After the dismissal of Bolton, Focus on the elections, stupid!

If his aim is to win the next presidential elections, Trump will have to be very careful to avoid involvement in a serious international conflict.

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In 1992, in order to focus the principal theme of the electoral campaign against the outgoing Republican George H.W. Bush, the electoral strategy of the Democrat Bill Clinton, James Carville minted the expression “It’s the economy, stupid!” Today, in order to conserve hope in the electoral campaign of 2020, in which the Republican President Donald Trump hopes to be re-elected, it is evident at this pre-election stage that what the inhabitant of the White House cannot or should do should respond to the watchword “Focus on the elections, stupid!”


I believe it is important to point this out, since if Trump has any clear objective it is to gain a second mandate, and perhaps a third as he prepares his daughter Ivanka or one of his sons (especially his elder son Don Trump) in order to establish a “Trump dynasty.” That is, the long-term victory of an unbounded egocentrism, as we will see.


In fact the electoral campaign is already under way with the Democratic Party primaries, and while it is too soon to have a realistic vision, it must be said that opinion polls on Trump’s popularity and his government are hardly favourable, and that in theory currently any of the three principal candidates in the Democratic primaries, that is, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders could defeat him in the national vote by respectable margins [1]. Even so, keeping in mind the (anti-democratic) particularity of the electoral system of the United States, the scenario of 2016 could repeat itself, where Trump lost to Hilary Clinton in the national vote and won with the number of delegates in the Electoral College.


In any event, at a little less than a year before the vote it is absurd to anticipate the results, since the present polls are nothing more than “momentary fixed images” and people’s voting intention tends to be crystallized a few weeks or days before the election; but a specialist noted that “Given the consistency of Trump’s approval rating, I wouldn’t read too much into the latest downward trend. It could tick back up a notch or two before too long. At the same time, his approval rating was mediocre, even when it sat a couple points higher, so steadiness isn’t exactly a great sign for Trump. If it doesn’t notably improve, Trump’s approval might sink him in 2020” [2]


But if the question is to win the next presidential elections, Trump will first have to be very careful in the international sphere to avoid involvement in a serious international conflict, for example in a war against a regional power such as Iran after the attack of the Yemini Houthis against the Saudi Arabian oil installations, or in a direct or indirect (through their Colombian satellite) attack on Venezuela, that without doubt would have regional repercussions at a time in which the re-established regimes compatible with US imperialism are at coming to an end (Argentina) or sapped (Brazil and Ecuador).


Analysing the dismissal of Bolton, the editor of the journal The American Conservative, W. James Antle III, points out that “Many of these domestic policy initiatives are out of Trump’s reach as long as Democrats control at least one chamber of Congress. Yet he can still deliver on foreign policy, if he means what he says. Otherwise he can let B-Team Bushies once again get Republicans tossed out of the White House, this time only after a single term. Trump can chart a different course or heed the advice of those who know only how to lose elections and wars. The choice is his to make, not John Bolton’s. And he’s running out of time”. [3]


He should also ensure that the trade war that he launched against China does not intensify, which would result in a confrontation that would unleash or increase the economic recession that is already beginning in the principal Western countries, as has been noted by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in one of the most pessimistic forecasts on the World Economy that we have seen in a year and which noted that the World Economy is moving towards a recession and that the governments are not doing enough in terms of fiscal stimulation to boost the economy. The scale of the tensions in trade policy is increasingly affecting the confidence in investment, increasing the uncertainty in matters of policy, influencing the feelings of risk in financial markets and endangering the prospect of future growth.


Another point of tension with China is military, with the US policy of militarily encircling the country, to which Beijing is responding with a rapid modernization of their military power. Trump himself recently pointed this out and qualified it as a threat, following to the letter the directives of National Security and National Defence [4] of December 2017 and January 2018, where the need to struggle against “revisionist powers” is clearly indicated. Powers that “want to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests. China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favour. Russia seeks to restore its great power status and establish spheres of influence near its borders. Such as China and Russia, that employ technologies, propaganda and coercion for a world that represents the antithesis of our interests and values”.


