USA Today

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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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 They Voted For: Screaming, Flaming Handbasket

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen answers questions during a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, D.C., 18 June 2018. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

This is one of those that doesn’t so much go downhill from there, but, rather, is a screaming, flaming handbasket in medias res:

On Monday, new reporting continued to reveal the realities of the Trump administration policy of forcibly separating children from their adult guardians who cross the border without U.S. citizenship. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are both on record endorsing the practice as a means of deterring undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

Yet the president and members of his staff have repeatedly and falsely blamed Congress—in particular congressional Democrats—for the nearly-2,000 children who have reportedly been taken into federal custody in just the last six weeks.

(Nuzzi)

The flashback, then:

When top members of Donald Trump’s team add the word “period” to their most outlandish claims, it’s a safe bet they know they’re lying. The day after the president’s inauguration, for example, then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer angrily told reporters, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period.”

(Benen)

Something about ominous setups goes here; unfortunately, all we find is a sick punch line:

Nielsen, in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association in New Orleans, said the children are provided food, medical attention, education and anything else they might need.

“We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,” she said. “This administration has a simple message—If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.”

Nielsen spoke hours after taking to Twitter to vehemently deny that her department’s border policy dictates separation of children from their parents.

“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” Nielsen tweeted late Sunday.

(Bacon)

(more…)

The Man of the Hour

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Political strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at a Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore campaign rally in Midland City, Alabama, 11 December 2017. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

The triple-bylined exclusive from The Daily Beast opens like sublime comedy:

Steve Bannon is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus.

The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to “fully cooperate” with investigators.

Puti TootsBurck also represents White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the purposes of the Russia probe ....

(Woodruff, Markay, and Suebsaeng)

To the one, this ought to be in some manner artistically appreciable; to the other, we cannot reiterate enough that as much as Mr. Bannon needs to testify under oath, and about more than simply his time with the Trump campaign, neither, really, can he be trusted. That is to say, spectacularly flaming paragon of right-wing cynicism he might be, Steve Bannon not only can be expected to throw the House Intelligence Committee, and thus the entire Beltway, into chaos, but virtually cannot fail to discredit Congressional inquiries into the #TrumpRussia affair.

(more…)

Carter Page

#NoPuppetNoPuppet | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

This is Carter Page. Honestly, it is pretty much what it looks like. The headlines can tell you quite a bit, and either read along or don’t; there is a lot there, and the tale really is as clumsy and ridiculous as it seems.

• Milder, Zachary. “Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom”. Bloomberg. 30 March 2016.

• Ioffe, Julia. “The Mystery of Trump’s Man in Moscow”. Politico. 23 September 2016.

• Nechepurenko, Ivan. “Carter Page, Ex-Trump Adviser With Russian Ties, Visits Moscow”. The New York Times. 8 December 2016.

• Schwarz, Jon. “Carter Page, at Center of Trump Russian Investigation, Writes Bizarre Letter to DOJ Blaming Hillary Clinton”. The Intercept. 15 February 2017.

• Woodruff, Judy. “Former Trump adviser says he had no Russian meetings in the last year”. News Hour. 15 February 2017.

• Reilly, Steve. “Two other Trump advisers also spoke with Russian envoy during GOP convention”. USA Today. 2 March 2017.

• Helsel, Phil. “Carter Page, Adviser Once Linked to Trump Campaign, Met With Russian Ambassador”. NBC News. 3 March 2017.

• Herridge, Catherine, Pamela K. Browne, and Christopher Wallace. “Ex-Trump adviser Carter Page rips ‘false narrative’ on Russia collusion”. FOX News. 30 March 2017.

• Ross, Brian and Matthew Mosk. “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page targeted for recruitment by Russian spies”. ABC News. 4 April 2017.

• Groll, Elias. “Russian Spy Met Trump Adviser Carter Page and Thought He Was an ‘Idiot'”. Foreign Policy. 4 April 2017.

• Kaczynski, Andrew. “Former Trump adviser Carter Page says he didn’t disclose Russian spy contacts to campaign”. CNN. 5 April 2017.

