SHORT RIBS AND RANDOM THOUGHTS SOTU Edition, plus “Fire and Fury”

I won’t go through the excruciating review of Our Fake President’s State of the Union speech since Cong. Huffman has already provided a good summary.  The most divisive President in history  says the SOTU is “strong”.  A lot of us would disagree.  Meanwhile the despicable Devin Nunes ought to be brought up on treason charges himself for disclosing sensitive info for political reasons.  Let’s hope he’s stopped before lasting damage is done.  Trump is waging a war against the FBI, the intel agencies and everyone  else who stands between him and his alternate reality. This is going to be a very long three years. As of this writing, Trump, and his staff- the most incompetent in history- and his stooge Nunes are hell-bent on destroying our government and those who work there and they  have nothing better to offer.  And Trump is hell-bent on leaving  us defenseless against the ongoing cyberattacks.  Disgusting.

BTW Nunes has at least seven opponents this year.  Give generously to any of them.

“Fire and Fury”-   We finally got our copy from Eureka Books ($33) and it IS a juicy read,  Did you know that Trump is so out of it he thinks Nixon was framed???? Even Nixon didn’t claim that. It’s the ignorance, again.  I also hadn’t realized how pivotal a figure Jared Kushner is- he’s been behind every bad decision Trump has made. ‘(His West Wing nickname is “The Butler” because he hovers a lot and does little.) No less than NINE solid DC law firms turned down the dubious honor  of representing Trump in the Mueller inquiry. This is good:  “This was Bannon’s fundamental insight about Trump: he made everything personal and he was helpless not to.”  Bannon was obviously the smart one of the bunch. The part about Nicky Haley is not as was publicized;  no indication that she had an affair with anyone although she is regarded as being “as ambitious as Lucifer” .  Perhaps she’ll be picking over the bones  when the Trump thing collapses.

SHORT RIBS AND RANDOM THOUGHTS- Davos Edition

Well, our Fake President took a huge retinue to Davos, including the one with the trophy wife- is it Munchkin? It wasn’t cheap.  When I was there 20 years ago a plate of spaghetti at an outdoor café was $17.   That was in Bern, not Davos.  Davos would be twice that. Davos is close to Klosters where Audrey Hepburn, the most elegant woman who ever lived( including Nefertiti) had her residence.  She was married to a rich Italian doctor, which didn’t save her from dying of cancer at 63.

Yes, the good die young , which means we’ll be stuck with Trump and his gang of robber barons for awhile. Everyone was relieved that he stuck to his  teleprompter speech but the next morning he started in on his Greatest Hits List again,  bashing Hillary and the Fake Media again 15 months after the election. His 71 year-old brain apparently cannot accept new data like THE ELECTION’S OVER.  If they invite him back next year will they/we have to listen to the same crap?

BTW the way to stay on a budget in Switzerland is to hang in the train stations,  which have wonderful takeout food. Everyone  goes there.  The train stations are clean and busy and right in the heart of whatever town you’re going to.  Not like our poor sad neglected stations.  

Short edition today because I believe I’m coming down with that damn flu.  Wish me luck. 

END

From Moonbeam to Mainstream

This piece from the Hill is a good summary of Jerry Brown’s career.  Unbelievably, there are ignoramuses right here in Humboldt County who still think it’s smart to call him “Moonbeam”.

From Moonbeam to mainstream: Jerry Brown in winter

 
 

SACRAMENTO — At a morning meeting early in 1975, about three months after Jerry Brown became the youngest governor in California’s history, Brown’s chief of staff, Gray Davis, told the governor he had asked the capital’s general services staff to mend a hole in the carpet.

Brown stopped the meeting. “Do you know how much that hole has saved taxpayers,” he asked. When a legislator came to Brown’s office with his hand out, looking for money for a new project, Brown could point to the hole in the carpet as evidence that the state needed to save money.

Forty years later, when Brown offers his State of the State address Thursday for the final time during his second tenure as governor, he will be speaking to a dramatically different state than the one he first took over.

Brown’s first budget proposed $9.1 billion in discretionary spending. His proposal this year, unveiled earlier this month, would spend $131.7 billion. California’s population has doubled. Its gross domestic product has increased more than tenfold.

The political universe has changed, too, and in Brown’s direction. What were once outlandish ideas that led a Chicago columnist to dub him “Governor Moonbeam” — on alternative energy, banning the death penalty and even space exploration — are now firmly within the political mainstream.

