Who thought Trump couldn’t get worse?



Just when we thought Trump couldn’t possibly get worse, he has. Almost every day he exhibits more grotesque behaviour. It astonishes his colleagues, the media, the US electorate, world leaders, and indeed the entire world.

Back in May The Political Sword published America – what have you done?, which described the contemporary chaotic scene in the White House: That was at the time of Trump’s discussion with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office, during which he foolishly exchanged vital intelligence with him. Trump subsequently denied this but later admitted that it had occurred, excusing his mistake on the grounds that he was entitled to do so!

America – what have you done? was published around the time that Trump fired FBI chief James Comey. The story behind this changed by the day. It emerged that Trump had tried to get Comey to wind up the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn who had resigned after being confronted with the fact that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office. Trump maligned Comey viciously, calling him incompetent, a ‘grandstander’ and a ‘showboat’. He said he was ‘crazy, a real nut job’, extraordinary language from the President of the United States.

Next, gaffe-prone White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was fired and replaced with the sycophantic Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Spicer was fired because he had objected strongly to the appointment of ex-hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director to whom Spicer was to be subservient.

Then Trump fired Reince Priebus, White House Chief-of-Staff, and replaced him with homeland security secretary, General John Kelly. Priebus had been Trump’s campaign advisor and loyal supporter, but he still got the chop – loyalty runs in only one direction in Trumpland.

Shortly afterwards, Trump fired the foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci who had made a profane outburst against Priebus. Scaramucci lasted just ten days.

Steve Bannon, previously executive chair of Brietbart News (a far-right American news, opinion and commentary website), who became Trump’s chief White House strategist, was already on thin ice with Chief-of-Staff John Kelly who was unhappy with the influence he wielded in the White House. Asked about Bannon’s future, Trump was initially equivocal with: ‘We’ll see’, but within days Bannon had been fired. Trump said this ‘was a great day at the White House’. Bannon though had the last say as he returned to his old position at Breitbart News. He told The Washington Post: ‘No administration in history has been so divided among itself about the direction about where it should go.'

Take a look at Trump's firings/replacements/resignations/departures/job changes in his first six months, up to 1 August. There have been more since:


By the end of August Trump had also sacked White House adviser Sebastian Gorka. Gorka, a close associate of Steve Bannon, had generated controversy with his combative interviews and anti-Muslim views. No doubt Gorka will not be the last to exit.

In the same press release, on the Friday evening that Hurricane Harvey was headed for Texas, Trump announced that he had signed a directive to reinstate the ban on transgender troops in the military.

The riots in Charlottesville marked another low point in Trump’s presidency. They were initiated by far-right, white supremacist, Nazi sympathizers with connections to the Ku Klux Klan, who objected violently to the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, an American general who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Lee had married into one of the wealthiest slave-holding families in Virginia and took over the estate. He was cruel. He encouraged his staff to severely beat slaves who were recaptured. One slave described Lee as one of the meanest men she had ever met.

The extreme right clearly supported Lee’s behaviour and actions and resisted removal of this symbol of him. Anti-racist groups staged a peaceful counter protest, but the extremists, spoiling for a fight, began a violent pitched battle that left many injured and one dead.

It was Trump’s reaction though that landed him in deep trouble. At first, instead of roundly condemning the extremists for initiating the riot, he condemned both sides. Then, realizing that he had upset many of his colleagues and much of the electorate, he reversed his stand in a hastily-arranged press conference, where through gritted teeth he read a carefully scripted statement condemning the extremists and their bigotry, naming them all: ‘Racism is evil. Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.’



It was obvious this ran contrary to his real feelings, so much so that he soon reversed this balanced statement with a now-typical Trump rant, this time about both sides being to blame. He defended the far-right protesters at the Charlottesville rally, saying they were not all neo-Nazis and white supremacists and laid the blame for the violence equally on what he called the ‘alt-left’: ‘You had a group on one side and group on the other and they came at each other with clubs – there is another side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You had people that were very fine people on both sides.’ Trump’s attempts to claim ‘moral equivalence’ enraged not just Democrats and those opposing the provocateurs, but also his Republican colleagues, who came out in numbers to condemn him in strident terms.



