Thursday, October 12, 2017

Uncorked: Republicans Count on Coup Rather than Constitution

It was 55 years ago this month that the United States of America was in the darkest hours of the Cuban Missile Crisis – an interesting context in which to consider Senator Bob Corker’s stunning assertion that most Republicans share his concern that Donald Trump’s temperament and incendiary rhetoric could trigger World War III. Steve addresses a cowardly abdication of responsibility by leading Republican legislators.

All the wicked snickering and snooty giggling at the liberal cocktail parties this past week has been about the torrent of belittling insults hurled at the President of the United States from the most senior members of his own party and indeed his own cabinet. 

First came Rex Tillerson’s clumsy evasive maneuvers when reporters ask him to confirm The New York Times’ story that he had labeled his boss a moron.  Apparently the only real question about the validity of the reporting was whether T-Rex had called Trump simply “a moron,” or had actually indulged in the richer, more textured characterization that Trump was actually “a fucking moron.”  

Those who sniffed an impending Rex-it then learned that Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had supposedly forged what they called a “suicide pact,” which absolutely thrilled liberals until they learned this was merely a figure of speech. The pact sounded more like a NATO Article Five Mutual Defense Alliance, in that it supposedly codified that if Trump fired any one of them, the other two would quit.

To round out the weekend, the President made Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee the target of his Sunday morning ritual projectile tweeting.  Corker, liberated by his decision to not stand for re-election, had allowed himself to be conspicuously quoted saying that Tillerson, Mattis, and General John Kelly were the three people “that help separate our country from chaos.” Frontally dissed, Trump retaliated with his own unique blend of lies, insults, and scurrilous allegations, concluding that Corker “didn’t have the guts to run for re-election.” The kindergarten food fight concluded, appropriately, with Corker uncorking the most demeaning insult to the President yet launched from a fellow Republican, matching the anti-social media maven twit for twat. "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center... someone obviously missed their shift this morning,” Corker popped, not needing anywhere near the full 144 characters to eviscerate the toddler-in-chief.

There you have it: the President of the United States and one of our most senior legislators, locked in Romper Room, prattling on about the twitter-twatter of little feats.
Yes, it was all glorious for liberals to watch Republican establishment figures slowly coming to terms with the fact that the President they so ferociously fought to elect is actually both a baby and a moron. But the revelations about Corker and the Four Horsemen Preventing the Apocalypse (Tillerson, Mattis, Kelly, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo) should actually be a screaming, urgent wake-up call to all Americans. 

Receiving less play relative to the juicier insults and revelations of personal loathing was Senator Corker’s earnest assessment that Trump’s irresponsible behavior could set the United States “on the path to World War III.” In an interview with The New York Times, Corker actually spelled out what he meant by the “adult day care center at the White House.” He asserted that he knows “for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.” Corker portrayed a White House in which a small group of grim and disciplined patriots stand ever at the ready to intervene and stop the President from triggering Armageddon.

Perhaps most alarming of all was the fact that Corker confidently asserted to The New York Times that his views are commonly held by virtually all senior party leaders. The Times reported quoted Corker as saying, “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here. Of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Senator Corker thereby publicly declared that the vast majority of Republican leaders now believe that the only thing that is standing between Donald Trump and Armageddon’s trigger is a thin line of patriots who may have to defy constitutional law to serve the even higher cause of saving our species.

When we put all of this reporting together into a nice, tight summary, it looks like this:
  • Bob Corker believes that he is speaking for the majority of Republican legislators.
  • Corker (and, we are to therefore infer, the others) believe that the President of the United States is oblivious to the potential consequences of his bellicose threats, and fully capable of irrational and impulsive action that could lead to global nuclear war.
  • Corker -- and the Republicans whose views he claims to be channeling -- believe that the only thing standing between the White House and “chaos” (which appears to be code for nuclear war) is the willingness of key cabinet officers to overtly block the President’s most dangerous impulses.
  • This means that the Republicans are counting on two career military officers and the Secretary of State to, if necessary, refuse to act on and even actively repulse a direct order of the President of the United States.
In short, our Republican leaders seem to believe that the fail-safe to the constant danger caused by having Donald Trump in the White House is the knowledge that the leaders of our armed services will refuse to act on an order from the President. That they will commit treason. Indeed, when military leaders refuse to follow the orders of their civilian commander-in-chief, that is what is conventionally known as a military coup.

