Friday, January 20, 2017

Figures Don't Lie But Liars Figure

As of today it's best you remember that phrase and keep it in mind. You'll find that, over the next four years, you may need it daily.

Around the time of the Carter presidency, pollsters began logging incoming presidents' popularity numbers. How does the citizenry perceive their new boss when he takes up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Even George "hanging chad" Bush showed up for work with a 61% rating. Obama had a powerful 84%. Some polls have the Great Orange Bloat at a record 32% approval rating. This is before he puts presidential pen to paper.

Here's the thing. That "fresh out of the box" popularity wanes pretty quickly. The honeymoon period passes. The bloom is off the rose.

Presidents do as much as possible to preserve that opening day popularity but they don't succeed. How hard is Trump going to have to work to shore up his 32%?

This is not to say that Trump doesn't have loyal followers. Of course he does. They were the tailgate barbeque and beer gang that were foolish enough to believe his magical promises. Hillary was heading to jail. A 30 foot wall would spring up stretching from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. Factories just full of $30 an hour jobs would spring up everywhere. And the swamp - that swamp - well that was in for a draining. They're why I coined the term "gullibillies."

There was a study done recently that found a significant percentage of Trump supporters want Obamacare gone. However they don't want the axe to fall on their Affordable Care Act privileges. Somehow, it never reached the depths of their minds, that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is Obamacare.

The original Republican idea was to replace Obamacare with something "better." The public would simply transition from Plan A to Plan B. Trump, however, wants Obamacare rescinded, 20 million Americans denied health insurance, and then, if they're in the mood, the Republican Congress can maybe come up with something to replace it, provided the new president approves.

20 million. Those are the sort of numbers that guarantee mayhem and horror stories and there'll be plenty of front page space for that.

The coal mines? Oh yeah. Let's see how Trump gets that going again without massive government handouts.

Unlike any president before him, there'll be no honeymoon for Mr. Trump. No, he's starting off with his numbers in the crapper and he lacks anything approaching a coherent policy to guide his administration and his nation.

As Richard Wolffe writes, the future doesn't look rosy for Trump.

[Poll numbers] are the white blood cells of the circulatory system that flows through Washington. Good poll numbers can inoculate a president when Congress opposes him. Bad numbers reveal a president vulnerable to outside attacks and embolden his many rivals both inside and outside his own party.

Those numbers are about to get a lot worse. In his first year in office, Obama lost more than 15 points on his job approval. If Trump follows the same track, he will be polling in the mid-20s by this time next year. To put that into context, Richard Nixon’s job approval on the day he quit the Oval Office was 24%.

And no Mr President, these aren’t rigged polls.

The polls just reflect what people think of you, and they all rate you poorly both on a personal and professional basis. Here’s what’s rigged: an election you can win after losing the popular vote by more than 2 oints, as the polls correctly forecast. 

What could drive Trump’s poll numbers so low? Unlike Obama, who inherited the worst economy in two generations, the incoming president cannot blame external forces. The greatest threat, both to his presidency and the republic, comes from Trump himself.

Wolffe offers a catalogue of the scandals that are moving into the White House today with its new resident. The Great Orange Bloat hasn't been able to break free of them. No, not the Christopher Steele "dossier." This isn't about hookers taking a pee break in fancy Moscow hotel rooms. This is about the other scandals. A couple involve the Kremlin to be sure. Others involve the apparent corruption and manipulation of the US government's most trusted agencies, the FBI and possibly the CIA. Couple that with a new president beginning his term with one foot in the political grave, weak beyond belief, and you've got the formula for an exciting first term.

Such is life when a minority of voters and a majority of the Electoral College hand the brass ring to a narcissistic deviant with significant psychological problems.


Scotian said...

I think one of the things that bothers me most about the dossier is that it covers up the much more serious and troubling materials that were used to get a FISA warrant last year on Trump campaign staff. This dossier had nothing to do with that, and getting a FISA isn't the easiest thing to do to start with, let alone in an election year against one of the two primary candidates and their immediate circles.

Sure, the dossier makes plausible claims, especially given Trump's own self confessed over decades behaviour, but even if it is all true, I am still far more concerned about the financial ties that may well exist, as in who owns whose debt for example. There is also more than a little basis for concern that there are actual high level contacts between Putin/Russia directly and the top levels of the Trump campaign and even family.

Why some people find it so hard to believe what is and has been for many months right out there in front of their lying eyes, I do not know. I always knew than anger and hatred can create blind spots, but even so, the ones I have seen where HRC, Dems, and even true Jacksonian Republicans are concerned from the far left trough to those self same Jacksonians are something else yet again.

