The Pup Tent Party?

Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi, both of whom actually belong to the Democratic Party, said what shouldn’t have needed to be said: DNC Chairman Tom Perez was wrong when he said the national party would not support any candidate who did not support reproductive rights. Here’s part of what Perez said:

Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.

He is right. Everyone should support reproductive rights for women and those rights should not change depending on where you happen to live. But he is wrong to ignore the reality of American politics. Pro-choice Democrats can’t get elected in some places.

Both Warren and Pelosi are, in Warren’s words, “strongly pro-choice.” Pelosi said:

I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive — my family would say aggressive — position on promoting a woman’s right to choose.

Image result for warren and pelosiBut both of these powerful Democrats recognize, as do most party leaders, that the issue of abortion is one that plays differently in Louisiana than it does in Massachusetts or California. We should remember that when Democrats held a majority in the House in 2009, it was because more than three dozen anti-choicers called themselves Democrats.

Leading Democrats have more work to do in convincing an overwhelming majority of people that women should be able to control their own bodies, should be able to make their own choices about having children and how many they should have. Until then, we have to live with the fact that not everyone, including not everyone in the Democratic Party, agrees with the party’s platform on the issue. Warren put it well:

I recognize that not all of my colleagues agree with me. I’ll do everything I can to persuade them, but they are my colleagues, and that’s just how it is with the Democrats. But I got to say, it does not dampen my energy in this fight.

It’s the same way with issues like single-payer health insurance. Many Democrats don’t support the concept, either as a revolutionary change in our system or even as an incremental change, step by step until we get there. These Democrats need to be convinced otherwise, as far as I’m concerned. But if they are willing to fight for other issues that we Democrats have in common, then they should be welcome in our party to fight with us on those issues.

The two major political parties in our system are, by the nature of the case, full of all kinds of people with all kinds of views on all kinds of issues. There is no one issue that defines what a Democrat is, even if there does come a point where you can disagree with so many core principles of the party that you should just call yourself something else and get out of the tent.

Et Tu, O?

Taking time away from unpresidenting Tr-mp on this blog is not something I want to do. But in this case, I think I need to address something unpleasant that I did not see coming.

By now you have read the headline:

Obama to be paid $400,000 for Cantor Fitzgerald speech

Cantor Fitzgerald is an investment bank and brokerage firm. You may remember that its corporate headquarters was located inside of One World Trade Center on 9/11. And you may remember that it lost more than two-thirds of its employees—658 people—including the brother of the CEO, Howard Lutnick. According to Wikipedia,

the company was able to bring its trading markets back online within a week. On September 19, Cantor Fitzgerald made a pledge to distribute 25 percent of the firm’s profits for the next five years, and committed to paying for ten years of health care, for the benefit of the families of its 658 former Cantor Fitzgerald, eSpeed, and TradeSpark employees (profits which would otherwise have been distributed to the Cantor Fitzgerald partners). In 2006, the company completed its promise, having paid a total of $180 million (and an additional $17 million from a relief fund run by Lutnick’s sister, Edie).

New York magazine published an article in 2011 that credited the “willful determination of Lutnick and the other survivors” for the firm’s subsequent success and noted:

…it’s been suggested their crisis-preparedness helped them avoid some of the worst of the crash of 2008: While Cantor trafficked heavily in the mortgage bonds that would prove to be the downfall of many, it wisely did not hang on to any for itself. Its financial success has allowed the firm to extend its philanthropy: According to Edie Lutnick, funds earmarked for memorializing family members lost on 9/11 have given life to 500 new charities, including a Manhattan-based bereavement center for children, and the company recently donated money from its annual charity day to the victims of the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. Which distinguishes it in the disaster of this decade, too: It may be the only company that bought and sold lousy mortgage bonds that can plausibly lay claim to a greater social purpose.

Okay. Perhaps this particular Wall Street investment bank is better than most. Perhaps it is worthy of President Obama’s time and prestige. I don’t know. I do know that its CEO, Howard Lutnick, backed John McCain in 2008. And I know he backed Jeb Bush last year. And I know the event at which Obama will speak, a “healthcare conference,” was described by the company “as an opportunity to introduce investors to executives at dozens of the biggest healthcare companies,” according to CNBC. And there is something else I know: our ex-president, the guy many of us thought was just a little bit different from other politicians, is wrong to take such a large fee for speaking, unless he plans to donate the money to some kind of charity (we don’t know whether he plans to or not).

At any time, but particularly at this Tr-mpian time, it is unseemly and off-putting for Mr. Obama to feed the cynicism that has infected our country, our electorate, our politics. He has often talked about that cynicism, which helped bring us Tr-mp and Tr-mpism. In fact, he talked about it the other day at the University of Chicago, during an event designed to get young people involved in “changing the world.” Wait. Let me quote him in full (emphasis mine):

I’m spending a lot of time thinking, “What is the most important thing I can do for my next job?” And what I’m convinced of is that, although there are all kinds of issues I care about and all kinds of issues I intend to work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help, in any way I can, prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world.

Because the one thing that I’m absolutely convinced of is that, yes, we confront a whole range of challenges from economic inequality and lack of opportunity to a criminal justice system that too often is skewed in ways that are unproductive to climate change to, you know, issues related to violence. All those problems are serious. They’re daunting. But they’re not insolvable.

What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life. It has to do with the fact that because of things like political gerrymandering our parties have moved further and further apart and it’s harder and harder to find common ground. Because of money and politics.

Special interests dominate the debates in Washington in ways that don’t match up with what the broad majority of Americans feel.

The next day we learned about that $400,000 speaking fee from a Wall Street bank.

To put it bluntly, it is hard not to be cynical in the face of the news that Obama seems to be, like so many before him, cashing in. Again, we don’t know what he plans on doing with the money, but assuming the worst, assuming he merely adds it to the $65 million he and Michelle got from Penguin Random House for two books they are writing, it is all very depressing.

Vox’s Matthew Yglesias put this stunning development in a larger context:

The election in France earlier this week shows that the triumph of populist demagogues is far from inevitable. But to beat it, mainstream politicians and institutions need to shape up — not just with better policies, but with the kind of self-sacrificing spirit and moral leadership that successful movements require.

That means some people are going to have to start making less money and raising the ethical bar for conduct, rather than leveling down to the worst acts of their predecessors.

