Category Archive 'Donald Trump'
13 May 2018

The Death of Obama’s Legacy Proves the System Actually Still Works

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David Harsani observes approvingly.

It’s strange that a president who had such a transformative effect on our national discourse will leave such a negligible policy legacy. But Barack Obama, whose imperial term changed the way Americans interact and in some ways paved the way for the Trump presidency, is now watching his much-celebrated and mythologized two-term legacy be systematically demolished.

This, in many ways, tells us that American governance still works.

When President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, he was able to do so without much difficulty because the agreement hinged on presidential fiat rather than national consensus. Obama’s appeasement of Iran was only one in a string of unilateral norm-busting projects that deserve to be dismantled.

You’ll remember the panic-stricken coverage we endured when the United States withdrew from the faux international Paris climate agreement last year. It’s true that the deal was oversold as a matter of policy, but it was symbolic of how the Obama administration concerned itself more with international consensus than domestic compromise.

We know because the president would never have won ratification for a deal remotely similar to the one he entered — nor did he attempt to. Obama had about as much interest in genuine concession as his political adversaries did.

The defense rested on the idea that the Republican-led Congress had failed to “do its job” and act on issues Democrats had deemed vital. But Congress, of course, “acted” all the time by checking the president’s ambitions. This was not only well within its purview but also in many ways the reason the electorate handed the GOP Congress in the first place.

Even if you substantively supported Obama’s actions, the reasoning that girded these supposedly temporary executive decisions was soon revealed to be abusive. In 2012, Obama told the nation that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a stand-in for legislation, was merely a “temporary stopgap measure.” By the time Trump overturned it, the measure represented “who we are as a people.” That’s because by “temporary” Obama always meant “until Democrats can make it permanent through the courts or electoral victories.”

RTWT

12 May 2018

Trump Not Invited to John McCain’s Funeral

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Not in the best of taste, of course, but it does make an important point in recognizing that an awful lot of voting Americans really do like Donald Trump’s combativeness.

09 May 2018

Impressive Establishment Treason

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via GIPHY

That’s Narges Bajoghli on the right.

This Foreign Policy editorial, written by Narges Bajoghli, an Iranian film-maker, obviously hostile to the United States and proud of the seizure of the US Embassy and the taking of US diplomats as hostages, currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Watson Institute at Brown University, was actually reprinted by Business Insider.

Can you imagine an editorial denouncing the administration’s foreign policy adverse to Japan being editorialized against by some Japanese naval officer doing post-graduate work at Harvard in 1939, titled: “The Empire of the Rising Sun Will Never Trust America Again,” appearing in both Foreign Policy and Business Advisor?

We were naive to think the United States would keep its promises in a deal with us,” Hasan, a retired captain in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war — now a prominent film director — said last week from his office in a major regime production studio in central Tehran. “I thought enough time had passed since the revolution that we could potentially engage with America again,” he continued, before he let out a resigned sigh. …

Ghassem was one of the leading filmmakers for state television in the country. He had made numerous documentaries that investigated the role of the Reagan administration in supplying weapons to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in his fight against the newly established Iranian government. …
“I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t foresee this coming,” Hasan told me this past weekend. “Ghassem was right, we shouldn’t have trusted the Americans.”

When I spoke with Ghassem, he did not boast that he had predicted the ill-fated trajectory of the deal. He wasn’t against Iran having good relations with any Western country, he had repeatedly told me during those debates in 2014. But he just did not think the United States would ever want anything but full capitulation from the Islamic Republic.

“What my friends didn’t see when they were rooting for the Iran deal,” he recently told me solemnly, “was that there’s a segment of the American political establishment that can never forgive us for kicking the United States out of Iran during the revolution in 1979. I mean, the United States was the shah’s biggest ally, and then we came to power and told them they couldn’t dictate how we governed anymore. And once we took their embassy and held their people hostage in 1980, that was a slap in their face. They can never forgive us for that. They want to see us broken at our knees, in complete surrender.”