Pause for a moment and think about it. It seems extremely likely that Kelly, Mattis, and Tillerson have conversed sotto voce about what they would do if Donald Trump woke up one morning and ordered, as he warned to the United Nations, “the complete destruction of North Korea.”

To be crystal clear: we are not talking about a scenario in which North Korea has actually fired a missile at one of our allies. Then, all bets are off, and we can justify a declaration of war and a counter-attack.  No, the scenario we are examining is if nothing were different from how things stand today, with Kim Jong-un shooting test missiles into the Pacific, executing nuclear tests on his own soil, and never once directly attacking the United States or any of its allies. If nothing were different than things are today, and Donald Trump decided to order “the complete destruction of North Korea,” what would happen?

Even with no provocation whatsoever, Donald Trump has the complete right and the uncontested authority to order the U.S. military to launch one hundred nuclear warheads into a land area pretty much exactly the size of Ohio, most likely incinerating every living creature in North Korea, including 25,000,000 human beings.  This, just for a sense of scale, is more people than live in the top ten cities in the United States combined.

Yeah, we elected that guy and handed him that power. Just imagine him showing up one morning in the Oval Office, and he’s pissed off because of negative press in cable programs, furious that McConnell can’t get a single piece of legislation through the Senate, fuming because Steve Bannon’s candidates are beating his, raging because his approval numbers are anemic compared to those of Barack Obama, apoplectic because members of his own party are calling him a baby and a moron, and seething to a boil because deep down he knows that every day Robert Mueller is getting closer to the evidence that will utterly humiliate him.

What does he do? He decides that this is the day he will show that little prick in North Korea who gets to say “you’re fired.” He pulls out the plan that’s been developed for a full-scale retaliation in the event Kim Jong-un launches a nuclear warhead at Seoul or Tokyo. He calls in General Kelly and asks for the launch codes. It’s go time.

Would the leaders of our military even dream of refusing a direct order from the United States of America?

The answer?  Well, for starters, they already did that two months ago. When Donald Trump decided that transgender personnel should no longer be allowed to serve in the military, the leaders of our military did not exactly race out to get that order implemented.  They hedged, stalled, dodged, and delayed, pretty much assured that the President would forget about his order shortly after naptime.

So if the military brass was willing to brazenly ignore the President about the rights of transgender citizens, the Republican bet is that they would be perfectly willing to gum up the launch code sequence long enough for either cooler heads to prevail, long enough to talk him out of it, or maybe even long enough for Kelly, Mattis, and Tillerson to convince Mike Pence to muster the signatures needed to activate the conditions of the 4th Section of the 25th Amendment that relieves the President of his authority.  And, yes, that is the famous clause that Glenn Close is pressured to invoke when Harrison Ford is taken prisoner on “Air Force One.”

But the overall implication of Bob Corker’s shocking candor is actually hard to miss: the leaders of the Republican Party are counting on generals to execute a de facto emergency military coup rather than following their conscience to the legal steps that are already built into the Constitution: an orderly process of impeachment, or Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.

If we are to believe the esteemed Senator from Tennessee, our Republican leaders privately acknowledge that Donald Trump is sufficiently unstable that there is a very real chance that he could – impulsively, childishly, and psychotically – initiate the first global nuclear war because he was having a temper tantrum.

We have commented repeatedly at the cowardice of Republican leadership. The cowardice to strip away healthcare coverage from millions of people to score political points. The cowardice to stand on the sidelines as their leader defends the violence of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and anti-Semites. The cowardice to pretend that global warming is not real. The cowardice to not explode in outrage when their leader arbitrarily bars transgender persons from serving in the military. The cowardice to enable their leader to spew endless lies. The cowardice to stigmatize and castigate people because of their faith. The cowardice to be intimidated into inaction by the gun lobby.  The cowardice to stand behind a leader who is a brazen misogynist and a serial sexual assailant.

And now, the cowardice to hope that a military coup will save them from needing to face the inconvenient reality that they, too, have already concluded that Donald Trump is unfit to be President of the United States.

Many people admire Bob Corker for finally speaking the truth and putting voice to the giant, ugly elephant in the room. But it is a pity that in the United States of America, our highest elected leaders only feel free to speak the truth when they have already decided to not seek re-election.  Bob Corker only spoke truth to power when he got himself uncorked. And Senator, you’re not the first guy named Bob to figure out that when you’ve got nothing, you got nothing to lose.

But still, give this man credit.

