Deep State vs. Donald Trump

President Trump has stepped onto a high-wire in defying America’s Deep State, but can he withstand the powerful winds that will surely buffet him and what will President Putin do to help or hurt, asks ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

By Alastair Crooke

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said it often: the door to co-operation (with the U.S.) “lies ajar.” He has said it repeatedly: that it was not Moscow in the first place that had withered – and then severed – the lines of communication with Washington. And Mr. Putin has been consistent in periodically easing the path to “Moscow” for President Trump.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona. March 19, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

(The Americans had hinted recently that they might appreciate “a gesture” from the Russians – and they got one: Russia invited the incoming U.S. administration to the Syria talks, at Astana. Moscow made this gesture – even at the cost of almost losing their Iranian ally’s support at the talks.)

Perhaps it is this “door ajar” stance by Mr. Putin that has given rise to the idea, in much of the press, that détente between the two leaders is somehow a “slam dunk” bet — that Trump and Putin are cut from similar cloth, and will somehow end up bashing Islamic radicals together. If that is the consensus, then it is perhaps premature, and possibly wrong.

The door is indeed “open,” and it is possible that the two leaders may indeed conjure up a détente. But it is no “slam dunk” (certainty). And Moscow certainly does not regard it to be “slam dunk” – at all. On the contrary, they are aware that whereas there are areas of common approach, there are also areas of obvious difference – and possible disagreement – between the new U.S. administration and Moscow. The hope for détente ultimately may prove to lie just beyond reach. We shall have to see.

We do not know what President Trump’s foreign policy – in practice – will be. It is not at all clear (intentionally so, in part. But, also because the details have not yet been thrashed out within the team, who are busy with managing a complex transition). Nonetheless we can tease out, perhaps, a few solid pointers in the wake of the new U.S. President’s inaugural speech:

–Mr. Trump has witnessed America’s political and economic decline over the years (he made plain previously his concerns about America’s deteriorating situation in his 2000 campaign publication).

–He sincerely believes the U.S. to be in crisis – and that without radical, urgent and comprehensive reform, America (qua “America”) will be in peril. He is, as it were, someone who has looked upon decay and corruption, and been transfigured by that which he saw: Yes, there was a Cromwellian “New Model Army” whiff to his inauguration speech. He said that he intends to purge – and then to remake – America, no less.

–He has arrayed against him the still intact power of the Deep State, yet he chooses mainly to taunt them. His inaugural speech told the Deep State flatly to prepare for its own disempowerment. He has thereby “burnt his bridges” in respect to any subsequent Faustian sale of his soul. He can only succeed, or dramatically fail.

–For all the pomp of an orderly transfer of power on Jan. 20th, the reality behind the trappings is one of a “state of war” between the U.S. President and the still-present Deep State elites (but not necessarily the Deep State’s foot soldiers, many of whom, it appears, voted for Trump).

Political Tactics

Artemis Capital presciently describes Trump’s likely political tactics: “Trump knows that if you can’t win [as matters stand], then you change the rules of the game – this is what he has already done with American politics – and what he is about to do to the entire Post-Bretton Woods World Order. If you really want to know a person, watch what they do, and not what they say … or what they tweet … the rants and twitter storms are part of a strategy of media control and distraction.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a hangar at Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona. Dec. 16, 2015. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

“Trump’s business career was largely comprised of three core strategies 1) Leverage 2) Restructure 3) Brand … in that order. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s Trump rode a generational decline in interest rates and debt binge to purchase a range of high profile real estate projects including the Grand Hyatt (1978), Trump Tower (1983), the Plaza Hotel (1988) and the Taj Mahal (1988). In the 1990s he went through a total of 6 bankruptcies due to over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York. In the 2000s he pivoted to move away from debt-driven property investments to building a global brand through the ‘Apprentice’ TV show.

“Trump will run the country as he ran his businesses …. He will lever, and lever, and lever, and lever … and lever … and then restructure his way to success, or whatever success is defined as, by the broadest measure of popularity at any given time. Trumponomics, if it delivers, will be a supply-side free for all: massive tax cuts, deficit spending to create jobs, financial and energy deregulation, business creation, and trade protectionism – all driving inflation. More importantly, Trump sees bankruptcy as a tool and not an obligation and will have no problem pushing the US to the limits of debt expansion. ‘I do play with bankruptcy laws, they’re very good to me!’ he once said.”

