Not What We Mean When We Say Foreign Service

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A protester holds a photo of journalist Jamal Khashhoggi, later acknowledged to have been slain by the Saudi government. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

Annieli, at Daily Kos, writes:

Those who wonder why we should care about Khashoggi’s death should ask whether we want an autocratic thug to be directing US foreign policy? Why is America’s president covering up a brutal extra-territorial murder? All this whabboutery serves MBS. Is that what we want?

And this is an important question: All of President Trump’s equivocation and excuses serve foreign interests.Remember that Donald Trump still thinks he is doing business, and this is reflected in conservative language; among Republican excuses for the President’s behavior, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), often seen as a critic of the administration, mewled and rolled over:

A key consideration in the administration’s mind, according to Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), is the belief that the crown prince can salvage Kushner’s stalled peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians. “A lot of the Middle East peace plan is based upon their support. They feel like they have a lot of equity there,” Corker said.

(Dawsey, Hudson, and Gearan)

“Equity” is a curious word. Certes, the Trump family has invested tremendous “political capital”. There are a handful of Congressional Republicans willing to speak against President Trump, and the general criticism runs that tweeting disapproval is pretty much all they do compared to their voting records. And in this moment, Mr. Corker, the retiring U.S. Senator, is lending his voice in aid and comfort to presidential pandering on behalf of foreign interests. The Washington Post goes on to explain:

Trump allies acknowledged that the White House’s equivocations would probably result in growing calls from Congress for a more credible accounting of events from Saudi Arabia, but they doubted it would damage the president politically.

Equity. This is just an investment. And if Sen. Corker, a Republican, wishes to be seen in opposition to President Trump, “equity” is the wrong word. Consider an actual Trump ally, such as evangelical preacher Pat Robertson:

“We’ve got to cool the rhetoric,” Robertson said. “Calls for sanctions and calls for punitive actions against the Saudis is ill-advised … You’ve got a hundred billion dollars worth of arms sales—which is, you know, that’s one of those things—but more than that, we’ve got to have some Arab allies. We have to have it! We cannot alienate a biggest player in the Middle East who is a bulwark against Iran.”When Robertson’s co-host Wendy Griffith argued that we cannot have governments killing critical journalists with impunity, Robertson dismissed those concerns.”We’ve had so many people killed,” he responded. “We’ve had CIA people killed in Lebanon. People have been taken hostage over the years. I know it’s bad, but we’ve had all kinds of stuff, but you don’t blow up an international alliance over one person. I mean, I’m sorry.”

(Mantyla)

(more…)

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What They Voted For (No, Really)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Corpus Hypercubus', by Salvador Dali, 1954.

A couple points come to mind:

United States President Donald Trump reacts to being laughed at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 25 September 2018. (Image credit: FOX News)An evangelist pastor criticized religious leaders who are “trading their moral core” by supporting the Trump administration solely due to their stance on abortion.

Doug Pagitt, a Minneapolis-based pastor and executive director of Vote Common Good, wrote in USA Today Sunday that white Evangelicals are blindly support Trump and the GOP-led Congress.

(Gstalter)

First, the question of evangelicals cleaning up their own houses, as such, is fraught and grim.

And for a bonus, there is the mystery of what happened in the last copy edits of the first two paragraphs of the the article.

Image notes: Top — Detail of Corpus Hypercubus, by Salvador Dali, 1954.  Right — United States President Donald Trump reacts to being laughed at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 25 September 2018. (Image credit: FOX News)

Gstalter, Morgan. “Pastor tears into Evangelicals for supporting Trump due to abortion stance.” The Hill. 21 October 2018.

The Laughingstock

#AmercianPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

United States President Donald Trump reacts to being laughed at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 25 September 2018. (Image credit: CNN)

Some remind there is an audience of one. And it is not unheard of to suggest that the tone is set at the top. These points are not exclusive of one another. Steve Benen, for instance, notes:

... just as odd was Haley’s explanation for diplomats laughing at Donald Trump during his remarks to the General Assembly yesterday.