He is telling us that most Republicans in Congress know that with Donald Trump in the White House, a global nuclear war triggered by a pre-emptive American attack on North Korea is a very real possibility.

If Republicans really believe that is true, how can they stand by, turn up their hands, and secretly hope that military generals are ready to commit treason to prevent disaster?

Mitch? Marco? Orrin? John? Roy? Cory? Keeping that seat in the Senate won’t do you much good in a dystopian landscape of post-thermonuclear carnage.

Go ahead, Bob showed you the way. Get uncorked. It will feel good to say it out loud: Donald J. Trump is not fit enough, qualified enough, or learned enough to be sitting in the White House. It was all a big mistake. It is time to fix it.

The truth is that until Mueller is ready to pounce, only Republicans can take that man’s hand and keep it away from the launch codes.

Your oath is to defend the Constitution of the United States, not to pray every night for a military coup that undermines it.

It’s time to fulfill your oath. It is time to do your job.

Because if you don't, a whole lot more than a Senator from Tennessee is going to get uncorked.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What Happened in Vegas Will Stay in Vegas

Another mass murder "Groundhog Day" in America,and another fork in the road. Do we make a stand, or do we cower, accept that we are the most violent society in the world, and that we lack the will to change? Steve can usually muster some sliver of optimism, but not this time.


On Monday, stocks in gun manufacturers rose.  One munitions company hit an all-time high.

You would like to believe that after the biggest slaughter of innocent Americans by a crazed gunman in the history of the United States, the financial gurus would assume that the gun industry would be shamed and punished, and that it would be a good time to sell.

Not so.

In America, after one of our now routine mass executions, gun owners grow fearful that the government will finally begin to truly regulate the gun industry, so they run out and buy more guns as quickly as possible. Mass murder, in turns out, triggers market growth.  Massacre is a leading indicator of a bright financial future for the killing sector.

Ironically, the fears of gun owners are unfounded. Congress is going to do nothing about the gun industry. Many of our elected officials hide behind the pretense that they are passionate defenders of Second Amendment rights when in fact they are just cowards who are owned by the gun lobby. You can smell it as they proclaim that it is "too early" to talk about gun legislation "out of respect for the victims." That is a particularly despicable deceit, as they are brazenly invoking the misery of the victims as cover for inaction.

So don’t miss out. The next time a psycho wingnut with a full militia's worth of assault rifles sprays rounds of burning metal into the soft flesh of country western fans, buy stock in Olin, the makers of Winchester ammunition.  It’s pretty much guaranteed that you, too, will make a killing.

Nothing is going to change because of the massacre in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, they weren’t kidding when they said that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Don’t misinterpret: when we say it will stay in Las Vegas, we mean it will stay in Vegas. Forever. It will haunt and terrify the lives of citizens in Las Vegas because they were so intimately inundated with the sounds, images, the video, and the social media as the horror spread from its epicenter.  It will plague their nights and damage their children. It will never go away.

But it won’t leave Vegas, either. For some reason, the impact of these mass murders seems to remain intensely localized, forever traumatizing the geographic epicenter of the carnage, but never causing concentric ripples of sustained outrage beyond city boundaries.

This, too, is part of the now wearying and familiar pattern in our recurring Groundhog Days of mass murder. Las Vegas will be permanently haunted by this tragedy, but as geographic distance increases from Las Vegas, the impact is muffled and the memories are not lasting.  
My exposure to this phenomenon is limited but intense. It happens that I enjoy running in road races, a passion that causes me to drive to small towns all over Connecticut to compete in a local charity’s 5k or 10k race. One 5k brought me to Newtown, Connecticut a few years after the horrific murder of young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.  There, I felt viscerally and vividly saw how that town forever struggles to live in the immense shadow of a single day of horror. Terrifying memories seemed etched in the pavement of that town as surely as the images of incinerated human beings in Hiroshima. 

And yet when a 5k race takes me to another charming New England village not far from Newtown, I see no evidence of collective grief and anguish. Just normal people living pleasant, normal lives.

What happened in Newtown stayed in Newtown.  

It seems that if the carnage did not literally take place in our own backyard, we are able to compartmentalize, elude, hide, move on, do nothing, and ultimately, forget. Over time, Newtown becomes simply a word that is synonymous with horror, taking its place in a long lineage dating back to Columbine and Virginia Tech, and antecedent to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

But if a psychopathic butcher can spray endless rounds of AK-47 fire and murder 20 young old children in Sandy Hook, and nothing happens, what makes anybody think that Las Vegas is going to be the slightest bit different?