‘The Destructor’

And this is what – in broad outline – we already see. Trump’s tweets are “the destructor” element: Creating negotiating leverage through uncertainty. No one can be sure of Trump’s final aims, or his “bottom line.”

The run-down PIX Theatre sign reads “Vote Trump” on Main Street in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. July 15, 2016. (Photo by Tony Webster Flickr)

This is his strategy. The tweets are mini-grenades tossed into the mix, precisely to confuse, to distract, and to loosen up the existing “order” – and to make it more susceptible to negotiation – and to subsequent “re-structuring” – should initial negotiations hit a brick wall.

Similarly, with leverage. Trump has leverage: Most significantly, the U.S. is the globe’s biggest buyer of consumer goods; it possesses the world’s reserve currency, and controls all the Bretton Woods financial institutions, with all the privileges which that implies. It has the Federal Reserve and can manipulate other states’ currencies; the U.S. “owns” NATO, and the defense protection it does (or does not) choose to confer on other states; it has the biggest military; and is more or less energy independent. Not bad cards.

Trump may be expected to lever, and lever again, all these assets. He will pull out all the stops in the interest of putting America First, and returning jobs and manufacturing to America’s marginalized white middle- and blue-collar classes. He will lever this aim financially (i.e. debt, border taxes and tax incentives) too, as well as politically strong-arm America’s trading rivals.

Brand “America” will be advanced by all the tradecraft that Trump acquired though his “reality” TV show: distractions, surprises, and publicity stunts to create an aura of success – for he is determined to succeed. It is almost as if he feels he can lift the “animal spirits” of Americans, as it were, by willpower, and pithy, one-liner tweets. To an extent, he already has – to judge by polls on business confidence in the U.S.

A Method Behind Madness

The above account may imply that, with Trump, all policy will essentially be determined by the seat of his pants. But if that is what conveyed, it is only half the story. John Maudlin of Maudlin Economics provides this corrective:

Anti-Trump protesters at the presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. on Jan. 20. 2017. (Photo credit: Robert Parry)

“This is going to be a short letter summarizing my impressions from the last few days [in Washington talking with Trump’s transition team]. I think it might be easiest to present them in the form of a list.

“If you listen to the media you might have the impression that the Trump transition team is in complete disarray. Talking with leaders of the transition team certainly didn’t leave me with that impression. They have broken the transition process down into over 30 departments and have created a ‘landing document’ for each department. The analogy they are using is that this process is like planning an invasion, and they are going to hand the landing document off to the ‘beachhead teams’ who will then execute the plans.

“I was briefly allowed to look at (without actually being able to read) the plan for one cabinet-level department. It appeared to be about 100 pages plus of serious detail as to exactly what executive orders would need to be removed and added, what personnel would have to be replaced (both appointees and regular staff), what policies would need to be changed, and so forth.

“I was told that this level of planning was being done for every department. My impression is that there are a lot of people from various think tanks and others with experience in the presidential transition process who are involved in directing the plan for each department. That level of detailed planning doesn’t happen in less than two months. My guess is that some of that thinking has been going on for years, and now it can be implemented.

“That being said, we know that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy; and it was instructive to sit with Bill Bennett, who talked about his experience in trying to reform the Department of Education under Reagan. They were still dealing with personnel and policy issues a year later, and this was when the department was much smaller than it is today. And that is just one department.

“When I asked a key person how much of the overall plan would likely come to fruition, I got a rueful smile and a shrug. ‘If we even get half of this done in the first few years, that will be major reform’…

“Trump’s management style is going to drive the media (and admittedly, much of the country and the world) nuts. One person who has worked closely with Trump during the transition says it is a lot like the HBO show Entourage and not at all like the British sitcom Yes, Minister. Trump will have people in his entourage competing to give him the pieces of information he needs. In his business organization, he sets the vision and then hires people to execute that vision; and then he goes back to doing what we have seen him do so well, which is to create the brand and image.

“He is bringing in people to execute his vision, and he’s going to expect them to get it done. He will jump in when he thinks he’s needed or when he can add something to the process, but he will mostly be paying attention to his team’s performance.

