Trump’s Pious and Dangerous Enablers

Did I miss something when Trump said he was salivating at the chance to take health care away from 22 million Americans and the 87-year-old Robertson merely responded with his trademark chucklehead chuckle?

.. Robertson is not the most despicable of Trump’s enablers. For that, you’re probably thinking of Sean Hannity. No, it goes beyond the safe spaces in broadcasting. The most odious of those who are letting Trump drag America into the gutter include Vice President Mike Pence, the leaders in Congress and the pious shepherds of a white evangelical community that continues to give an awful man a pass for every awful thing he does.

.. Pence is the choirboy who leaves the room when the nasty boys take over, and then helps clean up later.

.. Pence has said he would never dine alone with a woman who is not his wife, which raises questions about how he would handle a diplomatic dinner with Angela Merkel.

.. Through every degrading statement, every Oval Office insult, every one of the more than 500 demonstrable lies told (so far) by this president, Pence has remained silent or defended the offender.

And if the White House is blackmailed because the Kremlin has something even more damning on, say, Jared Kushner .. Pence will be further exposed as a gutless cipher.
.. Another boy scout in hiding is House Speaker Paul Ryan. Golly gee, he just wants to cut taxes on the rich, destroy the health care system, and work on his abs and guns.
.. Asked this week if he would ever have a meeting with a foreign power offering dirt on a political opponent, he said, “I’m not going to go into hypotheticals.”
.. And the above question is anything but a hypothetical; the dim-bulbed Donald Trump Jr. presented it in writing.
.. A true miracle would be for one of the enablers among the 81 percent of white evangelicals who gave their vote to Trump to follow their conscience, or at least the Scriptures they profess guide them.

Mike Morell on Trump Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

Michael Morell, fmr. deputy director of the CIA, discusses President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

 I look at this from a national security perspective:
  1. The climate will be worse than it would have been
    1. Preservation of the nation
      1. nuclear war with Russia
      2. naturally occurring biological agent
      3. climate change is that serious over the long term
    2. Specific national security implications
      1. water shortages: conflicts over water.
      2. instability caused by growing deserts
      3. food scarcity
    3. US leadership: worse than not enforcing red line in Syria
      1. This undermine allies’s faith in US: Angela Merkel sees greater prospects with China than US
      2. Thought US did well to reassure Middle East Allies in Middle East (vis-a-vis Iran)
      3. Failure to reassure Europe over Article 5.  They feel like America doesn’t have their back
      4. George Shultz: the US helped to forge
        1. Say what you mean: have clearly articulated policty
        2. Do what you say: draw red line, if you forge treaty, don’t abandon it
      5. I’ve been an analyst of other countries.  Now I’m an analyst of my own country:
        1. Nationalists: Bannon, etc: very narrowly focused
        2. Globalists: McMaster, Mattis, Pompeo, Tillperson, Dan Coats, Gary Cohn: traditional Republican foreign policy
        3. Jared Kushner: not ideological, not long-term interests of US, looking out for Reputation of Family: Barak Obama of Administration
        4. President Trump: view was framed on campaign trail, what resonated with people: if there is a threat to US, we will crush it.  Otherwise we will withdraw.

Middle East

Is it wise to make Iran an enemy?  Yes, Iran is a threat to strategic interests

  1. They conduct terror through Kuds force conducts terrorism against Jews, and neighbors
  2. Support terror
  3. Support Shia insurgent groups to overthrow Sunni regimes
  4. It is policy to destroy Israel
  5. It is policy to dominate region
  6. We need to push back agains bad behavior, but give them an out if they want to change.
  7. We need to reassure the allies
  8. We need to talk to our allies about democracy privately
  9. John Kerry says if we do more sanctions, they walk
    1. then that is them walking away from the table
    2. we should leave the door open to them
    3. they have to pay a price for their bad behavior, and I think that happens through sanctions

What is the significance of the James Comey firing and testimony

  1. Did any Trump associates conspire with Russians, help choose material, timing for maximal impacy
  2. Did Russian organized crime help launder money.  Donald Jr. said that money was flowing in from Russia.  Did they do due diligence to know where the money was coming from?
  3. Is there anyone in the Trump administration, particularly with classified info, with inappropriate relationship with Russian Intelligence
  4. Did the president obstruct justice by
    1. asking for loyalty
    2. asking to let Flynn issue go
    3. firing Comey
  5. Jared Kushner meeting with ambassador, asking for backchannel
    1. facts in public domain may not be accurate
      1. Russians talking to each other about meeting
      2. Officials leaking to reporters
      3. Reporters reporting on this: this is not a great chain of evidence
    2. This isn’t just about Kushner, Michael Flynn was there and would have known better than to ask for secure communications
    3. Its less the desire to set up a channel, supposedly to talk to Russian military about Syria.  Why the secrecy?  Maybe they were worried about leaks.
    4. Was this Flynn and Kushner’s acting on their own, or did Trump, Pence have permission?
    5. I’m more interested in what they were doing before the election than after.
    6. The facts as we know them do not indicate that there was something criminal.
    7. Hillary asked about whether anyone in the Trump camp helped weaponize stolen data and what fake news to promote.

