Trump declares North Korea ‘no longer a nuclear threat’….Really??

When it comes to creating illusions, my first thought would normally be David Copperfield, but the “historic event” in Singapore that Trump ginned up takes the cake.  Like most I would agree with Churchill’s statement that “jaw, jaw is better than war, war.”  But if the continued jawing creates a false fantasy of progress, that is a danger in itself.  Pleasant dreams our nice, but at some point we must wake up.

“No longer a nuclear threat,” Trump tweets.  Why?  Because he got a long famously with the former little rocket man who Trump now views (or says he does, who knows?) as “talented… funny… smart… a man who loves his people”.

Loves his people?  This is a guy blamed for the murder of his half-brother, not to mention many others in his regime who he viewed as threats.  And this is also a guy who has continued the family tradition of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of possible detractors earning his nation the reputation of being the most oppressive on earth.

All Kim Jong Un offered was a promise to “work toward the complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula”…… No specifics whatsoever (including what complete denuclearization means) and Trump treats this as a huge victory for peace from a nation that has broken every arms agreement it has made with us.  Trump was so grateful to appear to have made peace that he offered to stop joint military exercises with South Korea (like the ones this August), or at least suspend them until further notice.

(This must have come off the cuff as South Korea and other allies along with our military seemed startled at the announcement).

In exchange for this fantasy the American president acted like he just found his long lost brother while the world watched Trump embrace the most oppressive dictator on the globe as if we Americans had no history of being the beacon of freedom in the world.

This is where Trump’s lack of knowledge and concern about history comes into play.   His sense of history goes back about two weeks, the time he and Kim have been being nice to each other.  As he has indicated, all he knows is that with him Kim has been a fun guy, a guy who Trump believes he can do business with.

Gag me with a spoon.   Trump has pulled out of the Iran agreement for being too weak.  It has over 100 specific, verifiable demands that Iran has been meeting, while all he has from Kim is a promise to try to work things out.  It is that belief alone that separates us from NOKO being a nuclear threat.  All the threats and tough talk and this empty document is what Trump got out of it.  It is only about two to four pages depending how you space it…… Hey, you can read it in 10 minutes (includes a break to get coffee).

What I find particularly irritating is the tendency for commentators to call this meeting a “historic event,”  even those quite critical of it.   Such a term tends to carry positive connotations, implying – as Trump claims – that only he could bring about such a meeting.

WRONG, VERY WRONG………..  the Kim family line has always craved such a meeting, but previous presidents did not want to legitimize this string of dictators in the world’s eye.  Dictators who, to remind you again, have broken every arms agreement we have made with them.

Now, with the president saying “there is no longer a nuclear threat,” how can we hold together the nations that have been sanctioning North Korea?   Those who call this a historic event should occasionally note that such events are not always good, such as the Munich agreement between Hitler and English prime minister Chamberlain, who believed Hitler could be bargained with and when returning home announced to his nation that he had “saved peace in our time.”  A premature judgement if there ever was one.

When it comes to being a historic event, I’ll borrow Trump’s frequent answer to any question that touches upon the future “We’ll have to wait and see.”

I’ll wait to see if this mutual expression of good will between two of the biggest liars on the planet actually leads to a North Korean denuclearization plan with  a series of verifiable steps.   Until then,  I’ll just mark this summit down as one more self-congratulatory publicity stunt by the man I affectionately think of as Trumpenstein.

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P. S. – I did not cover all of the wacky elements of the Singapore meeting.   Trump also presented Kim with a four minute movie apparently designed to dazzle him with the economic possibilities of playing ball with us.  This film was labelled “sensational idiocy” by the folks at the New Yorker, a term that pretty much sums up my sense of the entire summit.  Take a glance at the video and the magazine’s response here.

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The Houston Area: Yet Another High School Massacre

It is just past noon and I am already into the wine.   Trying to figure out a post this morning among the near infinite possibilities was difficult enough and then I heard about the latest school shooting, this time in Texas with 10 killed and 10 injured.  That pretty much shut the door on my thinking.

Do these media types really expect us to watch the umpteenth repeat of the same old story?  The over speculations on causes and what we can do to make this “never happen again.”  Of course, it will happen again.

The assurances of our so-called president that these victims have “our support forever.”  Could words be any more empty?

And I can’t stand to listen to any more “how did you feel” interviews, or any of the other stuff that the cable stations wedge in to show they care.   And, though feeling some guilt, I don’t want to listen to another story of a child’s promising life that was so cruelly cut short.   I feel badly for those families, but when slaughtering school children becomes common place, I don’t want to know every detail.