Conservative talk show host Alex Jones passionately argues that the Sandy Hook murders never happened and were just as all an elaborate hoax. The Republicans of Alabama just nominated a man to run for the U.S. Senate who thinks that Sandy Hook was God’s punishment for our sins.  Not a single word of legislation was written to change the laws of the United States federal government as a result of Sandy Hook.

The standard line from the Second Amendment people is that the real problem is that there are not enough “good guys with guns” to take the battle to the psychopath.  Not surprisingly, this argument has yet to surface in Las Vegas, as the implication is that if only the 22,000 concert-goers had each been packing heat, they could have all turned around and pumped a fusillade of bullets into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and solved the problem. But, of course, they had no idea where the shots were coming from, and the odds of all 22,000 people being marksman grade are slim. No, if “good guys with guns” had been shooting back, there would simply have been twice as many victims.

On Tuesday retired Republican representative Jason Chaffetz appeared on Fox News today and proclaimed that there is simply “nothing that could have been done” to prevent this particular shooting.

There's a problem, folks. When a man who served in our Congress concludes that there is no way of  predicting mass murder from a man who owns 42 guns, you realize that the simple epic stupidity of some of our  government officials may be a major factor in our collective failure to act.

Spare me all the hypocritical legislators who call for moments of silence and prayer.  Their silence is the essence of the problem.  And it’s all well and good to ask for God’s help in prayer, but as John F. Kennedy noted, “here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”

The most articulate, reasoned, and results-oriented reflections on Las Vegas that I heard in the 24 hours following the Las Vegas massacre came from late night hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert. If you are looking for strong, grounded, and yet inspiring moral leadership, find their words on YouTube.  And yes, it is the full measure of the disease in our society that the most profound invocations of moral aspiration come from the comedians and we are left to laugh -- or cry -- at the weakness, ineffectuality, and moral bankruptcy of our elected leaders. 

Colbert and Kimmel each in their own way tried to plead, beg, and even shame the United States government to do somethinganything – to address our country’s horrific gun epidemic.

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the past 48 hours has been the news media’s desperate obsession with trying to determine the motive behind this latest mass murder. It is as if the determination of a motive will somehow lull us and comfort us in the belief that a crazed man acted alone out of deviant psychotic impulses and that we therefore can return to our comfortable lives, secure in the knowledge that this one crazed madman is dead.

The appalling mass murders on Sunday night happened to be in Las Vegas, Nevada. The horrific murder of children in 2012 happened to be in Newtown, Connecticut. The killing spree in the Pulse night club happened to be in Orlando, Florida. 

The generalization to be made is painful: mass murders happened constantly in America, and we rely on the change of location and killer to delude ourselves that each incident is somehow new, unprecedented, and unpreventable.  We have an epidemic of mass murders. Compared to any country on earth, we stand alone in the astonishing frequency and scale of gun violence.

We must accept that there is a particular chemistry in the United States that breeds mass violence. It is a unique combination of inattention to mental disorders, radical access to weapons of mass carnage, and the influence of big money in politics that prevents any attempt to study, to analyze, and to act.  It is not just the killers who are psychotic. An unending epidemic of mass murder requires consenting adults. It is fueled by a society of enablers, co-conspirators, and a nation of bystanders who slow down just long enough to get a good, close look at the horrible collision in the other lane before they speed away.

If we think it is a problem for Las Vegas, Nevada, then yes… what happened in Vegas is going to stay in Vegas. 

In the end, this, like so many of our problems, traces back to a broken contract between government and the governed, and yet a lack of will on the part of the governed to do anything about it.

Over 90% of Americans favor expanded background checks for gun ownership. If 90% of Americans want a simple change and their government refuses to provide it, then the problem is actually not the gun dealers, the Second Amendment activists, or the National Rifle Association.

It is the government of the United States of America, and the lethargy of a population that is too lazy and content in their own bubble to do anything about it.

In a recent column, we wrote of the desperate need to develop a new set of amendments to the U.S. Constitution – a modern “bill of rights” -- to correct some of the egregious flaws in the structure of our government that allow gerrymandering, big money, and unregulated media to undermine the fundamental notion of majority rule and the rule of law.

On Sunday night in Las Vegas, we saw murderous rage, appalling suffering, and the essential goodness of the human spirit in countless acts of courage and caring on the part of individual human beings.

