foreign service

Unhinged (Failure)

#failure | #WhatTheyVotedFor

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reacts to a speech by President Donald Trump at the United Nations in New York, 19 September 2017. (Photos via Associated Press)

“Today, our president made his first speech before the UN General Assembly; he called Kim Jong Un, ‘Rocket Man’. He threatened to, quote, ‘totally destroy’, North Korea, and he said big portions of the world are, in his words, ‘going to hell’. He also bragged about his election victory, and the stock market. The president’s chief of staff did not appear to enjoy it, and just in case you thought that was just one bad picture, here’s another one.”

Rachel Maddow

Also of note is a particular question of implications, if the Trump administration is “failing to create diplomatic capacity, or is this them destroying American diplomatic capacity, on purpose, for some other reason”. And while Andrea Mitchell responds by reaffirming the mystery of the question, neither is a reporter of her station supposed to come right out and say it: “I don’t know the reason,” she replied, “other than Rex Tillerson did come in with a mandate to cut fat, and there is fat and bloat anywhere, but this is a rounding error”. The translation, of course, being that this is not how one trims fat or cures bloat. Meanwhile, for news consumers, the point might well have something to do with unfortunate tacitry giving way to the seemingly obvious, such that the question finds explicit voice among the talking hosts and heads we consume.

This is just one of those things that would seem significant of something, somewhere, in some context that really ought to be relevant to us. The hardest question to figure in virtually any context, though, is why the Trump administration would deliberately assail American prestige. And while the #trumpswindle will as the #trumpswindle does, it should seem absurd to wonder if this is really #WhatTheyVotedFor.

Then again, it should have seemed absurd to wonder about the white nationalism, too, and look what that got us.

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Image note:White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reacts to a speech by President Donald Trump at the United Nations in New York, 19 September 2017. (Photos via Associated Press)

Maddow, Rachel. “Trump joins history’s list of unhinged speakers at UN”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 19 September 2017.

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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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Chairman Trey Gowdy

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, speaks in an interview 16 October 2015.  (Detail of photo by Getty Images)

“I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life. Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically―at least it is for me.”

Rep. Trey Gowedy (R-SC04)

The first point, to wonder what it is Mr. Gowdy, the chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, thinks he is doing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should meet resistance; set that urge aside. There is a lot going on, here. Rachel Bade of Politico hopes to explain:

Gowdy says the specifics of his rebuttals don’t matter; he feels he “just can’t win.

“I think that’s just [the Democrats’] MO: If you can’t attack the facts, you can attack the investigators … just attack, attack, attack and something will take hold,” he said. “[A]t some point, maybe something will stick, or maybe you get them off track or you get them to do or say something stupid, then you can seize on that.”

He also lays some blame at the media’s feet, arguing they’re too quick to report Democrats’ accusations without checking the merits, or the story of an ex-committee staffer who accused the panel of focusing on Clinton.

“You can work your entire career to have a reputation, and then someone you have no recollection of ever meeting sits down with a reporter and you’re immediately in a position of having to defend and it’s impossible to prove a negative,” he said.

This is a basic political maneuver very much associated with Karl Rove: Assign your greatest weakness to your opponent. With Republicans, it has pretty much become a tell: “I mean, honestly,” Gowdy complained of Huma Abedin’s testimony, “have you ever heard a more absurd critique than leaking the fact that one of the more recognizable people in the world was coming to Capitol Hill?”

This is a problematic complaint. Trey Gowdy is simply not an honest man.

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A Betrayal

Mitch McConnell

Yesterday, Steve Benen described what he sees as a “silent governing failure” of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Following a Huffington Post report that the Senate would, under his leadership, become even less productive and more intransigent about the federal judiciary, Mr. Benen reminded:

Now, some of you are probably thinking this is normal. President Obama’s second term is starting to wind down; the opposition party controls the Senate; so it stands to reason that the GOP majority would scrap plans to confirm qualified court nominees. Perhaps, the argument goes, McConnell is doing exactly what Democrats did when they had a similar opportunity.

It would be a credible argument if it were in any way true.

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A Long Note on Political Tradition in These United States

President Barack Obama, delivers his State of the Union speech at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Charles Dharapak/AP)

By now of course we have become accustomed to the proposition that Republicans, once elected, would rather sit around. To some it actually seems a very sick idea; not only did the Speaker of the House demonstrate that Republicans conisder their job description to include going on vacation instead of actually working because, well, the most important part of the job is election and re-election, but in recent months the GOP has shown more and more willingness to simply admit that the inherent failure of government is more of a conservative goal than anything else.

Boehner and the band skipped out on gigs that might need Congressional attention, such as the Daa’ish question, the Ebola question, and the Immigration Reform question; despite their howls of rage regarding the latter, the fact of executive action occasionally arises when Congress refuses to pass a bill and the Speaker of the House calls on the President to use his executive authority. They could have skipped screeching themselves hoarse by simply sticking around and doing their jobs. Then again, the prior statement is controversial if only because it would appear that Congressional Republicans appear to believe their first, last, and only job is to win votes. Given their reluctance to undertake day-to-day Constitutional functions of Congress, such as advising and consenting to presidential appointments—or, as such, formally refusing the nomination—we ought not be surprised that the latest duty Republicans wish to shirk is sitting through an annual speech.

Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right’s mind.

“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.'”

Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one publicly pushing the idea.

Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”

Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”

(Benen)

Wait, wait, wait—sixteen years ago?

Yes. Like impeachment chatter and stonewalling, Republicans want to make refusing to hear the State of the Union Address part of their standard response to any Democratic president.

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