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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Did Trump Use G-20 to Advance His Own Agenda?

Having been on hiatus longer than expected, this Blog post is something of a follow-up to the posts of 11/23/16 and 6/13/17. 
 Professor Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each. 
 Let me say once again, as I have said in other posts: I am not accusing anyone in the Trump circle, including The Donald himself, of being a Fascist or a Nazi. I am simply saying that certain characteristics of such a regime are present in the words and actions of some members of the Trump campaign, and of appointees to certain posts in his administration, and finally in the tweets, orders, speeches and actions of the POTUS.  Let’s have a brief look at just the first of those fourteen points, and some of the progress made toward its accomplishment under the Trump administration.  Then I have a point to make that involves what I think is the real motivation for Trump’s use of such concepts.

 Powerful and Continuing Nationalism.   Trump’s inaugural address on Jan. 22, 2017 was noted for its nationalistic and somewhat belligerent tone – ‘America First’ was the constant theme.   By the way, that slogan – “America First” was a favorite slogan of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, a leading 1930s isolationist and one-time Nazi sympathizer.   Trump revealed more of his view of “America First” in a Jan. 25 interview with ABC News.  He explained, “We should’ve kept the oil when we got out” of Iraq in 2011. “To the victors go the spoils,” said Trump in another interview, arrogantly declaring an intention to steal Iraq’s national resources.    A few inaugural quotes should suffice to recall the tone: 
  •   Trump argued that this nationalism will bring the country together. “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other,” he said. “A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.”
  • The new administration plans a major shift in trade policy, and Trump has already threatened Mexico with a 20% tariff if they don’t pay for the wall on the border, and similar penalty-type threats have been made toward other countries.
  •  According to Trump, the U.S. role in the world will reflect “a new vision … America First,” to advance U.S. domination and supremacy over world markets by means somewhat different from past administrations. His aggressively nationalistic foreign policy will strive toward free reign for the huge multinational corporate and banking interests to dominate and control the world economy. 
  • He said: “buy American and hire American.”  And, “The American Carnage stops right here and right now!  From now on, it’s America First!” 
  •  He also said: “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries.”
  • Trump again:  "we will unite the civilized world against radical terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”
  • "When America is united," Trump said, "America is totally unstoppable." He said "we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving."
  • And he said, "Do not allow anyone to tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail; our country will thrive and prosper again."

Following that speech, he began to put some definition to his words in the form of Executive Orders.  Here are a few that speak to the powerful nationalism that continues even though at one point he tried toning down his rhetoric in a speech to Congress on Feb. 28, 2017. Orders have been issued to:

  • take first steps to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which will cost up to $25 billion;

  • hire 5000 additional Border Patrol agents and 10,000 additional immigration officers to intensify harassment; and return of illegal aliens to their homelands

  • target undocumented immigrants for removal who have been convicted or accused of a law violation;

  • end federal aid to “sanctuary cities”;

  • institute a 90-day ban of nearly all permanent immigration from seven majority Muslim countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen), with provision to extend the ban indefinitely; suspend the entry of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days, and direct officials to determine additional screening; (after lower court delays, partial implementation has begun with SCOTUS approval)

  • just recently, the SCOTUS issued a ruling that allowed some of the ban to proceed, but also lifted the ban on any refugees whose families or substantial contacts are already in the executive action to bring sweeping changes to the nation's refugee policies and put in motion his plans to build up the nation's military.

  • Prior to that, and in seeming contradiction, Trump had said: "We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas," he said. "We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people."
Having just concluded an apparently disastrous meeting with the former G-20 (now becoming known as the G-19 + 1), Donald Trump so isolated himself and the USA from the rest of the group as to be seen standing alone on issues of trade, climate change, and attitudes toward other nations such as North Korea.  Of course, the Donald is delighted to have things turn out this way, since he is promoting America as so great that it can stand alone and promote itself (and him) in bi-lateral talks and treaties and actions.  He will, of course, use the support of other nations when necessary just to stage the strength of America in pulling together meaningless actions like the fly-overs in Korea or the bomb runs in Syria (where ground troops have had to clean out ISIS fighters from various strongholds).
So just what did Trump gain by his behavior and actions at the G-20 conference?  In my opinion, he gained a reputation as an untrustworthy loner, but not necessarily a leader; certainly, not the “Leader of the Free World.”  He gained for himself and America a sense among other countries that America can neither be trusted to lead on vital issues, nor to respond to the needs of other countries, unless at a price.  Above all, he gained the disdain of so many of the leaders that it would be no surprise to me to hear someone say that they would trust Putin more than they would trust Donald Trump.  A few random quotes from The Guardian may suffice to bolster this assessment:

 “Trump expects trade deal with UK to be completed 'very, very quickly.'  US president also confirms he will be visiting London as he has meeting with Theresa May at G20 summit in Hamburg”
“German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the press at the end of the G20 summit in Hamburg on Saturday and addresses the clear split between the positions of the US and the remaining 19 nations over climate change in the summit’s joint statement notes.  G20 leaders’ statement on climate change highlights rift with US
According to Rex Tillerson, Trump delivered on confronting Putin about interference in America’s 2016 elections.  Putin denied it, and, apparently, Trump accepted that denial, although the WH denies that.  One commentator indicated that “What we don’t know –and may never know – is what Trump said when Putin looked him directly in the eyes and claimed he didn’t have anything to do with it.”  A blogger commented: “The whole thing is theater for domestic consumption.”
“G20 summit: 'G19' leave Trump alone in joint statement on climate change.  Final G20 communique isolates US opposition to Paris Agreement as Theresa May meets other world leaders.”
 “No wonder Trump is Putin’s favorite: he’s making America weak again” -- Jonathan Freedland

BUT, the Donald did not fail his base. From a distorted sense of what makes America great, he will be seen by his base as having “stood up to Putin and all those foreigners.”  He will be seen as having made America great again by not giving in to pressure to join others in a globalist effort to coddle other nations while giving ourselves a bad deal.  His base will see his shenanigans as putting America -- not Russia, or Putin or Paris Accords, or China or bad trade deals with Regions – FIRST before anything else.  To himself and his base, this G-20 conference will stand out as an enormous success (for all the wrong reasons!).
What will his followers conclude about Trump’s acceptance of Putin’s explanation that Putin (or Russia) had nothing to do with interference in America’s 2016 elections? The base will uneasily conclude that it is “time to move on” with Russia since they may well be convinced by their leader that the US and Russia can both gain through a vibrant trade partnership in certain areas.  Is it all about the money and the profit to be gained? 
Of course it is; why else would Donald Trump even want to be President except to win for himself and his family-owned multi-national business, favorable bi-lateral agreements containing measures that will eventually pay-off for both the family and the business?  Donald Trump will use any method at his disposal to increase his fortune.  He has forever made use of the Courts to advance that fortune; he has used government laws and regulations that benefit him (probably to the extent of lowered taxes and maybe NO taxes in certain years).  He has no limits (indeed, has very few self-limits).  He is no public servant.  He will use the Presidency as he has used other aspects of government, to benefit himself and his family.  It is who he is, and nothing will escape his manipulation in the quest to become the richest family in the world. 

If I am right in my assessment, he will also use the fascist concept of hyper-nationalism in that quest.  Unfortunately, “putting America first”, making America great again” or making America Number One in all we do is tailor-made for his manipulation of the international trade scene.  He is not advancing strongman tactics or rhetoric, or hyper-nationalism as visionary political concepts.  He is using those very concepts to attract and hold a base of support that will never understand they are being used in one cause only – not the greatness of America, but the aggrandizement of Donald Trump and his family business.  Why else does Ivanka Trum attend these international conferences,  sit in the President's chair, and meet privately with the leaders of countries through which Trump Enterprises might benefit from more favorable trade deals (both public and private)? 

Donald Trump is not a nationalist, nor a globalist, nor a fascist.  He is not even a skilled politician.  He is an authoritarian businessman whose sole purpose is to use every means at his disposal to realize his capitalist dreams.  To see him as anything less, or as anything more, is to miss the essence of his motivations, his goals, his orders and pronouncements, his tweets (and other bizarre actions) and his role as Commander-In-Chief which might more appropriately be termed: “Manipulator-In-Chief!”
It is almost laughable lately to hear the lengths to which analysts and commentators will go to try to explain why Trump is doing or saying or tweeting something outrageous, contradictory, or just plain stupid.  It is laughable because the Donald does not care much about politics, rhetorical nuance, political correctness, diplomatic speech and custom, or even about policy consistency.  What he cares about is how everything he does or says influences the end game – his assets, his fortune, his ability to control deals.  It seems possible to me that trade deals with the U.K., with Russia, with Australia, with South Korea, with Japan and others may be just what he is looking for in the long-term – all of which could contain favorable terms for his own business enterprises.   

A NOTE to mainstream media:  try to analyze Trump’s words and actions less in terms of short-term political categories (since often they have no relationship at all), and start analyzing his words and actions more in terms of his profit motive and longer-term goal of huge aggrandizement for Trump and Trump Enterprises.  Research and explore in-depth his manipulations and his possible future asset gains, and you will better understand why he does what he does.  He may be crazy to some, but he may also be “crazy like a fox!"   Follow the money and future opportunities for profit-taking because that is the essence of what drives Mr. Trump.