Posts Tagged ‘Steve Bannon’

Trump Presidency A Kind of Shakespearean Romp (And Other Famous Novels, Comedy and Tragedy)

December 29, 2018

If history’s greatest novelists and playwrights were to come back from the dead so they could tell the improbable tale of Donald J. Trump, how would they do it? How might they capture the man and his presidency in all of its hallucinatory, absurd and terrifying detail when we journalists usually seem to come up short?

Let’s begin with Shakespeare. Would the Bard write “Trump” as a comedy or a tragedy?

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Back in 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy, it would surely have been a comedy. The Donald would have been Falstaff, that “huge hill of flesh,” as Prince Hal calls him, whose lies are “gross as a mountain, open, palpable.” Here we would have a character who always plays for the cheap seats — ribald and ridiculous; magnetic but pathetic — and who, fortunately, would be destined for nothing more.

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Falstaff

Except that in our real-life, present-day drama, this Falstaff has somehow managed to usurp Henry and seize his crown. Thus we move from comedy to tragedy: Trump as Macbeth.

Admittedly, it’s hard to picture Melania as a model for Lady Macbeth. But Roger Stone, Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter are perfect as the three witches. Banquo? That’s easy: Michael Cohen, both as living accomplice and ghostly reproach. Macduff, of course, is Bob Mueller.

By Bret Stephens
Opinion
The New York Times

Another possibility: Richard III. The political novelist Richard North Patterson wrote me with an idea of how it might work.

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“In Richard’s stead,” Patterson suggests, “a morally deformed Trump ruthlessly dispatches the pitiful aspirants to the throne — Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — in order to win the hand of a surrogate for Lady Anne: the G.O.P. in the guise of Reince Priebus.

 

“As the bodies pile up one upon the other — Rex Tillerson, John Kelly — Trump/Richard is gripped by lethal paranoia. Tragedy looms over the realm until, at last, the insane tyrant is unhorsed by America’s savior, the Earl of Richmond in the form of . . . Mike Pence?”

Let’s hope it doesn’t quite come to that. What about something in a more satirical vein?

Just as Trump’s presidency is a saga of epic political disruption, Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” tells a story of what happens when the devil and his retinue arrive in a capital city that is so full of its own moral certitudes that it thinks it can deny the possibility of his existence.

Even a resurrected Bulgakov, however, would have trouble recasting his professorial Satan as a cheap and heedless reality-show star. As an alternative, Nina Khrushcheva of The New School suggests I take a close look at Nikolai Gogol, particularly his 1836 play “The Government Inspector.”

It’s the story of an out-of-towner named Ivan Khlestakov — a civil servant of no great means or talent but with spendthrift habits and unlimited chutzpah — who is mistakenly taken by the corrupt local mayor as a secret government inspector. Khlestakov takes advantage of the mistake to extract big loans from the locals, bully the mayor, and run off with his daughter. His imposture is revealed only after he’s left town.

“There is no direct comparison” between Russian autocracy and American democracy, Khrushcheva acknowledges. “And yet there is some resemblance to the Russian reality — the idiot is sitting on top of you, spouting orders and tweets, and you have to tolerate his presence and even call the moron your president.”

Can nothing be done? The cliché about Russian literature is that it has a tendency toward fatalism, whereas what we really need is literature that supplies remedies. That’s especially so when it comes to Trump’s codependent relationship with the news media. The more he drives us nuts, the more attention we give him. The more we give him, the more he’s inclined to drive us nuts — a classic vicious cycle.

Aristophanes would know how to break it. The father of comedy understood that the only sure way to tame the beast is to starve it. In “Lysistrata,” the women of Greece decide to put an end to the Peloponnesian War by barricading themselves in the Acropolis and withholding sexual favors until the men of Athens and Sparta put down their spears. It’s extremely effective, spear-wise.

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Isn’t it time the news media try something analogous with Trump, by denying him what he craves most? Put an absolute ban on quoting his tweets unless they contain substantive policy announcements. Stop sending reporters to his press conferences, which long ago became theaters of no information. Write more about what the administration does, less about what Trump says. Report news that has nothing to do with the administration at all. Award journalism prizes to stories that don’t contain the word “Trump” at all.

O.K., that’s not likely to happen.

All the same, in an era in which the president is constantly trying to impose his fictions on reality, it’s incumbent on the rest of us to keep the two separate. Understanding what fiction is, and all the ways Trump seems to spring from it, is a good place to start.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) andInstagram, join the Facebook political discussion group, Voting While Female, and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

Bret L. Stephens has been an Opinion columnist with The Times since April 2017. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and was previously editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. @BretStephensNYT  Facebook

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: When Fiction Most Becomes Trump.
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Thank You, John Kelly

December 11, 2018

Trump seems to think he can be his own chief of staff.

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The Wall Street Journal
Dec. 10, 2018 7:05 p.m. ET

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There are many unpleasant jobs in the world, but somebody has to do them. One is being Donald Trump’s chief of staff, and so as he prepares to be liberated from White House bondage this month, John Kelly deserves the nation’s gratitude.

Mr. Trump on Saturday announced the former general’s departure “at the end of the year,” after the typical death by a thousand White House whispers. “I appreciate his service very much,” Mr. Trump said, and he certainly should.

The former homeland security secretary took the chief’s job in summer 2017 when Mr. Trump needed someone to restore order after the Steve Bannon-Reince Priebus rivalry to nowhere. He tried to establish order in the President’s schedule and meetings, to the extent that is possible, as well as a regular process for policy deliberations. Mr. Kelly did that well enough, and long enough, that the White House could negotiate tax reform.

But Mr. Trump hates discipline, especially self-discipline, and so he has chafed under Mr. Kelly’s regimen. The wonder is that Mr. Kelly has lasted as long as he has considering the verbal abuse he has so often taken from his boss. The chief has also taken unwarranted abuse from the Beltway political class that wants to stigmatize anyone who works for Mr. Trump, as if it would be better if the White House were run solely by the Trump family.

A serious question is why anyone would take the job. Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, turned it down despite being the favorite of daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Perhaps the 36-year-old Mr. Ayers concluded that even having that title on his résumé isn’t worth the grief he’d take externally and from the President. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney would be ideal, but he doesn’t want it either.

Mr. Trump has alienated so many people that he may not have the option of a strong outsider like Mr. Kelly or his former economic adviser Gary Cohn. He may have to settle for someone who operates from within the Trump-defined reality of Trump vs. the world but with enough competence to impose some order. Mr. Trump’s chaotic style is so outside management norms that we hesitate to suggest any names.

Yet Mr. Trump needs someone because he is entering the most perilous months of his Presidency. Robert Mueller is likely to file a report that could tee up impeachment by a Democratic House. Mr. Trump needs to negotiate a trade deal with China that can overcome the stark policy differences on his staff. He faces a moment of truth with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on nuclear weapons.

Mr. Trump will also have to sail a policy course without the conservative keel of House Republicans. He’ll need GOP support to survive the Democratic investigative onslaught. But his daughter and Mr. Kushner may urge him to accept center-left proposals like mandatory family leave or price controls on drugs.

Oh, and Mr. Trump has only a few months to repair his standing with the public—especially suburban women and independents—to have a chance at re-election. Any volunteers?

https://www.wsj.com/articles/thank-you-john-kelly-1544486745

The cultural anxiety fueling France’s protests, Brexit and Trump

December 10, 2018

There’s an atmosphere of uncertainty and crisis looming over Western societies.

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France’s anti-government “gilets jaunes” movement rumbled into its second month. For the fourth consecutive Saturday, protesters clad in yellow reflective jackets symbolic of their rebellion marched through the country’s cities. In Paris, disturbances and clashes with police led to more than 670 arrests, though the worst scenes of violence — including last week’s vandalism of the Arc de Triomphe — were not repeated.

