By David Stockman.
If you still don't think it's over, you aren't paying attention. The Donald has just given stupid a new definition and he will pay for it with a final ride on the White House helicopter. Even now the
engines are warming.
We are referring to
his pardon of Joe Arpaio. We happen to loath "identify politics" and have no use for the PC scolds who continuously pollute the mainstream media and are now gumming hysterically about the President's Friday night action. But let's be clear: the ex-Sheriff of Maricopa County is no hero, friend of liberty or object of sympathy owing to his age or alleged service to the country.
In fact, he is an ornery misanthrope, bully and power-mad tyrant who well and truly deserves to wear a Federal prison jump suit for every day of the six-month term to which he would likely have been sentenced. His technical crime was the wanton, blatant and recurring violation of a Federal court order enjoining his department from racial profiling, but the underlying sin is the real crime.
That is, he turned the Maricopa sheriff's department into a veritable vigilante operation focused on heavy-handed and often brutal enforcement of Federal immigration laws over which he had absolutely no jurisdiction. Worse still, his modus operandi involved military-style raids on places like hotels, restaurants, car washes, fruit farms etc. where workers were likely to be using false ID's or were undocumented.
That's right. The self-named "America's Toughest Sheriff" was mainly in the business of eliminating the paychecks of low wage workers trying to feed their kids and nabbing law-abiding citizens whose Hispanic ethnicity was proof enough to him that they were illegals. He wasn't so much protecting the public safety against genuine thugs and criminals as he was showboating his anti-immigrant and authoritarian political platform.
And that's not the half of Joe's nasty little tyranny. After mass round-ups and midnight raids on locations inhabited by suspected illegals, Arpaio herded his prisoners into his famous "Tent City" jail where they were often held at length without charge----or until they "confessed" to violations of
Federal immigration laws and were put on the deportation buses. As has been well-publicized, Arpaio's jail on the desert would have made "Boss Godfrey" of Cool Hand Luke proud. He fed
prisoners two skimpy meals a day valued at 30 cents each, forced them to work on chain-gangs cracking rocks, boasted that prison temperatures in the summer can hit 141 degrees, forced
prisoners to take showers in scalding water, mandated that they wear pink underwear, banned cigarettes and coffee, provided no heat and scant clothing in the winter's cold and forced them to endure countless other deprivations and indignities.
In a word, no believer in liberty and minimal government should shed a tear for Joe Arpaio because his ruthless and crude will-to power embodied the very opposite. He was and is the ultimate rogue politician who used the state's legal monopoly on violence to terrorize the citizenry with false fears and invented threats in order to secure their acquiescence to his rule.
Indeed, the one veneer of justification for his harsh brand of "peace-keeping" was the need to protect Maricopa County from the ugly violence of the drug trade, which spilled across the nearby Mexican border. But Arpaio's futile crackdown on the drug lords and their vast distribution armies is not a reason for a pardon; it is proof that the War on Drugs has been an abject, destructive failure and that by keeping illegal drugs off store shelves, out of vending machines and away from other channels of
civil commerce, the state generates the very economic rents needed to finance an alternative, lawless black market apparatus of distribution.
In a word, the War on Drugs has fostered the most brutal but prosperous crime cartels imaginable on the one side, while triggering on the other side abusive, militarized "law and order" counter-reactions of the type symbolized by Arpaio's sheriff's department and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). That Sheriff Joe's law enforcement career, in fact, was founded in the DEA, where he was known as "nickel bag Joe" for his vicious pursuit of petty distributors and runners, really tells you all you
need to know.
Stated differently, we are quite confident that if the distribution of now illicit drugs were being handled by the likes of Phillip Morris and the nation's vastly over-built retail distribution network, there would be no drug cartels whatsoever, and a large share of the antiimmigrant/Hispanic
fears percolating across America would be vastly attenuated. After all, most s0-called illegals come here to work; it is mainly the hardened criminals who come here to service the drug trade----a scourge which was made in Washington DC and the state capitals, not Mexico and the tributaries which feed it.