That is exactly right. And I would have been the first to argue that President Obama was someone who would not cash in and would in fact raise the ethical bar for out-of-office conduct. Now, though, unless all that Wall Street money he will get goes to charity, I will have no real argument. Obama, despite his soaring words over the years, despite his inspirational, civic-minded talk to young folks in Chicago the other day, will have become part of the problem of a creeping, crippling cynicism torturing liberal democracies everywhere. Yglesias writes (again, my emphasis):

a crucial vulnerability of center-left politics around the world is that their sincere conviction — a faith in the positive-sum nature of cosmopolitan values and appropriately regulated forms of global capitalism, tempered by a welfare state — is easily mistaken for corruption. The political right is supposed to be pro-business as a matter of ideological commitment. The progressive center is supposed to be empirically minded, challenging business interests where appropriate but granting them free rein at other times.

This approach has a lot of political and substantive merits. But it is invariably subject to the objection: really?

Did you really avoid breaking up the big banks because you thought it would undermine financial stability, or were you on the take? Did you really think a fracking ban would be bad for the environment, or were you on the take? One man’s sophisticated and pragmatic approach to public policy can be the other man’s grab bag of corrupt opportunism.

Image result for obama appears in chicagoMr. Obama needs to think about something the next time—and there will be plenty of next times—some “fat cats” come to him with a basketful of money asking for a few minutes of his time. He needs to think about how a lowly blogger here in Missouri, one who spent eight years believing in his vision for the country and defending his personal integrity, might feel if, as our former president, he enriches himself by speaking to people who aren’t interested in furthering the causes that so many of us who supported Obama believe in. No, actually, he needs to think about how his conduct out of office, his conduct as someone whose integrity so many people genuinely thought transcended the corruption surrounding the money-based system in Washington, will turn so many people away from a hope of transforming the system.

He needs to think about how many cynics $400,000 can buy.

White Trash In The White’s House

If anyone ever asks me, on some future date, why I refuse to call Tr-mp “president,” why I refuse to acknowledge his legitimacy and fitness for the office, why I consider him to have, perhaps permanently, cratered the dignity of the presidency, and why I consider him to represent the worst of America, I will simply point to this picture of him and Ted Nugent:

636283237459049887-nugent-trump.jpg

Or perhaps I’ll point to this one:

Image result for sarah palin and ted nugent flip off picture of hillary clinton

These are pictures of classless people. And they spent four hours in the White’s House with an even more classless Tr-mp, talking about, according to Ted Nugent, “pretty girls.”

Three years ago, Larry Womack of The Huffington Post wrote this about Nugent:

In fact, in the case of Nugent, we have even come to see alleged child sexual abuse as some sort of eccentricity or harmless vice. Can you imagine anyone else who had been accused of having sex with a 12-year-old, written a song about raping a 13-year-old and adopted a 17-year-old so that he could have sex with her going on to campaign alongside all the most conservative “family values” candidates? […]

Would governors and congressmen hit the campaign trail with that guy? Would they send their children to his “Kamp for Kids” — and professional snipers? What would they say about almost any other man? They wouldn’t call him a creep or a redneck. They’d call him a pedophile.

Instead, Nugent is embraced as some sort of down-home firebrand. He’s a redneck rock star; sex with kids is just part of the package! Sarah Palin says that if a candidate “is good enough for Ted Nugent, he is good enough for me!” Congressmen invite him to the State of the Union.

Besides all that, we have the gun-worshipping, warmongering Nugent’s admission in 1977 that he had an elaborate plan to dodge the Vietnam War draft:

Then two weeks before, I stopped eating any food with nutritional value. I just had chips, Pepsi, beer — stuff I never touched– buttered poop, little jars of Polish sausages, and I’d drink the syrup. I was this side of death. Then a week before, I stopped going to the bathroom. I did it in my pants. Poop, piss, the whole shot. My pants got crusted up.

I don’t have to rehearse all the stupid, nasty, racist, bigoted things that crusty pants Ted Nugent has said, but here are a few of them:

“If Barack Obama becomes the next president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. Why are you laughing? Do you think that’s funny? That’s not funny at all. I’m serious as a heart attack.”

“I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.”

“I was in Chicago last week. I was in Chicago and said, “Hey, Obama you might want to suck on one of these you punk.” Obama, he’s a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun. Let’s hear it for him. And then I was in New York. I said, “Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch. Since I’m in California, how about Barbara Boxer, she might want to suck on my machine gun. And Dianne Feinstein, ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions?”

Those are the words of a man whom Sarah Palin—a classless quitter cynically brought into American politics by a tainted John McCain, thereby helping pave the way for Tr-mpism—embraces and celebrates. Those are the words of a man with whom she proudly stood in the White’s House, in front of a portrait of the former First Lady—the same one Nugent called a “worthless bitch” and suggested she “ride” on his “machine gun”—and mocked Hillary Clinton. And Palin stood there and posed with Ted Nugent in front of that portrait with the permission of Donald Tr-mp, who might have been the one Nugent was referring to when he told the New York Times that someone asked the three of them to “extend their middle fingers beneath the portrait.”

The term “white trash” goes back a long way in American history. It has had a lot of meanings over time. Certainly, somewhere in the extended pedigree of that word Donald Tr-mp and his vulgar, boorish, clownish friends can be found. Alongside the misogyny, the racism, the xenophobia, and general bigotry of these people, there is the simple fact that they are unrefined, unpolished, unsophisticated, ill-bred schmucks who, by their very presence, disgrace what is fast becoming the trashiest house in America’s neighborhood.

The Message, The Messenger, And How Democratic Party Unity Is A Two-Way Street

The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

—Matthew 8:30

A after a recent piece I posted on a reported stupid move being considered by Senate Democrats (“Some Senate Democrats Are, Well, Idiots“), one writer, Jim Hight, told me the following:

Yes, Democrats are their worst enemies. I hope Elizabeth warren takes over the Majority Partly Leader when (and if) Democrats take the Senate. I write “and if” because the party will always lose unless this tiff with the Bernie supporters ends. As long as the in-fighting continues, Republicans will continue to tear the country apart.

Another writer, DG, commenting on Jim Hight’s observation, said this:

…a united party must appear very shortly. Jim Hight suggests Elizabeth Warren as a possible leader to unite the scaredy cats on the left. That may well be a good start but we need more. […]

Of course I voted for Hillary, but I am a Bernie supporter. That is, I very much support his views…we need a very progressive movement. Bernie has started one. You can see it with the protests and marches that are taking place everyday somewhere in this country. It’s an angry, disgusted and desperate cry to stop this dangerous bullshit republican take over before it gets way out of hand. Thank God they are!