But if we looked more closely – through the images of flashing lights, ambulances, terrified human beings, and motionless bodies -- we saw a government that no longer is able to act on the will of the people it is supposed to be serving.

We see a government that is hiding from hard issues, and a people who allow it to do so.

We see a government that is populated by self-serving cowards, and a people who will wait to act until the psycho with the AK-47 shows up and wreaks his hellish carnage in their own home town. 
Indeed -- and as hard as this may be to believe -- there is actually a bill currently being advanced by Republicans in Congress that seeks to ease gun restrictions and makes it easier to acquire gun silencers. Perhaps now would be the time, and this would be the occasion, for every person in that 90% to actually pick up the phone, call their Congressional representatives, and tell them that it is finally time, once and truly for all, to end the madness.

Until we recognize that gun violence is now one of the issues that defines America to the world, that illustrates our broken government, and reveals our lack of will as a people, then yes... what happened in Vegas will stay in Vegas.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

BTRTN September 2017 Month in Review: Trump's Best Month Yet. Really???

Tom with the BTRTN monthly update.  The numbers say this was Trump's best month yet, but that is hard to fathom.

North Korea successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.  The efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare died a new death, and this time for good.  The United States failed to support adequately Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.  Jared Kushner and other White House officials were discovered to have created private email accounts to conduct government business after the election.  Trump’s candidate of choice in the Alabama Senate run-off election, Luther Strange, for whom he personally campaigned, was thrashed.  Robert Mueller’s investigation heated up considerably and is now clearly focused on Trump himself.  And Secretary of Health Human Services Tom Price was forced to resign after proving himself to be the Master of the Swamp with profligate spending of taxpayer money on private jets.

And this was a good month for Donald Trump.

How so, you may ask?  Quite simply, for the first time, Trump managed to achieve an increase in his approval rating, after seven months of steady declines; it edged back up to 40%, matching June and July levels, after dipping to 38% in a hideous August.  Essentially, Trump received decent marks for his performance in response to Hurricanes Harvey (in Texas) and Irma (Florida), and also for his budget/debt ceiling/Harvey funding deal with the devil – er, Democrats. This is what passes for “wins” in Trumpworld these days, and they gave him the approval bump.

Donald Trump changed tactics in September, abandoning a reflexive hard-right ideology in exchange for expediency.   Whether this was a true strategic shift or a whim of the moment remains to be seen.

The new pattern started with his casual dumping of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in the highly anticipated September budget/debt ceiling battles.  His solution, rather than back McConnell to fight tooth and nail for every square inch of turf, was to accept the Democrats’ first offer, to essentially kick the can down the road until December with no strings attached.  His motivation was almost certainly to get an easy win rather than bank on McConnell again and risk another loss.  Trump was giddy over the positive coverage he received for reaching across the aisle, even though he put himself in a far weaker negotiating position three months hence when that deal expires, infuriating mainstream and conservative Republicans alike.

Chuck and Nancy can hardly contain their glee
The next ideological soft-shoe came a week later, the “DACA two-step.”  Here, Trump initially sided with the hardliners, agreeing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in stripping DACA protections.  But in the same breadth, he expressed conflicting feelings about the position and insisted on a six-month grace period in which he promised to work (again) with Democrats on a new deal to protect the Dreamers.  Clearly he has no interest in deporting Dreamers, another position contrary to Republican “no amnesty” dogma.

Trump has thus begun careening rather wildly along the ideological spectrum: tough talk, including race-baiting, to keep the base happy (by attacking NFL and NBA players and repeating his Charlottesville comments), backing Luther Strange in the Alabama race to help the “mainstream” McConnell, and cutting deals with “Chuck and Nancy.”  Thus far, the latter actions have not cost him with rank and file right-wingers, although leading conservatives, including Ann Coulter (“at this point, who DOESN”T want Trump impeached?”) are aghast.  Whether Trump can continue to change dance partners so cavalierly without penalty remains to be seen, but in September it appears to have been a winning strategy.

“Careening” is also a reasonable word to describe his foreign policy, goading Kim Jong-Un with personal insults while the world holds its breath in the hope that one of these two madmen does not tire of words and instead exercise an itchy trigger finger.  Trump’s inflammatory words in his first UN speech were hardly calculated to defuse a highly volatile situation, and did little to reassure anyone that he had a handle on how to manage the crisis.

