“What has happened down here is the wind done changed”
– Randy Newman, Louisiana 1927
The United States of America in January 2017 appears to be a madhouse. All the clichés being bandied about seem completely inadequate: unchartered territory. Terra incognita. Off the map. Never seen this before. The Twilight Zone.
Indeed. The sheer numbers of conflicting and absurd actions spewing out of the White House is enough to keep our collective heads spinning. Each new day brings a new craziness, and it seems impossible to discern any pattern. What in holy hell do Trump and Company have in mind? Where are they trying to take us?
What’s the end game?
Look, everyone knows by now that Steve Bannon is an avowed Leninist, bordering on anarchist. As recently as 2013, he said as much in an interview with the Daily Beast. He claimed he wanted to see the Establishment come crashing down, all of it. The chaos that has so rapidly become the norm, less than two weeks into this Presidency, certainly seems to bear out that strategy.
The Muslim Ban, in all its ineptitude, lack of prior dissemination to the very people required to implement it (Justice, State and ICE), and internal contradictions (eg, including green card holders and permanent residents), is a perfect example of orchestrated chaos. Trump issued the thing without prior discussion or even announcement, and ICE and Justice were suddenly faced with implementing a drastic action, while having absolutely no forewarning or direction. Of course, all hell broke loose. Meanwhile, the entire top echelon of the State Department had been fired only a few days before. So any possible nuanced international response was spayed from the gitgo.
Bannon must certainly be happy. Bannon almost certainly orchestrated the whole thing. God knows Trump doesn’t have the mental wherewithal to conceive, much less implement, such a long-term (ie, 2-3 days) tactic. Anything beyond 140 Tweet characters is quite beyond his ability to focus.
But even postulating Bannon as the mastermind (and, just to be totally Ian Fleming about it, we should include Vladimir Putin’s “invisible hand”), surely to God we can’t expect the entire entourage to buy in to such a “plan”. Pence, for all his abhorrent ideology, is the furthest thing from an anarchist. He requires an operational government in order to further his personal religious agenda against abortion and LGBT. Kelly Ann Conway is an attack dog with no detectable ethics, willing to lash out at anything that moves in the Opposition, but probably not interested in destroying the government. Priebus? Come on, he’s about as Establishment as you can get.
The cabinet nominations are also not noted for their anarchical tendencies. Jeff Sessions is a lap dog (and, please God, find some way to derail his confirmation; the Monday Night Massacre at Justice and ICE have revealed exactly how much regard the Trump administration has for an independent Justice Department. Answer: Zero). Besides, Sessions is incapable of even imagining the country under attack from within.
DeVos, Pruitt, Price all have ideologies, but they seem mainly constrained to dismantling the specific department for which they are targeted. Oddly enough, the one silver lining is perhaps Rick Perry, who, while obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed, seemed genuinely surprised to learn what useful things the Energy Department does, and even eager to do them. Not that he’d be given any leeway to act.
Because then we have Tillerson. It seems blatantly obvious that one critical move in the end game (or perhaps this is more in the opening gambit), is to reverse the sanctions on Russia due to their Crimean invasion, and thus open the way for Exxon to finally take advantage of its half a trillion-dollar investment in Artic drilling in Russia. Cleaning out the upper management at State, while putting the nation at a severe disadvantage in normal avenues of diplomacy, is nevertheless a perfect first step towards that goal. With no one to gainsay anything, no expertise left in house, getting the sanctions cancelled will be much easier. As for other potential barriers, one must at least wonder how many Congresspeople own Exxon stock. I’ll bet it’s popular. In fact, CNN Money reports that Exxon is among the Top Ten stocks owned by members of Congress.
The point is, it is almost impossible to detect a cohesive and structured end game for all the insane machinations being instigated by Trumpville. Is it a coup to gain autocratic control? Seems like the military would have to be involved down to the last battalion, and that seems absurdly unlikely. Even with Mattis as DoD. Is it just a blatant grab at self-enrichment on a colossal scale, via Russia and Exxon? Is it somehow possible that Bannon is orchestrating a way to destroy the Establishment, and by some trick, no one in the inner circle has noticed? I can imagine Mike Pence playing a waiting game, thinking that impeachment is inevitable (a good bet), and standing ready to step up and take the reins. Maybe Priebus and other minor players are simply intoxicated by being on “the inside”. The allure of proximity to power has corrupted many with far more integrity than this bunch has exhibited.
And maybe there simply is no end game. Maybe this Hieronymus Bosch landscape is simply the natural result when the “man in charge” has no policy nor agenda whatsoever, while the various factions that do have agendas are all playing their own games, and the result is a chess board that obeys no rules.
Whatever the case, rest assured that when checkmate does occur, the end result will not advance national harmony or prestige. In fact, the end game may simply be the board and all its players summarily thrown off the table.
© 2017 Chuck Puckett