January 20th, 2017

A tale of two crowds in one city

    Two big and passionate crowds have descended on Washington -- one thrilled by Donald Trump's inauguration, the other appalled.  Never in my lifetime has a new president been anticipated with such raw enthusiasm on one side and such fear and loathing on the other.

    Admit it, you have no idea what a Trump administration will actually be like. Neither does Trump, I would wager. He is a 70-year-old business executive and self-promoter extraordinaire whose lifelong working habit is to go to his office, see what opportunities the day presents, and then improvise. He is not going to change.

    Americans have elected as president a man who was caught on tape boasting of how he assaults women, kissing them and touching their genitals without invitation, and gets away with it because of his celebrity. It is fitting, then, that the biggest planned protest is Saturday's Women's March on Washington, with scheduled speakers such as Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis. A-listers such as Katy Perry are expected to attend.

Trump's economy: Plan for the worst

    An ironic contradiction is likely to define the global economic community's convocation in Davos this week as it awaits Donald Trump's inauguration. There has not been so much anxiety about U.S. global leadership or about the sustainability of market-oriented democracy at any time in the past half-century. Yet with markets not only failing to swoon as predicted, but actually rallying strongly after both the Brexit vote and Trump's victory, the animal spirits of business are running hot.

    Many chief executives are coming to believe that, whatever the president-elect's infirmities, the strongly pro- business attitude of his administration, combined with Republican control of Congress, will lead to a new era of support for business, along with much lower taxes and regulatory burdens. This in turn, it is argued, will drive major increases in investment and hiring, setting off a virtuous circle of economic growth and rising confidence.

Trump's attack on John Lewis fits a pattern

    In November 2015, when most Republicans and political journalists, including this one, were discounting Donald Trump's ability to win the presidency, Trump tweeted an image of a thuggish-looking dark-skinned man holding a handgun over a set of 2015 statistics about race and crime.

    The statistics, attributed to the nonexistent "Crime Statistics Bureau -- San Francisco" for a year that then wasn't even concluded, were transparently bogus. But two related data points were especially notable.

    One said that 81 percent of white victims of homicide in the U.S. had been murdered by blacks. The companion stat indicated that white murderers accounted for only 16 percent of white homicides. In reality, FBI statistics for 2014, the most recent year available then, proved the inverse; whites were responsible for 82 percent of white homicides.

    Trump's data was fake, but as a window into the means and ends of his propaganda, the false stats proved highly relevant. Fear of violent black crime was a constant theme of Trump's campaign.

Trump is wrong about black America

    Rep. John Lewis is the son of sharecroppers. As a child, he wanted to be a preacher; he practiced by delivering fiery sermons to the family's chickens. But history had other plans for him: lunch counter sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a seat in Congress representing most of Atlanta. No sane person would accuse such a man of being "all talk, talk, talk -- no action or results."

    But that is precisely what Donald Trump said of Lewis. It was not the first time the president-elect raised questions about his own sanity, and I doubt it will be the last.

    As I've said before, Trump's compulsion to answer any perceived slight with both barrels blazing is a sign of dangerous insecurity and weakness, not strength. We are about to inaugurate a president with the social maturity of a first-grader.

Trump is putting the wolves of Wall Street in charge of America's economy

    In announcing the appointment of Carl Icahn as his new adviser on regulatory reform, President-elect Donald Trump characterized the Wall Street legend as "one of the world's great businessmen." By Trump standards, it was a minor mischaracterization, one that confused the Main Street world of business, where value-adding goods and services are created and sold, with the trading, dealmaking world of finance on Wall Street.

    Such confusion is understandable. For if anything has come to characterize American capitalism over the past 30 years, it has been the financialization of business. Whereas top executives of America's biggest corporations once spent their time worrying about products, customers, employees and the communities in which they operated, today they focus on maximizing shareholder returns through clever feats of financial engineering. Executives who embrace this financialization are handsomely rewarded with tens of millions of dollars in bonuses and stock grants. Those who don't are fired.

Time for the U.S. to face reality in North Korea

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump sounds awfully certain about one thing. After North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared on New Year's Day that his country was on the verge of testing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S., Trump condescendingly tweeted, "It won't happen!"

    As a matter of fact, it will happen -- unless a Trump administration radically rethinks U.S. policy toward the North.

Trump wanted a project in Atlanta. You can pretty much guess where it was going to be.

    That rhetorical firefight between President-elect Donald Trump and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is so utterly predictable.

    The civil rights icon, who paid for first-class rights to challenge authority with blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, said in an interview, "I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president" because "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected."

    This provocative statement from Lewis engendered an outsize and characteristically unhinged response from Trump. The man who can't let any slight or criticism from anyone go unchallenged took to his 21st-century sandbox: Twitter.

    "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart . . . "

    - Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017

The Daily 202: It's bigger than John Lewis. Trump's team has been tone deaf on race.

    THE BIG IDEA: The Republican National Committee declared in 2013 that racism was over.

    More precisely, under the leadership of incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer, the organization celebrated "Rosa Parks' bold stand and her role in ending racism."

    Racism, of course, never "ended." After Democrats hammered them for this, the party tweeted a clarification: Parks played a role "in fighting to end racism." But the original tweet has never been deleted.

    Trump has often used racially charged rhetoric, and his ill-informed attacks on beloved civil rights icon John Lewis this weekend underscored how unserious he is about redemption. But the incoming president is also surrounded by people who have, at times, been tone-deaf and tin-eared when race relations come up, raising questions about who will keep his darkest instincts in check.

Savvy CEOs are learning how to manage Donald Trump

    At first glance, it sure seems as though President-elect Donald Trump is having his way with big corporations. No sooner does he slam a fist on his desk, demanding that companies add American jobs, than they issue press releases promising to oblige.

    Wal-Mart will add 10,000 jobs, it announced earlier this week. General Motors plans to invest $1 billion and add 7,000 U.S. jobs, it said. Bayer AG, the German pharmaceutical giant, promised to invest $8 billion in America, and add 3,000 jobs. And soon.

    Trump thinks it's all terrific!

    "Thank you to General Motors and Walmart for starting the big jobs push back into the U.S.!" he tweeted on Jan. 17.

    When NBC pointed out that these jobs had nothing to do with Trump's exhortations, he quickly shot back the next day: "to the U.S., but had nothing to do with TRUMP, is more FAKE NEWS. Ask top CEO's of those companies for real facts. Came back because of me!"

Retweeting Donald Trump

    When Donald Trump was elected president, it felt to me like the most reckless thing our country had done in my lifetime. But like many Americans, I hoped for the best: He’ll grow into the job. He’ll surround himself with good people. The country could use a jolt of fresh thinking. He’ll back off some of his most extreme views.

    But now that Trump is about to put his hand on the Bible and be sworn in, I’ve never been more worried for my country. It’s for many reasons, but most of all because of the impulsive, petty and juvenile tweeting the president-elect has engaged in during his transition.

    It suggests an immaturity, a lack of respect for the office he’s about to hold, a person easily distracted by shiny objects, and a lack of basic decency that could roil his government and divide the country. I fear that we’re about to stress our unity and institutions in ways not seen since the Vietnam War.