John Chuckman


I’m sure many would agree if I said Trump was a perfect leader for a society without values.

Trump – as a kind of moral psychopath, a man absolutely without values, vulgar and rude and demanding – was in many ways a fitting symbol for contemporary America. He truly does represent the country, a large part of its people and a great part of its activities and values, far more accurately than any affectionate Uncle Sam figure or inspiring Statue of Liberty

But Trump is also very much a man with no taste or judgment. While most of what he was doing abroad was what America’s power establishment wanted done, he worked at it in an awkward and embarrassing fashion.

And he was spectacularly unsuccessful. Those two qualities, being embarrassing and unsuccessful, are unnerving for a ruling establishment which regards itself as exceptional, even “indispensable.” And that is why there were efforts to undermine him from the start. Not because of his policy goals, which are shared by the Republican and Democratic wings of America’s national political establishment.

The only serious exception to that statement seems to me to be his professed intention to pull American troops out of the Middle East. But I’m not sure how sincere or dedicated Trump ever was about that idea. After all, he was perhaps the most obsequious President ever to the interests of Israel, including its many interests outside the rule of law. Only Lyndon Johnson might give him competition for the title.

Why are American forces in the Middle East? Why did America spend years and trillions of dollars blowing up sound societies, killing and maiming millions, in its long series of Neocon Wars under Bush and Obama?

For Israel’s benefit. It was a gigantic “slum clearance” project around Israel’s neighborhood, bulldozing societies who were independent-minded about their interests. Only kings and tyrants friendly to American interests – interests which always include its imperial colony in the Middle East – were to be left standing. They are the kind of rulers with whom Israel’s establishment has always been comfortable. They keep their people in line with brutality, just as Israel does the Palestinians.

We still see poor people picking through the rubble in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria many years later.

Could Trump possibly have been so ignorant as to not understand that? How did he even think he could significantly reduce American occupation there? Except for token adjustments, he failed. His defenders say that the Dark State, certainly including the Pentagon, misled him about what they were doing while sabotaging his commands.

That may be, but if it was the case, how could Trump ever come to believe in the first place that he would be able to make significant changes? I just see the whole business, from start to finish, as further evidence of incompetence. It is no different in nature than his pointless blundering in North Korea.

Israel is such an integral part of the American empire that the Pentagon and CIA treat it almost as though they were dealing with Americans. Israel can fairly be viewed as a special auxiliary member of America’s unelected Dark State – that is, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the State Department. Given Trump’s intimate connections with Israel and many of its key supporters in America, how could he ever believe he could change America’s military posture in the Middle East? He is so attuned to those interests that he almost started a major new war by assassinating Iran’s national hero, General Soleimani, just to please them.

Trump’s own political base, which seems never to have deserted him, just ignores any assessment of him as embarrassing or unsuccessful. That is why, despite the worst record on the planet in fighting the coronavirus, Trump is able to wave his arms around up on a platform like a tent-preacher and tell followers that his achievements saved countless lives. In the political and journalistic chaos of today’s America, you can find support for almost anything you care to believe. And there very much are cult-like aspects to his following. A good number of them are desperate, credulous people, and they will not relinquish their faith.

There is a Father Karamazov quality about Trump. If you don’t like something ugly and embarrassing that he has done, wait a bit, and he will do something even more outrageous and embarrassing just to show you. Dostoevsky’s character is a very true-to-life type, fortunately not a common one.

The crowd of Trump supporters just loves the routine, his giving the finger to all those who regard themselves as somehow better or apart – scientists, statesmen, academics, experts in anything, and foreigners. Trump’s the man to bring their highfalutin ways back down to earth.

That division of attitudes in American society has always been there. There has always been a widespread bias against intellectuals and any behavior that might be regarded as “breeding.” It’s just that when things were going comfortably for everyone at home, as in the 1950s, there was less occasion for it to surface.

But things haven’t been going comfortably for a great many Americans for a long time. Good jobs are not plentiful, lifetime employment with a firm is almost unheard of now, the country’s many service jobs pay poorly and have little prospect for advancement, job losses through an avalanche of mergers and take-overs are common, debts incurred for some post-secondary education are astronomical, and some of that education, from the country’s many predatory educational businesses, has proved of little value in the job market.