I know what I have to say below, which I write with some trepidation, will make some people mad. It will upset some folks. But so be it. I’m here to express my opinion. As a Democrat, I’m here to give you my honest take on what I see and where I think we are going as a party and who should lead us there. Here goes:

It happens that Bernie Sanders was on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” on Tuesday. Sanders appeared with the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, who is, bless his heart, trying like hell to hold onto the Sanders folks, trying to keep them from bolting from the Democratic Party when it comes time to vote. Sanders and Perez are on what they are calling a “Unity Tour.” Hayes played a video clip of Sanders saying the following:

Our job is to bring millions of people into the political process. Our job is to radically transform the Democratic Party. And when we are united, we are strongest as a party, as a  nation, as a resistance movement.

Hayes then asked Sanders the obvious question:

You’re talking about reforming, reviving, transforming the Democratic Party.  Do you consider yourself a Democrat?

That’s a fair question, isn’t it? Sanders ran as a Democrat in last year’s presidential primaries. His campaign manager said a year ago that Bernie would remain a Democrat after it was all over. And Bernie just said “when we are united, we are strongest as a party.”  But here is how Bernie answered Hayes’ “Do you consider yourself a Democrat?” question:

No. I’m an independent.  And I think if the Democratic Party is going to succeed—and I want to see it succeed —it’s gonna have to open its door to independents. There are probably more independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It’s got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party. That’s what we need.

With jaw-dropping audacity, Sanders sat right next to the DNC chairman (whom Sanders opposed during the DNC election process) and said that although he, Bernie Sanders, wanted to “radically transform the Democratic Party,” he didn’t want to become a Democrat. He essentially said he is happily married to some gal named “Independent.” It is that gal, Ms. Independent, to whom he owes his fidelity, his first and final allegiance and loyalty. Okay. I get it. In other words, Bernie wants to not only go home to Ms. Independent at night, but he wants to have a girlfriend on the side in the daytime, one whom he isn’t quite ready to leave Ms. Independent for, but nevertheless one whom he thinks he should get to sleep with while he simultaneously demands she radically change her ways and become the girl of his dreams. Apparently, he wants the Democratic Party to become his perfect mistress.

Well, to hell with that nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I think many of Bernie’s ideas are something that Democrats could hang their hats on, could run on and win on (Hillary actually ran on many of them, which is why Bernie’s call for “radically” transforming the party makes little sense to me). But we need someone to come along and talk a lot like Bernie does, but do so while actually marrying the party, committing to it, warts and all. Bernie isn’t that guy. Weirdly, he thinks he can reform the party from the outside; he thinks he can change her ways while still going home to Ms. Independent at night. He thinks he can still retain what he thinks is his moral integrity even while he is flirting, sometimes with the crude entitlement of a Bill O’Reilly, with Ms. Democrat. He flirts while talking smack, enticing her with his rap about rich people getting away with murder while the lower and middle classes suffer, using his position of power to dominate her, to exploit her weakness, to make her give in to his demands. In Bernie’s case, the Democratic Party was a campaign fling, the handy dame he used to run for president against Hillary Clinton. He used the party when he wanted something, even if it was something many Democrats wanted, too. But Bernie’s would-be mistress is not, and apparently never will be, his wife. Why? Because the Democratic Party is not something Bernie wants to come home to at night and snuggle with. He’s not the snuggling, spooning type. He seems to be, to put it crudely, the O’Reilly of party politics.

And make no mistake about it. Bernie can talk the talk. He can paint a broad picture of the economic and political landscape that most Democrats, but not all, find appealing. He is the Picasso of populism on the left. Mind you, he’s short on details, but, as we found out from Tr-mp’s Russian-aided triumph, details don’t really matter all that much to the electorate these days. You merely have to have a monster to attack. You have to have a villain to gun down (as Chris Hayes suggested during his Bernie interview). You have to Image result for demon and the pigshave a devil to cast out. How you gun down your villain, how you cast out your devil, is the hard part, of course. But Tr-mp’s razor-thin Electoral College win shows us that the “how” doesn’t much matter, doesn’t interest people all that much in the voting booth. What does interest them, what does matter, is that you say you want to gun down the villain, shoot the bad guy; you say you want to cast out the demon from a possessed system and send it into the swine, and then send the swine over the cliff.

Bernie told Chris Hayes:

What the party has got to focus on are the most important issues facing working people – that’s the decline of the middle class; that’s the need to take on the billionaire class and Wall Street and the insurance companies and bring people together, a) against Trump`s absolutely reactionary agenda, and, b) fight for a progressive agenda which, among other things, includes a Medicare for all single-payer program.

As I said, Bernie is short on details on how to get all that done. Fighting for a single-payer insurance system is music to my ears (and music to the ears of 80% of Democrats and 60% of independents. But someone has to write down the actual notes on paper, complete with the lyrics about how to win that fight and make it happen in a reluctant, splintered Congress. Someone has to tell us how that can be accomplished in a country so divided as ours, with an electorate so susceptible to the right-wing propaganda that would surely come with such a fight. Vermont, Bernie’s own state, tried the single-payer route. It didn’t work out too well.

To reiterate, the details are less important, at this stage, than the rhetoric. Tr-mp doesn’t have much of value to teach anyone, but he did educate us on how one can win an election without a 48-point policy plan. You simply pick out a couple of bad guys, like the Wall Street oligarchs whose handprints are all over Tr-mp and his administration, and go after them, relentlessly. If our next presidential candidate and our congressional candidates in 2018 and 2020 can successfully do that—if we get a Democratic Congress, and a legitimate president in the White’s House—then we can, and will have to, talk details later. Maybe all we can get done at first are much-needed improvements to the Affordable Care Act. Maybe we can get more. But we have to get in power first.

All that leads me to what you will see below in a video from Wednesday’s Rachel Maddow Show. All that leads me to Elizabeth Warren. She is a Democrat. She is actually married, willingly, to the Democratic Party. She recognizes the party is not all it should be, but sees it for what it can be, the vehicle for real reform, the vehicle to bring about the necessary change that Sanders and his followers say they want. But she also realizes that one cannot demand change from outside the party. She realizes that one cannot demand that the pursued radically change before the pursuer will half-heartedly commit. Warren realizes, as her support for Hillary Clinton demonstrated last year, that change comes from a committed relationship, not from a one-sided, I’ll-tell-you-what-I-want-before-I-give-you-my-love affair. She’s in bed with the party. She doesn’t have another lover on the side to whom she can go if the Democratic Party lets her down in this way or that.

