Oliver Stone: Donald Trump won. This is your fourth president, am I right? Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama, and now your fourth one.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, that’s true.
Stone: What changes?
Putin: Well, almost nothing… everywhere, especially in the United States, the bureaucracy is very strong. And bureaucracy… rules the world.
– The Putin Interviews
POITOU, FRANCE – We came back to France in time for a wedding.
It was a marvelous ceremony, held in a 12th-century church, followed by a reception in an ancient chateau nearby.
What impressed us most was the headgear. Not since we went to Ascot many years ago have we seen such elaborate hats.
Exotic hats around the belfry
It is said that the typical Frenchman goes to church three times in his life – when he is baptized, when he gets married, and when he dies.
That is an exaggeration. He also attends the baptisms, weddings, and funerals of others.
These events are followed by receptions at which the conversation inevitably turns to politics. It is at such events that people drink… and talk.
So there you find the real opinions of The People, unadulterated by the right-thinking fake news media.
And this year, the political figure who most seemed to interest the French was – guess – none other than Donald J. Trump.
Several times during the evening we were asked: “What’s going on with Trump?”
Each time, the question was delivered with a wry smile. We understood the question; it was the smile we had a hard time interpreting.
Was it an invitation to Trump bashing? Was it a signal of Gallic superiority? (After all, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, is at least housebroken.) Was it a smile of approval?
Donald J. Trump has been of great interest to us, too.
“At first,” we explained, “we had hopes he might shake things up. But he doesn’t seem to know what to shake.”
Last week, Mr. Trump made headlines with some caddish remarks about a rival TV personality. Then, over the weekend, he sent out a video from a WrestleMania stunt in which he took down an opponent labeled “CNN.”
The whole spectacle must be amusing to outsiders – like watching a foreign head of state, in full regalia, slip on a banana peel.
Mr. Trump is a hero to many Americans… and to himself. But there are many different sorts of heroes in fiction as in real life.
There are war heroes, such as Paul Bäumer in All Quiet on the Western Front. There are heroes of love stories, such as Cyrano de Bergerac or Romeo. And there are heroes who fight against their own psychological problems or fate itself, such as Oedipus.
In a sense, we all want to be the heroes of our stories. But if you want to understand a man’s character, you have to understand what kind of struggle he is engaged in.
Once, in the 1960s, we spent a summer helping an aged uncle on the farm.
He lived alone all his life in a ramshackle house heated with a wood stove. He had only one luxury – an old black-and-white TV. There, at night, he watched “professional wrestling.”
Once, he turned and asked: “Do you think that’s real?”
No. We didn’t think it was. But we weren’t quite sure what it was.
Professional wrestling is usually described as a performance art. The characters are never quite what they appear to be. Instead, they are like cartoon figures – good or bad… black or white… according to the script.
One of the bad guys is known as The Undertaker, with some shady connection to something called The Ministry of Darkness. And often, the bad guys are foreigners, such as The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.
“Iran number one”; “Russia number one,” they yell, endearing themselves to the plain people of Middle America in the audience. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone that the math doesn’t add up… or that Iran is not an Arab country (so no sheiks).
No matter. The good guys play by the rules. The bad ones cheat. But they are all imposters. Their role is to keep the fans coming back… with bold and preposterous antics on stage… and ridiculous squabbles behind it.
They often concoct “feuds” offstage, for example… so they can settle them in front of the fans.
Mr. Trump’s genius was to realize that modern elections are more like wraslin’ than the Olympics.
The race goeth not to the swift… nor the battle to the strong. Nor is it the best informed or best prepared politician who wins.
Instead, he saw that he could suck up the media’s attention (especially CNN, which was run by the guy who had hired him for The Apprentice and knew “The Donald’s” talent for reality TV).
Mr. Trump saw, too, that the red states had more people watching WWE than listening to NPR. He saw he could win an election for president of the United States of America not with class and careful, well-considered opinions… but with gaudy displays of poppycock and vulgarity.
Just apply the lessons of the wrestling world. Pick fights with other politicians – “Low Energy Jeb”… “Little Marco”… “Lyin’ Ted” – and with TV stars – “Low IQ Crazy Mika” – and keep the public entertained with backstage shenanigans, insults, and claptrap.
All of this, “The Donald” must have instinctively realized, doesn’t really undermine democracy, detract from the dignity of the office, distract the people from the serious job of understanding the issues before them, or derail the government from getting the job done.
Instead, it focuses them on what modern government really is: an entertainment of the wraslin’ genre.
The serious business – of wrecking the economy, forcing people to do what they are told to do, and separating them from their money – is done, as Vladimir Putin pointed out to Oliver Stone, by the bureaucracy…
…aka the Deep State.
BY CHRIS LOWE, EDITOR AT LARGE, Bonner & partners
The Trump era has not been kind to Russian stocks…
The RTS Index tracks the performance of the Moscow Exchange.
It follows the performance of the 50 most commonly traded Russian stocks.
As you can see, between Election Day and Inauguration Day, the RTS Index shot up 17% as investors placed bets that Team Trump would be good for Russian businesses.
