Peace

Ominously Obviously Ominous

#incoherence | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Jon Finer, for Politico:

What is different is that right now not only is there no discernible doctrine guiding President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, the United States currently has no real foreign policy at all. By that I mean not that the policies are objectionable, or that the Trump team is struggling with the learning curve each new administration faces at the outset, as it reviews its predecessors’ approach and settles on its own. Rather, I mean that we are experiencing an unprecedented degree of policy incoherence on virtually every major issue the country faces.

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A Failure to Grasp (Strategically Tactical)

#antiMuslim | #WhatTheyVotedFor

White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. (Shawn Thew/EPA)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer:

Q Southern Poverty Law Center said that the number of anti-Muslim groups in the U.S. has tripled between 2015 and 2016, during the time of the campaign. Is this message within the administration―anti-Semitism is not allowed, xenophobia is not allowed―anti-Muslim sentiment within the administration, has the President been forceful about that particular issue?

MR. SPICER: I think that the President, in terms of his desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism, he understands that people who want to express a peaceful position have every right in our Constitution. But if you come here or want to express views that seek to do our country or our people harm, he is going to fight it aggressively, whether it’s domestic acts that are going on here or attempts through people abroad to come into this country. So there’s a big difference between preventing attacks and making sure that we keep this country safe so that there is no loss of life in allowing people to express themselves in accordance with our First Amendment. Those are two very, very different, different, different things.

The only caveat, of course, is that this is not an accident.

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Image note: White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. (Shawn Thew/EPA)

Spicer, Sean. “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 2/21/2017, #13”. The White House Office of the Press Secretary. 21 February 2017.

The Wreck of the Trump?

#UnbelievableTurmoil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

tswin-2016-putitrump-bw

The Trump administration is coming apart, quite frankly, faster than anyone seems able to figure. Via the New York Times:

“F.B.I. Interviewed Flynn in Trump’s First Days in Office, Officials Say”

F.B.I. agents interviewed Michael T. Flynn when he was national security adviser in the first days of the Trump administration about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, current and former officials said on Tuesday.

The interview raises the stakes of what so far has been a political scandal that cost Mr. Flynn his job. If he was not entirely honest with the F.B.I., it could expose Mr. Flynn to a felony charge. President Trump asked for Mr. Flynn’s resignation on Monday night.

“‘Unbelievable Turmoil’: Trump’s First Month Leaves Washington Reeling”

Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, expressed concern about upheaval inside the White House. “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” he said at a military conference on Tuesday.

Asked about his comments later, General Thomas said in a brief interview, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

“Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence”

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

Your National Security Council (Flynntastic | Great)

#downhill | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's incoming National Security Adviser, listens during the presidential inaugural Chairman's Global Dinner, Tuesday, 17 January 2017, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

There is a moment in the New York Times’ account of “Turmoil at the National Security Council” in which the Trump administration pitches apparent incompetence as an asset:

In a telephone conversation on Sunday afternoon, K. T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, said that early meetings of the council were brisker, tighter and more decisive than in the past, but she acknowledged that career officials were on edge. “Not only is this a new administration, but it is a different party, and Donald Trump was elected by people who wanted the status quo thrown out,” said Ms. McFarland, a veteran of the Reagan administration who most recently worked for Fox News. “I think it would be a mistake if we didn’t have consternation about the changes―most of the cabinet haven’t even been in government before.”

It remains uncertain just how that should make anyone feel any better, but at least we know why McFarland is there.

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A Two-Bit Poseur

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Josh Gerstein, for Politico:

Licking their wounds after a stinging appeals court defeat, President Donald Trump’s aides went into triage mode Friday as they considered options for salvaging his contested travel ban for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

In two different venues Friday afternoon, Trump suggested that the White House is trying to redraft the order to strengthen it against legal challenges, which he expects the administration to continue to fight in court.

It would seem obvious that simply scrapping the former Order in favor of a new one would be the most efficient means of getting various intended restrictions into place. This is not, after all, the sort of thing where you can make headway simply thrashing and hammering over and over and over until judges grow weary of hearing about it and give over, anyway. Then again, this is the Trump administration, so, we ought not be surprised if they try. Meanwhile, among the various running theses out there chattering about what the Trump administration is actually up to, we should probably maintain some space to work a proposition of basic antisocial inclination. That is to say, this isn’t really about national security or even undocumented immigration. This is about taking satisfaction in cruelty, so as many times as the Trump administration can denigrate and offend the people they hate, they will.

And then there is always the countdown until someone says something to the effect of thinking about future presidents, and does anyone actually know the earliest in a term we’ve ever heard the line?

And remember, when the pieces don’t quite add up because, you know, why would any president so denigrate himself as Donald Trump does? Oh, right. Never mind. Could have had her, but uneducated, seething, simpering, terrified, brutish incompetence is #WhatTheyVotedFor. No, really. Remember that this ain’t over until it’s over, and in the meantime, given the range of options under the sun for an American president, it shouldn’t be hard for the handlers to convince a two-bit poseur to keep it up.

And every time someone suggest that sort of indifference to policy failure doesn’t make sense, remember every human being these policies spit on. Because that is the point, to simply spit and piss and yowl and hiss in order to offend and hurt as many people as they already don’t like or can find any excuse to add to the list. And if they get to stomp every once in a while, in between court dates and injunctions, all to the better. They know they cannot win over the long run; this president and his administration just want to hurt as many people as possible while they have the chance.