(more…)

Passthrough (Presidential Potsherd)

#PresidentPotsherd | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference since winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“I assume ‘let’s blame Obama’ will become a popular rallying cry in far-right circles, because it’s vastly easier than dealing with the facts.”

Steve Benen

It is not quite correct to ask who is surprised. In truth, nobody ought to be surprised. Still, though, if we inquire, for the sake of some decent societal form, what brought on Mr. Benen’s line, well:

This week, the president has moved on to a new explanation: this is all Obama’s fault. USA Today reported this morning:

President Trump said that former president Barack Obama is “behind” the angry protests that have erupted at Republican town halls around the nation during an interview on the Fox News morning program Fox and Friends scheduled to air Tuesday morning.

“I think he is behind it,” Trump said when asked about Obama’s role in the protests. “I also think it’s politics. That’s the way it is.

“No, I think that President Obama is behind it,” Trump said, “because his people are certainly behind it and some of the leaks, possibly come from that group, some of the leaks – which are really very serious leaks because they’re very bad in terms of national security – but I also understand that’s politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue.”

This is, in many ways, the perfect Donald J. Trump Conspiracy Theory.

And this is the Donald J. Trump administration, after all.

(more…)

The Conservative Lesson

David Daleiden, of Center for Medical Progress.  Detail of photo by Charles Ommanney, ca. 2015.

A question arises: Is self-harm ever funny?

Certes, there are complications to the question; obviously, it is harder to justify self-harm if one also hurts others along the way, but here we’re not talking about going on a slashing spree amid a cutting habit. This one falls more under inspiring terrorists while wrecking your life for the sake of your own stupid masculinity.

Never mind.

Yesterday morning, via USA Today:

The videos show Planned Parenthood’s senior leadership partaking in a widespread and organized violation of state and federal laws forbidding partial-birth abortions and profiteering from the sale of fetal organs and tissues, which is why multiple state and federal investigations, including a select committee in Congress, continue to investigate Planned Parenthood’s abortion practice and financial interests in harvesting body parts. Contrary to the liberal shibboleth that the videos were “edited” (by which they mean to insinuate, “doctored”), the Center for Medical Progress has been far more transparent than any major news network in making the unedited conversations available to the public, and forensic analysis verifies their utility as evidence.

David Daleiden penned an op-ed in defense of his Center for Medical Progress, which is perhaps more familiar as the right-wing operation that doctored up some videos that succeeded in causing a ruckus. Congress held hearings, then slated some more because the first round was such a disaster. A terrorist murdered three people, wounded several more. Eleven states have investigated the infamous claims against Planned Parenthood, and all eleven have cleared the organization. In Texas, officials even convened a grand jury.

So Daleiden decided to … what? Pitch his case one last time? Rub it in? Set up for his victory lap?

That was Monday morning. A few hours later, Daleiden and co-conspirator Sandra Merritt got the news:

A Houston jury investigating alleged misconduct by Planned Parenthood declined to charge the women’s health provider, announcing instead felony charges for the leaders of the anti-abortion organization that targeted Planned Parenthood with it’s widely debunked series of “sting” videos in 2015.

The grand jury said they did not find evidence of illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood after reviewing the covert videos meant to misleadingly implicate the women’s health provider in the illegal trafficking of fetal tissue ....

.... David Daleiden, the 26-year old president of The Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt, founder and CEO of the fake tissue procurement company created to misleadingly gain entry into abortion clinics, were indicted for “tampering with a governmental record,” while Daleiden received an additional indictment for “the purchase and sale of human organs.” The first charge is a second degree felony and the second is a Class A misdemeanor. As the Houston Chronicle notes, a second-degree felony carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

(Tesfaye)

They did this to themselves.

(more…)

A Clown Car Special Presentation: The Audience

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

“When those surveyed were asked to volunteer one word to describe Trump, the most frequent response was ‘idiot’ or ‘jerk’. For Fiorina, the most frequent response was ‘smart’.”

