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Fucking Politics, How Does It Work?

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LBJ-RFK-JFK

“School reformer” Eva Moskowitz is optimistic about Donald Trump:

The next day, Moskowitz held a press conference, where she announced that she would not be joining Trump’s Administration but that she nevertheless felt hopeful about his Presidency. “I’m troubled by what I see as a sort of rooting for Trump’s failure, because that is rooting for our own failure,” she told reporters assembled in front of New York’s City Hall. “There are many positive signs that President Trump will be different from candidate Trump.”

[…]

I called Moskowitz on Sunday morning to ask her how she thought Trump could help the charter-school movement, and what she had heard from the President-elect that led her to believe he would change. (The conversation took place before Wednesday’s announcement that Trump had picked Betsy DeVos, a Republican school-choice philanthropist, to be his Secretary of Education.)

“I’m an American historian by training, and I’ve cited this example: Lyndon Johnson spent thirty years fighting against civil rights, and then became the President who passed the most sweeping civil-rights legislation this country has ever seen,” she said. “Often, governing is different from running. Look, I’m an optimistic person. I wouldn’t be educating children if I did not believe in human potential.”

There are…many flaws with this analysis, but at least Moskowitz was angling for a job. What excuse does Tom Friedman have?

Well, that was interesting … Donald Trump came to lunch at The New York Times. You can find all the highlights on the news pages, but since I had the opportunity to be included, let me offer a few impressions of my first close encounter with Trump since he declared for the presidency.

The most important was that on several key issues — like climate change and torture — where he adopted extreme positions during his campaign to galvanize his base, he went out of his way to make clear he was rethinking them. How far? I don’t know. But stay tuned, especially on climate.

Moskovitz and Friedman have, at least, achieved a level of political analysis more sophisticated than Freddie deBoer’s theory that political change comes from the unfettered individual will of presidents with a career-long devotion to unshakable principles. But, really, they’re still making the same fundamental mistake of failing to understand that presidents lead coalitions. Donald Trump doesn’t know anything about anything, including climate change, but it’s doesn’t matter — his entire party is set up (whether opportunistically or out of conviction on the part of individuals) as a tool of climate denial and environmental regulation, and that’s how Trump will govern: his choice of Myron Ebell to lead that EPA transition team is far more relevant than what he tells gullible journalists. I’m not sure he could name all nine members of the Supreme Court, but he’ll nominate Federalist Society hacks to the federal judiciary because those are the names that people will give him. Trump will have some influence on the priorities addressed within the Republican agenda, but the content will mostly be determined by Ryan and McConnell (and, hence, be terrible.)

It’s not actually accurate to say that LBJ governed differently than he ran. He governed like he ran in as a senator and he governed like he ran as president. He was much more progressive in the latter role because he was advancing different goals for different constituencies in a different political context. That’s how politics works. President Johnson was closer to the “real” LBJ than Senator Johnson — the New Dealers didn’t just get lucky when they favored him in the 1948 primary, even if Robert Caro fails to understand this — but it’s largely beside the point. Nobody would remember LBJ as a great president for civil rights or a transformative one for domestic policy had he been elected president in 1952. To the extent that Trump governs differently than he ran, it will be in the direction of Republican convention.

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  • Sure. His main concerns as president will be advancing his business interests and having his ego stroked. Policy will be whatever Ryan, McConnell and Bannon want to do. That should be obvious but asking Tom Friedman to see the obvious is feckless.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      The next six months are crucial to the future of the American republic!

    • DrDick

      It was always a con to let him loot the country and leave the Congress and GOP holding the bag, just as he always has done to his partners and investors.

  • Murc

    The most important was that on several key issues — like climate change and torture — where he adopted extreme positions during his campaign to galvanize his base, he went out of his way to make clear he was rethinking them.

    Yes, Thomas. He did do that. He did that because he was lying to you. That is what Trump does. That’s all he does.

    People don’t seem to fucking understand that. It’s so alien to their perception of how things work, and party identity fucks things up even further. My dad is all “I told you so” in recent weeks because Trump is backing off on his extreme shit and he can say “see, Trump isn’t gonna touch Medicare or Social Security or deport people or anything. He hates Paul Ryan, why would he do what he wants?”