With respect to Russia, President Trump will have to decide if he will continue to allow the present policy of widening and reinforcing the fence around that country with military NATO bases equipped with short and medium range missiles, whereas the option that seems to prevail in the Pentagon, begun under the influence of Bolton, is to employ “tactically” short and medium range nuclear arms, which ex-Colonel Laurence Wilkerson recently said reminds us of the nefarious influence of Bolton. Wilkerson was the head of personnel of Secretary of State Colin Powell under the administration of George W. Bush. Wilkerson recently declared that Bolton had personally supervised the dismantling of the two arms control treaties: the Anti-Ballistic Missiles Treaty (ABMT) under George W. Bush, and the Intermediate Reach Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) under Trump: “Bolton never met an arms control agreement that he liked,” Wilkerson comments. “I can’t tell you how many arms controllers in the State Department came into my office week after week almost in tears — one of them in tears. They couldn’t understand why they were having to work under Bolton — the man who hated arms control — when it was their profession, their mission, their responsibility, to advocate for arms control and secure arms control agreements… Bolton’s theory — at least as expressed to me — was that you bomb everybody in the world if you have to. You don’t have arms control because people will cheat.” [5].


All of the above, even if just from inertia, continue to feed new tensions and disputed areas in the already difficult relations between both countries, created by all kinds of sanctions that Trump approved since 2017, without counting those that affect or depend on the relation between Washington and Moscow at a regional level (the Middle East and Our America) and internationally.


The long list of defeats in foreign policy


In questions of foreign policy, it is clear that the objective of Trump has been and continues to be to restore the US Empire at a global level, but not through failed neoliberal policies but rather by imposing de facto the supremacy of the United States that the country enjoys with the dollar as the principal currency in commercial interchange and financial transactions, an extraterritorial power that allows them to launch trade wars and apply criminal sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, countries regarding which Trump declared that he was “more extremist” than Bolton.


Until the recent bombardment of petroleum installations in Saudi Arabia by the Houthis of Yemen, that gave place to unfounded accusations that this was “an act of aggression” on the part of Iran, Trump privileged sanctions of every kind to weaken (and eventually destroy) the Government of Teheran, and the electoral defeat of his “ally” Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, who had always pushed for a total war against Iran. This permitted Trump to avoid launching a war that would cut off the petroleum supply from the Persian Gulf, provoking an increase of the price of crude oil and in consequence a global recession or depression in a full electoral campaign.


The rupture by Trump of the international agreement of 2015 with Iran and the brutal sanctions of every kind that followed was a failure for Washington because it put an end to diplomacy in this affair of such importance to avoid nuclear proliferation, and internationally isolated Washington more than Teheran.


In the case of Venezuela the failure of the strategy designed by Bolton (with the approval of Trump) is more than evident: the Bolivarian Government of Nicolás Maduro continues in place, it has been strengthened by the definitive failure of the puppet Guaidó. Maduro collected over 13 million signatures to reject the policies of Trump that will be presented before the UN, and in addition negotiated with the opposition that rejects US intervention to put in place a process to rehabilitate the National Assembly and revive political dialogue in Venezuela. In this context a military intervention by Washington–even though instrumentalised through Colombia–, would cause regional and global rejection, and would also be a very secure way for Trump to lose the Presidential election in 2020.


Foreign policy was the sphere where Trump had the greater possibilities to effect the changes that he promised in 2016 and has been where he has harvested the most failures (and planted seeds for more).


In the case of Cuba the criminal policy of Trump, that will fail as have all the policies of Washington over six decades, is a “typically domestic” affair, explained by the influence of his “great friend” Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator who constantly calls for extreme sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela in order to capture the votes of migrants from these and other countries.


But at the same time the radical politics that Trump applies to the closing of frontiers and the building of a frontier wall to prevent the coming of “latinos” also affects the Cubans who want to emigrate through Mexico to the United States, and on the other hand the policy of brutal sanctions against Cuba affects the Cubans who want to send money from the US to their families in Cuba. Trump does not appear to understand that the border wall and his anti-immigrant policy, that includes the incarceration of “illegals” and their expulsion through Mexico, is constructing a “political wall” between himself and the tens of millions of voters of Mexican or Central American origin who legally reside in the United States and who, if they have the right to vote this time, will vote remembering the construction of a steel wall that will separate millions of Mexican and Central American immigrants from their families and friends.


Who comes after Bolton?


Numerous notes and analysis about the dismissal of the National Security Advisor John Bolton have said that, with this decision, President Donald Trump wanted to end the failed and criminal policy of provoking “regime changes” in Iran and Venezuela, thus avoiding the foreign policy of previous administrations of launching armed interventions in which the US remained mired. The Chinese publication Global Times cites Diau Daming, an expert on studies of the United States and Associate Professor in the University Renmin of China in Beijing, for whom “Bolton was simply not useful anymore”; Diao concluded that “Trump is entering the election period and so his diplomacy needs more flexibility than hard-liners” [6].


