Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Trump: Triumph of the Permanent Campaign

English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in...
English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Less than a month into the first term of his presidency, Politico reports, Donald Trump appears to be back on the campaign trail, heading for Melbourne, Florida and one of his signature airport hangar rallies.

The Washington Post‘s Philip Bump speculates that Trump’s outing is motivated by the simple need for an ego boost. It’s been a rough month. Heck, it’s been a rough week, marked by the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and the withdrawal of Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder, under shadows of different kinds. Rallies feel like … victory. Trump knows how to pack a house and pump it full of feelgood, taking away even more energy from his performances than he brings to them.

I’ve got an alternative theory: Donald Trump is the consummate politician.

Granted, he ran for president as “not a politician.” But there’s less to that image than meets the eye. Beneath the hype, hard reality: Donald Trump whipped 16 rivals for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, then went on to best an “inevitable” former First Lady, former US Senator, and former US Secretary of State in the general election. Some “non-politician.”

One of the losing candidate’s long-time confidants, Sidney Blumenthal, identified an interesting modern political phenomenon in a 1980 book, The Permanent Campaign. Blumenthal’s thesis was that the political center of gravity has moved over time away from the smoke-filled party/patronage rooms — stable long-term concerns — and toward a constant short-term concern with more mercurial factors like poll numbers and public perception.

Trump is well-known for his hyper-sensitivity to being perceived as anything less than top dog in every respect. He decries negative press and polling as biased and can’t wait to tout his latest triumph, even if he has to invent it himself (see, for example “inaugural attendance figures”).

It’s time to stop thinking of that as a character defect and recognize it for what it is. Donald J. Trump represents the pinnacle of the “permanent campaign” ethos. He’s all politician, all the time.

Ironically, Trump’s authoritarian stylings may end up producing results closely tracking direct democracy — rule of the majority, or at least the plurality, albeit on a drunken moment-to-moment lurch.

If so, I predict that his presidency, whether one term or two in duration, will validate HL Mencken’s conception of democracy as “the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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That’s Hypocrisy: DC Swamp Creatures vs. Kellyanne Conway

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, as well as various “watchdog” groups, are up in arms over $99 textured open-front cardigans, $125 suede slingback pumps, and $98 pebbled leather crossbody bags. Yes, really.

In an appearance on Fox and Friends, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway made the mistake of doing the obvious: When the subject of Ivanka Trump’s  eponymous clothing line came up (because Nordstrom’s department stores are dropping Ivanka’s products), she spoke supportively of her boss’s daughter: “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you …. I’m going to give it a free commercial here, go buy it today.”

Apparently that’s a big deal.

US Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, signed a letter seeking an ethics investigation.  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Government Ethics. The White House says it has “counseled” Conway.

Talking up a presidential family member’s business when it’s in the news is an ethics violation? My hypocrisy meter is pinging in the red zone right about now.

Members of Congress continually vote to fork over billions of dollars to companies whose executives make large campaign contributions and whose lobbyists buy lots of drinks and steaks. When they’re done being in Congress, they draw lavish salaries from positions on the boards of, or as lawyers or lobbyists for, those same companies.

Ditto former presidents and former cabinet officials. Does anyone really believe that former Secretary of State Hillary racked up $5 million in speaking fees in 15 months  because she’s a great orator with wonderful, innovative ideas? She knocked that kind of money down as payment for past favors and, as a prospective president, down payment for future ones.

Sure, the Beltway establishment occasionally offers up a human sacrifice as proof of its moral rectitude. Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) paid a $300,000 fine and eventually resigned when charged with 84 ethics violations.  Former US Representative Randy Cunningham was sentenced to eight years in prison for accepting millions of dollars in bribes. But they’re the exceptions, not the rule.

If I had to guess, I’d guess there will be plenty of actual White House corruption to complain about in the coming four years. Going after Kellyanne Conway for saying nice things about Ivanka Trump’s clothing line is a cheap shot from people who do far worse every day.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Sorry, Judge Napolitano: Immigration Isn’t “Foreign Policy”

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the time you read this, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit may have handed down a ruling for or against president Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel and immigration from seven countries. Two states (Washington and Minnesota) are suing to kill that order.

Andrew Napolitano — a prominent constitutionalist and libertarian commentator, not to mention a former New Jersey Superior Court judge — writes in Reason that the states don’t have legitimate standing to sue. Why? Because the Constitution provides for quite a bit of presidential latitude on foreign policy.

I’ll explain why Judge Napolitano is wrong on the details momentarily, but first let’s get one thing out of the way: Immigration is not a foreign policy matter. Foreign policy relates to matters outside the United States and to relations between US government and other governments around the world. Immigration relates to individuals wishing to enter and possibly reside in the United States. It is therefore a matter of domestic, not foreign, policy.

It’s also a matter constitutionally reserved to the states, which is where Judge Napolitano really steps in it. He hangs his argument for the order and against the states’ legal standing on the fact that “[a] 1952 federal statute permits the president to suspend the immigration status of any person or group whose entry into the United States might impair public health or safety or national security.”

But that statute is plainly unconstitutional, for the same reason that the states have standing. Why? Because per Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight …”

Article V of the Constitution forbids amending that provision prior to 1808, and no amendment to it has been proposed or ratified since that time. Congress scrupulously observed that restriction for nearly a century. As with many restrictions on federal power, it eventually got ignored. But it’s still “the supreme law of the land.”

The Constitution doesn’t enumerate a federal power to regulate immigration. In fact it clearly and unambiguously reserves that power to the states. That makes the statute Judge Napolitano references unconstitutional, and the executive order hinging on it void. Obviously states have standing to sue when the federal government usurps a power the Constitution reserves to them.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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