“One assessment suggests that there is going to be more than the usual amount of personnel turnover in the first six months. The media will be writing about how Trump can’t keep people and about all the chaos in the White House and other parts of government. But from Trump’s perspective, and given his management style, that’s not necessarily bad in terms of his longer-term goal of changing things.

“We have not had a president with this type of management style in my lifetime. Since it’s not something that any of us are going to be familiar with, it is going to make some of us uncomfortable until we get used to it (and some people never will).”

Putin and Trump

Where does this put Russia? Is President Putin, then, cut from similar cloth, as many commentators suggest?

Russian President Vladimir Putin, following his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

Superficially: Yes (but in other ways, no). President Putin too saw his nation in decline (the Yeltsin years). And yes, Putin also sincerely believed that Russia was in crisis when he assumed the Presidency.

President Putin did face Russian Deep State powers arrayed against him, but, unlike Trump, there was no public declaration of war against the Russian Deep State, but rather, the Russian President has made it his objective to try to “heal Russia,” and to keep the opposing Russian political poles from splintering away from the main trunk. In this respect, President Putin is no populist: there has been no metaphorical rallying of blue-collar “pitchforks and torches” against the Elites. Putin has preferred to out-maneuver his enemies in more discreet, less public, ways.

So the “chemistry,” if it transpires in the flesh, derives from something else. Steve Bannon, Trump’s close confidant, in a 2014 interview, said simply enough: The “very, very, very intelligent” Putin just “gets it.” He understands “us.” He can see what our various Tea Party Movements are about (this interview was before Trump was a Candidate). Putin can tell that a “revolution” in America and Europe is brewing, Bannon implies, and notes that the Russian President has been quietly, (and “cleverly”) positioning himself towards it, especially in Europe.

In other words, it is not so much the transactional possibilities that attracts Bannon to Putin, but a sense of dealing with someone who has an instinctive, almost telepathic, shared understanding of what Bannon and his Breitbart circle (now including Trump) are about, and how they view the world. This type of empathetic communication – if borne out by experience – does have a real potential to overcome otherwise difficult political differences.

Russia’s Hot Buttons

And political differences, there are. Major potential hurdles: The “America First” policy, and that of aggressively re-building the home base, will not ruffle President Putin one jot. He feels the same about Russia. Ditto for the America First energy policy. Mr. Putin will have no problems with that (there can be fruitful exchanges with Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, who is leaving his job as Exxon-Mobil’s CEO, on this issue).

Exxon-Mobil Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s choice to be Secretary of State.

However, three issues could be very problematic: The first is Trump’s emphasis that the U.S. “military dominance must be unquestioned” since this directly touches on Russia’s own national security. Moscow does not seek an absolute “balance,” but a balance of esteem, and “strategic stability” with the U.S. Two, Team Trump says the president will not “allow other nations to surpass our [U.S.] military capability”; and (in a White House policy outline), “We [the U.S.] will also develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already warned that nuclear weapons, strategic stability and nuclear and strategic parity, will be the key issue in Russian-U.S. relations. And the third “hot” issue will be whether Trump is intent on driving a wedge into the strategic security architecture linking China, Russia and Iran. Again, any attempt to split the coalition, or to collapse the keystone of the Eurasian economic “arch” (One Belt, One Road), could sour any entente between Trump and Putin.

There is however another major consideration for Russia: Can he do it? And, should he fail, what would be the implications for Russia? Might Trump’s term in office be curtailed? Might the U.S. President be removed, and replaced by an administration that would pursue vindictive retribution against Russia, for having allegedly “sided with” Trump?

Trump is determined to pull out all the stops: to succeed, but it will not be easy. The headwinds are strong. Growth is proving elusive – globally – for a range of complex factors. It is not Trump’s fault. It’s just how it is.

Economic Challenges

And a Damocles’ sword hangs over his economic program: Yes, he will try to lever, lever and lever again, as it he did in his business career (infrastructure projects, tax breaks and higher spending). For sure it is going to be inflationary – and interest rates already are rising. What happens when 10-year U.S. Treasuries hit 3 percent or more? Will it be war with a “tightening” Federal Reserve? Will debt markets generally, enter crisis?