In any case the naming of the special assistant for negotiation over hostages Robert C. O’Brien as his new advisor on National Security–that is the fourth Advisor for National Security in three years–, puts this in doubt, since “strikingly, just days ago in Israel, O’Brien contemplated war with Iran over Americans imprisoned in that country”[7].


Will O’Brien be a “hawk without a moustache?” The suspicion is well-founded given that Trump confirmed that he will follow an aggressive policy of “maximum pressure”, last September 20, in a press round table with the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, and declared that “obviously China is a menace for the world, in a certain sense, because it is building up its armed forces faster than anyone else,” and about Iran he said that there would be new sanctions, “the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country,” which was confirmed by his Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, who, for his part, said “now we have cut off all the funds of Iran.”


For Nancy Cook, in the review Politico, the “the China trade war, talks with the Taliban, the response to Iran after Saudi attacks, gun control, new tax legislation and a long list of other policy issues are up in the air and awaiting decisions from President Donald Trump — and him alone — heading into the 2020 election season. In many ways, it’s the presidency Trump has always wanted. He’s at the center of the action. He’s fully in command. And he’s keeping world leaders on edge and unsure of his next moves, all without being hemmed in by aides or the traditional strictures of a White House”.


Cook adds that “after four national security advisers, three chiefs of staff, three directors of oval office operations and five communications directors, the president is now finding the White House finally functions in a way that fits his personality. Trump doubters have largely been ousted, leaving supporters to cheer him on and execute his directives with fewer constraints than ever before. ‘It is a government of one in the same way in which the Trump Organization was a company of one,’ said a former senior administration official” [8].


Businessman” or politician?


In reality in the electoral campaign of 2016, the candidature of Trump, who entered the realm of politics without previous political experience, had two “ingredients” necessary for winning: a promise to put an end to policies that led to crime and interminable military interventions that drained enormous financial resources, and to end the policies of neoliberal globalization that allowed the transnational companies of the United States to transfer to other countries–in particular to China–the production value chains, and hence de-industrialization of a great part of the US industrial economy. At least it was thus that the majority of those who voted for Trump interpreted the “America First!”


The policies of Trump at the beginning of his first mandate indicated this path, but the lack of support and of broad relations within the Republican Party (and the typical obstinacy of a triumphant “business man”, a sociopath with a lack of knowledge as to how the State works in his country) did not allow him to duly execute the first act for an effective “seizure of state power”, that is of the key organisations and institutions of the Executive through the replacement of officials who occupied the key posts and constituted the chain of transition of command with the naming of people loyal to a new mandate. Without this “seizure of power”, the intentions of the new head of state were left “in the air” or were frustrated, as one saw with “Russiagate”, and in the end he had to resign himself to naming hawks tied to previous administrations, of George W. Bush in particular, which meant that in foreign policy he maintained the status quo or worse. It is thus that his most important initiatives, among them the dialogue with Russia and the retirement of US troops from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq were aborted.


Trump was not and could only with difficulty be a politician, because he always was and continued to be an ambitious “business man”, because he has always been in search of opportunities and easy prey to enrich himself, because he lacks empathy for “the other”, whoever they may be, and because he reasons without any ethical or moral rules, without feeling the need to dialogue or look for compromises, because in this world of triumphant and brutal “businessmen”, results are imposed by the force of money, the “maximum pressure” that was also Bolton’s “trademark”.


The disconcerting “offer” to buy Greenland, a semi-autonomous territory with a Prime Minister under the administration of Denmark, portrays him well. And as real estate deals are the business of Trump and are made through agreements between private parties employing diverse forms of intimidation, it is normal to think that from now on, the White House Trump sees it as normal to impose its will, with these same criteria, over Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, China and soon some countries of the European Union,; that is, by dictating the conditions and in the case of refusal imposing brutal monetary and commercial sanctions, impeding the use of the dollar in currency and trade transactions, introducing tariffs or quotas for imports, prohibiting the export of certain products, etc.


It is of little importance to the “business man” who lives in the White House that millions of people suffer hunger, die for lack of medicines or through bombardments, as in Yemen, Syria or Libya and that closer to us in Venezuela or Cuba, millions of people suffer privations due to commercial blockades.


Interviews with one of his biographers and former collaborators in private dealings with Trump reveal what is probably the real Trump. For example Alan Lapidus, an architect who worked for the Trump organization and who has known Trump since he was a teenager and and just starting in the family real estate business, said to the journal Foreign Policy [9] that “Donald’s deal-making skills are a wonderful figment of his own imagination. His negotiating skill consists of screaming and threatening. Donald has no subtlety and no sense of humor. It’s bludgeon, bludgeon, bludgeon”. Lapidus adds that the successful agreements of Trump and his business were “largely because of the skill of his senior executives such as Harvey Freeman and Susan Heilbron, who handled most of the Trump Organization’s Atlantic City and leasing negotiations. They did all the detailed analysis and reading, none of which he would ever do.”


Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer who interviewed him many times, agrees with Lapidus that there is no discernible difference in the way Trump negotiates today, as president, compared to his career in business: “His style involves a hostile attitude and a bullying method designed to wring every possible concession out of the other side while maximizing his own gain,” D’Antonio said. “As he explained to me, he’s not interested in ‘win-win’ deals, only in ‘I win’ outcomes. When I asked if he ever left anything on the table as a sign of goodwill so that he might do business with the same party in the future he said no, and pointed out that there are many people in the world he can work with, one at a time.” When negotiating with countries rather than companies, however, the situation is different. There are only so many countries in the world, and a president must deal with the major ones again and again, and on many different levels—goodwill counts, in other words. Moreover, countries cannot be driven out of business like competitors in business; they don’t file for bankruptcy and conveniently disappear. There is no zero-sum ‘Only I win’ outcome in trade. “Temperamentally, the president is unprepared for diplomacy and negotiations with sovereign states,” said D’Antonio. “He doesn’t know how to practice the give-and-take that would produce bilateral or multilateral achievements and he takes things so personally that he considers those with a different point of view to be enemies. He is offended when others decline to be bullied and angered by those who counter his proposals with their own ideas.” (10)


This theme will probably come out during the electoral campaign, since recently various articles on the behavioural and personality problems of Trump towards his collaborators have appeared in publications such as the daily Washington Post and Business Insider [11].


In reality the only time when Trump had a political sparkle was when he undertook a dialogue with Kim Jong-un, the leader of the Popular Democratic Republic of Korea, an initiative that was openly sabotaged by John Bolton and without Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intervening to save it.


With respect to the attempts of dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is certain that from the beginning there was systematic sabotage with the “Russiagate” created by directors of the Democratic Party in close cooperation with the state agencies not controlled by Trump, such as the FBI and the CIA, the NSA and part of the Department of Justice and the State Department, all this combined with the press. But it is also certain that Trump never risked making a presidential political decision, worthy of a statesman, and which would be totally legal and acceptable given the amplitude of his mandate in questions of international relations, in order to maintain meetings and dialogue with Putin, which confirms that he has little or nothing of a politician.


On the trade war with China, the only possible interpretation is that it was a typical decision of a “business man” accustomed to applying “maximum pressure” to come out winning rapidly, and not of a politician, properly advised and knowledgeable of the long and rich history of China both in questions of commerce and diplomacy as well as in the art of war and the martial arts. And it is because of this that the “maximum pressure” of Trump ended up backfiring, since the response of China was and will continue to be at the level of the offense received.


The teams of US and Chinese negotiators will meet again at the end of September and the reality will be that this time the position of Trump will reflect his electoral priorities and the interests both of the population and of the economy and business. The latter are already organizing (through a political network financed no less than by an organization created by the multimillionaire Charles Koch) “a new strategy against the trade war of President Donald Trump with China” (and the new plan) is what they call a “‘two steps back strategy,’ which will involve putting together a team of almost 100 business leaders to call on the Trump administration and lawmakers to end the trade war with China. Some of these executives have ties to the farming business, an industry that has been negatively impacted by the tariffs.” [12] The majority of them voted for Trump in 2016. In effect, according to the review Forbes (13) the American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “China’s announcement that it will not buy any agricultural products from the United States is a body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by… The recent decision by Trump’s EPA to exempt an additional 31 small oil refineries from incorporating ethanol, which is made from corn and accounts for 40% of total corn use per the USDA, will put even more stress on farmers.” And a Newsweek article in May detailed a Fox News interview with Patty Edelburg, vice president of the Washington-based National Farmers Union, which represents about 200,000 U.S. farms. In the interview she said, “It has been insane. We've had a lot of farmers—a lot more bankruptcies going on, a lot more farmer suicides. These things are highlighting many of the news stories in our local news.”


What Trump definitely has not understood and apparently could not understand is that in a capitalist regime (and more so when it is a question of an empire) the State is the “syndicate” of the capitalist class to negotiate nationally and internationally the interests of this class, and to negotiate is based on “give and take”, and not only to impose “maximum” pressures, which explains why the above mentioned criticism is coming very frequently from the conservative political spectrum.


