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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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.

 

 

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.

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.

Feb 28, 2018: A Particularly Bizarre Day in Trumptopia

I was not going to post for a few days to let a number of issues develop, but there were so many odd political occurrences yesterday I wanted to give it a little attention, so I’m sharing a tweet from Sam Stein, politics editor for the Daily Beast, just to give you a taste of the day (I added a few words in blue for clarity).

Stein captured Trump’s day thus:   Between calling his AG Jeff Sessions “DISGRACEFUL;”  Agreeing to a liberal fantasy of gun reform in a televised bi-partisan meeting in the White House; losing his comms director Hope Hicks; watching his son-in-law Jared Kushner chewed up by devastating news reports; and seeing Special Counsel Mueller hone in on his attempts to fire Sessions;  it’s just your average day in Trumpland.”

I’d say Stein is employing understatement. Even for Trump this was a bit much.  All of these occurrences will give rise to more and more stories which  undoubtedly will compete for attention with new or renewed “breaking news” to the point of our bewilderment and/or just tuning out altogether with our excuse being you can’t believe anybody.  For me the worst thing Trump has done is to turn the already murky world of political reality into a blinding sleet storm.

Amidst the mental muck I will try to focus on what happens with the gun reform issue.  Most likely not much.  Recall how Trump had a similar meeting about DACA on a Tuesday in January wherein he appeared open and even eager to make a deal, but by Thursday he reversed his position, obviously influenced by his base and advisers.  The “Tuesday Trump” or the “Thursday Trump”  has become a byword for a Trump-about-face, I think coined by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham.

So we’ve seen the “Tuesday Trump” on gun reform and now we have to wait and see what the “Thursday Trump” has to say.  Most likely he will pull back from every positive thing he said about gun reform that the NRA doesn’t like.  It might boil down to bump  stocks being passed, as the NRA doesn’t seem to mind that.

I’ll get back to you.


P. S. – Trump says or does so many odd things that we tire of pointing them out, but that only makes his craziness our reality.  Trump must fundamentally be a coward, as he is always indicating how brave he is, like the other day when he asserted that unlike that “cowardly” security guard he would have run into that school even if he didn’t have a gun.  Who else would pat himself on the back for something he has only fantasized?

That is the sort of thing that truly the brave, like a Medal of Honor recipient, would never, ever say about himself, the kind of thing only someone with a lot of self-doubt would say.  And then what does he do?   Yesterday he puffs himself up more by teasing some of the Congress people about being afraid of the NRA, when he has been completely cowed by them until his “brave” words yesterday which he has plenty of time to take back.

One might say he lacks the courage of his convictions, but then he has no convictions, only a fantasy of himself.