Trump’s Immigration Proposal: 4D Chess or Tossing Crap on the Wall?

Just a few days after I wrote a post detailing how it appears Trump is putting on an immigration show as part of his deal making strategy, the White House rolled out a brand new set of immigration positions as a basis to negotiate with “Chuck and Nancy.”  To Trump supporters who’ve been with Trump because of immigration, they stink.

In exchange for 10- to 12-year path to citizenship for both DACA enrollees and other DACA-eligible illegal immigrants, estimated to be 1.8 million people, The White House wants:

25 Billion dollars for a border wall.

Restrict family chain migration to spouses and minor children.

Eliminate the visa lottery program.

To a Trump supporter, this is giving away the farm.  Nobody was even talking about the 1.8 million possible DACA eligible populations before.  Compared to what was being offered before, this is a major give on amnesty.  If I were a Democrat I would have jumped on this deal quick before Stephen Miller could re-strengthen his hypnotic spell on Trump.

But I’m not a Democrat so instead of getting Trump’s John Hancock on the deal quickly, “Chuck and Nancy” rejected it out of hand, with Schumer stating that it flies in the face of what most Americans believe and Pelosi tweeting that the proposal was part of a “campaign to make America white again.”

What to make of this?

First, the Democrats are crazier than I thought.  They have pushed themselves into such an extreme position on immigration that they can’t accept any deal with Trump, because they now philosophically cannot accept any restriction on immigration at all.

Second, it looks like Trump may have actually pushed them there.  When I first heard of Trump’s immigration proposal, with a gigantic amnesty, I was not worried in the least.  Don’t say that I can’t learn from experience.  We’ve been here many times before and as I suspected, it seems it was just part of a negotiating strategy and wasn’t a real proposal.

Based on my four theories of how Trump negotiates, I find myself seeing elements less of a wrestling work, like the shutdown negotiations, and more a Scott Adams-esque 4D Chess maneuver. The proposal seemed deliberately written to be overly generous to the aspects of the immigration battle that Democrats publicly support (the poor DACA kids!  The only country they’ve ever known!) with just a few touches that are either not well known by the public, or if they are, not well supported, like chain migration and the visa lottery program.  Should be a win/win for the Democrats to accept the deal right?

But the visa lottery is popular with the Congressional Black Congress, although not with Black people in general. And chain migration is part of the long term Democratic plan to fill the country with unskilled, social services dependent foreigners, all running on automatic. Current family migration policies are worth far more towards that goal than 1.8 million amnesties; people who won’t be able to bring in their less skilled and non-English speaking relatives.

So with the absolutely best deal they would have ever gotten roundly rejected by the Democrats, I think this puts Trump in a much stronger position for negotiations. I’m anxious to see how this plays out.

 

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Trump Deals Himself a Shutdown Win

For the first time in my lifetime, Republicans have actually won a government shutdown fight.  Granted, it was a Democratic shut down, but still, the media tried to present it as the Republicans fault.  However pesky facts eventually ruined the narrative.

So how did the “stable genius” pull it off?  I’ve written before about the four theories of Trump’s operating system:

  1. Trump is Insane
  2. Trump is Mr Magoo
  3. Trump is putting on a show
  4. Trump is a 4D Chess master

In the post Fire and Fury era, the media take on Trump’s behavior is that he’s a doddering old man with dementia, who constantly needed his staff to tell him what his position is.  Meanwhile Trump is agreeing with every Democratic suggestion, nodding his head, and driving Anne Coulter to pull out every bit of her long blond hair.

The thing is, I’ve seen this show before.

Candidate Trump in August of 2016 had a televised Town Hall with Sean Hannity in which he seemed to backtrack on every single immigration campaign promise he had made, appearing to soften on amnesty and basically toss away the entire raison d’etre of his campaign.  Supporters or at least supporters who were with Trump because of immigration were aghast.  What was he thinking?

A week later, Trump announced a trip to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.  While in Mexico Trump played nice with the Mexican President and pulled off the statesman act.  Then he jetted off to Phoenix to deliver an immigration speech in which he double downed on every hardline immigration proposal he had proposed. His supporters?  Cheering and back on board!  The MSM?  Stunned, confused, and angry after declaring that Trump was growing on immigration, and predicting the speech would reveal a new, softened pro amnesty Trump.  Instead they got the opposite and they just couldn’t process.  This is a cycle that has repeated itself multiple times since then and will no doubt continue.

So let’s break down what Trump did.

First, he performed preparation of the battlefield by doing a public softening of his immigration proposals.  This made it easier to go to Mexico and pull off the statesman act without creating a confrontation with the Mexican President.  This clearly has elements of a 4D Chess master.