    It’s because he lied to you, dad. His career is based on lying. This is provable. He’ll lie to you repeatedly and massively.

    • djw

      A causal analysis of the various sources of Friedman’s stupidity would, I suspect, give a central place to the role of his wildly outsized ego. “Of course Trump lies to all the other silly, gullible people, but he’ll talk straight with a serious person like me.”

      • N__B

        If I believed in irony, I would posit a future where Friedman, purged during the shut-down of the NYT, is a taxi driver telling people his deep thoughts on the Trump administration protectorate.

        • AMK

          +100

          • BiloSagdiyev

            +1 Friedman unit and no tip.

        • efgoldman

          I would posit a future where Friedman, purged during the shut-down of the NYT, is a taxi driver telling people his deep thoughts

          Probably Uber or Lyft, not even a real taxi.

      • SatanicPanic

        “He’s not talking about me” and “it won’t happen to me” are thoughts that are going to flash through more heads than usual over the next four to eight years.

        • TopsyJane

          My favorite “it won’t happen to me” so far is from a Trump voter in her sixties who gets her plan through the state exchange in Florida. She doesn’t think Trump is going to take it away from her, and even if he did she’s going on Medicare next year anyway, she told the NYT. So, no worries!

          It’d be nice if elderly voters like her who chose Trump did lose their health care coverage, but alas, it won’t happen. She’s not worried and she’s right not to be. If the worst comes to pass, it’ll be younger people who take the hit.

          If I were a wingnut I’d accuse the Times of cherrypicking Trump voters for horrible quotes, but something tells me the paper doesn’t have to work that hard and it’s more like shooting fish in a barrel.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        famous last words: “I’ll be the exception”

        • Mellano

          Everyone *knows* he lies, but instead of recoiling they see a blank canvas where they can paint unicorns and pots of gold.

    • sibusisodan

      Plus ‘went out of his way to…’ = ‘blathered incoherently on the subject of, which I am choosing to interpret as favourably as possible.’

    • Cheerful

      I saw a headline on the local newspaper – Trump moderates position on climate change and torture, and I thought – you people, you so-called journalists – are really just the easiest people to fool in the world. Trump will say whatever is convenient to say whenever it is convenient to say it. Why is that not painfully obvious to everyone?

    • CrunchyFrog

      He did that because he was lying to you. That is what Trump does. That’s all he does.

      It’s not an overstatement to liken him to a used car saleman. He’ll tell you what you want to hear, regardless of facts what he told the last customer. In addition to getting a thrill from closing the deal he also gets a thrill from being liked by people. Even though he has no empathy for those people and will shit on them the moment they leave hearing range.

      • Cheerfull

        When I saw the local paper, the Seattle Times, with a headline – Trump moderates position on climate change and torture, i wanted to throw a rock at the newsbox. Don’t these people, by now, understand the type of person that’s been elected? Trump doesn’t have positions – he simply has postures and moods.

        • Cheerfull

          Edited much later to add: This is by the way another version of a comment that somehow got caught in a spam folder but were both released through the good offices of Professor Farley

      • BiloSagdiyev

        That’s an impressively muscular rectum!

      • sharonT

        I heard one of his rally speeches on CSPAN in the closing days of the campaign and I swear that it sounded like a high-pressure sales pitch. He told his audience that, “They’d never get another opportunity to cast a vote like this one.” It sounded like being trapped in hotel ballroom time-share hell.

        The next four years are just going to be awful.

        • Derelict

          Selling timeshares is a big BIG business. Millions of people buy timeshares.

          Indeed, timeshare sales are so big that they have produced another big business: Getting people out of their timeshare.

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      In a rural corner of NJ where I had some business recently, I saw many Trump signs, none bigger than the homemade one a farmer had erected in view of the highway, reading:

      “TRUMP
      No more Bu[____]it”

      He had covered up “llsh”, then after the election uncovered the whole word.