From re-election to the founding of the “Trump dynasty”


For Trump the 2020 elections will be something more than re-election for a second mandate, since with all the sincerity of someone who considers himself a supreme universal Emperor awaiting due domestic and international recognition, this election should establish the bases of a Trump “dynasty”, as he himself let it be known and described it well in an extensive article of McKay Coppins in the The Atlantic [14].


The article of Coppins details the preparation of this “dynasty” among Trump’s offspring and the struggle between the two eldest, Don(ald) and Ivanka. And though Ivanka is the preferred one and until recently the one marked to be the Empress, according to Coppins in recent months it was Don who showed the “qualities”–that is, he became the carbon copy of his father–to position himself and to rise within the Republican electoral machine. This happened last June, in the meeting in Orlando where Trump launched his campaign for re-election. And Coppins concludes pointing out that “in that moment, there was little question what the future of the Trump family would look like. After a century and a half of striving, they had money, and fame, and unparalleled power. But respectability would remain as distant a mirage as it was when Friedrich was chasing it across the Yukon. While no one knew when Donald Trump would exit the White House, it was clear what he would leave behind when he did: an angry, paranoid scrap of the country eager to buy what he was hawking—and an heir who knew how to keep the con alive”.


The first steps of the electoral campaign


Meanwhile surveys of the US electorate show that the level of opposition to the policies of the Trump government are over 50%, and that the national vote is divided among various Democratic candidates (Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren), but since the vote is indirect in the electoral system of the US (the winner in each State obtains a fraction of the 538 “electors” who will elect the president), it could happen that the candidate who obtains a majority of votes at the national level may lose the election in the “Electoral College” if the rival triumphs in States that give him 270 or more “electors”.


Some of the Democratic candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren, criticise the US electoral system for not representing the principal that all votes count, and last March, columnist Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times gave a description and evaluation of the “Electoral College”, affirming that “Whatever its potential merits, it is a plainly undemocratic institution. It undermines the principle of “one person, one vote,” affirmed in 1964 by the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. Sims — a key part of the civil and voting rights revolution of that decade. It produces recurring political crises. And it threatens to delegitimize the entire political system by creating larger and larger splits between who wins the public and who wins the states.” [15]


It is also important to recall that, to date, the results of Trump’s policies to bring back the industrial jobs that decades ago “moved” to China are so far relatively insignificant and that the industries that want to return to the US face the lack of qualified workers with experience. All this in a context in which the majority of US citizens carry on their shoulders an enormous private debt because of the high cost of housing, medical services, education, and this due to the fact that average wages are lower than they were three decades ago, while the habits of consumers have ceased to correspond to family incomes. Those who go to vote most are the retired, who are already suffering the collapse of various pension funds [16]. In social terms it is evident that in the United States there is now a greater social crisis than in 2016, which could be reflected in the 2020 elections, both at the level of participation and in the polarization of the vote.


Concerning what Trump might win in the next few months with a moderation of his foreign policy in order to dilute the opposition to new commercial or military wars within the Republican and conservative electorate in general, much will depend on the initiatives and disposition of Trump to show convincingly (inside and outside of the US) that he will act as a statesman to achieve the much desired dynasty in the White House and not as the present “business man”, that is, to persuade people that he will not continue his work of demolition of the institutions of international legality.


There are many reasons to doubt that a miracle of this kind could occur, but the reality is that history will follow its course because the politics of this decadent imperialism have brought a growing isolation of the US at an international level and the formation of regional systems that resist imperialist policies, building a new multilateral system based on mutual respect for national interests.


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop and Joan Remple)


1.- Collection of polls:




3.- W. J. Antle III, “After Bolton, Trump second term depends on America First”,


4.‑ A. Rabilotta: 2017, año del imperialismo sin tapujos. ¿Y el 2018? (I)


5.‑ John Bolton is out, but neocon agenda stays:


6.‑ Global Times: Bolton exit marks failure of 'maximum pressure’




8.‑ Nancy Cook, An unshackled Trump finally gets the presidency he always wanted:‑presidency‑aides‑white‑house‑1502041; Advisers struggle to obey Trump's Kafkaesque rules, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, The Washington Post:‑struggle‑to‑obey‑Trump‑s‑Kafkaesque‑rules‑14432599.php


9.‑ Why Trump Fails at Making Deals, Michael Hirsh‑trump‑cant‑make‑deals‑international‑negotiations/


10.‑ Trump Doesn’t Know How to Negotiate, Daniel Larison‑doesnt‑know‑how‑to‑negotiate/








14.‑ The Heir, McKay Coppins, The Atlantic‑dynasty/596674/


15.‑ Jamelle Bouie, Colegio electoral:


16.‑ Portal to follow the crisis of pension funds
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