In the 1950s, while many dreamed of becoming the first in their family “to go to college,” there was not a lot of economic pressure for most to do so. It was perfectly possible then to get a new job one day and, if you didn’t like it for some reason, to find another almost the next day. And it sometimes happened that a person of natural talent and ambition rose from the mail room to the executive suite.

It really was like that. And if you got a job with a prestigious, national firm, and you were at all ambitious, there would be lots of room in the future for promotions or interesting new responsibilities. Even unskilled workers, often including people who dropped out of high school, if they landed the right industrial job, were set for life, and with many handsome benefits.

Steel workers, for example, after twenty years employment, were entitled to thirteen weeks of paid holidays. I know because, as a student, I was one of many who had a really good summer job replacing men who were on holiday. That kind of benefit reflected the strength of labor unions then, but even more, it reflected the strength of America’s position in world trade that its companies could sustain such practices.

College education was desirable but not essential. People graduated high school with good basic understanding because standards were high and often with some well-developed skills from shop and serious practical courses. Natural talent and ambition could go a long way.

But things haven’t been that way for a long time, and for many reasons, they likely never will be again. The world is just a far more competitive and complex place, and it is a far more crowded place. Young Americans today often attend paid post-secondary education to obtain skills and credibility that were once free in good public schools, and they amass large debts doing it.

Universities and colleges have all got into the somewhat ruthless business of education as consumption rather than intellectual investment, offering courses and degrees in subjects which are more like entertainment than training towards a career, and again those taking the courses amass huge debts.

Trump’s fraud on his credulous followers was his making them believe he could change things to at least be a little bit the way they once were, but that is an impossibility. Trump may not understand himself. Much of his approach resembled his personal recommendations for treating the coronavirus in their level of scientific understanding.

After all, this is a man whose entire career was built around puffing-up himself and his projects, lying ceaselessly, bullying people, suing people, avoiding taxes, accumulating great debt, and making some dark alliances – all with just an immense amount of energy applied to them, He is a man, even in his seventies, endowed with tireless energy. A human dynamo of bent behavior.

He thought that he could have success in international affairs, about which he knew virtually nothing, by applying the same practices.

But you cannot, not when you are dealing with other powerful people, people of high intelligence, vast political experience, and with a command over great resources. He lost his office early, before he could prove to his followers that he could not do what he claimed he could. His so-called strong economy only reflected huge tax cuts for the wealthy and lots money-printing, neither of which can be sustained.

His followers are left still believing in him and thinking he was “stabbed in the back.” And he is busy, like some burrowing animal throwing back pawfuls of earth, throwing out suggestions and accusations every which way. He has lots of resources with which to work. So, the country is divided even more than it was when he started. It is a pretty ugly legacy.

Can Biden do much more? I don’t think so. Despite the improved civility and tone, something I very much value, Biden faces the same set of massive difficulties. The expectations of ordinary Americans, expectations which cannot possibly be met, and the unrealistic demands of American elites vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

And Biden is not a man of special talents, a slightly above-average lifetime American politician. He is what Newt Gingrich used to contemptuously call “a lifer” when he pushed for term limits in political offices.

America’s elites are people who want to lead and rule others when in many things today they cannot compete. They are people who depend on military power to hold their place in the world, as we saw in a long series of horrible wars from Vietnam to the rampage through the Middle East plus dozens of coups and constant interference in the internal affairs of other states.

And they are people whose own society is a mess they have no intention of correcting, despite making some nice sound-bites in that direction. Their position reflects the underlying plutocratic structure of American society, and they are not going to do anything to damage the very foundation of their careers.

Besides, a sincere effort to correct America’s many desperate social problems would require a great deal of close attention and huge amounts of financing. Meanwhile, there’s the empire that needs looking after, and that’s where America’s elites are attracted, with its lavish benefits and opportunities.

Clearing up the country’s terrible economic inequality, America’s greatest division and one which intensifies so many others, has little more support among the Democratic part of the establishment than it does among the Republican part.

And there’s no use pretending, Biden, in his own way, different than Trump’s, has been a very corrupt man, profiting from many opportunities over the years to enrich himself and his family, much like the Clintons, who have become legendary in their capacity for such work. It is interesting to note that not only was Kamala Harris taken under the wings of important Hillary Clinton supporters a few years ago, but Hillary herself is now being touted in the press as Biden’s likely choice for Ambassador to the UN.

