The “Trump Just Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About” Argument is Based on a Flawed Analogy

In my view, one of Donald Trump’s biggest hurdles to the presidency is the idea that he has no idea what he’s talking about with respect to many issues, but mostly in terms of foreign policy. Since Hillary Clinton has spent nearly three decades in and around Washington DC as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, during which time she’s flown around the world to meet with leaders and diplomats, and actually been in the ‘war room’ when key decisions were made, she is the candidate we should trust with the nuclear codes. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a buffoon business tycoon who shoots off at the mouth with little regard for any fall out. Or so the story goes. Last night at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Fourm, Matt Lauer touched on this point with Trump, asking him the following: So many of the issues that we’ve talked about with you, Mr. Trump, tonight, and Secretary Clinton, are so complex that even career military people and career diplomats and politicians have trouble getting their arms around them….You’ve had a very different background, in business. So nobody would expect you to have taken over the last 20 years really deep dives into some of these issues. But I’m curious about what you’re doing now. What kind of research are you doing now? What kind of homework are you doing? What kind of things are you reading as you prepare for the day in two months where you might be elected the next president of the United States? On the surface, it’s a good question. Trump really does have no experience in the narrow arena of Geopolitics and military conflict, at least compared to Hillary Clinton. The issue is that in this case, Clinton’s experience may actually be a big negative. Thus the premise of the question is flawed. The root of the flaw is the false equivalence being made between foreign policy and a discipline like physics. Physics is a scientific discipline which is founded on universal principles and phenomena in the natural world which are known to be true. Foreign policy is the extension of a political ideology onto a world stage. In other words, people are wrong to be making the following analogy: Trump is to Hillary Clinton in Foreign Policy, as a Physics 101 student is to Stephen Hawking in Physics Again, this would hold if foreign policy was based on falsifiable arguments and hypotheses the way physics is. The reality is that it simply isn’t. Donald Trump is extremely ignorant, when looking through the tinted lens of the post WWII US foreign policy of interventionism, nation building, and soft imperialism. He sings an unabashed America First song, in direct contrast to what he correctly terms the ‘false song of globalism.’ His views on the place of the US military in the world seems to be ‘Peace Through Strength,’ rather than the more passive aggressive, relative half measures the US has currently been undertaking in war. This doesn’t represent ignorance, but a complete difference in views. Which is fine when we’re dealing in an ideology based arena such as foreign policy. Trump is not arguing that Bernoulli’s Principle doesn’t exist. He is arguing that the current ideology has failed us and we must try something different. And on that point, there is little to argue about. Regardless of what you think about the intentions, the bottom line is that the ‘Russian Reset,’ the Syrian Red Line, toppling Ghadafi in Libya, the Arab Spring, Benghazi, and setting the foundation for the Iran deal had disastrous outcomes. The destabilization created room for ISIS, which now has a gigantic swath of land in the Middle East from which it is fanning out terror operations worldwide. This is not a partisan argument either – the Bush administration had numerous blunders in the foreign policy arena as well, chief of which being the handling of the Iraq War. Trump stands against both Republicans and Democrats, which is why he’s been pilloried by both sides. Just last month, 50 former GOP national security officials wrote an open letter imploring Americans to steer clear of Trump because of the ‘danger’ he represents.   This merely confirms the fact that Trump is a true agent of change. Both the Republican and Democrat establishments have been happy to feed the Military Industrial Complex for decades, despite the warnings of President Eisenhower. To people like those who wrote that open letter, the ‘danger’ is that the status quo is disturbed. Regardless of the outcomes of the wars and skirmishes America has been involved with over the last few decades, regardless of the bloodshed and the lives lost, the elites in the government and those in the defense industry have reaped rewards. Trump doesn’t care about the status quo. He cares about America engaging in foreign policy that benefits the people, as opposed to the special interests in government and the defense industry. As such, his advisers are outsiders, just like he is. Consider Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general who served in the Obama administration as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was ultimately forced out of the role in 2014: Stars and Stripes said Flynn “did not leave the Obama administration on warm terms,” adding that, “in 2014, he was effectively forced out of the Defense Intelligence Agency as part of a leadership shake-up after clashing with officials over his management style and vision for the agency.”   Flynn explained his firing, according to the New York Post, by saying he “knew then it had more to do with the stand I took on radical Islamism and the expansion of al Qaeda and its associated movements. I felt the intel system was way too politicized, especially in the Defense Department.” Despite being a Democrat, he has been one of Donald Trump’s key advisers, even making the short list to be his Vice Presidential pick. The reason for this is that Flynn, like Trump, disagrees with the the way the establishment is taking to foreign policy,...

