Skye Jethani: Christian Nationalism and Nominal Christianity

Christian nationalism is the biggest predictor of Trump support.

There is more emphasis on saying “Merry Christman” than loving one’s neighbor or living out other Christian values.

More voters want America to be a nominally Christian nation than to display any actual Christian values.

Neither the Trump campaign and RNC thought Trump would win.

The RNC thought Trump had a 20% chance of winning.

polarization, entertainment, epistemology, Neil Postman

systems, structures, incentives – probably the best bet for change

  • gerrymandering, political parties, role of money, power of parties to select nominees: elites vs voters
  • in order to be more democratic it needs to be less democratic

How Democracies die: in Latin Americans use democracy to destroy Democracy.

mediated vs direct democracy.

The founders rigged it to keep too much power out of the hands of the rank and file uneducated masses.  Thinking that we need the elite to insulate ourselves from ourselves.

Since 1968, there have been reforms away from a balanced system, has swung towards the will of the people deciding almost everything.

The “unwashed masses” — not that the voters are stupid, but they are not experts.

The average voter should not have to know the difference between mandatory and discretionary spending.

Why Trump should be nervous, but not panicking, after Michael Flynn’s lawyers cut off communication

I negotiated a cooperation deal for a target with Mueller’s office when he was US Atty and lemme tell ya, he’s not gonna give one to Flynn unless he implicates someone up the ladder. That means Kushner, Don Jr., or Big Daddy. They are all having indigestion tonight. https://twitter.com/NormEisen/status/933823480067428352

One more thing I learned about Mueller. When I was at State & he was at FBI we worked together on an investigation, & he loves surprises. Kushner, Donnie Jr. and the rest of the Trump crime family better keep their overnight bags handy. Pack shoes with no laces guys. https://twitter.com/normeisen/status/933868687282638848 
.. An alternative target: Paul Manafort
.. Trump has effectively turned his back on Manafort. On the day Mueller announced charges against the man who once headed Trump’s campaign, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the indictment “has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity.”

Fears of Missiles, and Words

But Mr. Trump is president of the United States, and if prudent, disciplined leadership was ever required, it is now. Rhetorically stomping his feet, as he did on Tuesday, is not just irresponsible; it is dangerous. He is no longer a businessman trying to browbeat someone into a deal. He commands the most powerful nuclear and conventional arsenal in the world, and any miscalculation could be catastrophic.

.. This is a president with no prior government or military experience who has shown no clear grasp of complex strategic issues.

.. his inflammatory words were entirely improvised and took his closest associates by surprise. Intentionally or not, they echoed President Harry Truman’s 1945 pledgeto inflict a “rain of ruin from the air” if Japan did not surrender after the first atomic bomb was dropped at Hiroshima, which made them seem even more ominous.

It is hard to believe that they would condone Mr. Trump’s risky approach, and on Wednesday, the damage control began.

  • While Mr. Mattis reinforced his boss’s belligerent tone and expressed confidence that North Korea would “lose any arms race or conflict it initiates,” he more prudently focused on the North’s concrete “actions” rather than on vague threats and voiced support for a diplomatic solution.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he saw no reason to believe that war was imminent.
  • Meanwhile, some White House aides reportedly urged reporters not to read too much into the president’s remarks.

.. Since Truman, presidents have largely avoided the kind of militaristic threats issued by Mr. Trump because they feared such language could escalate a crisis.

.. Mr. Trump has again made himself the focus of attention, when it should be Kim Jong-un, the ruthless North Korean leader, and his accelerating nuclear

.. Engaging in a war of words with North Korea only makes it harder for both sides to de-escalate.