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But there’s a mounting toll: French President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity has slid further amid the havoc, while tourism in the traditionally busy Christmas period has taken a hit. On Saturday, the Eiffel Tower and a number of major Paris museums kept their doors shut; government officials warned of the “severe impact” to the economy caused by the unrest.

The demonstrators don’t look like they’re going to stop anytime soon. “What began as opposition to a carbon tax designed to curb climate change has morphed into a working-class revolt against Macron,” explained my colleague James McAuley.

By  Ishaan Tharoor
Commentary
Washington Post

A chastened French government suspended the carbon tax last week, prompting President Trump to crow over Macron’s doomed commitment to a climate agenda. But that has not dimmed the rage of the protesters, who have expressed a broader anger at Macron’s supposedly highhanded governance and economic reforms widely viewed to benefit the rich and no one else. Macron is expected to address the nation on Monday evening as he attempts to formulate a substantive response to the greatest challenge to his political career so far.

Kaya Burgess

@kayaburgess

Shouts of “string them up” and “off with their heads” as UKIP’s leader criticises the government in address to the pro-Brexit march. The latter came shortly after Gerard Batten warned that the king “lost his head” during the Civil War.

Kaya Burgess

@kayaburgess

Someone is carrying a gallows and noose on the ‘Brexit betrayal’ march pic.twitter.com/wsdBMw8qh8

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Already, there are signs that the activists are inspiring similar demonstrations elsewhere. More than 400 people were arrested last weekend in anti-government protests in Belgium that took their inspiration from the “gilets jaunes.” In Britain, pro-Brexit campaigners donned yellow vests during a right-wing march over the government’s supposed “betrayal” of Brexiteers in their negotiations with the European Union.

In France, the movement, spawned largely through coordination on social media, doesn’t have a fixed structure, and its wide sweep of demands reflects a somewhat inchoate mix of ideologies. Polls show that a significant bloc of the French far right identifies with the protesters, but so do others from across the political spectrum, including the radical left and even supporters of Macron’s own centrist political project.

Race, too, appears to matter. “Most protesters tend to be white and many are from the provinces — sharing anxiety over dwindling purchasing power and what they see as Macron’s aloof style,” reported McAuley, who noted that protests have not flared in the marginalized suburbs of big cities, where many of the country’s poorer ethnic minorities and immigrants live.

The protests underscore the rift between France’s wealthy, dynamic metropolitan centers and the “other France” — postindustrial towns and rural villages hollowed out by lack of opportunity and a stagnating economy. “Rising rents, prices and taxes, high levels of unemployment in rural and peri-urban areas, generalized precarity, stagnant wages: the yellow vests movement has united people from all political fronts around common ground: the anger of all those who barely earn enough to live,” noted French journalist Pauline Bock.

This sense of economic insecurity in the hinterlands would be familiar to politics-watchers in Britain and the United States. It provided the kindling that sparked support for Trump in many Midwestern states, former industrial hotbeds hit by the steady disappearance of manufacturing jobs. As John Judis wrote in an essay for The Washington Post Magazine this weekend, voters who in a previous generation would have identified with their factory, or union or working-class community now find their factory jobs gone, their unions withered, their neighborhoods emptied.

In their despair and feelings of loss, Judis argued, they cling to “identities” that play into the hard-line, nativist pitch of Trumpism. “Interwoven among these identities,” wrote Judis, “are ones that are fundamentally rooted in resentment: toward undocumented immigrants whom they believe their taxes subsidize; toward both legal and undocumented immigrants who they see as upending the mores and language of their hometowns; toward those minorities who, in their minds, benefit unfairly from affirmative action; and toward distant elites in the cities who project disdain for them and their way of life.”

The 2016 vote for Brexit echoed a similar set of grievances and suspicions among Britons — in particular, resentment of the “distant elites” holding sway over their lives. Macron, now viewed by his critics as an aloof, technocratic would-be monarch, came to power as an outsider bent on shaking up France’s political establishment. But his efforts toward reform have mostly fanned the flames of public discontent.

