My last post was on why I thought Hillary Clinton’s email server disqualified her from office. This may lead my reader(s) to think I approve of her main opponent – Donald Trump. First off I’d like to repeat the note I put at the top of the previous post:

I’m not a US citizen this is in large part “not my circus, not my monkeys”

Second I will note that I think Donald Trump is less bad than Hillary Clinton as a president. But this is a low bar. I think even Jill Stein of the Green party would be better than Mrs Clinton because, while I consider Stein to be misguided, she doesn’t seem to be corrupt.

Still that leads to the question of whether a Trump presidency will be a disaster. And to answer that we need to consider Trump the man. To consider Trump the man we need to get behind Trump the Showman because that is a deliberately constructed image. The only aspect of Trump the Showman we need to consider is whether his apparent “off the cuff” comments and rambling sidetracks are an issue or not. I don’t think they are. First, despite the faux outrage generated by the media most (all?) of his more outrageous off the cuff comments are clearly hyperbole. There’s a core truth in most of them that the media democrats with bylines desperately want to distract attention from but the truth is exaggerated for effect and that exaggeration is obvious to anyone who is not being deliberately blind. The sidetracks may be worse in that they suggest poor discipline but I’ve noticed a number of successful people seem to have the ability to rathole discussions if they aren’t explicitly told to not do it when it happens so I don’t see this as completely bad.

Behind Trump the Showman is Trump the Businessman. This bloke is apparently unpleasant and ethically challenged. He’s a bully who uses his wealth and power to screw people he’s doing business with. There are endless stories (google them) of him paying late, demanding outrageous discounts and so on and very few where he seems to inspire loyalty and/or a desire for people to continue working with him. He’s not the only businessman who acts like that – in fact, in my experience, pretty much every Chinese, French and Israeli business seems to think that screwing the supplier on the last payment is standard – but it isn’t the sort of behavior that leads to long term relationships. It also doesn’t actually do him any good long term because word gets around. If you expect you’ll be shafted on the fourth and final payment you make sure you over charge by 33% so that you get the payment you want in the first three. People pad their initial quotes so that they can be apparently beaten down and so on. Furthermore he’s pretty much a classic example of a government connected crony capitalist rent seeker. Given the zoning laws and all the various regulations about hotels and gaming, this isn’t a complete surprise – pretty much everyone who wants to build a casino is going to have to get in bed with some unsavory politicians – but no one forced him to devote himself to this field and a more ethical businessman would probably try something else.

Trump the businessman has successfully built Trump the brand as something of value. That’s an impressive achievement. There aren’t many who have done that. And, from a business perspective, his ability to franchise the brand to others so that he makes money from other people’s efforts and minimal work himself is impressive. What is even more impressive is that the brand appears to survive, despite the various scams that seem to have used it to attract suckers. But when you look at Trump University (for example) it seems to show a business model that was knowingly built on a series of lies and that Trump must have been aware of the lies even if there’s no direct evidence. The democrats had some success painting Mitt Romney as a sleazy businessman four years ago. He wasn’t and, that was clear to anyone who did more than a few seconds of research. As a result Trump, who is a sleazy businessman, doesn’t seem to suffering from the more justifiable accusations being thrown at him.

Trump isn’t just a businessman, he’s got a private life. That doesn’t seem to be too bad, all things considered. Yes he’s been married three times but he doesn’t seem to have had the masses of affairs/one night stands that some have had (or are rumored to have had). He seems to get on well with his children and his ex-wives which says something. From other reports I’ve seen Trump can be impulsively generous to the needy but he doesn’t seem to be the sort of person who hides his charity – indeed a cynic might say he views charitable donations as a way to get publicity. This is in strong contrast to Mitt Romney, who is far more generous of both his money and his time and who doesn’t seek publicity about it, but does seem to be better than Hillary Clinton who appears to treat charitable giving as a way to dodge taxes.

In summary Trump seems like an egotistical bully, but he’s not an entirely unlikeable one and he’s not always one. This seems to be about par for the course for politicians and public figures to be honest. He brings a good deal of negotiating experience to the table and a valuable outside the beltway viewpoint but as I note below, a corresponding lack of contacts with people in the system.

So what about his policies? To the extent that we can discern them, that is. In foreign affairs he’s likely to be a lot more assertive than Obama (or Clinton) and he’s likely to reverse some of Obama’s more craven policies to the extent that he can. Iran, for example, is probably praying for Clinton. He may well do some kind of a deal with Russia and China, but he is likely to approach both of these nations from a position of assumed dominance so any deal is unlikely to be an Obama giveaway. On trade and immigration he seems likely to be protectionist and this will likely squash any potential trade deals such as TPP. Since those deals don’t seem to be terribly wonderful for anyone except maybe Hollywood and big pharma (plus possibly Silicon Valley) that is no great loss.

What about the supreme court? I suspect the chances are high that he’ll nominate someone reasonably “conservative”. He may well break the Harvard/Yale duopoly and could well nominate someone who is not currently a judge. That latter would of course be somewhat controversial but it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing all things considered.

The problem here is that on many of the other issues, such as fixing Obamacare, he doesn’t seem to have any policy at all – or at least not one that is consistent and/or realistic – and these usually aren’t areas where he can wing it and make good choices. There’s actually an excellent chance that the law of unintended consequences will bit him (and the US as a whole) good and hard if he makes the wrong choices and that could lead to a cascading set of bad choices and unintended consequences.

The way to avoid this is of course with smart advisors and underlings. This leads to the question of whether he can appoint smart, reliable people to his cabinet positions (Sec State, Sec Def etc.). This is going to strongly depend on two things. First whether he is able to identify good people, which seems quite likely as he’s not an idiot, and second whether the people he identifies are willing to work with him, which is a whole different kettle of fish. I suspect there’s a fair chance they won’t, and that could be a real mess. There’s also the question of whether the entrenched Washing bureaucracies will work with him or not. There is undoubtedly the potential for him to go all Reaganite and fire a large number of them. The usual sneering classes would undoubtedly find that terrible but it would very likely be extremely popular with the people who will be voting for him and I personally don’t see a huge downside either.

The likely problem though is that he finds himself essentially isolated and ignored when not ridiculed. This is potentially disastrous because it will allow the US Federal bureaucracies free rein.

So to answer the question, while Trump as a person may not be “that bad”, Trump as a president stands an excellent chance of being a disaster. The only upside is that I see little to no chance that a Clinton presidency will not be a disaster – albeit a possibly different one.