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.

Advertisements

The Arpaio Pardon: One More Shake of the Wobbly Pillars of our Republic

As you all probably know there is a huge storm lashing and flooding the Texas coast.  It is creating mass destruction but at least it will blow over in a few days.  What will remain are Donald Trump’s efforts to corrupt our political system, a growing storm of a different kind.

It would take a book to portray the numerous incidents whereby Trump has weakened the pillars of our political system, lambasting the press as fake, our intelligence agencies as politicized and/or incompetent, the judiciary as overreaching and the congress as impotent.  Of course,  many of us may share such sentiments as the public image of all of those institutions has suffered for some time now.  However, it is one thing to be critical of them and another to have no respect for them at all, to act with impunity as if the health of those institutions is not vitally important to the maintenance of our Republic.

Trump’s basic message is we cannot trust anyone but him.  The basic message of all demagogues.

The pardon Friday of Sherriff Joe Arpaio  exemplifies this attitude.   As described by Yahoo News, Arpaio, a Trump supporter, had  “been convicted of criminal contempt last month for failing to obey a federal judge’s order to stop targeting Latinos on the basis of their suspected immigration status.”

Trump’s position is Arpaio was just “doing his job.”   In other words, it is fine for law officers to ignore laws they find inconvenient.   Senator John McCain reacted by charging Trump with undermining the “law and order” emphasis of his campaign, but Trump has always emphasized order over law, contemptuous of legal niceties.

Arpaio’s tactics suit the Donald to a Tee.  That is really what the “president” has in mind by law and order.   I imagine police across the land have taken note.

Besides an ignoring-civil-rights tone to police work, the pardoning of Arpaio sends a message to all in Trump’s immediate orbit that the Donald is basically free to pardon any of them if they get in a tight spot.   How reassuring.

So often we hear of the wisdom of the founders in setting up the institutions of American government, but Trump may have found a loop hole.   The founders seem not to have imagined the possibility of a president pardoning with abandon.  Even using the pardon as a negotiating tool for his own self-protection.

I have heard some discussion as to whether the president can pardon himself.  I have no idea if the matter is clear cut.   Certainly if he thinks it might be of help, he’ll give it a try.

What Does it Take for Some People to be Disgusted by Trump’s Amorality?

I watched FOX cable news this morning figuring I would see a defense of our “president’s” flipping back to the position yesterday that he espoused Saturday that there was blame on both sides for the violence in Charlotte.  And “fine people” on both sides, too.

I think it would take a major research project to find some of those fine people among the white supremacists who were shouting anti-Jewish and other threatening slogans.  I am just so sick of Trump and his B. S. and those who still act as if he is a normal person. Either by now you see what a weak moral compass he has spinning around like a broken top or you likely never will.

Still, I’m happy to report that while Trump friendly arguments were made on FOX, of course, they were challenged by other FOX guests.  (And, I might add, despite the frequent silliness, some good debates pop out there, something I’d like to see more of on the liberal mutual admiration society that is MSNBC .)

Those wanting to defend Trump’s equal blame theory can point to some violence on the left from a radical fringe we might loosely call Antifa (anti-fascists), but they weren’t there to spew racism and white supremacy.  They were there to protest it.

This captures the gist:   Former KKK Grand Wizzard David Duke, now calling himself a white nationalist, reflected many on the far right who praised Trump’s equal blame statement given Saturday as it essentially diluted their greater share of the blame.   But then Duke reviled Trump for the obviously phony shift Monday where he finally pointed to neo-nazi’s and white supremacists as being the primary culprits.

Hey, get this.  I agree with David Duke, the second statement was phony, or as Charles Krauthammer said on Fox:  “His heart wasn’t in it.”  That’s why Trump later reversed course, reportedly surprising his staff in the process.

Now that Trump has returned to reiterating the Saturday statement, Duke is ecstatic again.

How can anyone in their right mind view praise from David Duke to be a good thing?

At this point one wonders if any major Republican figure will make some major stand against Trump for this, as have a few members of his manufacturing council who have resigned in protest.

Love to see it, but I’m not holding my breath.   When you’ve been dancing with the devil it is tough to bow out.  Especially when you still believe he might do you some good despite much evidence to the contrary.


P. S. – The white supremacist activities figure to blossom and I think it useful to read this portrait of what I think of as the new white far right.   They aren’t just your grandfather’s KKK or even neo-Nazi’s but various new groups of largely young men, usually clean cut and at times well spoken and well organized.   More attractive white supremacists.

Also, Antifa will undoubtedly be showing up at these white supremacist rallies and unfortunately provide a foil for the likes of Donald Trump to point to as say….  “see, they’re to blame, too.”   Take a glance at them.

Does Trump Yearn to be back in Military School?

It has often been noted that the Donald, a.k.a President Trump, likes operating in chaos.  Well then, he must have loved last week.   Sure, he denied the chaos, but really, at this point does anyone other than his brain washed base believe anything he says?

At least this week began with the hope for more order in the White House in the form of General Kelly, the new Chief of Staff selected to replace Reince Priebus whom I had some sympathy for until he praised little Donnie’s unmatched “political instincts” on his way out the door.

What is wrong with you, Reince?  He buried you totally with the help of his mud slinging “id”, Anthony Scaramucci, the new (oops, gone) director of White House communications.  And you walk out the door emphasizing Trump’s bright side?

Yes, Trump’s instincts got him the presidency, I’ll give him that.   But his primary instinct is to keep feeding his base alone, and distorting the truth regularly to do so, as if their opinion alone will constitute a great presidency.

Given his stellar record of competency and integrity,  General Kelly may bring some order to the chaos, but only if the Donald will be willing to abide by some discipline for a change.  That possibility usually provokes smiles and titters.  How do you get a guy who loves chaos to embrace discipline?

Well, maybe he surrounds himself with military figures and he comes to accept them reining him in.  That’s not likely, but it seemed to work when he was a kid.   And, as I think of him as around 13 in stunted emotional growth, it might work again….for awhile.  Trump wrote years ago that  “As an adolescent, I was mostly interested in creating mischief.”  Seems to me he still has some of that, but he straightened out after his father sent him to a military academy when he was 13.   Though rebellious at first, he later thrived under the discipline there.

I’m going to play penny psychologist and theorize that because it worked to his benefit once, subconsciously the Donnie might actually want to be constrained as he was in military school, as it led to success.   Note all the generals he has accumulated at the top.   General Mattis as Secretary of Defense, General McMasters as security adviser, and now General Kelly, formerly head of Homeland Security, as his chief of staff.  I wonder whether he will replace Kelly with another General, or at least one with a military background such as CIA Director Mike Pompeo has.

Maybe at some deep level, below all the braggadocio and blaming of others Trump knows his presidency is sinking.   Perhaps Trump actually realizes that things have gotten out of hand at the White House and like in his early teens he needs some discipline to set things right.   Certainly Kelly has started off on the right foot in getting the foul mouthed, just hired Scaramucci fired. Unlike Priebus, Kelly is the kind of guy that will push back on the president in the way his teachers and commanders did at the military school.  I think we will see some more order in the White House for awhile.

But there are three flies in my theoretical ointment.  One is the habit of Trump and his spokes people to lie.  I don’t know how Kelly can control that.  Also, unlike at the military school, Trump can fire Kelly or other commanders once he gets tired of feeling hemmed in.  And even if Kelly produces a miracle of organization, there are the conclusions of the Mueller investigation laying dead ahead some months in the future, an iceberg that looks impossible to avoid.

If Mueller comes up with a bevy of unsavory business and political activities of the Trump clan – like many of us think he will – no amount of discipline in the White House will save the president.

 


P. S. – By the way, the military flavor of the Trump administration goes well beyond the top picks, as described in this article.   Also, Trump’s version of military school is he was an unblemished success.  Others there differ about that as discussed here.   

If you want a brief bio of General Kelly read this.  Besides his decades of highly regarded service and sense of integrity two points stick out:  “Kelly has taken a hard stance on border security and support for the military. He has supported Trump’s plan to construct a wall along the United States border with Mexico.”   However, I would add Kelly’s version of a “wall” is not a wall per se but various measures to increase border security, including hiring more border agents.

That was the Week that Was

The administration of Donald Trump has been unusual from the beginning, but it has morphed into something surreal.   No, more than that.  What word means more surreal than surreal?   Let me see, how about “nuts”?

I have been working on a post that tries to capture what this past week has been like and what it says about this dysfunctional, loony tunes administration, but it has been more than I can handle.  Like trying to get back into the pants I wore in high school.  Not to mention that the words I’ve tried convey a sense of “the sky is falling the sky is falling”.  Well, maybe it is.   But running around screaming doesn’t help, other than my own need to vent.

Fortunately,  Ruth Marcus outlines the White House chaos in calm, relatively short fashion in a Washington Post column titled “The White House is Imploding.”   It doesn’t include everything weird that has happened recently, most notably the sudden priority our Twit-in-Chief has placed on cleaning out our military of those fussy transgender types,  as if North Korea’s nuclear rattling, Middle East chaos and Putin’s nefarious ways belong on back burners.

But, Marcus gives the gist of the incompetency of Donald Trump when it comes to playing president.   Once again reminding us that we have elected a child president whom we must all work around to get anything done.

Here is the column.