Experts fear a similar backlash as Britain stumbles toward a potentially calamitous crisis over Brexit. “The 2016 Brexit vote, like the election of Macron and the protests against him now, represented a rejection of the established political order and a burbling dissatisfaction with the status quo,” wrote Bloomberg View’s Therese Raphael.

The unrest in France underscores an atmosphere of uncertainty and crisis looming over Western societies. Widening economic inequality and deepening political polarization are straining democracies built through decades of moderating, consensus politics. Though protests and mass strikes are in France’s DNA, wrote Benjamin Haddad in Politico Europe, “there is something different” about the vehemence and mobilization of the yellow vests, a movement that calls into question “the stability of democratic institutions” themselves.

“The terms of our social and republican compromise was generated throughout fifty years of our history,” Danielle Tartakowsky, a historian at Paris 8 University, told French daily Le Figaro. “But there is not much left of it now. A new social compromise remains to be born. In my opinion, the yellow vests are a serious symptom … of a problem whose outcome nobody seems to be able to control.”

Instead, as the leftist former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis recently put it, the West seems to be teetering into “a post-modern 1930s,” where right-wing populists stir a toxic cocktail of cultural fear and rage, while others seek the wholesale dismantling of the establishment. Critics fear they are circling the edge of a volcano.

“What unites Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon with France’s rioting gilets jaunes and the UK’s fiercest Brexiters is not just their will to upturn the existing order. It is their belief that transient economic strife is the worst that could possibly happen,” wrote Janan Ganesh of the Financial Times. “None of these people actively desires civilizational meltdown. They just under-rate the prospect of it happening as an inadvertent result of their actions.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2018/12/10/cultural-anxiety-fueling-frances-protests-brexit-trump/?utm_term=.d5fb458618a9

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Belgian PM set for minority after biggest ally quits coalition in migration treaty row

December 9, 2018

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said his government would continue as a minority administration after the biggest party in his coalition quit on Saturday in a row over signing the UN migration compact.

Michel, a French-speaking liberal, said he “took note” of the departure of the Flemish N-VA from the four-party coalition formed in 2014 and would reshuffle posts — a particularly complex task in bilingual Belgium, as French- and Dutch-speakers must by law have an equal number of ministerial posts.

With a federal election due anyway in May, many observers expect no immediate change to that electoral calendar.

Eric Vidal, Reuters | Belgian prime minister Charles Michel during a press conference in Brussels, December 8, 2018.

In a move critics have described as an opening shot in that election campaign, the right-wing N-VA, which is the biggest party in parliament, said it was pulling its ministers from the coalition after Michel refused its demand that he rescind a plan to sign the UN migration compact in Marrakesh on Monday.

Michel had secured a large parliamentary majority last week in favour of maintaining Belgium’s support of the United Nations text, which since it was agreed by all UN states bar the United States in July has run into criticism from European politicians who say it could increase immigration to Europe.

The N-VA faces electoral losses in its Dutch-speaking region to the harder-right, anti-immigration Vlaams Belang. Its leader Bart De Wever, the mayor of Belgium’s second city Antwerp, had issued Michel an ultimatum that it would quit the government if he signed the non-binding UN declaration.

A crisis cabinet meeting on Saturday night was cut short when two N-VA ministers, Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Migration Minister Theo Francken, walked out.

Michel said he would replace N-VA ministers with lower-ranked state secretaries and maintain a minority coalition involving his French-speaking liberal MR and two Flemish parties, the centre-right CD&V and Open VLD.

At least six EU states — mostly in formerly Communist eastern Europe — have already shunned the accord to regulate the treatment of migrants worldwide, a sign of how the bloc has turned increasingly restrictive on accepting refugees and migrants alike since a 2015 spike in arrivals.

(REUTERS)

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U.N. pact on migration is “already dead”

December 9, 2018

The global U.N. pact on migration is “dead even before it’s been signed,” Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon told a gathering at the Flemish parliament in Brussels on Saturday.

