Robert Reich

Preparing for War

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What’s worrying isn’t that Trump is now getting advice about policy from fanatics like John Bolton and Lawrence Kudlow. Trump has never cared about policy.

The real worry is that—with Robert Mueller breathing down his neck, and several special elections suggesting a giant “blue wave” in November—Trump is getting ready to do whatever it takes to maintain his power, even if that requires fanatical policies.

Trump is preparing for an epic war over the future of his presidency. This has required purging naysayers from his Cabinet and White House staff, and replacing them with bomb-throwing advocates like Bolton and Kudlow.  

Fox News is preparing for the same war, and has made a parallel purge—removing conservative Trump critics like George Will, Megyn Kelly, and Rich Lowry, and installing Trump marketers like Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, and Sebastian Gorka.

Trump and Fox News are also approaching the war with the same story.

Some of it is by now familiar: Liberals have opened America to hostile forces—unauthorized immigrants, Muslims, Chinese traders, criminal gangs, drug dealers, government bureaucrats, coastal elites (Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi), North Korea, Iran, and “political correctness” in all its forms.

Trump intends to protect America from these forces. 

The new twist to the story—requiring the recent purges and a united front—is that these forces are conspiring with the FBI to oust Trump from the presidency.

The membrane separating Trump’s brain from Fox News has always been thin, but in coming months it’s likely to disappear entirely.

We all know Trump watches an inordinate amount of Fox News, beginning in the wee hours with Fox and Friends, which provides much of the fodder for his morning tweets.

How can a television presidency be dangerous? Because it is solely about marketing Trump. Its only goal is to win.

Trump has made John Bolton his National Security Advisor not because Bolton has valuable insights about foreign affairs, but because Bolton—for years, an on-air fixture on Fox News—is a showman who knows how to sell big lies and crazy ideas, and thereby help Trump in the looming battles.  

As undersecretary of state for arms control in the Bush administration Bolton did more than anyone else to market the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. During his year and a half at the United Nations, Bolton was so outspokenly critical of the organization that he gained the devotion of xenophobic conservatives.

It hasn’t hurt that Bolton has sucked up to Trump since then. Describing Trump’s address last year to the United Nations, Bolton swooned “in the entire history of the United Nations, there has never been a more straightforward criticism of the unacceptable behavior of other member states.”

Kudlow isn’t a Fox News pundit but he’s been the next best thing—a rightwing CNBC contributor known for his sharp wit and salesmanship. 

Several other cable news anchors and pundits are already in the Trump administration or will soon be, providing additional ammunition for Trump’s pending war.  

“He’s looking for people who are ready to be part of that television White House,” says Kendall Phillips, a communication studies professor at Syracuse University. “This is the Fox television presidency all the way up and down.”

How can a television presidency be dangerous? Because it is solely about marketing Trump. Its only goal is to win. It is unconstrained by truth, reason, or the Constitution. It doesn’t give a fig about the public.

When the occupant of the White House and the sycophants surrounding him are prepared to do and use anything—including trade wars with China and possibly hot wars with North Korea and Iran—to win a political war at home, nothing and no one is safe.

Past Columns
America’s Bullies

October 10, 2018

Meltdown Lessons Unlearned

September 19, 2018

The Next Crash

September 5, 2018

A Prescription of Greed

March 14, 2018

The true path to prosperity

December 6, 2017

Dynasty Dystopia

September 20, 2017

Anti-Labor Day

August 30, 2017

Trump’s Big Loss

August 2, 2017

The End of Trump

May 17, 2017

First 100 Days

April 26, 2017

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