Trump, Corruption and the Crisis of the Global Elites
The first episode of “Unfit to Rule” examines the quagmire of corruption and political chaos affecting many governments around the world – most prominent the Mueller investigation of Trump; with Gerald Horne and host Paul Jay
PAUL JAY: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. So we’re going to be doing a regular series of interviews with our guest, Dr. Gerald Horne. I was joking beforehand that maybe we’ll call these interviews Not Fit to Rule, because we’re going to be talking about elite politics from Washington, D.C. and further afield. If you look from country to country, the number of leaders of countries that are deep in the quagmire of corruption scandals, the list goes on and on, of course, here in the United States, Trump and his cohorts. You can go to South Africa, you can go to Brazil, you can go to the Philippines, and of course Netanyahu in Israel, and I’m sure there’s more one could add to that list.
And I think this is a symptom of a systemic issue. Global capitalism, the global elites. There’s a real crisis. They don’t know what to do, and I shouldn’t say, not only do they not know what to do, they don’t want to do what’s even in their own interests. They can’t do the kind of reforms that would make capitalism healthy, from climate change to financial regulation, go on and on. The need for immediate maximum profits seems to be trumping, no pun intended, Even the kind of policy that even just a few years ago would have seemed normal. At any rate, we’re going to start the first of these interviews, and we’re going to talk about the Trump drama in D.C. and the Mueller investigation, and we’re going to follow some of these political events. But try to give it somewhat more of a systemic historical context.
And so without further ado, I’ll introduce my guest, Dr. Gerald Horne. Thanks for joining us, Dr. Horne.
GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.
PAUL JAY: So, Dr. Horne holds the John Jay and Rebecca Morris Chair of History and African-American Studies at the University of Houston. He’s the author of many books, most recently “Storming the Heavens: African-Americans and the Early Fight for the Right to Fly,” and “The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in 17th Century North America and the Caribbean.”
First of all, if this was a Clinton presidency, and if she had won, I am sure that if the FBI established a special investigator to look into the Clinton Foundation and follow all the potential corruption threads that might reveal themselves, we would have quite a crisis of the American state, as well. But this Russiagate thing that was supposed to, the collaboration of the Trump with the Russians which actually triggered this, they don’t seem to have actually found much in the public domain. There’s next to nothing that actually links the Russian state with, with what may have gone on in terms of trying to manipulate the elections. Even the WikiLeaks thing is still not, other than we have to take the American intelligence agencies on faith that the Russians did it. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. But the Mueller investigation is really reaching into corruption, which I’m sure there is tons of. But that could be said, as I said about if the Clintons had won, and perhaps many other administrations.
So why is, what does Mueller represent? It’s not just like partisan Democratic Party interests. There’s something more going on here, that this section of the state wants to wound and even bring down this administration.
GERALD HORNE: I think there’s a battle royale taking place within the highest levels of the U.S. ruling elite. A simple way to put it is that one faction says confront Russia first, with regard to maintaining U.S. imperialism’s hegemony. The other faction says confront China first. Now, Mr. Trump, bluster and buffoonery aside, was a representative of this notion that there should be conciliation with Moscow so as to better confront China. And it’s unclear if that particular faction is going to prevail, not least because of the investigations you just reference. Then there is a faction that feels that China should be conciliated, not least since there’s so much U.S. investment in China, and that Russia should be confronted. Russia should be confronted because it’s much more of a competitor with the United States with regard to arms sales. Look at the India market, in particular. And Russia, perhaps because of the historic legacy of 1917-1991, oftentimes is more prone and apt to confront the United States in the international arena in various hotspots, as Syria tends to suggest. Then there are those who also feel that China cannot be confronted adequately unless a Yeltsin-type figure is in power in Moscow, referencing Boris Yeltsin, the sellout leader of Russia following the ouster of Gorbachev.
So it seems to me that that’s really what’s driving this battle royale within the U..S ruling elite, leading a former CIA Director John Brennan to refer to Mr. Trump in very insulting terms, mimicked by Clapper, another top intelligence official. Mirrored by Michael Hayden, another top intelligence official. Not to mention the insults daily heaped upon this president by the Washington Post, The New York Times, MSNBC.
PAUL JAY: Of course, Comey most recently.