When you talk about solar energy, wind, geothermal, those were radical thoughts in the ’70s,” said Steve Glazer, a California state senator and Brown’s on-again, off-again political adviser who managed his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. “He got the Moonbeam label for things that you’d think were just normal today.”

“In a lot of ways, the state and the country have moved to the left,” said John Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College and a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “So what seemed like a very liberal position back then is mainstream today.”

But Jerry — there is only one Jerry in California political circles — has changed little. He is still a penny-pinching fiscal hawk, ever concerned about the state’s financial health, at times to the chagrin of his overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. His budget proposal won stronger praise from Republican legislative leaders, who praised his proposal to fill the state’s rainy day coffers to the brim, than from Democrats, who anticipate negotiations and fights over spending on new social programs.

He is still cerebral and intellectual, the man who quotes the 16th century Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius and the 16th century French author Michel de Montaigne not because he found a clever line in Bartlett’s but because he has read their work.

He is still acerbic and at times aloof. Even those who count him as a friend say he rarely asks after their families or offers political help. Asked recently whether he was enjoying a United Nations conference on climate change in Bonn, Germany, he deadpanned: “No, I hate everything.”

And he still keeps the counsel of a coterie of close aides and friends. He listens most to his two closest advisers, his wife Anne Gust Brown and his executive secretary — or chief of staff — Nancy McFadden. Few political advisers remain.

“He’s the same person, just older and wiser,” said Davis, who served five years as governor two decades after Brown left office. Brown will turn 80 in April.

The son of Gov. Pat Brown, whose legacy endures in the infrastructure boom of the post-war years, Jerry Brown can frustrate some of his liberal allies who care more about social services than the high-speed rail system Brown has advanced or the massive water tunnels he would like to build.

“He will talk about planes, trains, automobiles and tunnels all day long,” said Holly Mitchell, the chair of the state Senate Budget Committee. “But not people.”

Evan Westrup, Brown’s spokesman, disputed the notion that infrastructure comes first in the governor’s mind.
 
“Our future depends on investing in both people and infrastructure and that’s exactly what we’ve done — working closely with the state’s legislative leaders, including the Senate Budget Chair. There is no state doing more on both fronts,” Westrup said.

If many of Brown’s positions haven’t changed over time, his ambitions have. He was once a young man in a hurry; he launched his first of three unsuccessful bids for the White House just over a year after becoming governor. He ran a second time in 1980, against an incumbent Democratic president and a man named Kennedy, a campaign he has told friends was the biggest mistake of his political career.

Brown’s last run for president, in 1992, effectively ended when Bill Clintonbeat him in crucial primaries in New York and Wisconsin. One source close to Brown said he had mulled a fourth run, in 2016, but that he concluded he could not beat Hillary Clinton in a primary.

He began a long political comeback that began as mayor of Oakland, where he felt the burden of statewide regulations on local government. The experience has led to his efforts to devolve at least some control from Sacramento back to localities.

“Oakland really ground Jerry Brown to be the governor he is now,” said Xavier Becerra, the state attorney general. “He got schooled. Oakland is a tough town. It’s a great town.”

Today, Brown’s ambition seems to lie in sounding the alarm.

He is worried about the existential threat of climate change. As the Trump administration rolls back Obama-era environmental rules, Brown has become the most outspoken advocate of swift action to curb emissions, striking deals with Chinese President Xi Jingping and European leaders. He will host world leaders in San Francisco for a Climate Action Summit in September, just months before he leaves office.

He is worried about the dangers of nuclear weapons in an uncertain world. Last year, Brown wrote 3,700 words — not including eleven footnotes — reviewing former Defense Secretary William Perry’s biography of the nuclear age.

And after eight years of economic recovery, during which California went from $20 billion budget deficits to a projected $7 billion surplus, Brown is worried about a recession he sees just around the corner — one reason he wants to squirrel away half of that surplus into the rainy day fund.

“We have a whole political system that judges our executives by the state of the economy, over which they have virtually no impact,” Brown said when he rolled out his budget. “The next governor is going to be on the cliff. … What’s out there is darkness, uncertainty, decline and recession. So good luck, baby.”

Most politicians would take credit for jobs created during a recovery, or the extra money pouring into their coffers. Brown, sources close to him say, is acutely aware that he has inherited an extremely lucky circumstance that allows him to pass a healthy economy to his successor, luck he does not believe will hold.

