It’s fact: Neoconservatives are pleased with President Trump’s foreign policy.
A couple of months back, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake let it know he was in neoconservative nirvana:
“… for Venezuela, [Donald Trump] came very close to calling for regime change. ‘The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable,’ Trump said. ‘We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.’”
“For a moment,” swooned Lake, “I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to aWeekly Standard editorial meeting.”
Onward to Venezuela!
Mr. Lake, a neoconservative, was loving every moment. In error, he and his kind confuse an expansionist foreign policy with “American exceptionalism.”
As it happens, neocons are in luck. Most Americans know little of the ideas that animated their country’s founding. They’re more likely to hold ideas in opposition to the classical-liberal philosophy of the Founders, and, hence, wish to see the aggrandizement of the coercive, colossal, Warfare State.
That’s just the way things are.
Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel wants to create a new conservative cable news network and his representatives have engaged the powerful Mercer family to help with funding, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
Thiel, a Facebook board member who secretly funded lawsuits to bring down Gawker Media, had originally explored a plan to create the network along with Roger Ailes, the late founder of Fox News, according to a soon-to-be published book by journalist Michael Wolff. But BuzzFeed News has learned that Thiel has continued looking into fashioning a Fox News competitor even after the May 2017 death of Ailes, according to the two sources familiar with the matter.
Wolff writes that on May 12 of last year, Ailes was scheduled to fly from Palm Beach, Florida, to New York to meet with Thiel to discuss the launch of a new cable news network that would compete with Fox News, which Ailes nurtured into a conservative powerhouse before he was ousted in the summer of 2016 in a sexual harassment scandal. Both men, Wolff writes in Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House “worried that Trump could bring Trumpism down.”
Back in March, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended his proposed slashing of the Foreign Operations Budget by 31 percent on the grounds that, “As time goes by, there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in.” A few weeks ago, he made an even more expansive claim, saying that, “Bringing the budget numbers back down is reflective of an expectation that we’re going to have success in some of these conflict areas, getting these conflicts resolved.”
Needless to say, Tillerson’s aspirations — that the United States will be involved in fewer wars and deliver greater peace — have not been achieved. In reality, the Donald Trump administration has demonstrated no interest in reducing America’s military commitments and interventions, nor committed itself in any meaningful way to preventing conflicts or resolving them. Moreover, as 2017 wraps up, the trend lines are actually running in the opposite direction, with no indication that the Trump administration has the right membership or motivation to turn things around.
President Trump has maintained or expanded the wars that he inherited from his predecessor. As Jennifer Wilson and I pointed out in an appropriately titled column in August, “Donald Trump Is Dropping Bombs at Unprecedented Levels.”
On the afternoon of November 8, 2016, Kellyanne Conway settled into her glass office at Trump Tower. Right up until the last weeks of the race, the campaign headquarters had remained a listless place. All that seemed to distinguish it from a corporate back office were a few posters with right-wing slogans.
Conway, the campaign’s manager, was in a remarkably buoyant mood, considering she was about to experience a resounding, if not cataclysmic, defeat. Donald Trumpwould lose the election — of this she was sure — but he would quite possibly hold the defeat to under six points. That was a substantial victory. As for the looming defeat itself, she shrugged it off: It was Reince Priebus’s fault, not hers.
She had spent a good part of the day calling friends and allies in the political world and blaming Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Now she briefed some of the television producers and anchors whom she had been carefully courting since joining the Trump campaign — and with whom she had been actively interviewing in the last few weeks, hoping to land a permanent on-air job after the election.
Even though the numbers in a few key states had appeared to be changing to Trump’s advantage, neither Conway nor Trump himself nor his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — the effective head of the campaign — wavered in their certainty: Their unexpected adventure would soon be over. Not only would Trump not be president, almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be. Conveniently, the former conviction meant nobody had to deal with the latter issue.
As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. “I can be the most famous man in the world,” he had told his aide Sam Nunberg at the outset of the race. His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities.
“This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” he told Ailes a week before the election. “I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won.”
We’ve known for some time that the various investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election were looking at whether people associated with the campaign of Donald Trump had helped guide the Russians’ digital efforts. Back in July we explored the idea that the Russian efforts to tamp down turnout for Hillary Clinton or boost support for Trump could have benefited from internal campaign data.