But really, this program can, and almost certainly will, spice up life (and equity prices), for some U.S. corporations, but can it reach down, in the only sense that ultimately matters for Mr. Trump – to the level of bringing home the jobs to middle-class and blue-collar America? Who will work these newly returned plants? Robots? Americans on $15 an hour, or Americans on $45 an hour (a well-paid hourly job)?

And if the latter, who is going to purchase the expensive products which these well-paid workers will manufacture? Fellow Americans presumably, but it will take many millions of consumers, themselves on $45 an hour, to afford these high price goods. But if it is Americans on $15 per hour, from whence will come the revived consumer “animal spirits” and free spending? And if it is ‘bots…?

And is “tough on China” really viable? Modern industrial supply lines are long, transnational and complex. If America plays tough with end-product locus of manufacture, Asia can hit back in the supply lines. A whole supply line is much harder to pick up and put down elsewhere – than is one single plant.

More salient is the question: does China in fact have the economic “fat” to afford to part with some of it, to please America? Parts of America have been suffering from the effects of globalization, but now China has begun to be globalization’s latest victim, too. China may not have any “fat” to negotiate away. And China certainly does have “cards” of its own.
We have entered upon a bold experiment. Is it fully thought through, though? The Russians must be wondering, too.

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.

34 comments for “Deep State vs. Donald Trump

  1. February 3, 2017 at 00:11

    A great persespective of trumps plan to make america great pray is needed and hope he succeeds in his vision.

  2. Michael Elvin
    February 2, 2017 at 01:52

    Oh, and another thing. The author asks what happens when inflation really starts to sink in? “What happens when 10-year U.S. Treasuries hit 3 percent or more?”

    This is what happens. The magic carpet ride is over. We’ve gotten used to ignoring the federal debt (now approaching $20 trillion, according to the Debt Clock) because with interest rates so close to zero, this level of debt is affordable. But when the Fed moves to choke off inflation these low rates will be rising. And interest on the Debt is not chump change. Even at today’s low rates, we spend $444 billion each year to service the debt (again, the Debt Clock). How about when the rates triple? That would make our debt service well over one trillion a year.

    There go all our social programs, down the rat hole with nothing to show for it. We’ll be just like those poor African countries, who ended up owing more money to the investors than they could ever possibly earn– or Greece, that’s still being stripped of anything valuable to service their debt. And when it was them in the barrel, we turned a cold shoulder to their pleas for debt relief. I doubt our own creditors will be kind to us.

    Thank you, Mr Trump. We love being led by a business man.

  3. Michael Elvin
    February 2, 2017 at 01:31

    Lots of luck when Trump manages to convince China, Japan, etc to revalue their currencies upward. Sure, it creates a market for expensive US goods… but it does so by in essence devaluing the US dollar. And I don’t think anyone who has a job, earns money and spends it, is going to like his 30 percent pay cut, relative to prices. Which is what we will get if Trump also tacks on his 30% import tax on Mexican goods. Spectacularly poorly thought out!

    For years now we’ve had inflation under control by keeping the dollar strong, so being able to buy cheap goods from the world. Watch what happens when he awakens that sleeping giant, and the rest of the world finds out they can be consumers too! We’ll become the world’s producers, earning in buying power six bucks an hour on the factory line (or $25 an hour, measured in the new Trump dollars). We haven’t yet seen what being poor is like.

  4. Nolen Cox
    February 1, 2017 at 14:09

    In my 55 years of political awareness, the march has been toward Regional and Global government. As the US marches toward more central control or less democracy and more power to the government. We watch centrally controlled countries fail. The United Soviet Socialist Republic, Cuba, South American and African nations, North Korea, Communist China and others. Central control from Brussels (EU) is what is driving Brexit and other national movements of self determination.

    Consent of the Governed is a natural defense to protect the “Will of the people”. The pendulum is swinging back to the natural level of the “Consent of the Governed”, this is a healthy move to protect the people.

    America’s biggest hindrance is the fact that the CIA controls the media and entertainment industry and we have a perpetual propaganda induced reality that favors the “deep state” forces in government. The CIA does not answer to any individual or to Congress. Working class middle America does not agree with the media version of “America Last’. We prefer to work rather than drawing a check and sit on the couch. Government programs don’t provide the satisfaction of “a job well done”.

  5. Tom Owens
    January 30, 2017 at 22:45

    This is interesting.

  6. mike k
    January 29, 2017 at 12:20

    While humans play their age-old power games, the physics and biology that determines the viability of life to exist on this planet is busy enacting our near term extinction. But that is boring and depressing. Much more amusing to watch and comment on the fatal political drama distracting us from reality.

  7. elmerfudzie
    January 29, 2017 at 03:26

    I do not believe that the Russia-China-Iran triad is threatened as some commentators suggest. The very recent gesture or maneuver by China’s Xi to move their mobile ICBM batteries to Russia’s border must now be scrutinized. This seemingly odd weapons re-deployment brings me to believe that the unspoken heart of the matter is in reality, Taiwan’s desire for independence. Not to wander too far off Crooke’s discussion, but I do have a point to make. The historical parallels between Taiwan and Cuba cannot be dismissed here. For example; Chiang Kai-shek (a gangster of sorts) departed from the mainland, escaping to Taiwan; so too did US Sicilian mob enter Cuba in the likeness of Santo Trafficante, Jr., during a Pre Castro era when the Mob’s fraternity with Fulgencio Batista was strong. My main observation is this, both China and the USA mismanaged their historical and political relationships with sovereign Island nations near to their respective “mainlands”. The US tried to crush the Castro movement as did the CCP against Taiwan’s rising nationalism. That said, Our military is in a uniquely strategic position, at Okinawa, to neutralize China’s first line of missile defense. Thus, new geopolitical and maritime threats such as, choking off strategic waterways in the South China Sea, Xi moved the missiles as far away from our Japanese bases as he possibly could. This move ensures that he can add precious launching time to use-or-lose his ICBM’s originating from Okinawa. Current tensions can be negotiated away by agreeing to close a “good portion” of, long range missile batteries and scrap that new AF base idea, off Okinawa. In exchange for this, Xi would agree, by treaty, to a British style, Hong Kong-arrangement for Taiwan’s sovereignty. The Japanese government would dance with delight, we’d save a lot of dough and the Chinese would reverse the trend thereby increasing their purchase of US T bonds. China and the US can learn a good deal from recent history; just as the USA can never possess Cuba, even tho there are more Cuban’s in Dade County Florida, then any place on earth (except Cuba), China can never take possession of, or reduce Taiwanese, sovereignty or their spirit of nationalism. If this stated plan succeeds, the ICBM’s can stand down, EU business entrepreneurs can continue to flood into Iran with Trump and Putin left to find some rebels to bomb somewhere, or perhaps just go fishing together, who cares!

    • elmerfudzie
      January 29, 2017 at 13:22

      OOpps!! a Correction needed here: …This move ensures that he (Xi) has enough launching time to use-or-lose ICBM’s against missile attacks from USAF bases in Okinawa.

    • Bob Van Noy
      January 29, 2017 at 14:31

      I like your take on history here elmerfudzie, and your analysis on potential negotiation. Thank you for the obviously careful thought .

      • elmerfudzie
        January 30, 2017 at 21:27

        Bob Van Noy,

        I’ve got to stop commenting during the small hours, by daybreak, some statements sound nonsensical. Anyway, thanks for the encouraging word.

  8. H. W. Phillips
    January 29, 2017 at 01:10

    Mr. Crooke’s allusion to the New Model Army is one that few Americans are going to understand, including our Commander-in-Chief, who is a self-described non-reader. And the hallmark of the New Model Army was discipline; Mr. Trump has none.

  9. Wm. Boyce
    January 29, 2017 at 01:06

    A very serious article on a complete joke, i.e., this administration. The Wash Post is reporting that the ban on Muslim immigration doesn’t apply to countries with which Trump is doing business, i.e., Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, etc. No terrorism or terrorists there, eh? No problem.

    When’s the impeachment?

  10. cornelia wickens
    January 28, 2017 at 23:26

    A thoughtful piece in the midst of raging protests organized before Trump even took office. As Seymour Hersh just said in interview with Jeremy Schaill “Give it time.” One sees that sense in this thoughtful article as well.

    The role of Putin cannot be over- emphasized. With his uncanny intuitve sense, he might serve as a type of long distance mentor. For all the arrows shot at Putin, by cliche driven US and its media,Trump is fortunate that Putin is his contemporary . They both share an understanding of what the oligarchs have done to their countries.