Then the bullish Russian trade was reversed as investors realized that it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing for Russia under the Trump administration.
The RTS Index is down 11% since President Trump was sworn into office.
– Chris Lowe
Confidence, Not the Economy, Boomed With Trump
After Donald Trump was elected president, economic optimism soared. But so far, that confidence hasn’t resulted in any concrete economic progress.
The First “Junk” State
Last month, Bill showed that Illinois is in big trouble. The situation has only gotten worse. Now Illinois is on the verge of becoming the first U.S. state with a junk credit rating.
Three Storm Clouds for the U.S. Stock Market
Colleague and former fund manager Teeka Tiwari sees three storm clouds on the horizon for U.S. stocks. He shares one strategy to protect yourself from the approaching storm.
In today’s mailbag, readers weigh in on last Friday’s Diary, and not everybody’s a fan…
You have once again solidified your position as a TRUE closet Liberal by calling our sitting President Trump a moron. It is hard to tell whether you speak out of personal jealous envy or if you really are part of the swamp or Deep State you speak of often. People assume if you talk about the Deep State often, you must be against what they stand for, but what if you are playing the role of double agent to throw us off your real intention, to help bring President Trump down? You have the platform to do it.
– Bill M.
When Ms. Yellen said that she didn’t believe another financial crisis would happen in our lifetimes, did anyone enquire as to her health? If she were going to die sooner rather than later her statement could well be true!
– William C.
Calling the President a moron is not a very intelligent way to disagree with him if your goal is to win over your readers to believe your facts and opinions because I stopped reading at that point. Perhaps the POTUS is not as smart in financial issues as you or maybe he is just approaching decisions from a politician’s point of view, which is to say putting the best spin on everything he does.
After all, the man did make a billion plus in net worth as a businessman and entertainer before getting himself elected to the most powerful position in America. How does that stack up against your resume?
The readers you still have know that you approach finance from the dark side. If you stay there long enough you’re bound to be correct eventually. If it weren’t for the humor and international travel log, I doubt I would still bother to waste time reading your articles. Just do yourself a favor and drop the gutter attacks, we get enough of that from the mainstream media arm of the DNC.
– Reginald M.
I disagree that Janet Yellen has no clue about what’s going on. One only needs to study history to see that she knows exactly what she is doing. She was put in the position of Fed chief by her fellow plutocrats to do their bidding, which is to oversee the largest transfer of wealth the world has ever seen. Of course, if you’re a member of the sleeping masses who live in a continual state of denial, maybe this isn’t so obvious.
– Arthur S.
Meanwhile, readers consider the difference between “fair trade” and “free trade.”
I want fair free trade. What does that mean? That means a country that wants to export to the USA must have the same tariffs and restrictions on USA imports that the USA levies on our imports from them. When the EU levies a 17.5% VAT (which is a tax on gross income) and a 10% tariff on cars imported from the USA, then the USA should levy the same taxes on cars imported from the EU.
Instead, EU cars exported to the USA get a 17.5% VAT rebate and only a 2% tariff. If we had a tit for tat tariff rule as our global trade rule, then we could have free trade.
– Stewart W.
“America” in contrast to “Americans”? Brings to my mind the old saying: “I love my country, but fear its government.”
– Bruce B.
Like most people, you view the world through the lens of your own self-interest, but in your case with the benefit of intelligence and wisdom. While you are right about the need for trade being free rather than fair, you are missing the problem the rest of us face.
When you make a deal with Canada or when other companies have their products made in China because the owner of the company gets a better deal, the workers in the US do not get a better deal.
– Edmund S.
“Make America Great Again” and “America First” are slogans that have to do with our recent history. We’ve seen a decline, real and perceived, in America’s international influence and power over the last eight years and I would say before that. We’ve seen manufacturing leave this country in droves to more accommodating countries
This was a natural emigration because of higher than value labor costs in the U.S. and lower than value labor costs elsewhere. I, for one, actually see some of this evolution as positive and view it through the glass of free capitalism, much like your choice to print in Canada.
But our society has been built on compromises between capitalism and every other ism for a long time now and capitalism suffers for it. The system is rigged against it. It’s become so corrupted that I think we should rename it as socialist capitalism or capitalistic socialism.
In other words, the influence of socialism weighs heavily on it such that it is rendered unrecognizable.
– Brian B.
“Free” trade with a foreign supplier that does not have the same rules with which to comply, or that is subsidized by the government of that foreign producer by tariffs, rules or financial support that give it an advantage, is not “fair” trade. In the US we have EPA, OSHA, Wage and Hour, Unemployment Insurance, etc.
With NAFTA a US potato grower cannot ship into Canada unless Canada is out of potatoes, but Canadian potato producers can ship to the US market without similar restrictions. It’s free in one direction only.
– Wayne S.
Before Chris Mayer became one of Bill’s top analysts, he worked as a corporate banker in Washington, D.C.
That experience gave him a view from the “inside.” He discovered dozens of investing opportunities that average Americans never hear about, let alone take part in. He shares one of these little-known strategies right here.