That idea was bolstered by a report from Yahoo News this week that investigators working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III were talking to staffers for the Republican National Committee who worked with the Trump campaign on voter targeting efforts. “They are seeking to determine if the joint effort was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate,” sources told Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff.
This plays into a popular sense of how the 2016 campaign unfolded. The Russians launched hundreds of Facebook ads, reaching millions of people in critical swing states. They unleashed thousands of fake Twitter accounts, which got retweeted hundreds of thousands of times. The targeting of users on Facebook in particular was described in various news reports as appearing to be “highly sophisticated” — naturally raising the question of whether the Russians had been aided in their efforts.
All of that, though, requires setting aside what we actually know about the Russian activity on Facebook and Twitter: It was often modest, heavily dissociated from the campaign itself and minute in the context of election social media efforts.
Donald Trump Jr.’s private Twitter exchanges with WikiLeaks have added a new level of intrigue to the probe of the 2016 presidential election. On Monday, The Atlantic first reported secret correspondences between Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks during the campaign. Later that day, Trump Jr. released all of his correspondences on Twitter.
The news has raised questions about the credibility of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. After WikiLeaks launched in 2006, the nonprofit organization gained a well-earned reputation as an unbiased platform where whistleblowers could publish secret information and classified media and maintain their anonymity. WikiLeaks lived up to its motto: “We open governments.” Assange prided himself and his organization on being nonpartisan—committed to uncovering wrongdoing, regardless of political affiliation.
But in 2016, after releasing thousands of emails related to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, WikiLeaks became a controversial part of the election story. The group’s many enemies questioned its motives. Assange denied he was working as a political operative, favoring the Donald Trump campaign. Now, can we be sure?
Back in March 2016, I made a prediction:
If, God forbid, Trump is elected, some day, assuming we’re all still alive, we’ll be having a conversation in which we look back fondly, as we survey the even more desultory state of political play, on the impish character of Donald Trump. As Andrew March said to me on Facebook, we’ll say something like: What a jokester he was. Didn’t mean it at all. But, boy, could he cut a deal.
When I wrote that, I was thinking of all the ways in which George W. Bush, a man vilified by liberals for years, was being rehabilitated, particularly in the wake of Trump’s rise.
Thursday’s speech, in which Bush obliquely took on Trump, was merely the latest in a years-long campaign to restore his reputation and welcome him back into the fold of respectability.
Remember when Michelle Obama gave him a hug?
That was step two or three. This week’s speech was step four.
[…] Military officers, like all of us, are products of their background and environment. The three members of Trump’s junta have 119 years of uniformed service between them. They naturally see the world from a military perspective and conceive military solutions to its problems. That leads toward a distorted set of national priorities, with military “needs” always rated more important than domestic ones.
Trump has made clear that when he must make foreign policy choices, he will defer to “my generals.” Mattis, the new junta’s strongman, is the former head of Central Command, which directs American wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Kelly is also an Iraq veteran. McMaster has commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan almost without interruption since he led a tank company in the 1991 Gulf War.
Military commanders are trained to fight wars, not to decide whether fighting makes strategic sense. They may be able to tell Trump how many troops are necessary to sustain our present mission in Afghanistan, for example, but they are not trained either to ask or answer the larger question of whether the mission serves America’s long-term interest. That is properly the job of diplomats. Unlike soldiers, whose job is to kill people and break things, diplomats are trained to negotiate, defuse conflicts, coolly assess national interest and design policies to advance it. Notwithstanding Mattis’s relative restraint on North Korea, all three members of Trump’s junta promote the confrontational approach that has brought protracted war in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, while fueling tension in Europe and East Asia.
Donald Trump’s speech on Afghanistan will briefly turn the media spotlight onto America’s longest war. Much of the media analysis will undoubtedly be about how the speech impacts Trump politically. Given the events of the past week, it seems unlikely that Democratic pundits will repeat their inane praise of the State of the Union address, in which Trump apparently became presidential for the first time. But this speech should serve as a moment to seriously examine the trajectory of the U.S. war machine from 9/11 to the present.