Bannon spoke at the invitation of Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang, an anti-immigration party that has come out against the U.N. Global Compact on Migration set to be signed by national leaders in Marrakesh next week. The goal of the meeting, according to Vlaams Belang leader Tom Van Grieken, was to put the “suicidal” migration pact “where it belongs: in the trash.”

Bannon praised leaders like Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who also spoke at the event, for rejecting the pact.

    
EU-Kommissionspräsident Jean-Claude Juncker (picture alliance/dpa/AP/V. Mayo)

Jean-Claude Juncker

“They call us racists no matter what we do,” Bannon said, according to Belgian media. “But it’s not up to workers in Hungary, France and the U.S. to resolve African problems.”

With migration still a combustible issue across the Continent, three years after the 2015 refugee crisis, far-right parties have seized on the pact ahead of next year’s European Parliament election, triggering infighting in ruling parties and governments, including in Belgium.

The right-wing New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), a member of Charles Michel’s ruling coalition, and the Vlaams Belang have refused to support the U.N. migration deal. N-VA leader Bart de Wever reiterated Saturday he did not want the government to fall, but said his party would not change its mind and endorse the U.N. pact.

Ministers are expected to meet Saturday evening to try to resolve the stand-off, Belgian media reported. A failure to resolve the dispute could cause Michel’s government, which relies on the support of the N-VA, to collapse.

Bannon has set his sights on gathering Europe’s populist parties — including Le Pen’s National Rally and the Flemish nationalists — into a pan-European movement ahead of next year’s European election.

“For the first time, it’s possible to possible to imagine an alternative to the pro-Europeans and replacing staggering leaders like Jean-Claude Juncker,” Le Pen told MPs Saturday.

https://www.politico.eu/article/steve-bannon-in-brussels-un-migration-pact-already-dead/

See also:

Wall Street Journal: U.N. Pact on Migration Sows Dissent

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-n-pact-on-migration-sows-dissent-1544281200?mod=hp_lead_pos8

Hillary Clinton: Europe needs to cut immigration flows to stop right-wing populism (Begs the Question, Why Doesn’t U.S. Congress Fix The Problem for America?)

November 23, 2018

Hillary Clinton says European leaders need to find ways to limit immigration flows because inaction on the continent was driving right-wing populism.

“I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” Clinton told the Guardian in an interview published Thursday.

Hillary Clinton warned in a newspaper interview that migration is being used as a wedge by populist politicians.

“I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message — ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ — because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic,” she said.

Europe has been plagued by a migrant crisis, in part instigated by political upheaval in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, since 2015.

Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, said Thursday the issue helped propel Donald Trump, her Republican opponent, into the White House. She said the Trump administration continues to exploit “one’s heritage, one’s identity, one’s national unity” as it seeks to reinforce immigration “as a symbol of government gone wrong.”

Clinton skewered former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon for his role in pushing the anti-immigration agenda, comparing him to a Roman emperor for his “bread and circuses” approach to stirring up Trump’s base. She also said the Trump-Bannon version of populism dovetailed with “a psychological as much as political yearning to be told what to do, and where to go, and how to live.”

“Keep people diverted, keep them riled up appeal to their prejudices, give them a sense they are part of something bigger than themselves, while elected leaders and business leaders steal them blind,” she said. “It’s a classic story, and Bannon is the latest avatar of it.”

Clinton has continued to be a vocal critic of Trump since her defeat, joining select Democrats seeking office in the 2018 midterm elections on the campaign trail.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/hillary-clinton-europe-needs-to-cut-immigration-flows-to-stop-right-wing-populism

See also:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/22/world/europe/hillary-clinton-migration-populism-europe.html

and

Hillary Clinton says Europe needs to curb migration to counter nationalism

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/11/22/europe/hillary-clinton-migration-europe-intl/index.html

Trump’s Republican Populism — Much of his record is easily lost amid the Trumpian tweets and excesses

November 6, 2018

Why he succeeds where Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura failed.

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Opinion
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Image result for photo, President Trump with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan at the White House, Sept. 5. PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM
President Trump with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan at the White House, Sept. 5. PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Long before he was president, Donald Trump was a celebrity, a walking, talking jumble of political incorrectness who rode his billionaire populism all the way to the Oval Office.