    The Deep State seems entrenched with Mike Pompao as head of the CIA, unless Trump takes surveillance and privacy among of his chief concerns. Nothing is more serious.

  11. backwardsevolution
    January 28, 2017 at 22:59

    Alastair Crooke – just a great article! Thank you.

    “Creating negotiating leverage through uncertainty. No one can be sure of Trump’s final aims, or his “bottom line. This is his strategy.” Yes, he has people worried about his comments re Iran, but we don’t know whether he’s just throwing out these insults because he’s planning on using them as a bargaining chip. Same with Mexico. And likewise, his playing up Israel could be just another bargaining chip he’s using for the present moment. We won’t know until he gets where he’s going.

    Putin and Trump appear to believe strongly in nationalism/patriotism/country. Quite a bit different than the internationalism/globalism/world-type thinking of the global elites. Putin brought his country back from the brink (scattered the oligarchs). Trump is trying to do the same. Both appear genuinely interested in their citizens. These are some similarities that I see.

    Trump is playing with the media, has them running this way and that, keeping his cards close to his chest. Scott Adams (of Dilbert) also talks about this in his article entitled “Outrage Dilution”. This is probably the only way to defeat the elites, Bugs Bunny them to death. They won’t be able to get a handle on him. He’ll be to the left one minute, and to the right the next, outsmarting them the whole way. This is a very hard strategy to beat because he leads while you follow. You are always behind.

    I think people underestimate Trump’s planning and organizational skills. I’ll have to think more about the economics of what he’s trying to do. By going after China, what he’s really doing is going after the U.S. multinationals who have set up shop there, trying to force them back home. China is already in a world of pain. Of course, automation is not going to stop, and the higher the labor costs, the more automation there will be.

    Great article. It will take some digesting.

  12. John
    January 28, 2017 at 21:09

    Deep state….what does that mean ? who are the attendees who make up this so called shadow government….Deep state, very ambiguous title…..As usual no one identifies who make up the deep state…name some names ?? Okay….I see…. so it’s just super market tabloid …….

  13. Bill Bodden
    January 28, 2017 at 20:59

    However, three issues could be very problematic: The first is Trump’s emphasis that the U.S. “military dominance must be unquestioned” since this directly touches on Russia’s own national security. Moscow does not seek an absolute “balance,” but a balance of esteem, and “strategic stability” with the U.S.

    This and several other articles related to U.S.-Russia relations encourage me to see Russia’s leaders as the more realistic and America’s as more imaginary aided and abetted by irrational warmongers.

  14. Bill Bodden
    January 28, 2017 at 20:20

    “I was told that this level of planning was being done for every department. My impression is that there are a lot of people from various think tanks and others with experience in the presidential transition process who are involved in directing the plan for each department. That level of detailed planning doesn’t happen in less than two months.

    With a little knowledge of the topic, enough as Mark Twain suggested to be dangerous, a “detailed” plan of around 100 pages could be written in a few days – or more if the authors are paid by the day. As the old saying goes, “The devil is in the details.”

    My guess is that some of that thinking has been going on for years, and now it can be implemented.

    The question is, “Who might have been doing this thinking for years? Could it have been some angels of mercy recognizing the United States was in decline and heading for an inevitable fall and whose pity sought a reversal of fortune? Or, could it have been some malevolent vultures out to pick the bones of the looming roadkill?

    • Eddie
      January 29, 2017 at 12:29

      I’m in the camp with Bill Bodden and others on this article’s analysis of Trump. Mr Crooke seems to give Trump and his team a lot more credit (cunning?) than the vast majority of commenters/opinions. For the time being at least, I’m going with ‘Occam’s Razor’ and I’m judging a guy who was already told a lot of lies as a full-fledged liar, and a guy whose companies (he typically shields himself by setting up corporations where he’s merely another investor) have gone bankrupt 4-6 times (depending on where you read) as a poor businessman/scam artist. As Bill notes above, the ‘100 pages’ example seems like a pretty weak argument for a serious political organization — and with a scamming-history like Trumps, who’s to say those weren’t just 99 pages of cookbook recipes or reprints of the NYT with a single legit looking cover page?

