III Publishing

Trump, Bismarck, and Poker Faces
January 2, 2018
by William P. Meyers

Site Search

Also sponsored by Earth Pendant at PeacefulJewelry

Popular pages:

U.S. War Against Asia
Democratic Party
Republican Party
Natural Liberation

Trump's War, Bismarck's Army, and Papal Blessings

Last night I saw the episode of Young Sheldon where his grandmother teaches him that, in poker, it is not just playing the cards: you also don't want to let your opponent read your face to know your cards.

This morning I read about Otto von Bismarck ending his struggle with the Catholic Church in 1887. Bismarck, a Lutheran, was not happy when German unification brought with it a bunch of Roman Catholics with their own political party, the Centre. He did not like the Pope's ability to influence German politics, to interfere with his plans, and to endanger German sovereignty. So he had instituted what became known as the Kulturkampf, which had started in 1872.

Bismarck's main goal, other than keeping himself in power, was to create a united and powerful Germany. He was for democracy, as long as he got his way through it. Four major blocks made up the Germany multi-party system: the Social Democrats (Marxists), the National Liberals, the Catholic Centre Party (strongest in Bavaria, where later the National Socialist (Nazi) Party would get its start), and the Conservatives.

Bismarck's Kulturkampf opponent was Pope Leo XIII, a proto-fascist pope, who invented the idea of papal infallibility, among other things. Leo preferred monarchy to democracy, and particularly hated Marxism.

To cement his power Bismarck proposed re-authorizing expenses for the German military for a period of 7 years. His opponents wanted shorter reauthorization terms in order to maintain leverage. Pope Leo XIII sent a secret letter to the Centre leaders urging them to vote for the military funding. In fact most abstained, but it allowed Bismarck to carry the measure by a margin of 223 to 40.

"Leo XIII got his reward. Most of the May-laws were repealed in March 1887, Bismarck personally inspecting the vote in the Prussian diet to make sure it went the right way. The religious orders were allowed to return, the Roman Church recovered control of its seminaries."

Aside from his deal the the Pope, Bismarck gained the lopsided vote by pretending that France was threatening Germany with war.

Back in America, all kinds of politicians are lying to us all the time. They are happy to tell the truth when that works in their favor, but if the truth won't do, something else must be substituted.

Donald Trump is notorious for exaggerating and lying, but he has no problems with truth if it suits his purposes. And his myriad opponents will lie about him as well, when the truth does not suit. For instance, the Afghan War is now Trump's war. Never mind that he did not start it. For eight years it was the war of the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama. Before that it was Bush's war. Just like today most Democrats will tell you the Vietnam War was Nixon's war, when it was really started by Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, based on prior commitments by John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman.

A poker face is usually imagined as a blank face. But most people can smile when they run into someone they don't like. Historians have to be very careful even about sorting out the cold, dark past, because the written evidence is often itself slanted or false. People report events as they want them reported, including journalists, editors, and publishers.

We all to our best to figure out who is lying on purpose, who is just repeating lies someone else made up, and who is lying by accident. We all might believe a lie when it fits our preconceptions.

I doubt Donald Trump is any different. Like Bismarck, he was born rich, but not rich enough once he saw that there were people who were much richer. He strived for wealth, fame, and power, and got all three. He admitted to being a swamp creature, and convinced many voters he would drain the swamp. Clearly he is re-engineering the swamp. Some parts will be drained to turn in golf courses and country clubs.

On the Democrat side (I am a progressive Democrat) the main danger is that people will think Democrats lied to them about the Tax Bill. It is true the tax bill gives much of its benefits to the Rich. But instead of sticking to that truth, Democrats have told people that it will hurt everyone who is not rich. As far as I can tell, most taxpayers will see their taxes reduced in 2018. They won't worry about the Rich, they will just say: those lying Democrats scared me, but Trump and the Republicans delivered.

I am just saying, if you are going to lie, you should at least think ahead about the consequences. You can lie in poker, and may not have to show your cards if everyone else drops out. But if you are caught bluffing, people will challenge your bluffs more often.

Source for Bismarck quote and history: Bismarck, the Man and the Statesman, by A.J.P. Taylor, Vintage Books, 1955.

III Blog list of articles