Out-Crazying Kim Jong-Un–What Could Go Wrong?

Trump’s apparent use of “madman theory” logic to get his way (whatever that is on any given day) on healthcare probably won’t intimidate Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer.  Will Trump-as-madman succeed any better on the Korean peninsula?  Are we the people ready for an American president who can actually out-crazy Kim Jong-un?  We elected him.  We knew that no-drama-Obama was getting old.  We wanted a little excitement.  How much excitement?  That’s what China is wondering!  Their foreign minister just put our president on the same level as Kim by urging “all parties” to stop “provoking” each other. Should we blush with embarrassment?  Trump, who says he comprehends very well, listened to Xi Jinping explain thousands of years of Korean history in ten minutes (or less, believe me) and now grasps very very well how to put America first by using the craziest words and threatening to use the biggest bombs.  And why worry that Kim might be even more unpredictable than our president?  North Korea has an excellent system of checks and balances, many people say.  Their National Security Council is far more fully staffed than ours, so I hear.  Their family dynasty, as Mr. Xi no doubt explained to his U.S. counterpart, is much more experienced than ours.  So they will surely do the right thing.  Oh right, we still have to worry about Trump–oops.

Good Or Bad?–That Trump Does Not Know We Are Not Yet Ruled By Personal Dictatorship

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp {sic} my phones during the very sacred election process,” tweeted the President today.  “Bad…sick…McCarthyism…is it legal” and so forth.

President Trump does not seem afraid to up the ante.  Is he ready for a discovery process involving an independent counsel with subpoena power?  (Yes the independent counsel law expired, but all things are possible–including presidential declassification of anything or everything involving Russian interference in the 2016 election.)

President Trump appears to think that presidents act by fiat, via personal dictatorship, not constrained by other independent and coequal branches of government.  Presidents do not themselves order wiretaps.  We have executive branch lawyers who seek warrants via judges–last I heard.

Does President Trump have a problem with McCarthyism?  If so, how exactly does he object to Senator Joe McCarthy’s playbook, which included guilt-by-association tactics and anonymously-sourced smears?  Does President Trump accuses President Obama of acting like “Nixon/Watergate” but does not elaborate or provide any evidence.  What exactly about Richard Nixon or Watergate does President Trump condemn?

Could President Trump have a point, in the midst of his unsupported allegations, that the United States has a problem with “deep state” subversion of our “very sacred election process”?  Maybe so–all the more reason to get going on a truly independent investigation.  A partisan, politicized, ostrich-like, paralyzed Congress does not seem up to the task.  Jeff Sessions’ deputy is unlikely to be credible and authoritative.  That leaves an independent counsel (possible downside that non-criminal but horrible actions could end up being bypassed) or an independent commission (typically very slow-moving).  Maybe there are other, better options.

Think Hillary Probably Ought To Be In Prison? Here’s Why You Should Probably Vote For Her Anyway

Even if I believed that Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for…whatever, I would still be inclined to vote for her. Here is why: I prefer to live in a democracy, though flawed, rather than a dictatorship. I would rather live in a country with limited government rather than personalized tyranny, which is what Trump promises us when he says “I am your voice…I alone will…restore law and order.”

It might well be, though I do not feel confident either way, that Hillary’s deletion of emails crossed into criminal behavior. It might very well be that Donald Trump has committed sexual assault and should be imprisoned for it.  That we have two very flawed candidates is unsettling and sometimes depressing. But only one candidate, Trump, has shown absolute disrespect for the bedrock of American democracy, which is peaceful transfer of power after elections. The last president who systematically corrupted the federal legal and surveillance apparatus was Richard Nixon, who was reelected in a landslide but two years later resigned in disgrace.  Nixon remains the only president ever to be forced out of office.  Trump is more frightening than Richard Nixon, which is saying something.  Nixon was brought down, and it looks as if Trump has disgusted enough voters that he will not get close to wielding executive power. It is disturbing, though, that if not for a video that revealed Trump’s casual abusiveness vividly enough to shake some undecideds, Trump might now have a 40 or 50 percent shot at the presidency. It may not be so viscerally disgusting as the “Days of Our Lives” video, but Trump’s threat to imprison his political opponent seems to me even more dangerous to our fragile experiment in representative democracy. As Ben Franklin said, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

Update 10/10: in a pitch aimed straight at moderate suburban undecided voters, Maine Governor Paul Le Page said this morning that this country needs a “slimeball” (his word, not mine) to wield “authoritarian power” (CNN, via WVOM radio)

Update #2: Glenn Beck called Hillary Clinton a “moral, ethical choice” for President.  One response: “ice cream now being served in hell.”

No Such Thing As An Unfunded Mandate Here!

Happy 100th birthday to the Federal Reserve!  I take no position here on whether the Fed is an illegitimate usurper, or whether we ought to go back to the gold standard (abandoned by noted pinko Richard Nixon, if I remember correctly).  I just feel that any centenarian deserves a certain respect.

As interested parties around the world await news on the “tapering” of Fed bond purchasing, let me say simply that the Fed’s dual mandate–“to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates” (since 1977, per Congress’ revision of the 1913 Federal Reserve Act)–is a work-in-progress, but a project with a rosier long-term horizon than, for instance, Bitcoin.  Why so?  It helps a lot to have a mandate, or two, with 300 million reasonably productive people and considerable political legitimacy behind it.  With all the bickering in Washington, if the Senate ever blockaded a nominee for Fed chair or revised the Federal Reserve Act to micromanage its quasi-public, quasi-private operations, then we would know that our political/economic system is in big trouble.  Even the wonderful structure of checks and balances and separation of powers could not protect us from that kind of indiscreet legislation.

As it stands, the great thing about the Fed–and a source of worry should it fade away or collapse–is that it suffers from no unfunded mandates, insofar as people and institutions around the world trust it.  The Fed snaps its fingers, and don’t think too hard about fighting it unless you have money to burn.