The Essence of the Helsinki Summit: Trump Looked Small and Putin Won Big

Mr. Trump’s performance before the press after meeting Vladimir Putin privately for over two hours (only the two presidents and their interpreters) is being called “disgraceful,” “disastrous” and “shameful”, not only by Democrats but by many Republicans.  This seems likely to linger longer than most of Trump’s gaffs, so let’s take a look at it.

Much of the criticism of Trump stems from his answers to two questions by AP reporter Jonathan Lamire.   Below are the questions and Trump’s response.  On the world stage he looked the part of a buffoon.  Still defending his election win, unable to think beyond what impacts him, rambling, dodging, distracting, fabricating and in the end failing to answer the first question and ignoring the second, leaving the sense that he trusts Putin at least as much as our own intelligence services.   Let me add one more adjective:  Deranged.  You decide…

“Question ….. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.   … who do you believe?……My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching…….warn him to never do it again?

TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months, and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server? And what is the server saying?

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.

I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have — I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone — just gone. I think, in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.

So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay? Thank you.”


P. S.  –  Putin’s “incredible offer” was that that his intelligence services would work with ours to, it seems, get to the bottom of all these accusations.  As if the recent indictment of several Russians giving details of their culpability was just a puff piece in a local gossip column.

If you want to look at the entire transcript of that press conference you can find it here.

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The Great Pretender and the Fall Elections

From my posts of the last couple of months or so you might have sensed that I am getting done in by the murkiness exuded hour by hour in Trumptopia.   I have a mind boggling chain of thoughts that get twisted up and fogged over so quickly they are beyond my capacity to deal with them.

I think of those boys trapped in a cave in Thailand.   Metaphorically like them I feel stuck amidst forces I can’t control. Unlike them I am not facing possible death as a result, but I do have the feeling of being swept away.   Like their fates, the mid-terms seem up for grabs.   As with their fates, I don’t have a handle on whether or not the American voters will endorse or reject the nature of Trumpism.

Trump has polluted the collective mind sphere so thoroughly with his alternative facts, distortions and just plain lies I can’t tell who will be persuaded by what.  Especially the “who” who are the tipping pointers, that significant bunch of late deciders that prompted Trump’s election victory.   If the economy remains good that might be all it takes to push the meter towards Trump.  The axiom holds true from the first Clinton presidential run.  “It’s the economy stupid.”

Here is where ultra liberals are myopically clueless.   They think that because they are ultra sensitive to issues like race or the separation of mothers from babies of those entering the U. S. illegally, that most of the country is.   Worse, they think everyone should be.   As a conservative political commentator (who doesn’t like Trump) put it recently, Trump is not conservative:  He is anti-liberal.  And a lot of Americans obviously respond to that.

I’m thinking about Trump’s daily splurge of lies, distortions and showman distractions – like which super conservative he will pick for the Supreme Court Monday night.  Should he pick tweedle dee or tweedle dum? Or maybe tweedle tweedle?  A political commentator whom I respect referred today to Monday night’s announcement as “must see TV.”

No it’s not.  He has fallen into the Trump vortex, the same swirl that drew commentators to talk about the Trump/Kim “historic meeting” in Singapore.  Have you noticed in recent days that the North Koreans now charge us with trying to deal with them mafia style, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refers to the same meetings in NOKO as making substantial progress?  (The last thing his boss wants is for his promises of our no longer having to fear NOKO to become a laughing stock.)

ENOUGH!

Basically we are all waiting to see what happens in the fall mid-terms, so until October I will try to spare you my jumbled thoughts.   If something really grabs me, something that might actually seem important regarding the fall elections or can illuminate this ongoing public psychic mess, I’ll write about it, but otherwise no.

That’s all I can do at this point.

 

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.

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.

North Korea, Stormy Daniels and this and that….

So many, so many possible topics, so let’s just take a glance at a few ongoing sagas…

Since it touches upon the prospect of nuclear war, let’s begin with North Korea, which is acting like it wants to develop its relationship with South Korea (you know, their athletes marching together at the Olympics, etc.).  NO KO and SO KO are setting up a hot line between their two nation heads and will have talks in upcoming weeks which may lead to talks including the U. S.

It sounds good, but NO KO has made peaceful overtures over the years, which wound up stalling periods while they continued to develop nuclear weapons. Perhaps the Trump crazy persona has prompted Jong UN to reconsider…………but more likely it is a clever ploy by UN, buying time and perhaps splitting our relationship with SO KO.

Stormy Daniels is a picayune topic, but much more fun, unless you are Donald J. Trump. The porn star/adult film actress (depending on how much you want to go “tisk, tisk”) refuses to go away.  It looks like she will become a bigger pain to the president as she is suing for the right to tell her story arguing the non-disclosure agreement is invalid as Trump never signed it.

Even if she must give the $130,000 back, she will undoubtedly make much more in appearance fees and likely some sort of book deal.  It should be fun to watch her buzzing around nipping at Trump like a clever mosquito.  Rumors say she has some photos she’d like to share.

