State of the Union address. Teleprompter Trump quietens Twitter Trump for the occasion.

January 31, 2018

Child's pram

I was awakened by a familiar voice from my bedside radio. It was that of the President of the United States (POTUS) who was half way through his State of the Union Speech (SOTU).

That’s at least one acronym too many  for an opening paragraph. It least it will remind me of what the acronyms stand for, in the various bits of news already filtering through the social media sites.

I listened as POTUS warmed to his task. After each sound bite (roughly, after each sentence ) he paused to tumultuous applause. I remembered. He is addressing the congregated masses of the Senate and House of Representatives in some pomp. Puzzled at the electrifying effect his words were having, I abandoned my security blankets and headed for a view of the proceedings courtesy of BBC news (presumably by courtesy of some US networking. Hey, that’s the special relationship for you, folks.)

On the screen, Donald is doing something rare and wonderful. He is stringing words together in a more than passable imitation of the English Language. He is, you might say, on message. This departure from his normal style has not appeared to weaken its rapturous reception. Before my eyes , I see the hypnotic state of the delighted audience as the promises fall from his lips.

There is a cornucopia of promises pouring forth. They are jostling for reality, each being another chunk of the American dream realised. Evil drug-masters will be caught. And imprisoned and never released. Guantanamo Bay will be rescued from closure. The Military will never be hamstrung for lack of funding. At home, Republicans and Democrats alike will work to gather the achieve these steps towards making America Great Again (MAGA, the third and greatest of parts of the Holy Triacronym ).

The desolated infrastructure will be rebuilt with American heart, American hands and American grit (as someone earlier also said) with a budget call of $1.5 trillion left over from walls and bombs.

And each offer was greeted by a vast multitude, more than anyone else’s multitude. But there is more to come. The POTUS has assembled heroes and victims of failed heroes to be honoured for the courage of their loved ones or themselves. A victim of North Korean torture was given special place, as he waved his crutches defiantly to even more thunderous applause.

A part of my sleep-befuddled brain was telling me this is not quite right. Why, persisted the thought, would his political opponents not baulk a little at coming across with permission to spend the odd $1.5 trillion to MAGA? After all, these near-treacherous Democrats were continuing to hold up progress with the possibility of crash and burn of a functioning administration in weeks.

A clue came from the post-mortem. It is one of the oldest theatrical tricks of all. Get your supporters in the front rows and their cheers around out the jeers of opponents. The unanimous admiration was confined the sectors of Republicans entrusted as cheerleaders. Elsewhere, as one reporter put it, ‘Democrats sat or stood in stony silence’. They appeared to have hissed as the retention of the infamous Guantanamo Bay complex.

Indeed this is much to reflect on. The absences as well as the presences. The enemies to be confounded were essentialized as North Korea, but no mention of Russia. The bid for internal harmony on Capital Hill, but no mention of steps which might be leading to a POTUS impeachment.

Culturally, I had trouble with the speech, but the man showed his skills as a consummate showman, yes, even one with the dangerous gift of charismatic impact. Of his predecessors, he reminded me most of the long-departed Billy Graham. I wanted him to heal that North Korean hero on the spot.

This was Teleprompter Trump, as a BBC reporter put it, who went on to speculate how long it will be, before Twitter Trump escapes again.


Hillary duffs up Donald

August 26, 2016

Hillary.jpg

Donald Trump’s recent decline in the polls has been traced to his reactions to the Democrat’s National Conference. Hilary Clinton’s speech was one important and damaging blow before the Kahn family’s interventions

 

I first heard Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech as she was making it, and late into the night European time.  This gave me benefits of live radio (BBC5) as well as its drawbacks.

I missed the opening few minutes, but then listened to its ebb and flow uninterrupted by commentary.  (Except for one brief period when two American voices assessed the impact of  a pre-announced demonstration and walk-out by  Californian delegates supporting Bernie Saunders).

Rehearsed but not over-cooked

The delivery sounded to me rehearsed but not over-rehearsed.  Hillary does not do warmth, and did not attempt to do so.  The voice was familiar, somewhat detached, slightly strident (yes, I know that’s a judgement open to criticism as gender discriminatory. Men are rarely described as strident)

Hillary does Tough better than Warmth

The would-be POTUS may not do Warmth, but has to do Tough.  Hillary mostly let the words carry the Tough message.

