Weekend Reads


For the profit and pleasure of subscribers, here's some longer reads from around the world on economic, political and social issues for the weekend.

Donald Trump's first two weeks in office has been a whirlwind of executive orders, policy-making on the run, insults, at least one firing and a whole lot of turmoil on the global stage. It's hard to imagine what the next four years might be like, but a few patterns are emerging from a few key people.

Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, was a key figure in Trump's explosive bans on refugees and migrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. So who exactly is Steve Bannon and how does he operate?

Emily Jane Fox's piece on Bannon in Vanity Fair paints Bannon as a Rasputin-like who sees himself pulling Trump's strings. Bannon was also appointed to the National Security Council, ahead of the head of the military.

"It’s just one piece of Bannon’s ideological game of chess, rewiring the media landscape to clear the path for a radical reimagining of conservative politics in line with his own nationalist agenda. The president himself, Bannon has admitted in the past, is just one piece of the puzzle. Trump is a “blunt instrument for us,” Bannon told Ken Stern for Vanity Fair last summer. “I don’t know whether he really gets it or not.”

Fox also takes a close look at Jared Kushner in the first 10 days or so. He seems to have been squashed by Bannon and another key adviser, Stephen Miller.

This Buzzfeed piece that features a transcript of Bannon's comments to a conservative conference in the Vatican in 2014 is similarly stark and worrying. "We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it," he said then.

If you think Trump's White House appears chaotic from the outside, this deeply-reported Washington Post piece on what went on inside Trump's inner circle in the first few days is worrying to say the least. It paints a picture of a group of feuding and paranoid people competing for the ear of a deeply flawed man. The travel ban's implementation and a lack of consultation with Congressional allies or the bureaucracy set the tone.

This Axios piece on Trump's reading and watching habits inside the White House gives some insight into how he reacts and thinks. Not in a straight line would be a fair description. He also appears incredibly reactive, rather than strategic...

A taste: "With a black Sharpie in hand, he marks up the Times or other printed stories. When he wants action or response, he scrawls the staffers' names on that paper and either hands the clip to them in person, or has a staffer create a PDF of it — with handwritten commentary — and email it to them."

It's not only Democrats and many of America's allies who are worried. Republicans who have served previous Presidents are also alarmed, including Eliot Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleeza Rice. His opinion piece in The Atlantic is pointed on the issue of character and temperament.

"It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment."

The 25th amendment deals with the issue of Presidential succession in the event of death or illness, including mental illness.

Have a great weekend...