The Apprentice 2.0 — You're Pardoned!

If you still don’t think it’s over, you aren’t paying attention. Donald Trump has just given stupid a new definition and he will pay for it with a final ride on the White House helicopter. Even now the engines are warming.

This is in reference to the pardon of Joe Arpaio. There’s a loathing for “identity politics” and no use for the PC scolds who continuously pollute the media and are now gumming hysterically about the President’s Friday night action. But let’s be clear: the ex-Sheriff of Maricopa County is no hero, friend of liberty or object of sympathy owing to his age or alleged service to the country.

He is an ornery misanthrope, bully and power-mad tyrant who truly deserves to wear a Federal prison jump suit every day of the six-month term to which he’d likely have been sentenced. His technical crime was the wanton, blatant and recurring violation of a Federal court order enjoining his department from racial profiling, but the underlying sin is the real crime.

He turned the Maricopa sheriff’s department into a vigilante operation focused on heavy-handed and often brutal enforcement of Federal immigration laws over which he had no jurisdiction. His modus operandi involved military-style raids on hotels, restaurants, car washes, fruit farms etc. where workers were likely to be using false ID’s or were undocumented.

That’s right. The self-named “America’s Toughest Sheriff” was mainly in the business of eliminating the paychecks of low wage workers trying to feed their kids and nabbing law-abiding citizens whose Hispanic ethnicity was proof enough to him that they were illegals. He wasn’t protecting the public safety against genuine criminals as much as he was showboating his anti-immigrant and authoritarian platform.

After mass round-ups and midnight raids on locations inhabited by suspected illegals, Arpaio herded his prisoners into his famous “Tent City” jail where they were often held at length without charge.  After being detained they detainees were expected to “confess” to violations of Federal immigration laws and were then put on the deportation buses.

As has been well-publicized, Arpaio’s jail on the desert would have made “Boss Godfrey” of Cool Hand Luke proud. He fed prisoners two skimpy meals a day valued at 30 cents each, forced them to work on chain-gangs, boasted prison temperatures in summer that hit 141 degrees, forced prisoners to take showers in scalding water, provided no heat and scant clothing in the winter’s cold and forced them to endure countless other deprivations and indignities.

No believer in liberty and minimal government should shed a tear for Joe Arpaio.  His ruthless and crude will-to-power embodied the very opposite. He was and is the ultimate rogue politician who used the state’s legal monopoly on violence to terrorize the citizenry with invented threats in order to secure their rule.

The one veneer of justification for his brand of “peace-keeping” was the need to protect Maricopa County from the ugly violence of the drug trade, which spilled across the nearby Mexican border. But Arpaio’s futile crackdown on the drug lords and their vast distribution armies is not a reason for a pardon.  It is proof that the War on Drugs has been a destructive failure and that by keeping illegal drugs off store shelves the state generates the very economic conditions to finance a lawless black market of distribution.

So, no, when the Donald was asked in his Phoenix rant “was Sheriff Joe convicted of doing his job,”  he wasn’t. Instead, he has finally been called to the carpet by the Federal courts and the voters last November for his 24-years reign of bullying law enforcement and vitriolic attacks on Hispanics.

By issuing the pardon, the Donald not only showed astounding lack of judgment, especially in the aftermath of the Charlottesville, but also signaled that he has now defaulted to a dead-end strategy of rousing his base on all the wrong issues.

It’s as if Trump has a political death wish and can be counted upon to throw his political enemies red meat whenever their appetites slacken – even during a hurricane disaster.

The Donald was elected as the Great Disrupter who will accomplish nothing except to condemn and paralyze the status quo. That’s because he has no real agenda on the issues that matter. It appears he is not set on stopping the Wall Street Casino, Fed bubble and the finance debt machine.

Post-Arpaio, the pathway ahead is becoming clearer. Like a rejected organ transplant, Trump is now well along the process of being rejected and ejected by the beltway. So in a desperate rearguard maneuver to keep the jackals at bay, he will increasingly turn to inciting and mobilizing the “base”.

The Donald will morph into an orange-haired Joe Arpaio pounding out a call to flag-waving, tin-pot patriotism and mean-spirited “law and order.”  All of this while attacking crime, drugs, immigration, terrorism, refugees, the PC Mafioso and the other bogeymen of the populist right.

He will also attempt to hold more Phoenix-style mass rallies, which, in turn, will only fuel the Trump unhinged discussions that now dominate the mainstream discourse in Washington.