Two portions of the speech struck me and rather surprised me.  There was lot of what our own dear Sun or Daily Mail would have sneered at as loony-Leftie stuff of the sort expected from Jeremy Corbin.  Holding Wall Street to account.  Even I.  Did she say that?  Surely I missed some vital qualifiers there. Leveling out inequalities. (Are you listening Bernie?). Whatever, the reception to her words seemed rapturous, but that was more predictable.

Trump kippered

I had wondered how she would deal with Trump.  On this I am more confident.  She kippered him.  It was as clinical and merciless as the weekly going-over which David Cameron handed out to Jeremy Corbin over the last few months.   She took as her main point the megalomaniac claim thatTrump alone could rescue a weak America. She contrasted it with her belief that no President fixes things alone. America is best when it works collectively, the United bit, right? I remembered how Obama had a rare failure when he once tried out that theme. He was challenged for dissing the entrepreneurial giants of big business, and the spirit of free enterprise.

‘Us not me’

Tonight Hillary got across the ‘Us not me’ point well. But how to deal with the giant shadow cast by Husband Bill?  I couldn’t she how that could be done. Hillary just said she had learned how to deal with a lot of bad stuff, and when knocked down got up fighting.  I think the audience got what she was driving at.

Will she be a great President?  I don’t know.  Will she even become President in the first place? I don’t know. Incidentally, the great futurologist Alvin Toffler died this week, but if he had lived I guess he would have found a way of predicting while maintaining residual doubts.

Her remark about not trusting the Presidency to someone easily riled was seized on and maybe will continue to rile the thin-skinned Trump. I do know that today’s speech [July 28, 2016] has not harmed the chances of a woman becoming the next President of the United States of America.

Postscript

Since the post was written, the Trump campaign has dropped further behind Clinton’s efforts. A series of misjudgements starting with the attack on the parents of an American fallen hero appear to have added to Mr Trump’s problems. At the same time, the setbacks may have strengthened his core support.

The campaign remains fascinating to students of politics, leadership, and trainwrecks.


Replacing Scalia: How The Supreme Court Influences Presidential Elections

February 18, 2016

The death of the influential conservative Antonin Scalia opens up another front in the upcoming Presidential campaign.

 The most vital constitutional decisions in the USA are eventually settled by the nine mighty figures of the Supreme Court of the United States, nattily known as SCOTUS

Structurally, the system of voting is open to a simplistic liberal versus conservative 4-5 split. This makes for highly politicized appointments via the President but with congressional tactics to delay an appointment, an important example of the lame duck theory of a President in his last term of office.(POTUS trying to get the SCOTUS he wants).

This is where we seem to be at the moment

 Informed opinions among political commentators are evaluating the process according to game theory. Something like

Obama selects a highly qualified candidate of liberal tendencies. This will swing 4-5 decisions to liberal outcomes.  One of the front runners is the high powered Loretta Lynch, attorney general and heroine of the moves that brought justice down on the first group  of FIFA reprobates.

Republicans filibuster any appointment, offering a politically useful edge to the Democratic candidate in the upcoming Presidential race.  This seems a rare example of a win-win for Obama, because his nominee to SCOTUS will be one that could pull in ethnic votes crucial in a close race.

Dysfunctional politics

  This offers much scope for further dysfunctional politics in a system already prone to inept reactions and self-induced crises. Arguably, such behaviors have accelerated the further decline in confidence in mainline political figures and the rise of the non-political candidates such asTrump.

Bad, but not as  totally flawed as you might think. One analysis suggests that the court is not a simplistic algorithmic mechanism churning out decisions on party lines. That does happen but only in a minority of cases considered.

Unfortunately, these are often of the highest significance

The Bush Gore case is one such example. In the presidential election of 2000, victory was too close to call, and eventually came down to the highly-charged accusations over voting practices in Florida. As multiple recounts and law suits began, SCOTUS felt compelled to step in and voted to end further recounts, a decision handing the Presidency to Bush. The voting 5-4 was along the dreaded party lines.

 Get over it, the gleeful Scalia remarked afterwards.