Second, he swung back and fired up the base by standing firm on the immigration principles that had rocketed him to win the Republican primary in the first place.  His supporters, after descending into the depths of despair, suddenly rebounded.  This was the wrestling show aspect to the Trump show, or maybe it’s more like a Trump Opera; a Trumpera.  That the media looked like idiots after their confident predictions was icing on the cake.

This basic structure has been repeated over and over.  Overall, it’s theory three; Trump is pulling off a professional wrestling work, with a storyline that includes massive swings of emotion by the audience, fear and betrayal, and then a swing of reproachment and then glorious victory.

It’s basically the plotline of The Fate of the Furious.

And this is what Trump pulled off dealing DACA, and Chuck Schumer, off the table and into a total surrender.  And as long as the media and the Democrats can’t view Trump as anything more than an emotional, childlike idiot with dementia, it should keep working.

On The 60 Minutes Steve Bannon Interview

I missed the original airing of this on 60 Minutes, but I went back to watch it and folks, It’s actually worth watching.

Try Viemo here or the 60 Minutes site here.

Just a couple of observations:

Charlie Rose barely asked any questions, he mostly let Bannon talk, or at least he did on the original full hour and twenty minute version I saw (sadly now gone from the web). Rose might have looked like an interviewing tiger on the portion that actually aired, but on the full interview, Rose could have been asleep for large stretches and no one would have noticed.

Rose only seems to become animated when discussing the Access Hollywood video and immigration.  It’s as if he still doesn’t understand why the Access Hollywood video didn’t end Trump’s Presidential bid.  As for immigration, he simply repeated the rote “nation of immigrants” line and had no argument to Bannon’s counter arguments.

Because of Rose’s general lethargy, Bannon totally dominated the direction of the entire and really got to show just how brilliant the guy actually is.  His discourse on his history with Donald Trump included dates, meetings, and important news articles and the reporters who wrote them.  All off the top of his head.

Bannon gives every indication of being a backseat driver to an administration he is technically no longer a part of.  If you support Trumpism, that’s good news.

 

When the News No Longer Resembles News

I honestly think I’ve had about enough.  If you happened to catch Chuck Todd’s apoplectic reaction to President Trump’s news conference on Tuesday.

What made me reach my breaking point came at about the 1:34 mark, “…when was the last time you saw a President of the United States defend the cause of White Nationalists?”

It’s an insane smear, but I’ve no doubt that Todd was being totally sincere in his belief that Trump was rooting for the Nazi’s.  As for me, I’ve been a news junkie for decades. Up until the internet made it ridiculous, I had a subscription to the local newspaper and I would make sure I caught a steady stream of news shows on cable and the traditional nightly news. Most mornings I would have the morning news shows on in the background while I worked. So generally, I’ve watched a lot of news.  Not just hours a week but hours a day.

But I’ve never felt so estranged from what newspaper columns and talking heads on cable are babbling about as I have this year. It’s as if they are living not just in a different moral universe, but a different factual one as well. Their editorial decisions seem like they are being made by college student government rather than seasoned, professional editors. How can you spend 8 months on wall to wall Russia when there has yet to be any actual evidence of a Russia collusion story?  It’s simply a daily rehashing of a burned out conspiracy theory.

I’m tuning out the news more and more these days.  I can get all my news online with a lot less wasted time and no smug pomposity; which is particularly galling with their track record of inaccuracy.  After the election, it occurred to me that I would have been better informed if I had spent 18 months leading up to the election just reading Scott Adams’ blog than the hundreds of hours wasted watching Morning Joe.

Hopefully, when this age of mass hysteria and moral panic has passed, and the news media has returned to some sort of semblance of normalcy, I can return to getting my media news junkie fix.  But for now, I’ll be a lot healthier if I’m off the stuff.

12 steps…

Four Theories on Trump vs Sessions

My general thoughts and feelings on Trump’s constant attacking of Jeff Sessions is that it’s disgraceful and shows poor leadership to be attacking a loyal subordinate in such a passive aggressive (and sometimes not so passive) and very public way.  Sessions isn’t in some random cabinet post; he’s the Attorney General, and almost everything that Trump wants in domestic policy depends on Sessions.  That’s doubly true when you’re talking about issues like immigration.  Sessions is really the only “Trumpist” in the cabinet.  Everyone else could care less about Trump’s ideas.  So without Sessions; there is no logical replacement (or at least one that the Senate would confirm-Sorry Kris Kobach) to carry on Trump’s policies.  Regardless of what happened to the rest of Trump’s Presidency, Trumpism would be over.

So why would Trump be acting in such a crazy way?  CNN has beclowned itself trying to puzzle that one out, but going through the interwebs, I’ve seen 4 theories that might explain Trump’s attack on his only ally, Jeff Sessions.