      No doubt he had a bunch of specific examples of BS he expected Trump to end, but the fact he expected the BS to be ended by a man who is *history’s most obvious BSer* suggests he’s…unreachable.

      • vic rattlehead

        NJ can be a shockingly red state once you get away from the I95 corridor. I was recently in Monmouth and while I didn’t see a ton of Trump signs I’m always surprised by some of the stuff I hear. I’ll take north jersey, away from the PA border natch, any day. Actually even up there are a lot of republicans. I guess I’ll stick with Hudson county.

        Also if you ever need a case study in the perils of too much and often redundant local government we’re a great state. Good lord, way too many boroughs and then townships and then whatver you call them. It’s damn near impenetrable sometimes.

        • Yankee

          clue: it’s like that everywhere

          • (((Hogan)))

            NJ is a special case. As of 2007, they have 1383 units of local government over 7.4K square miles. (NY has 3403 over 47K square miles; PA has 4871 over 45K square miles.) Their primary specialty is school districts.

      • SatanicPanic

        Bullshit= words spoken by anyone who is not a Christian conservative man. That’s what he really means.

        • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

          I don’t disagree, but time was we had white Christian conservatives who could recognize and shun an obvious BSer like Trump from a mile away. No more. Its like watching Saul Goodman roll a bus full of seniors.

          • Origami Isopod

            time was we had white Christian conservatives who could recognize and shun an obvious BSer like Trump from a mile away.

            Their privilege was less threatened.

  • FMguru

    OT, but that’s a really great photo.

    • Davis X. Machina

      The message — Don’t cross Bobby. Don’t think about crossing Bobby. Just don’t.

      • N__B

        See, I read Bobby’s expression as deep study of the overwhelming size of LBJ’s earlobes.

        • (((Hogan)))

          “I wonder how those would look on a string around my neck.”

      • Lizzy L

        The message: He’s the good brother. I’m not.

        • Mellano

          “When Bobby hates you, you stay hated.”

      • vic rattlehead

        I very much doubt that a big dude from a hardscrabble background like LBJ was intimidated by Bobby Kennedy. I mean I know he was a little intimidated by the Ivy League stuff supposedly but RFK? I know he hated the guy (and vice versa) but I doubt he was afraid of him.

        • Ronan

          Any particular reason they hated each other? (Or just the usual political reasons ….?)

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            among other things LBJ had done some nasty rumor mongering about JFK’s health during the primaries in ’60

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Jealousy and insecurity, says my fuzzy memory. They were born into money and looked good doing it.

          • vic rattlehead

            I also think that FDR ended up fucking over Kennedy Sr. and LBJ was seen as having been close to/a disciple of FDR. My memory on that is a bit fuzzy.

            • (((Hogan)))

              I’m sure that’s how JK Sr. saw it. There were other views.

              • vic rattlehead

                I’m not saying I endorse the view. That was the Kennedy perception.

                • (((Hogan)))

                  I know. I just need to remind myself now and then what a scumbag Papa Joe was.

        • TopsyJane

          Short answer is that RFK started it but LBJ made it worse. If LBJ had been a little more impressed by Robert at the outset he might not have gone out of his way to step on his feet, but in the early days Johnson regarded him as the punk kid brother (not an unusual judgment at that time). Turned out Robert was just as tough and driven as if he had come from a hardscrabble environment(being a middle son in the Kennedy clan was not the easiest gig). and he also had the political savvy to joust with LBJ.

          The Kennedy clan also had a very low opinion of Johnson, viewing him as a hopeless vulgarian usurper, although the late President seems to have had a good understanding of his VP’s insecurities and treated him decently. His aides and others, not so much.

          • (((Hogan)))

            RFK’s first Washington gig was on Joe McCarthy’s staff. That couldn’t have set well with a Senate Democrat.

            • efgoldman

              RFK’s first Washington gig was on Joe McCarthy’s staff.

              And after that he was the committee counsel who went after Dave Beck, Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters. Yes, they were criminal and connected as hell, but that couldn’t have sat well with the labor establishment, either.

    • bender

      What struck me in that photo was the difference in height and build among the three men. Bobby is smaller and slighter than his older brother, and LBJ towers over him. RFK probably grew up fending off attempts by other boys and men to physically intimidate him.