Amid the deluge of scandal, incompetence, and bigotry emanating from the Trump White House, the relative calm of the Obama era seems like a far-off galaxy. The reality that Trump may not even finish a full term as president, either due to removal or resignation, means that the palace intrigue must be reported on thoroughly by the press. But a dangerous consequence of the overwhelming, obsessive focus on the daily Trump affairs is a virtual dearth of coverage on the permanent, unelected institutions of U.S. power, namely the military and the CIA.
Spend just a moment studying moves of the Pentagon and Langley during the Trump era, and you will find that very little has changed in their post-9/11 course. Covert operations continue unabated throughout the Arab world and, increasingly, in Somalia. The U.S. remains in Iraq and Afghanistan and is becoming entrenched more deeply in Syria. If anything, the military and CIA are less restrained and are in greater control of decisions — that arguably create policy rather than implement it — than they were under Obama. And civilians are being killed at a greater rate under Trump, particularly in Iraq and Syria. There are reports that Trump has delegated more unilateral authority to the commanders than his predecessor and has relaxed rules ostensibly put in place to minimize civilian deaths. He has surrounded himself with generals who have spent their lives studying and preparing for war and know how to marshal the resources needed for overt and covert campaigns. This — combined with Trump’s questionable sanity, his pathological addiction to television and Twitter, and his compulsive need to respond to random pundits and congressmen at all hours — removes a crucial component of civilian oversight of the world’s most lethal force.
President Trump has become the third president to renew a post-9/11 emergency proclamation, stretching what was supposed to be a temporary state of national emergency after the 2001 terror attacks into its 17th year.
But the ongoing effects of that perpetual emergency aren’t immediately clear, because the executive branch has ignored a law requiring it to report to Congress every six months on how much the president has spent under those extraordinary powers, USA TODAY has found.
Exactly 16 years ago Thursday, President Bush signed Proclamation 7463, giving himself sweeping powers to mobilize the military in the days following terrorist attacks that crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. It allowed him to call up National Guard and Reserve troops, hire and fire military officers, and bypass limits on the numbers of generals that could serve.
Presidents Bush and Obama renewed that emergency each year. And on Wednesday, Trump published a now-routine notice in the Federal Register extending the emergency for the 16th time, explaining simply that “the terrorist threat continues.”
But as Trump extends the emergency into a third presidential administration, legal experts say a review of those powers is long overdue.
[…] Caritas was a pyramid scam. The first investors received the promised return, but they were paid out of the receipts of the next round of investors. Ultimately, one in five households in Romania were invested in the scam. But like all pyramid scams — also known as Ponzi schemes — Caritas eventually collapsed, with nearly half a billion dollars in debt. This economic catastrophe fell hardest on the people with the least amount of money and the most desperate hopes of advancement.
The other insidious part of the story is that quite a few people invested in Caritas knowing that it was a fraud. But they calculated that they could get in and out before the pyramid disintegrated.
It is often said that Donald Trump is a confidence artist, a snake-oil salesman, a fraudster. The truth is much more disturbing. The U.S. president is a Ponzi scheme unto himself. He has gotten many hardworking people to invest their hopes and dreams in him.
It is often said that Donald Trump is a confidence artist, a snake-oil salesman, a fraudster. The truth is much more disturbing. The U.S. president is a Ponzi scheme unto himself. He has gotten many hardworking people to invest their hopes and dreams in him.
But he has also attracted the support of the more calculating kind, those who smell an easy profit. These Trump supporters know that he is a scam (and will admit so at unguarded moments). But that hasn’t stopped them from getting in on the action, as quickly as possible, before the Trumpian pyramid begins to crumble.
Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak with Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the liberal magazine The American Prospect, about his telephone interview with Steven Bannon prior to him leaving the Trump White House. (Democracy Now!)
[…] Like its fellow mega-platforms Twitter and Facebook, YouTube is an enormous engine of cultural production and a host for wildly diverse communities. But like the much smaller Tumblr (which has long been dominated by lively and combative left-wing politics) or 4chan (which has become a virulent and effective hard-right meme factory) YouTube is host to just one dominant native political community: the YouTube right. This community takes the form of a loosely associated group of channels and personalities, connected mostly by shared political instincts and aesthetic sensibilities. They are monologuists, essayists, performers and vloggers who publish frequent dispatches from their living rooms, their studios or the field, inveighing vigorously against the political left and mocking the “mainstream media,” against which they are defined and empowered. They deplore “social justice warriors,” whom they credit with ruining popular culture, conspiring against the populace and helping to undermine “the West.” They are fixated on the subjects of immigration, Islam and political correctness. They seem at times more animated by President Trump’s opponents than by the man himself, with whom they share many priorities, if not a style. Some of their leading figures are associated with larger media companies, like Alex Jones’s Infowars or Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media. Others are independent operators who found their voices in the medium.
