POITOU, FRANCE – Our subject today is politics. Or rather, political leaders.
We were not fond of Bill Clinton… nor George Dubya Bush… nor Barack Obama… nor Donald Trump.
A Dear Reader asked if there are any we like. And if so, who was the best? Churchill? Lincoln? Gandhi?
Ball of Buffoonery
The current occupant of the White House is the most amusing of all.
He is not necessarily the dumbest of the lot… or the most conniving… but he is certainly the boldest. His delusions are right out in front.
Yesterday, for example, he sent out this tweet:
Germany sells 30 year bonds offering negative yields. Germany competes with the USA. Our Federal Reserve does not allow us to do what we must do. They put us at a disadvantage against our competition. Strong Dollar, No Inflation! They move like quicksand. Fight or go home!
There is so much claptrap in this ball of buffoonery, it would take a long time to unravel.
Is it a good thing that German investors pay to lend money to their government? Should American savers have to pay too?
How is it a “disadvantage” to have interest rates a shade less insane than other nations? How fast does quicksand move? Fight who? Why?
The tweet can be deconstructed, however, to reveal a simple meaning.
The president thinks the world economy is a zero-sum game where you have to fight for market share.
And he’s afraid others are getting the drop on us by inflating their economies and debauching their currencies faster than we are.
The Washington Post reports that the Trump team is trying to find new ways to inflate:
Ideas that have been discussed include imposing a currency transaction tax that could weaken the dollar and make U.S. exports more competitive; creating a rotation among the Federal Reserve governors that would make it easier to check the power of Chair Jerome H. Powell, whom Trump has blamed for not doing all he can to increase growth; and pushing to lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent in an effort to spur more investment.
It would be easy to dismiss America’s president as a moron. But he’s much more than that.
Returning to the Dear Reader’s question: Trump is probably the most gifted natural politician we’ve ever seen – brazen, reckless, ruthless, blockheaded, megalomaniacal… with a real genius for how to work a crowd.
You can admire the skills and instincts that he displays. You can marvel at how so many people follow his tweets without laughing. And you can even genuinely like the guy… or, at least, the character he plays on TV.
What you can’t do – if you have any sense – is believe him. Or trust him. Or expect him to improve your life.
Because politics is essentially a win-lose game. And it is rigged.
The politician is the one who gets control of the strong arm of government and uses it to whack his enemies, reward his friends, and exploit the masses. Unless you are among the chosen ones, you are a loser.
Every penny he spends… and every life lost in his battles… is one that he takes from the public. And every plan he pursues interferes with the plans of the people who elected him.
The best politicians are the loafers and shirkers.
They retire and plant cabbages, like Emperor Diocletian… or slip out of the White House to play cards and tipple with their friends, like Warren Harding… or get sick and die, like William Henry Harrison.
After only 30 days in office, Harrison was a corpse, and his vice president, John Tyler, was in the Oval Office.
Tyler deserves at least a small niche in the Pantheon of the Best Leaders.
“His Accidency,” as his foes called him, steadfastly refused to go along with even his own party’s doofy plans. Most important, from our point of view, Tyler vetoed a bill to create a national bank.
On the other hand, Tyler’s reputation was blemished forever by drawing Texas into the Union.
Vegan in a Steakhouse
We’ve known a few politicians personally.
Some were earnest and honest, merely trying to guide the feds toward sensible policies.
Some were empty-headed scoundrels, enjoying the fame and power of the political limelight.
And some were real sociopaths, sure that they knew what was best for people and eager to make sure they got it good and hard.
The trouble with the honest ones was that they never seemed to understand their own métier.
Politics comes from “the barrel of a gun,” as Mao put it.
Earnest, well-meaning men and women are disarmed; they have no more place in politics than a vegan in a steakhouse or a virgin in a cathouse. That leaves the field open to the rogues and the criminally insane.
The rascals are sometimes fun to watch. The insane ones are often dangerous.
But a Great Leader is forever an oxymoron. The more he leads, the more damage he does.
Every decent citizen knows that politicians are the chief threat to his liberty and his prosperity; he despises and distrusts them all.
And one of the great failures of modern democracy is how few of them are hung.