Tell me something new.

What I want is more insights as to what sort of coordinated effort we might develop to reduce the chances of repetitions.  The bulk of coverage of these school shootings is so uniformly preliminary as to tell us nothing.  I’m still waiting for a detailed report of what happened in Parkland, which I hope can give us some solid clues as to how to better guard against future shootings.

Unfortunately, while the state of Florida has a commission working on this, the last I read in April they weren’t coming up with a full report until next January.  I hope they eventually do give us some useful insights, though the slow pace is maddening.  Given that the shooter was throwing up more red flags than a Moscow parade, I most want to know more about the failure among the various agencies involved – the police, schools, etc. –  to communicate with each other.

But that article points out other problems as well such as flaws in the school’s and the police’s response procedures.  One simple but huge problem source sticks out to me.  The classrooms could only be locked from the outside, so to lock up one’s room a teacher had to lock themselves out.

Mr. President, instead of being supportive forever, how about injecting some money into the Florida commission to help them finish the job sooner?  And then actually act on the conclusions the study draws.

For those interested in reading that April article, go here.

Trump is Betting Politics will Save him if the Law Won’t

Rudy Giuliani exploded on the Washington scene last week, supposedly coming on board the Trump legal team, but acting independently in what seemed like a loose cannon being shot at them.   He blabbed all sorts of contradictory statements and misstatements on various political talk shows, beginning with Hannity last Wednesday.

Giuliani seemed to be making Trump’s legal status worse off.  Turns out he hadn’t gone rogue, as he’d cleared much of what he would say with Trump, therefore surprising the legal team but not the president, who later seemed pleased with his work and kept him out there babbling.  I suspect the two bluster boys are working in tandem and let the legal team be damned.

I am guessing this reflects a decision by Trump that Mueller has the goods on him and he can’t escape this legally, so best to put all his money on winning the political game in the fall and afterwards.   Don’t agree to an interview or accept a subpoena and take it all the way to the Supreme Court next year.  Who knows?  There might be a new Trump friendly Supreme by then.

Meanwhile, just make the investigators look bad, so you have an excuse for not complying with their demands.  Trump has been driving his “witch hunt, no collusion” mantras into our brains for months in preparation for this shift in emphasis and the ongoing Giuliani show tells me Trump hopes his political narrative will save him where the law will not.

And part of that thinking is the Stormy Daniels case is a loss, but the kind of thing that Trump can use as an ongoing distraction because the media loves to cover it.  In the end, assuming Trump doesn’t perjure himself, what will the government do, fine him?  Convict him of some minor lie?   The guy that has rattled off about 3000 of them so far in office according to the Washington Post?

Big deal.

I think this kind of disproportionate coverage contributes to a sense of investigation fatigue as captured by this guy who tweeted to a cable host this Saturday:  “….. the length of the probe is making most of us numb to the issues that are lead stories in liberal media.  Wrap it up and let Potus do his job.”  

Of course, his base buys the whole witch hunt argument already, but even for non fanatics, if you are numb to the issues and want Trump free to do his job you just might be swayed by the great salesman’s relentless credit taking for everything deemed good in 2018, while ignoring the positive trends already well established during the Obama years.

I’m worried about numbed voters and I get nervous when I hear someone talking about an expectant “blue wave” in the fall elections.  Although I’d like to see one, so much seems a matter of how events smile or frown on the Trump presidency in the intervening months and how well Trump can sell his “witch hunt” narrative to those who feel numb to the issues and wonder why so much media time was being spent on such things as a porn star and her lawyer over a hush money payment that may have broken campaign financing laws.

What does that have to do with our major problems?  Hate to say it, but it seems kind of witch hunty to me.  Not the actions per se, but the way the liberal media dwells on them.

 

 

The White House Press Corps Owes Sarah Sanders an Apology

Ed Henry of Fox News , a former association president, spoke of Sarah Sanders’ mistreatment at the WHPA dinner:  We “invited her to be the president’s representative. We invited her to dinner, to our event, and we treated her like dirt. It was disgusting; I’m actually getting more angry just thinking about it.”  I don’t feel that angry, but I don’t like the way comedienne Michelle Wolf treated her.

Just because the president often acts like a complete ass, that’s not an excuse to emulate him.