And that’s why I prefer her to Bernie Sanders. I’ve always had reservations about Bernie because Bernie has so many reservations about the Democratic Party. I’ve always had trouble trusting Bernie because Bernie has so much trouble trusting Democrats. Commenter Jim Hight above says “the party will always lose unless this tiff with the Bernie supporters ends.” He’s probably right. We do have to work it out. We do have to heal the divisions between the Sanders voters and the Democratic Party. But that’s not a one-sided task, not a mending that can be done only by Democrats kneeling at the feet of an independent Bernie Sanders and asking for his forgiveness and promising we’ll do whatever he wants us to do.

Bernie did a lot to hurt Hillary Clinton and, as an unintended consequence, helped elect Donald Tr-mp. Oh, I know he didn’t mean to. I know he finally got on board in the end. But he owes the party some kind of a mild mea culpa, some kind of acknowledgement that, long before he eventually came on the anti-Tr-mp general election campaign team, that he did real damage to the person he had to know, as time and primary elections went by, would be the party’s general election candidate. At the very least he owes it to the party to, for God’s sake, join it. He needs to become one of us. He needs to commit. He needs to stop his flirting. He needs to curb his I-am-entitled-to-reform-a-party-I don’t-belong-to arrogance.

Below you will find the entire episode of Wednesday’s Rachel Maddow Show. I could have chopped it up, but I decided to use the whole thing for two reasons. One is that her opening, pre-Warren segment will piss you off and make you realize why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are absolutely right about who it is that currently runs and ruins the system, using wealth as their tool. The second reason is that you will see why Elizabeth Warren, as reluctant as she is to become a national candidate to run against Tr-mp in 2020 (she has a Senate election in 2018, which takes priority), is someone who is a real Democrat, someone who really believes the party can be the vehicle to do the things that both she and Bernie, and so many progressives, believe should be done. Rachel’s interview with her, and the way Warren conducted herself and answered the questions, shows why her fidelity to the Democratic Party and her belief in its potential means much more to me than Bernie sitting next to the chairman of our party and refusing to commit to it.

Here is last night’s segment in full. You owe it to yourself, as a Democrat, as an independent, or simply as an interested observer of politics, to watch it all:

The Tr-mp Doctrine? Are You Kidding?

“The Trump doctrine? Don’t do what Obama did” 

—Chris Cillizza, writing for CNN

People forget that we are technically still at war with North Korea. In July of 1953, fighting on the peninsula stopped due to the signing of an armistice agreement that was supposed to “insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.” There has been no “final” settlement and there have been plenty of “acts of armed force” since 1953.

In 1956, the old Soviet Union first introduced the North Koreans to nuclear technology, via training its scientists and engineers. The Soviets continued over the years to help Image result for korean peninsula at nightnurse North Korea along in this and in other ways (along with the Chinese). In the late 1950s, under President Eisenhower, the U.S. introduced real nuclear missiles into the mix, which was a abrogation of part of the armistice agreement (click on this link for an interesting look at “How the Korean War Almost Went Nuclear” in 1950, under Truman; for a look at Ike’s mixed views on the use of nukes, read Chapter 12 from Ira Chernus’s “Faith and Fear in the Fifties“).

Since Eisenhower’s actions in the ’50s (George H. W. Bush unilaterally withdrew all tactical nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea in 1991), the biggest worry in the region has been the nuclear issue and whether the North Koreans would become a big-time nuclear power. With the collapse of the Soviet Union after 1989, North Korea essentially lost one of its lifelines. It became poorer, more desperate, and more dangerous. The American Security Project put the situation in these terms:

This begins the rebalancing of power within the North-South Korean dyad later noted as one of the systemic factors driving North Korea’s nuclear program.

Since then, various attempts were made to curb the development of that nuclear program and the testing required. Threats were issued, deals were offered, joint statements were made. But all those things depended on the assumption that there are reliably rational actors on the North Korean side. There is little evidence of that, however. Early in 2013, the North conducted another nuclear test, causing the UN to issue a resolution, complete with sanctions, condemning the test. As the BBC reported back then,

South Korea’s ambassador to the UN, Kim Sook, said it was time for North Korea to “wake up from its delusion” of becoming a nuclear state.

“It can either take the right path toward a bright future and prosperity, or it can take a bad road toward further and deeper isolation and eventual self-destruction,” he said.

US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the sanctions would “further constrain” North Korea’s ability to develop its nuclear programme.

She warned that the UN would “take further significant actions” if Pyongyang were to carry out another nuclear test.

These responses, the sanctions and the threat of more sanctions, is what people mean when they use the term “strategic patience” toward North Korea. After all, it is either patience or war, a war that would result not just in the deaths of American soldiers stationed in the region (and more soldiers that would be subsequently deployed there), but potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of South Korean civilians living in places like Seoul, which sits about 30 miles away from the border with the North. The Seoul Capital Area, which includes the city of Seoul, is home to around 24 million people, making it the fourth largest metro area in the world. Resuming the war with North Korea would mean certain death for an uncertain number of civilians. Thus, strategic patience.

Since Tr-mp has no experience with patience, strategic or otherwise, the first time we officially heard from this administration on the matter was from a very inexperienced diplomat who also happens to be our Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. He issued a warning in March that our “policy of strategic patience” with North Korea “has ended.” Out came another middle-school tweet from Tr-mp:

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!

On April 9, we found out that an American Navy carrier strike group was headed for the waters near the Korean Peninsula. Tr-mp, sounding like Kim Jong-un, the dangerously wacky kleptocratic criminal running North Korea, told Fox Business Network:

We are sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you.

“Armada?” Tr-mp was either displaying his extensive knowledge of 16th-century Spanish-English warfare, or he just thought the word “armada” sounded cool. Likely, it was the first time he had uttered the word in his life, unless he used it during his promotions for the History of European Conflicts and Their Affect on Real Estate Acquisitions, a little-known part of the extensive course offerings at Tr-mp University.

In any case, besides his strange use of Spanish words, there have been, of course, the stupid and dangerous Tr-mp tweets. He said on April 11:

I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!

North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.

Those two tweets sound like a teenage hacker got into Tr-mp’s Twitter account and, with Lee Greenwood’s godawful song playing in the background, decided to exercise juvenile notions of toughness, sort of like using the word armada to describe a U.S. carrier group. But, no, those were Tr-mp’s words. And they constitute threats, even if they are playground threats. The New York Times, being the New York Times, referred to this sort of dopey diction as “intemperate talk.” Well, okay. Whatever you want to call it, they are threats. The Times editorialized the obvious:

It would be risky for Mr. Trump to let overconfidence and bombast, expressed in tweets and public statements, box him into some kind of showdown with the North’s ruthless leader, Kim Jong-un, who has displayed similarly macho traits. South Korea, Japan and even Russia have urged both sides to avoid a devastating miscalculation.

Mike Pence, lapdog for the “broad-shouldered” testosteronic Tr-mp, is obviously not afraid of “devastating miscalculation.” Echoing Tillerson, he told the world, while standing on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone:

All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country…There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over.

But that wasn’t the scariest thing Pence said. This was:

Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.

I don’t know about you, but a man-crushed Pence using Tr-mp’s “strength and resolve” to challenge the crazy leader of North Korea doesn’t bring me much comfort that this thing will end well (even if we remember that Tr-mp ordered that cruise missile attack on Syria while having chocolate cake at Mar-A-Lago and he had nothing to do with the MOAB use in Afghanistan). So, we have the image, broadcast widely, of a tough Pence “staring down” the North Koreans at the demilitarized zone while offering tough Tr-mp talk, but then in comes our National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, who is supposed to be the adult in this administration. It was widely reported what he said on ABC on Sunday, during an interview with Martha Raddatz: “this problem is coming to a head.” Uh-oh. That short quote makes it sound like our strategic patience really has run out. War seems inevitable if North Korea doesn’t give up on its nuclear program, an issue that’s been around since the 1950s. Tr-mp’s recent statement that “North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of,” wasn’t just bluster.

Except here is what McMaster said in context:

RADDATZ: You know, you sound very confident. President Trump of course sounds very confident. But one final question on this: every president since Bill Clinton has said the U.S. will not tolerate a nuclear armed North Korea, and North Korea has only grown stronger in their capabilities. So why do you think President Trump will have a different outcome?

MCMASTER: Well, as you mentioned, this is a problem that has been passed down from multiple administrations. But our president, I think, it’s really the consensus with the president, our key allies in the regions — Japan and South Korea in particular, but also the Chinese leadership — that this problem is coming to a head. And so it’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.

And so we’re going to rely on our allies like we always do, but we’re also going to have to rely on Chinese leadership. I mean, North Korea is very vulnerable to pressure from the Chinese. Eighty percent of North Korea’s trade comes from China. All of their energy requirements are fulfilled by China.

So in the coming weeks, months, I think there’s a great opportunity for all of us — all of us who are really under the threat now of this unpredictable regime — to take action short of armed conflict, so we can avoid the worst.

Now, if you look back at the history of our relations with North Korea on the issue of their obtaining nuclear weapons that actually work, what McMaster said sounded very much like what everyone else has said. In other words, what he said sounded very much like strategic patience. Earlier in that interview he said about “Tr-mp’s aggressive tweets”:

MCMASTER: I think it should make clear to the North Korean regime that it is in their best interest to stop the development of these weapons, to stop the development of these missiles, and to denuclearize the peninsula. And so I think while it’s unclear — and we want to — do not want to telegraph in any way how we’ll respond to certain incidents, it’s clear that the president is determined not to allow this kind of capability to threaten the United States. And our president will take action that is in the best interest of the American people. […]

I mean, what Kim Jong-Un is doing is a threat to all people in the region and globally as well. I mean, this is someone who has said not only does he want to develop a nuclear weapon, but he wants to use it to coerce others. He’s said that he was willing to proliferate nuclear weapons once he develops them. And so this a grave threat to all people.

Again, those words could have come from George H. W. Bush or Bill Clinton or George W. Bush or Barack Obama. All of them recognized that no matter which little freak is running North Korea that a nuclear North is “a grave threat to all people.” That is why there has been a lot of tough talk over the years but a lot tougher practice of strategic patience. McMaster seems to know the value of that patience. His boss, though, doesn’t. His boss, an unhinged tweeter, thinks he can tweet his way through this tough problem, perhaps break his adversary’s will with words like “armada” or threats like “North Korea is looking for trouble.” But on the other side, there is Kim Jong-Un, himself also clearly possessing a basketful of personality disorders. He just might read Tr-mp’s tweets both literally and seriously, not merely seeing them as the rantings of a seventh-grader going through a tough, late puberty. Calling the North Korean regime “unpredictable,” McMaster said of Kim:

This is someone who has demonstrated his brutality by murdering his own brother, by murdering others in his family, by imprisoning large numbers of people in horrible conditions for no reason, for political reasons.

Tweeting stupid comments aimed at playing a game with someone like Kim Jong-un, someone who does appear to do things “for no reason,” or at least no discernible Image result for kim jong unrational reason, is a dangerous game. Conducting diplomacy around the North Korea nuclear problem is hard enough for the few professionals still around the State Department who are trying. It’s almost impossible to conduct such diplomacy when an amateurish, even childish, man in the White’s House has his finger on a keyboard that can provoke a military crisis in an instant.

Rather than act like they are fast running away from the doctrine of strategic patience, when there appears to be no better place to actually run to, perhaps the adults in this administration ought to demand of the “president” that he practice some strategic silence on Twitter.

Before someone, a lot of someones, get hurt, if the Korean peninsula catches fire.

Friedrich Nietzsche On Tr-mp

“Being is an empty fiction.”

—Nietzsche

If you’ve ever taken a philosophy course or read an introductory book on philosophy you know something about Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher known for his doctrine that “change” is the underlying reality of the universe, captured in this famous statement:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

The great 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche affirmed this observation:

Heraclitus will remain eternally right with his assertion that being is an empty fiction.  The “apparent” world is the only one: the “true” world is merely added by a lie.

As we have seen lately, Tr-mp and his policy positions are a river flowing. He is not the same politician today that he was year ago. He is not the same politician today he was two weeks ago. And we know he will be yet a different politician two weeks hence. There is no “true” Tr-mp, nothing to hold on to, nothing about him that is real except his mindless modulation and mutation, his careless contraction-expansion-contraction, his numbing novelty. Tr-mp is an empty fiction.

We have now watched him metaphorically stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and murder his previous assertions about NATO, kill his prior criticisms of China’s currency manipulation, shoot down his past promise to stay out of Assad’s business, assassinate his old position on the Export-Import bank, and liquidate his past dislike for Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen and turn it into love. Oh, and he now has a gun aimed at Steven Bannon, who helped get him elected but has lately been in the way of “family” business.

Today we find out that, after holding numerous and contradictory positions on healthcare and the health insurance system, Tr-mp may have a new plan:

Tr-mp threatens to undermine Obamacare to get Democrats to negotiate

That ABC News article says:

Since the failure of the GOP health care bill in the House nearly three weeks ago, President Donald Tr-mp has suggested letting Obamacare explode to bring Democrats to the negotiating table.

Now, he’s threatening to push the detonator.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, Trump suggested the federal government would hold back key subsidy payments made to health insurers offering insurance to low-income Americans.

“Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump said. “I haven’t made my viewpoint clear yet. I don’t want people to get hurt.”