Middle East: Syria: we’re entering a new phase

All of our focus is on the defeat of ISIS, but there is a growing risk of conflict between:  US-Iran and US-Russia

Civil War:

  1. Assad-Opposition: as they are winning, they are getting closer to US allies
  2. US & Allies – ISIS:
    1. US: struck Syrian government forces
    2. Russia struck US allies getting closer to their base

What Helmut Kohl Taught Bill Clinton

Mr. Kohl had an ignominious end to his career, perhaps the steepest fall from grace in German postwar politics, when his former protégée and now chancellor, Angela Merkel, pushed him from power over a scandal involving illicit campaign financing. At one moment he was the hero behind German reunification; the next he was seen as an embarrassment within his own party, increasingly lonely and isolated.

But recent history has been kind to Mr. Kohl, if only by showing the contrast between the sort of international statesmanship he stood for and what passes as leadership today.

there are some important lessons to be learned from Mr. Kohl.

  1. For one, the West is doomed when it starts giving in to Russian intimidation.
  2. A second: To keep and nourish an alliance, you sometimes have to do things that are good for all partners but don’t play well domestically.
  3. And finally, trust among allies is perhaps the most precious commodity of all, which you play with to everyone’s peril.

Chancellor Kohl knew that alliances are not measured by annual balance sheets; they pay off over a longer term. His stance on the Pershings earned the trust of his American counterparts, a credit he could draw on in 1989 when the peoples of Eastern Europe, including in East Germany, were in revolt against Soviet domination and homegrown dictators.

.. Other nations in Europe were afraid of the overwhelming power a reunified Germany could muster within Europe, and did what they could to oppose reunification.

.. It wasn’t because Mr. Bush thought he owed Mr. Kohl something; it was because Mr. Kohl had earned Washington’s trust.

.. In a time of Russian revanchism, it is crucial to remember how many billions of dollars Germany and Europe invested in Russia to stabilize a failing country.

.. the American people are against your proposal to help Russia 74 to 20.’ ” But Mr. Clinton, like Mr. Kohl, knew that a stable Russia made everyone safer. “We got hired to do the right thing here,”

.. To demonstrate the continuing German commitment to a common Europe, he agreed to give up the most cherished symbol of Germany’s postwar economic success, the mark.

.. he urged his countrymen to be more forgiving toward their European brothers and sisters in distress, because he more than anyone knew how much Germany had relied on the help of others during its own trials.

Donald Trump’s Insult to History

Europe’s dismay could only have deepened when Congress seemed to cheer Mr. Trump on. Republicans, who once prided themselves as stewards of national security, have shown little concern about the way Mr. Trump treated NATO members or the links between Mr. Trump’s aides and Russia. In a statement, Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gushed over Mr. Trump’s trip to Europe and the Middle East, saying it was “executed to near perfection.”

.. These new stresses in the alliance come at a bad time.

  • Europe has been battered by the Greek financial crisis;
  • the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey, Hungary and Poland;
  • Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union;
  • and the flow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.

Mr. Putin, always eager to expand Russian influence, has exploited every weakness and crisis, along with instigating a few of his own.

  • Russia invaded Ukraine and has
  • interfered in electoral campaigns in the United States, France and Germany.
  • Mr. Putin has meddled in the Baltic States,
  • cultivated far-right-wing allies in Hungary and
  • wooed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on NATO’s eastern flank.
  • He is now courting Italy with a savvy ambassador to Rome and financing for anti-establishment parties.

There are some bright spots.

  • One is that Ms. Merkel seems committed to playing a lead role as the United States pulls back; another is
  • France’s election of President Emmanuel Macron, who has demonstrated a willingness to work in partnership with Ms. Merkel. The two won’t always see eye-to-eye, but
  • Germany needs France and Mr. Macron is a good fit.

.. Mr. Macron gave Mr. Putin full honors but did not mince words on Russia’s destructive role in the Syrian conflict, in Ukraine and in its dissemination of fake news.