To the extent that these personalities challenge their viewers, it’s to commit even more deeply to what their intuitions already tell them is true — not despite those opinions’ rejection from mainstream liberal thought, but because of it. Theirs is a potent and time-tested strategy. Unpopular arguments can benefit from being portrayed as forbidden, and marginal ideas are more effectively sold as hidden ones. The zealous defense of ideas for which audiences believe they’re seen as stupid, cruel or racist is made possible with simple inversion: Actually, it’s everyone else who is stupid, cruel or racist, and their “consensus” is a conspiracy intended to conceal the unspoken feelings of a silent majority. Trump has developed an intuition for this kind of audience cultivation; so have countless pundits, broadcasters, salespeople and politicians of different populist political stripes. But Zack Exley, in his final analysis of B.P.S., points to an especially apt historical parallel: conservative talk radio. “Fixated as they are with Fox News,” he says, “liberals, scholars and pundits have failed to give talk radio — which is almost wholly conservative — its due, even though it’s now nearly three decades old and reaches millions each day. They now stand to miss a new platform that, so far, is also dominated by the right wing.”
I drink coffee in the morning on a round, ornate oak table that once belonged to Harlan Fiske Stone, a U.S. Supreme Court justice from 1925 to 1946 and the chief justice for the last five of those years. Stone and his family spent their summers on this windswept, remote island six miles off the coast of Maine.
Stone, a Republican and close friend of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, embodied a lost era in American politics. His brand of conservatism, grounded in the belief that the law is designed to protect the weak from the powerful, bears no resemblance to that of the self-proclaimed “strict constitutionalists” in the Federalist Society who have accumulated tremendous power in the judiciary. The Federalist Society, at the behest of President Trump, is in charge of vetting the 108 candidates for the federal judgeships that will be filled by the administration. The newest justice, Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, comes out of the Federalist Society, as did Justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The self-identified “liberals” in the judiciary, while progressive on social issues such as abortion and affirmative action, serve corporate power as assiduously as the right-wing ideologues of the Federalist Society. The Alliance for Justice points out that 85 percent of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees—280, or a third of the federal judiciary—had either been corporate attorneys or government prosecutors. Those who came out of corporate law firms accounted for 71 percent of the nominees, with only 4 percent coming from public interest groups and the same percentage having been attorneys who represented workers in labor disputes.
Stone repeatedly warned that unchecked corporate power would mean corporate tyranny and the death of democracy. He was joined in that thinking by Louis D. Brandeis, his fellow justice and ally on the court, who stated, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
Previously on the Bizarro World version of The West Wing, Steve Bannon’s far-right campaign to get the national security adviser fired appeared to be backfiring. With Rupert Murdoch urging Trump to fire his chief strategistand the introduction of a new character, Chief of Staff John Kelly, it seemed we might finally see the Bannon exit the show has been hinting at all season.
But Wednesday’s episode ended with a shocking twist: In a callback to the dramatic departure of Anthony Scaramucci after he called The New Yorkerto share some profane thoughts about his co-workers, Bannon called Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect and shared his own unfiltered, possibly career-ending musings.
Kuttner says that Bannon, whom he’s never spoken to before, contacted him on Tuesday after reading his column in the liberal magazine on how China is profiting from the U.S.–North Korea standoff. Bannon told Kuttner he “absolutely nailed it,” and said he saw no reason to curtail the “economic war with China,” since Beijing won’t take stronger action against Pyongyang and mutually assured destruction will rein in both sides. Then he contradicted Trump’s threat to respond to any provocations from North Korea with “fire and fury”:
The words “alt-left” sounded strange coming from Donald Trump’s mouth, but then most words do. After a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left three dead, including an anti-fascist activist murdered by the far right, Trump has refused to unequivocally condemn the “alt-right” neo-Nazis responsible for the violence. Instead, he complains that his exterminationist supporters have been treated “very unfairly.” What about the violence of the anti-fascists, he wants to know: “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem?”