So, no, when the Donald asked in his Phoenix rant "was Sheriff Joe convicted of doing his job," he wasn't. Instead, he has finally been called to the carpet by the Federal courts and the voters last
November for his 24-years rein of bully-boy law enforcement and vitriolic attacks on Hispanics and practically anyone else who disagreed with him-----including at one point most of the Maricopa board of supervisors, as well as any reporters intrepid enough to expose his misdeeds.
By issuing the pardon, the Donald not only showed astounding lack of judgment---especially by doing so in the aftermath of the Charlottesville imbroglio----but also signaled that he has now
defaulted to a dead-end strategy of rousing his base on all the wrong issues. So doing, he is inviting the jackals of the Imperial City to devour what remains of his presidency.
It's almost as if Trump has a political death wish and can be counted upon to throw his political enemies new morsels of red meat whenever their appetites slacken-----even for the interregnum of a hurricane disaster.
Indeed, the Donald was more than correct in noting that the violence and ugliness in Charlottesville emanated from "many sides" and that the black-masked, club-wielding, urine-bag throwing, anti-free speech thugs and ruffians of the Antifa were flat-out contemptible.
Then again, the true purpose of the mainstream media's screeching, sanctimonious censure of his alleged "moral equivalence" sin was not that he put white supremacists and neoNazis on the same plane as the neo-Stalinist left that descended on Charlottesville looking for a violent clash with the former; it was just an excuse to carry their campaign to hound him from office to a new level of shrillness and outrage.
That's why we find the Arpaio pardon so insensibly stupid. The racist and Nazi cards flung at him in response to Charlottesville were trumped-up. But Sheriff Joe is every bit a racist, cryptofascist
demagogue---who didn't simply whistle the dogs, but unleashed them in full military regalia. And now the Donald has taken ownership of all that reprehensible baggage.
So here is what is really happening---and it has nothing to do with Wall Street's lingering fantasy that Trump is a probusiness tribune of economic revival and surging corporate profits. Instead, as we have been saying all along, the Donald was elected as the Great Disrupter who will accomplish nothing except to condemn and paralyze the status quo. That's because he has no real agenda on the issues that matter----that is, stopping the Warfare State/Welfare State/Wall Street Casino/Fed Bubble
Finance Debt machine-----and no fitness or capacity to govern an Imperial City that is predicated on their continuation.
Yet post-Arpaio, the pathway ahead is becoming clearer. Like a rejected organ transplant, Trump is now well along the process of being rejected and ejected by the beltway and media elites who rule American politics. So in a desperate rearguard maneuver to keep the jackals at bay, he will increasingly turn to inciting and mobilizing the "base".
So doing, the Donald will morph into an orange-haired Joe Arpaio pounding out a call to flag-waving, tin-pot patriotism and mean- spirited "law and order", while attacking crime, drugs,
immigration, terrorism, refugees, the PC Mafioso and the other bogeymen of the populist right.
In pursuit of this baleful path toward demise, he will also attempt to hold more Phoenix-style mass rallies, which, in turn, will only fuel the Trump Unhinged meme that now dominates the mainstream media and much of the discourse in official Washington. And the din on the latter is about to get even louder because it appears that Trump is fixing to drop another load of red meat on what he perceives to be his base in Flyover America. We are referring to resort to out-and-out protectionism via punitive tariffs on China and possibly other nations which have purportedly stolen American jobs and middle class well-being. Trump does have the capacity to launch this kind of trade war unilaterally through executive order, and there have been stunning leaks over the weekend that he is hopping mad about
being thwarted by his own appointees thus far.
Indeed, the new go-to insider rag called Axios, highlighted the dangerous state of play on the trade front with a headline this AM which read:
Exclusive: Trump Vent in Oval Office, "I Want tariffs. Bring me some tariffs!
The Axios leak more than passes the smell test of legitimacy. Trump has been a blatant protectionist his whole life and did not get to the Oval Office----no matter how short his ultimate tenure-----in order to eschew an opportunity to bring the hammer down on what he has always perceived to be the
nefarious doings of foreign governments and the stupidity of the Washington establishment and trade negotiators.
