mike will have to spend much of his time negotiating with leaders of the Muslim-majority countries where adherents to Islam live. It will be interesting to see how he convinces the leaders of those countries that in addition to whatever else they may be discussing, it is necessary for them to understand that, as he so eloquently put it in his 2014 speech: “Jesus Christ our Savior is truly the only solution for our world.”