Trump’s Triumphant Return from Asia

Full of himself as usual with all sorts of imagined successes, the president is back in town.   Well, at least we’re still not at war with North Korea, which I view as a plus.  Most concerning still is how war might begin by accident especially now that we have three carrier fleets in the vicinity which must look menacing to Kim Jung UN.  Maybe we want them to be a bit menacing, but definitely not to the point which will prompt him to cross some imaginary, hard to define line between us, the line of no return.

Fortunately – I guess – there are reports that Kim has hired American foreign policy experts to help him better understand Trump, so Kim at least is trying not to jump the gun.  On the other hand, I don’t know how well we understand the man despite all the theories that abound, so I’m not sure what image NOKO is getting.

In terms of North Korea, the most hopeful sign I’ve seen is news of a special envoy from China being sent to NOKO.  I choose to hope he will be of some help, even though there is no knowing why he is going.  Oh, I’m sorry.  My poetic nature is showing.

As for the rest of the trip, it seemed mostly just a lot of photo opportunities and Trump’s ego being assuaged by being treated like royalty.  Meanwhile those various Asian nations are working on business relations among themselves without the United States, since Trump pulled us out of the Pacific Trade Pact, with China courting all of them for closer relations.

While Trump wants to take us back to the 1950’s (his childlike version of Back to the Future), the Chinese are steadily working their away into the future with trade pacts  and much money spent developing anti-polluting energy technology.   As the prolific and incisive political theorist Thomas Friedman has asserted, the Chinese view the Donald as, “Trump the Chump”; they wine and dine Little Donnie to make him feel big, while they are steadily making themselves bigger on the world stage  apparently without his noticing.  His hats should be redesigned:  Make America Smaller than Ever.

You know how Trump keeps talking about replacing these multi-nation trade pacts with great trade deals he is going to arrange with individual nations.  Has there been even one so far?  After all he has had a year.  Have I missed it?

The only clear plus of this visit seems Trump’s help in getting those three tall UCLA shoplifters out of prison, but as with everything he touches, he smudged that, too.  With all that he might tweet about upon his return,  the always ungracious Trump chose first to lecture the boys on how they should thank him for his help,   Which they later did, to which Father Trump responded they should also thank Chinese leader Xi Jin Ping and should remember how life’s a winding road or something equally trite.

This is one of those moments when I’m certain his J. middle initial stands for “Jerk.”

Summing it all up, the trip was a typical performance by our Clown-in-Chief.  The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson describes the trip in a more fully developed and better written editorial:  “Clown Goes Abroad”.  My post might be viewed as an appetizer for his more satisfying meal.  I think he really nails the absurdity of Trump playing president.  Right here.

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Wuz Up in Trumperland for November?

It has been over three weeks since I posted, an indication of how sick I am of writing about Trump, a man who deserves little written about him at all, except for one revolting fact:  He is the President, the only guy with a one man nuclear capacity.  Oh, right, there is also that North Korean guy.  More about the two of them below.

This seems a good time to make a few points as potentially important events might be in store for us this month and not just speculation and wild goose chasing launched by the President’s off hand comments in tweets and in public, a continuous fourth of July fireworks of distractions that usually leave us a little more divided each new day.

Here are three key areas to keep our eyes on over the course of this month despite whatever distractions that Trump trumps up:

The Mueller investigation has become more concrete in recent days with a couple of indictments and news of a guilty plea by one of the actors, George Papapodopoulis, a guy unknown to most of us, but with the potential of opening up Trump’s can of worms regarding connections with Russia.  What the indictments and plea deal suggests is that Mueller is sending a message to those tied to the Trump administration that they too could be indicted if they try to deceive investigators.   This could produce a number of real news events in contrast to the suffocating miasma of speculation that we have had to stomach for months now.

The second news thread to follow is the Republican tax “reform” plan that is supposed to be revealed today.  One key idea is that a few trillion in closed loopholes will be necessary to prevent this “reform” from ballooning our national debt, and as always, we all hate loopholes accept for those which benefit ourselves.  They couldn’t get a healthcare bill to pass and that seems a walk in the park compared to this.   If this is a park, it is replete with muggers.

