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Daily Archives: May 4th, 2018


By Paul Begala
Updated 11:41 PM ET, Tue May 1, 2018
Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House. He was a consultant to Priorities USA Action, the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
(CNN)Add the name of White House chief of staff John Kelly to the astonishingly long list of close Trump aides who have reportedly disparaged the President’s intellect, in his case referring to the leader of the free world as “an idiot.” Kelly called the report “total B.S.”
But, like the dog that didn’t bark, Kelly’s statement reveals more by what it does not say. It does not say the President is bright. It does not say he is engaged. It does not say he digs into the impossibly difficult issues that come into the Oval Office each day. And Kelly’s silence on those matters is telling.
Of course, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump “a [expletive deleted] moron” then heroically refused to participate in the ritualistic dishonest denial. Tillerson told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I’m not going to get into that kind of petty stuff.”
National security adviser H.R. McMaster, according to a report in BuzzFeed, has called President Trump an “idiot,” a “dope” and a man with the brain of a “kindergartner.”
In Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury” (which ought to be taken with an entire salt lick), the former chief of staff Reince Priebus and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin refer to the President as an “idiot.” Then-chief economic adviser Gary Cohn says Trump is “dumb as [poop],” and is “an idiot surrounded by clowns.” (Note that this was at the time that Cohn himself was one of the people surrounding the President. Does that make him Clarabell?). And billionaire media baron Rupert Murdoch reportedly called President Trump “a [effing] idiot” after a phone call on immigration.

The tumultuous relationship between Trump, Kelly 02:32. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Those closest to the President think, well, it’s pretty clear what they think.
But I dissent.
I think Donald J. Trump is plenty bright. Not in the intellectual, Mensa-meeting sense, but he has, I think, an undeniable intelligence. He is street smart, savvy, clever. No one can be that conniving and be an idiot.
So why the disconnect? Why do I as an outside analyst see an intelligence that those closest to the President do not? Because there are different kinds of intelligence that are useful for different purposes. The kind of intelligence I believe Trump has is enormously useful if you want to, say, be a politician — even better if you want to be a demagogue.
He has a cynical, innate intelligence for what his base wants to hear. It’s like a divining rod for division, prejudice and stereotyping. His relentless rhetorical repetition (“No collusion, no collusion, no collusion”) is brilliantly designed to tell folks who are predisposed to like him what they want to hear. Forget the objective reality that his campaign chairman, his son and his son-in-law all met with Russians who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government, helping make the case for why Robert Mueller should be investigating potential collusion.
He has an unerring sense for how to command media attention, whether it was assuming a pseudonym and leaking the “Best Sex I Ever Had” myth to the New York tabloids, or dominating water coolers across the country by attacking NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem. It’s like he knows what every bar stool blowhard is about to say before he or she even says it.
His penchant for third-grade nicknames undoubtedly demeans the discourse, and yet otherwise sophisticated people repeat them: “Lyin’ Ted,” “Little Marco,” “Crooked Hillary.” So who’s really the idiot?
The problem is, Trump’s idiosyncratic intelligence, while enough to propel him to the White House, does not serve him well for the job of President. He lacks, by most accounts, the broad curiosity, the policy depth, the healthy skepticism of his own positions, the attention span, the appreciation of nuance, and most of all, the intellectual humility that successful presidents must have.
Serving President Clinton in the West Wing was the highlight of my professional life. He is the smartest person I have ever known — and he never, ever acted like (or felt like) the smartest person in the room. He paired his astonishing intellect with an immeasurable empathy, and the combination brought out the best in everyone around him.
He didn’t merely want to know; he wanted to understand. Then he would integrate, cross-pollinating new information about farm prices with the latest briefing on the French military budget, and seeing the world in subtle hues. It is impossible to imagine any of his top aides speaking as contemptuously of him as President Trump’s do of him. Finally, a word of caution for the Democrats: Don’t attack Donald Trump’s intelligence. Liberals already suffer from the conceit that they are more intelligent, and it can make them insufferable. Plus, in a weird way, calling President Trump stupid excuses his intentional acts of malice. So, don’t call him “moron” or “idiot;” call him what he is: a conniving, corrupt con man, a dangerous, divisive demagogue — and, most sobering of all, the man who carried 30 states in the last election, and may well do it again if Democrats don’t focus their fire more effectively.

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Bob Bryan 6 hrs ago

© Provided by Business Insider
Over 1,100 leading economists sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging the president to reverse course on recent trade tactics — lest the US repeat one of the biggest mistakes of the Great Depression.

The letter, organized by the conservative-leaning National Taxpayers Union, warned that recent tariffs and trade protectionism were harmful to the US economy. The economists cited a 1930 letter that warned Congress against passing the Smoot-Hawley Act, a large package of tariffs that many studies cite as a major reason for the depth of the Great Depression.
“Congress did not take economists’ advice in 1930, and Americans across the country paid the price,” the letter says. “The undersigned economists and teachers of economics strongly urge you not to repeat that mistake. Much has changed since 1930 — for example, trade is now significantly more important to our economy — but the fundamental economic principles as explained at the time have not.”
The Smoot-Hawley tariffs, much like Trump’s measures, were designed as protection for US industries. But they ended up making the situation worse.
Included on the new letter are 14 Nobel laureates and economists from across the political spectrum, including former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers under Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.
The letter also quotes the warnings from the 1930 letter, which warns that tariffs raise prices on consumers, damage industries that rely on trade director or indirectly, hurt the fortunes of American farmers, and lead to retaliatory measures from other countries.
The 1930 letter also painted the tariffs as a threat to national security.
“Finally, we would urge our Government to consider the bitterness which a policy of higher tariffs would inevitably inject into our international relations,” the 80-year-old letter read. “A tariff war does not furnish good soil for the growth of world peace.”

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