By JEFF MACKLER
When U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a National Security Council meeting last week, from which President Trump had departed, that his boss was a “fucking moron,” it’s likely that Tillerson, who has refused to deny his characterization, was not referring literally to any diminished mental capacity of the president. After all, any billionaire who can accumulate a fortune in real estate and gambling casinos, socially associate with the ruling-class elite, including the Clintons, and appear on his own reality TV show is likely to be within the “normal” range of human intelligence.
A few days later, another Republican higher up, Bob Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told The New York Times that Trump was treating his presidency like a “reality TV show … like he was doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.” Unrestrained, Corker added, “He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”
Corker said that Trump’s “recklessness threatens World War III.” In an Oct. 8 public exchange of denunciatory tweets, Corker revealed a not so hidden aspect of the Trump presidency. “It’s a shame that the White House has become an adult day care center,” he stated, “Someone has obviously missed their shift this morning.”
Paraphrasing Corker, The Times interviewer continued, “Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk that a coterie of senior administrative officials must protect him from his own instincts.” And finally from Corker: “I know for a fact that every single day in the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.”
Corker and Tillerson tell us that “something is rotten in Denmark.” Tillerson is the former and still likely the shadow CEO of one of the world’s largest corporations, Exxon Mobil; Senator Corker leads the congressional committee that oversees U.S. foreign policy. Both would prefer that the embarrassing Trumpist rhetorical rot be coated with a veneer of civility—for appearances sake, at least.
The ever-lengthening chain of White House and other top officials dismissed by Trump for overt corruption, lying, or simply publicly disagreeing with their boss tells us that despite his being daily coached by top ruling-class figures, he is unaccustomed to playing the role of coy diplomat that his predecessor mastered with aplomb. In this sense, his betters see him as a moron—but for lack of tact only. They think he is a moron for saying openly what he and they really believe, and, above all, for pursuing with a crude club rather than a silk glove the central objectives of a crisis-ridden capitalist class.
Bipartisan military spending
The military budget is a prime example. Trump demanded a 10 percent or $54 billion increase, a modest figure in comparison to his predecessors. Yet Congress upped the figure by some $37 billion, with a nearly 90 percent bipartisan vote. For both political wings of the ruling class, military spending is a two-sided bonanza. Monopoly control in the military-industrial complex almost guarantees an annual trillion dollars in expenditures at top profit rates on the one hand. Meanwhile, the same bipartisan Congress lends its support to endless wars wherein U.S. weapons of mass destruction are rained down and “used up” on poor nations and peoples around the world. War and weapons are good for profits, indeed—an endless demand on an endless supply!
Obama conducted seven wars in his time, bragging that he was at war virtually every day of his presidency. During his reign the U.S. sent 100,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, fully half in the form of secret private contract armies under the direction of Erik Prince and his associates operating out of his then private Blackwater military base in Qatar. Not to be outdone Trump, overtly and not covertly as with Obama, today discusses more “private contractor wars” with Prince. He suggests that perhaps the whole army might be efficiently privatized—that is, run for even greater profits than at present. Trump is currently backing Prince for a Senate seat in Wyoming.
Gifting the corporate elite
Trump’s explanation for his much touted tax cut for the rich—wherein he claims the government’s multi-billion-dollar corporate largess will trickle down to the general economy in the form of new jobs, economic growth, and budget deficit reductions—is believed by virtually no serious economist, likely including his Goldman Sachs Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Trump, true to form, bragged about the wonders of his tax proposal, which he delivered to Congress in the form of a three-page memo. The details, as always, will be worked out as the real representatives of the ruling class scour the thousands of pages of tax-code gifts to the rich, to insert a few lines here and there in order to add a few more billions to their balance sheets.
The rich are in need of additional such “breaks” these days. Just five men, according to Credit Suisse’s 2016 Global Wealth Report. own almost half the wealth of the entire world. The previous figure was six men. Before that it was eight! No mind, Trump will guarantee them another bump if his proposal to eliminate the estate tax is approved. The latter would affect only some 400 of the nation’s most wealthy.
But President Obama’s gifts to the superrich put Trump to shame. His 2008-2016 bailouts saved the capitalist elite some $32 trillion!
Obama vs. Trump on the environment
President Trump, excoriated by the Democrats as the engineer of environmental catastrophe, just announced the voiding of some 50 Obama-era environmental regulations, topped by his pledge to “end the war on coal.” In contrast, Obama constructed a pro-environment facade with his restrictions on coal-powered energy. He also burnished his climate crisis credibility by championing the toothless Paris COP22 climate accords, which Trump shunned.
But the climate-posturing Obama neglected to mention that the slumping coal-industry barons had already retreated from coal production to pursue, on an unprecedented scale, the more profitable hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The latter’s deadly release of poisonous chemicals into the air and water supplies is rarely mentioned by Obama’s legacy-enhancing Democratic Party friends. Neither is the fact that fracking releases incredible amounts of methane gas (and other chemical biproducts) that are 84 times more toxic as greenhouse gases than CO2. Add to this Obama’s authorization to drill the Arctic icecap and his granting multiple offshore drilling permits to the oil barons, and poor Donald comes off, by comparison, almost as a “moderate.”
Women’s and trade union rights
Today, the “moron” Trump, seeking adulation from religious bigots, argues that “religious” employers have a constitutional right to deny abortion coverage to women. He will leave it to the Supreme Court to decide the matter, as he will the latest versions of the infamous Friedrichs case. The latter is aimed at eliminating the right of unions to collect agency fees from workers they represent in collective bargaining—some five million people. In both cases, the smiling Democrats have repeatedly demonstrated, pretense aside, that their policies are little different. Access to abortion facilities today is absent in 87 percent of the nation’s counties.
Yes, the “moron” Trump is a crude character indeed, ever surrounding himself with new layers of ruling-class sycophants, or firing and replacing them with “morons” of the same ilk, not to mention reactionary ideologues like former White House Chief Strategist, Steven Bannon, who advised the more than willing Trump to place an equals sign between the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and those who mobilized to oppose them.
Trump’s “moronic” rhetoric—his ceaseless tweets and campaign rallies, his attacks on Dreamers and other immigrants, his insistence on building the Wall, his embrace of “some very fine people” among the fascists, and his barbs against the media—are aimed in part at whipping up support from disaffected and racist white workers and middle-class people (whom he and Steve Bannon have referred to as their “base”).
Tillerson is right that President Trump is a “fucking moron.” And Corker, mindful of Trump’s threat to unleash nuclear “fire and fury” on North Korea, is right that Trump is dangerous. But he is tolerated by a nervous ruling elite, who at least at this moment has no practical alternative other than to manage his mania and press him to at least sound and appear less threatening. Constructing a more palatable presidential facade is all that a crisis-ridden capitalism can expect in these troubled times.
But make no mistake: Trump’s economic and military priorities align well with a desperate capitalism’s need to squeeze very dollar possible from working people in order to remain competitive on the world’s ever-declining markets. Capitalist necessity trumps everything human.
Trump’s approval rating has declined to a low of 32 percent, an indication that an increasing majority has no truck with his racist, anti-immigrant, sexist, and homophobic scapegoating. Neither do they believe that he, his party, or the Democratic Party will be, down the line, their economic savior.
The gap is closing between the build-up of deep anger and resentment on the part of the vast majority and their taking the field of action to defend their interests, rights, and dignity. Their fightback will include new forms of struggle to advance their economic and social interests, including class struggle, democratic and inclusive trade unions, and a working-class party in the political arena to champion the interests of the oppressed and exploited.