Not satisfied to leave the Charlottesville episode to fade out of conversation, he stirred the pot again at a rally in Phoenix where he ‘sought to portray himself as the real victim, and launched an all-out assault on the media, branding journalists who “do not like our country” as the true source of division in America….The crowd – some scowling, some laughing – turned and jeered at journalists in the media enclosure and chanted: “CNN sucks! CNN sucks!” Even as he spoke protesters outside the Phoenix Convention Center had gathered to voice anger at his presence.’

Since then Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have devastated his region. They will cost his nation billions of dollars in restitution. Trump’s initial reaction showed little regard for the victims, whom he met only on his second visit to Texas; he seemed more concerned with the size of the crowd that attended his rally. He promised lots of money and praised emergency workers.

Recently, he created controversy by his move to end President Obama’s DACA program that protected 800,000 ‘dreamers’ who had entered the US as children of illegal immigrants, who now live and work there. Trump gave Congress six months to ‘legalise’ the program, then did a deal with the Democrats to address this issue, much to the chagrin of the Republicans. The White House then gave contradictory accounts of what had transpired, confirming then denying the deal - typical Trump somersaults.

This man, who conducts international diplomacy via early morning tweets, managed to annoy PM Theresa May after the recent bomb event on London’s underground, with his tweet: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!” May angrily retorted: “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”

Trump is incorrigible. His inner feelings always burst out. He generates discord whereever he goes. Commonsense and diplomacy are anathema to him. In business he called the shots and said whatever he liked. Now he cannot abide the constraints that the most powerful man in the world ought to accept. The only time he showed any constraint was when he was mugged by the reality of Afghanistan, and although it broke a pre-election promise, he took the advice of his generals and decided not to withdraw from that hell-hole.

Reflect on these events, which have occurred in the few months since America – what have you done? was published. Ask yourself if Trump’s behaviour has made the analysis offered at that time more or less valid. Let me quickly remind you of my thesis about Trump:

The following were held to be Trump’s underlying personality defects, which evoke his extraordinary behaviour:

Lack of insight
Paranoia
Delusions of grandeur
Narcissistic personality disorder
Overbearing, punitive, bullying and ruthless behaviour patterns
Willful ignorance

Each was elucidated.

It was this analysis of the personality and behaviour of Trump that evoked the piece: America – what have you done?

Do you think his subsequent behaviour has made this assessment more or less valid?

Take another look at: America – what have you done?, and tell us what you think.


What is your opinion?
What do you feel about President Donald Trump seven months in?

How do you expect him to extract himself from the mess he has created?

Let us know in comments below.

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When you’re in a hole, stop digging


In the next week or so, we’re all supposedly getting a letter from the Australian Bureau of Statistics so we can (if we choose) ‘advise’ our Parliamentarians how to vote on the issue of same sex marriage. Be still my beating heart!

Why do we have to advise the Parliament on how we want them to vote on a particular issue? We don’t on potentially going to war ‘in support’ of the USA against ISIS or North Korea, we don’t on giving business a $50 BILLION plus tax cut when Australian residents are facing greater economic inequality, and we certainly didn’t when Prime Minister at the time John Howard inserted the ‘man and woman’ clause into the Marriage Act in 2004.
Less than an hour after Prime Minister John Howard announced the changes to the Marriage Act, the government rushed legislation enabling the changes into parliament.

Mr Howard said the Marriage Act would be changed to include a definition of marriage as the `voluntarily entered-into union of a man and a woman to exclusion of all others'.

The laws currently do not define marriage.

"We've decided to insert this into the Marriage Act to make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation," Mr Howard told reporters.
Howard went on to suggest
(It should) not over time be subject to redefinition or change by courts, it is something that ought to be expressed through the elected representatives of the country.
As recently as last year
Speaking on radio host Alan Jones’ 2GB breakfast show, Mr Howard also reasserted his opposition to a plebiscite on same-sex marriage saying the matter should have been resolved in Parliament.
And Howard’s right. Regardless of the result of the survey, the only vote that can remove the ‘man and woman’ clause from legislation is the vote of those who inhabit the red and green chambers of Parliament House in Canberra. The survey is an expensive ego trip forced on Australia by a small group of ultra-conservative members of Parliament. You could probably put money on them also ignoring the result if it isn’t what they want.

The original plan by the conservative faction of the Coalition government was for a plebiscite to be run by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), but that was voted down twice in the Senate. Notwithstanding the small matter of the majority of the senate (which the Coalition doesn’t control) suggesting by those two actions that the plebiscite is really a bad idea, the Coalition Government went behind the Senate’s back and decided to require the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to run a ‘survey’ of all on the electoral roll to determine the issue. As the ABS is running the survey it is not compulsory, giving hope to those in Parliament who will vote no anyway that there will be a ‘get out of jail’ moment when even a high percentage of ‘yes’ survey results can be discounted because (in their mind if nowhere else), some group or other was not properly represented in the plebiscite postal survey. There is an upside however — Australia Post’s letter business should be profitable this financial year — even if the ABS gets a substantial discount for posting over 15 million letters!

The announcement of the plebiscite postal survey found John Howard, despite his statement last year, campaigning for the ‘no’ case with Tony Abbott, as joyfully reported by conservative blog The Wentworth Report.

The cost of the plebiscite postal survey is estimated to be $122 million, which would have been a significant down payment on a number of projects around the country including Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, the proposed rail link to a second airport in Sydney at Badgerys Creek, or perhaps to fund eight new schools (it cost WA $112 million to build eight schools in 2014).

As far back as 2014, a Crosby-Textor poll found that 72% of Australians would support same-sex marriage. Turnbull of all people should be a believer in the ‘evident wisdom’ of opinion polls. Thirty ‘poor’ opinion polls is one of the reasons he challenged Abbott for the Prime Ministership in 2015. It hasn’t done the LNP much good however — Turnbull has been running behind the main opposition party for a considerable period, as demonstrated by William Bowe in his excellent Poll Bludger blog on the Crikey website.

The Guardian recently argued that an opinion poll may have greater accuracy than a postal survey — and be a lot cheaper

Their argument against postal surveys is:
A voluntary postal ballot would reach a large number of people but the results would be skewed towards the type of people who are inclined to read their mail, those who decide to take part in such a ballot, and those who have their current address on the electoral roll. Essentially, the people who respond would not necessarily be representative of the entire population.
Additionally
As it turns out we already have a large, government-funded survey that has asked Australians for their views on marriage equality. The latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, conducted by the University of Melbourne, found that the majority of Australians believe homosexual Australians should have the same rights as heterosexual Australians, with 59% of men supporting equal rights and 67% of women.
Probably the real issue here isn’t opinion polls, marriage (or any other version of) equality or anything Turnbull has or hasn’t done. The issue is John Howard, Tony Abbott and their band of ultra conservative bigots. You may remember that Abbott (sounding in less than fine health) fronted the assembled media at the doors to Parliament House the day after the plebiscite that isn’t a plebiscite was announced and gravely intoned:
I say to you if you don't like same-sex marriage, vote no," said Abbott. "If you're worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don't like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks.
While Abbott is entitled to an opinion, the fundamental problem with his statement is that the question is not about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, political correctness or any other issue other than allowing people who love each other to have the option to publically proclaim their love through a custom called marriage, regardless of the gender of the partner. Lenore Taylor, the editor of The Guardian in Australia, wrote an article discussing their editorial policy on 12 August 2017 advising
As we start this unnecessary, voluntary, snail mail survey-thingie, the “no” case is loudly demanding the media run “both sides” of the question.

That makes it critical to precisely define the “question” itself. Because running both sides of the actual question is not the same as running “both sides” of all the other spurious “questions” the anti-equality case is setting up as obfuscations.
Taylor then goes on to discuss the ‘list of the arguments this is not about, and to which Guardian Australia will definitely not be giving “equal time” or attention.’

Notwithstanding the issue of the High Court challenge, the yes and no campaigns are underway. The no campaign started off a while ago with a television commercial which the Seven and Ten networks refused to air. More recently, the no case is claiming on their advertising amongst other things that a boy was told he could wear a dress to school if marriage equality is allowed in Australia. Pity the school’s Principal has stated that it never happened. Asking what you are wearing may have broken up a few marriages over the years, but how does a survey for same sex marriage logically link to a discussion on what a boy wears to school in any event?

The thing is that it doesn’t have to. Fairfax has researched what is allowable in the advertising for and against same sex marriage. According to Fairfax, the advertising surrounding the same sex marriage survey is political — meaning the usual rules regarding accuracy and discrimination don’t apply. This clearly suits the ‘no’ camp, as demonstrated by the false claims in the television advertisement. You may recall that the Coalition was going to legislate for fairness and equity in the advertising campaigns. Apparently they will, after the High Court decides if the plebiscite postal survey is legal, leaving room for a large number of ‘free kicks’ containing little if any accuracy before the High Court judgement. It isn’t like the doubtful accuracy of the no case should be a surprise as News.com.au was reporting on the advertising used when the Irish went to the polls (as they had to) in 2015.
. . . look no further than Ireland where some alarming — as well as amusing — advertisements from both sides of the campaign aired during the run up to the 2015 referendum on gay marriage.

Irish voters saw ads that suggested a yes to marriage equality would lead primary schoolchildren being taught about cross dressing, a man asking four million people if he could marry his girlfriend and even a couple fearful of the end of the world as gay marriage dawned.

Generally, the Yes campaign used Ireland’s renowned sense of humour and pulled on the heartstrings to get their vote out. The No side relied on bible scripture as well as arguments that are already being bandied about in Australia, that a vote in favour of gay marriage could adversely affect children.
The thing is that this method of campaign suits Abbott and his minions well. Remember the $100 lamb roast, the towns that would be deserted and the other perils of ‘the carbon tax’ if it came to pass? Not only were all the predictions proven to be wrong, Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, later admitted the price on carbon was not a tax, and Abbott’s destabilisation had caused a decade of inaction on energy policy leading to increased domestic power prices and large companies choosing to invest their money in infrastructure overseas where there is certainty.

Turnbull claims he will vote ‘yes’ assuming the survey goes ahead, but at the same time he seems to be quite comfortable with the continual interference from Abbott and groups such as the IPA on this or any other issue. If he is the ‘strong’ leader of the country, he should be seen to be standing up to someone who is continually undermining his authority while claiming to be on the same side. Turnbull isn’t. While Abbott is entitled to his opinion, he is not entitled to spend $122 million of our money to find a reason to be obstructionist if and when the issue does come to Parliament, where it has to be resolved anyway.

There are some influential members of the Liberal and National Parties who aren’t afraid of ‘the big bad Abbott
Former NSW premier Nick Greiner, Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle and Howard government cabinet minister Amanda Vanstone will lead the "Libs and Nats for Yes" campaign, while cabinet ministers including Kelly O'Dwyer and Simon Birmingham are also set to play a big role in the campaign
If they can do it — why can’t Turnbull?

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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It seems that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is the keeper of the morals and ethics of a number of conservative politicians in this country. So does the ACL really represent the views of christian Australia, or is it an attempt to enforce the views of a small group of people upon the majority?

To look at the views of the ACL, we need to do a bit of bible study. Those that will tell you that the bible is an accurate historical document have a fundamental problem in that the New Testament (the bit about Christianity) was written sometime after the events occurred.

Read more here:


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Let’s talk about ‘traditional’ values
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Mal’s Coalition cascades into chaos

When we posted How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy? on The Political Sword in April it seemed as if Turnbull’s administration of his Coalition couldn’t get any worse. We were wide of the mark! Now he sits apprehensively and indecisively on his house of cards, on tenterhooks lest he lose his balance, praying it doesn't collapse.

That piece was written as the 2017 Budget was being prepared. Scott Morrison was warning us about what we might be in for. Knowing that debt would increase, he tried to butter us up with talk of ‘good debt’ (spending on infrastructure) and ‘bad debt’ (recurrent spending on, for example, welfare). With his credibility in the doldrums, it is doubtful if anyone listened, let alone believed him.

The April piece on TPS began:
Who will ever forget the insults, the slurs, and the slander that the Coalition heaped upon Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan as they managed the economy through the Global Financial Crisis and beyond? They were depicted as children playing games in their political sandpit with no idea of what they were doing, making one catastrophic mistake after another.

Remember how the Coalition boasted that the children should get out of the way and let the adults take over, insisting as they did that they were the experts at economic management. So convincing was the rhetoric that the electorate believed them and has consistently rated them as superior to Labor in economic management in opinion polls.

Recall the ‘debt and deficit disaster’, a mantra with which they assailed Labor for years. Remember the ‘intergenerational debt’ they accused Labor of accumulating.

Since their election in 2013 they have had their chance to show their much-vaunted expertise under the skilled management of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, and then Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, with Mathias Cormann a consistent shadowy presence. How have they done?
We know how they have done – appallingly. The Coalition’s incompetence and mal-administration is now legend.

Here are some contemporary facts:

Wages growth is the weakest on record, dating back to the late 1990s. Underemployment remains high with an increasing trend towards part-time work, creating the “gig” economy.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe warns that record high household debt and record low wage rises are constraining consumer spending and hurting the economy.

The economy is under performing and will continue to do so through 2017 and beyond.

Stephen Koukoulas summarized the situation in The Guardian as follows: 
Based on the performance of the economy since the last fiscal update in December 2016, the budget is likely to confirm that this is a big-spending, big-taxing government with a strategy for continuing budget deficits and rising debt as it funds some of its pet projects.

It is all but certain that government debt will remain above 25% of GDP in 2017-18 and the forward estimates, meaning the government will be the first in the last 50 years to have spending at more than a quarter of GDP for eight straight years.

At the same time as spending is entrenched at high levels, the tax to GDP ratio is set to exceed 23% of GDP for only the eleventh time in 50 years. Tax revenue is growing solidly, in part in line with the expansion in the economy.

It is also close to certain that the level of net government debt will be projected to reach 20% of GDP, up from 10% when the Coalition won the 2013 election and the highest since the 1940s when the war effort boosted borrowing to record highs.
At as 30 June 2016, gross Australian government debt was $420 billion. In June 2017 the Turnbull government breached the $500 billion mark, (expressed alarmingly by some economists as half a trillion dollars) thereby doubling the deficit it inherited from Labor. Gross debt is projected to exceed $550 billion this year. Morrison is hoping to recoup some of this in this year’s budget with his $6 billion tax on the banks, but still intends to give a $65 billion of tax cuts to business!

We all know that housing affordability is worsening, locking out of the market young folk who do not have wealthy parents. The Coalition refuses to do anything about this as it sticks to negative gearing and the generous tax concessions around capital gains, thereby perpetuating the advantage moneyed investors enjoy over the young.

And as for the NBN, it continues to be a hybrid, copper-dependent mess that is not delivering what business needs, is rolling out far too slowly, and eventually will cost more than Labor’s superior FTTP design. It has been an Abbott/Turnbull debacle from the moment Abbott instructed Turnbull, then communications spokesman, to ‘Demolish the NBN’. Will it ever recover from that?

Need I give you any more evidence that our nation is steadily going backwards under the mal-administration of our economy by the Turnbull government?

On top of all this financial ineptitude, we have witnessed chaos writ large as Turnbull and the fractious conservative right squabble about how to handle the issue of same-sex marriage.

The chaos intensified when a postal ballot that will cost $122 million, was chosen. Astonishingly, the ballot won’t be carried by the Electoral Commission, but by the Bureau of Statistics, which has shown that it can’t carry out even a routine census proficiently. The High Court will decide if such an arrangement is constitutional. How the ABS will conduct the ballot is a mystery, as it’s a statistics-gathering organization. Long delays are likely before we will know the outcome of yet another Turnbull government stuff-up.

Then, as if that shemozzle wasn’t enough, Turnbull and his ministers have become entangled in the dual citizenship fiasco. They have been quite unsure how to handle it, and woefully inconsistent in their approach. Turnbull was only too ready in his characteristically sarcastic style to lampoon the Greens after Scott Ludlum and Clarissa Waters discovered their dual citizenship and resigned. “It shows incredible sloppiness on their part” bellowed our PM in parliament. Now, with several of his own ministers, no less the Deputy PM, the Deputy Leader of the Nationals, and his Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science all caught up in the saga, Turnbull’s barefaced inconsistency has been exposed. Canavan has been excluded from ministerial duties, while Joyce and Nash are permitted to continue as if nothing had happened!

All the time Turnbull is fighting a guerrilla war with the hard-right agitators in his party room, who threaten him with retribution unless he follows their dictates. He is so shackled, hog tied, clapped in irons – use whatever metaphor you like – that he is rendered impotent strategically, administratively, politically, and as a leader.

The voters continue to be unimpressed. We have now had the eighteenth Newspoll in a row where the Coalition trails Labor, this time by eight points: 54/46. If this trend continues, by February of next year Turnbull will have passed Abbott’s infamous record of thirty bad polls in a row, Turnbull’s raison d'etre for upending him.

Essential poll shows the same result. Turnbull’s satisfaction score continues on its poor trajectory, now minus 20. The Guardian features images from the Essential Report that illustrate Turnbull’s dilemma graphically.

Now that the Coalition sees defeat coming at election time, worried that Shorten’s “inequality” meme is biting, Mathias Cormann was sent out to launch a panicky attack on him in a speech at the Sydney Institute.

Writing in The Age in an article titled: 'Socialist revisionism': Mathias Cormann's doomsday warning of 'success exodus' under Bill Shorten, James Massola says: ‘Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has painted a doomsday scenario of Australia under a Shorten government, claiming a "cocky" Labor leader is relying on the politics of envy to propel him to the Lodge as people forget the failures of socialism. In an extraordinary speech …Cormann charged Shorten with making a "deliberate and cynical political judgement that enough Australians have forgotten the historical failure of socialism" and exploiting the politics of envy’, even describing Labor’s policies as akin to communist East Germany.  

Need I go on further to convince you of the widespread paralysis that is afflicting Mal's Coalition? You may care to remind yourself of what we published in April, just four months ago, in How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy? To do so click here.

The piece concluded:

The unavoidable conclusion is that this ‘adult’ government is economically incompetent, driven by its conservative rump, quite unable to see its way through the nation’s economic difficulties, incapable of analyzing the economic situation, inept at deriving solutions, bereft of planning ability, and hog-tied by ideological constraints. Moreover, it is so unutterably arrogant that it cannot see its ineptitude. And even if it could, would it be capable of doing anything about it?

As a substitute for informed opinions, all we get is self aggrandizement and platitudes from Turnbull, and a torrent of meaningless drivel from the Coalition's two motor-mouthed financial Daleks: Morrison and Cormann.

How has it come to this with the adults in charge?
Has the situation improved? You be the judge. Click here.

What is your opinion?
How do you assess the Coalition's performance?

Can it regain traction before the next election?

Let us know in comments below.

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How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy?
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Who will ever forget the insults, the slurs, and the slander that the Coalition heaped upon Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan as they managed the economy through the Global Financial Crisis and beyond? They were depicted as incompetent children playing games in an economic sandpit with no idea of what they were doing, making one catastrophic mistake after another. Remember how the Coalition boasted that the children should get out of the way and let the adults take over, insisting as they did that they were the experts at economic management. More…