Bashar al-Assad

#DimensionSteve (Narrative)

#DimensionTrump | #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)

We might take a moment now and then to observe the power of narrative, and it is fair enough to acknowledge there is nothing new if we take the note from Steve Benen of msnbc:

When it comes to Donald Trump’s White House and issues related to the Nazi Holocaust, the president and his team have made some unfortunate missteps. There was, for example, the ill-advised statement honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. A month later, the West Wing had an odd quarrel with the Anne Frank Center.

Today, however, Team Trump broke new ground.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday, saying that even someone as “despicable” as the German dictator “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempts to demonstrate the difference between government and the Republican health care agenda during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 7 March 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Asked moments later to clarify those remarks, Spicer, speaking from the White House podium, said that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people the same way Assad used them.”

Spicer went on to say Hitler brought people into “Holocaust centers.”

All of this, of course, unfolded from the White House podium during Passover.

Part of what makes this so remarkable is how obviously wrong Spicer was. One need not be a historian to know Hitler gassed Holocaust victims. The reference to “his own people” made an unfortunate mistake worse. As for Spicer describing Nazi concentration camps as “Holocaust centers,” I honestly don’t know where to start.

(11 April 2017)

To the one, it really was an awkward circumstance even more unnerving to experience, even having heard or read about it. And, yes, the Press Secretary is a particularly unfortunate example of his office; Mr. Spicer can very much seem emblematic of Trump administration incompetence. There is no chic about Cheeky Spice’s reboot of the dignity of the office. There is, however, the added gravity of just how this White House has managed to create it’s own … er … ah … question about Jews. Of course, there is also this: We should not be surprised, although back then conventional wisdom thought going after Jews to their faces like that was a bad idea.

Still, though: If we call it a Kinsley gaffe, then what truth have we just glimpsed?

(more…)

Inexplicable (Duke Bashar al Putin)

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke talks to the media at the Louisiana Secretary of State's office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Friday, 22 July 2016, after registering to run for U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)

So … right. Nobody knows quite what to think. Willa Frej tries to explain for HuffPo―

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was busy on Twitter this weekend, showing his support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in a string of tweets after weighing in favorably on Iowa Rep. Steve King’s latest xenophobic remarks.

―but as ledes go, it seems significant that anyone should have cause to attempt such a sentence.

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The Gary Johnson Trip (Legacy)

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson botches a foreign policy question about Aleppo, Syria, on msnbc's Morning Joe, 8 September 2016.

This is perhaps the greatest contribution former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson’s presidential bid offers our society:

On the surface, the low approval ratings for Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump present a prime opportunity for a candidate like Mr. Johnson, who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Even so, that intriguing blend of policies has made it difficult for the Libertarian ticket, which includes William F. Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, to attract stray Democrats or disenchanted Republicans in large numbers.

“He’s had issues coalescing the anti-Trump Republican crowd, partially because it’s a mix of social conservatives and moderates, and partly because at times he’s seemed more keen on appealing to the Bernie bros,” said Tim Miller, a Republican and a former aide to Jeb Bush, referring to the supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Miller opposes Mr. Trump and is considering voting for the Libertarian ticket this year.

Mr. Miller added that Mr. Johnson’s flub about Aleppo did not make him a riskier bet on foreign policy matters than is Mr. Trump. But, he said, it does highlight the problem that many Republicans have with Libertarians. “It reinforces my top policy difference with him, which is his relative isolationism” on foreign affairs, he said.

(Rappeport)

That is to say, Aleppo is no longer the name of a human atrocity, but, rather, an emblem of atrocious American stupidity.

Then again, it clarifies the remainder for the the Johnson/Weld effort: That would be a hell of an unfortunate legacy.

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Barnicle, Mike. “Gary Johnson asks: What is Aleppo?” Morning Joe. msnbc. 8 September 2016.

Rappeport, Alan. “Gary Johnson’s ‘What Is Aleppo’ Flub Amplifies Skepticism of Republicans”. The New York Times. 9 September 2016.

The Gary Johnson Trip (Dearth and Aleppo)

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson botches a foreign policy question about Aleppo, Syria, on msnbc's Morning Joe, 8 September 2016.