P. S. – The title of the post is stolen from a popular British TV show back in 1963 credited with being the first to satirize the British government.   The people loved it; not surprisingly the government did not.  I imagine our Saturday Night Live owes a debt of gratitude to that show.

Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, Healthcare Bills and that other thing….North Korea

I usually watch Morning Joe on MSNBC, but I watch less of it all the time.  Thank God for recording devices with fast forward.  Today a half hour was more than enough. Turns out Jared Kushner appeared helpful at the Senate hearing and the latest steps on repeal/replace of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) are keeping the possibility of change afloat, but leaky.   In short, not much news.

Republicans are so divided it is possible that they will have to swallow their insistence on repeal and work with Democrats to improve healthcare in ways that garners votes from both sides of the aisle.  What a novel approach.

Oh, and Jeff Sessions remains Donnie Trump’s piñata, as our boy who would be king is obsessed in his resentment that Sessions failed to quash this irksome Russia/Trump investigation.   His sin was recusing himself thus opening the door to Trump’s (I surmise) haunted house.  Sessions committed the crime of being more loyal to the constitution than to his sire, something a number of conservatives have noted as a good thing despite their general backing for the Donald.

The strength of Sessions’ support among conservatives is reflected by Russ Limbaugh calling Trump’s treatment of Sessions “unseemly”.   That’s like the pope accusing one of his parishioners of being uncatholic, reason enough for Trump to stop verbally battering the AG, if he can be that reasonable.

So, Donnie is in a bit of a pickle here.  Maybe that’s why he has come out with a new item to be aghast about, the banishing of “transgender” people in the military.  Now that is a big bright object to distract the media from weightier things………….

Such as North Korea.   At the end of the program co-host Mika Brzezinski brought up the issue of that rogue nation apparently about to test another intercontinental missile and a recent report that they might have one capable of hitting our mainland in a year or so, sooner than had been expected.

Then she mused that perhaps they should have spent more time on that and less on  the Trump soap opera on display in Washington.

Good idea Mika.  How about expanding upon that in your next show.

Oh, I still haven’t found a current article on General Mattis.  I assume that is because the Secretary of Defense is working his tail off figuring out what the hell we should do about North Korea and has no time for interviews.

Searching for General Mattis on Jared Kushner Day

Today Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify at a closed door session of the Senate intelligence committee and the cable stations are giving it the attention of the second coming.   If it were an open session I can see some interest, but being closed……we will depend upon leaks and arguments over the legitimacy of the leaks and that will become the story rather than anything Jared says.  That will probably mirror what he wrote in a carefully prepared I’m-not-guilty statement.

End of story.   In a real world, but not the one we have devolved into.

Watching CNN this morning I saw a scene-in-waiting, a camera placed to catch Jared when he stepped foot out of his limousine at the Capitol.  Whoop-de-do!  It struck me as a great example of our TV press often focusing on nothingness.  This mixed in with panels speculating on what Jared might say, should say or shouldn’t say.   Really, where is the substance here?  It’s harder to find than Waldo.

This reminds me of my favorite definition of celebrity:  “Someone who is famous for being famous.”  I’d add a corollary:   The longer one remains famous the famouser one gets.   This is a news story simply because it has something to do with the “famous” Trump/Russia connection.  Jared is one of the players, reason enough for the media to hype the importance of this unimportant event.

Waiting for Jared reminded me of the play Waiting for Godot, except Godot never arrived.  I assume Jared will, but I don’t need to see it.   In fact I don’t want to see it.  Call me old fashioned, but I’d like to see something newsworthy instead.  I don’t accuse the media of “fake news”, but I do of “make news.”  They take a kernel, or acorn of news, and pump it up with endless attention and speculation to become an oak.

And people sit in front of TV’s waiting for Jared to arrive…..

The Trump camp calls the media obsession with the Trump/Russia issue “hysterical”.  I wouldn’t go that far but it is not quite sane journalism, either.  It is a hot story whether or not it should be.  Of course, as usual, the Trumpeteers forget just how much they owe that same media for lavishing attention on the Donald’s early bid for presidency making him a hot story.   The media cashed in on good ratings and it seemed harmless at the time.  If the TV media in particular would have pressed Trump on the birther issue, their job, instead of playing patty cake with him, we might not be in the mess we are.

We may have been spared a president who, give the man some credit, has become the Tyrannosaurus Rex of celebrity-dom.


P. S. – I mentioned Mattis in the title because whatever he is doing seems likely more important than any news I see on TV.  When it comes to foreign policy he is our Command-in-Chief, as I see it.  Trump is the Twit-in-Chief.  I couldn’t find any recent news, so I’ll keep looking and get back to you.

I needed to get my disgust for aspects of our press off my chest anyway.