But a funny thing happened to Mr. Trump once he became president. At some point he understood that if he was not to fizzle out like so many populists before him—think pro wrestler turned governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura in Minnesota or Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger in California—he would need to tether his populism to the Republican policy agenda. And, mostly, he has.

This record is easily lost amid the Trumpian tweets and excesses. Even so, it remains a record most Republicans cheer: a major overhaul of the tax system that has brought the economy roaring back to life, two stellar jurists seated on the Supreme Court and a record number of nominees confirmed for the district and appellate courts, a thoroughgoing regulatory overhaul courtesy of what had been the largely unused Congressional Review Act, not to mention a long overdue defense buildup.

These are precisely the kind of victories that losing even one chamber of Congress would render next to impossible going forward. Judging from the president’s many rallies—and his new bromances with old opponents—he knows it too.

Take Ted Cruz, a rival in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries. During the primaries Mr. Trump routinely referred to the Texas senator as “Lyin’ Ted.” At one point, he embraced a National Enquirer report claiming Mr. Cruz’s father had associated with JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald not long before the shooting.

As president, Mr. Trump now appreciates that in a tight Senate he can’t afford to have a Democrat take Mr. Cruz’s seat. That’s why the president was in Houston last week holding a monster rally for the senator he now calls “Beautiful Ted.”

It could have turned out much differently. After the Senate failed to repeal ObamaCare in 2017, finger pointing was the order of the day, with Mr. Trump complaining about Mitch McConnell’s Senate leadership. No one on the GOP side was getting anywhere—until the Senate changed the focus by pushing through something that did pass, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Likewise in the House. Mr. Trump can boast about “so much winning.” But without the considerable legislation Speaker Paul Ryan and his Republican caucus have sent to the president’s desk for his signature, the winning words would remain hollow.

Give the president his due as well. Yes, he’s stocked his White House with gadflies (Steve Bannon), troublemakers (Omarosa Manigault), loudmouths (Anthony Scaramucci), and appointees with Pat Buchanan-like hostility to free trade (Robert Lighthizer). But he’s also filled key Trump administration posts with strong conservatives who would have been equally at home in a Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio White House (Larry Kudlow at the National Economic Council, Don McGahn as White House counsel, John Bolton at the National Security Council).

Mr. Trump has likewise known where to look for advice. In 2016, Sen. Cruz challenged him on Supreme Court picks, saying Mr. Trump was likely to chose a nominee like his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, a Clinton appointee to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals whom Mr. Cruz described as a “hard-core pro-abortion liberal judge.” Mr. Trump responded by having Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society come up with what conservatives regard as a dream team list of jurists from which Mr. Trump said he would choose. Again, he has.

In other words, for all the talk about how Mr. Trump’s populism is changing the Republican Party, his most significant achievements have come when he’s hitched his populism to traditional conservative priorities and then worked with his fellow Republicans to make good on his promises.

That’s why the stakes are high Tuesday. Losing the House may not be the end of the world for the president—Mr. Trump may even regard a Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a gift in the run-up to 2020—but it would almost surely mean an end to the big legislative achievements like those we’ve seen these past two years.

Losing the Senate would be even worse. Democrats are still smarting from Mr. McConnell’s decision two years ago not to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, during a presidential election year. If Democrats get control, they will use it to thwart many of Mr. Trump’s nominees, whether for the federal courts or his own cabinet. And if a Democratic House manages to impeach the president, Mr. Trump will want as large a GOP majority as possible in the Senate.

For all the bumps and bruises, the Trump-Republican collaboration has yielded large achievements for the American people. But if these midterms take their normal historical course, the GOP will lose one or both chambers of Congress. And that in turn would test how effective Mr. Trump’s populism can be without his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill driving the agenda.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-republican-populism-1541464783

Write to mcgurn@wsj.com.

