The Trump Cards

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It’s become the most regular pattern in American politics. President Trump insults some important personality, or defies what passes for common decency, or attacks traditional allies, or just says something bizarre; the mainstream media then denounce him, “check” his “facts,” proclaim his end or the end of the republic; a week or so later, observing that their furious campaign has had no effect on the body politic except for a tiny increase in the president’s popularity, the media initiate another anti-Trump campaign. At this juncture, rightwing media proclaim Trump a “genius” who has a “unique connection” with the real America, and many bytes are spilled over his success at “calling the liberals’ bluff.”

I have a different take on the gambling analogy, and also on the allegation of genius.

To me, a genius at gambling isn’t somebody who wins a hand because he has a pair of treys and his opponent has a pair of deuces. It’s no argument for genius that Trump can, with a few badly worded remarks, puncture the pomposity of Hillary Clinton, suggest that the National Football League isn’t an army of martyr patriots, or reveal the fact that US senators tend to be horse’s asses. And if somebody with a pair of deuces — such as the typical columnist for the New York Times — is stupid enough to think that he’s got a winning hand, and bets his trust fund on it, that doesn’t mean that he’s bluffing, or that his opponent called his bluff. It’s just that he’s never played with anybody who wasn’t as stupid as he is.

A genius at gambling isn’t somebody who wins a hand because he has a pair of treys and his opponent has a pair of deuces.

Trump’s liberal — and conservative — opponents didn’t bluff; they thought they had the best cards ever dealt. And Trump didn’t play a good hand; he discarded several of his face cards (limited government, fiscal responsibility, a real investigation of the Clinton machine), and kept those treys. This is a game in which one player sees John Kerry, Colin Kaepernick, John McCain, and himself as national heroes, and the other player knows that they’re not. It’s a game in which one player thinks he’ll win by pushing transgender restrooms and the other one waves the flag. No bluffs, no genius; but who do you think will win?

Here’s a note about my own standards of assessment. I never thought that President Reagan was the Great Communicator. I liked him, but he didn’t communicate particularly well to me. I thought he was great when he stood up to the Air Traffic Controllers Union — one of the bravest episodes of modern presidential history — and when he stood up to the Russians in Reykjavik. I thought he was a dope, by his own principles, when he forced the states to raise their drinking age to 21, when he talked nonsense about “drugs,” when he failed to abolish the Department of Education, etc.

Today, no one dreams that Congress will achieve anything much (although a certain low trickery is always to be expected).

How good was Reagan’s hand? I’d say he had a full house or a flush. He was smart; he had an impressive manner; he understood the nature and effects of limited government; he didn’t overreach; he dismissed the outrageous criticism he received from a media establishment that was almost as obsessed with hating him as it is with hating Trump. At that time, the Democrats’ hand wasn’t fantastic, either; but I’ll give them a pair of jacks and a pair of queens. They were dominated by real unions, not government-employee unions and advocates of far-left causes. There were some savvy politicians in their leadership (and I don’t mean Jimmy Carter). No one was bluffing, but when the Democrats and the media (then, as now, the same players) showed their hand, Reagan won.

Reagan never had a majority in both houses of Congress, but he had large legislative achievements, such as the revision of the tax rates. Today, no one dreams that Congress will achieve anything much (although a certain low trickery is always to be expected). Survival is the measure of accomplishment. In these circumstances, almost any hand will win whatever there is to win.




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Somebody’s Gonna Win

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Our cleaning lady was smiling widely as she polished our dining room table. She was in such a good mood she didn’t drop or break a single goblet or plate on the granite kitchen counter — as was her custom, usually two a visit.

Had she finally found her Prince Charming? I impulsively asked Betty, let’s call her, “Why so happy?”

“I’m gonna win the Tennessee State Lottery,” she giggled, then uttered the declaration immortalized by losers: “Somebody’s gonna win — might as well be me.” The booty amounted to hundreds of millions, because counter to the mantra, nobody had won for eons. Today they’d pluck the lucky number out of a barrel. And Betty had 25 tickets. How could she lose? They only sold 100,000 or so.

Lotteries? A verification of Bastiat’s contention that the state’s one form of expertise is “plunder.” Whatta racket! Of course, you’ll find better odds at your local racetrack or casino. And to heighten the state’s hypocrisy: gambling is illegal in your own home. The letter of the law says you and your Wednesday night poker club can end up in jail, subsisting on grits and bread crusts.

It wouldn’t grate so badly on my sense of justice if the state solicited gambling gangs in a formal competition in which the main variable was payout vs. ticket income. As an 87% libertarian, I believe people should be allowed financial ruin if they so desire.

But it should not be sponsored by the same state that prohibits gambling. It prohibits theft, too, of course, but its main source of revenue is taxes — a euphanism for theft. Theft is theft, so what if they patch my street with tar every three years? They provide schools, too, but the real value of roads and schools and such services never quite equals the take from taxes. And you can’t sell hooch, either, but the state can.

By the way, I’m quite proud that my state, Alabama, amid flagrant corruption from the gambling lobby, rejected a lottery. It’s Tennessee that caved in. Coincidentally, the purchase of mansions, yachts, barrels of caviar, and Rolexes by state legislators skyrocketed. Supply and demand, you know. I’m waiting for the states to open up a string of escort services. Quite legal, if run by the state.




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