The idea that the Russian involvement is not blatant, the Comey effect not clearly decisive, I find baffling. I literally watched it and called it happening in real time, even. I've detailed it here and elsewhere multiple times, and never had a good refutation provided for the basics facts. Russia *OPENLY* gamed the US Presidential elections, they did so with the clear intent of not just disrupting but to do so against one side and for the other, and laid the saturation groundwork so that the FBI involvement at the end (which may also turn out to be linked to the Trump campaign a la America's Mayor) was decisive and just enough to not just stop HRC flat and cause her to lose all steam, but also to hyper-energize team Trump and give them a focus and message instead of the flailing about after the 3 debates and Access Hollywood.

Trump may be President in reality this moment, but he is the de jure President in terms of legitimacy, but de facto, not so much. The question is how much longer will de jure remain de facto now that he has officially become President, and what will, if anything, be the cause for that change? Not to mention when.

Always said I liked watching history as it unfolds, but this is too much of a good thing, and then some.

The Mound of Sound said...

A dynamic that we may not have to wait long to see surface, Scotian, is a Congressional Republican blowback against the president that many refuse to accept as a genuine Republican.

The focus will be on the 2018 mid-terms and the presidential runoff in 2020. Trump's unpopularity could become an anchor round the necks of Senate and House Republicans. How will they react if his numbers tank to Richard Nixon's impeachment/resignation levels?

What will they do if the Dems get their act together and field a credible presidential contender. This is Day One yet there's never been a dynamic more ripe for just that.

If you put Trump's grandiose promises against his cabinet choices and what that portends, it's hard to see where he can build any electoral support. If you're behind the curve with a sink rate of 200 feet a minute and you're barely 300 feet above the ground you may already be at the point of no return. And when you're urgently thinking about pulling that D-ring, it's hard to focus on what might lie over the next ridge.

Remember that this is a guy in the grip of a variety of compulsions, a narcissist with the attention span of my beagle, and some serious if not severe psychological vulnerabilities. He's not in the position of strength needed to quash the scandals that are closing in on him. The very people who helped put him over the top are the people who now could bring him crashing down.

Exciting times.

rumleyfips said...

Trump's speech today seemed unconvincing , even to himself. He sounded like he was setting up excuses for failures to come. It took a while for me to remember the part that seemed so odd. He spoke about the tens of millions there for the inauguration to the few hundred thousand that really showed up.

Trump showed a lack of self belief today. Things must be getting to him. The tickets they couldn't even give away. The musicians who decided to have root canals instead. His poor popularity numbers ( and Obama's high ones ), the number of people regarding him as illegitimate and the protesters have hurt a guy with a dangerously fragile ego.

Scotian said...


What concerns and troubles me about that is how long the GOP Congress can afford to wait vis-a-vis Trump's actual operating execution and the expected failures coming out of it versus being seen as betraying Trump by that hard core solid mass of Trumpistas that first made him the primary winner via impeachment. They may represent less than half of the overall voting public, but I think they are if not the majority they are the largest plurality of the current GOP coalition of voters. Also consider that they are prime audience material for the "stabbed in the back" mentality/explanation for why things don't go their way.

I'd be less nervous I suppose if I saw Trump as some sort of evil genius who actually had the ability to operate at this level even if in ways I would wildly disagree and disapprove of. My problem is I don't see even that, I see a fundamental lack of basic skill sets. GWB had significantly more in this area, and no, that isn't hyperbole, I would have said the same in 2000. I'm worried about rapid implosion as lines of authority that he wants to have terminate at him clash with the responsibilities that come with them. Bush was fine with trusting Cheney on national security and such, but he did have a real hand on domestic political policy concerns even from the beginning, he wasn't totally disconnected from policy formulation in that Adminstration whereas with Trump, I'm still waiting to see what kind (and whether) of policy creation mechanisms are even going to exist in his Administration.

So while I agree your strain as one scenario is certainly one very real outcome (and frankly one I would find more comforting that what I'm afraid I'm about to see), I fear more for what I just described. I don't think he has either the physical nor mental fortitude for even the most day to day aspects of the Presidency, and he will in very short order run beyond his ability to process and function within it, and where that ends up going and shapes taking, the imagination staggers, reeling with horror no less.

If he were just another GOP extremist but someone with some proven experience in these kinds of stresses and environments, even in ways I wildly disagreed with, that would be one thing, ugly, but one thing. Trump is something else, the worst possible fusion of some of the worst possible scenarios, and that is so low order probability turning actual that I am unwilling to make ANY solid expectations without hard evidence supporting it where these matters are concerned currently. I just do not see how anyone can, really. I also fail to see how anyone can not see that the worst case scenarios currently are at non-trivial levels of possibility, which in itself I find absolutely unnerving.

Toby said...

