foreign policy

Just Another One of Those Things No Republican Has the Courage to Answer For

#WhatTheyComplainedAbout | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump dances with a sword as he arrives to a welcome ceremony by Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at Al Murabba Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 20, 2017. (Photo: Thomson/Reuters)

“The announcement that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will donate money to her fund was a ‘pay to play’ far more blatant than anything Hillary Clinton ever dreamed of.”

Anne Applebaum

The lack of complaint from Republicans and Trump supporters about the sort of thing they usually complain about is, historically speaking, precisely unsurprising.

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Image note: U.S. President Donald Trump dances with a sword as he arrives to a welcome ceremony by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at Al Murabba Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 20 May 2017. (Photo: Thomson/Reuters)

Appelbaum, Anne. “Trump’s bizarre and un-American visit to Saudi Arabia”. The Washington Post. 21 May 2017.

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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 Dwindling Conservative Pretense

#PutiToots | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

“Note, in this three-sentence statement, Team Trump (1) attacked the U.S. intelligence community in order to defend Russia; (2) flagrantly lied about the 2016 election results; and (3) and made no effort to deny the accuracy of the revelations, saying instead that we should ‘move on,’ rather than acknowledge Russian intervention in the American election, which Republicans chose to overlook, apparently to advance their own interests.”

Steve Benen

This is, genuinely, extraordinary. For all people wish to carry on about “both sides” and all that, some days it seems worth noting that there really is a difference.

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What Newt Said (Rude Boy Mitty-Mitt Mix)

Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 6, "An Aroma Sweet, a Heart Bitter...".

This is what it is, which in turn is the lede from Mark Hensch of The Hill:

Newt Gingrich says former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) is a better choice to be President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of State than 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

There is and will be a lot to keep our eyes and ears toward; basic details sometimes get overlooked. This is the condition of the policy discourse in the inchoate and ascending Trump administration.

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Hensch, Mark. “Gingrich: Giuliani ‘better’ than Romney for State”. The Hill. 21 November 2016.

What They Voted For: Swamp

#trumpswindle | #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)

Who: Christina Flom (Roll Call)
What: “Rand Paul on Bolton Appointment: ‘Heaven Forbid'”
When: 15 November 2016

Roll Call brings us up to speed:

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul says that President-elect Donald Trump appointing former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton to his Cabinet would be a major step toward breaking his promise of “changing America’s disastrous foreign policy.”

Rumors that Trump is considering Bolton as Secretary of State prompted Paul to write an op-ed in Rare.us, calling Bolton “part of failed elite that Trump vowed to oppose” ....

.... Paul said no man “is more out of touch” with the Middle East than Bolton and that Bolton is unable to see the mistakes he has made.

“All nuance is lost on the man,” Paul wrote. “The fact that Russia has had a base in Syria for 50 years doesn’t deter Bolton from calling for all out, no holds barred war in Syria. For Bolton, only a hot-blooded war to create democracy across the globe is demanded.”

This is one of those interesting things Republicans do to themselves. The Kentucky also-ran is not without a point, but he’s also Rand Paul, and this is Donald Trump’s Republican Party, now. There really isn’t anything surprising happening, which is a strange thing considering it’s happening at all. Still, though, as Donald Trump continues to undermine pretty much every allegedly respectable reason anyone might have offered in defense of their vote, we should remember that it always was about supremacism and lulz.

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The Donald Trump Show (Blood & Cannon)

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listen to a question during the town hall debate at Washington University, 9 October 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Getty Images)

It is not entirely certain just how we ought to take James Oliphant’s headline for Reuters, “Trump may have stopped the bleeding, but not the worrying”. The lede is one of those double-takes, not because it is unbelievable but because it seems worth checking to make certain you read it correctly:

Donald Trump may have done just enough in Sunday’s presidential debate to keep his leaky presidential campaign afloat―and that may have put Republicans considering abandoning him in an even tougher position.