One.  Trump’s a madman.

In this case, Trump is just as he appears to be.  He’s gone into a rage because of the Mueller investigation, and can’t stop himself from sniping at Sessions because he doesn’t really want to fire him but wants him gone and hopes if he is humiliated publicly often enough, Sessions will just resign.  Who Trump gets to replace him and how that takes care of his Mueller issue are just problems for another day.  The main thing is to get rid of someone who Trump feels failed him.  That this will damage him with a large section of the conservative base doesn’t matter.  Trump angry now!

Two.  Trump is Mr. Magoo.

This is the theory of the Lion of the Blogosphere.  According to the Lion, Trump is just bouncing around from situation to situation, but through sheer luck and happenstance; he winds up smelling like a rose. Trump’s speech in which he mentioned the effects of immigration in Sweden is a good example. After making a comment about the problems being caused in Sweden by immigrants, Trump was roundly mocked on social media and the weekend political shows, only to have immigrant riots break out in Sweden days later.  Was Trump a prescient social scientist, or did he get lucky on counting on Muslims being Muslim?  My magic 8 ball says “signs point to yes.”  In any case, Trump one; Media smart-asses zero.

Three.  Trump is pulling a professional wrestlingwork.” Having worked with professional wrestling before, Trump is well aware how wrestling is much more like a soap opera for dudes than an athletic contest.  There is a lot of drama in the wrestling story lines and sometimes a heel can get into a feud and then it turns out he has a secret alliance with the babyface!  Yeah!  The day is saved!  In this scenario, Trump and Sessions are working together to draw out and crystallize support for Sessions by having Trump attacking him.  Suddenly, every media person and Democrat (I know, same thing) who hated Sessions suddenly rush to his support. This gives Sessions freedom of action for things that will be unpopular to the Democrats/Media because if Trump is mad at Sessions, that must be good.

Four.  5D Chess. In the Scott Adams version, Trump is like Spock, if Spock were a New York real estate developer and hotel and casino owner.  Actually, that’s not a bad idea for a Star Trek spin off:  Star Trek: Las Vulcan.  Where pleasure is logical… In this scenario, Trump is running all of the various media scenarios through his mind palace, war gaming the responses of the various media networks and politicians to insulate Sessions from future criticism similar to theory three; set a public distance between Sessions and Trump to give Sessions a free hand.

Which do I think is the mostly likely?  Well I think we’ve seen signs of all four over the course of the Trump campaign and Presidency, although there could well be a lot of overlap.  When Trump tweeted the punching CNN gif, did he know what the media reaction would be and that it ultimately would make the media look extremely stupid, or did he Mr Magoo his way into that situation?  It’s hard to say.  There is a lot of overlap between theories one and two and theories three and four.  But when it comes to Sessions, I hope it’s a theory three & four scenario, but I fear it may be a theory one & two.

 

Syrian Dead Babies and all the other Dead Babies

Oops they’ve done it again.  Syria has launched a chemical weapons attack against its own people, with of course the main casualties being, “the children.”  In fact those dead babies may have totally overturned US foreign policy.  As the Guardian reports:

“I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact,” Trump told reporters in the rose garden. “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much … You’re now talking about a whole different level.”

This was the first alleged attack by the regime using sarin since 2013, when the nerve agent was dumped on an opposition-controlled area of Damascus. More than 1,000 people perished. This latest attack – after a deal brokered by Russia, in which Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons stockpile – “crossed a lot of lines for me”, Trump said.

He went on: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal – people were shocked to hear what gas it was. That crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many, many lines.”

So a defining characteristic of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, to stay out of the Syrian Civil War, is now seemingly overturned by dead babies.  Now, I’m anti dead babies myself, particularly babies dead due to a sarin gas attack, but these are not the first dead babies in the Syrian Civil War, and I’m a bit of a skeptic that we should allow dead babies to control US foreign policy.

So considering Trump’s past positions on Syria…

…I admit I’m disappointed that a pretty firm twitter and campaign position has been overturned by “…innocent babies, babies, little babies…”  There were dead babies in 2013 too.  In fact all civil wars, civil strife, famine, plague, and every other malady that smacks mankind upside the head has plenty of dead babies in them.  But it’s not the first time dead babies have altered policy.  Remember this little tyke?

Of course, the real story was a lot less desperate fleeing-from-civil-war and a lot more dad-wants-free-dental-care.

So although Trump disappointed me by launching a cruise missile attack because of dead babies (and made himself look easily manipulated), there is an upside for him.  Politically, this attack against Syria appears popular.  When McCain/Graham, the neocon establishment, and the Democrats, are all praising the President, for many the first time ever, that will probably help polling for the next few days.  And who knows, maybe this action will actually give Trump some leverage with China in dealing with the North Korea situation.  In my opinion, what happens in North Korea is far more important than anything that’s happening in Syria.