      Maybe I’ll be proven wrong and Trump will actually have an ideology significantly deeper than just self-gratification but IMO that remains yet to be demonstrated concretely. I do have to admit that I’ve been surprised that he has actually followed-through on some of his campaign promises — negative as they are — already, but those are relatively simple proclamations.

      • Bill Bodden
        January 29, 2017 at 12:47

        the ‘100 pages’ example seems like a pretty weak argument for a serious political organization

        I wonder how much time was needed for Trump’s scriveners to write the textbooks for Trump University.

    • Michael Elvin
      February 4, 2017 at 18:41

      “Who might have been doing this thinking for years? Could it have been some angels of mercy recognizing the United States was in decline and heading for an inevitable fall and whose pity sought a reversal of fortune? Or, could it have been some malevolent vultures out to pick the bones of the looming roadkill?”

      I’m going with door number two. Look at the Trump cabinet. Who are these people, and where do they come from? They’re not just friends of his.

  15. Bill Bodden
    January 28, 2017 at 19:57

    1) ‘I do play with bankruptcy laws, they’re very good to me!’ he once said.”

    ‘2) Trump’s propensity for torture, his mantra of “law and order,” and other indicators of inhumanity

    No one can be sure of Trump’s final aims, or his “bottom line.”

    But it would be a good bet there is little, if any, cause for optimism.

  16. D5-5
    January 28, 2017 at 17:10

    In reference to the transition teams and look at a 100 page report: “That level of detailed planning doesn’t happen in two months. My guess is that some of that planning has been going on for years.” How did Trump, a candidate only a year and a half ago, and a surprise victor only two months ago, step so adroitly into this sophisticated transition plotting? This leap in Cooke’s interesting analysis leaves me with this question and a dark void in my knowledge of what Trump has been doing behind the headlines. Would like to hear more.

    • KJ
      January 29, 2017 at 02:21

      There is a right-wing think tank out there that has an entire agenda to pursue. I saw the document a month or so ago; should have kept the PDF, but I trashed it. So the sophistication behind the scenes has been going on for some time.

      • D5-5
        January 29, 2017 at 12:35

        The analysis suggests that Trump’s transition teams have been in place many years and that Trump has been thinking along the lines suggested since 2000. That he has such a sophisticated network and longstanding relationship with tea party thinking should possibly make us think again about his incompetence and dismissing him–as with he will quit soon or be impeached. Does this analysis possibly give him too much credit for guile? Possibly. At any rate, what he’s after seems too simplistic, as for example with the point on high salary manufacturing here to beget higher prices on products. Further, playing off the Israelis against Russia-Iran, including, possibly, current intentions in the deeps behind the current “safe spaces” in Syria also looks highly problematical. The degree of sophistication suggested by this article runs paradoxically against Trump as a simplistic buffoon, which seems to be a common interpretation of him.

    • MA
      January 29, 2017 at 18:43

      My own theory is that Deep State is with Trump and has been all along. Instigated by the Deep State, elements from the discredited establishment, including some neocons, publicly sided with discredited and corrupt Clinton camp, deliberately providing recipe for failure.

    • Michael Elvin
      February 4, 2017 at 18:36

      Plots like this are always sitting around, on the shelf, waiting for the right candidate to come along.

  17. Bill Bodden
    January 28, 2017 at 17:06

    Buckle up. The roller coaster just left the station. Great article well worth a study and consideration.

  18. Charles Homsy
    January 28, 2017 at 16:12

    This a a very profound and interesting essay. Much food for thought.

  19. Joe J Tedesky
    January 28, 2017 at 13:53

    If Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is contemplating a revival of Eisenhower’s Formosa Straits 1954-56 strategy he will need to consider the ill effects of those China supply lines which this article mentions….Ike didn’t have that concern to worry about.

    I might add how the average wage earner will need all of the $45 an hour to afford the high prices of privatization.

    Here’s a long one, but a good article to read….

    The above link describes best what any world leader has to deal with, and yes this includes Donald Trump.

    • Joe J Tedesky
      January 29, 2017 at 01:29

      The only way out, is for our government to quit borrowing money from the MoneyChangers who have put us in the position we find ourselves in constantly in our modern era. Trump’s promise to rebuild America’s saging infrastructure on the surface, is hard to argue with. Although, Trump plans on using private equity firms to fund this rebuilding America’s infrastructure back to it’s once greatness, but there in lies the problem.