But if a protectionist hammer slams right in the middle of the debt-ceiling and government funding showdowns, as suggested in the Axios narrative below, it will be Katie-bar-the-door time in the
And it will also mean that the true instigators of the massive offshoring of American jobs and shrinking living standards in Flyover America---that is, the Keynesian fools in the Eccles Building and their endless gifts of free money to Wall Street and to the C-suite financial engineers of corporate America----will have dodged a bullet again. At least for now.
The following is a rare account of President Trump in a small Oval Office meeting, venting at senior staff for sometimes resisting his hawkish trade agenda This account — confirmed by sources with knowledge of the meeting and undisputed by the White House —hints at where Trump may be heading with his trade agenda. And it shows he believes some of his top economic advisors are resisting his agenda because they are "globalists."
The scene: The Oval Office, during Gen. Kelly's first week as Chief of Staff. Kelly convened a meeting to discuss the administration's plans to investigate China for stealing American intellectual property and technology. Kelly stood beside Trump, behind the Resolute desk. In front of the desk were U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, senior trade adviser Peter Navarro, top economic adviser Gary Cohn, and Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Trump, addressing Kelly, said, "John, you haven't been in a trade discussion before, so I want to share with you my views. For the last six months, this samegroup of geniuses comes in here all the time and I tell them, 'Tariffs. I want tariffs.' And what do they do? They bring me IP. I can't put a tariff on IP." (Most in the room understood that the president can, in fact, use tariffs to combat Chinese IP theft.)
"China is laughing at us," Trump added. "Laughing." Kelly responded: "Yes sir, I understand, you want tariffs."
Gary Cohn, who opposes tariffs and the protectionist trade measures pushed by the Bannonites, had his shoulders slumped and was clearly appalled by the situation.
Staff secretary Rob Porter, who is a key mediator in such meetings, said to the president: "Sir, do you not want to sign this?" He was referring to Trump's memo prodding Lighthizer to investigate China —which may lead to tariffs against Beijing.
Trump replied: "No, I'll sign it, but it's not what I've asked for the last six months." He turned to Kelly: "So, John, I want you to know, this is my view. I want tariffs. And I want someone to bring me some tariffs." Kelly replied: "Yes sir, understood sir, I have it." At one point in the meeting, Navarro pulled out a foam board chart. Trump didn't pay attention to it, saying "I don't even know what I'm looking at here." Trump made sure the meeting ended with noconfusion as to what he wanted.
"John, let me tell you why they didn't bring me any tariffs," he said. "I know there are some people in the room right now that are upset. I know there are some globalists in the room right now. And they don't want them, John, they don't want the tariffs. But I'm telling you, I want tariffs."
Kelly broke up the meeting and said the group would work things out and reconvene at the appropriate time.Needless to say, if Trump moves ahead in this manner, it will eviscerate what is left of the GOP. The free traders and lap-dogs of the corporate PACs will come out in open revolt---even as the populist right is spurred on via what will be Trade War Fever emanating from Steve Bannon and the now revitalized alt-Right domiciled at Breitbart and its auxiliaries and fellow travelers In that context, the Trump presidency will face perhaps a fatal blow in what is certain to be a vicious campaign by these
folks against the "White House Democrats" who will likely pull out the stops to thwart the Donald's raging determination to go ahead with a global trade war. By the latter, we mean "Javanka" (Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump) and their recruits from Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin.
That is to say, a trade policy bloodletting is now coming to the Donald's own household.
For our money it is long passed the time to duck and cover. Indeed, apparently even financial types in the tiny Baltic republic of Finland can see that much. Thus, in honor of today's White House visit by the President of Finland, a portfolio manager at that nation's largest pension fund told Bloomberg that he is trimming his exposure to US equities because,
"It seems as if there is no president in the US"
Yes, even the Finns get it, but what we have on Wall Street is an apparent head-in-the-sand resolve to keep mindlessly buying the dips, thereby proverbially wasting a good crisis. Well, until it is way too late.
David Stockman is the former Director of the Office of Management and Budget during part of the Reagan Administration, from 1981 to 1985. He is the author of The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and also The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed and Trumped! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin... And How to Bring It Back.
The above originally appeared at David Stockman's Contra Corner and is reprinted with permission.