The existence of this strange and terrifying alt-left is new to most people; Trump’s mention of it seemed like a transparent attempt to somehow pretend that the murderousness of the Nazis and the Klan is no worse than the people forced to defend themselves against it. And that’s exactly what the idea of an “alt-left” is. But not in the way you might think.
After Trump announced the existence of the alt-left on live TV, media outlets scurried to tell the world exactly where the term emerged from. CBS explains that it “came out of the conservative media.” CNN, quoting a director at the Anti-Defamation League, describes it as a “made-up term used by people on the right.” Heavy.com writes that “the term ‘alt-left’ began being used by the online conservative media in 2016 before it slowly migrated to more mainstream conservative voices, like Fox News’ Sean Hannity.” (Hannity, who repeatedly uses the term on his TV show, seems to be getting widespread credit.) The British Telegraph newspaper, meanwhile, flatters the president with a power of logodaedaly he definitely doesn’t have, claiming the phrase was “coined by Mr Trump” himself.
None of these explanations is really true. The term “alt-left” was probably simultaneously invented hundreds or thousands of times, always bearing a slightly different meaning depending on its inventor. But up until now, the people who most forcefully pushed the idea of an alt-left weren’t Nazis or 4chan posters or anyone else in the orbit of Trump and pro-Trump Republicans trying to invent a mythical opposite to the alt-right. The alt-left is, first and foremost, a figment of centrist Democrats.
Amy Goodman speaks with Mark Bray about one of the groups who confronted the white supremacists in the streets, the antifascists known as Antifa. Bray is the author of the new book titled Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. (Democracy Now!)
The white supremacist forces arrayed in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend — the largest gathering of its sort in at least a generation — represented a new incarnation of the white supremacy movement. Old-guard groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and the Nazi skinheads, which had long stood at the center of racist politics in America, were largely absent.
Instead, the ranks of the young men who drove to Charlottesville with clubs, shields, pepper spray and guns included many college-educated people who have left the political mainstream in favor of extremist ideologies over the past few years. A large number have adopted a very clean cut, frat-boyish look designed to appeal to the average white guy in a way that KKK robes or skinhead regalia never could. Interviews show that at least some of these leaders have spent time in the U.S. armed forces.
Many belong to new organizations like Vanguard America, Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party and True Cascadia, which have seen their numbers expand dramatically in the past year. Most of these groups view themselves as part of a broader “alt-right” movement that represents the extreme edge of right-wing politics in the U.S.
These organizations exhibited unprecedented organization and tactical savvy. Hundreds of racist activists converged on a park on Friday night, striding through the darkness in groups of five to 20 people. A handful of leaders with headsets and handheld radios gave orders as a pickup truck full of torches pulled up nearby. Within minutes, their numbers had swelled well into the hundreds. They quickly and efficiently formed a lengthy procession and begun marching, torches alight, through the campus of the University of Virginia.
[…] Yes, the U.S. has had plenty of presidents in recent decades who have dog-whistled to racists and bigots, and even incited hate against minorities — think Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Reagan and his “welfare queens,” George H.W. Bush and the Willie Horton ad, and the Clintons and their “super-predators” — but there has never been a modern president so personally steeped in racist prejudices, so unashamed to make bigoted remarks in public and with such a long and well-documented record of racial discrimination.
So can we stop playing this game where journalists demand Trump condemns people he agrees with and Trump then pretends to condemn them in the mildest of terms? I hate to say this, but it is worth paying attention to the leader of the Virginia KKK, who told a reporter in August 2016: “The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in.”
So can we stop pretending that Trump isn’t Trump? That the presidency has changed him, or will change him? It hasn’t and it won’t. There will be no reset; no reboot; no pivot. This president may now be going through the motions of (belatedly) denouncing racism, with his scripted statements and vacuous tweets. But here’s the thing: why would you expect a lifelong racistto want to condemn or crack down on other racists? Why assume a person whose entire life and career has been defined by racially motivated prejudiceand racial discrimination, by hostility toward immigrants, foreigners, and minorities, would suddenly be concerned by the rise of prejudice and discrimination on his watch? It is pure fantasy for politicians and pundits to suppose that Trump will ever think or behave as anything other than the bigot he has always been — and, in more recent years, as an apologist for other bigots, too.
We would do well to heed the words of those who have spent decades studying this bizarre president. “Donald is a 70-year-old man,” Trump biographer David Cay Johnston reminded me in the run-up to his inauguration in January. “I’m 67. I’m not going to change and neither is Donald.”
Andrew Bacevich: Trump’s Handling of North Korea, His First National Security Crisis, is Very Troubling
Amy Goodman speaks with Andrew Bacevich, retired colonel and professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University. (Democracy Now!)
Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Urges Trump to Privatize Afghan War and Install Viceroy to Run Nation
Amy Goodman speaks with longtime investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn about the White House considering an unprecedented plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan at the urging of Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct private mercenary firm Blackwater. Prince told USA Today the plan would include sending 5,500 private mercenaries to Afghanistan to advise the Afghan army. It would also include deploying a private air force—with at least 90 aircraft—to carry out the bombing campaign against Taliban insurgents. The plan’s consideration comes as a federal appeals court has overturned the prison sentences of former Blackwater contractors who were involved in a 2007 massacre in Nisoor Square in central Baghdad, killing 17 civilians when they opened fire with machine guns and threw grenades into the crowded public space. (Democracy Now!)
The U.S. is deporting people more slowly than during the Obama administration despite President Donald Trump’s vast immigration crackdown, according to new data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
From Feb. 1 to June 30, ICE officials removed 84,473 people — a rate of roughly 16,900 people per month. If deportations continue at the same clip until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, federal immigration officials will have removed fewer people than they did during even the slowest years of Barack Obama’s presidency.
In fiscal year 2016, ICE removed 240,255 people from the country, a rate of more than 20,000 people per month.
In fiscal year 2012 — the peak year for deportations under Obama — the agency removed an average of roughly 34,000 people per month.
The lower rate of deportations doesn’t mean Trump has embraced a hands-off approach to immigration enforcement. But it may mean that deportations are lagging behind arrest rates or removal orders, which by all accounts have soared since Trump took office.
Despite its saber rattling of late, North Korea poses “a very, very insignificant threat in terms of scale,” according to White House national-security aide Sebastian Gorka, particularly vis-à-vis a United States that, in Gorka’s estimation, is no longer a mere superpower: “We were a superpower. We are now a hyperpower.”
Nobody, he said during an appearance on the Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends,” and “especially North Korea,” comes close to matching the U.S.’s military might. On Twitter, President Donald Trump appeared to claim credit for vouchsafing that status via the signing of an executive order: “My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”
Not Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress.
Shortly following the president’s remarks, Jeffress—who is also one of Trump’s “evangelical advisers“—released a statement declaring that “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-un,” the leader of North Korea.
Jeffress went on to say he is “heartened to see that our president…will not tolerate any threat against the American people.”
“When President Trump draws a red line, he will not erase it, move it, or back away from it,” Jeffress concluded. “Thank God for a president who is serious about protecting our country.”
Amy Goodman speaks with two-time Emmy Award-winning journalist John Carlos Frey, whose new investigation in partnership with ABC’s “20/20” is titled ‘Life and Death at the Border’. (Democracy Now!)
With little policy guidance or public attention, the Donald Trumpadministration has further expanded former President Barack Obama’s use of lethal counterterrorism operations in nonbattlefield countries — namely Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. During the final 193 days of Obama’s presidency, there were 21 such operations. Over a comparable number of days under President Trump, there have been five times as many operations: at least 92 in Yemen, four in Pakistan, and six in Somalia.
The workhorse for these expanded missions is the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a sub-unified command of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). We know that JSOC, and not the CIA, is the lead executive authority for these operations because they are overt, rather than covert. Military officials have publicly explained the missions, and the Defense Department has even issued press releases about them. (The only operations undeclared were the reported four drone strikes in Pakistan — a country that the CIA has been bombing intermittently since the summer of 2004.) Operations in Yemen and Somalia — which fall under Title 10, the part of U.S. law that outlines the role and authority of the armed forces — are broadly acknowledged and even reported to Congress every six months.