GERALD HORNE: And James Comey most recently, which involved really very insulting terms directed at Mr. Trump. Even the New York Times had a front page piece just a day or two ago about how Mr. Comey may be harming his so-called straight arrow image by these rather insulting, demeaning comments about Mr. Trump’s alleged bald spot that this elaborate hairdo is meant to conceal, the fact that he may have bags under his eyes which reveals that uses goggles for a tanning bed. I mean, I’m not sure why the former FBI director has to go there when there is so much other negativity that can be heaped upon Mr. Trump. But what I think it signifies is these very deep fissures, these very deep political fissures within the highest ranks of the U.S. ruling elite.
PAUL JAY: Much of the state apparatus, the, especially the FBI, but even to some extent the intelligence agencies, certainly the corporate media, they’ve always understood that part of their role is to keep the office of the president reverential. You gotta really go pretty far for them to break down the idea that as, as many weaknesses as a president might have, it’s still kind of the king. And you be careful about discrediting the office itself. George Bush was starting to get this ridicule. But after 9/11 he all of a sudden he became an icon of American resistance to terrorism, and so on.
It kind of goes to what I was saying in the beginning. Even in their own interests, these fractures and fissures they have, the short-term goals they have seem to be overriding even systemic things that would help them. Like, so discrediting the office of the President undermines everyone’s, I don’t know what faith people still had, in the system. But there ain’t a heck of a lot going to be left after all this. But they don’t care, because whatever these differences are between these different sections are more important to them than even maintaining the mythology of the president.
GERALD HORNE: Well, it’s akin to the question of political corruption which you pointed out correctly is just not a phenomenon in the United States, it’s a phenomenon in South Africa, it’s a phenomenon in Israel, it’s been reflected in Brazil. And likewise with regard to this lack of reverence for the highest office in the land, you may have seen the reports about the latest interview with President Macron in France, where the journalists interviewing him made it a point not to refer to him by the term Mr. President, or President Macron. They just treated him like any other ordinary Joe, which is contrary to the office of , how the presidency has been treated in France. And of course we know that in London, historically, prime ministers have had scorn heaped upon them. But what’s been heaped upon Theresa May, the current prime minister, seems to go above and beyond that.
I think the underlying issue, once again, is that the North Atlantic countries in particular are at a loss as of today as to how to confront China. It’s helping to engender a lot of confusion, a lot of discontent. China, apparently, is in the passing lane. This is one of the reasons why President Macron and Chancellor Merkel are headed to Washington within the next week or so to discuss, put simply, a new North Atlantic plan which amounts to entente or understanding with Moscow, gang up on China.
Now, that is consistent to a certain extent with what Mr. Trump has been suggesting. But on the other hand, Mr. Trump is under so much pressure from the elite media from the Democratic Party because of his real and imagined dealings with Moscow, it’s going to be very difficult for him to accede to this Merkel-Macron plan. And in any case, even if he does accede to it, it’s not clear if it’s going to change what seems to be the rolling tides of history, which seems to be impelling China forward. And I think that that is the elephant in the room, if you like, that it’s helping to undergird and explain so much of the surface ripples that we’re now paying attention to.
PAUL JAY: The strength and power of finance and the financial sector, and the amount of wealth that is in so few hands, what is it. There was something like eight or nine of the top 1 percent individuals have as much wealth as 50 percent of the people of the world. There’s a number I came across the other day, the global GDP is something like $80 trillion. But the amount of money that’s available for investment, which means surplus accumulation, you could say, is something close to $350 trillion. Like, many times more than, than the entire production of the globe in a year. There’s just so much money in so few hands, and the amount of this orgy of wealth, these people, first of all, are financing the politicians. I mean, Trump himself, Robert Mercer the billionaire more or less helped buy Trump the presidency and manipulate it. Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway worked for Mercer. But at every level the billionaires are pulling strings.
And Wall Street, there’s no regulation that’s meaningful. They get away with any number of shenanigans. They should, most of them, in theory, should be in jail, the leaders of Wall Street. Of course, none of them go to jail. The culture of corruption that emanates from a system that’s become so parasitic with most of its wealth, it starts getting reflected in the politics. Why shouldn’t I cash in on, everybody’s cashing in. And why, just because I’m a politician I should be worth more than I used to be.