USA Today

The latest USA Today/Suffolk University poll regarding the 2016 GOP presidential contest does not tell us anything spectacularly new, though Beltway wonks are sweating and scrambling to figure out what to tell us. Meanwhile, Susan Page and Paulina Firozi offer an attempt to sort out the mess that is littered with what should be comedy gold, except it’s not actually a joke.

The carryout, though:

Graphic representing poll responses regarding 2016 GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll 24-28 Sept. 2015.“It has now come down to the GOP ‘gang of six’,” says David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston. That would be Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush and Cruz. “These six contenders swallow up nearly three-quarters of the Republican vote.”

____________________

Image notes: Top ― Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015. Right ― Graphic representing poll responses regarding 2016 GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll 24-28 Sept. 2015.

Page, Susan and Paulina Firozi. “Poll: Donald Trump still on top as outsiders Fiorina, Carson rise”. USA Today. 30 September 2015.

An Important Difference

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signs new legislation allowing one-year prescriptions of birth control, 11 June 2015, in Salem. (AP Photo)

Sometimes it really does make a difference.

With Gov. Kate Brown’s signature Thursday, Oregon women will be the first in the nation who can get a year’s supply of birth control with one prescription.

When the change takes effect Jan. 1, women will no longer have to renew their prescriptions every 30 to 90 days. After an initial three-month supply, refills of the same prescription can be obtained for one year.

“We knew that the medical research was very clear that filling a yearlong prescription all at once is a significant contributor to improving the effectiveness of birth control,” Mary Nolan, interim executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, told the Associated Press before the signing.

(Winter)

Many are the occasions on which we might hear a neighbor bitterly proclaim that politicians are all the same, that it doesn’t matter who you vote for because it doesn’t make a difference. This argument is intended to help one of the parties. As Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) reminds yet again, there really is a difference, and some days it can be really, really important.

____________________

Image note: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signs new legislation allowing one-year prescriptions for birth control, 11 June 2015, in Salem. (AP Photo)

Winter, Michael. “Oregon women first to get yearlong birth control”. USA Today. 11 June 2015.

A Good Day (Defense and Dignity Edition)

Then Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Ashton Carter testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee 19 May 2011, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Discrimination of any kind has no place in America’s armed forces.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter

yeah, and don’t get me started on the word meritocracy ....

Huh? Oh.

Raise a glass to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Tuesday that gay and lesbian troops for the first time will be protected from discrimination by the same equal opportunity policy that protects other servicemembers.

Carter announced the change at the Pentagon’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride event.

The change ensures that gay and lesbian troops’ complaints about discrimination based on sexual orientation will be investigated by the Military Equal Opportunity program, the same office that handles complaints based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“Discrimination of any kind has no place in America’s armed forces,” Carter said.

(Vanden Brook)

I admit that after I outgrew childhood dreams of glory it really did become difficult to comprehend why anybody would want to be a soldier. Just sayin’. I mean, there are all sorts of jokes over the years; what was that one Doonesbury about signing up for the college benefits, not for a war? You know, that sort of thing. And it’s also true I have known families in which military service is traditional. But still, I don’t get it. What, would I join the military but only if I got to stay home and do paperwork instead of go fight and kill and maybe die?Transgender sign

Never mind. That’s me, and my own damn problem.

Reality, after all, doesn’t give a damn about what I wonder. People still apparently want to join the military.

We can certainly continue to fret about our estimated fifteen thousand transgendered service personnel; the armed forces can still kick them out for (ahem!) “health” reasons. But at the same time, a periodic policy review is underway, the Secretary seems to want to end the policy, and the services themselvs―including the Air Force―are leading the way by adding extra steps and requiring higher approval for those discharge processes.

That review is going to take a while; it is unfair to expect more good news next week, or next month. Maybe we can hope for substantive answers and substantial policy revisions next year, but in any question involving such bureaucracies, I certainly won’t be holding my breath.

But, you know. They’re on it.

And today was a good day.

Today brought something real and substantial.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

____________________

Image note: 19 May 2011: Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Ashton Carter testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Vanden Brook, Tom. “Gay and lesbian troops will be protected by new Pentagon policy”. USA Today. 9 June 2015.