      It would be one thing that if between all of these tax cuts given to the super wealth, coupled with the rush to turn everything into a privatized enterprise were to create good career paying jobs for the average person, but none of those hyped up programs has ever done what it was said they would do.

      Mentally the 1% has won the war when it comes to our healthcare, but even ACA/Obamacare was nothing more than more privatized smoke and mirrors enacted into law as a substitute for a socialist medical program for everyone….well, almost everyone. It’s the age of Enron when it comes to utility consumption and it’s billing practices…and then they talk about selling our roads and bridges to foreign investors.

      We need a National Bank, and State Owned Banks to go with it’s Federal National Bank, as well, or the deficit will only grow even more out of proportion until the MoneyChangers come collecting, and then it will all fall down crashing hugely.

  20. Mark Thomason
    January 28, 2017 at 13:39

    The Deep State today is in alliance with the Hillary faction of the Democrats.

    That is a significant part of why she lost, voters are fed up with it.

    Now Trump turns from defeating Hillary to defeating what she represented in government.

    Democrats must decide if they are Scoop Jackson Democrats of the military industrial Deep State, or if they are Sanders/Warren Democrats. It is a key internal fight, not only up to Trump, but it will shape Trump’s fight with the Deep State and shape America’s future.

    • evelync
      January 28, 2017 at 16:44

      “The Deep State today is in alliance with the Hillary faction of the Democrats.
      That is a significant part of why she lost, voters are fed up with it.”

      I think you hit the nail on the head, here, Mark Thomason.

      “Democrats must decide if they are Scoop Jackson Democrats of the military industrial Deep State, or if they are Sanders/Warren Democrats. It is a key internal fight, not only up to Trump, but it will shape Trump’s fight with the Deep State and shape America’s future.”

      I sure as hell hope so if you are suggesting that an alliance might develop between the Sanders/Warren Democrats including all their “fed up voters” and the Trump administration that could help “shape” those issues. Such an alliance if it is possible could also be a bulwark against the Deep State Neoliberals and Neocons.

      Because if Alastair Crooke is correct reading Trump’s “go for broke” attitude where he’s willing to risk the full faith and credit of the U.S. Govt. to “win”, he could wind up taking this country down the toilet faster than the current road to ruin trajectory spending trillions of dollars on failed wars and bankrupting the working backbone of this country through mindless greed.

      He wants guns and butter which could produce a heavily armed banana republic with soaring inflation.

      I heard someone say the other day that Mexico should respond to his threats that they pay for the inane wall by nationalizing their auto industry, denying Trump fly over space and refusing to buy anything from the U.S.

      I’ve read that Trump had the banks by the short hairs. It was cheaper for them to keep him afloat hoping his “branding” schtick brought in customers than foreclosing on him.

      But trying to build a brand for this country while espousing “torture’ might not work out too well, especially since China is apparently spending trillions of dollars building their One Belt, One Road to create a huuuge economic trading route instead of wasting money on the biggest ammunition dump money can buy.

  21. Bernie
    January 28, 2017 at 13:30

    The US and Donald Trump could be the hero of the world by promoting safe, meltdown proof, sodium metal cooled fast breeder reactors. GE/Hitachi has the design, called PRISM reactors, and its ready to go. Build these babies worldwide, including Russia. Since most power plants are coal fired, this would undoubtedly lower the price of coal, but so be it. Coal mining is destroying the earth.

    • SteveK9
      January 28, 2017 at 14:36

      One of my favorite topics (for the past 20 years or so). It will happen someday, because 2+2 = 4, not 7. However, right now Russia is the leading the world in nuclear technology. Sodium-cooled reactors? The BN800 (sodium-cooled fast reactor) reached full power and was connected to the grid last year. Plans are largely complete for the BN1200, which is intended to be the mainstay of the nuclear fleet in Russia this century. Russia also has prototypes for lead-cooled, lead-bismuth cooled reactors. They are completing the first ‘floating’ nuclear power plant now, and have designs for small-module reactors. We can certainly compete, but I don’t think the Russians need our help.

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