Trump’s United American Emirate

President Trump’s trip to Europe was truly historic.

He left our most important allies there so uncertain about America’s commitment to their security from Russia and to shared values on trade and climate change that German leader Angela Merkel was prompted to tell her countrymen that Europe’s days of relying on America are “over to a certain extent,” and therefore Germany and its European allies “really must take our fate into our own hands.”

No U.S. president before had ever put a crack in the Atlantic alliance on his inaugural tour. Historic.

.. We’re the new U.A.E.: the United American Emirate.

.. We have an emir. His name is Donald. We have a crown prince. His name is Jared. We have a crown princess. Her name is Ivanka. We have a consultative council (Congress)

.. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay no price, bear no burden, meet no hardship, support no friend, oppose no foe to assure the success of liberty — unless we’re paid in advance.

.. The Trump doctrine is very simple: There are just four threats in the world:

  1. terrorists who will kill us,
  2. immigrants who will rape us or take our jobs,
  3. importers and exporters who will take our industries — and
  4. North Korea

no matter how unsavory you are as a foreign leader, you can be the United American Emirate’s best friend if you:

1.) Pay us by buying our weapons. I warn you, though, Saudi Arabia has set the bar very high, starting at $110 billion.

2.) Pay us in higher defense spending for NATO — not to deter Russia, which is using cyberwarfare to disrupt every democratic election it can, but to deter “terrorism,” something that tanks and planes are useless against.

.. Now, if you do any one of these six things the United American Emirate’s commitment to you — and it’s ironclad — is that you can do anything you want “out back.” You can deprive your people of whatever human rights you like out back. You can be as corrupt as you want out back. You can steal as many elections as you like out back. Just keep the arms purchases coming, the NATO dues rising, the phony trade concessions flowing and the compliments gushing — or be Vladimir Putin — and anything goes.

.. But how much is Germany spending to absorb one million Syrian refugees so they won’t be joining ISIS? How much security is that buying the world? The U.S. took 18,000 Syrians.

.. “Let all who enter this embassy know: We don’t do alliances any more. We only do Master Limited Partnerships

Why does Trump keep getting basic facts wrong?

Three tweets from the past three days display this startling lack of knowledge.

.. Trump called on Republicans to get rid of the filibuster to pass two key pieces of the party’s agenda: “The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy.”

.. Trump called on Republicans to get rid of the filibuster to pass two key pieces of the party’s agenda: “The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy.”

The American Health Care Act — which Trump celebrated the House’s passage of with a big Rose Garden photo op — cuts Medicaid by more than $800 billion. Trump’s own budget adds another $600 billion in cuts on top of that. Again: Has his staff not briefed him what the AHCA does or what his budget calls for? Or has he been told and forgotten?

.. “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.”

.. But Germany, as a member of the European Union, can’t negotiate a trade deal with the United States by itself. As Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the very same day, “The E.U. is one of our largest trading partners, and any negotiations legally must be conducted at the E.U. level and not with individual nations.

.. When the German chancellor visited Washington in March, a senior German official told the Times of London that “Ten times Trump asked [Merkel] if he could negotiate a trade deal with Germany. Every time she replied, ‘You can’t do a trade deal with Germany, only the E.U..’ On the eleventh refusal, Trump finally got the message, ‘Oh, we’ll do a deal with Europe then.’ ” In other words, the head of another government corrected the president on a basic fact (after multiple efforts!) and within a few weeks, he is making the exact same mistake.

.. But there’s a third possibility: He was told, but he wasn’t listening. After all, Trump’s troubles with focus are well-known. The president’s attention span is so short that briefers have to insert his name more to keep his attention.

.. “My attention span is short,” he wrote in 1990.

Even Angela Merkel’s political rivals are on her side against Trump

The Social Democrat leader then said it did not matter that Merkel and he were in the middle of an election campaign, as “the chancellor represents all of us at summits like these, and I reject with outrage the way this man takes it upon himself to treat the head of our country’s government.”

“That is unacceptable,” Schulz said.

He had made a similar comment on Sunday shortly after Merkel’s remarks. “A stronger cooperation of European countries on all levels is the answer to Donald Trump,” Schulz told the public broadcaster ARD. On Monday, he tweeted in German, English and French that the “best response to Donald Trump is a stronger Europe.”

 .. Such comments suggest that Trump’s reputation in Europe may end up influencing the continent’s politics in unexpected ways.
.. 78 percent of Germans said they were “very concerned” about Trump’s policies — almost 20 percent more than those who were worried about the politics of Russian President Vladimir Putin.