The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Trump-Style Lack of Interest in Details

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt, another segment that will endear me to the Trump fans:

Yes, Trump Fans, At Some Point We Have to Discuss the Details

My fear is that there’s a lot of truth to this argument from Peter Suderman at Reason.

I suspect, though, that most of Trump’s supporters, rather like Trump himself, have put very little effort into imagining a Trump presidency, except to idly fantasize about all the ways that it would be different and awesome and better. He would be an exciting, deal-making, ass-kicker who would strike fear into the hearts of America’s enemies, and he would do this simply by virtue of being Donald Trump, in all his glorious, exciting Trumpiness.

What Trump offers is a fantasy of governance without negotiation, of economic success without policy detail, of a president who does not particularly feel the need to act presidential. It’s a fantasy of politics without politics, for people who just don’t want to think about it too much. In this view, the fact that Trump has clearly put so little thought into it himself makes him seem sensible and relatable. All of which is to say that the mindlessness and stupidity of Trump’s presidential campaign are not incidental to the candidate’s recent success. On the contrary, they are key to his appeal.

A little while back I discussed Trump’s “take the oil fields” fixation.

Mention the fact that the Geneva Conventions ban taking territory and property, and Trump fans hand-wave it away.

How many U.S. troops would it take to secure those oil fields? (Seems safe to assume our allies wouldn’t join us, unless they were getting a cut, right?) Are these troop deployments effectively permanent, like our presence in South Korea and Germany? How do you think the locals are going to respond the day President Trump announces that the oil fields in Iraq now belong to the United States?

Who operates those oil fields? Right now, all kinds of oil companies – both private and state-owned – are operating the drills in these fields. ExxonMobil and Chevron are operating fields in Kurdistan, and ExxonMobil operates the West Qurna I field in southern Iraq. Are we nationalizing those facilities?

How does the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation, currently operating 46 percent of the Rumala Oil Field, respond when America declares, ‘that’s our oil field now?’ How about the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, operating about 40 percent of the Atrush field? How about the Italian Eni Oil Company, operating about 30 percent of the Az Zubair Field?

How do you think Russia and China react once the United States announces it is annexing territory, property and equipment to “reimburse ourselves” for $1.5 trillion?

Trump’s “I will make Mexico pay to build a wall along the border!” is similarly detail-free and just about unworkable in the real world. I asked Trump fans how they think President Trump would persuade the Mexican government — $556 billion in debt – to build a border fence/wall, at an estimated cost of $22 billion to $30 billion?

“Cut off U.S. foreign aid to Mexico!” Mexico gets about $420 million in foreign aid from the United States – relatively small in relation to the Mexican economy. A key contrast is that Mexico receives about $21 billion in remittances from Mexican workers in the U.S. annually.

Let’s shrink the numbers to clarify this. Under this plan, we will threaten to no longer send them a nickel each year, to get them to spend a dollar, that will cut off their ability to earn another dollar each year.

They’re going to say, “keep the foreign aid, the open border is worth more to us.”

Oh, and that foreign aid Washington sends aims to help the Mexican government battle the cartels. Yes, some of it is wasted or swiped by corrupt officials. But would cutting U.S. aid to Mexico make the Mexican government, military and law enforcement stronger against the cartels or weaker? Would stronger Mexican cartels do more than $420 million in damage to the United States and its citizens?

“Shut down the remittances!” A lot easier said than done. Would the Trump administration just make it illegal to transfer money from a U.S. bank to a Mexican bank? How are the banks going to greet a move that bans a transaction they make a decent profit on? Theoretically, the United States can make it nearly impossible to transfer money directly to another country. Transferring money to Somalia is extremely difficult. But Mexicans might just move to Bitcoin, or just transfer the money to a bank in a non-banned country and have the bank in that country later move the money to Mexico.

I mentioned this on Twitter a short while back, and I got a lot of “Jim, we can work out the details later” and “there are a lot of ways to do this!” Those kinds of response lives up to Suderman’s label of “people who just don’t want to think about it too much.”

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