Saving the worst for last is Trump’s upcoming 12 day visit to Asia starting Friday.   On the surface this would seem a good thing to do for several obvious reasons, except we are talking about Trump doing it, so who knows.   Of course, he will say it was all great, especially him.  I’ll say it was good if we don’t seem even closer to war with North Korea than we do now.

The NOKO issue is particularly scary because Trump and Kim Jong Un appear on a collision course, as the latter seems to see an expansion of his nuclear weaponry as the best way to keep his regime, especially himself, safe while the former seems unlikely to tolerate a NOKO capacity to strike our mainland with a nuclear weapon.

Something has to give here, or catastrophe on both sides seems inevitable.   An additional danger is that one of the bluster brothers might interpret some threat the other makes as a sign of imminent attack, prompting a preemptive strike.  I can’t recall who labelled North Korea the “land of lousy options,” but that’s remains a fine description.

Thanksgiving is in three weeks and while I have much to be thankful for in my personal life, I wonder how thankful I will feel regarding the three issues touched upon above.

“The Emperor has No Clothes” says Senator Bob Corker. Well, more or less.

I’ve been waiting for months for someone who has supported Trump in the past who finally can’t take it anymore.  Can’t pretend Trump’s administration is doing well.  That person turns out to be one Senator Bob Corker who, to the New York Times, “charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

If you haven’t heard of the tweet hand grenade exchange this weekend between Corker and Trump, it ended with Corker writing:  “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.” 

Can you guess the adult who requires day care?

You could say Corker started it with some criticisms of Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville protest last May, suggesting his comments were not up to the standards of a president.  That he needed to up his game.

Much more recently Corker referred to the trio of Secretary of Defense Mattis, Chief of Staff Kelly and Secretary of State Tillerson as what keeps the White House from falling into chaos, not something the blister thin skin of “our” president could take, so Trump went to tweeting to tear Corker down, which led to Corker’s reply above.

In typical Trump fashion, he is so intent on getting back at Corker that he pays no attention to the importance of having the senator as an ally in congress if he actually wants to get anything done.   I believe Trump doesn’t ultimately care what he accomplishes as long as we all stay riveted to his “show” and he can makes us believe he’s accomplishing a lot.  And where that fails to place blame on someone else, the reverse of Harry Truman’s the “buck stops here”.   With Trump the buck stops anywhere except with him.

I urge you to read the notes of the  interview with Corker in the New York Times.  Because Corker is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and also on the Senate Budget Committee, this fall out between Trump and him could have numerous ramifications on what gets passed in congress and how our foreign relations develop, especially with North Korea and Iran.

The Vegas Massacre and the New Normal

In the background Donald Trump is giving the standard stock speech about praying for the victims and their families and insisting “we are here for you”.   What is being here for you mean?  I realize that public figures have to say something, but do you think anyone feels consoled by these rote statements?  Just part of the necessary ritual I guess.

Nevada, an open carry state, has few gun laws, so no problem carrying around 50 caliber rifles that make grim jokes of the idea of “bullet proof” vests.   It accentuates the valor of the police and other first responders, but that won’t likely stop congress from passing a law now being considered to allow for more gun silencers, according to Bill Bratton,  former New York police commissioner.

Hunters want them to protect their hearing, it is argued.  That silencers could help insanely angry shooters avoid immediate detection doesn’t count for much I guess.

In subtle ways I think we are all becoming more like Israelis.   We have to live our lives with dim thoughts of sudden horrific attack tripping across our minds.   Talked to an Israeli on a plane awhile back and she said you get use to it.  She said it’s not all negative.  It helps you feel more alive.

I favor other ways to make me feel more alive.   Terror tends to make me want to stick to small venues, such as my condo.  Controlling guns seems off the table, even though it will be talked about a lot as usual.  Instead we seem more inclined to reshape the world for our self protection.  I heard a weapons expert suggest metal detectors be placed in all Casinos.  Also, I heard talk of making alterations in buildings to make clear lines of sight harder for shooters to find.  If we can’t control guns I guess we have to do something.

I can imagine small ways we can keep ourselves safer.   Bomb sniffing Apple watches might become the new craze.

Imagine a mother daughter conversation prior to a concert:  “Don’t forget your Kevlar vest, honey.” “Mom, those vests aren’t really great, and it doesn’t match my outfit.  I’ll just have to take my chances.”  “O. K. just remember to duck and cover.”

Of course the easiest way to protect ourselves is to seldom go out.  About 30 years ago the trend towards “cocooning” was defined as “the practice of spending leisure time at home in preference to going out”.   That trend seems only likely to get stronger, though now I would call it “bunkering,” a preference to stay at home for self-protection.

I learned of the massacre when turning on the TV at 7:00 a.m., watched if for about 20 minutes and figured I learned about as much as any one knew.  I turned on my recorded three hours of Morning Joe and sped through it in 10 minutes as it only had scenes from Vegas, which meant endless speculation was in full swing.

The shooter was apparently the most normal of guys, the “contrarian profile of a mass shooter” according to a former FBI profiler.   I’ve seen a photo of him.  He had a nice smile, but he must have felt he had nothing to smile about any more.   My guess is he was mild mannered, not one to explode often while the heat of anger was accumulating like a pan on a stove we forget to turn off.

To me the biggest clue is he was 64.   That has given him decades to accumulate resentments and disappointments and people to blame for both.  Or maybe he just hates Donald Trump and identifies country music buffs as his supporters.  Eventually a theory will take hold, but I don’t know if it much matters.  There is only so much you can do to prevent the crazy angry from acting out their fantasies as long as there are guns a plenty.

If the shooter left a note, I’d like it to read:   “My sincere thanks to the NRA for protecting my right to bear arms.”

Did Trump Declare War on North Korea?

I don’t think so, but today the North Korean ambassador to the UN insists he did, referring to Trump’s warning that the regime “wouldn’t be around much longer” if they acted on their threats to the United States.   And another game of chicken.   The ambassador said if U. S. war planes come close to North Korea as they did recently, NOKO reserves the right to shoot them down in their self-defense.   Since after all, we are at war.

I don’t believe Kim Jong Un thinks we’re at war, but I am afraid that with all of this bombastic nuclear missile rattling by both sides, one side will become confused as to what the other side means, which could lead to a horrible miscalculation.

This goading on both sides might prompt one side or another to show “you can’t tell me what to do”.  For example, will the threat of shooting down our planes if they fly near NOKO again prompt Trump to prove he can’t be told what to do by this tin pot dictator?

And send the planes close again…..?

How can we know about a president who likes being unpredictable and prides himself on his instincts, not sources of knowledge, something that has worked surprisingly well for him up until now?

This just in……  Trump’s press secretary has stated that Trump certainly wasn’t declaring war on NOKO with some of his tweets.

Well, that’s good, if not all that surprising, but as someone else described the situation:  “North Korea is the land of lousy options.”  That remains the case and it is this dilemma that I had planned on writing about today, but figured I should verify we were not at war before bothering.

The Debt Ceiling Deal: A Loss for Republicans but a Win for Trump

While Trump has demeaned the Republican congressional leadership  on several occasions, he hadn’t totally thrown them under the bus like he did in the oval office last week.  The Republican establishment may finally be having second thoughts about gambling on the colosally self-centered Trump in hopes of getting what they want done in Congress.  The Washington Post sums up the situation so well, I will quote it at length.

“President Trump, a man of few allegiances who seized control of the Republican Party in a hostile takeover, suddenly aligned himself with Democrats on Wednesday on a series of key fiscal issues …

Trump confounded his party’s leaders when he cut a deal with Democratic congressional leaders — “Chuck and Nancy,” as the president informally referred to them — on a short-term plan to fund the government and raise its borrowing limit this month.

The president’s surprise stance upended sensitive negotiations over the debt ceiling and other crucial policy issues this fall and further imperiled his already tenuous relationships with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).”

Trump even floated the notion he might be in favor of doing away with debt ceilings altogether, something anathema to the fiscal hawks in what is hard to even call “his party” at this point.  Actually, I’d say he has always been a party of one – Donald J. Trump.