GERALD HORNE: Well, part of the problem also is the previous epoch, which was the Cold War, where the U.S. ruling elite in particular made the epochal decision that there had to be an undermining of working class organizations, particularly unions, because it was felt and it was thought, or at least it was said, that that put them in objective league and objective alliance with the foe in Moscow, which had proclaimed that it was a socialist project. That led to the weakening of the AFL-CIO, the U.S. trade union movement. It has also led to a weakening of the living standards of the U.S. working class. The U.S. working class is drowning in debt, the student population is drowning in debt. Consumer debt is at an all-time high. And at the same time the U.S. Supreme Court within the next weeks is expected to make a decision in the so-called Janus case, J-A-N-U-S, that will ultimately weaken public sector unions, which has been the major growth sector in terms of the trade union movement. I’m speaking of the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees, Service Employees International Union. They’re going to make it much more difficult for them to collect dues, which is going to weaken their treasuries, which means that they won’t have as much money to distribute to the Democrats.
But it also means ultimately weakening the living standards of the working class, of the masses of the population, helping to exacerbate this income inequality that you just just made reference to, and thereby helping to deepen the crisis that the system now faces. And as you suggested, in a certain sense it’s self-defeating, what’s going on. But on the other hand this short-termism, this idea that you grab as much as you can in as short a term of space as you can, is helping to drive politics and helping to lead all of us, at least most of us, to ruin.
PAUL JAY: And one of the splits, and there seems to be many, is that this, that Trump does represent a kind of very particular section of the far right. It has somewhat of, even a metaphysical agenda. There’s this crazy picture of the Saudi king, Trump, and I forget who the third is. Their hands are on this globe, this orb. You know, like they’re, it’s like they’re trying to bring, you know, the devil, and bring him up. And Bannon’s talk of the defense of Western Christian civilization, which the target is Islamic militarism and China, according to Bannon. But clearly it’s not against Islamic militarism, because if it was your big ally couldn’t be Saudi Arabia.
It’s really about Iran and developing, reasserting U.S. hegemony in the region. Not liking even regional players that give you somewhat of a competition. Anyway, the whole thing, and then throw climate change in, the fact that the media, sections of the state are so preoccupied with Russigate and such, and there’s such critical problems facing us. I go back to the beginning, these people are n ‘t fit to rule. Unfortunately, the other side ain’t either. In terms, historically you would think there’d be more of a mass movement in this country in response to this.
GERALD HORNE: Well, I think part of the problem is what I just made reference to, the weakening of the trade union movement. If you do a deeper analysis of the anti-Jim Crow movement, the civil rights movement, one of the things you will find is that that movement was kept afloat in no small measure by donations and contributions from the trade union movement. The United Auto Workers headquartered in Michigan, the Hospital Workers Union, Dr. King’s favorite union, headquartered in New York City, et cetera. And so when you weakened that movement you weakened all peoples’ movements.
With regard to Iran, we should pay very careful and close attention to what’s going on. It’s clear that Mr. Trump wants a breakout of the nuclear accord negotiated with Teheran with not only United States, but the EU 3, France, London, and Germany, plus the United Nations Security Council. There is tremendous pressure being placed upon the Europeans to go along with Mr. Trump in this regard. It has the added benefit, from Mr. Trump’s point of view, of helping to push European politics to the right further.
Which brings us to another very frightening issue, which is the fact that so many within the U.S. Ruling elite are warning about the dangers of fascism nowadays. Madeleine Albright, the former Clinton Secretary of State has a book out, “Fascism: A Warning,” where she talks about this. Michael Kinsley, who is one of the elite media spokespersons, and also happens to be a part of the 1 percent because of his ties to the Microsoft fortune, was one of the earliest individuals to sound the alarm about the rise of fascism in the United States. The rise of authoritarianism, to put it euphemistically, in Hungary and Poland and Eastern Europe, generally, is also very frightening. But I think that if you look at Brazil you get a microcosmic view of why this right-wing tendency is rising. That is to say, former President Lula is being put behind bars. He was expected to win the presidential election in a few months in Brazil. So they weakened him, and that creates an opening for ultra-right candidates to claim the highest office in the land in Brazil. And if you look at Brazil and then sort of transpose that globally, that is say, the weakening of the Left creating an opening for the right, you begin to get an understanding of what’s going on in the world in general.
PAUL JAY: OK. Well, this is just the beginning of our conversation about these things, so hopefully every week we’ll carry on this chat. Please join us again on the Real News Network.