United States ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in Myanmar at UN Headquarters in New York, 28 August 2018. (Photo by Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said Wednesday that world leaders who laughed during President Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations did so because “they loved how honest he is.” […]”They love that he’s honest with them and they’ve never seen anything like it, so there’s respect there,” she said. “I saw that the media was trying to make it something disrespectful. That’s not what it was. They love to be with him.”

Look, I realize people in the president’s orbit feel the need to be sycophantic toward him, if for no other reason than to protect their job security. This is especially true when it comes to officials appearing on “Fox and Friends”—a program Trump has been known to effectively live-tweet.Haley must’ve known that her boss was watching, so she wasn’t in a position to be candid about foreign diplomats’ opinions of the controversial American leader.But that hardly justifies the ambassador’s rhetoric.

There is a certain obvious point to be made; the one and only Dana Milbank headlines the highlight, that President Donald J. Trump “is the laughingstock of the world”. (more…)

What Mitch Said (Professional Sideshow Meltdown Mix)

#rapeculture | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) bows his head in prayer during an event on Capitol Hill, 24 February 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

C-SPAN, via Twitter:

CSPAN (@cspan): ".@SenateMajLdr: 'We have hired a female assistant to go on staff and to ask these questions in a respectful and professional way. We want this hearing to be handled very professionally not a political sideshow...' #Kavanaugh" [via Twitter, 25 September 2018].@SenateMajLdr: “We have hired a female assistant to go on staff and to ask these questions in a respectful and professional way. We want this hearing to be handled very professionally not a political sideshow…” #Kavanaugh

The question arises whether we should thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for acknowledging Senate Republicans are incapable of handling the growing sexual harassment and assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in a respectful and professional way that does not amount to a political sideshow.

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Image notes: Top — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) bows his head in prayer during an event on Capitol Hill, 24 February 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)  Right — Tweet from C-SPAN, 25 September 2018.

One of Those Moments (… cum Farce)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

To the one, something goes here about unnamed sources; it’s a long question, by now. To the other, though—

For all the morning’s madness, there may have been an underlying logic. Over the weekend, as Brett Kavanaugh’s prospects appeared increasingly imperiled, Trump faced two tactical options, both of them fraught. One was to cut Kavanaugh loose. But he was also looking for ways to dramatically shift the news cycle away from his embattled Supreme Court nominee. According to a source briefed on Trump’s thinking, Trump decided that firing Rosenstein would knock Kavanaugh out of the news, potentially saving his nomination and Republicans’ chances for keeping the Senate. “The strategy was to try and do something really big,” the source said. The leak about Rosenstein’s resignation could have been the result, and it certainly had the desired effect of driving Kavanaugh out of the news for a few hours.

(Sherman)

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2018. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)—this is the Trump administration: What insanity will we be expected to believe, tomorrow? The question is how well a bit like this ages; certes, it makes a powerful headline, but the instinct to disbelieve seems largely reasonable.

And, again, to the other, this is the Trump administration. The idea of a T&A comedy presidency ought to be a really stupid joke. Something, something, Trump administration, right. This really is what they voted for, and no, it’s been more of a tragedy cum farce than any sort of comedy. It really isn’t funny.

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Image notes: Top — Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)  Right — President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2018. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Sherman, Gabe. “‘The Strategy Was to Try and Do Something Really Big’: Trump Wanted to Nuke Rosenstein to Save Kavanaugh’s Bacon”. Vanity Fair. 24 September 2018.

The American Discourse (Nazi Symbol)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Jonathan Chait observes—

There is no better symbol for the Republican Party elite in the Trump era than Gary Cohn weighing the morality of opposing Nazism against corporate-tax-rate cuts and choosing the latter. But it is also a reminder that Nazism, which several generations of Americans have grown accustomed to thinking of as an exotic symbol of pure, abstract evil, in reality represents a political faction. Trump is not a Nazi. Nor, even, is Steve Bannon. They are, however, Nazi-adjacent, and actual neo-Nazis are excited about Trump, who has emboldened and empowered white nationalists in a way nobody could have fathomed until recently. They are just another part of the party coalition now.

—and it just seems worth noting this is what has become of the American discourse.