That’s referring to the protectionism and punitive tariffs that could be aimed toward China and other nations which have purportedly stolen American jobs and middle class well-being. Trump does have the capacity to launch a trade war through executive order, and there have been stunning leaks that he is hopping mad about being thwarted by his own appointees.

Indeed, the new go-to insider rag called Axios, highlighted the dangerous state of play on the trade front with a headline this AM which read:

Exclusive: Trump Vent in Oval Office, “I Want tariffs. Bring me some tariffs!”

The Axios leak more than passes the smell test of legitimacy. Trump has been a blatant protectionist his whole life and did not get to the Oval Office in order to eschew an opportunity to bring the hammer down. He has always perceived the nefarious operations of foreign governments and trade negotiators with a scathing protection view.

If a protectionist hammer slams right in the middle of the debt-ceiling and government funding showdowns, as suggested in the Axios narrative below, it will be judgement day in the Imperial City.

It also means that the real instigators of the off-shoring of American jobs and shrinking living standards in Flyover America, the Federal Reserve, will have dodged a bullet again. At least for now.

The following is a rare account of President Trump in a small Oval Office meeting, venting at senior staff for sometimes resisting his hawkish trade agenda.

This account — confirmed by sources with knowledge of the meeting and undisputed by the White House — hints at where Trump may be heading with his trade agenda. And it shows he believes some of his top economic advisors are resisting his agenda because they are “globalists.”

The scene: The Oval Office, during Gen. Kelly’s first week as Chief of Staff. Kelly convened a meeting to discuss the administration’s plans to investigate China for stealing American intellectual property and technology. Kelly stood beside Trump, behind the Resolute desk. In front of the desk were U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, senior trade adviser Peter Navarro, top economic adviser Gary Cohn, and Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Trump, addressing Kelly, said, “John, you haven’t been in a trade discussion before, so I want to share with you my views. For the last six months, this same group of geniuses comes in here all the time and I tell them, ‘Tariffs. I want tariffs.’ And what do they do? They bring me IP. I can’t put a tariff on IP.” (Most in the room understood that the president can, in fact, use tariffs to combat Chinese IP theft.)

“China is laughing at us,” Trump added. “Laughing.”

Kelly responded: “Yes sir, I understand, you want tariffs.”

Gary Cohn, who opposes tariffs and the protectionist trade measures pushed by the Bannonites, had his shoulders slumped and was clearly appalled by the situation.

Staff secretary Rob Porter, who is a key mediator in such meetings, said to the president: “Sir, do you not want to sign this?” He was referring to Trump’s memo prodding Lighthizer to investigate China — which may lead to tariffs against Beijing.

Trump replied: “No, I’ll sign it, but it’s not what I’ve asked for the last six months.” He turned to Kelly: “So, John, I want you to know, this is my view. I want tariffs. And I want someone to bring me some tariffs.”

Kelly replied: “Yes sir, understood sir, I have it.”

At one point in the meeting, Navarro pulled out a foam board chart. Trump didn’t pay attention to it, saying “I don’t even know what I’m looking at here.”

Trump made sure the meeting ended with no confusion as to what he wanted.

“John, let me tell you why they didn’t bring me any tariffs,” he said. “I know there are some people in the room right now that are upset. I know there are some globalists in the room right now. And they don’t want them, John, they don’t want the tariffs. But I’m telling you, I want tariffs.”

Kelly broke up the meeting and said the group would work things out and reconvene at the appropriate time.

Needless to say, if Trump moves ahead in this manner, it will eviscerate what is left of the GOP. The free traders and lap-dogs of the corporate PACs will come out in open revolt — even as the populist right is spurred on by Trade War Fever emanating from Steve Bannon and Breitbart.

Trump’s presidency will face a fatal blow in what is certain to be a vicious campaign by the “White House Democrats” who will pull out all the stops to thwart the Donald’s rage for a global trade war.

A trade policy bloodletting is now coming to the Donald’s own household.

For your money, it is long passed the time to duck and cover. Indeed, even financial types in the tiny Baltic republic of Finland can see that much. In honor of the White House visit by the President of Finland, a portfolio manager at that nation’s largest pension fund told Bloomberg that he is trimming his exposure to US equities because,

“It seems as if there is no president in the US”.

Yes, even the Finns get it, but what we have on Wall Street is an apparent head-in-the-sand resolve to keep mindlessly buying the dips, thereby proverbially wasting a good crisis. Well, until it is way too late.

David Stockman
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning