Operation American Greatness

2017May05-29
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The rise of the military, if coupled with the undermining of civilian aspects of national power, demonstrates a spiritual exhaustion and a descent into Caesarism. Named after Julius Caesar — who replaced the Roman Republic with a dictatorship — Caesarism is roughly characterized by a charismatic strongman, popular with the masses, whose rule culminates in an exaggerated role for the military. America is moving in this direction. It isn’t that some civilian agencies don’t deserve paring down or even elimination, nor is it that the military and other security forces don’t deserve a boost to their financial resources. Rather, it is in the very logic, ideology, and lack of proportionality of Trump’s budget that American decline, decadence, and Caesarism are so apparent.

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(0)

Foreigners often get Mrs Merkel all wrong. She is not the queen of Europe, nor has she any desire to be it. She is a domestic leader and politician whose mounting international stature is always a function of her ability to serve the interests and predilections of German voters. It is predominantly because Germans, for deep historical and cultural reasons, feel so “European” that that she talks and acts in a “European” way. Perhaps all the more for this, Mrs Merkel’s comments today illustrate how much Trumpandbrexit has hurt America and Britain in the past months. They have made it not just possible but also electorally beneficial for a friendly leader of a crucial partner to bash them in public. And more than that: to do it with sincerity.

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05-28
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If the generation since the fall of the USSR has been a tale of the unfitness of the USA for leadership, then Trump is pure continuity.

Read the Post

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05-17
(2)

...the one thing Trump & his voters had right was the political class - as continually re-confirmed in their pusillanimous responses to him.

Read the Post

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05-12
(1)

My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.

DONNIE TRUMPO HAS INVOKED A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS AND HE’S WIPING HIS ASS WITH OUR MOST SACRED DOCUMENT THIS IS THE FOURTH TIME I HAVE EXPLICITLY TOLD YOU THAT YOU HAD BETTER STEP UP

If you do that, you too will be sad when you leave, and the American people will be safer.

SORRY YOU’RE GOING TO BE FIRED AS WELL BY THIS CANCER ON THE AMERICAN STATE IT’S GOING TO BE WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER BUT THE COUNTRY’S FREEDOM IS ACTUALLY AT STAKE HERE DESTROY HIM LIKE A GREAT AVENGING EAGLE

Working with you has been one of the great joys of my life. Thank you for that gift.

IF I EVER MEANT ANYTHING TO YOU MY G-MEN AND G-WOMEN YOU WILL BURN THIS MOTHER DOWN

Jim Comey

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Quinnipiac finds: “By a 54 – 38 percent margin, American voters want the Democratic Party to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the widest margin ever measured for this question in a Quinnipiac University poll, exceeding a 5 percentage point margin for Republicans in 2013.” You wonder whether that number has to hit 20 percent before Republicans stop circling the wagon around an incompetent, scandal-plagued and uniquely dishonest administration. (At least Richard Nixon’s White House could keep its story straight.)

And yet Republicans (in Congress and in right-leaning media) by and large embarrass themselves by defending the president, eschewing calls for a special counsel, remaining unconcerned with the precedent of firing an FBI director investigating the White House and confirming some of the worst nominees in history, including an attorney general who appears to have reneged on his promise to recuse himself and raised questions about his participation in a scheme to fire Comey under false pretexts.

You do wonder when a political survival instinct will kick in.

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05-09
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Inside the White House, opponents of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s second national security adviser, want him out. This week, they’ve made their campaign against him public, leaking to reporters details about the rocky relationship he has with his boss and trying to paint him as someone hell-bent on overseas nation-building projects that are doomed to fail. The timing isn’t accidental. The effort to damage McMaster comes as the Trump administration decides what its policy should be in Afghanistan, a debate that’s pitting McMaster against Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist.

“McMaster is pushing this Afghanistan policy through. I think some people are giving him the rope to get it through, hoping he hangs himself with it,” one senior intelligence official said.

The Afghanistan strategy McMaster is pushing, with the support of Defense Secretary James Mattis, would send roughly 3,000-5,000 U.S. and NATO troops to Afghanistan, according to a separate source familiar with the internal deliberations. These troops would be sent to help bulk up the Afghan National Security Forces, which, after years of U.S. assistance, are still struggling against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and a small Islamic State presence in the country.