It is, in fact, a reasonable thesis but not exactly reflective of the headline. Indeed, the most curious thing about bleeding is just how the Trump campaign is bleeding, or not, might well be the section header, “Red Meat for the Base”, describing the last third of the article, and here Oliphant brings the point home:

Against this backdrop of panic and condemnation, Trump on Sunday sought to rally the party’s base with a fresh barrage of provocative attacks on Clinton that will give the media something other than the tape to talk about.

He offered a blistering critique of her handling of foreign policy while the country’s chief diplomat and brought his rally cry for her to be jailed to the debate stage. He also carried out a threat to make an issue of her husband’s sexual history.

In doing so, Trump may have stopped the bleeding, but he did nothing to stop the worrying.

The base. Donald Trump stopped the bleeding, but not the worrying, among his base? Suddenly the lede, with Mr. Trump having “done just enough” to “keep his leaky presidential campaign afloat”, seems nearly an overstatement. That is to say: What counts as afloat?

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The Donald Daa’ish Show (Once Upon a Time in Trump)

Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos, 9 December 2015.

David Corn makes an interesting point―

Trump blames HRC & BHO for w/drawing troops from Iraq. But he called for that in 2006, even if violence increased.

―and recalls, well, himself, not quite two months ago:

When a conservative radio host on Thursday asked if Trump meant that the Obama administration had “created the vacuum” in the region that allowed ISIS to grow, the GOP nominee stuck to his nonsensical statement: “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS.” Next, Trump claimed he was being sarcastic. Then at a campaign rally, he added, “But not that sarcastic.” It was a very Trumpian couple of days. And on Monday, with a speech on national security that Trump read off a teleprompter, he had a chance to declare what he really thought about Obama, Clinton, and ISIS. After repeating the lie that he had opposed the Iraq War before the invasion, Trump did not restate his “founder” claim, but he said that because of Obama and Clinton, “Iraq is in chaos, and ISIS is on the loose.” He added, “the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has unleashed ISIS.” He insisted that Obama’s withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (which actually was compelled by an agreement reached with the Iraqi government by President George W. Bush) “led directly to the rise of ISIS.”

Here’s the problem for Trump—if being wildly inconsistent and attacking an opponent for supposedly holding a position that Trump himself once advocated is a problem: 10 years ago, Trump called for a complete US withdrawal of troops from Iraq and indicated that he didn’t give a damn if this led to civil war and greater violence there. He even predicted that such a move would cause the rise of “vicious” forces in Iraq. But Trump believed this would not be the United States’ problem. That is, Trump was ardently in favor of the very actions that he now decries and for which he wrongfully blames Obama and Clinton.

To the one, is there actually anything surprising about that? This is, after all, the Donald Trump Show. To the other, though, with less than a month remaining, it seems reasonable to wonder just how many times one might get to hand out that August article.

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Image note: Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos, 9 December 2015.

Corn, David. “In 2006 Interview, Trump Demanded US Troops Leave Iraq—Even if Chaos and ISIS-Like Violence Occurred”. Mother Jones. 16 August 2016.

—————. “Trump blames HRC & BHO for w/drawing troops from Iraq”. Twitter. 9 October 2016.

Not the Name of My Next Band (Lester Holt and the Wicked Elements)

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt arrives at the 9th Annual California Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at the California Museum in Sacramento, 28 October 2015. (Photo by Jose Luis Villegas/The Sacramento Bee)

Acknowledging that the filters or priorities by which one notices anything else are entirely unto that individual, and thus a psychological mystery generally describing anyone’s particular expression, there are also days when, you know, whatever, because I sure as hell didn’t―

• The Perfect Christmas Morning

• Talk About Your Grandmother

• Achieving Erection

―put those elements in that order. Talk to Jason Linkins about that.

Nor am I volunteering to psychoanalyze the fact that he’s on about Lester Holt.

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Image note: NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt arrives at the 9th Annual California Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at the California Museum in Sacramento, 28 October 2015. (Photo by Jose Luis Villegas/The Sacramento Bee)

Commission on Presidential Debates. “Moderator Announces Topics for First Presidential Debate”. 19 September 2016.

Linkins, Jason. “First Presidential Debate To Focus On Vague Platitudes”. The Huffington Post. 20 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.