Money indeed makes the world go around in American politics.

Biden has also always been a good soldier in supporting ugly projects, as with the whole Russophobia scheme, something much resented in Russia, a country with which America should work harmoniously in avoiding wars and combatting terror and making the world a better place but absolutely does not. It refuses to do so, just as it refuses genuine cooperation with China. In the minds of America’s elites, America must prevail, a dangerous and unproductive concept.

I read that Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, a rather wry man, explained in an interview that Moscow has a low opinion of the Democratic candidate after Russia was accused by his party of influencing the US election in 2016, something they certainly did not do. Indeed, Biden’s entire fifty-year political career offers little on which to pin many hopes. Ryabkov said further, “We treat this as a change in weather outside the window.”

It is quite disheartening to see many prominent old Neocons – advocates for the use of American military power to get what the country wants – joining the ranks of Biden’s likely appointees to important posts. They are among the most malicious and destructive people the country has, kind of an upper-class version of Trump’s heavily-armed, belly-over-the-belt boys who intimidate politicians on statehouse steps. Only the Neocons intimidate and destroy whole countries, and their weapon of choice is the Pentagon.

I’ve just read that one of Biden’s candidates for Secretary of Defense, Michele Flournoy (Yes, a woman. Is that supposed to make the unacceptable more acceptable? Equal-opportunity killing?), suggested recently a much stronger American presence in the South China Sea, a force with the ability to “sink all Chinese vessels within 72 hours.” What a promising idea for peace and cooperation. It represents the same kind of thinking as one of Trump’s militia plug uglies carrying a submachine gun and talking about what he’d do to all the street protesters.  

The South China Sea is about 8,000 miles by air from America’s West Coast. Its waters are vital to China’s world trade, and China does nothing to interfere with other nations’ peaceful use of them. A thoughtful person might wonder why any American warships should be there, much less a fleet capable of sinking every Chinese ship in 72 hours.

Such is the thinking of those at the top in America, even without Trump.

America’s belligerence in the world is not going away, just because Trump does. The belligerence will take a different tone and appearance, but it will be belligerence. Because what America really represents in the world today is a gang of rich and privileged people scraping and clawing for influence and position. That is its central reality, and no mere change of President can change it.

Slogans and speeches change nothing when the underlying forces at work are entirely different to the themes. They are reduced to public-relations statements and propaganda. No one echoed the words of high-blown principles more than, say, Lyndon Johnson or the Clintons while in fact not honoring any of them. Human rights and peace and democratic values reduced to hairspray and pancake make-up before an interview.

Recall the War in Vietnam. It was about preserving an artificially-created rump state, South Vietnam, hived off a former French colony and ruled by a series of dictators. It was to serve as an American pied-a-terre in Southeast Asia after France’s colonial withdrawal. Yet the words “freedom’ and “democracy” were frequently heard from American politicians and the press. Meaningless claptrap.

The ugly realities of America’s own society cannot possibly be corrected without fundamental change in that society. It is just dishonest to say otherwise. But you couldn’t find a more grotesquely revealing reason why change is literally impossible than a glance at the membership of the American Senate and the Supreme Court. Many of the faces and gestures and words resemble those of the old Soviet Politburo, the last place on earth from which to expect any change in its day.

In a period of just about eighty years, the United States has gone from the great Franklin Roosevelt’s inspired statement of the Four Freedoms to Mike Pompeo’s bragging about “lying, cheating, and stealing” as American principles abroad. Imagine, the President discussing the murder of someone, a national hero in Iran, while rolling along in a golf cart with his partner, the oleaginous Senator Lindsey Graham.

That is contemporary American government. And if you can see an ounce of principle in any of it, let me know because I certainly cannot.


While I tend to focus on foreign affairs, Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border powerfully speaks to his competence. It was a bad idea for many reasons, but he insisted on making it a marquee campaign promise, likely because it silently communicated to voters notions best not articulated, as around xenophobia and dislike of migrants.

And Mexico was going to pay for it. Why should Mexico pay for a wall the US wanted? That demand again communicated resentments without openly stating them. Well, of course, Mexico didn’t pay for it, and the wall itself never was built. Trump erected twelve miles of it. Twelve pointless miles of wall in the middle of nowhere, making a section of desert resemble a maximum-security prison.

Posted November 15, 2020 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: