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Trump and the Secretary of State “Brand” Decision

The most important job opening that Trump has to fill – at least from a “brand” perspective – is Secretary of State. You can get away with hiring loyal supporters for less-visible cabinet positions, but you need to get the Secretary of State job right because it directly reflects on the brand of the presidency. And Trump knows branding.

If you look at the Secretary of State from a Master Persuader perspective, it’s hard to know who would do the best job among the candidates under discussion. They’re all highly-capable people. And their opinions are not so different, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the final consideration. The big differentiator is how the country will view Trump’s choice, and how that changes their impression of Trump’s brand as president. Let’s take a look at the candidates through that filter.

Giuliani probably has some foreign business interests that could be problematic once the mainstream media sinks their teeth into him. That doesn’t help Trump’s brand because Trump has the same type of foreign conflict-of-interest issues. You don’t want to add to the problem you already have.

Huntsman has good experience and he presents himself well. But he’s too handsome for the job. Brand-wise, Trump is better off surrounding himself with highly-capable people who don’t suck too much attention out of a room. You might think that isn’t important, but it is from a persuasion standpoint. I liked Trump’s pick of Pence because Pence is the boring, monochromatic version of Trump that makes Trump look like a star when they stand together. You need the same contrast for Secretary of State. 

Obama got the branding right with both Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry as Secretaries of State. Both Secretaries were respected players that have less rock star appeal than Obama himself. That is good branding. Obama got the contrast right, which you expect from a Master Persuader. Trump needs to do the same.

Romney has the same contrast problem as Huntsman. Romney is too tall and handsome. But I think ego will prevent Romney from accepting Trump as his boss. If Trump and Romney both wanted Romney as Secretary of State, it would already be done.

Petraeus had some legal problems in the past because he disclosed government secrets to his girlfriend. Although the crime itself is forgivable, and he paid the price, the topic would remind the public of Hillary Clinton’s email issues and be a stain on Trump’s brand.

Bolton would be the biggest brand mistake for Trump. Bolton is highly capable, but he gives off a scary vibe, and that is the worst branding mistake Trump could make. Half of the United States is already living under an illusion that Hitler just got elected President of the United States. If you add a war-loving white guy with a strange mustache to the illusion, you’re just making things worse. Trump’s biggest problem, brand-wise, is that so many people think he’s a crazy dictator who can’t be trusted with the nuclear codes. Bolton is the only candidate who makes that illusion worse. I don’t see Master Persuader Trump making a mistake of that size.

Rohrabacher would be an interesting choice. He fits Trump’s brand the best because he’s a pragmatic, straight-talking Republican. And if you see him standing next to Trump, you know which one of them is the president. The visual element matters more than you think, given that all the candidates are qualified.

I’m leaving out some candidates, but only because they didn’t seem interesting enough to help or hurt Trump’s brand. 

The Master Persuader filter can’t predict who Trump will pick as Secretary of State because there are lots of variables we can’t observe. For example, the vetting process might kick up scandals we don’t know about, and there’s the issue of how well the candidates can get along with Trump. So this isn’t a prediction blog today. I’m just showing you how the persuasion element matters to the decision.

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Governments Trash Cash, Making Alternative ‘Money’ More Attractive: New at Reason

Governments around the world are doing their best to drive people to crypto-currency and precious metals as stores of value and mediums of exchange.

J.D. Tuccille writes:

If governments are trying to jump-start the development of alternatives to their traditional monopoly on money, they’re doing a fine job of it. Through methods old and new, political officials seem hell-bent on eroding the shared trust that gives importance to dollars, euros, and all the other currencies we use to facilitate transactions. Recent developments in India and Venezuela reveal jaw-droppingly stupid policies destined to erode the value of the local means of exchange—or else dastardly clever marketing schemes for gold, bitcoin, or anything else that could serve as a store of value.

Despite all of the arguments over the stuff, the basics of modern money are pretty simple. Unconnected to gold, salt, peppercorns, or anything else that’s valued in its own right, paper and electronic money keeps the wheels of commerce greased only because people have some faith that’s it’s a reasonably stable store of value. “In short, money works because people believe that it will,” a 2000 article by International Monetary Fund economists Irena Asmundson and Ceyda Oner explains in plain language.

But if shared belief makes money useful, then betraying that trust can make the folding stuff revert to whatever intrinsic value it has in a stack next to the toilet. The IMF piece adds, “Countries that have been down the path of high inflation experienced firsthand how the value of money essentially depends on people believing in it,” and notes that when governments play games with their money, “trust in money will be eroded, and it may eventually become worthless.”

View this article.

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Italy Referendum Results Illustrate Sense of Alienation Electorate Has From Governing Elites: New at Reason

What do the results of Italy’s constitutional reform referendum mean?

Marian Tupy writes:

On Sunday evening, I watched as Matteo Renzi acknowledged the negative outcome of the constitutional referendum and resigned, as promised, as Italy’s prime minister. Renzi called the plebiscite in order to streamline Italy’s baroque governing bureaucracy—a necessary prerequisite, he claimed, for much-needed economic reform. By a margin of close to 20 percentage points, the Italians said “No” and Renzi threw in the towel.

As he spoke, I emailed an Italian friend of mine to gauge her reaction. As a professor of economics and a free marketer, I expected her to be horrified by the events. Instead, she responded on Monday morning by saying that she too voted “No.” “Nothing ever changes in Italy, anyway,” she continued. I guess that I should not have been surprised. It is 2016, after all, and, in the political arena, anything seems possible.

Thinking about my friend’s response more carefully, however, I have come to see some parallels between what happened in Italy, and the British decision to withdraw from the European Union and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election. Tying all these events together is a profound sense of alienation of the electorate from their respective governing elites. Vast chunks of the populace in these three countries see their governments as, at best, inept, and, at worst, venal.

View this article.

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Brickbat: Getting Drilled

The good news is that the Tomah, Wisconsin, Veterans Affairs Medical Center is offering free screenings for hepatitis and HIV to 592 veterans. The bad news is that they are doing this because a VA dentist did not properly clean equipment betwe…

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