Taking Trump seriously and literally

Before becoming president, Trump said things that were so bizarre and so offensive that most people assumed he could not possibly be serious. They’d say things like, “Trump should be taken seriously, but not literally.” After all, if we took him literally, then he would have been a fascist.

Some examples. Prior to becoming president:

Trump said we should have stolen Iraq’s oil. Seriously, he said that.
Trump often lavished praise on Vladimir Putin. He said the previous Russian leader didn’t have a “firm enough hand”.
Trump said the Chinese showed strength in putting down the Tiananmen “riots” in 1989. Not brave peaceful protesters—rioters.

It seems incredible that a US president would actually favor fascist policies, so these comments were discounted as Trump just being Trump. It now appears that we should have taken Trump literally.

Today, Trump is brazenly trying to steal money from the Chinese, and is igniting a cold war with China.

Trump issued a pardon for soldiers viewed by our own military as war criminals and then uses one of them as a mascot for his campaign. People hate Nazi comparisons, but come on now—praising war criminals?

Trump encourages Xi Jinping to put Uighurs into concentration camps in Xinjiang province. People hate Nazi comparisons, but . . .

Here’s Bloomberg:

President Donald Trump repeatedly insisted on Monday that any sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations would have to include a substantial payment to the U.S. — but it wasn’t clear under what authority he can extract a payout.

It would be unprecedented, based on recent history, for the U.S. government to collect a cut of a transaction involving companies in which it doesn’t hold a stake. Trump said the money would come from China or an American buyer such as Microsoft Corp.

“The United States should get a very large percentage of that price, because we’re making it possible,” Trump told reporters at a news conference Monday evening. “Whatever the number is, it would come from the sale, which nobody else would be thinking out but me, but that’s the way I think. And I think it’s very fair.”

“Wasn’t clear under what authority”? Is Bloomberg that naive? Trump doesn’t need any authority to do anything. There’s no law that gives Trump the right to stop Americans from using TikTok, so why should the lack of legal authority stop Trump from engaging in what the Chinese correctly call “smash and grab“?

The US already controls almost all of the world’s biggest tech companies. But that’s not enough. When the Chinese finally come up with a competitor that American consumers like (recall how the anti-Chinese nationalists tell us they can’t invent anything) then it’s not enough that we ban it, we also want to steal it without paying fair compensation. The US government is like a mafia family. We won’t be satisfied until 90% of the world’s wealth is in NASDAQ.

Every day I pray for the moment when the Europeans and the Chinese finally have the nerve to stand up to Trump. Unfortunately, I don’t expect it to happen.

PS. Some commenters point me to tech experts like Ben Thompson and Jordon Schneider, who worry about potential manipulation of TikTok by the Chinese government. (And yes, these guys do know 1000 times more about tech than I do.) I agree that that is a risk, but why not wait and see if there is a problem, and then shut them down if a problem develops?

I notice that Russia (which has far more nukes than China), actually does invade other countries. We worry that China might invade other countries. I notice that Russia actually does interfere in US elections. We worry than China might interfere in US elections. And yet it’s China with which the foreign policy establishment is determined to start a cold war.

PS. The Taiwanese should be very, very worried about what Trump is doing. Unlike the US, they are weaker than China. This madness won’t end well.

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