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Image note: Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters.

Gerstein, Josh. “Trump team plans a new executive order”. Politico. 10 February 2017.

Not Quite #WhatTheyVotedFor

#Justice | #WhatTheyVotedFor

washington-v-trump-bw

Let us start with Maura Dolan of the Los Angeles Times:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined early Sunday to immediately block an order from a federal judge in Washington that halted the travel ban.

Instead, the panel established a rapid schedule for written arguments.

A brief from the two states that challenged the ban was filed early Monday. The administration’s response was due at 3 p.m. Pacific time. A panel ruling could come anytime after that―most likely within a week, experts said.

The three judges who happen to be sitting on the 9th Circuit’s motions panel this month and who will rule on the case are William Canby Jr., a President Carter appointee; Richard Clifton, appointed by President George W. Bush; and Michelle T. Friedland, appointed by President Obama.

Clifton is considered moderately conservative and the two Democrats are viewed as moderately liberal. The 9th Circuit is broadly viewed as the most liberal federal appeals court.

If Trump loses, he could immediately go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who handles matters from the 9th Circuit, would probably ask the other justices to weigh in.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, suggested Sunday that the 9th Circuit was likely to rule against the Trump administration.

“Virtually every judge to consider the executive order has said that there is a substantial likelihood that it is unconstitutional,” Chemerinsky said in an email. “Both Republican and Democratic appointees have come to this conclusion. Having read some of the briefs in these cases, I think any court is likely to come to this conclusion.”

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The Evergreen Tip (Trump Trump Mix)

#Justice | #WhatTheyVotedFor

VIII. Adjustment.

“The States have satisfied the Winter test because they have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of the claims that would entitle them to relief; the States are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; the balance of equities favor the States; and a TRO is in the public interest. The court also finds that the States have satisfied the ‘alternative’ Cottrell test because they have established at least serious questions going to the merits of their claims and that the balance of equities tips sharply in their favor. As the court noted for the Winter test, the States have also established a likelihood of irreparable injury and that a TRO is in the public interest.”

Judge James L. Robart

American Prestige

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump, with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, after signing executive orders at the White House in Washington, D.C., 23 January 2017.  (Detail of photo by Getty Images)

“Putting aside the fact that Trump may not fully understand what ‘illegal immigrants’ means, it’s worth pausing to emphasize that Australia is one of our closest allies.”

Steve Benen

Via msnbc:

Turnbull insisted after the call that the agreement with the United States is still on – the prime minister was less eager to publicly discuss the nature of his conversation with Trump – though the U.S. president turned to Twitter last night to declare, “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

Putting aside the fact that Trump may not fully understand what “illegal immigrants” means, it’s worth pausing to emphasize that Australia is one of our closest allies. NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell noted overnight that someone should tell the White House that Australia “has more troops fighting ISIS in Iraq than any other ally [and] has fought at our side since” World War II.

That’s not a rhetorical aside. Someone really should let Team Trump know about this, because there’s reason to believe they’re unaware of it.

In #DimensionTrump, it is easy enough to expect that these stories only go downhill.

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Dissent

#dissent | #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)

“Policy dissent is in our culture. We even have awards for it.”

Unnamed U.S. diplomat serving in Africa

Speaking of movements, what apparently started on home shores, a State Department dissent cable, has gathered some serious moss. Support. Serious support. To wit, the New York Times reports:

Seal of the U.S. Department of StateWithin hours, a State Department dissent cable, asserting that President Trump’s executive order to temporarily bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries would not make the nation safer, traveled like a chain letter―or a viral video.

The cable wended its way through dozens of American embassies around the world, quickly emerging as one of the broadest protests by American officials against their president’s policies. And it is not over yet.

By 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the letter had attracted around 1,000 signatures, State Department officials said, far more than any dissent cable in recent years. It was being delivered to management, and department officials said more diplomats wanted to add their names to it.

The State Department has 7,600 Foreign Service officers and 11,000 civil servants.

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A Note on Temperament and Character

#trumpswindle | #GOP

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Central Intelligence Agency, 21 January 2016, in Langley, Virginia. (Photo: Olivier Doulier/Pool/Getty Images)

This is a bit worrisome:

I am not surprised by President Donald Trump’s antics this week. Not by the big splashy pronouncements such as announcing a wall that he would force Mexico to pay for, even as the Mexican foreign minister held talks with American officials in Washington. Not by the quiet, but no less dangerous bureaucratic orders, such as kicking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff out of meetings of the Principals’ Committee, the senior foreign-policy decision-making group below the president, while inserting his chief ideologist, Steve Bannon, into them. Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.

We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could ‘this is abnormal,’ to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations.

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have.

Eliot A. Cohen is a former Bush administration lawyer under Condoleezza Rice at the State Department. By no means should we disregard his analysis, but it is from the outset nearly stereotypical in its partisan and personal interest: Good for him, you know, because he is not surprised. And, hey, pat him and his friends on the back, because they were right: The problem is not President Trump’s policies, but his temperament, as his policies demonstrate. It is not his program, but his character, as his program makes clear.

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