Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Who said that?

I read a fine short biography of a famous man recently. Some things, however, jumped out at me -- a deja vu moment.

Here are three quotations from the great man:



1.“All of you know nothing; I alone know something. I alone decide.”

2.“My course is the right one, and in it I shall continue to steer. We are destined for greatness, and I shall lead you to glorious days.”

3.“Beware the time when I shall give the orders.”

And here is advice on dealing with him from his closest friend:

4.“[He] takes everything personally. Only personal arguments make any impression on him. He likes to give advice to others but is unwilling to take it himself. He cannot stand boredom; ponderous, stiff, excessively thorough people get on his nerves and cannot get anywhere with him. [He] wants to shine and to do and decide everything himself. What he wants to do himself unfortunately often goes wrong. He loves glory, he is ambitious and jealous. To get him to accept an idea one has to pretend that the idea came from him. …He is the sort of person who becomes sullen unless he is given recognition from time to time by someone of importance. You will always accomplish whatever you wish so long as you do not omit to express your appreciation when [he] deserves it. He is grateful for it like a good, clever child...We two will always carefully observe the boundaries of flattery.”

Who said that?

The three quotations in italics are from Kaiser Wilhelm II, who [mis]ruled Germany from 1888 until 1918. The advice was given to Foreign Minister Berhard von Bulow by Wilhelm's longtime friend, Count Philipp zu Eulenburg-Hertefeld. The book, Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1859-1941: A Concise Life, by John C.G. Rohl, who earlier had written a 3-volume life of the kaiser.

Sound familiar?

Friday, February 10, 2017

LBJ and DJT

Lyndon Johnson, by all accounts, was a big, egotistical, profane, domineering man. So is Donald Trump. Both men showed a keen sense of their opponents' weaknesses. Both men bullied others relentlessly. Both men were obsessed with television news about themselves.

But there are significant differences. Lyndon Johnson knew how government works and how to make it work for him. Donald Trump is clueless, careless, incurious, and thus likely to be ineffective.

One of the Senators I worked for was like LBJ in many ways: big, assertive, temperamental. Over the years I observed, however, that he didn't lose his temper, he deployed it --for impact and effect. And it often worked.  Johnson, too, deployed his anger and his affection for strategic effects, and they often worked.

Too bad -- for him -- that  DJT lacks the skills and qualities of LBJ.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson

President Trump now has a large portrait of Andrew Jackson hanging in the Oval Office, Some of his closest advisors, including Steve Bannon, have labeled him a Jacksonian, mainly on the grounds that he will be a populist and be politically disruptive.

Some historians like H.W.Brands have disputed the comparison. I think, worry actually, that Trump may practice the worst of Jackson's policies.

Remember, Jackson destroyed the Bank of the United States and the economic regime it had created, sending the United States into the worst depression of its early history. Trump has sharply criticized the Federal Reserve, head of our current banking system, has expressed indifference to the idea of a default on our national debt, and seems intent on tearing down our existing structure of trade agreements.

Remember, Jackson famously defied the Supreme Court, refusing to enforce its decision in an Indian claims case. Who believes that Trump would enforce a court order against any of his key policies, such as the immigration ban?

Remember, Jackson forced the removal of Indians from their eastern lands, sending thousands, many of whom died, along the Trail of Tears. Trump's orders have already led to the removal of legal immigrants and visa holders; and he seems ready to deport thousands of nonviolent, law-abiding people lacking proper documents.

With that kind of record, Jackson falls far short of political sainthood in my view. I hope that Trump does not follow that model.