His election remarks feed the left’s fantasy of a post-election coup.
President Trump’s insistence on saying the opposite of whatever the press demands is a source of more than a little of his political success as well as many self-defeating blunders. An example of the latter is his answer Wednesday to a deliberately tendentious question about whether he would commit to “a peaceful transferral of power.”
The media and intelligentsia have worked themselves into a frenzy over imaginary fears that Mr. Trump will somehow remain in office by force if he loses the 2020 election. “Well we’re going to have to see what happens,” he said when asked to disavow this fantasy. “I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
Start with the obvious: The notion that Mr. Trump could stop a peaceful transition of power is preposterous. On Jan. 20 his term legally ends. If Congress hasn’t certified an Electoral College winner on that date—or settled a tie— Nancy Pelosi will be President if she is still House Speaker. GOP House and Senate leaders have already repudiated Mr. Trump’s remarks. If he tried to remain after Joe Biden was certified as the winner, his political support would collapse.
As for the notion that Mr. Trump could execute a coup—he’s been warring with his own security agencies as long as he’s been in office. He’s been denounced by dozens of retired generals, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff apologized for appearing with him publicly during the unrest in Washington, D.C.
The rule of law is vital to free and fair elections, and Mr. Trump is right not to forswear his legal options. Yet his reckless comments give credence to Democratic hysteria, and he should clarify his views if he doesn’t want to lose more voters who think he lacks the temperament or self-control for the office.
As for a peaceful transition, last month the New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, participated in an election “war game” in which states threatened secession after a Trump electoral victory. No less an authority on defeat than Mrs. Clinton said recently that Joe Biden “should not concede under any circumstances,” in expectation of a drawn-out fight. Mr. Biden has predicted that Mr. Trump might try to steal the election. Who’s really plotting the coup?
Mr. Trump was also investigated relentlessly by his own government after taking office—an investigation sparked in part, we have since learned, by opposition information provided by the Clinton campaign that hasn’t been substantiated and may have been Russian disinformation.
But Democrats’ bad behavior is no excuse for Mr. Trump to join them in undermining democratic legitimacy. And he made another mistake Wednesday by suggesting that confirming a new Supreme Court Justice could help him in a post-election legal fight. “This scam that the Democrats are pulling,” he said, “will be before the United States Supreme Court.” He added: “I think it should be eight-nothing or nine-nothing, but just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it’s very important to have a ninth Justice.”
This answer hands Democrats a ready-made line of attack in Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Senate Democrats will charge that Mr. Trump’s nominee is being installed to help him steal the election. They’ll also demand that she recuse herself from election-related cases.
We’ve been warning about ill-conceived mail-in voting plans and extended ballot deadlines orchestrated by Democrats and liberal interest groups. The worry isn’t that these would “rig” the election but that they would make litigation and complaints of election theft more likely. The Supreme Court may have to rule, however reluctantly, on ballot questions. Mr. Trump’s comments hurt his nominee, the Court, and maybe his own interests.
The sad reality is that Democratic opinion leaders have been waiting for a Reichstag fire moment from the minute Mr. Trump took office. Their thirst to be vindicated has grown more intense as his term draws to a close. Perhaps they want to save face after misunderstanding their country and its citizens so fundamentally for four years. Mr. Trump should stop fueling their destructive ideas, because the legitimacy of election results is the bedrock of American democracy.
Wall Street Journal Editorial Concludes Trump
He still has no second term message beyond his own grievances.
President Trump may soon need a new nickname for “Sleepy Joe” Biden. How does President-elect sound? On present trend that’s exactly what Mr. Biden will be on Nov. 4, as Mr. Trump heads for what could be an historic repudiation that would take the Republican Senate down with him.
Mr. Trump refuses to acknowledge what every poll now says is true: His approval rating has fallen to the 40% or below that is George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter territory. They’re the last two Presidents to be denied a second term. This isn’t 2017 when Mr. Trump reached similar depths after failing to repeal ObamaCare while blaming Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. He regained support with tax reform and a buoyant economy that really was lifting all incomes.
Now the election is four months away, voters know him very well, and Mr. Trump has reverted to his worst form. His record fighting the coronavirus is better than his critics claim after a bad start in late February and March. He mobilized federal resources to help hard-hit states, especially New York.But he wasted his chance to show leadership by turning his daily pandemic pressers into brawls with the bear-baiting press and any politician who didn’t praise him to the skies. Lately he has all but given up even talking about the pandemic when he might offer realism and hope about the road ahead even as the country reopens. His default now is defensive self-congratulation.
The country also wants firm but empathetic leadership after the death of George Floyd, but Mr. Trump offers combative tweets that inflame. Not long ago Mr. Trump tweeted that a 75-year old man who was pushed by police in Buffalo might be an antifa activist. He offered no evidence.
Mr. Trump has little time to recover. The President’s advisers say that he trailed Hillary Clinton by this much at this point in 2016, that they haven’t had a chance to define Mr. Biden, and that as the election nears voters will understand the binary choice. Perhaps. But in 2016 Mrs. Clinton was as unpopular as Mr. Trump, while Mr. Biden is not.
Mr. Biden hasn’t even had to campaign to take a large lead. He rarely leaves his Delaware basement, he dodges most issues, and his only real message is that he’s not Donald Trump. He says he’s a uniter, not a divider. He wants racial peace and moderate police reform. He favors protests but opposes riots and violence.
Some Democrats are literally advising Mr. Biden to barely campaign at all. Eliminate the risk of a mental stumble that will raise doubts about his declining capacity that was obvious in the primaries. Let Mr. Trump remind voters each day why they don’t want four more years of tumult and narcissism.