“It doesn’t matter if there are people in both of our countries who want to turn a new page,” he continued. “The Obamas and Rouhanis of our countries are just one segment of the political establishment.”

Well, Narges, let me just advise you, that when a lame duck president ignores the US Constitution and makes an end-run around the Senate by making a treaty in the form of an executive order, hostile foreign adversaries of America ought to be aware that the next president may be of a different party and of a different mind and will be perfectly entitled to reverse his predecessor’s decision.

And, yes, personally, I do want to see the mullahs on their knees, in complete surrender, and you out of the United States.

25 Apr 2018

Another Trump Accomplishment

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15 Apr 2018

The Mueller Witch Project

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click on image for larger version.

10 Apr 2018

They’ve Got a Warrant

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28 Mar 2018

Trump: Photographed With Prostitutes!

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27 Mar 2018

Interpreting the Bolton Appointment

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John Bolton’s entry in the 1970 Yale Old Campus (the kind of entering freshmen yearbook that inspired Facebook). “CC” means he was in (the recently renamed) Calhoun College.

Charles Hugh Smith offers some over-the-top, and consequently amusing, speculations on the meaning of Bolton’s National Security Advisor appointment.

This wing of the Deep State, unquestionably in charge until the election of Donald Trump, finds Trump, well, interesting. Trump can congratulate Vladdy Putin on his shoo-in re-election one day and eject a bunch of Russian diplomats the next.

This sort of non-linear, non-ideologically pure “policy” (or lack thereof) discombobulates the Deep State, which is accustomed to presidents rubber-stamping their agenda and supporting their narrative.

They’re having a tough time controlling Trump, as it’s difficult to read how best to play him: is Trump a master of the Crazy Ivan or is he just winging it? Assuming the latter leaves those acting on that premise vulnerable to a Crazy Ivan once Trump has extracted whatever value he sought from the person or policy.

So how do we decrypt the appointment of Bolton? Here are two possibilities:

1. Trump appointed bete noire Bolton to do the dirty work of cleaning house and ridding the National Security Council and staff of any loyalists to previous presidents or cliques. This Bolton seems prepared to do with both alacrity and relish. This appointment also throws a bone to those demanding a harsher, more interventionist foreign policy.

Once Bolton has cleaned house and disrupted or fired the status quo holdovers from the Obama administration, he’ll be fired like everyone else. Crazy Ivan!

2. The neo-liberal /neo-conservative /neo-colonial wing of the Deep State has given up trying to evict Trump from the White House or manage him. Both of these strategies carry high risks and the assessment has likely been made that both have not just failed, they’re increasingly counter-productive, eroding the legitimacy of those pushing them.

So perhaps the dominant wing of the Deep State is finally willing to cut a deal with Trump: Trump appoints Bolton, whom the Deep State views as the adult supervising the playground, and in return, the Mueller investigation goes away and the Clintons will finally lose the protection of the security agencies. (They’ve become enormous liabilities anyway, and there’s no benefit to the high cost of continuing to protecting them.)

RTWT

25 Mar 2018

John’s Leftie Yale Classmates are Grinding Their Teeth

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Mark Steyn likes Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor.

I’ve given up trying to discern ideological themes in Trump’s firings and hirings: as far as I can tell, it’s mostly about people he likes to hang out with. In the case of John Bolton, I first met the new National Security Advisor a decade and a half or so back, in a roomful of European prime ministers and foreign ministers. He delivered a line that stunned the joint:

International law does not trump the US Constitution.

I was standing next to the Finnish Prime Minister, Paavo Lipponen, who had a genuinely puzzled looked on his face and eventually inquired of me: “He is making a joke, no?”

No.

RTWT

24 Mar 2018

Trump Signed the Omnibus Spending Bill

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The talk is that Trump signed it because he believed that funding a military build is, at this point in time, a completely over-arching priority. That does not, of course, excuse Republicans who run conservative and then vote liberal, or the total and complete absence of GOP Party discipline.

