Trump press conference: The oligarchy rules
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Jan 12 2017
Donald Trump’s press conference Wednesday morning was an hour-long demonstration of oligarchic arrogance and contempt for democratic principles that has no parallel in modern Pindosi history. The occasion for the press conference was his announcement of plans to put the Trump Organization, his main business entity, under the management of his two sons Donald Jr and Eric. Donald Sr would step down from all formal management roles while retaining his status as the principal owner. These arrangements have been denounced by former government ethics officials as a travesty of longstanding norms. Every Pindo president in the modern period, no matter how wealthy, has been compelled to place all his assets in a blind trust to prevent overt conflicts of interest. The event was dominated, however, by the issue of alleged Russian hacking of the DNC + Podesta during the 2016 elections, with many questions relating to a document containing unverified allegations that the Russian government collected compromising material on Trump with an eye to future blackmail. While the Democrat Party has chosen to center its critique of Trump on material provided by its allies in the CIA, the real assault on the public embodied in the incoming administration was visibly demonstrated at the news conference. A significant portion of the event was given over to Trump’s legal advisor, who proceeded to explain why conflict-of-interest statutes do not apply to Trump. She assured the Pindo creeple:
The business empire built by Mr Trump over the years is massive … Mr Trump is not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit.
Trump aides piled up hundreds of manila folders allegedly comprising documents showing the various arrangements to be made with respect to the Trump Organization. While he boasted of his wealth and success, he reiterated that he is exempt from conflict-of-interest rules gecause of an obscure 1978 law passed to retroactively legitimize the free pass given to Nelson Rockefeller when he was appointed vice-president by Gerald Ford in 1974. Trump was not just citing a legal technicality. He was declaring the complete immunity of the super-rich from the laws and regulations that apply to lesser folk. It is the 21st century version of the aristocratic principle asserted by the nobility before the French Revolution. Society is divided into two camps: those who make the rules, the wealthy elite at the top, and those to whom the rules apply, the vast majority, the working people. Insisting that he had the right to do whatever he wanted, Trump at one point declared:
As president, I could run the Trump organization, a great great company, and I could run the company – the country. I’d do a very good job, but I don’t want to do that.
Trump’s slip mixing up company and country was the most revealing moment in the press conference. For Trump, the country, the company, and more broadly the oligarchy, are all one and the same. Particularly significant during the news conference was Trump’s menacing of the press. He refused to take a question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta, cxalling CNN “fake news” because it was the first network to report on the document claiming that Russia had obtained compromising material on him. Trump also made an ominous threat against Buzzfeed, which published the document. He declared:
They’re going to suffer the consequences. They already are.
There was a heavy-handed atmosphere of bullying throughout the event, which had a fascistic smell to it. There is no question that the administration is prepared to use extreme levels of violence abroad and within Pindostan against what it perceives to be its main threat, the working class. The personnel of Trump’s cabinet shows in such figures as billionaire asset-stripper Wilbur Ross, multi-millionaire fast food magnate Andy Puzder, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and billionaire heiress and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos, that the new administration will be one of unrelenting war against the working class, destroying jobs, social services such as education and Medicare, and any remaining restrictions on the exploitation of labor. Behind it all is an overpowering element of decay, nepotism and social filth, a new low even by the tawdry standards of Pindosi capitalist politics. It represents the establishment in Pindostan of government of, by and for the financial oligarchy. The new occupant of the White House is the personification of what has been developing over decades: an ever-increasing concentration of wealth at the very top of Pindo society, and the crystallization of a semi-criminal ruling class whose wealth is derived from financial manipulation, not the development of the productive forces. The Democrat Party bases its opposition to Trump not on the social character of the new administration as a government of the oligarchs, but on disputes over foreign policy, in which the Democrats happily embrace the opportunity to adopt a neo-McCarthyite anti-Russian stance and align themselves closely with the military-intelligence apparatus. This is because the Democrat Party too is a political instrument of the billionaires, a different variant on the same theme. Indeed, everything that Trump will implement has been prepared by the Obama administration. There is deep and growing anger among workers and youth. According to the latest poll figures, Trump is the most unpopular POTUS-elect in history, with a rating of only 37%, before he even takes a single action as POTUS. Masses of people are in for a shock beyond anything they are prepared for. There must be, and will be, mass opposition. It will come from the working class, the vast majority of the population that is completely excluded from official political life. To prepare for these struggles, the working class must be politically organized and mobilized, armed with a revolutionary socialist perspective.
Anti-Russian warmongering dominates Senate hearing on Tillerson
Andre Damon, WSWS, Jan 12 2017
Wednesday’s Senate confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s pick for sec state, took the form of an anti-Russian witch-hunt, with senators from both parties demanding that the nominee, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, declare Putin a war criminal and murderer. Tillerson, while distancing himself from the more hysterical statements of some senators, took an aggressive line against Russia, declaring it a “danger” to Pindostan and criticizing Obama for not doing enough to retaliate against Russia following the secession of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The appointment of Tillerson, the multi-millionaire former CEO of the world’s largest energy corporation, embodies the oligarchic character of Trump’s cabinet, which is packed with multi-millionaires and billionaires committed to expanding the wealth of the financial elite at the expense of the working classes of Pindostan and the world. This however was not of concern to the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Their opposition was focused entirely on the reluctance of Tillerson and Trump to endorse the campaign against Russia that has been underway since the eve of the DNC last July. At that time, the Democrat Party and the Clinton campaign sought to divert attention from damaging revelations contained in leaked DNC emails by accusing Russia of hacking their computers and arranging for WikiLeaks to publish the internal communications. On this basis, the Democrats sought to outflank Trump from the right by portraying him as a stooge of Putin. The anti-Russia campaign was revived after the elections, when it became clear that Syria was close to liberating the whole of Aleppo, which further inflamed their anti-Russian agitation. Tillerson is a particular target of this campaign because of his close business relations with Moscow during his tenure as CEO of Exxon Mobil. Much has been made of the fact that he was awarded the Order of Friendship by President Putin in 2013. In his opening remarks, Senator Ben Cardinsaid:
There are recent news accounts that Russia may have information about Mr Trump … they could use to compromise our presidency.
He was referring to a dubious document released Tuesday by Buzzfeed and reported by CNN alleging that while he was visiting Russia, Trump was filmed engaging in “perverse sexual acts” that were “arranged” and “monitored” by the Russian Secret Service. Cardin then announced that together with other critturs & notably the Two Amigos, he had submitted legislation Tuesday to impose new economic sanctions against Russia “for its interference in our election and its ongoing aggression in Ukraine and Syria.” Speaking for a faction of the GOP that opposes Trump’ stance on Russia, Marco Rubio asked Tillerson:
Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?
I would not use that term.
Rubio cited Russia’s military intervention against Faschingstein’s regime change operation in Syria and its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and declared that he was “disappointed” in Tillerson’s response. He further demanded:
Do you believe that Vladimir Putin and his cronies are responsible for ordering the murder of countless dissidents, journalists and political opponents?
When Tillerson declared that he did not have “sufficient information” to make that claim, Rubio directly accused Putin of organizing the assassination of political opponents in Russia and around the world. Senator Jeanne Shaheen continued along these lines. She declared:
You seem unwilling to agree with Senator Rubio’s characterization of Vladimir Putin as a war criminal. The State Dept has described Russia as having an authoritarian political system dominated by Pres Putin. Do you see any reason to disagree with that assessment>
Tillerson replied “No.” Shaheen then displayed a placard based on a discredited NYT article titled “More of the Kremlins’ opponents are ending up dead,” with photos of political opponents whom Putin allegedly murdered. Pressed to admit to the existence of a Russian plot to subvert the 2016 Pindo election, Tillerson acknowledged that a report issued earlier this month by Pindo spy agencies “indicates that all of the actions you described were undertaken,” a fact that he called “troubling.” He proceeded to characterize as insufficiently aggressive the Obama administration’s response to the 2014 Ukraine crisis, saying:
The absence of a firm and forceful response to Crimea was judged by Russia to be weak, and paved the way for their later invasion of Ukraine. I would have supported sending weapons to Ukraine in 2014, instead of imposing sanctions on Russia after the fact.
Just as significant were Tillerson’s comments on China, which marked an escalation of the Trump administration’s already confrontational stance against that country. Declaring that China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea was “akin to Russia’s taking Crimea,” Tillerson said:
We’re going to have to send China a clear signal. We will demand that China end its construction of the islands, and we will seek to deny China access to the islands it has already constructed. The construction of those islands and the setting up of air defenses in the East China Sea are illegal actions. They’re taking territory or control, or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s.
Tillerson’s anti-Chinese statements get to the heart of the conflicts that have emerged in recent months at the highest levels of the Pindo state. While a section of the political establishment aligned with Trump favors a more openly confrontational stance against China, potentially including an anti-China alliance with Russia, a larger faction, encompassing the Democratic Party, a section of the Republicans, and the intelligence agencies, see an escalation against Russia, including moving against Russia’s ally, Syria, as the first order of business. The hearing, with its hysterical accusations and war-mongering by all parties involved, was a microcosm of the entire US political establishment, which is uniformly committed to continuing the onslaught against the social rights of the working class at home and pursuing military conflict abroad. The accusations hurled against Putin by Rubio, Shaheen and Cardin recall the type of rhetoric used to demonize a series of foreign leaders targeted by Faschingstein for invasion and/or assassination. The list includes Manuel Noriega of Panama, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Bashar al-Assad of Syria. There is a logic to the saber-rattling agitation against Russia. Though the agitators generally don’t spell it out, knowing it has no popular support, it leads inexorably to war with nuclear-armed Russia, a conflict that could trigger a nuclear holocaust.