Despite that, the public knows relatively little about the organization carrying them out. We can catch glimpses inside JSOC from anecdotal reporting or from rare histories, like Sean Naylor’s masterful Relentless Strike. But the extent of America’s understanding of the primary military command responsible for “direct action” operations is best summarized by President George W. Bush’s declaration in 2008: “Listen, JSOC is awesome.”
Through a series of discussions and interviews over the past few years, I have uncovered insights into how the command has evolved, how the congressional oversight of its lethal operations is really exercised, and what the limits are to what JSOC, however “awesome” it may be, is able to accomplish.
I already miss Anthony Scaramucci. Of course, he hasn’t officially been fired yet (checks Twitter), or committed suicide by jumping into boiling steak fat at his Gotti-esque Hunt and Fish Club restaurant in Manhattan (checks Twitter again). But it sure seems like he’s not long for this earth. Even by Trumpian standards, has any federal official had a more disastrous rollout?
The big headline this morning is that the new White House Communications Director got upset and decided to call Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker and go full-on Glengarry Glen Ross without asking for background or off-the-record privileges.
In the call, Scaramucci hounded Lizza to give up his sources, threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff, and gave what Saddam Hussein would have described as the mother of all quotes in an effort to bash fellow backstabbing Trump insider Steve Bannon:
“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President.”
Bannon declined to comment on Scaramucci’s charge that he sucks his own cock.
Donald Trump’s ideological vacuum, the more he is isolated and attacked, is being filled by the Christian right. This Christianized fascism, with its network of megachurches, schools, universities and law schools and its vast radio and television empire, is a potent ally for a beleaguered White House. The Christian right has been organizing and preparing to take power for decades. If the nation suffers another economic collapse, which is probably inevitable, another catastrophic domestic terrorist attack or a new war, President Trump’s ability to force the Christian right’s agenda on the public and shut down dissent will be dramatically enhanced. In the presidential election, Trump had 81 percent of white evangelicals behind him.
Trump’s moves to restrict abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, permit discrimination against LGBT people in the name of “religious liberty” and allow churches to become active in politics by gutting the Johnson Amendment, along with his nominations of judges championed by the Federalist Society and his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, have endeared him to the Christian right. He has rolled back civil rights legislation and business and environmental regulations. He has elevated several stalwarts of the Christian right into power—Mike Pence to the vice presidency, Jeff Sessions to the Justice Department, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education, Tom Price to Health and Human Services and Ben Carson to Housing and Urban Development. He embraces the white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, greed, religious intolerance, anger and racism that define the Christian right.
July 26, 2017, was a personal anniversary for me: one year earlier I had written a piece in which I argued for setting aside the idea of a Trump-Russia conspiracy (yes, this idea was with us a year ago) for the much more important task of imagining what a Trump presidency might bring. I wrote that Trump would unleash a war at home and while it was difficult to predict the target, “my money is actually on the LGBT community because its acceptance is the most clear and drastic social change in America of the last decade, so an antigay campaign would capture the desire to return to a time in which Trump’s constituency felt comfortable.” This was a thought exercise; even as I made an argument that I believed to be logical, I could not believe my own words. On Wednesday of this week, one year to the day since I made that prediction, President Trump announced, by tweet, that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the US military—a policy reversal that would directly and immediately affect thousands of people.
Many commentators immediately branded this move a distraction, an attempt to draw attention away from the Russian-conspiracy story, the health care battle, or anything else they deem more important than the president’s declaration that a group of Americans are second-class citizens. This is not only a grievous insult to transgender people but a basic failure to understand the emotional logic of Trumpism. This is a logic that Trump shares with most modern-day strongmen, and it was this logic that made his attack on LGBT rights so predictable, even while he was literally draping a rainbow flag over his body last year.
Trump got elected on the promise of a return to an imaginary past—a time we don’t remember because it never actually was, but one when America was a kind of great that Trump has promised to restore. Trumps shares this brand of nostalgia with Vladimir Putin, who has spent the last five years talking about Russian “traditional values,” with Hungarian president Viktor Orbán, who has warned LGBT people against becoming “provocative,” and with any number of European populists who promise a return to a mythical “traditional” past.