MSNBC ‘Unskews’ The Polls – Thinks 2016 Electorate = 2012 Electorate

In my article recapping the election as it unfolded over the summer, I took some time to break down why the mainstream media making fun of ‘Poll Truthers’ could potentially backfire. More specifically, I explained why the comparison between Trump supporters’ distrust of the polls in 2016 and that of Romney supporters in 2012 was off base: Back in 2012, Republicans were convinced that polling which showed President Obama leading were heavily skewed in favor of Democrats. They were made to pay for that optimism on Election Day, and in pointing to that experience, the likes of Perino and others have been quick to point out that the polls were right in 2012, and as such they are Gospel now.   The issue with that analysis starts with the fact that in 2012, Republicans had the Tea Party shake up of 2010 midterm election fresh in their memories. This, to many, marked a repudiation of President Obama’s agenda, and as such a torrent of Republicanism would sweep the nation in 2012. Romney was assured to ride on in that wave, and thus, the fact that the polls said otherwise meant they were faulty.   The disconnect was that Romney as a candidate was nowhere near the Tea Party ideal, to put it mildly. Thus, he didn’t come close to capturing the momentum the Tea Party had generated. In the end, he marginally improved on McCain’s effort in 2008, which meant that Obama won comfortably, despite having a lower turnout than he had four years earlier.   Those who took the polls as Gospel earlier in this summer are making the inverse error as Republicans made in 2012. Whereas Republicans then thought the electorate had shifted from where it was in 2008, those giddy about Clinton +12 polls in early August might prove to have been erroneous in thinking that the electorate hadn’t shifted from 2012. Right on cue, this article from Politico confirms part of my thinking – that mainstream polls are skewed towards the 2012 electorate: MSNBC ‘unskewed’ a CNN national poll on Tuesday that showed Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by two points, re-weighting the results to match the 2012 electorate and showing a four-point lead for the former secretary of state.   The poll of likely voters, released Tuesday by CNN/ORC, showed Trump ahead of Clinton nationwide in a four-way contest, 45 percent to 43 percent. But MSNBC host Chuck Todd explained that the poll, in his network’s estimation, may have oversampled white voters without a college degree, one of Trump’s strongest groups.   “Whites without a college degree appear to make up nearly half of their sample. In 2012, by the way, whites without a college degree was slightly more than a third of all voters,” Todd said. “The point is, your numbers may not be wrong but your weighting may be, your assumptions. So the CNN folks assumed an electorate that is not an impossible scenario for Trump, but it would be an historic shift if it occurred.”   With the numbers adjusted to reflect how the electorate shook out four years ago, Clinton’s two-point deficit shifted to a four-point lead, 46 percent to 42 percent. It is my view that thinking the 2016 electorate will end up looking like the 2012 electorate is a recipe for failure, yet this is what most mainstream polls do. I believe that the 2016 electorate, owing to the large number of new/disaffected voters Trump is bringing to the table, is far more amenable to the Republican candidate than it was for Mitt Romney. Data from that CNN poll bears this out: According to that, the electorate as a whole is less enthusiastic about going to vote than it was four years ago. But given the choice between Trump and Clinton, there is more enthusiasm for the former. Despite that major flaw in mainstream polls, they have tightened, to the point where many of them show at best a Clinton lead within the margin of error, if not a dead heat. Given that those polls refelct the 2012 Obama friendly electorate, the Clinton campaign should have some serious concerns. Because once the relatively large, and more enthusiastic Pro-Trump portion of the electorate is truly reflected, those polls might look a lot different. Indeed, we might not find out the true extent of that until election night.

Is Oil Weakness Ahead?

The WSJ certainly thinks so (emphasis mine): Surging demand from drivers in the richest countries helped power a big rally in crude this year. But many analysts say that surge is ending.   In the U.S., lower gasoline prices led consumers to drive a record three trillion miles in the past 12 months. In June, gas consumption hit an all-time high, 9.7 million barrels a day. And in July, pickup trucks, SUVs and other gas guzzlers reached a record share of auto sales.   Yet as the summer-driving season ends, low fuel prices may not be enough to entice consumers to pump in more gasoline. More broadly, economic growth isn’t strong enough in the U.S. and Europe to produce the necessary increase in jobs or new manufacturing that would spur large, long-term increases in oil demand…   ….Many traders, pointing to stockpiles that are holding or even growing, are betting that a glut hasn’t eased enough to keep supporting this year’s rally.   Data last week showed U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined fuels growing to a record. Supplies of crude, gasoline and diesel are so high that even record demand hasn’t been enough to balance the market. Global gasoline storage has been filled to a near-record level all summer, almost 500 million barrels, according to Citigroup Inc. I’d certainly agree with that, but mostly for technical reasons. Over the last three years of this oil bear market, there has been a seasonal pattern. A low early in the year, followed by a slow melt up through the spring, and a June/early summer top which gave way to declines through the fall. The following chart highlights this. The three arrows indicate the early year bottoms in 2014-16, and the gray circles indicate the early summer tops, and potential top of this year. This is far from certain of course, but owing to the continual bearish fundamentals, the existence of bearish technicals as well does not bode well for oil  bulls. In the moderate to long term (at least 18 months to two years), I am rather bullish, as I expect global central banks to further ease monetary policy, leading to a rise in asset prices and commodities. Before this happens though, I do believe there will be one last swing lower to demoralize people. I’ve always maintained that the price would approach $20 at some stage. We shall see.