Mr. Trump’s base of 35% or so will never leave, but the swing voters who stood by him for three and a half years have fallen away in the last two months. This includes suburban women, independents, and seniors who took a risk on him in 2016 as an outsider who would shake things up. Now millions of Americans are close to deciding that four more years are more risk than they can stand.
As of now Mr. Trump has no second-term agenda, or even a message beyond four more years of himself. His recent events in Tulsa and Arizona were dominated by personal grievances. He resorted to his familiar themes from 2016 like reducing immigration and denouncing the press, but he offered nothing for those who aren’t already persuaded.
Mr. Trump’s advisers have an agenda that would speak to opportunity for Americans of all races—school choice for K-12, vocational education as an alternative to college, expanded health-care choice, building on the opportunity zones in tax reform, and more. The one issue on which voters now give him an edge over Mr. Biden is the economy. An agenda to revive the economy after the pandemic, and restore the gains for workers of his first three years, would appeal to millions.
Perhaps Mr. Trump lacks the self-awareness and discipline to make this case. He may be so thrown off by his falling polls that he simply can’t do it. If that’s true he should understand that he is headed for a defeat that will reward all of those who schemed against him in 2016. Worse, he will have let down the 63 million Americans who sent him to the White House by losing, of all people, to “Sleepy Joe.”
Kicking and Screaming: WSJ’s Kim Strassel on the Media vs. Trump
As a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a commentator for Fox News, Kim Strassel is a card-carrying member of the mainstream media. But Strassel is appalled by the media’s treatment of Donald Trump, and not just from journalists from the left. She describes the “resistance” in detail in her recent book, Resistance (at All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America. She and Peter Robinson discuss the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and the way the media has covered it and disseminated the information to the public. They also discuss the upcoming presidential election (yes, we are still having one) and the politics of the $2 trillion stimulus bill, with more spending on the way, and the realities of restarting the economy in a post- or partial-post-COVID-19 world. Finally, they discuss the pluses and minuses of Donald Trump’s temperament, and the possibility of something good coming from this current crisis.
Larry Fink’s Latest Sermon
The BlackRock CEO auditions to be the next Treasury Secretary.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink is among the world’s most powerful investment managers, but it seems he longs for more influence. To wit, he has assumed a role as self-styled conscience of the business world in telling CEOs how to run their companies.
“We believe that sustainability should be our new standard for investing,” he wrote to clients in his annual letter this week. He added that “all investors—and particularly the millions of our clients who are saving for long-term goals like retirement—must seriously consider sustainability in their investments.”Mr. Fink gets attention because BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, with some $7.43 trillion in client assets. He is now threatening to vote against corporate directors and management if they don’t do what he says, and he is especially exercised about climate change. He is demanding that companies disclose climate risks, and wants to see their plans to operate under scenarios in which warming is limited to fewer than two degrees Celsius this century.
Corporations in which BlackRock invests will also have to comply with the rules from a “Sustainability Accounting Standards Board” on issues such as labor practices and workforce diversity. “Disclosure should be a means to achieving a more sustainable and inclusive capitalism,” Mr. Fink writes.
Like his friends at the Business Roundtable, Mr. Fink is big on “stakeholder” capitalism. “Each company’s prospects for growth are inextricable from its ability to operate sustainably and serve its full set of stakeholders,” he says. If he means serving employees, customers, suppliers and communities, he is merely saying what any successful company already does. But our guess is that by stakeholders Mr. Fink really means regulators and politicians.
The giveaway is that Mr. Fink says BlackRock will divest its actively managed funds from corporations that generate 25% or more of their revenues from coal production. “We don’t yet know which predictions about the climate will be most accurate,” Mr. Fink acknowledges, but “even if only a fraction of the projected impacts is realized, this is a much more structural, long-term crisis.”
He might be right, but then estimates of future temperature increases are based on climate models that have overstated warming to date. Mr. Fink wants to make corporations plan for unknown temperature increases as well as climate regulations that are even less certain.
Coal is an easy target since its share of American power is declining. But the International Energy Agency projects that oil and coal demand will stay flat through 2040 and natural gas consumption will increase 40% even if all countries keep the promises they made in the 2015 nonbinding Paris climate accord. The U.S. is predicted to account for 85% of the increase in global oil production over the next decade thanks to shale drilling.
All of which means that fossil fuels still have a long shelf life, especially in developing countries. There are 170 gigawatts of coal-plant capacity under construction across the world, which is more than what currently exists in Europe. So what happens if Mr. Fink’s political and climate predictions prove wrong? His clients will pay the price.
BlackRock is a fiduciary and as such is legally obligated to act in its clients’ best interest. This is ostensibly why BlackRock has voted against more than 80% of the climate resolutions on proxy ballots by activist shareholders. But suddenly Mr. Fink is prioritizing the interests of liberal politicians and pressure groups.
We can’t help but wonder if Mr. Fink, after a profitable life in business, is auditioning to be Treasury Secretary in, say, the Warren Presidency. His “stakeholder” notions sound similar to her plans to put American corporations further under the government’s thumb.
CEOs who take Mr. Fink seriously might note that his political and moral importuning isn’t satisfying progressives. “BlackRock will continue to be the world’s largest investor in coal, oil and gas,” the Sierra Club said in response to Mr. Fink’s letter.
Businesses will never be able to appease the climate absolutists. The best way they can prepare for climate risks and serve their stakeholders is to succeed as a business and create the wealth and broad prosperity that will make the world better able to adapt to whatever happens. That’s real “sustainablility.”