Is Trump Winning?
Mainstream analysis has been wrong for so long, why start believing it now?
SLL has run a series of articles (“Plot Holes,” “Trump and Vault 7,” “Calling a Bluff?” “Let’s Connect the Dots,” “Powerball, Part One,” “Powerball, Part Two”) advancing interrelated hypotheses. We’ve asserted that President Trump is far smarter and the powers that be far stupider and weaker than current consensus estimates. Trump’s primary motivation is power. The nonstop vilification campaign against him has little to do with policy differences and instead reflects establishment fears that Trump will investigate, expose, and punish its criminality.
The upshot of these hypotheses: Trump is winning and has consolidated his power.
Reader reaction to this non-mainstream and admittedly speculative line of thinking has been mixed and often skeptical.
However, we’ll press on, because our hypotheses have yielded testable predictions, most of which have been borne out. From “Powerball, Part Two”:
To answer a question posed in Part One: if Trump has consolidated power both at home and abroad, don’t hold your breath waiting for a swamp draining. The most effective power is often power of which only a few know. Those he has by the short hairs would be most helpful to him—sub rosa—if they’re still in government. If such is the case, don’t be surprised if the Russia probe fades away, Trump’s nominal opposition consigns itself to rote denunciation, the Deep State sits still for his Middle Eastern policy changes, and he gets more of his agenda through than anyone expects.
Even the Washington Post has admitted the Russia probe is “crumbling.” Trump and Sessions know Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller won’t find much because there’s nothing there, although there may be a sacrificial offering or two to propitiate the investigatory gods. Trump read Sessions the riot act via Twitter and a Wall Street Journal interview about not investigating Hillary Clinton, intelligence community leaks to the press, and Ukrainian efforts to sabotage his presidential campaign. He’s been roundly condemned for publicly criticizing Sessions, but here’s a speculative leap: perhaps publicly criticizing Sessions was not really what Trump was doing.
Perhaps Trump was giving his attorney general political cover to pursue investigations against high-profile Democrats who cannot help Trump, sub rosa or otherwise. Investigations of Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Fusion GPS, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz would demoralize the Democrats, preoccupy and harass key players, expose criminality, and electrify Trump’s base. Providing Sessions further cover, twenty Republican representatives have sent a letter to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein demanding the appointment of a second Special Counsel to look into potentially illegal acts by Clinton, Lynch, and former FBI director James Comey.
After recusing himself from the Russiagate investigation, which he knows is pointless, and being “scolded” by Trump, Sessions is now a sympathetic, squeaky-clean figure; even Democrats have expressed support. He has far more latitude to pursue the investigations his boss wants him to pursue. Most of the ensuing criticism will be directed at Trump, which will bother Trump not at all (although there will undoubtedly be answering Twitter blasts).
Trump has quietly (when Trump does anything quietly, take note) made two sea changes in US policy in Syria. At the G20 summit, he negotiated a cease fire with Vladimir Putin for southwest Syria. Last week he ended a CIA program that armed Syrian jihadists fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Both changes are anathema to the US Deep State, the mainstream media, and US allies Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Israel, and Turkey, yet other than “rote denunciation,” they have been surprisingly docile. The latter change could presage abandonment of a pillar of US foreign and military policy since President Carter supplied arms and other aid to the mujahideen in Afghanistan during their successful fight against the Soviet Union. The US may be out of the business of arming Islamic insurgents against regimes it seeks to change.
Deft – by this analysis – as Trump has been, his biggest challenge lies ahead.
The government is bankrupt, and demographics will push it ever-deeper in the hole.
The global economy is struggling under monstrous and unsupportable debt.
Fiat money something-for-nothing has a sell-by date, sooner or later the stock market and economy will head south.
Historically, there’s been a tight correlation between stocks, the economy, and presidential popularity.
Can Trump dodge this bullet? Here’s another speculative leap: he is already laying the groundwork. He’s claiming credit for the stock market’s rally since he was elected. That may not be as foolish as it seems. When the market and economy falter, he will claim they went up on hopes for his program, and will blame Congress and the Federal Reserve for dashing those hopes.
Most people blame the Republican-controlled Congress, not Trump, for the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump proposes, but Congress disposes and Trump has made sure everyone knows that Congress is responsible. In the same vein, he signed the veto-proof Russian sanctions bill while at the same time excoriating Congress for passing it. He has an easier job making his case than a President whose party controls Congress normally would. Trump is a Republican in name only and ran just as hard against the Republican establishment as he did against Hillary Clinton.
Look for him to lambast Congress when it botches tax reform and the debt ceiling. He could be hoping for such miscues. Debt ceiling contretemps may set off financial market conniptions. Trump will sigh and tweet: If only Congress had passed my health care and tax reforms and given me a clean debt ceiling increase, none of this would have happened. If the Federal Reserve continues to raise its federal funds target rate and shrinks its balance sheet, he’ll include Janet Yellen in his tweets.
These hypotheses yield testable predictions. Mueller’s investigation will come a cropper, but investigations of high-profile and no sub rosa value leakers and Democrats – up to and perhaps including Hillary Clinton – will lead to indictments and either plea bargained settlements or convictions. Trump will take credit for the stock market until it reverses. He will continue to harshly criticize Congressional failures and blame them when financial markets and the economy head south. This may come to a head if Congress fails to pass a clean debt ceiling increase by the end of September. Trump will also point his finger at the Federal Reserve. This is a high risk strategy, given the longstanding psychological linkage between presidential popularity, the strength of the economy, and stock market indices. It’s probably the only strategy available to Trump. Time will tell if it works.
The war in Syria has crested; ISIS, though still capable of substantial mischief, has lost. The refugee flow has already reversed, an estimated half a million refugees have returned, which, as noted in “Powerball, Part Two,” gives European leaders some breathing room. Assad will stay in power unless Russia, not the US, sees fit to remove him. The embers of conflict will smolder for years, but Trump will not be fanning them by arming anti-Assad groups or escalating US military involvement. He will continue to use shows of force and diplomatic maneuvers to try to resolve other hot spots—North Korea, Iran, the South China Sea, Ukraine, Afghanistan—and will shy away from exclusively military solutions. He is deeply displeased with the war in Afghanistan and is calling for a rethink that may ultimately lead to withdrawal.
All this is speculative, but it continues a line of analysis whose predictions have been for the most part confirmed. However, borrowing from the ubiquitous financial disclaimer: past performance is no guarantee of future accuracy.