He doesn’t “want people to get hurt.” That’s today’s Tr-mp. Tomorrow’s Tr-mp could override today’s Tr-mp and we could see what Republicans have wanted to see and tried hard to accomplish ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed: the murder of Obamacare and the collateral damage that will come with that killing. But don’t bet on that happening. Tr-mp told the Journal the purpose of his threat:

What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.

The alleged master of The Art of the Deal (a book he continues to get credit for writing even though he did not write it) thinks he might set himself up for a big deal with Democrats, who being the good-hearted folks they are, won’t let Tr-mp hurt millions of Americans and will come running to work things out with him and the Republicans. If nothing else proves Tr-mp has no talent for deal-making, it is this pitiful and quite nasty attempt to hold millions of Americans hostage to get what he and Paul Ryan want. Jonathan Chait explains why this is a dumb political strategy:

If the exchanges collapse, the public backlash will redound to the benefit of the opposition party. Democrats may have a strong humanitarian rationale for preserving the system, but their political interest runs in exactly the opposite direction. Trump is threatening Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to meet his demands or else he will give them a majority in Congress.

This whole thing is insufferably stupid. We have a president who is lost in the complexities of governing, who is facing an ocean of problems without a seaworthy ship. To move from philosophy to literature, Stephen Crane, in his most famous short story, “The Open Boat,” wrote:

A particular danger of the sea is the fact that after successfully getting through one wave, you discover that there is another behind it. The next wave is just as nervously anxious and purposeful to overturn boats.

Image result for ocean wavesIf only Tr-mp could figure out, like the characters in Crane’s story, that the waves he faces, the issues that face each and every occupant of the White’s House, are not really out to get him, not bent on overturning his boat. They are simply problems to confront and, if possible, solve. And they should be confronted without threatening to hurt millions of Americans just so Tr-mp can make a deal, just so Tr-mp can claim a win, just so Tr-mp can prove he is more than an empty fiction.

But he’s not. He is Tr-mp.

Some Senate Democats Are, Well, Idiots

Sam Stein, of HuffPo, posted a piece yesterday that just floored me:

Democrats Contemplate How To Forfeit Their Power Upon Regaining The Senate

It began:

After watching Senate Republicans lower the threshold for confirming a Supreme Court justice in order to vote Neil Gorsuch onto the court, Senate Democrats are openly talking about making it harder for themselves to do the same, if and when they regain power.

Over the past few days, a number of Democratic lawmakers have said they’d be open to bringing back the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

“When the Democrats return to the majority and capture the presidency ― which we will, that day is going to arrive ― we will restore the 60-vote margin,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told MSNBC on Monday. “We will ensure that for the Supreme Court, there is that special margin that any candidate has to reach, because that is essential to ensuring that our country has a confidence in people who are nominated, rather than just someone who passes a litmus test.”

Image result for knife fightIf you ever wondered why Democrats get rolled so often by ruthless Republicans, now you can see why. Jeez. If the Democratic Party wants people to support it, wants people to knock on doors for it, wants people to send it money, its leader better put out a retraction of this bullshit right now. I ain’t working to support a party that would have its throat cut by Republicans in a fight, and then when it wrestles the knife out of Republican hands, uses that same knife to cut its own throat.

Oh, my.

More On The Tomahawk Strike And The Rehabilitation Of Donald Tr-mp

Anson Burlingame responded to my recent piece on Tr-mp’s missile attack on an airbase in Syria. You can read his remarks here. My reply follows:

Anson,

1. You accused me of saying Tr-mp “was dead wrong to launch the attack.” Well, you’re dead wrong about that. You can read my piece a thousand times and you won’t find me saying the attack was “wrong,” dead or otherwise. For my reasoning on this issue, I refer you to a piece I wrote in September of 2013, when Obama was deciding what to do about even worse chemical attacks in Syria. I will note that your comments attached to that piece indicate a very different response to Obama’s potential attack on Syria for “WMDs” than your response to Tr-mp’s real attack. I suggest you go back and explain your reluctance to support a strike then and your embrace of the attack now. Good luck.

2. My piece on the Tr-mp attack was partly about the reaction to it, which was nothing short of ridiculous. For God’s sake, Fareed Zacharia, a man for whom I had the utmost respect, said (I think he said this after I wrote my piece) that “Donald Tr-mp became president” after the attack. I promise you that Zacharia will never live that comment down. He has lost a lot of credibility. I will never hear him or read him the same way again. There was a way to talk about the attack that didn’t involve elevating Tr-mp to some kind of strategic genius (Bob Woodward) or morally legitimizing him as “president.” I never heard so much Tr-mp-pumping bullshit this side of Fox and Friends, Tr-mp’s alleged source for his newfound “outrage” over the chemical attacks.

3. I don’t give a damn whether the Washington Post’s editorial board, or any editorial board for that matter, approved or disapproved of the attack. They don’t have the slightest idea whether the attack was effective or whether it will make things much, much worse as we move forward. Neither do you. Neither do I. Time will tell. But we already know Assad is, just to kick sand in Tr-mp’s orange face, using the attacked airbase to launch more attacks, even if they are conventional attacks. So, we have more reason to believe nothing has changed than we do that the tactical and strategic calculations of Assad and the Russians and, for God’s sake, the North Koreans and the Chinese and everyone else in the goddamned world, have changed because of Tr-mp’s “decisive” action.

4. Another reason I had for writing that piece was to question the motivation of Tr-mp. Everyone just assumes what he said about his motivation was true. I remind you: this man is a pathological liar. But all of a sudden we’re supposed to believe him when he said he was moved by pictures of poisoned children. I call bullshit on that. We have much more reason to believe he was moved by his falling poll numbers. Everyone knows he has a weird fascination with polls that are about him, and everyone knows the polls about him will improve now. My logical conclusion, based on what I have seen and heard since June of 2015, is that Tr-mp took action, very low-risk action, primarily because it would be beneficial to him. That’s all he has shown us he gives a damn about. After all, children’s bodies have been washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean for years now and Tr-mp never appeared to give a shit. Over the months of the campaign, thousands and thousands of kids were barrel-bombed and Tr-mp’s response was to say to hell with them and their refugee-seeking selves. And nothing has changed at this point.

5. You said I should forget Tr-mp’s “mental health.” Huh? You want me to forget that a mentally challenged man, narcissistic to his core, pathologically incapable of telling the truth about anything, is ordering missile strikes and contemplating making war here and there and, before he’s done, everywhere? Or maybe he’s not. He may be watching Baywatch reruns this morning for all we know. We don’t know anything for sure about how his mind works except that it doesn’t work right. He has shown us enough to make that determination, and ten-thousand Tomahawks can’t erase that judgment, at least from my memory banks. So, no, I won’t forget about his mental health.

6. As for his picks for NSA and Defense, I don’t have a problem, so far, with them. I believed at the time that we were lucky to have them instead of, say, Sean Hannity running our national security apparatus. Right now, though, they are still trying to wrestle control from Tr-mp’s cronies and family, I would guess. I hope they are successful. Our survival quite literally depends on their success in controlling a deranged president who pays more attention to Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade and the Fox and Friends blonde-of-the-day than any of his intelligence folks.

7. Tillerson was obviously unqualified for the job of SOS. But at least he is making an attempt, if we are to believe press accounts, to learn what is going on in the world, in terms of things not having to do with Exxon’s bottom line. Someday he may even be able to get on the same page as our U.N. ambassador, in terms of expressing a coherent view of Tr-mp’s incoherent foreign policy in general, and in terms of his policy toward Syria in particular.

8. I have said for sometime now that Congress should “get involved in authorizing military action.” Period. The president does not have unlimited powers to wage war, or at least he shouldn’t. But effectively these days he does have such unlimited power. That’s the fault of people in both parties by the way. It sort of depends on which party has the White’s House (although there are a few legislators in both parties who have held consistent positions opposing unrestrained war-making executive powers). Maybe you remember when Obama and NATO took action in Libya, to prevent a slaughter, not in response to one that had already happened, that the Republican Speaker of the House opposed his action on constitutional grounds. Today, though, most Republicans are just fine, some orgasmically fine, with what Tr-mp did. My how times change when your guy is in the White’s House.

9. I also wrote the piece on Tr-mp’s attack to criticize those who have incessantly attacked Obama for not attacking Syria in 2013. If Obama had done what Tr-mp did this time, which as I said was a low-risk and likely low-reward move, he would have been called weak and indecisive by the John McCains and Lindsey Grahams of the world. But because Tr-mp did it, he was strong and decisive. In the words of Graham, he reached a Ronald Reagan level of strong and decisive. I almost swallowed my own head when I heard that reference.

10. Finally, you wrote,

Are you capable of writing such a strategic blog offering your views on how to deal with the current danger in the world around at least in deciding when to use military power against the many threats we face around the world.

In the link to my 2013 post, you will find some of my thoughts on that, mostly related to the Syrian problem, which I will focus on now. I want to say the following, on the record, about what to do in Syria: Do not use American troops, on the ground or otherwise, with the expressed purpose to remove Assad from power. We will own the Syrian problem in a big way if we do that. And there is no forseeable solution to the problem we will then own. In fact, I don’t see any solution at all to the multiple problems there, which is why Obama did everything he could to keep Americans from getting killed, even though there was incredible pressure on him to “do something.” He could have impressed us with his commander-in-chief chops by attacking an airbase or two without congressional approval. But, contrary to Fareed Zacharia, Obama genuinely acted presidential by restraining his emotions when confronted with the appalling images created by an uncivilized asshole named Assad, aided by Tr-mp’s Russian hero Vladimir Putin. Whatever you thought about Obama’s Syrian policy, his loyalty was to what he perceived were the long-term interests of the country he led, not to his own personal emotional reaction to human suffering, or, God forbid, to his poll numbers.

We can take military and non-military steps to protect refugees, many of which I would support. But even things like safe zones or no-fly zones involve a big danger of getting us more deeply involved in the many-faceted civil war going on there. But in my opinion, we can and should help people fleeing both ISIS and fanatical Islamists of other stripes, as well as people fleeing the monstrous Assad, being careful not to escalate our involvement beyond that (I continue to support our efforts to destroy ISIS, a separate matter).

Perhaps the first thing we should do is not, as Tr-mp and many Republicans have done, publicly brand the Syrian refugees as untouchables. We should welcome as many of them as possible to come to America. If Tr-mp wants to go some distance in proving he’s not just a calculating, grifting narcissist bent on raising his poll numbers by the use of low-risk military action, he should publicly renounce his past comments about Syrian refugees, withdraw hisImage result for syrian refugees washed up on shore executive orders barring them from the country, and instead offer up the United States of America as a friend to those fleeing barbarism, fanaticism, and desperate despotism.

But, of course, that he will not do. It’s much easier for him to shoot fireworks than admit he has been wrong for years about Syria and Syrian refugees.

Duane

CNN’s Jeff Zucker And The Election of Tr-mp

Every now and then I post a short piece on this blog just in case the world blows up and the only thing left on what’s left of the Internet is this blog. I want future historians to know who the good guys and bad guys were, at least as far as I’m concerned.

On the day an ultra-reactionary named Neil Gorsuch, forty-nine years old, becomes a life-long justice on the Supreme Court, my in-case-the-world-blows-up entry comes courtesy of The Atlantic in an article by Derek Thompson (“The Donald Trump Show Is Eating Television”). If you are like me, you still can’t believe Donald Tr-mp is pretending to be our president. You still can’t believe a man so unfit for the job, so unfit for the job in so many ways, is nevertheless making decisions, signing orders, shaping policies, and is the face of the United States around the world.

Someone, besides the deluded or misinformed or frustrated or tribalistic voters who put him and his kleptocratic family and cronies in office—via a strange, anachronistic, undemocratic electoral system that has twice rewarded the popular vote loser in the last five elections—has to be responsible for Tr-mp sitting in the White’s House, right? Right. And that someone is a man named Jeff Zucker. Here are the first three paragraphs of Derek Thompson’s enlightening piece for The Atlantic:

In the years before the 2016 election, cable news was approaching a demographic cliff and an existential crisis. Average primetime viewership on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC had declined by about a third between 2008 and 2014. The median age of each channel’s viewers had crept into the late-60s or early 70s, as younger consumers turned to websites and social-media feeds for their daily news morsels.

But in 2015, Donald Trump descended an escalator, a slow-motion meteorite crashing into the earth with biosphere-altering potential. One cable-news channel immediately recognized how the impact could change the landscape of cable news and politics.

Image result for jeff zuckerCNN president Jeff Zucker conspicuously transformed his network into the 24-hour Donald Trump Show. Rivals scoffed, but the decision paid off. The network’s primetime viewership rose 38 percent in 2015. Meanwhile in that same period, Fox News’ audience flatlined, and MSNBC’s primetime viewership actually declined. As Jonathan Mahler writes in The New York Times Magazine, Zucker was perfectly positioned for this moment, given his familiarity with Trump’s telegenic antics. As the former president of NBC Entertainment, Zucker had broadcast “The Apprentice,” overseeing a tabloid villain’s journey to boardroom hero.