    • The Lorax

      It’s one of my all time favorite photos anywhere.

      Another of mine.

  • Davis X. Machina

    I called Moskowitz on Sunday morning to ask her how she thought Trump could help the charter-school movement…

    The charter-school movement died with Albert Shanker. Presumably a NY paper would know that.

    What’s called that today is a combination of an IPO, repeal of the Establishment Clause, and the return of de jure segregation.

    • ohplease173

      Care to elaborate?

  • drpuck

    Analogy.

    I’m a Clevelander. I’m not rooting for the Browns to fail, I’m just feeling they suck and will likely fail.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Why do you hate Freedom?

  • cpinva

    Trump will be as horrible a president as he was a candidate. it’s his nature, and always has been. he’s a crappy businessman, destined to be a crappy CEO of USA, Inc. he’ll hire the worst of the worst to actually run the joint, while he goes and shills his various business interests.

  • howard

    This is why I continue to say that the dem priority should be to bait a trump blow-up at Ryan: anything that keeps trump from working harmoniously with the gop is good.

  • AMK

    Trump has far more clout with the GOP voting base than Ryan or McConnell, with far less dependence on the Party powers than any other GOP President would have (or Clinton would have with the Dems)—and Trump knows this. So it’s not that he doesn’t have the political capital to buck or twist the Party coalition; it’s that he has zero desire to. Why would he start fighting people whose goals–no taxes for rich people, no business regulation–align perfectly with his own?

    • petesh

      It is, perhaps, of interest that we do not have a definitive (or at least complete) answer to the relevant question: What are Trump’s goals? Has he in fact now achieved them?

      What did he learn from his incredible inability to run a casino profitably? He liked having one or two, he enjoyed getting them, I’m sure, and in some twisted way he probably enjoyed finagling his way out of the mess. But actually running them? Clearly not. So far, he has mostly appointed cronies, or people like Haley whose appointment benefited a crony. What does he want to do now? What is his exit strategy, a formal lying-in-state while sobbing millions shuffle past?

      • BiloSagdiyev

        What did he learn from his incredible inability to run a casino profitably? He liked having one or two, he enjoyed getting them, I’m sure, and in some twisted way he probably enjoyed finagling his way out of the mess. But actually running them? Clearly not.

        Sounds like his track record as a husband.

  • Origami Isopod

    political change comes from the unfettered individual will of presidents with a career-long devotion to unshakable principles.

    Does anyone else note the irony of a soi-disant leftier-than-thou blogger subscribing to the Great Man school of history?

    • Davis X. Machina

      There’s a footnote, a catch, for Great Men whose names begin with “B”.

    • (((Hogan)))

      In his hands I wouldn’t call it a “school” so much as an “impulse” or “irritable mental gesture.”

      • N__B

        “irritable mental gesture.”

        Irritable mental bowel syndrome.

    • Scott Lemieux

      As I’ve said before, these guys seem to think Marx wrote second-rate middlebrow presidential biographies.

  • The Great God Pan

    I wouldn’t be educating children if I did not believe in human potential.

    I love how Trump’s defenders are often reduced to talking about an old-ass man like he’s a fresh-faced kid who just needs a little time to make mistakes and figure out the wacky game of life.

    • Davis X. Machina
      • The Great God Pan

        Death is very freeing. Now I have a lot of time to gripe about politics on the internet.

    • Murc

      I love how Trump’s defenders are often reduced to talking about an old-ass man like he’s a fresh-faced kid who just needs a little time to make mistakes and figure out the wacky game of life.

      Precisely how Bush’s defenders talked about him.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Can anyone beat ex-Speaker Hyde’s age-of-youthful-indiscretion?

  • DrDick

    There is no excuse for little Tommy Friedman, ever.

  • Steve LaBonne
    • BiloSagdiyev

      I heartily endorse this event or product!

  • GFW

    I think there’s a typo in there:

    ” … as a tool of climate denial and environmental regulation”

    Shouldn’t that be *deregulation*, or the whole sentence restructured?

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