Politico explains just how disgraceful the bill was.

The omnibus—Capitol Hill jargon for a single spending bill that funds most government functions—does not kill any of the programs or agencies Trump’s budget proposed to kill; it triples funding for TIGER, nearly doubles CDBG, and boosts ARPA-E’s budget by 16 percent. Trump wanted to slash the Energy Department’s renewables budget 65 percent; instead, Congress boosted it 14 percent. Trump proposed to keep nonmilitary spending $54 billion below the congressional budget cap; the omnibus spends right up to the cap, a $63 billion increase from last year.

This is why the conservative National Review denounced the omnibus as “the sort of legislation that would have been right at home in the Obama administration,” while Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer gloated in a statement that its “job-creating, life-saving investments stand in sharp contrast to the Trump budget.” It basically extends the fiscal status quo that has prevailed since the start of Obama’s second term—plus a sizable chunk of new deficit spending—even though Republicans now control the legislative and executive branches.

“Throughout the Obama presidency, the Republican Party at least gave lip service to the need to restore fiscal sanity in Washington,” says Michael Needham, head of the conservative policy group Heritage Action. “It is now clear just how many in the GOP are willing to engage in profligate spending when they control the levels of power.”

Republicans are pleased that the omnibus hikes defense spending 10 percent, even more than Trump requested, including a 2.6 percent military pay raise Trump has already bragged about on Twitter. The White House also got $1.6 billion for border security, although the bill specifies it cannot be spent on the concrete wall the president wants. There’s a 6 percent cut in foreign aid and other State Department programs, less than the 25 percent cut in the Trump budget written by Office of Management and Budget chief Mick Mulvaney but still a significant rollback. And the omnibus did not include a specific line item for the Gateway rail tunnel project in New York City that Trump had called a deal-breaker, although Democrats are confident that Gateway will still get plenty of cash from the bill. …

Trump has periodically threatened to shut down the government if Democrats wouldn’t meet his demands, but Republican leaders were clearly desperate for the Democratic votes they needed to keep the government open. The omnibus doesn’t even cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, a GOP priority that inspired a government shutdown under Obama.

Pelosi and Schumer’s gloating aside, Democrats did not get everything they wanted. The omnibus did not include the new protections they are seeking for undocumented Dreamers who came to America as kids, or new funding they want for stabilizing the Obamacare exchanges. But considering the balance of power in Congress, they got quite a lot they wanted that Trump didn’t want—including full funding for the 2020 census, money for states to bolster their election security and the FBI to fight Russian cyberattacks, and language blocking a proposed Trump administration rule that would have allowed employers to pocket tips earned by their workers. They insisted on expanding a tax credit for low-income housing development in exchange for allowing Republicans to fix a technical glitch in the recent tax bill. And they won a modest strengthening of gun background checks and a rollback of a ban on gun violence research by the CDC without having to accept a provision requiring states to honor concealed carry permits; conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus claimed GOP leaders had promised that provision would be part of the deal.

Presidential budgets are always dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, but the omnibus feels more like a product of Obama-era divided government than Trump-era Republican monopoly. …

he bill was crafted behind closed doors by congressional leaders—most back-benchers had less than a day to read its 2,232 pages—so it’s hard to say how much of it reflects genuine Republican enthusiasm for big government and how much reflects a political decision to cave to Democrats to avoid a shutdown on Trump’s watch. For years, limited-government conservatives have been frustrated by the compromises GOP leaders have made to avoid budgetary train wrecks, and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows complained that “this omnibus doesn’t just forget the promises we made to voters—it flatly rejects them.”

RTWT

12 Mar 2018

SNL Mocks Robert Mueller

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09 Mar 2018

Tariffs in Perspective

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1910 Republican campaign poster.