“Other politicians may have dark foreboding images of the future, but they keep it to themselves. He doesn’t have to do that,” Pitney said. “He’s the freest man in politics.”

Brown reviles talk of his political legacy. His interest in history makes him reflective, friends say, but not necessarily introspective. But the budget turnaround, which even Brown admits is not entirely of his own doing, will be what he is remembered for after he leaves office.

“His legacy, more than any of these other things that people talk about, will be that he brought fiscal stability to the state in a way unimaginable at the time he was elected,” Glazer said.

Brown declined interview requests for this story. But those close to him over the years say they have tried, without much success, to get him to talk less in doom-and-gloom terms and more about what he can do for his state. Those advisers say his outlook is borne of his own history, and the history he began learning as a classics major at Berkeley.

During his first tenure in office, voters passed Proposition 13, vastly reducing property taxes and sending the state into fiscal oblivion. That forced Brown to cut social programs deeply while raising other taxes.

“He suffered because there was not a rainy day fund. He had to raise taxes. He had to make enormous cuts. So it’s out of practical and personal experiences that make him very careful on spending,” Glazer said. “Combine that with his longer-term view of the world and events and it creates a little bit of pessimism about the ability of the human race to act responsibly.”

The young man in a hurry has also evolved into a politician who sees little value in having his name in the paper. During his first stint in office, he was known to share a glass of wine with reporters at David’s Brass Rail, a bar that once sat across the street from the Capitol. Now, he rarely interacts with the media, and sources say he had to be pushed early in his third term to hold brown-bag lunch sessions with reporters.

If Brown has missed an opportunity, it is to shape those who come after him in his own mold. In a state as big as California, progress takes decades.

“Real change takes more than one governor,” Davis said. “I believe in the theory of relay races. One governor can plant a flag. The next governor has to make sure it’s implemented.”

The race to replace Brown includes many ambitious younger Democrats, eager at a platform that could be a launching pad to the presidency. Neither of the two leading contenders, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), have pledged the same sort of fiscal restraint that is the cornerstone of Brown’s legacy.

“He hasn’t taken his style of governing, his philosophy, and tried to imbue it in the leaders that will follow him,” Glazer said. “If you’re trying to create a legacy, that’s the opportunity that you really do have, is trying to build a philosophy of governing that will carry on long beyond the deterioration of the asphalt or the rails of the high speed trains. He’s never tried to do that, and I think it’s the biggest missed opportunity.”

TRUMP’S LIES, The Count

 

As of January 2, President Trump had made 1,950 false or misleading claims over 347 days, according to the Washington Post.  It’s hard to keep up with him. The following is a few days old but is a good summary.

 January 2
 3:08
President Trump’s top five false or misleading claims
 
 

As of Jan. 1, President Trump has made 1,950 false or misleading claims since taking office. Here are the five he says most regularly. 

 

With just 18 days before President Trump completes his first year as president, he is now on track to exceed 2,000 false or misleading claims, according to our database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.

As of Monday, the total stood at 1,950 claims in 347 days, or an average of 5.6 claims a day. (Our full interactive graphic can be found here.)

As regular readers know, the president has a tendency to repeat himself — often. There are now more than 60 claims that he has repeated three or more times. The president’s impromptu 30-minute interview with the New York Times over the holidays, in which he made at least 24 false or misleading claims, included many statements that we have previously fact-checked.

We currently have a tie for Trump’s most repeated claims, both made 61 times. Both of these claims date from the start of Trump’s presidency and to a large extent have faded as talking points.

One of these claims was some variation of the statement that the Affordable Care Act is dying and “essentially dead.” The Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, are not imploding and are expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. Indeed, healthy enrollment for the coming year has surprised health-care experts. Trump used to say this a lot, but he’s quieted down since his efforts to repeal the law flopped.

Trump also repeatedly takes credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office — or had even been elected. Sixty-one times, he has touted that he secured business investments and job announcements that had been previously announced and could easily be found with a Google search.

With the successful push in Congress to pass a tax plan, two of Trump’s favorite talking points about taxes — that the tax plan will be the biggest tax cut in U.S. history and that the United States is one of the highest-taxed nations — have rapidly moved up the list.

Trump repeated the falsehood about having the biggest tax cut 53 times, even though Treasury Department data shows it would rank eighth. And 58 times Trump has claimed that the United States pays the highest corporate taxes (25 times) or that it is one of the highest-taxed nations (33 times). The latter is false; the former is misleading, as the effective U.S. corporate tax rate (what companies end up paying after deductions and benefits) ends up being lower than the statutory tax rate.

We also track the president’s flip-flops on our list, as they are so glaring. He spent the 2016 campaign telling supporters that the unemployment rate was really 42 percent and the official statistics were phony; now, on 46 occasions he has hailed the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years. It was already very low when he was elected — 4.6 percent, the lowest in a decade — so his failure to acknowledge that is misleading.

An astonishing 85 times, Trump has celebrated a rise in the stock market — even though in the campaign he repeatedly said it was a “bubble” that was ready to crash as soon as the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates. Well, the Fed has raised rates three times since the election — and yet the stock market has not plunged as Trump predicted. It has continued a rise in stock prices that began under President Barack Obama in 2009. Again, Trump has never explained his shift in position on the stock market.

Moreover, the U.S. stock-market rise in 2017 was not unique and mirrored a global rise in equities. When looking at the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, it’s clear U.S. stocks haven’t rallied as robustly as their foreign equivalents. Yet Trump loves this claim so much that he has repeated it 28 times in the 49 days since our last update — more often than every other day.

We maintain the database by closely reading or watching Trump’s myriad public appearances and television and radio interviews. The interviews are especially hard to keep up with, in part because the White House does not routinely post on them on its website. In fact, a recent redesign of the White House website appears to make it difficult to find transcripts of Trump’s remarks at the White House.

This project originally started as a first-100-days database, but by popular demand we extended it to one year. We will soon face a decision about whether to maintain it beyond one year, even though it strains the resources (and weekends) of our staff. In at least one instance, the database was used for academic analysis. We welcome thoughts from readers about whether it remains a worthwhile endeavor.

 

 

First Major Gubernatorial Debate

From the LA Times, here’s the full account.

“Newsom settles in as center of his rivals’ attention in first major debate of California governor’s race

Phil Willon, Seema Mehta

A raucous, catcalling audience and volley of sharp political attacks enlivened the first major debate in California’s 2018 governor’s race Saturday, with front-runner Gavin Newsom taking the brunt of the blows from the candidates on stage.

Most of Newsom’s rivals tried at the event to chip away his dominant lead in the polls and money race as the contest, which has been sleepy for the last year, grows more visible and confrontational. The face-off took place at the Empowerment Congress Summit, an annual gathering held at USC.

Newsom, the lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco, kept a steely smile throughout most of the morning debate. He largely stayed out of the fray and on message, even after he was accused of being inconsistent and unrealistic on single-payer healthcare, and too cozy with teachers unions.

The sharpest exchange came from rival Democrat and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who ridiculed Newsom for supporting a state-sponsored universal healthcare system last year without identifying a way to pay for it. The proposal was shelved in the Legislature because of a cost estimated to be as high as $400 billion.

“Anyone who’s telling you that we should do it without a plan is selling you snake oil,” Villaraigosa said.

State Treasurer John Chiang, who like Villaraigosa said he supports the concept of single-payer healthcare but said it was financially out of reach, accused Newsom of changing his position on the issue depending on the audience he was in front of.

Newsom responded by saying that bold change is needed because the current, ineffective healthcare system is driving California into bankruptcy, and that the state needs a governor who is not afraid to act. It was one of the only times Newsom shot back at Villaraigosa.

“Antonio just mentioned that he’s on Medicare. Isn’t that interesting. A single-payer plan in this country … that brings down costs,” said Newsom, who dominates the fundraising race with more than $15 million raised to date, in part because he entered the contest three years ago — far before any of the other candidates.

The debate also grew increasingly chippy between the two Republicans on stage, Huntington Beach Assemblyman Travis Allen and Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox, with the biggest clash over which one of the two has played a bigger role in GOP-led efforts to repeal a newly approved gas tax.

The barbed exchanges between the candidates was often interrupted by applause, loud groans and cascades of boos from the at-capacity crowd inside USC’s Bovard Auditorium. The event was hosted by the Empowerment Congress, a nonprofit civil rights organization in Los Angeles.

With six candidates on stage and only 90 minutes to carve out their political positions, the debate served as a display of each candidate’s style, demeanor and political reflexes rather than a showing of their depth of knowledge on the issues facing California.