Thus Mike Barnicle interviews Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson for Morning Joe on msnbc:

Say what?Barnicle: What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?

Johnson: About …?

Barnicle: Aleppo.

Johnson: And what is Aleppo?

This is yet another reminder why the American electoral outlook is functionally a two-party system.

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Barnicle, Mike. “Gary Johnson asks: What is Aleppo?” msnbc. 8 September 2016.

The Word from the War (What Is This Thing Called Hope?)

A Turkish army tank stationed near the Syrian border, in Suruc, Turkey, Saturday, 3 September 2016. Turkey's state-run news agency says Turkish tanks have entered Syria's Cobanbey district northeast of Aleppo in a "new phase" of the Euphrates Shield operation. Turkish tanks crossed into Syria Saturday to support Syrian rebels against the Islamic State group, according to the Anadolu news agency. (AP Photo)

Via Associated Press:

Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels expelled the Islamic State group from the last strip of territory it controlled along the Syrian-Turkish border on Sunday, effectively sealing the extremists’ self-styled caliphate off from the outside world, Turkey’s prime minister and a Syrian opposition group reported.

The question does arise, occasionally, what constitutes good news in war. As the Syrian government prepares to lay siege against Aleppo again, it seems reasonable enough to temper any celebration of the announcement from the Turkish government.

To wit, while Daa’ish might well have “lost its link with the outside world”, as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggests, “after losing all border areas”, it would also seem that constitutes progress vis à vis one human rights disaster that pretty much prevents the world from reasonably addressing another.

Two words: Aleppo roses.

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Image note: A Turkish army tank stationed near the Syrian border, in Suruc, Turkey, Saturday, 3 September 2016. Turkey’s state-run news agency says Turkish tanks have entered Syria’s Cobanbey district northeast of Aleppo in a “new phase” of the Euphrates Shield operation. Turkish tanks crossed into Syria Saturday to support Syrian rebels against the Islamic State group, according to the Anadolu news agency. (AP Photo)

Mroue, Bassem and Zeynep Bilginsoy. “Turkey: IS has lost all territory along Syria-Turkey border”. The Big Story. 4 September 2016.

Something About Obama, Something About Putin (Jung on Rye Remix)

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and iconic closet homosexual Vladimir Putin (background).

Narrative counts.

Steve Benen offers the setup:

By late 2014, Republican affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the wane. After months of gushing praise for the autocratic leader, American conservatives saw Putin struggling and isolated, prompting his GOP fan club in the United States to fall quiet.

That is, until a few months ago, when the Russian president deployed forces to Syria, rekindling the American right’s love. Republican White House hopefuls once again praised Putin’s bold “leadership,” as did like-minded pundits. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin argued, “In taking this action just days after meeting with President Obama, Putin is delivering one more finger in the eye of a president whom he continues to out-wit and out-muscle.”

Remind me, how’s that working out for the Russian president?

The punch line, of course, being: About as well as you would expect.

And, well, you know me; any chance to pick on Jennifer Rubin. The title of her October entry―and I shite thee not―is, “Breaking the feckless meter on Syria”.

Still, though, this thing with Republicans and Putin is even more embarrassing than the bit about a young Jung finding a dirty thrill in his admiration for the maestro Freud.

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Benen, Steve. “Obama again gets the last laugh against Putin”. msnbc. 11 December 2015.

Rubin, Jennifer. “Breaking the feckless meter on Syria”. The Washington Post. 1 October 2015.

Actual, Real, Honest-to-Goodness, Genuine Good News

Victims of a chemical attack in Syria, circa 2013.We can certainly admit that it’s a hell of a lede:

The United States said Monday that it had completed the destruction of the deadliest chemical weapons in Syria’s arsenal, a rare foreign policy achievement for President Obama at a time when the Middle East is embroiled in violence and political turmoil.

Rappeport

Oh, yeah. Remember that? Syria? I suppose we could use some good news. Or maybe we’re too busy botching Star Trek jokes.

You know, journalistic priorities.

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Rappeport, Alan. “Syria’s Chemical Arsenal Fully Destroyed, U.S. Says”. The New York Times. 18 August 2014.