But while the month represented improvement, for Trump, albeit modest, it ended with a terrible week.  (How many times have we read that Trump endured a “terrible week”?).  There was the NFL/national anthem flap, which led to charges that Trump was more focused on the NFL than the plight of Puerto Rico; the death knell for Trumpcare, which was, of course, the rallying promise for the GOP in countless elections over the past seven years; the defeat of Luther Strange in Alabama, which exposed Trump’s inability to translate his popularity into election night might; then the growing outcry over the laggard response in Puerto Rico; and finally the discovery that Secretary Tom Price has spent over $1 million taxpayer dollars on private jets, leading to his swift resignation.  Trump then took on a fight he cannot win, with the Mayor of San Juan, in which Trump declared that Puerto Rico officials “want everything to be done for them.”  It’s hard to imagine a more callous comment.  The hits keep coming, and we’ll see where Trump’s approval rating goes from here.

The significance of the Alabama election should not be lost in the wake of the other flaps and disasters.  We might very well see more Roy Moores coming forward to challenge mainstream GOP incumbents in the primaries next year, emboldened by Moore’s victory (particularly if he wins in December).  This sets up the potential for the “Christine O’Connell Phenomenon,” in which the GOP loses a sure seat by nominating a hard-right buffoon instead of an eminently electable mainstreamer.  (O’Connell defeated veteran GOP Congressman Mike Castle, who was favored to take back the seat, in the 2010 Delaware Senate primary, and promptly lost the general election to Democrat Chris Coons.) Of course, Steve Bannon would argue that 2016 changed all that, as we elected the biggest buffoon of them all for the highest office of them all (perhaps Bannon might not put it quite that way; then again, perhaps he would.)

Going forward, Trump’s legislative hopes are now pinned entirely on tax reform, which, if successful, would be the first such effort in 31 years.  It is widely believed that tax reform is far trickier than health care, and ominous clouds are already forming.  Just as a sampler, Republicans in states with high state taxes, such as New York, are already rebelling against the notion of eliminating the deduction of state taxes.

And thus the key to the GOP success in the midterms – defined as holding onto both Houses -- rests on shaky pillars: passing some form of tax reform, keeping North Korea from exploding, maintaining the healthy economy they inherited from Obama and managing other crises that will surely emerge.  This is not a winning hand.

THE NUMBERS

As stated, Trump ended a seven-month streak of ever-worsening approval ratings, though he is still in abysmal shape with -15 net approval.  These continue to be ominous numbers for the midterms and for reelection purposes, historically low.

TRUMP APPROVAL RATING

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Approve
46
46
43
43
42
40
40
38
40
Disapprove
46
50
52
52
54
56
56
57
55
Margin
0
-4
-8
-9
-12
-16
-16
-19
-15

As we said last month, Trump’s predecessors who won re-election had far higher approval ratings just prior to their re-elections:  Reagan (58%), Clinton (54%), George W. Bush (48%) and Obama (50%), while the two who failed to gain a second term were exactly in Trump’s current range: Carter (37%) and George H.W. Bush (34%).  Trump has a ways to go to get there, assuming he escapes Mueller’s worst, but he has squandered his honeymoon, failed to capitalize on GOP control of all three branches of government, and shown little ability to fight for his legislative priorities and manage disasters when they inevitably arise (e.g., North Korea and Hurricane Marie).  Thus the catalyst for material improvement is difficult to see.

THE TRUMP-O-METER

The economy continues to be a solid story for Trump, and one that is surprisingly lost in his own Twitter-feed.  While the “Trumpometer” dipped in the last month from +13 to +12, the current number still means that key economic indicators are 12% better now, on average, than they were on Inauguration Day, driven largely by a strong Q2 GDP and a roaring stock market.

TRUMPOMETER
End Clinton  1/20/2001
End Bush 1/20/2009
End Obama 1/20/2017 (Base = 0)
Trump 8/31/2017
Trump 9/30/2017
% Chg. Vs. Inaug. (+ = Better)

25
-53
0
13
12
12%
  Unemployment Rate
4.2
7.8
4.7
4.4
4.4
6%
  Consumer Confidence
129
38
114
123
120
6%
  Price of Gas
1.27
1.84
2.44
2.51
2.70
-11%
  Dow Jones
10,588
8,281
19,732
21,948
22,405
14%
  GDP
4.5
-6.2
2.1
3.0
3.1
48%