As you can see, and as you probably already figured out, one of the biggest reasons we have Tr-mp is because of corporate media greed, which spread to other cable news outlets. And, as The Atlantic reminds us for the record, “Zucker was the first executive to run the Trump Show all day, every day.”

Back in 2010, New York Times columnist and Clinton hater Maureen Dowd wrote a column on Jeff Zucker about his failures in the television management business and how he always “failed upwards,” in the words of a TV writer Dowd quoted. Zucker’s gigantic failure as president and CEO of NBC Universal—NBC went from first to last while he was in charge—was a focus of Dowd’s piece. She quoted “a honcho at another network” as saying,

Zucker is a case study in the most destructive media executive ever to exist. You’d have to tell me who else has taken a once-great network and literally destroyed it.

It’s one thing to play a part in destroying a television network. It’s quiet another to play a part in taking a once-great country and turning it into a place that a television-tabloid creature like Tr-mp can rule. If there are history books in the future, and providing we have a future in which those books can exist, Jeff Zucker’s name will appear in the sad chapter written about the 2016 election. His name and Tr-mp’s name are forever linked.

How 59 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles Saved The World—And Made Tr-mp A Hero

I listened to thousands and thousands of words from hosts and guests on MSNBC this morning. There was Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Bob Woodward, George Will, John McCain, Marco Rubio, David Ignatius and numerous other voices. Here is what I learned after all the talk from politicians and “experts”:

1. Tr-mp is now a hero among our Sunni “allies” like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

2. Tr-mp’s domestic poll numbers will certainly go up now—but that had absolutely nothing at all to do with his decision to bomb Syria and possibly start yet another U.S. war in the Middle East. Oh, no. Tr-mp had a genuine change of heart after seeing those pictures of poisoned kids. This had nothing to do with his historically low approval numbers. And Tr-mp has a new-found strength. He can “reset” his administration. He now has a chance to win the hearts of the American people. Those 59 cruise missiles not only blew up an airfield, they apparently destroyed our memories of just how deranged Tr-mp is and how the Russians helped put him in power. Can’t wait for the next poll to come out and see how much damage those missiles did to our collective brain.

3. By bombing one airfield in Syria, Tr-mp fixed all the problems Obama created with his failure to bomb Syria after all that “red line” talk in 2013 and all of his reluctance to get us caught up in another war. By God, the world will change now that Tr-mp has fired off 59 cruise missiles. China will respect us. North Korea will take notice. Russia’s Putin, who we were told by John McCain, respects “power” and is a “pragmatist,” will begin to look at the United States differently now. Barack Obama, who apparently is responsible for every bad thing that has happened in the world since Moses was a baby, is gone and “there’s a new sheriff in town.” And this new sheriff has cruise missiles and he ain’t afraid to use ’em.

4. Speaking of McCain, apparently Tr-mp’s national security team is McCain’s dream team because he gets to talk with them all the time and they listen. Which means, of course, that John McCain may get to be POTUS after all and he may get his war with Syria that both he and Lindsey Graham have wanted for some time now. McCain characterized last night’s bombing as “the end of the beginning.” More tough action must follow. He never told us, though, just how many Americans should die in the war he’s been aching to fight for years. Or how long we would be there fighting that war. Or how much it might cost. Or whether Congress should, uh, authorize such a war.

5. Bob Woodward, whose mind has deteriorated with age I suppose, used the opportunity this morning to tell us how engaged Tr-mp has been (!) with states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and so on. It is part of Tr-mp’s broad strategy (!), Woodward suggested, to change the dynamics of the Middle East mess (again, that Obama created with his fecklessness). Woodward and others on the panel this morning believe this Tr-mpian strategy (!) and the bombing last night will give new confidence to the Sunni players that the U.S. can be a “reliable partner” and they may now be willing to “step up” and get involved in the mess.

6. Meanwhile, there’s “the mess” in the Middle East. I heard thousands and thousands and thousands of words this morning—praise of Tr-mp, speculation, more praise of Tr-mp, analysis, more praise of Tr-mp—all based, as I said, on the unchallenged premise that Barack Obama’s weakness did much damage to the world and that Tr-mp’s bombing Image result for tomahawk missilesof Syria, his willingness to show that when he says someone has crossed a line, by God, they will pay a price for it. All those words I heard in some form or another, but, amazingly, I did not hear one word, not one single word, about the one action that helped, more than any other thing, get us into this mess in the first place. In all the talk about a “destabilized” Middle East, in all the talk about an emboldened and powerful Iran, there was not one mention of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney starting, on false pretenses, a war with Iraq, a war which did much of the destabilizing and caused many of the problems we see today. Not a word. Nothing. Again, it is as if those 59 cruise missiles destroyed significant parts of our collective memory. “The mess” is all Obama’s fault and Tr-mp is now the man who has gone a long way in fixing it by lobbing a few missiles at Shayrat Air Base in Syria.

7. Finally, just to clear things up, let’s talk about that 2013 decision by Obama—mentioned countless times last night and this morning on all the cable news shows—not to bomb Syria, not to do what Tr-mp did last night without congressional approval. First, things are a lot different today than they were then. A lot has happened in those four years, including hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees (which Tr-mp still doesn’t want to bring to the U.S.). Second, there is Congress. As Sebastian Murdock reminded us this morning, all the giddy congressman and Senators praising Tr-mp’s actions last night had their chance to weigh in when it mattered in 2013, after President Obama decided not to take unilateral action himself and instead wanted Congress to also own what might have happened if he had bombed Syria. Murdock wrote:

In 2013, when a sarin nerve gas attack left more than 1,400 dead outside Damascus, President Barack Obama went to Congress to get approval to strike.

In a whip count from ThinkProgress, 183 Republicans were against bombing the country. Only 12 Republicans, including then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), sided with the president to launch a strike. Ultimately, Congress did not appear to approve the strike, with 243 Congressional members swaying towards voting “No.” Obama ultimately decided to postpone the vote.

Murdock also reminded us of how Tr-mp, the Woodwardian strategic genius he is, felt about the matter in 2013. In August, Tr-mp tweeted:

What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.

Well, there obviously was no prior approval from Congress to bomb Syria last night. But there is plenty of praise today, especially from those who didn’t want any part of the decision four years ago. Murdock included this gem:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was one of the members of Congress who was against Obama’s plan. But he didn’t seem to have much to say in response to the news of Trump’s strike:

chaffeetz tweet on bombing

It’s amazing how the world works. Or how it doesn’t.

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