Understand I don’t like Sanders’ dodging or stonewalling every uncomfortable question in White House briefings.  I was happy to hear of one reporter who got so tired of empty answers he stormed out calling her a liar.  But this was a different place and time and this time she was supposed to be a special “guest” of the press core, not a pinata, which is why she was seated on that stage, which made her particularly vulnerable to be batted around mercilessly in Wolf’s performance.

Except for the mean spirited it is not funny to call someone a liar and compare her to a loathsome character in a TV show, while she has to just sit there and take it.  This was a series of insults plain and simple.   Someone once said there is a fine line between the  prick of wit and the sting of insult.  The best roasts tend to be heavy on wit and light on insult.  When it goes the other way, it ruins the show.

Without Trump present, Sanders got to be the special target for vitriol.   Still,  you could tell by the majority of the audience reaction that Michelle had become all sting and little shared wit when it came to treating Sanders.

Watching Sanders squirm in her chair I thought she should get up and go, yelling on the way:   “I don’t need to listen to this crap.”  I could applaud that.

Now that I think of it, though, a number of reporters might have reflexively shouted back:  “Now you know how we feel.”

So, I’m ambivalent.  But bottom line Sarah was treated like dirt and deserves an apology from the White House Press Corps.

Military Theater: Trump’s Surreal “Win” in Syria

The attack on Syria Friday seemed flawless and there doesn’t look like there will be strong repercussions from the Russians or Syria’s President Assad.  But the major reason for a lack of a big response was the strike was limited to chemical weapons production and storage structures, while giving Assad and his friends plenty of notice (beginning with Trump’s tweeted threats a week ago), so the Russians and Assad could move their troops and who knows what else out of the way of the most likely targets.

From what I’ve seen reported, amazingly no one was killed and only a handful injured.  That’s great, but when your destructive skill is so surgical as to leave not much of a scar, it gives me no cause to believe a U. S. government spokesman who expressed hope these actions would somehow draw Putin, Assad and the Iranians to some form of international negotiations.

What would they have to gain?  They have already won.  Other than a sizable Kurdish controlled northeast, Assad controls most of Syria, except for a few pockets.  That’s why I among many can’t figure out why Assad even used chemical weapons as his other weapons already seemed to be bringing the rebels to heel in the city of Douma, south of Damascus.

Why tug on Super Man’s cape, when unnecessary?  Trump was looking for a total exit of Syria only two weeks ago, before some advisers prompted him to think about it.  Why give him more reason to keep our forces in the area?  Was it Assad’s arrogance?  A joy in snubbing his nose at us?  A curious stupidity?

In any case, I’m glad we had a well measured response to those chemical attacks (reportedly the new Secretary of State John Bolton, a long time hawk, pushed to do more damage and trigger more danger, but Mattis prevailed).  However, the chest thumping from Trump and his subordinates, like foremost toady VP Pence, is unwarranted.  They act as if he had just won a war.

Yes, we pushed back on the use of chemical weapons, for many decades banned internationally, and that is good.  But it basically was an instance of military theater. By concentrating only on chemical weapons, we seemed to be saying all other weapons are fair game in Syria.  You stay away from chemical weapons and we’ll stay away from you.

Thousands upon thousands have been killed by the forces of Assad, Russia and Iran, mostly with other types of weapons, such as barrel bombs.  I guess the visuals aren’t as gut wrenching as seeing small children gasping for last breaths.  We’re not committed to preventing deaths in Syria, just the ones that look the most gruesome on TV.  Otherwise Trump can’t wait to get out.

So, when I hear various Trump spokespeople sound tough, talking about us being “locked and loaded” in case the Syrians dare use chemical weapons again, it is surreal like much that emanates from the Trump administration.

Why would they provoke more attacks from us, when Assad and his friends have plenty of other ways to kill and maim and destroy?  And we’ve provided a green light to use them.

The Fruition of Government by Chaos: What Will Happen in Syria?

Our boy-who-would-be-king is known to love governing by chaos.  Well, he should be ecstatic now.

For those who want to take a look at what a mess the white house has become, I recommend an article in the Washington Post titled:  “Trump is operating on a tornado of impulses – and no clear strategy – as he deals with Syria, trade and the Russia probe.”

The Syrian whirlwind seems most crucial to resolve right away as the president impulsively tweeted all sorts of threats when it appeared the Assad government had once again used chemical weapons on some of his people a few days ago. The Bloviator-in-Chief huffed and puffed signaling quick devastating action against Assad, but that has been delayed.