French far-right leader meets with former White House strategist Steve Bannon, said she needs help, complains of “judicial harassment”

October 13, 2018

Marine Le Pen, the French far-right leader, has met with former White House strategist Steve Bannon and signaled her interest in his project to help European populist parties.

Louis Aliot, a vice president of Le Pen’s National Rally party who is also her companion, said Friday on BFMTV station that she met with Bannon a day earlier in Paris.

© Philippe Huguen, AFP | Marine Le Pen and former US President advisor Steve Bannon at the Front National party annual congress, on March 10, 2018 in Lille, France

According to Aliot, Bannon wants to provide “technical assistance” for nationalist parties ahead of next year’s European elections but that he “doesn’t want to play a (political) role.”

Two years on from helping to mastermind Donald Trump’s successful campaign to become U.S. president, Bannon has his sights set on Europe and he is planning a foundation, called The Movement, to boost far-right parties.

“We’re not going to say ‘no’,” Aliot said with regard to getting help.

Le Pen’s apparent interest in working with Bannon stands in marked contrast to comments earlier this week when she said that only European voices should “shape the political forces … to save Europe.”

Meanwhile, Le Pen’s legal situation grew murkier on Friday as investigative judges upped preliminary charges against her over the alleged misuse of European Union funds by her and her party.

She is a suspect in a case over payments to parliamentary assistants in the EU parliament who reportedly worked elsewhere, including at her party headquarters.

Le Pen stepped down from her post as a European parliamentary deputy to become a French lawmaker after last year’s legislative elections, but remains shadowed by the case in which some 15 people have been placed under investigation, including Aliot.

On Friday, a judicial official said Le Pen was now being charged with misappropriation of public funds rather than breach of trust. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and asked for anonymity.

Le Pen has other legal issues to contend with, one notable one with regard to her posting of photos on Twitter in December 2015 that showed executions by IS extremists. She was handed preliminary charges in March for distribution of violent images. Le Pen posted the images after the November 2015 Paris attacks by IS that killed 130 people.

Le Pen said Friday that an investigation has also been opened over her September Twitter post of a court document ordering she submit to a psychiatric exam in the case.

“This judicial harassment is becoming terrifying!” she tweeted Friday.

(AP)

‘Stupid imperialist thinking’ by US caused China trade war

October 6, 2018

The co-author of Unrestricted Warfare, which triggered rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, blames the White House for getting it wrong

Asia Times

It was the Chinese book which triggered a trade war. After reading Unrestricted Warfare, former White House political adviser Steve Bannon came to the conclusion that China was waging an economic battle against the United States.

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He was wrong, according to military strategist and co-author Qiao Liang.

Firing a verbal Exocet at the hardliners in Washington, he told the South China Morning Post:

“The US is declining because they have so many problems, which were all created by themselves, but they put the blame on China … because they are still using outdated and stupid imperialist thinking to judge China.”

Unrestricted Warfare impressed Bannon when he read it in 2010.

Penned by Qiao, a retired People’s Liberation Army officer, and former colleague Wang Xiangsui, who now teaches at Beihang University, the book has a simple premise.

Since they argued that no country could challenge the military might of the US through conventional means, the only option was to bog down the world’s superpower in economic and information warfare.

“The whole [Chinese] strategy is to avoid kinetic warfare and focus on information and economic [warfare],” Bannon said last year.

Recalling an early meeting with Trump during the presidential campaign, he raised the threat posed by China.

Unrestricted Warfare Cover

“I told him China has been engaging in an economic war against us for the past 20 or 25 years,” Bannon said and Trump “agreed” with him. Still, Qiao has dismissed this interpretation as “a misjudgment.” He also stressed that Trump’s attack on China was misguided.

“No major power has ever been totally replaced or devoured by another power,” he said. “A superpower’s fall was caused by its [own] decline.”

Yet this latest broadside from Qiao, a noted hawk in Beijing, comes at a time of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.

On Thursday, Vice-President Mike Pence accused China of military aggression, commercial theft and human rights violations as he cast the world’s second largest economy in the role of a bully.