Conservative columnist Jenifer Rubin captures Trump as well as anyone in one sentence can:  “Trump is a raging narcissist with no policy preferences who is motivated by personal grudges, vengeance and the rapacious need for affirmation.”

As for policy preferences, on the healthcare issue Trump showed his policy preference was for anything they could pass.  Trump’s grudge against McConnell came from the latter’s inability to pass a repeal/replace measure in the Senate, along with a failure to genuflect often in the president’s direction.

In the affirmation department Trump has been praised by the temporarily not-fake media for these actions.   So, who knows what other bi-partisan actions might develop as long as they make him look good.

DACCA recipients don’t give up hope.

On the other hand, it is best to think of Trump as kind of like hurricane Irma.  It’s hard to know where he’ll land , who will be spared and what overall damage might occur…..until it actually happens.


P. S. – For those who want a more detailed picture of the possible ramifications of Trump’s recent deal, here’s the link to the WAPO piece.

A Drive By Glance at American Foreign Affairs

What with Hurricane Harvey, the Mueller investigation and the three ring circus of the daily Trump show (six ring…. nine ring?), short shrift has been given to events abroad of late.  For example, have you heard anything about Syria recently?   I hadn’t so I did some googling.

An LA Times piece this morning sums up the situation there as “Syria may be in ruins, but it looks like Assad ‘has won the war militarily.”   In short, there is no talk these days among national powers about “Assad must go.” Nations who had been involved with trying to make that happen have become distracted with their own affairs.    After firing a few missiles the U. S. has had little involvement other than in efforts to squash ISIS.

One of those distracted nations is Saudi Arabia, still struggling with a civil war it has abetted in Yemen and now in a diplomatic wrangle with Qatar, severing relations with that nation along with Egypt and a few others in the area, who accuse Qatar of bolstering instability in the region.  Under more normal circumstances that would be a big story, but we have too many of them already.   Interested in learning more?  Go here.

Back to Syria, the corker is that a few weeks ago the  “Damascus International Fair — once a showpiece of economic and technological prowess, attracting investors from across the Arab world and beyond — was held for the first time since being shuttered early in the war.”   I’m waiting for some friend to go there and send me a post card.

Moving on.  What about the Iran Nuclear Treaty?  Well, it is still holding, but Trump continues to want to find a way to scrap it.  Along with other treaties he doesn’t like.  Former  U. N. Ambassador Bolton has a plan to get us out.  Trump may embrace it or find some other way to break the deal.  If you want to dive into Bolton’s idea, check out this piece.

Moving on to Afghanistan.   The new U. S. policy there did make headlines briefly awhile ago, but really it isn’t a policy.  It is an open ended recognition that if we pull out we lose (and that locale becomes a haven for terrorists who might attack us again), so we won’t and hope the Taliban, etc., impressed by our resolve, will finally come to the negotiating table.  Reminds me of Korea, where our troops have remained for over half a century.

What a nice segue.  When it comes to endangering world peace, North Korea continues to appear the largest existential threat to those in the region and ourselves and maybe the entire world.   KIM JONG-UN’ s insistence on developing his nuclear missile program will have to change or a military confrontation seems inevitable.   Despite his ranting about fire and fury, not even Trump can believe that if it comes down to that the outcome will be anything short of horrific for friends and foes alike.

Things seem particularly tense now as is usually the case when we take part in joint military exercises annually with the South Koreans and others.   That always prompts an increase in saber rattling by JONG-UN.

But since we have our own saber rattler in the White House, it is impossible to know how something said or steps taken by either might cross some sort of line that triggers the war machines.

The talk continues to be that China must take a bigger hand in controlling NOKO, but that has been stated over and over for years now.   Can TRUMP pressure China enough economically to make a difference this time?    Well, if not, we are looking at a very sobering situation down the line that I will get back to later.

One thing I do applaud TRUMP for is the attention he has put on the Korean issue even if he leaves me nervous in the process.  Administration after administration has let the issue of a nuclear armed NOKO slide leading us to a point where there isn’t much of the slide left and we better slow things down or we will fall into an abys the likes of which is painful to imagine.