...But the NSC is not walled off from the internal power politics of the Trump White House, and staffers reading the tea leaves see they still need to curry favor with people like Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, if they’re to have their voices heard and survive in what one source described as the White House’s “Game of Thrones for morons.”

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“The enduring narrative of the American dream is that if you study and get a college education and work hard, you can get ahead,” said Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI. “The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. … It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters.”

...

Although demographic factors like gender, age, geographic region, and religion weren’t statistically significant predictors of who voted for Trump, some of the other information gathered in the survey offers a portrait of how white working-class Americans feel about their status in the world. Nearly two-thirds of the white working class say American culture has gotten worse since the 1950s. Sixty-eight percent say the U.S. is in danger of losing its identity, and 62 percent say America’s growing number of immigrants threaten the country’s culture. More than half say discrimination against whites has become just as problematic as discrimination against minorities.

This analysis provides only a surface look at the concerns and anxieties of America’s white working class. Polling is a notoriously clumsy instrument for understanding people’s lives, and provides only a sketch of who they are. But it’s useful for debunking myths and narratives—particularly the ubiquitous idea that economic anxiety drove white working-class voters to support Trump. When these voters hear messages from their president, they’re listening with ears attuned to cultural change and anxiety about America’s multicultural future. It would be a mistake to use this insight to create yet another caricature of the Trump voter. But perhaps it will complicate the stereotypes about destitute factory landscapes and poor folks who had nowhere to turn but right.

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05-06
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Americans have placed vast military power at the discretion of this mind, a presidential discretion that is largely immune to restraint by the Madisonian system of institutional checks and balances. So, it is up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.

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05-01
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President Donald Trump questioned why the Civil War— which erupted 150 years ago over slavery — needed to happen. He said he would be "honored" to meet with Kim Jong-Un, the violent North Korean dictator who is developing nuclear missiles and oppresses his people, under the "right circumstances."

The president floated, and backed away from, a tax on gasoline. Trump said he was "looking at" breaking up the big banks, sending the stock market sliding. He seemed to praise Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte for his high approval ratings. He promised changes to the Republican health care bill, though he has seemed unsure what was in the legislation, even as his advisers whipped votes for it.

And Monday still had nine hours to go."It seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian. "It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the president."

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April04-18
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Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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04-14
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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04-11
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As they war with the right, though, Trump and Kushner would gain no quarter from Democrats—unless Democrats were allowed to set the all the terms. This is Bannon’s central point. Democrats have no incentive to prop up Trump’s presidency for half-loaf compromises that many will suspect are contaminated with seeds of Trumpism. Trump can adopt or co-opt the Democrats’ infrastructure platform outright if he likes, but he can’t easily entice them to compromise with him, and he can’t entice House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to advance a trillion dollar direct-spending bill filled with environmental and labor protections that the GOP exists to oppose.

Which is just to say, Kushner wants Trump to chart a new course that leads to a substantive dead end for at least another 19 months. Bannon’s path, at least, preserves the hope of keeping his base consolidated through the legislative ebb. He can deregulate, scapegoat, and unburden law enforcement to turn his Herrenvolk fantasy into reality—all while keeping congressional investigators at bay.

There’s no real logical rebuttal to this, except to point to three months of chaos and humiliation as indicative of the futility of continuing to do things Bannon’s way. That is really an argument that Trump should get rid of both of his top advisers, but Trump is unlikely to grasp that in a contest between loyalists, both might deserve to lose. Family loyalty, and the beating his ego will take when the stories of his first 100 days are written, will pull him toward his son-in-law. And that’s when the real fun will begin.

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04-09
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Russia has insisted that it opposes any offensive in Raqqa that does not go through Damascus and Moscow. Unlike previous US-led offensives against Isis, the regime positioned its troops near the front lines in Raqqa, as well as between Raqqa and areas controlled by the Turkish-backed rebels in the eastern countryside of Aleppo. So, in this scenario, the regime viewed that the time was ripe for playing rough with the Americans and the use of chemical weapons would be a tool of defiance.

And what if the US was to respond, as it did? Such a scenario counterintuitively serves a fundamental purpose for the regime, which goes to the heart of specific fears by Damascus and Tehran. Such fears arise from a stated plan by the Trump administration, to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran as a way to roll back Iranian influence in the region.

A US escalation against the regime will, instead, widen the distance between Moscow and Washington.

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04-08
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Even before he became president, Obama worried greatly about slippery slopes in the Middle East. In Syria, he understood that Assad would most likely survive an American missile strike on his airbases; the day after such strikes ended, Assad, Obama believed, would have emerged from his hiding place, and declared victory: The greatest power in the world tried to destroy him, and failed. Obama was acutely aware that a one-off strike (a theoretical strike described as “unbelievably small” by his secretary of state, John Kerry), could possibly have served as a convincing brush-back pitch, but he was also aware that such a limited strike could have been wholly ineffectual, and even counterproductive. Assad and his allies, understanding that the appetite of average Americans for yet another Middle Eastern war was limited, could have tried to provoke Obama into escalation. An all-out war against the Syrian regime would have been, in many ways, Obama’s Iraq. And Obama wasn’t interested in having his own Iraq.

The curious thing is that Donald Trump is also not interested in having his own Iraq. And yet here he is. Obama was known for an overly cerebral commitment to the notion of strategic patience. Trump seems more committed to a policy of glandular, non-strategic impatience. Obama may have been paralyzed by a phobic reaction to the threat posed by the slippery slope. Donald Trump now finds himself dancing at the edge of the slippery slope his predecessor so assiduously avoided.

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04-05
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The power of ethnonationalism, which I tried to communicate in the story, is that it manipulates the most base and emotionally accessible ideas about politics. But that power is also a source of danger to the party that tries to weaponize it: If it backfires, it activates equally powerful emotions against it. And while the fight to preserve the American ideal from Trump’s ethnonationalism is hardly assured, there is every sign it will backfire.

Michael Anton’s now-iconic essay, “The Flight 93 Election,” made the case for Trump as a desperation gamble. (Hence the metaphor to a hijacked airline flight whose passengers had to choose a desperate and probably doomed fight over certain death.) Anton, now a staffer in Trump’s administration, saw another four years of Democratic presidencies as the end of white America and conservative America. Most Republicans — even those, like Anton, deeply suspicious of Trump — ultimately agreed. Almost the entire GOP decided its hatred or fear of Clinton overrode their misgivings about their own nominee, and, with varying levels of enthusiasm, supported Trump. They brought disaster upon their country, but as a small measure of compensatory justice, they have also brought it upon their party. By the time Trump has departed the Oval Office, they will look longingly at a staid, boxed-in Clinton presidency as a road not taken.

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04-02
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Trump may be suffering, as the joke goes, the worst 100 days of any president since William Henry Harrison. His list of laws signed makes ludicrous reading: only 17 items including on March 31 (the final day of the 10th week of his administration) “An Act to name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Pago Pago, American Samoa, the Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin VA Clinic.”

But the resources of a determined president are great. Trump’s enablers are powerful. The institutions of American government and society—including the expectations of the American people themselves for integrity in government—continue to show themselves weaker than most would have ever dared fear before 2016. We’re not anywhere near the end of this story, and certainly in no position to predict whether that ending will be happy or grim.

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March03-22
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President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.

The allegations, if true, would appear to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics, even as US-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million (£8 million) annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP.

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The texts, posted on a darknet website run by a hacktivist collective, appear to show Manafort’s family fretting about the ethics, safety and consequences of his work for Yanukovych. And they reveal that Manafort’s two daughters regarded their father’s emergence as a key player on Trump’s presidential campaign with a mixture of pride and embarrassment.

In one exchange, daughter Jessica Manafort writes “Im not a trump supporter but i am still proud of dad tho. He is the best at what he does.” Her sister Andrea Manafort responded by referring to their father’s relationship with Trump as “The most dangerous friendship in America,” while in another exchange she called them “a perfect pair” of “power-hungry egomaniacs,” and asserted “the only reason my dad is doing this campaign is for sport. He likes the challenge. It's like an egomaniac's chess game. There's no money motivation.”

By contrast, the Manafort daughters and their mother seemed much more unsettled about Paul Manafort’s work as a political consultant for Yanukovych’s Russia-backed Party of Regions, which is a subject of renewed interest among investigators probing possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

In one March 2015 exchange that appears to be between the two sisters, Andrea Manafort seems to suggest that their father bore some responsibility for the deaths of protesters at the hands of police loyal to Yanukovych during a monthslong uprising that started in late 2013.

“Don't fool yourself,” Andrea Manafort wrote. “That money we have is blood money.”

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03-20
(1)

If there's anything mitigating the bad news for the White House here, it is that Comey may have also sent subtle signals that the matters under investigation are not principally about the personal conduct of Trump himself. While this is speculation, I do not believe that if Comey had, say, validated large swaths of the Steele dossier or found significant Trump-Russia financial entanglements of a compromising variety, he would have said even as much as he said today. I also don't think he would have announced the scope of the investigation as about the relationship "between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government" or "coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts"; these words suggest one step of removal from investigating the President himself. If the latter were the case, I suspect Comey wouldn't have used words suggestive of the Flynn-Manafort-Page cabal.

But that's reading a lot into a relatively small number of tea leaves. What is clear is that this was a very bad day for the President. In it, we learned that there is an open-ended Russia investigation with no timetable for completion, one that's going hang over Trump's head for a long time, and one to which the FBI director is entirely committed.

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Noted & Quoted

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The rise of the military, if coupled with the undermining of civilian aspects of national power, demonstrates a spiritual exhaustion and a descent into Caesarism. Named after Julius Caesar — who replaced the Roman Republic with a dictatorship — Caesarism is roughly characterized by a charismatic strongman, popular with the masses, whose rule culminates in an exaggerated role for the military. America is moving in this direction. It isn’t that some civilian agencies don’t deserve paring down or even elimination, nor is it that the military and other security forces don’t deserve a boost to their financial resources. Rather, it is in the very logic, ideology, and lack of proportionality of Trump’s budget that American decline, decadence, and Caesarism are so apparent.

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(0)

Foreigners often get Mrs Merkel all wrong. She is not the queen of Europe, nor has she any desire to be it. She is a domestic leader and politician whose mounting international stature is always a function of her ability to serve the interests and predilections of German voters. It is predominantly because Germans, for deep historical and cultural reasons, feel so “European” that that she talks and acts in a “European” way. Perhaps all the more for this, Mrs Merkel’s comments today illustrate how much Trumpandbrexit has hurt America and Britain in the past months. They have made it not just possible but also electorally beneficial for a friendly leader of a crucial partner to bash them in public. And more than that: to do it with sincerity.

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(1)

My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.

DONNIE TRUMPO HAS INVOKED A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS AND HE’S WIPING HIS ASS WITH OUR MOST SACRED DOCUMENT THIS IS THE FOURTH TIME I HAVE EXPLICITLY TOLD YOU THAT YOU HAD BETTER STEP UP

If you do that, you too will be sad when you leave, and the American people will be safer.

SORRY YOU’RE GOING TO BE FIRED AS WELL BY THIS CANCER ON THE AMERICAN STATE IT’S GOING TO BE WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER BUT THE COUNTRY’S FREEDOM IS ACTUALLY AT STAKE HERE DESTROY HIM LIKE A GREAT AVENGING EAGLE

Working with you has been one of the great joys of my life. Thank you for that gift.

IF I EVER MEANT ANYTHING TO YOU MY G-MEN AND G-WOMEN YOU WILL BURN THIS MOTHER DOWN

Jim Comey

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State of the Discussion

+ From early on, Trump gave his adversaries abundant excuses to declare him illegitimate, or illegitimate as far as their principles were concerned. To skip ahead [. . .]
Theodicy of Trump – a Tweet-Drizzle (OAG #11)
Wade McKenzie
Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Only the retrospective knowledge that Trump, against every establishment anticipation, won the election lends the idea that Hillary Clinton ought to have refused to participate [. . .]
Theodicy of Trump – a Tweet-Drizzle (OAG #11)
+ I'd go much further than perhaps you might expect in supporting your criticism of the Democrats here, or crucial aspects of it. There's no reason [. . .]
Jennifer Rubin: Pro-Trump Republicans will get nothing, not even retention of a House majority – The Washington Post

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