The important parallels here are not between Hitler and Trump. While Trump, like Hitler, is racist and authoritarian, his racism is not genocidal, his contempt for democracy is instinctive rather than ideological, and he crucially lacks any plan for massive territorial conquest. What makes the history pertinent, rather, are the eerie similarities in the behavior of the right-wing politicians who facilitated both men’s rise to power.

(more…)

What They Voted For: Grotesque Dishonesty

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump announces a trade agreement with Mexico, 27 August 2018, at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Fact checkers at the Washington Post note:

On Sept. 7, President Trump woke up in Billings, Mont., flew to Fargo, N.D., visited Sioux Falls, S.D., and eventually returned to Washington. He spoke to reporters on Air Force One, held a pair of fundraisers and was interviewed by three local reporters.

In that single day, he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements — in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes. It was a new single-day high.

That such grotesque dishonesty is precisely what Trump voters wanted makes its own point. Steve Benen noted, yesterday, in consideration of yet another Trump administration travel scandal, “If you voted for the Republican ticket in 2016 because you hoped to avoid four years of ethics controversies, I have some very bad news for you.” The upside for those voters is that nobody really voted for Donald Trump in hope of avoiding a scandal-ridden presidency. To the other, or, rather, toward the more useful, we might wonder when it will be acceptable to stop pretending this was ever about anything other than graft and supremacism.

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Image note: President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C., 27 August 2018 (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “FEMA director faces investigation at an inconvenient time”. msnbc. 13 September 2018.

Kessler, Glenn, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly. “President Trump has made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims”. The Washington Post. 13 September 2018.

A Moment Significant of Either Something Important or Nothing In Particular

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

There is this, from Jacob Hamburger for L.A. Review of Books

What exactly are the ideas that have made people like Weinstein, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Christina Hoff Sommers into what a recent New York Times profile described as intellectual “renegades”? According to the Times writer Bari Weiss, most emphasize the biological differences between men and women, a feeling that free speech is “under siege,” and a fear that “identity politics” is a threat to the United States’s social fabric.

A listener of Harris’s podcast might add to the list a vociferous defense of the validity of genetic explanations for IQ differences between racial groups, a follower of Peterson’s videos might insist on the nefarious influence of “postmodern neo-Marxism” on college campuses, and a fan of Ben Shapiro might contribute a skepticism toward the reality of “transgenderism.”

The movement sees itself as an alliance that defies established political categories in order to defend these ideas against the creeping influence of thought control. This leads us to another important meaning of the term intellectual dark web, the suggestion that its ideas are not only controversial, but particularly innovative in our political moment. If the dark web arouses the anger of certain commentators in the media or the academy, it is for the same reasons that new technologies in the internet age are “disruptive.”

It would take a short memory, however, not to notice that these sorts of polemics over political correctness are anything but novel: they have been around for at least 30 years, ever since a strikingly similar set of media debates centered around college campuses took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Toward the end of the Reagan years, political correctness became a favorite bugbear of conservative intellectuals, who believed that college professors had latched onto illiberal or totalitarian notions of equality, and were indoctrinating their students with a subversive view of American society. Today’s “dark web” provocateurs rarely mention these predecessors, who not too long ago occupied a similar place in national media debates. Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 July 2018.But the comparison suggests that the “iconoclastic” ideas of these figures are actually a well-established institution in American discourse: an institution whose home is on the political right.

—and what stands out is that we really ought not be surprised. To the one, the general point is nothing new; to the other, what is the significance of this particular discussion getting this press at this time?

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Image note: Top — Detail of Lucifer, by Franz von Stuck, 1890.  Bottom — Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via The Nib, 17 July 2018.

Hamburger, Jacob. “The ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Is Nothing New”. Los Angeles Review of Books. 18 July 2018.

Roseanne and the Holy Living Fuck

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne): 'Trump made peace in no ko and now Iran! Power to the people!! Where we go one we go all!' [via Twitter, 2 July 2018]

“Trump made peace in no ko and now Iran! Power to the people!! Where we go one we go all!”

Roseanne Barr

Okay, then.

No, seriously, what the ...?

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Image note: Tweet by Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne), 2 July 2018.