Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Bret Stephens wrote a remarkable op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (03/29/16).  He describes President Obama and Donald Trump as "epic narcissists".  They are, too obviously so, divided by style and temperament. But they share, so he argues, a similar disdain for historical precedent, for legitimization and for opposite or different viewpoints.  The President's hauteur is by now a recognized fact. He is as impervious to contradiction as he is averse to chumminess. There is no need to further elaborate, while his latest ISIL comparison to some "Bath, bed and Beyond" reference is out of place at the least.

Mr. Trump gave a phone interview to the New York Times. In few sentences he was able to do a Godzilla trick, trampling every "given" of diplomacy under his non-subtle footprints. Allies are disregarded (a point he shares with the President), nuclear non-proliferation reopened, Ukraine sent back to sender, trade revisited, Mexicans and Muslims...that is another story.  The "great businessman" appeared like an ordinary accountant, obsessed with balance sheets, and impervious to abstraction. His whole thinking looks like "Colbertism light" (not that he is familiar with Colbert) in that his worldview is indeed one of short-term deals rather than long- term ambition. 

His campaign follows a similar path. He ignores continuity, insults anyone who dares to oppose him, and acts like a spoiled persona who never grew up, mistaking bullying for argument. The establishment is ruffled but his constituency remains solid. The inequality crowd (r>g ... return of capital "trumps" the growth rate ) might not be familiar with Piketty but stands with him. Contrary to the Bernie Sanders camp, Trump strives on the anger and frustration, shared by mostly while, middle aged or aging, low income white males. Sanders appeals mostly to a younger more educated (often mistaken ) constituency.  That Trump receives this type of support is almost paradoxical.  "The rise of the super manager is often considered to be the primal cause of the over performance of the top centile's and of the increase of their share of US national income ". The Trump image is one of nouveau riche taste, cynical management, and, last but not least, "branding" more than "creating".  He belongs more to the golf club than to the construction site. All this is overlooked by his base. 
His political credentials amount to zero but he continues to strive. His latest motto is "to be impervious to being forecasted" in all things.  If he really means it, he had better start learning because until now he has fulfilled the worst expectations of enlightened observers, like Bret Stephens and many others.

(*) Thomas Piketty : Capital in the tenty-first century (page 315).

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