The moderators, KABC-TV news anchor Marc Brown and KPCC-FM public radio senior political reporter Mary Plummer, tried without success to quiet down the energized audience. They also admonished the candidates for interrupting one another and going over their time.

The only candidate to avoid conflict was Democrat Delaine Eastin, a former state schools chief, who received a warm response when she expressed strong support for universal preschool in California.

Eastin drew loud applause when expressing her support for immigrants.

“My father was born in Kentucky. Nobody loved California more than he did,” Eastin said. “He used to say, ‘Californians are people who are from somewhere else and came to their senses.’ ”

Education was another flashpoint, with several candidates quickly turning to attack Newsom for his record on the issue.

After Cox blasted Newsom’s endorsement by the California Teachers Assn. as an example of special-interest money controlling politicians, Newsom responded that he was proud of the endorsement.

“I’m committed to public education. I’m committed to increasing funding in our public school system,” Newsom said, pointing to his track record on education while he was mayor of San Francisco.

“San Francisco was the top-performing urban school district in the state of California. We were hardly perfect; we had stubborn achievement gap issues,” he said, adding that the city invested in arts education, placed wellness centers in schools and created college savings accounts for every kindergarten student.

Villaraigosa and Chiang both objected, pointing to uneven performance among different groups of students.

“I don’t think we can gloss over the fact that San Francisco County is the worst county for African American students in this state,” Villaraigosa said. “You can’t just say we have a little bit of an achievement gap. We actually have a real achievement gap, and if this state is going to be a golden state and it’s going to do what we should do to grow together, we’ve got to invest in every one of us.”

Chiang added that Latino and Pacific Islander students also faced a greater performance disparity in San Francisco than in other areas.

“We’re talking about a very select group that may have high achievement that accounts for San Francisco, but when you’re talking about the future of the state of California, they’re being left behind,” he said.

As expected, Democrats and Republicans divided along party lines on many of the other issues they were quizzed about, splitting over the new gas tax, climate change and President Trump’s immigration policies.

The Democrats ripped into Trump for asking participants in an Oval Office meeting Thursday why the United States should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.

Cox sidestepped Trump’s slur, dismissing the controversy as distraction from the real issues facing California. Allen used it as an opportunity to voice his support for Trump’s immigration crackdown, including the president’s push to build a massive border wall. He was roundly booed by the audience.

Cox, who also said he supports the border wall, caught an earful when he tried to explain why he thinks legal immigrants are crucial to California’s financial well-being.

“We also need a wealth of people who can contribute to the American dream, who can pick the fruits and vegetables that make California No. 1” in agriculture, Cox said to loud groans from the crowd.

He used his next opportunity to say he recognized immigrants contributed to all aspects of society.

The biggest clash between the two Republicans was a snippy back-and-forth over the effort to repeal the gas tax.

Allen started gathering signatures in May to place a measure on the ballot, but Cox didn’t get involved in a competing effort until October. Allen’s effort failed Friday to qualify for the ballot, and he joined the effort that Cox is part of.

After Allen urged the audience to sign a petition to put the matter before voters, Cox replied: “Travis, welcome to the fight on getting rid of the gas tax. Glad to have you on board — finally.”

Allen pointed out that his call to repeal the gas tax predates Cox’s.

“It’s funny, John, that was my fight from the beginning, so you’re welcome,” Allen said, later adding, “I’d like to say thank you very much to John Cox for writing a $250,000 check to buy his way into the repeal-the-gas-tax [ballot measure committee].”

Newsom has led all recent polls and has a vast advantage in campaign money raised, both of which make him the favorite to finish first in the June 5 primary.

The race is likely to boil down to a battle for second place — and in California, that’s good enough. Under the state’s top-two primary rules, the two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary win a ticket to the November general election, regardless of their party affiliation.

According to a November USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, Newsom led the pack with 31% of California’s registered voters, followed by Villaraigosa with 21%.

Among the other Democrats, Chiang came in with 11% and Eastin registered at 4%. Allen led among the major Republicans with 15% and Cox was favored by 11%.

Former GOP congressman Doug Ose, who entered the race just over a week ago and did not receive an invitation to the town hall, was not included in the poll.

The “Genius” In the White House

The Washington Post

The ‘genius’ of Trump: What the president means when he touts his smarts

Trump defends his mental fitness
 

At a news conference at Camp David Jan 6., President Trump responded to a question from a reporter about a tweet he posted on his mental state earlier that day. 

