‘21st Century Glass-Steagall’ Means Whatever You Want It To, Unless You Want It To Mean Glass-Steagall

Mnuchin’s response at times approached the cosmic incomprehensibility of a Buddhist koan:

There actually wasn’t a reversal. The Republican platform did have Glass-Steagall. We, during the campaign . . . specifically came out and said we do support a 21st Century Glass-Steagall, which is – that means that there are aspects of it that we think may make sense. But we never said before that we supported a full separation of banks and investment banking, if we—

Here Warren interjected: “There are aspects of Glass-Steagall you support, but not breaking up the banks and separating commercial banking from investment banking? What do you think Glass-Steagall was if that’s not right at the heart of it?”

The exchange is worth quoting in bulk:

MNUCHIN: Again, I’m well aware of what Glass-Steagall was. As you may know the original concern about Glass-Steagall was about conflicts, not about credit risk. And if we had supported a full Glass-Steagall we would have said at the time that we believed in Glass-Steagall and not a 21st Century Glass-Steagall. We were very clear in differentiating it. I have realized and I had not realized that your bill was named the 21st century Glass-Steagall—
WARREN: And it has been for three years now.
MNUCHIN: I apologize that I was not aware of that, so—
WARREN: I still haven’t heard the answer to my question. What do you think Glass-Steagall was if it wasn’t separating commercial banking from investment banking?
MNUCHIN: Again, the fundamental part of Glass-Steagall was, as you’ve just outlined, the separation of investment banking from commercial banking because people were concerned about conflicts—

Again there’s some back-and-forth as Warren takes on the look of someone watching a gory athletic injury in slo-mo. “This is like something straight out of George Orwell,” she says.

.. Yet she takes another crack at it. Again, worth quoting in full:

WARREN: I have to try this one more time. What does it mean to be in favor of 21st Century Glass-Steagall if it does not mean breaking apart these two functions in banking?
MNUCHIN: You know what, I’d be more than happy to come and see you and follow up—
WARREN: Just tell me what it means!
MNUCHIN: Had we – we never came out and said separate banks from investment—
WARREN: Just tell me what 21st Century Glass-Steagall means if it doesn’t mean breaking apart those two functions. It’s an easy question – or an impossible question.
MNUCHIN: It’s actually a complicated question because there’s many aspects of it, OK? The simple answer, which we don’t support, is breaking up banks from investment banks. We think that would be a huge mistake. But again, I’m more than happy to listen to your ideas on it. You obviously have strong views, and I’d be happy to follow up and listen to you.
WARREN: This is just bizarre, the idea that you could say we are in favor of Glass-Steagall but not breaking up the banks.
MNUCHIN: We never said we were in favor of Glass-Steagall, we said we were in favor of a 21st Century Glass-Steagall. It couldn’t be clearer!

There you have it! As we have long held, the Trump administration’s “New Modern Twenty-First-Century Glass-Steagall” is just a vacuous string of mouth-sounds with no bearing on anything but the ability of Gary Cohn and Mnuchin to make it through an interview without sounding like a moron.

Never Ask if It Can Get Worse, Because It Always Can

If [FBI director James Comey’s] memo exists, then there is compelling evidence that the president committed a potentially impeachable offense. Here is the alleged chain of events: First, Trump asked Comey to drop an investigation of a close former associate and a former senior official in his administration. Second, Comey refused. Third, weeks later Trump fired Comey. Fourth, Trump then misled the American people regarding the reason for the dismissal. Each prong is important, but it’s worth noting that the fourth prong — Trump’s deception regarding the reason for Comey’s termination — is particularly problematic in context. Deception is classic evidence of malign intent.

.. But if there isn’t a taping system in the White House… Trump should stop sending out tweets suggesting there is one. We had the odd situation a few days ago of White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly insisting Trump had been “clear” in his tweet about tapes of the Trump–Comey conversations… but that tweet wasn’t clear at all, and Spicer refused to confirm or deny that there was a taping system in the White House.

It’s a yes or no question. Are there tapes of these conversations or not?

If those tapes exist, and they support Trump’s account of events and not the account of anonymous sources and Comey… it means Trump has exculpatory evidence and is choosing to not release it and expose his accusers as liars and publicly humiliate them. How often do people choose to withhold evidence that clears them of accusations?

.. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Boy, that doesn’t look bad, does it? Let’s remove anyone Trump trusts from the room who could verify his side of the story so he can discuss an extremely sensitive topic with a law enforcement official who is investigating his administration. What could go wrong, huh?

.. Apparently Steve Bannon was among the Trump advisors who wanted the president to hold off on firing Comey. When Bannon is calling for prudence and deliberation, you should probably slow down.

.. Notice how often lately Republicans are asked to step in and defend Trump not because of the policies he wants to enact, not because of his legislative agenda or his vision for the country, but for his own impulsive decision-making.

Rating a Semi-Accidental President

If he does nothing, America will be better off. If he delivers tax reform, he’ll be great.

 In an interesting piece of analysis, two sociologists semi-independently find that photos of Donald Trump on election night show him displaying facial expressions typical of sadness, not joy.
.. Those in New York business circles who know Mr. Trump best generally saw his presidential dabblings as a brand-building endeavor. This column during the campaign certainly questioned repeatedly whether he really wanted to be president. He obviously was not willing to spend enough of his own money to give him a chance in the popular vote. He found himself in the White House only due to a flukishly small margin of voters in three states that delivered him the Electoral College.
.. So much of Mr. Trump’s recent career involved pretending, not doing. The day may come when we have to admit this is one of President Trump’s chief virtues.

Sorry, Trump voters, you got scammed. You’re never going to get your wall.

It is simply impossible to overstate the symbolic importance both the wall and the idea that Mexico would pay for it had in 2016. Everything about Trump was embodied within it: the xenophobia, the vision of a world of threats and danger, the belief that complex problems have easy solutions, and most of all, the desire to stand tall and humiliate others, which was so critical to voters who felt beaten down and humiliated themselves. That’s why the preposterous notion that Mexico would pay for the wall was so critical: not because we need Mexico’s money, but because forcing it to pay would be an act of dominance, making it kneel before us, open up its wallets, and pay us for its own abasement.

.. Trump would tell his crowds, “The wall just got 10 feet higher!” And oh, would they cheer, thrilled beyond measure at the idea of punishing Mexico for its insolence and showing them who the boss is. Yes, the wall was about fear and hatred of immigrants, but more than anything it was a vision of empowerment.

.. He may also have realized that the wall is extremely unpopular, with polls consistently showing around 60 percent of Americans opposed to it, even if it remains popular with Trump’s base.
.. the wall is more popular the farther you get from the border itself, which suggests that the people most unsettled by immigration aren’t those whose communities have the most immigrants, but those whose communities are incorporating significant numbers of immigrants for the first time.
.. not a single member of the House or Senate who actually represents a border district or state .. supports building a wall.
.. Every time they revisit the issue, the administration and Congress are going to confront the reality that a wall along the entire 2,000 miles of the border is utterly impractical, even if we were willing to pony up the money it would cost
.. would require the use of eminent domain — which Republicans say they despise.
.. The Department of Homeland Security already has a plan to build 100 miles worth of walls in some critical areas. That may well happen, along with other beefed-up border security efforts.
.. Trump would regularly decree that the lobby of a building constituted floors 1-9 or 1-14, so he could claim that the building had more stories than it actually did. It didn’t fool anyone, but he kept doing it all the same.