Charles G. Mills does a good, and succinct, job of explaining tariffs, historically and politically.

President Trump has proposed significant tariffs on the importation of steel and aluminum. Should we support or oppose these measures? The answer is not simple; it lies in the details of the tariff law, rather than in a single principle about all tariffs. On balance, a significant tariff on steel and aluminum is worthy of support, despite its harmful effects.

RTWT

07 Mar 2018

Bring Back the Gold Standard!

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1927 $2.50 gold piece.

When my Lithuanian great grandparents arrived in the United States of the late 19th Century, we had beautiful gold money with images of Indians and Big Game Animals, there were no gun laws and there were no drug laws, and there was no Income Tax. No wonder they came here!

Ralph Benko, in Forbes, argues that if Trump really means to make America great again, restoring a gold standard would be a great first step.

In 1971 President Nixon, under the influence of his Svengali-like Treasury Secretary John Connally, “suspend[ed] temporarily the convertibility of the dollar into gold.” That closure proved durable instead of temporary. The dollar became, and remains, the world’s global currency.

What had been an “exorbitant privilege” devolved into an exorbitant liability. As my former professional colleague John D. Mueller, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, formerly Rep. Jack Kemp’s chief economist, writing in the Wall Street Journal in Trump’s Real Trade Problem Is Money recently and astutely observed:

    a monetary system based on a reserve currency is unsustainable, since foreign official dollar reserves (for example) are acquired and must be repaid in goods. In other words, the increase in official dollar reserves equals the net exports of the rest of the world, which means it must also equal U.S. international payments deficits—an unsustainable situation.

In other words, if President Trump wishes to address America’s merchandise trade deficit (balanced to perfection, of course, by a capital accounts surplus) he will find that allowing the dollar to be used as the global currency is the real snake in the economic woodpile. The dollar’s burden as the international reserve currency, not currency manipulation by our trading partners or bad treaties, is the true villain in the ongoing melodrama of crummy job creation.

Mueller’s Wall Street Journal column enumerates the three options open to President Trump:

    First, muddle along under the current “dollar standard,” a position supported by resigned foreigners and some nostalgic Americans—among them Bryan Riley and William Wilson at the Heritage Foundation, and James Pethokoukis at the American Enterprise Institute.

    Second, turn the International Monetary Fund into a world central bank issuing paper (e.g., special drawing rights) reserves—as proposed in 1943 by Keynes, since the 1960s by Robert A. Mundell, and in 2009 by Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China. Drawbacks: This kind of standard is highly political and the allocation of special drawing rights essentially arbitrary, since the IMF produces no goods.

    Third, adopt a modernized international gold standard, as proposed in the 1960s by Rueff and in 1984 by his protégé Lewis E. Lehrman …and then-Rep. Jack Kemp.

To “muddle along” would, of course, be entirely antithetical to Trump’s promise to Make America Great Again. It would destroy his crucial commitment to get the economy growing at 3%+ — vastly faster than it has for the past 17 years — which also happens to be the recipe for robust job creation and upward income mobility for workers. It also is the essential ingredient for balancing the federal budget while rebuilding our infrastructure and military.

To turn the IMF into a world central bank would, of course, be anathema to Trump’s economic nationalism. To subordinate the dollar to the IMF’s SDR would be equivalent to lowering Old Glory and replacing the American flag with the flag of the United Nations on every flagpole in America. Unthinkable under a Trump administration.

That leaves the third option, to “adopt a modernized international gold standard, as proposed in the 1960s by Rueff and in 1984 by his protégé Lewis E. Lehrman … and then-Rep. Jack Kemp” (whose eponymous foundation I advise). To this one should add, as Forbes.com contributor Nathan Lewis has shrewdly observed, the removal of tax and regulatory barriers to the use of gold as currency.

RTWT

President McKinley would be proud.

23 Feb 2018

Trump Against Fake News

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HT: Dave Roth.

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