His speech preceded a report by the Pentagon that China represents a “significant and growing risk” to the supply of materials vital to the US military.

The roughly 150-page document was seen by the Reuters news agency ahead of its formal release.

“A key finding of this report is that China represents a significant and growing risk to the supply of materials and technologies deemed strategic and critical to US national security,” the report said.

http://www.atimes.com/article/stupid-imperialist-thinking-by-us-caused-china-trade-war/

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Get Ready for Trump’s Trade War With China to Be Long — and Ugly

September 26, 2018

U.S. investors have shrugged off fears of a China-U.S. trade war, but as tensions rise, investment economists and strategists are grappling with a new idea: The battle may not end anytime soon.

The U.S.-China economic conflict will be long and ugly “with little chance of a deal anytime soon,” TS Lombard economists Larry Brainard and Charles Dumas write in a note to clients. While China was prepared in late May for talks on trade, that has changed given the events of the subsequent months, they say.

Now, the duo write, the leadership in Beijing has concluded that the “U.S. is determined to check the country’s rise via demands that strike at the heart of the economic model on which Communist Party power rests.” As a result, China is taking a harder line, in part to avoid the leadership being seen as negotiating with a gun to their head, they say. “The current mood in Beijing is to take a tough position on future talks by demanding that the US demonstrate its sincerity before agreeing to new meetings.”

Trade Tensions Spike Between the U.S. and China

Following another round of tariffs between China and the U.S., the business community is pushing back. Photo: AP

The latest round of tariffs, on $250 billion of imports from China, begins at 10%, but is set to rise to 25% in January. The pair expect the conflict to escalate, so that the 25% rate covers the bulk of Chinese exports to the U.S.

That, they say, would drive a redirection of Chinese trade, ultimately serving as the catalyst for the rise of an Asian trading bloc with China at the center.

The good news: China’s trading partners in East and Southeast Asia should benefit over the medium term. Chinese companies have moved manufacturing to Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries in previous U.S. tariff cases, highlighting what could happen in the near future.

The complexity of U.S.-China trade will likely lead to a multitude of strategies to cope, with larger suppliers better able to adjust. The Global X FTSE Southeast Asia ETF (ticker: ASEA) is down 3% so far this year, compared with a nearly 8% decline in the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets index.

The bad news: A trade realignment wouldn’t be so good for markets. The crumbling of a world based on multilateral trade and a shift toward regional blocs will in the long run reduce equity valuations, the duo write. As a result, they say, a bear market is a major risk over the next two to three years.

DataTrek Research’s Nicholas Colas says he hasn’t turned bearish yet, but is also watching the China situation closely, especially after comments in recent days about the trade war from two well-placed people. The first was an interview in the South China Morning Post with former White House senior advisor Steve Bannon, in which he said the Trump administration plans to make the trade war with China “unbearably painful” for Beijing as they try to reindustrialize America and halt China’s goal of achieving technological superiority.

Colas writes in a note to clients that while the remarks by President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist should be taken with a “big grain of salt,” the publication of the interview in a Hong Kong newspaper suggests it is the message the administration wants to give to Chinese leaders ahead of Trump’s speech Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly.

Bannon’s interview comes on top of a prediction last week by Alibaba Group Holding(BABA) Chairman Jack Ma that a trade war will “last long”—as in 20 years or more. Politically connected billionaires talking about issues in which they have expertise “do not typically wing it,” Colas writes.

Richard Bernstein Advisor portfolio strategist Dan Suzuki took a less gloomy view of the impact on China. In a note Monday, he writes that a 25% tariff on $250 billion in Chinese exports to the U.S. would represent 0.44% of China’s gross domestic product. The real cost would be lower, he says, because the yuan, China’s currency, has fallen 9% since a high it reached in February. A weaker yuan makes China’s exports less costly in dollar terms.

The takeaway: All eyes are on China.

Write to Reshma Kapadia at reshma.kapadia@barrons.com

https://www.barrons.com/articles/why-markets-should-expect-a-long-ugly-u-s-china-trade-war-1537821422