The Non-Transformation of Donald J. Trump

It’s astonishing, isn’t it, how suddenly Donald J. Trump is being viewed, in certain precincts, as—what’s the word?—yes, “Presidential,” and all it took was for him to issue an order to launch fifty-nine cruise missiles

.. Laura Ingraham tweeted, “Missiles flying. Rubio’s happy. McCain ecstatic. Hillary’s on board. A complete policy change in 48 hrs.”), there was wide approval from the foreign-policy establishment. The former Secretary of State John Kerry was said to be “absolutely supportive” and “gratified to see that it happened quickly,” and there’s been non-stop gushing within the Trumpian orbit. Kellyanne Conway, gusher-in-chief and Presidential counsellor, spoke about “our very tough, very resolute, very decisive President.

.. For a television performer, television appearances matter a lot.

.. when Trump started getting intelligence briefings, his briefers were advised that he was “a visual and auditory learner”—in other words, that he should deal with as few words as possible and, instead, get “more graphics and pictures.”

.. preference for pictures over words explains, as Trump might phrase it, so much, so very, very much.

.. “We rushed into Korea with no advance planning, and we stumbled into the ground war in Vietnam with uncertain footing. In neither case did we have any fully thought-out ideas concerning our objectives or the means we would be willing to expend to attain them. As each situation arose we extemporized, unsure what the next step would be, until we were far more committed than we had expected to be.” Our best soldiers never forget that sort of lesson.

.. What’s most worrisome about Trump is what’s been worrisome all along: that he doesn’t think through the consequences of what he says and does, and that he acts without a glimmer of consistency, or guiding principle; he’s a man of constant surprise. In that way, Trump is not unlike another erratic world figure, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, who also seems capable of acting in extremes, without warning, at any time, and at any level of incitement.

Is Tillerson Being Sidelined by Jared Kushner?

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, made a splash with a highly visible trip to Iraq on behalf of the White House, and is handling portfolios involving parts of U.S. policy toward China, the Middle East, and Mexico. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looks increasingly marginalized.

.. he certainly appears not to have a front-row seat on many foreign-policy issues. He was absent at President Trump’s meetings with the leaders of Israel, Canada, and Japan, and he wasn’t consulted on Trump’s botched executive order restricting non-citizen entry to the U.S.

.. The White House overruled his pick of Elliott Abrams as the No. 2 man

.. When the conservative group Judicial Watch went into federal district court this month to seek the release of State Department documents relating to Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server, it was opposed by Richard Visek, an Obama holdover who is still the acting legal adviser at Foggy Bottom. “The State Department’s position is that we won’t get all the documents until 2020.

.. It’s also all too easy to concentrate foreign-policy decision making in the White House, the way Nixon did. “They really want to blow this place up,” one State Department official told the Atlantic in March. “I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner] can do everything.”

.. While Trump believes he can close deals with foreign leaders like no one else can, someone has to pave the way for those deals, and a State Department led by Trump appointees is the best bet to fill the role.

.. Blowing up bureaucratic agencies can be a good thing at times, but simply ignoring the fact that they exist is likely to be shortsighted and lead to unwanted surprises.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/446520/rex-tillerson-state-department-being-marginalized-jared-kushner

Syria strike adds awkward twist to high-stakes China-U.S. summit

China does not want the U.S. military taking unilateral action in Syria. Beijing has long said it prefers a multilateral approach, though over the course of six brutal years of war it has repeatedly used its veto power to vote with Russia against United Nations Security Council resolutions on Syria .. 

.. a call for sanctions over the use of chemical weapons.

.. Xi does not like surprises. Top Chinese leaders exist in a world where public appearances are tightly choreographed, the press is controlled and protocol is paramount. During the weeks of planning and negotiation that went into the Mar-a-Lago summit, every interaction and angle would have been discussed — from the handshake, to media availability, to the possibility of a rogue Trump tweet.

.. On Thursday night, conservative U.S. media painted the Syria hit as a bold but calculated warning. “He’s sending a message to the Chinese,”

.. Global Times, a Communist Party-controlled newspaper known for its nationalist tone, also saw the move as a projection of strength. In an editorial, the paper said Trump launched the strike “to establish his authority as the U.S. president.”