I would feel much better about the positions of the CIA and FBI if they hadn't spent most of my lifetime spreading disinformation. While the majority of their staff are probably quite diligent in their tasks their leadership has always been political. Think Dulles during the Guatemala mess and Casey during the Iran-Contra episode. Then there was J. Edgar Hoover and many more. When it comes to the big stories I have trouble trusting either organization.

What I can trust is what I see happening in the US and it is very disquieting. By the middle of 1944, William E. Dodd, US Ambassador to Germany, was warning his superiors about what Hitler was doing. Nobody would listen. Much of the book by Erik Larson, In the Garden of the Beasts, describes an eerie similarity to what we are witnessing in the US. It is a mistake to credit an errant leader who ping pongs all over the place with genius. To the contrary, the word insanity comes to mind.

While it is impossible to predict the future I won't be surprised to see it all come off the rails.

Anonymous said...

Things may come off the rails quite quickly. Trump has named appointees for only 28 of the 690 senior positions requiring Senate confirmation. Of those 28, only two have been added this year. By inauguration day, Trump should have had about 100 Senate-confirmed appointees in place, he's got none.

Look at the big four departments. There's no Trump appointee for any of the top State Department jobs below secretary nominee Rex Tillerson. No Trump appointee for any of the top Department of Defense jobs below retired general James Mattis. Treasury? Same story. Justice? It is one of two departments (along with, bizarrely, Commerce) where Trump has selected a deputy secretary. But no solicitor general, no one at civil rights, no one in the civil division, no one for the national security division.

And the same is true in department after department. Not to mention agencies without anyone at all nominated by the president-elect.

In short, government departments will at best be on autopilot and at worst be flailing around. All of which is a formula for corruption.

I'd say that the failure to get his administration up and running on time isn't a deliberate choice by Trump; he just has no idea what he's doing, and hasn't surrounded himself with people well-equipped to translate his impulses and his campaign commitments into a full-fledged government. This isn't exactly a surprise. Recall that the Trump Organization has never had a large bureaucracy and that his campaign didn't staff up the way campaigns normally do, so he doesn't really have any relevant management experience. And, of course, he's never demonstrated any significant knowledge in how the government actually works. The results are likely to be damaging to his presidency, and to the nation.


Scotian said...


I do not really disagree with your assessment of the top/command element of the IC, and under normal circumstances I would expect no better. However, I know enough of that world to understand there is a very solid core of professionals throughout the levels and ranks who care more about basic security truths being kept above all else, including anything like partisan politics, but it has to be something real. This time they have had their public noses rubbed in it before, during and post election. Bad enough to be played for real chumps, but to be seen as such too, I have a hard time seeing people of that nature letting it go regardless of their normal inclinations politically speaking.

As furious as I am with Comey currently I am starting to think he was cornered into it by Rudy G and his faction within the NY FBI office more than simply acting on his own agenda/interests. I still think he may have been predisposed to what he said/did personally, but to go that far out on two limbs, one about what he said/did on Clinton, the other on what he didn't regarding Trump and Russia, I am beginning to accept he could well have been armtwisted into it by Rudy and his people given what has been coming out regarding that office the last two months now.

I strongly suspect this is starting to awaken real alarm and fear within the real IC world about what is coming and where this is heading, and I do not think this time will be business as usual for them, at least not in the early days, weeks to couple of months, at the minimum. Clearly they ARE worried about it though, else they would not be leaking as much as they have and what they have to the press. That is clearly being used to create tripwires to use in case team Trump tries to kills or twist these investigations.

No, I think there is still a window left, and there is also the way the other allied nations feel about what their intelligence agencies are telling them/us, and how that can/will also interact via back channels. I think the true professional classes within the IC in America have just gotten a very ugly reality quake, and I think they understand the rules of their own game/world well enough to see the risks of not trying to follow through on this.

It is not so much that I am comfortable having to trust/rely on this part of the world, but rather it is one of the last remaining areas of the American governing system that has any real power to act left now, and even that will be dwindling the longer Trump is in office. I think they know that too, and that focuses the mind just like knowing you are about to be hanged in a fortnight a la Twain. I trust in self interest as a motivator more than almost anything else.

Ben Burd said...

" it's hard to see where he can build any electoral support. "

He doesn't want electoral support he is an authoritarian who is beholden to his socialisation - tax cuts to the rich and hammer the lazy poor for after all it is their own fault that they are that way.

As long as he spends his political capital on the excesses of the tea party then the rest of us can suck it up. After all who in America is giving this guy the benefit of the doubt? Those who voted for him did so because of his promises and the sooner he breaks those promises the sooner disillusionment will set in. Problem is that this disillusionment will only reinforce the picture of "lying Politicians" and not drive electoral rage to act against him. In other words we are all fucked if we think an electoral revolution will develop against him.