Meanwhile, there were more dead babies piling up like cordwood all over the world, but we don’t care about them, only the dead babies that feature a frantic western newsman or are nicely photographed for Western media consumption.

No matter our new Dead Babies Foreign Policy, Syria remains intractable. As I wrote almost two years ago, the only reasonable solution for Syria is partition, which is an impossibility as long as the Russians are standing beside their ally Bashir Al-Assad.

Hopefully this is a one off attack and US foreign policy, and Trump’s attention, doesn’t get strangled by trying to figure out how to do the impossible and wipe every tear from every Syrian eye.

 

Ryan Care taught me one thing…

The collapse of Ryan Care was probably the first big failure of the young Trump administration (not counting the tweets-4D chess and all that). And to that, as on many things, I’m of two minds.  For all of its flaws, being able to block grant Medicaid funds to the states and capping its growth would be a major victory; a major reform of a major entitlement program.  Just that would have been a major administration accomplishment.

On the other hand…the bill was seriously flawed in virtually every other way and didn’t meet the President’s goal of providing coverage for everyone.  And even worse than the flaws of the bill, it revealed how amateurish the Republican House was.  It was like they had not even considered the idea of writing a health care bill until a few weeks ago.  And when they did, they repeated every bad Democratic mistake in doing it by keeping the bill writing secret to exclude… not Democrats but the real enemy; other Republicans.  And in fact, it was Republicans that ultimately killed their own reform plan.  Democrats just had to sit by and eat popcorn.

This of course, is yet another example of why the GOP has the amply deserved moniker of the stupid party.  Democrats usually have a handy bill just sitting on the hard drive of Democratic Congressional servers just waiting for a crisis.  You know, so they cannot waste it.  School shooting?  Just hit print and run out to the House floor waving a fully written Gun Control bill, “for the children.”

With Republicans, after passing multiple repeal bills during the Obama years, including having a full replacement bill in committee in 2013, the Options Act, suddenly became the proverbial deer in the headlights; “Wait we won?  That wasn’t supposed to happen!”

So after thinking that the GOP had at least a draft of a consensus plan tucked away waiting for its own opportunity, it soon became obvious that there had probably been not a single meeting or discussion on it until recently.  So after crafting a bill in secret with zero input from any effected groups, it turned out there was no constituency for the bill.  Even the late lamented Options Act had buy in from several conservative think tanks, and Tea Party groups.  No conservative groups even had a peek at it until it was unveiled.

Sorry, but that’s not how you do things.

But…none of that was the “one thing” that Ryan Care taught me.

Have you ever noticed that you never hear the left clamoring for Medicaid for all? Since Medicaid has no premiums, co pays, or deductibles, it’s truly free healthcare (from the consumer point of view). Meanwhile regular Medicare has an 80/20 cost share. Medicaid has lower provider reimbursement rates than Medicare so in theory it should be cheaper. Why shouldn’t the left/liberals/Democrats like Medicaid as the basis of a national healthcare plan over Medicare?

The other day I was on a forum discussing the late, unlamented Ryan plan, and how it weans off Medicaid funds to the states with a different formula over the years. Some left leaning poster complained that means the states would have to raise taxes to make up the difference!  Well duh, but if you’re liberal, shouldn’t that be a feature rather than a bug?  Don’t those guys love taxes, the higher the better?  How could increasing taxes be a flaw in a health care reform plan if you’re liberal?

Epiphany time. Unlike Medicare, which is fully federally funded, states have to pitch in for the cost (not counting the expanded Obamacare version) for Medicaid. Medicare, or any fully federal plan is paid for by deficit spending, so no one is really paying for it (yet) but the states have to tax real money to pay for things like expanding healthcare for people in their own state.  That’s why even the bluest states don’t have their own universal healthcare plans. Vermont tried to do it and spent three years trying to make it work before abandoning it because of taxes.  California is attempting to do it now, and the lessons of its attempt on this regard will be instructive.  I’m not sure any state can afford both a 50 billion dollar bullet train to nowhere and single payer health insurance.

So the lesson?  That’s how you defang the left: Make them pay for it.  A Balanced Budget Amendment would do more to rein in the Democratic Party than any comparative cluster of policy reforms that will be undone by the next Democratic administration.  The basic tools in the Congress and in statehouses across the country are all there to make it happen. Democrats love the rhetoric of raising taxes on the rich but the reality is that the rich are much of their constituency, and it’s not clear how far that constituency is willing to go if every single thing the Democrats want they had to pay for up front.

I’d like to find out.