His impulsivity ignored the need to fully confirm the action, not to mention having an actual response plan, since our military seemed as surprised as the rest of us by the little king’s threats.  This especially because a week ago he wanted to pull our two or three thousand troops out of Syria, basically ending our commitment there.  Apparently he did not inform his advisers beforehand, and they pushed him to reconsider.

Now instead of pulling out, we seem on the edge of jumping in more in some way.  As I type I hear on cable TV in the other room, that the chemical use is now confirmed.  And decisions on Syria will come “fairly soon.”

In his carelessness, Mr. Impulsivity has put American prestige on the line and the trick is to make Assad feel he is paying a big price for those chemical attacks, while not igniting a military conflict with Russia in the process.  This feels like someone with fading eyesight trying to thread a very small eye of a needle.  It is hard to imagine a sanguine conclusion.

As to what will happen:  I haven’t a clue.  But it figures to be big news one way or another….soon.

The WSJ Editorial Board Can’t Stand Trump’s Behavior, Either

The right leaning editorial board of the Wall Street Journal tends to say nice things about Trump when they are somewhat warranted, rather than attack him, but even they are getting sick of his juvenile behavior as reflected in yesterday’s editorial titled:  The Tale of Stormy Donald:  His willful self-indulgence catches up to President Trump.

There are tons of left leaning and centrist criticisms of Trump, but when the WSJ mirrors them, it suggests there is some sense of a common reality among those across the political spectrum.  The White House does not only look chaotic to liberals, but to thinking conservatives as well.

“Every sentient voter in 2016 understood that Donald Trump had a bad history with women. He survived politically because his opponent had spent 20 years denying or apologizing for even worse behavior by her husband. But mistakes of character tend to catch up with everyone, and that’s what is now happening with President Trump and his many women.

Stormy Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) may be a porn star and admitted liar with a shark for a lawyer, but her tale on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday still has the potential to harm Mr. Trump. That’s not because of the 2006 hookup or its mockable details. Mr. Trump denies that it happened, but then why did his lawyer Michael Cohen go to such lengths to keep it quiet before Election Day in 2016?

The problem as ever is the cover-up. The Journal broke the story earlier this year that Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 in late October of 2016 not to talk about the liaison with Mr. Trump. On Sunday Ms. Clifford agreed it was “hush money.” The legal agreement has now broken down in mutual recriminations, and Mr. Cohen insists that he paid the $130,000 on his own without any discussion or repayment from Mr. Trump.

The legal issue is whether Mr. Cohen’s payment violated campaign-finance laws by exceeding the $5,400 donation limit from any individual. John Edwards, the former Democratic vice presidential nominee, was indicted in 2011 for using illegal campaign donations to conceal news about his mistress from voters.

A jury acquitted Mr. Edwards in 2012, in part due to the complexity of campaign-finance law, but that may not matter to Robert Mueller. The special counsel is supposed to be investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election but has already gone far afield to indict Paul Manafort and Rick Gates on money-laundering charges. Don’t be surprised if he also tries to squeeze Mr. Cohen to get to Mr. Trump.

It’s impossible to predict how all of this will play out politically. Many Trump partisans will refuse to believe it or claim it’s irrelevant. But our guess is that at the margin this contributes to a growing public belief that Mr. Trump’s personal flaws are undermining his chances for a successful Presidency.

Two months ago he had emerged from a tumultuous first year with the triumph of tax reform and rising poll numbers. The strong economy had Republicans closing the gap with Democrats on who should run Congress next year. But Mr. Trump can’t resist promoting White House strife and making himself the center of political tumult.

His recent selections of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo for his security team are first rate. But Mr. Trump’s reality-TV dismissal of their predecessors was nasty and chaotic. On Friday he threatened to veto a budget bill his own staff had been negotiating for weeks—further souring voters on the GOP Congress. Doesn’t he realize that if Democrats win the House, they will vote to impeach him?

Mr. Trump can’t retain the best legal counsel because no one wants a client who ignores all advice. He wants to answer questions from Mr. Mueller but probably won’t prepare enough to avoid even accidental self-incrimination. The Stormy Daniels case is typical of Mr. Trump’s pre-presidential behavior in thinking he can, with enough threats and dissembling, get away with anything. He’s never understood that a President can’t behave that way, and this may be the cause of his downfall.”


P. S. – There has long been a split between the news division and editorial division of the WSJ.  The news division comes up with some great scoops regardless of their political impact, scoops that provide facts not necessarily supportive of their editorials.   Anyway, the above is an example of the two divisions coming together on the issue of Trump’s behavior.   I guess as he touts, in some cases he is a unifier.