Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Promise Of An Era of Broken Promises Is Broken

by tryanmax

With all the Trump/Russia conspiracy theories in the mainstream news, constant handwringing over which country will declare war on Trump, and general criticism of Trump’s bombastic, hyperbolic oratory, it amuses me that such conventional complaints as “broken promises” continue to be leveled at the president.

It becomes especially amusing when the chorus continues unabated while the US moves its Israel embassy to Jerusalem, fulfilling a promise every president of the last quarter century has made.

As I see it, this criticism comes mainly from three camps, with a few other varieties in between and at the margins.
● The person complaining is a wall-head. It won't matter if, at the end of eight years, unemployment is at 0.5%, the Democrat Party is in shambles, the race-divide is healed, Korea is reunified, Iran is led by a woman, and we're all puttering around the moon in self-driving Tesla-Xs. They won't be happy unless there's a border wall between the US and Mexico and that’s that.

● Trump promised X and the only way the person can conceive of X is by way of A. So, if Trump approaches X via B, that person counts it as a broken promise. You see this with how Trump has decided to address prescription drug prices. The critics all expected a price-fixing solution and had already published their rebukes. When Trump proposed something else, they pivoted to “broken promises!”

● The person is holding Trump responsible for obstacles that were essentially unforeseeable. The prime example comes from federal judges who ordered the administration to keep DACA running. Constitutionally, the orders are abominable. No sane person should count this as a broken promise but clearly not everyone is sane. (I somewhat arbitrarily include in this category people that are still holding Trump to his first 100 days, because it's equally idiotic.)
As I said, there are other forms of this complaint, some absolutely legitimate. For example, if the carried interest loophole is your obsession, then I can't argue that Trump hasn't let that one go. Trump also, like most presidents before him, promised to do things that can only be done by Congress. Myself, I tend to regard those as promises to try, but strictly speaking, he did break the sort of promises that have become customary for US Presidential candidates to make.

Then there are the "who cares?" broken promises. Trump said he'd release his tax returns after audit. He didn't. So what? He said he'd label China a currency manipulator. Instead he put a boot on their neck. He said he'd buy the Chinese president a McDonald's hamburger. Whatever.

This doesn't even touch on the added dimension that a lot of what reporters and pundits count as promises were never phrased as such by Trump. There's a tendency to count a lot of "I want to" and "we ought to" statements as iron-clad promises for the purposes of a take-down. As such, there’s a lot of disagreement from outlet to outlet as to which “promises” Trump has broken, and which ones he’s still working on.

Similarly, there’s the attempt to dismiss kept promises as things any other Republican would have done. But it’s not at all clear that any other Republican would have pulled out of the Paris climate accord, or ended DACA, or left the Iran deal, or even cut down the number of regulations on the books. Republicans past have habitually backed down on similar promises in response to much less outrage than Trump has withstood for keeping them.

I realize this all reads as Trump apologia, and it pretty well is. But seriously, go find any article about Trump's broken promises and let me know how far you get before your eyes glaze over.

In principle, no one should break promises or make ones they can't keep. But of the promises Trump made that can definitively be called broken, there's not a lot to get animated about. Unless you are really that concerned about the carried interest loophole.


Critch said...

He's been doing what he said he was going to do and for the most part he has only been helping black people and other minorities and he has done absolutely nothing to hurt gay people...I think the Dims might get their head handed to them in November.

Anthony said...

The number of promises kept or broken don't really matter. What matters is whose ox gets gored. Legislatively Trump hasn't gored any big liberal (or conservative for that matter) oxen and in terms of policymaking and personal conduct he has been what most people expected him to be.

Trump is a populist who has based his personal life on the teachings of Hefner and who really admires Putin. All that was known when he won office and similar to Bill Clinton, none of that will ever hurt him though like Clinton, they might hurt his party.

As an aside, moving the embassy was one of my few predictions for Trump back in 2016. Its an issue near and dear to the hearts of evangelicals (who are to Trump what feminists were to Clinton) and there is no peace process to blow up (hasn't been in almost two decades) so its a harmless move internationally which is politically smart.

I think the fact the only big bill he got passed is tax cuts is great for Trump. Tax cuts are a move which voters either approve of or don't care about (no oxen are harmed so long as no spending is cut).

Like Clinton and Obama Trump is happy to use the government to reward friends and punish enemies and like Clinton he likes to enrich him and his proxies through shady deals. Look at that recent business with ZTE (a big Chinese company which has repeatedly run afoul of the US government for stealing our tech but repeatedly been forgiven because it is willing to pay when caught), which threw some money at Trump's family which prompted him to pledge to reverse recent sanctions. He reversed course on reversing course only because Congress (which presumably didn't get a cut) refused to play ball.

As AFP reported via the South China Morning Post last week, the developer of that project just outside of Jakarta had secured the half billion in funding, in addition to another $500 million from Chinese banks, 72 hours before Trump's Sunday tweet on the Chinese telecom company ZTE. Trump's family business has a deal with that developer to include the Trump name on the resort, which also includes hotels and a golf course.
"President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast," Trump tweeted Sunday. "Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!"