 January 13 at 8:04 PM

The genius in the White House has always believed that what makes him special is his ability to get things done without going through the steps others must take.

In school, he bragged that he’d do well without cracking a book. As a young real estate developer, his junior executives recalled, he skipped the studying and winged his way through meetings with politicians, bankers and union bosses. And as a novice politician, he scoffed at the notion that he might suffer from any lack of experience or knowledge.

So when President Trump tweeted last weekend that he “would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!” it was consistent with a pattern of asserting that he will do this his way, without bending to expectations about what constitutes proper presidential behavior.

The tweet, issued in response to a new book that suggests his closest advisers doubt his mental stability, not only doubled down on his belief that smashing conventions is the path to success but also underscored his lifelong conviction that he wins when he’s the center of attention. In the ceaseless battle of life, Trump made clear by claiming the title of genius that he won’t give way to those who believe he doesn’t belong at the top.

“There is a certain kind of genius to winning the presidency like it was an entry-level job,” said Dave Shiflett, the co-writer of Trump’s first book about his political views, “The America We Deserve,” which was published in 2000. “To go into those campaign rallies with just a few notes and connect with people he wasn’t at all like, that takes a certain genius. His genius is he’ll say anything to connect with people. He won by telling the rally crowds that the people who didn’t like them also didn’t like him.”

To many people who worked with Trump throughout his career, last week’s tweets — and Tuesday’s virtually unprecedented Cabinet Room reality show, in which the president conducted an on-camera negotiation about immigration policy with stunned congressional Republicans and Democrats — were familiar tactics: a bold, even brazen, drive to put on a show and make himself the star.

Even when he is not overtly trying to win attention, his natural instinct — a form of genius to some, a sign of instability to others — is to choose the unfiltered path, as he did Thursday, when he told senators during a White House discussion about immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations that the United States should bring in people from countries like Norway, not from “shithole countries.” Although Trump on Friday appeared to deny having used that vulgarity, he tweeted that he did use “tough” language — a long-standing point of pride for the president, whose political ascent was fueled by his argument that, as a billionaire, he is liberated to say what some other Americans only think.

From his earliest days in the real estate business, Trump boasted frequently about being smart, said Barbara Res, who was Trump’s top construction executive when he built Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in the 1980s.

“He needed to be stroked all the time and told how smart he was,” she said. “Every decision process was clouded by his sense that he knows more than anybody else. But you could work with that: The way we got things done was to approach him with an idea and make him think it was his. It was so easy.”

Res added: “Donald was always a forest person; he never knew anything about the trees. He knew concrete was brought in on trucks, but he really didn’t know how to run a project. What he had was street smarts — good instincts about people.”

Those instincts did not always bring about stellar results, as Trump’s enterprises suffered a series of bankruptcies and other setbacks from the 1990s through the years before he entered politics.

Those who have watched Trump for decades say he has always encouraged people around him to view him as someone who could see things that others could not. A.J. Benza, a former journalist who covered Trump for many years in New York and in 2001 had a public spat with him when Trump began going out with Benza’s girlfriend, said that Trump often talked about being the smartest guy in the room.

 

“He never meant ‘book genius’ when he said it,” said Benza, who now hosts “Fame is a Bitch,” a podcast about celebrity. “He means, okay, he didn’t hit the brains lottery, but he’s brilliant and cunning in the way he operates. He’s amazing at taking the temperature of the room and knowing how to appease everyone. You want that kind of instinct in your quarterbacks, in your generals. It’s not what we’ve ever thought of as what makes a great president, but he’s never going to be the guy who makes great speeches. This is who he is.”

Being something of a genius was central to Trump’s self-image, his former executives said. Everyone around him learned to cater to that — even his father, who trained Trump to follow in his footsteps as a developer.

In the first major newspaper profile of Trump, in the New York Times in 1976, his father, Fred Trump, describes his son as “the smartest person I know.”

Throughout his life, Donald Trump has believed that his instincts and street smarts positioned him to succeed where others might struggle. At the University of Pennsylvania, he concluded that “there was nothing particularly awesome or exceptional about my classmates” in the real estate division of the Wharton School’s business program, Trump later wrote in one of his books. “Perhaps the most important thing I learned at Wharton was not to be overly impressed by academic credentials.”

Res said that Trump often bragged that he was “first” in his class in the Wharton program or that he was a “top student” there, but his name does not appear in the school’s honor roll, and classmates recalled him as someone who skated by doing little work. “He did what it took to get through the program,” classmate Louis Calomaris told The Washington Post in 2016.

