Monday, November 14, 2016

Trump's bait-and-switch

Drain the swamp? Only to refill it with fetid sewage. John Cassidy sees this as a 'bait-and-switch' operation (one reminiscent of Trump's typical business practices):
Six days into the Trump transition, one of the biggest bait-and-switch operations in recent history is already well under way. Trump campaigned as an outsider who would overthrow a hopelessly corrupt Washington establishment. Now we learn that many members of that very establishment will play key roles in a Trump Administration. On Friday, Trump announced that his soon-to-be Vice-President, Mike Pence, a former head of the Republican Study Committee on Capitol Hill, would replace New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as the chairman of his transition team. On Sunday, that team announced that Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, the Party’s principal fund-raising and organizational arm, will serve as Trump’s White House chief of staff, while Stephen Bannon, the former Goldman Sachs banker and head of Breitbart News, the controversial alt-right Web site, will serve as Trump’s chief strategist. And, on Monday, Bloomberg News reported that the transition team had recommended for the post of Treasury Secretary Seth Mnuchin, another former Goldman Sachs banker, who served as Trump’s chief fund-raiser.
The hiring of Priebus shouldn’t have come as a surprise: he supported Trump throughout the campaign. Similarly, the idea that Trump, as President, would banish all the money men and billionaires who support and bankroll the Republican Party was always dubious in the extreme, and since the election it has been shown to be an utter sham. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that “at least a half dozen major Washington lobbyists and three top fundraisers for Mr. Trump’s campaign have been tasked with heading key portions of Mr. Trump’s transition team. . . . In many cases, the lobbyists are selecting administration officials for departments that will affect the interests of firms they represent.”
The Journal report helpfully listed some of the lobbyists, the special interests they represent, and the duties they have been assigned. Martin Whitmer, who shills for the Association of American Railroads and the National Asphalt Pavement Association, is leading the transition’s “transportation and infrastructure” team. In the magazine this week, my colleague Jane Mayer wrote about Michael Catanzaro, a veteran lobbyist for oil and gas firms who is overseeing “energy independence,” and Mike McKenna, the president of the lobbying firm MWR Strategies, who is overseeing appointments to the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Both men count Koch Industries as clients.
The denizens of K Street, Washington’s notorious lobbying corridor, have charitably agreed to help Trump “drain the swamp,” as he has put it. Trent Lott, the former Republican Senate Minority Leader, who resigned from the Senate in 2007 and set up shop as a lobbyist representing big corporations, including foreign ones, offered up perhaps the quote of the week in an interview with the Times’ Eric Lipton. “Trump has pledged to change things in Washington—about draining the swamp,” Lott, whose clients have included Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, and Gazprombank, a big Russian bank, said. “He is going to need some people to help guide him through the swamp—how do you get in and how you get out? We are prepared to help do that.”
But of course.
To sum up, this is the prospect we are facing. A populist but semi-engaged President who is less interested in governing than in soaking up adulation at big rallies. (He might hold more of them even though the campaign is over, the Times story said.) Meanwhile, his cronies and members of the permanent establishment make many of the actual decisions, which will largely benefit the already rich, including the ruling family. Debt mushrooms as El Presidente approves prestige construction projects but not the taxes needed to pay for them. And skilled propagandists, like Bannon, whip up nationalist fervor to keep the masses diverted from what is really going on.
We’ve seen this movie before, many times. But not here in the United States.
There are other movies though. It is time for those of us in the anti-Trump resistance to realize that our personal problems don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Let's take inspiration from the classic anti-fascist film: Casablanca.

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