*Shrugs* One can see a lot of patterns in what Trump is doing, some of them negative but he is better than Hillary (or any other Dem) would be and those were our choices in 2016.

As with prior presidents who won wave elections, I expect Trump to serve two terms.

tryanmax said...

Critch, The Dems are so desperate to keep their stranglehold on minorities they are actually siding with MS-13. Their new platform is called "A Better Deal." Remind me, who is it that got Americans talking about deals? The Dems are absolutely in trouble if they're defending torture-murder gangs and cribbing from their opponent.

tryanmax said...

Anthony, I would counter that one reason why Trump hasn’t legislatively gored any big liberal oxen is because Obama did so much by executive order. Certainly the view is out there that Obama’s Legacy Has Already Been Destroyed.

I’ve said it many times and I will continue to say that populism in a democratic system is just the pejorative we use to describe the guy who is better at winning than we’d like him to be.

I agree that the embassy move was a no-brainer and Trump was absolutely right to take it. There is literally no downside. The entities that are angry about it were already angry over US involvement in Israel. It’s a sideways pill for those who believe (hope) that Trump is an anti-Semite. And it reinforces the Evangelical part of his base. Plus, the execution on Israeli Independence Day wise beyond mere optics. There have been May 14 protests annually for years and moving the embassy was bound to spark protests of its own. By moving on a day already set to have protests, Trump eliminated a second day of riots and probably saved Palestinian lives as a result.

BI may as well add that Trump caved to the US farm lobby when he urged China to drop ag tariffs.

Anthony said...

1) True, there is no need to pass a law to unmake an exec order. The destruction of legacies is a part of the wave cycle but one can make it harder to undo one's work by passing laws.

2) Populism in a democratic system means the same thing it does in every other system (there is a wider range of definitions at the link below).

any of various, often antiestablishment or anti-intellectual political movements or philosophies that offer unorthodox solutions or policies and appeal to the common person rather than according with traditional party or partisan ideologies.

3) Aside from his boast to Jews they would oppose him because he wouldn't take their money, Trump to his credit hasn't really played in the anti-Semitic part of the pool.

4) I see Trump just cancelled the NK summit because he just reached the conclusion they weren't serious. I am trying to contain my surprise. Seriously, that is the game they play with everyone and have since before I was born.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks for the article, tryanmax!

I think you've diagnosed this really well. It strikes me that there are four types of people involved with this.

1. Normals. We see that Trump has kept a lot of promises and we're frankly a little impressed that he's managed to do that and surprised that Trump, of all people, is doing it.

2. The anti-Trumps who just can't accept that that g*dd*mf*ckingnutjobb*stard has done anything good. WHY WON'T ANYONE LISTEN TO ME WHEN I TELL YOU THAT HE'S EVIL?!!!

3. The "I ain't never gonna be satisfied" types, who roam the internet and raced to make the Tea Party intolerable.

4. Liberals. 'nuff said.

If Obama had kept this many promises, could you imagine how the newspaper would be fawning and the things they would say about how amazing he is? But it's Trump, so all they want to talk about is porn stars.

AndrewPrice said...

As an aside, I find it amazing that it comes out now that there was a spy/informant in the Trump campaign and the media shrugs its shoulders. These are the people who grew up on Watergate. This is way worse than Watergate and it if had happened to Obama, they would have lost their minds.

AndrewPrice said...

OFF TOPIC: Morgan Freeman has been accused by eight women of harassment, including reaching up a skirt for unwanted touching.

This will be an interesting one. On the one hand, Freeman is generally loved by audiences. He's never been "known" to be in trouble. He's grandfatherly. All of that suggests that he will escape -- which he wouldn't have at the start of the #metoo stuff.

That said, there is this persistent story about him engaging in a sexual relationship of some sort with a granddaughter before she was murdered. If that becomes part of this, he may be doomed.

It will be interesting to see if the #meTooers have any power to bring him down, and how long it takes and what process it requires.

tryanmax said...

NoKo gave US back three prisoners and destroyed a nuclear testing facility and all they got in return was a letter. I’m struggling to follow Pelosi’s logic that Kim played Trump.

I’ll reserve judgement on Freeman, mainly because his voice is so smooth, he could probably talk me out of my jockeys.

tryanmax said...

Scott Adams has a good explanation of Spygate:

“Four things to understand about SPYGATE: 1) There was no spy in the Trump campaign. 2) The spying that did NOT happen was totally justified. 3) It would be bad for national security to identify the spy who doesn't exist. 4) His name is Stefan.”

Anthony said...

Regarding the Trump spying allegations, I suspect it would be a bigger deal if Trump didn't level such accusations five times a week (remember my Monday comment about professional activists and personal oppression?).

At least the narrative has shifted though. I can remember not too long ago when I was told Trump's words don't matter and that to pay too much attention to them was unreasonable and unfair. Now Trump's words matter.

Trump's words mattering will probably be situational and contingent upon the agenda of the person either repeating them or ignoring them. But that could just be the cynic in me misreading a newfound devotion. Time will tell.

As for the accusation itself, time will tell. Nobody is in a better position than the president to uncover stuff that happens in the government so I expect Trump will have proof in short order.

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