Commenter Archive

On “Tweet-Drizzle on Merkel on New World Disorder (OAG #12)

That fellow and his movement would be as much symptoms as causes, of course. Ash had Obama or Obama's America ca. 2013 in view when he coined the term "withdrawalism." A consistent withdrawalist might would be constrained from acting to preserve or enhance the value of NATO, and a rigorously consistent one would be constrained even from acknowledging the question or from looking into it.

All that said, I readily acknowledge a counterargument, which is also a complementary view. I even went on to tweet a short summary. I think I'll tweet-drizzle it.

On “The Economist: How to understand Angela Merkel’s comments about America and Britain 

[…] has been some attempted pushback – including in the comments here – on the notion that Donald Trump has uniquely damaged German-American relations, […]

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I don't know where MK Bhadrakumar gets his stats - possibly Russia Today: https://www.rt.com/news/germany-lose-trust-us-snowden-431/ - although RT gives the date as 2014. Die Welt, just to provide one quick example, reports a decline of 37% on the same question from November 2016 to the Feburary, on 70% distrust vs 22% trust. Certainly there was decline from Obama's first year over the course of his term, with some notorious incidents - especially around the Snowden affair - punctuating and deepening it. If you really want to examine German public opinion,

https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article161766668/Deutsche-verlieren-wegen-Trump-Vertrauen-in-die-USA.html (The decline numbers are the ones in parentheses after each country name.)

I'll be posting a quick rundown on the recent history of that poll.

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...Mrs Merkel’s comments today illustrate how much Trumpandbrexit has hurt America and Britain in the past months.

From M.K. Bhadrakumar's take on Hausfrau Merkel's remarks:

By the way, this has nothing to do with Trump. The percentage of Germans who trusted the US plunged from 76% to 34% during the first six years of the Barack Obama presidency.

On “Tweet-Drizzle on Merkel on New World Disorder (OAG #12)

All this seems less clear to me than you present here. So far, I've heard left libs bewailing as you say, but others cheering that fellow on for undermining NATO (alas, I haven't paid much attention to who said what).

At any rate, my first impulse is to say that the current situation is a poor example of what withdrawalism might look like - maybe if some one with a more reliable grasp on just everyday reality were doing it...

For instance, I think a withdrawalist could see a vital value in maintaining NATO to keep Russia in check.

Certainly I would be only barely marginally more optimistic if Bernie were doing his version. A continuation of the unevenness, fits and starts of the O years provides a more plausible map to withdrawalism. Enough of everything to make everyone unhappy.

Then if occurred to me that one could take a similar approach to strong interventionism - that GWB was a poor proponent of it, and it is unfair to judge that approach based on his execution.

In the end I see that fellow with no strong commitment to any ism other than that-fellow-ism, which may have tactical similarities to a wide range of isms, but is a poor fit for all of them.

On “Commenter Ignore Button 0.99

[…] a bow to that desire, and with an acknowledgement of thanks to former Technical Editor CK McLeod, who created this device, we offer a new […]

On “Theodicy of Trump – a Tweet-Drizzle (OAG #11)

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 to the Fall and to imagine Hillary Clinton "re-born hard," refusing to debate the man who incited violence at his rallies; who crudely demeaned his opponents; who ran a campaign filled with stooges of a foreign power; who encouraged, celebrated, and exploited the actions of WikiLeaks; who ran a never-disavowed multi-year effort to de-legitimize the sitting president; and so on, is difficult precisely because many or most of those justifications had been present for months, and had already been "normalized." The refusal to debate would have been a clear statement, but the person able to make it in September-October would have been able to make it or its equivalent in January-February.

HRC's message in the end seemed to be that Trump was unfit and unacceptable, as Jeet Heer notes. Debating him contradicted or blunted that message, but so did a thousand other things she did and didn't do. She could also have chosen to let others make that argument, and to focus all of her strength on the "agenda" that Heer says she downplayed. Instead, she tried to do both - "It's an emergency! Here's my worker retraining proposal!" - in the political equivalent of dividing her forces in the face of the enemy.

In short, she tried to play the odds and play the game, just as Obama tried to play the odds as he calculated them, in the hope of getting by with a "normal" victory. Obama apparently was ready to go public on the Russian allegations by the Summer, for instance, but is said to have backed down when Mitch McConnell threatened to call it "politics." You don't have to take a position on the intrinsic importance of the Russian question to understand the contradiction in the Democrats' response to it, the same as the contradiction in relation to Trump: If it was a matter of the greatest significance, then there should not have been any backing down to McConnell. Obama should have treated the issue as an emergency, taken extraordinary measures, and alerted the public. That he did not treat the issue as an emergency then compromises his defenders now when they ask us to treat it that way now. I discussed this question in some detail at around the same time the Russian question was receiving its first major post-election public airing late last Fall (OAG #2).

The same goes in regard to dealing with Trump. Unfortunately for his opponents, the kind of candidate who could have refused to debate Trump and could have driven the point home and sustained it is not the kind of candidate that the Democrats were prepared to nominate. They don't understand how to be hard in that way. As I've been saying, that is the one or perhaps the only thing that Trump seems to understand: how to go on with passionate intensity vs those who lack all conviction. Instead of backing down to a McConnell like Obama, we can assume that in a similar situation Trump would have been blurting out the awful truth at the first opportunity and every subsequent one.

The point of this argument is not to imagine going back in time and persuading HRC to adopt a saving tactic at the last possible second. The point is to illustrated the problem that the anti-Trump coalition was not able to face last year, but may be forced to face eventually, or may be in the process of being forced to face. To beat Trumpism they will have to mimic it without, if possible, succumbing to it, just as to beat the fascist totalitarians, we once upon a time needed to get a lot more fascist-totalitarian than we had been (and lastingly).

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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 in the debates in a (to my mind, Quixotic) attempt to "de-legitimize" Trump even the remotest plausibility. For one thing, a refusal to debate Trump would have been portrayed by the Trump campaign as an instance of the very pusillanimity of the establishment cum political class that you say (assuming that I understand you correctly--the compressed nature of a "tweet" may be an obstacle to my understanding) is "the one thing Trump & his voters had right".

In any case, the key reason why the Clinton campaign assumed it would not be in their self-interest to attempt to "de-legitimize" Trump was their conviction--universally shared by the establishment punditocracy--that Trump was unelectable (where "electable" is somehow supposed to correlate with "approximation to left-liberalism" or, perhaps better, to "liberalism simpliciter"), and thus Hillary Clinton, however moribund her candidacy, was assured of victory.

It is proverbial that the failure to cognize one's position as vulnerable or defeasible sets one up for disappointment or even astonishment--and the astonishment of left-liberals and of others whose political perspectives are approximations or echoes, however remote, of left-liberalism or liberalism simpliciter, is inscribed in their political deeds to this very day, some six-odd months after the election.

The left-liberalism that is concretized in the Democratic Party has quite obviously become a species of fanaticism--and, while I'd be the last person on earth to deny the virtue (and maybe even the sheer necessity at all times) of fanaticism--it seems to me that this particular iteration of the fanatic spirit isn't born of an underlying vitality but rather of a decay of vitality.

On “Jennifer Rubin: Pro-Trump Republicans will get nothing, not even retention of a House majority – The Washington Post

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 the Electoral College should be a problem for a party that truly captured the "soul" or "spirit" of the nation, and the "WWC" at minimum has a claim on that soul or spirit (or idea or essence...), if not possibly the exclusive claim on which White Supremacists insist.

So, I accept that there is a peculiar, very typical blindspot among modern American liberals or left-liberals regarding this deficit. Their blindspot refers (or fails to refer them) back to itself: They are blind to their blindness. They are also Dunning-Kruger victims on this one. They cannot, for example, abide the argument which tends to get expressed by racists as "if Blacks can have Black Power, why can't we have White Power?" The problem is that answering this question truly adequately would necessarily involve us in matters about which neither side and no one else is prepared to speak in any political context. The problem is, for us, philosophic and historical. Our inability and unwillingness to address it defines us in many ways. I discussed the matter, or one major aspect of it, in more detail in my pieces on "Chait's Insanity," though it also shows up in the Left-Liberal "thymotic" deficit or problem with Jacksonianism.

We seem to be without exception mediocrities and hopeless cranks when it comes to these topics. That's what it means to be trapped within one's era by history. Anyone capable of comprehending the situation is pre-emptively barred from doing so to any effect. It's left to the naturally very decadent products of a very decadent political system to blunder their way through - people like those in the Trump Administration and their counterparts in Congress, but not just them by any means. We're still waiting to find out if America can manage to work things out despite Americans and everyone else, as it has in the past.

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If we view the character of the US government to be of, by, and for the people rather than of, by, and for the acres, the map points to a distorted view of electoral support for the President in November 2016.

My point, of course, had nothing to do with "government of, by, and for the acres" (a clever formulation, I'll grant) but rather with the Democrats' failure to win a crucial national election for the lack of a few more acres. Given the stakes, is the expectation that the Democrats ought to have been able to win a few more acres out in the dreary, retrograde and bigoted heartland--the "Jesusland" of liberal cartography--so unreasonable? And I submit that their inability to do so has everything to do with their myopia.

As to "government of, by, and for the people"--according to Harry Jaffa in A New Birth of Freedom, Lincoln's ideal of popular government which that famous phrase embodies has everything to do with strict conformity to law, with the "rule of law" as such, and the reason Lincoln associated the secession of the South with an assault on the ideal of "government of, by, and for the people" was that they did not seek to secede via a legal process, they just unilaterally decreed it.

On that reading, "government of, by, and for the people" really has little to do with the ostensible injustice of the will of the voters of L.A. County being frustrated as regards their choice for President of the United States--since a mound of ten million human beings doesn't really get at the ideal of "government of, by, and for the people"--and everything to do with "strict conformity to law". And that necessarily--and obviously--means the law pertaining to Presidential elections which mandates the Electoral College, and the laws pertaining to Congressional elections which, unfortunately for the Democrats, have an awful lot to do with acres and counties and states.

On “Kaila Hale-Stern: How to Read Director Comey’s Goodbye Letter – The Mary Sue

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

I really must commend the maturity and profundity of this sentiment. The image of President “Trumpo” wiping his hiney with “our most sacred document”--presumably a reference to the U.S. Constitution--is especially wise and illuminating. That Mr. MacLeod would bring an image of such probity and intelligence to our attention (where “our” effectively encompasses bob and me) is hardly surprising. After all, C.K. is the fellow who literally smears his excrement across the face of “Virtue” on a well-nigh daily or perhaps twice-daily basis.

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

Another judicious sentiment. Of particular interest is the unstated assumption of the passage: namely, that the legitimacy of “the American state” is imagined to be more rightfully embodied in the authority of appointed officials rather than in the authority of a lawfully elected President of the United States. In any case, one can’t but admire the good sense and reasonableness of “destroy him like a great avenging eagle”.

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

Who wouldn’t acknowledge the sage wisdom of the sentiment “burn this mother down”? As for those who would unwisely and unintelligently retort that to “burn this mother down” in response to President “Trumpo” being a “cancer on the American state” who’s “wiping his ass with our most sacred document” is a rather extreme course of action even in the face of such a grave threat--one can only suppose that their complete lack of wisdom and intelligence speaks for itself.

Thanks for sharing this, C.K. Coming on the heels of your regrettable citation of the airheaded Jennifer Rubin, you admirably decided to “up your game” by having recourse to the highly intelligent Ms. “Hale-Stern”. Nice recovery.

Well, I see that the timer for the next commercial break is almost down to zero, so I better get outta here.

On “Jennifer Rubin: Pro-Trump Republicans will get nothing, not even retention of a House majority – The Washington Post

Additionally: What matters most to Republicans, or in politics as in many other matters to the "white working class," may be whether they believe or perceive themselves or their status to be in grave jeopardy. They seem to believe the flood is coming, so it's matter of seizing and fortifying as much of the high ground as possible. If and after the wave hits, they may face an empowered majority that will see little or no or anyway much less reason not to adopt the same or many of the very same tactics to reinforce their power and impose their will, regardless of formerly respected constraints that the "conservative" party, in its desperation, has been willing to undermine.

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Mr. McKenzie - there's no timer til the next break for a commercial, so no point at all in selectively quoting a text that's right up there for all three of us to see. When Rubin writes "the precedent of firing an FBI director investigating the White House," and you shorten it to "the precedent of firing an FBI director" in order to frame some bit of ridicule first in her direction, then presumably in the direction of anyone who finds what she has to say of interest, you're not arguing a point worth arguing. You're trolling us or playing to a non-existent gallery.

Ditto when Rubin attaches the word "uniquely" to "dishonest," but you respond as though she had extended the adverb comprehensively to the full list of adjectives. Specifically on the matter of honesty, the assessment she is referencing is quite defensible. All presidents have lied. All people lie. Few presidents or people compare to Trump on the matter of compressing so many prevarications, contradictions, falsehoods, and distortions into such small spaces so constantly and so consistently, and in making flagrantly dishonest arguments central to his political practice, from Birtherism to the latest fumbled cover-up. The only stories he seems able to keep straight for any extended time are the most flagrantly ridiculous: That his inauguration was fantastically well-attended and his inaugural speech highly rated, that millions of illegal immigrants were the only reason he did not win more raw votes than crooked Hillary, etc. Otherwise, given the President's manifest verbal and intellectual disabilities, his difficulty holding or completing a thought at all, or recalling what he himself was saying a few years, months, weeks, days, or minutes ago, or caring, the question is whether he and the Administration he leads are capable of honesty, as the term is commonly understood, except inadvertently.

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A framed map depicting the 2016 popular vote distribution, which roughly replicated the current US population distribution by density if you color-coded low density in red, high in blue, was recently spotted being brought into the White House. If we view the character of the US government to be of, by, and for the people rather than of, by, and for the acres, the map points to a distorted view of electoral support for the President in November 2016. Treating counties as equivalent units amounts to an even more extreme distortion, kind of an intellectual gerrymander, since "county" in the U.S. covers the ground, as it were, from Pop. 82 Loving, Texas, to Pop. 10,000,000 Los Angeles, CA. By land mass it covers 53 sq. mi. Kalawao, HI, to my own beloved San Bernardino, 51,590 sq. mi. I'll not pause to review the so-called "county equivalents," and instead end my Google-Wikipedia researches here.

Anyway, I'll readily acknowledge, as often in the past I have been among the first to note, that, if you judge results by attachment of the letter R to numbers of representatives at all levels of government, vs attachment of the letter D, then the R party has done quite well for itself up to the present moment. The exercise in which Jennifer Rubin in her column, and bob and I way down here, have been indulging, is one in which credibility is lent to the Q poll, as in, "if the election were held today" and so on: So: If the Q polls and other polls are to be trusted at all - are as close to the final results as were, say, the much-abused 2016 presidential election polls - if the election were held today, and voting decisions roughly matched polled party preferences according to historical patterns, then... the very same judgment currently declaring the Rs the great historical winners will have to be reversed, just as similar ones were reversed in 2006 - 8, prior to the next reversal, and so on.

There are other ways to assess results. The judgment of history in 1942 might have seemed, to those who have no understanding of the idea of the judgment of history, wholly in favor of the German Reich and Co, or of Napoleonic France in 1812, etc., very etc. In short, the someone or -thing is surely coming, as it comes to all, great empires and nobodies on or off the internet. The question now is whether what the Rs finally leave behind will be a shattered visage of Donald Trump and the inscription "Look on my works, ye Haters and Losers, and despair!"

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Wade you raise a lot of good points pointing to the frequent political dynamic of not only both the R's and D's, but pols everywhere through all time ie snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. While I don't agree with a number of your specifics, the general point remains.

However what I had in mind especially in my comment, and for some time now, is how many people seem to vote R but want the D program to a significant degree. The current health care debate illustrates this.

Many people voted for Trump, and R in general, but want the benefits and protections of the ACA. Or rather want, enhanced benefits and at least the current protections of the ACA.

R's frame this as "of course people want to keep stuff once they get it" as if the task of the R's is to protect people from themselves. Most people don't like the ACA not because it impinges on their liberty, but because it doesn't sufficiently solve the problem of obtaining medical insurance for people in the individual market.

Building on CK's comment, the R's sunk costs in the ideology of negative liberty have made it quite difficult for them to propose govt actions to even begin to solve the problems people identify themselves.

Put another way, Paul Ryan's frequent appeal for "conservative solutions" just about always, to this observer, privilege "conservative" over "solutions".

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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, etc.

I'd like to think the flaw in this--regarding "control of the U.S. House of Representatives"--would go without saying.

When voters on a district by district basis begin to evince a similar tendency, then we'll know Republican control of the House is endangered, but not before then.

an incompetent, scandal-plagued and uniquely dishonest administration.

That's right, folks. More dishonest and scandal-plagued than the Nixon administration during the Watergate crisis--more dishonest than LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin--more dishonest than JFK and his serial adulteries and concealed health problems--more dishonest than Bill Clinton and "that woman, Ms. Lewinsky"--

remaining unconcerned with the precedent of firing an FBI director

There was widespread and bipartisan dissatisfaction with Jim Comey. As to "the precedent" of firing an FBI director, it certainly isn't unprecendented--and if it were, it would probably be desirable to establish one, since the position of FBI director itself has a somewhat chequered history.

confirming some of the worst nominees in history

Gee, that's "fairly described", isn't it? That's not a sectarian perspective.

including an attorney general who appears to have reneged on his promise to recuse himself

Really? So an attorney general who recuses himself from a particular investigation can no longer superintend the FBI director?

Well, even were that the case--which, of course, it isn't--that doesn't prevent the deputy attorney general (let alone the President of the United States himself) from superintending the FBI director.

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they have no choice or interest-calculus other than to continue as they have been until someone or -thing compels them to stop.

Yes--and we've yet to hear any plausible scenario about what that "someone or -thing" would look like, let alone be. A Democratic Party besotted by an alienating bourgeois ideology practically calibrated to offend (and even demonize) the white working class and relegated to coastal enclaves, however locally strong (I mean, have you looked at a map of last year's election on a county by county basis?), almost certainly isn't the "someone or -thing". Ergo...

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It occurs to me that, in my preceding comment, I said that the Democrats "lost the Senate to boot" in last year's election. I'd like to think that anyone reading along would take my larger meaning despite the mistaken expression, but before anyone corrects me, permit me to acknowledge the mistake. If I could revise that clause it would read something like "failed to take either chamber of Congress" or some such.

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Or there's a sunk costs syndrome going on as well. They gave in to what became the Tea Party, beginning at latest with the failure of "Compassionate Conservatism," and their only unifying theory, vis-a-vis the federal government and its intrinsically progressive constitution, is negation. They've now put more than 10 years into it, and they have no choice or interest-calculus other than to continue as they have been until someone or -thing compels them to stop.

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Bob, I really can't help but marvel at the stated assumption of your comment: namely, that the Republican control of the Presidency and Congress is "not durable against the long term trends." Granted, there's been a lot of talk on that line over the past fifteen years or so, much of it plainly self-serving. But what we saw in the last national election was a veritable collapse of the Democratic Party on a national basis--a showing that really ought to alarm every committed Democrat but apparently does not, given the paucity of self-critical analysis from that quarter.

We hear endlessly about how Russia "stole" the election (by releasing internal comments of Clinton campaign and DNC insiders that were widely viewed as being offensive) and how Jim Comey disrupted Hillary's sure-fire election prospects at the eleventh hour. We've heard relatively little about how moribund Hillary was as a presidential candidate and as a corollary how moribund the Democratic National Committee cum Politburo is--the Wikileaks documents exposed the way in which the DNC rigged the outcome of the nomination process in the face of a groundswell of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders. By contrast, we surely learned that the Republican National Committee played fair and square by their candidates--and proceeded to win a major victory.

Yes, the Democrats are strong in certain prominent urban enclaves on the West and East coasts. Yet, the fact that the Democrats failed to win the last election against a candidate widely presumed to be unelectable, that they lost the Senate to boot, and that they suffered a calamitous decline in their representation in state legislatures would seem to testify to the widespread unpopularity of the Democratic Party across an extensive geographic distribution--and, unfortunately for the Democrats, popularity across an extensive geographic distribution is just how elections for both the President and Congress are structured in this country. Whether talk of "long term trends" disfavoring the Republican Party turns out to be true or false, those long term trends won't affect the short term of the 2018 or 2020 elections.

If one is going to speculate on the imminent demise of the Republican Party on the national level, one can only do so by positing the correlative rise of the Democrats. It really doesn't matter much if millions of Hispanics keep piling up in California or if thousands of Somalis keep piling up in Minnesota. Long term trends like that don't help the Democrats win the Presidency or the Congress; and, in the meantime, those same trends antagonize the white working class throughout the country--and the white working class really is a critical constituency. Right now, President Trump has a lock on that constituency (witness the continuing enthusiasm of his rallies), which isn't concentrated in a few enclaves but is evenly distributed throughout the states. Will the Democrats do anything to pick that lock or will they double down on the same elite bourgeois ideology of "diversity" that lost them the white working class in the first place? All signs point to the latter prospect.

As for Speaker Ryan's comments on the "one shot" of passage for the AHCA, that seems to me a reference only to internal dynamics of the Republicans in Congress vis a vis Obamacare, not to their electoral prospects overall. I can't imagine that any Republican official at this point in time is sweating the party's prospects against a moribund Democratic Party that is in process of losing its historically core constituency.

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P Ryan's first assessment of the AHCA's chances of passage, something like "this is our only shot" seems to express a greater anxiety that they only have the WH and Con. majorities because of a variety manipulations they've been able to make to the electoral process, and to the biases of the processes itself. And they these are not durable against the long term trends. So it's "now or never" ie there is a basic desperation to their political calculus. My experience is that people do not make consistently good decisions under the duress of desperation. So a variant of political survival has already kicked in, and for the time being seems to be crowding out the form That JR wonders about

On “All the News that’s Fit to Kill (OAG #8)

For what its worth, the Guardian has a long read on Accelerationism that's covers a lot territory.

On “Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and to an extent any leader of that country, but not entirely. GWB rather easily evaded that weight and embarked on a pre-emptive policy in Iraq.

Obama evaded that weight by taking no kinetic action in Syria.

Whatever the weight of a country's foreign policy, individual leaders mostly do, and should have their own ideas based on their understanding of their country's interests and place in the world. These ideas rise to knowing what you're doing, only when they rise to a level of detail, logic and sophistication. There is no evidence that fellow has this, not only in foreign policy, but man other areas as well (who knew it could be so complicated?)

Knowing what you're doing increases the chances of success in the aggregate but not necessarily in the particular. Once when my wife was facing a difficult surgery, I asked the surgeon how many of his patients died from the procedure. He gave me a number and said it was because he took the difficult cases. That was the correct and reassuring answer.

That fellow merits the charge that he doesn't know what he's doing because he has no track record of success and failure in the matters of State, and has been disinclined to educate himself.

Were it only the case that people praise actions because they think the actor knows what he's doing. On second thought, such a state may have messy consequences for households with small children and pets.

That fellow is notorious for his need for praise and attention. What better way to try to influence him than to praise him when he happens to do something of which you approve?

He expresses respect for his military advisors, as do most others. As I said in my first comment here, "people around him who do know what they’re doing cannot save the day because he’s the Pres and they are not."

That this strike fits into the general past weight of US foreign policy means little in the current situation. A "one off-er" was a common description of it.

Until he shows otherwise, I will regard him as the Pres leading from no where, who doesn't know what he's doing.

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Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying cry - but I don't see why it matters.

To the extent that various politicians worldwide may have voiced degrees and types of support for the Khan Sheikhoun retaliation strike - e.g., referring to justification for it without ever specifically endorsing it, voicing reservations about its legality while keeping the onus on Assad, suggesting that it would be supportable if part of a larger strategy, suggesting that its status as, apparently, a one-off, meant that problems with it need not be emphasized, etc. - then, indeed, they, too, in multiple senses, may not know what they're doing. They may not know what they're doing because they cannot know what they are doing in present circumstances. They may not know what they're doing in part because international law itself is a bit of a mess on the underlying questions, and because the value of international law seems uncertain to them, and because they are incompetent in other ways, and perhaps not least because what the notional Leader of the Free World intends to do and what he is doing are not really knowable, in other words because the specific problem of President Trump is that, even if he were to decide firmly in his own mind what he is doing and intends to do, and were to articulate one or both clearly, there is nothing in his conduct and record that suggests he would understand himself to be bound by his word, however clearly stated. To me it seems doubtful even that the words "firmly in his own mind," which presume the existence of sound mental faculties, are to be applied to him at all.

Whether or how much the last problem
- the empty head of government and state problem - matters defines the natural experiment that we have set up for ourselves, with ourselves as natural experimental subjects. That in that experiment a kind of policy inertia in line with a kind of strategic inertia or strategic necessity may already be trumping Trump, or trumping Trumpian political and intellectual inconsistency, may be for us a good thing or at least better than certain worse things. There are names for the various schools of political science that predicted something like this. I've never denied such hopes, and I wouldn't deny them.

It does not follow, however, that an openly admitted distaste for Trump and associated alarm at the reality of President Trump must equate with particular "love" and support for whatever "establishments" or for agreement with whatever whichever of their representatives happen to have said whenever. I've long been of the opinion - as I have, I believe, expressed with non-Trumpian consistency - that the Trump presidency represents a system failure, and that a system failure is our failure. Put plainly: I think and have said that I think he's our fault, as I think and have said that Obama's Syria fiasco was also our fault as much as it was Obama's fault in particular, and I also happen to find the degree of moral, political, and also legal confusion at work and shirk in the world today to be downright spectacular. We - from the best and the brightest to just plain folks like you and me - did these embarrassing things, or failed to come up with anything better, together. That's what I think, and I can't see why anyone should think anything else.

"

The conversation that you and Bob were having at the time that I wrote my comment had everything to do with the recent missile strike on Syria and little to do with the specifics of Goldberg's piece, and it was to that conversation I was responding.

The idea that Obama's (hypothetical) response to the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria would have been superior to Trump's must be balanced against the univocal support given by the political establishments of the G7 countries to President Trump's action.

In addition, the strike has garnered widespread support from the U.S. political establishment--even Chuck Schumer gave his whole-hearted blessing to President Trump's deed. So I don't see how President Obama's ostensible premeditated consensus-building could be imagined to supersede President Trump's existing Congressional and foreign consensus after the fact.

In your original comment, you claimed that “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!”--a line that you subsequently removed before you published my comment. With or without its explicit presence in the documentary record, the expression of that sentiment itself was about the only thing really going on in your virtue-signaling exchange with bob (on both your parts) and I wanted to make the obvious point that, given the broad consensus on the part of political establishments both at home and abroad in favor of the missile strike--to say nothing of its seamless consonance with President Obama's policy--those same establishments must not know what they are doing either. (Right, my friend?)

I also want to make clear that I myself do not think that President Obama's refraining from striking Syria was a "blunder"--I only said "that [it] was widely construed by establishment commentators and politicians at the time [or better, afterwards] to have been a blunder." Again, I sought to make the point that Trump's action was fully in accord with political establishments here in North America and Western Europe.

You're certainly correct, though, that the missile strike represents an about-face from Trump's tweets at the time Obama was contemplating his own response to the Ghouta incident, as well as Trump's rhetoric throughout the 2016 campaign. I can only refer us all to the common-sense apothegm that runs, "Meet the new boss,..."

As it turns out, pace Donald Trump himself, the president does appear to have a foreign policy--more or less the same foreign policy as his predecessor. And that would seem to be due to the fact that said policy is not and never has been the product of individual intention or inclination but is rather the consequence of permanent and constraining geopolitical interests that transcend and outlast any given administration. Appearances to the contrary tend to be cosmetic, as no one should know better than you.

*Comment archive for non-registered commenters assembled by email address as provided.

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