His father often told Trump that “you are a king,” instructing him to “be a killer.” Fred Trump was a student of Dale Carnegie, the evangelist of success through self-improvement, and an acolyte of Norman Vincent Peale, the New York minister who preached a gospel of positive thinking.

“I believe in being prepared and all that stuff,” Trump told biographer Michael D’Antonio. “But in many respects, the most important thing is an innate ability. I’m a big believer in natural ability,” which, Trump said, he had “always had.”

Throughout his business career, Trump expressed deep skepticism of book learning, scoffing at the notion that academics were smarter than others, contending instead that his instincts would prevail over those who studied a subject to death.

In 2000, when Shiflett co-wrote Trump’s book on politics, a newspaper that was writing about the book asked what author had most influenced Trump. Shiflett said he called Trump’s office to find out what he should tell the reporter, and he was told to pick any writer he wanted to. “So I told them he likes Dostoevsky,” Shiflett said. “It was all just good times; the spirit around him was kind of mirthful. Everybody understood that and nobody took any of it very seriously.”

In Trump’s vocabulary, “genius” is perhaps the highest praise, and it refers to a street-level ability to get things done. Trump often referred to his lawyer and early mentor Roy Cohn as “a total genius” or a “political genius,” even if he was also “a lousy lawyer.” Trump explained in one of his books that his own true “genius” was for public relations: Rather than spending money on advertising, he said, he put his efforts toward winning news coverage of himself as a “genius.”

Despite his long history of boasts and his many admissions that he has a large ego, Trump has also had moments of extreme self-doubt. Biographer Harry Hurt described a period around 1990 when, as his marriage to Ivana Trump was breaking up, he occasionally spoke about suicide, according to friends and relatives.

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Ivana Trump decided that the couple should see a psychiatrist. Her husband resisted at first but then agreed, telling her he’d go, “only if you think it will fix what’s wrong with you,” according to Hurt’s 1993 book “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.” Hurt reported that the future president attended only one session.

Soon, he was back to his usual publicly bullish self, “Trump being Trump,” as he sometimes called it.

“He says things because it gets attention,” Shiflett said. “He just wants people to talk about him.”

Short Ribs and Random Thoughts Jan 17 2018

TRUMP’S MEETING ON DACA etc  As Peter Baker of the NYT put it,   “He did not lapse into incoherence, but neither did he demonstrate mastery of policy details after a year in office.”   Well said.

THE NORWEGIAN INVASION-   Just when you think it can’t get ANY worse, Trump lowers the bar AGAIN.   He makes vile comments about  Haitians and pines for more Norwegian immigrants.  I can’t think of a more clear example of racism.  Then this morning we get to see the HHS Secretary, a blonde Viking type with an extra “j” in her name, declare that she has lost her hearing and sight when it comes to Trump.  Maybe we SHOULD record all his meetings. His selective reality is more than a joke.

BLUNDERS IN PUBLIC LIFE- been a big week for those, from the  fellow in our local welfare department who doesn’t know how to track expenses to the gigantic screwup in Hawaii. When I lived there we had frequent tsunami warnings and when those sirens went off I knew it would take a long time to get home to Waialua because they held us up at Wahiawa.  Everyone complained they were too eager to shut the road but no one questioned the basic competence of the system.  The State employees in Hawaii are abysmally paid, and  folks who are paid poorly are usually supervised poorly too.  One thing I can tell you:  EVERYONE on Oahu knows who  the hapless wrong-button pusher was.  The Coconut Wireless puts electronic media to shame.

OH THE IGNORANCE!  Ana Cabrera on CNN makes $150K a year and supposedly has a degree from Washington State,  but when someone used the term”kabuki”, referring to diplomatic machinations between the two Koreas, she said “Oooh, I’ll have to look that one up”. Is there any high school graduate from California who wouldn’t recognize the term “kabuki”?  I don’t think so.

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP-  Like everyone else I’ve been wanting to read “Fire and Fury”.  Eureka Books is taking orders but has no idea when their shipment will come in. Believe it or not, my Chinese -speaking friend was approached online by a fellow who wanted to publish a Chinese translation but his details on rights were pretty sketchy so my friend held off but meanwhile the guy sent us the whole book!  Unfortunately, he sent it to my friends PHONE so we’re reading it to each other page by page.

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