The really big topic of gun control can wait, as Congress is slowly muddling through various proposals, never knowing what Trump would actually sign.  Meanwhile, some interesting reactions from business, in that two big sellers of guns, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have established more restrictions on their own gun sales.  Also, numerous large corporations have stopped giving NRA members special discounts.

Of course, the drivers for ongoing work on this issue are the high school students organizing a big March in Washington later this month, and various walkouts at schools throughout the country.  And undoubtedly other events I don’t know about.  Of course Congress will do as little as possible, most thinking of how it will affect voting in the fall elections.  A hefty dose of determined idealism from the young adults gives me some hope the NRA won’t completely tip the balance as usual.

Speaking of changes, the White House just lost its 16th high level administrator when Gary Cohn, White House chief economic adviser, resigned.  Some kind of record exodus I think.   Cohn resigned after Trump refused to take back his suddenly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a move that has lots of critics besides Cohn, and few defenders.

For one, it could ignite a trade war, especially with Canada and Mexico, the two biggest exporters of those goods to us.  For another, there are a lot more people working in industries here that use those metals as opposed to those that mine them.  Tariffs will prompt price hikes that make their products less competitive.  Any employment gains in steel production seem likely overshadowed by losses in the steel using industries.

No matter to Trump as it is a great distraction from other issues and makes him look good when he goes to Pennsylvania soon to give a campaign speech in a steel producing area.  It is a complex matter, but no reason to say more yet, as Trump could completely rework this as it suits him.

And of course there is the Mueller investigation, which keeps coming up with more indictments and/or agreements for witness testimony.   Trump must be having some nightmares of looking around and seeing the terminator steadily moving towards him.

What else?  Remember the week the was supposed to be infrastructure week?  Well, forget it.  Nothing has happened there and doesn’t seem likely to before the election.   It looked like a bad idea at the time and has lost its impetus for now.

Speaking of delay, DACA comes to mind.  Since it will be tied up in the courts for months, my bet is Congress will do little or nothing for months.  Also being delayed are major steps to combat Russian interference in our election this fall.  Trump pretends otherwise with talk of a comprehensive study of the matter under way, but no specific actions and fall not far away.

Criminal, I say.  Criminal.

A Glance at the Russian Intervention Issues and DACA

The Russian issue and the DACA issue are unrelated, other than I’d rather say something about each topic now rather than so many others, like reducing gun mass violence.

First, the Russian intervention in the 2016 election and Special Council Mueller’s investigation of it.  As for the intervention, our four major intelligence agencies have agreed for months there is no doubt about interference and that it continues and will impact the 2018 election if we don’t make Russia pay a price and to take other steps to combat it.

As retiring NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers testified to a senate committee Monday, he has not received any direction from the president, echoing what he and other security chiefs testified earlier in February.  It is up to the Republican controlled Congress to press Trump on this, but their devil’s pact with him seems to preclude it.

They got tax and regulation cuts and numerous conservative judges through, so, hey, he’s their man under apparently any circumstances.  They see their interest as the nation’s interest (e.g. some Russian hacking helped them in the last election, so……).

Trump’s lack  of response and the failure of the Republican Congress to censure him for that indifference should be big news.  But not in Trumptopia where it dwindles to being just another dime a dozen issue.  His do nothing approach would be denounced as traitorous if a Democratic president did so little to protect the nation’s political structure.

As for the Mueller investigation, I’m struck that Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty today to more charges from Mueller concerning various illegal dealings or lies.  Unless the press are totally off on this, the once-upon-a-time manager of the Trump campaign has brazenly  broken laws all over the world, so I’m drawn to believe he will be convicted of a few things.  Especially because his close long time work associate Rick Gates has entered a plea deal with Mueller, and his knowledge could be enough to sink the man by itself.

So, why plead guilty instead of making a deal himself?   I’d bet Manafort believes that Trump will pardon him.  It’s Manafort’s only way out.  His trial is scheduled for Sept 17 and trials often have their dates moved back, so the mess that is Manafort may stay under wraps (except for leaks) until after the November elections, which might help the Retrumplicans.  Certainly his trial is not likely to help them.

Yes, I said Retrumplicans, meaning what was called “the grand old party” is the party of Trump pure and simple.  As mentioned above, some old Republican values are held on to while others have been dropped as a matter of convenience, like balancing the budget (how old fashioned)  and espousing  some sort of moral code (how quaint).

Moving on, DACA prolonged.  A judge struck down Trump’s order to do away with DACA.  That temporarily saves those in the program but will likely keep them nerve wracked for months to come.  Depends on how long the appellate court’s docket will be too full to handle the case (sometime in the fall?) and then whatever their decision, the case seems likely to go to the Supreme Court ( Trump’s team tried to leap frog the appellate court, but the Supremes would not allow it.)

Upon reflection, this DACA issue being postponed, like with Manafort, until after the election might work to Trump’s advantage as he will continue to blame the Democrats for not settling the issue while acting as if he hadn’t attached other restrictions to his immigration proposal that the Dems see as a poison pill.

Manafort a victim of the witch hunt and the Dems not caring about the Dreamers is how Trump’s narrative will read come election time.