THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION: TRUMP AND FIRING OF FBI DIRECTOR COMEY: WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT? (UP-DATED)

By  Harry C. Blaney III

Clips from The New Times editorial May 10th:

“Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president. Though compromised by his own poor judgment, Mr. Comey’s agency has been pursuing ties between the Russian government and Mr. Trump and his associates, with potentially ruinous consequences for the administration.

With congressional Republicans continuing to resist any serious investigation, Mr. Comey’s inquiry was the only aggressive effort to get to the bottom of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign. So far, the scandal has engulfed Paul Manafort, one of Mr. Trump’s campaign managers; Roger Stone, a longtime confidant; Carter Page, one of the campaign’s early foreign-policy advisers; Michael Flynn, who was forced out as national security adviser; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself in March from the Russia inquiry after failing to disclose during his confirmation hearings that he had met twice during the campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

We have said that Mr. Comey’s atrocious handling of the Clinton email investigation, which arguably tipped the election to Mr. Trump, proved that he could not be trusted to be neutral, and that the only credible course of action would be the appointment of a special prosecutor. Given all that has happened ……. his dismissal of nearly all United States attorneys — the need for such a prosecutor is plainer than ever. Because Mr. Sessions is recused, the decision to name a special prosecutor falls to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose memo, along with a separate one by Mr. Sessions, provided Mr. Trump with the pretense to fire Mr. Comey.

This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history. The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the F.B.I.’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates…..”

Added to this commentary is the reality that the most serious threat to the security of the United States and indeed the world is Donald Trump. As each day, each week and each month unfolds, this is increasingly apparent.  The cumulative impact of his actions directives, lies, and tweets only reinforce this conclusion. What is even more frightening is that so many of our leaders and institutions are unwilling to speak up or act to mitigate and halt this mortal danger to American security and democracy.

What was said in the NY Times editorial is a what both Democrats and some Republicans are now saying or wondering — most in disbelieve, wonder and yes fearfulness.

There are no better questions for our justice system, Congress, media, and citizens than to ask deep and serious questions about  the “Russia connection.” Getting honest truthful answers from Trump, Flynn, James Comey, and James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and all those associated with and under Trump who had connections with the Russians and a role in the firing of Comey, to wit: what did they know and when did they know it? An ancillary, and just as important, is to find out how dependent Trump, his family and organization are on Russian money, and contacts?

The firing of the head of the FBI who was leading the FBI effort investigating the contacts between Trump’s staff and associates, and, it is assumed, the Russian hacking of American political parties, has all the hallmarks of the Saturday Night Massacre under Nixon.  I witnessed this up front while at the State Department under then Secretary of State Kissinger.  I knew well the integrity of Elliot Richardson who stood with courage. Where now are such men of courage in the Republican Party?

At issue is the legal concept of “obstruction of justice” which should apply to all citizens including the president. There is a growing consensus that Trump’s aim is to demolish the FBI investigation and put in place in the Justice Department those who would stop or impede any further effort to fairly determine the truth  about Trump and his associates’ role in possible collusion with Russia — especially before he become president, and now after.

Each day there appears to be much more to the Russian influence story and Trump’s role than has so far surfaced. The recent White House Trump Meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. in closed doors adds to the perplexity. The odd truth is that Trump’s own actions and words tend to confirm that there is more to learn — perhaps not comforting for the security and well being of our nation. Clapper’s statement that he could not comment on the investigation of Trump regarding Russia was not a clearance of him. It was rather the opposite, it is that indeed Trump was an object of interest, given some of the evidence as part of the larger inquiry. And Clapper under those circumstances could not comment.

There is one simple assertion one can make: the appearance is an effort by Donald Trump to again squash and divert possible investigation of the “Russian Connection.“ To fire James Comey is clearly an act to set up a barrier in the Justice Department against any further action to investigate Trump and his team.  This includes if Trump was involved in initiating or knowing about, before he was president, the contacts with Russian agents and officials — especially aimed at making “deals” on withdrawal of sanctions and on collusion of hacking of Democratic files. There is also the question of the lies by Flynn about his contacts when he headed of the NSC. To this day Trump defends Flynn.

Another key question is Trump’s strange urging during the campaign of Russia to continue to hack the Democratic Party and Hillary and if that statement was a “signal” to the Russians to continue their efforts.

The revelation that Comey, before being fired asked for additional resources for the Russian inquiry and that Trump was informed about it,  and first said it was a decision based on the “recommendations” of AG Sessions (who should not have been involved,) and his deputy Rod J. Rosenstein. This has now been proved false. Recently, the Senate testimony by the now Acting FBI head Andrew McCabe, rejected Trump’s rationale for firing Comey. He defended the agency’s “significant” Russian counterintelligence investigation, and praised his former boss as a respected FBI leader contrary to the criticism of Trump that called him a a “showboater” and “bad” and not respected at the FBI. All lies.

In short, it sounds like Trump is trying to obstruct the process of justice to protect his associates and perhaps even himself from legal action prosecution, or impeachment. There are a number of serious questions about the corruption of the legal process by recent events. Our allies and Russia and others are looking at this with either dismay or rejoicing.  For friends hopes its America coming out of this still a cooperative and constructive democracy, for our  adversaries its pleasure seeing the dismemberment of Western law based justice, morality, and a further fracturing of Western unity and resolve and America in disarray.

We welcome your comments!!! (See section below for space to give your views.)

THE RUSSIAN-TRUMP CONNECTION: GETTING TO THE TRUTH AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR THE WEST

THE RUSSIAN-TRUMP CONNECTION: GETTING TO THE TRUTH AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

By Harry C. Blaney III

DATELINE :LONDON

The perspective from London: the news that both the Director of the FBI James Comey and the head of the National Security Agency Admiral Mike Rogers have confirmed two key points has given some light here on America’s own disarray: the most important revelation is that of Comey in affirming that an investigation of the connection between the Trump team and Russia is taking place. The other statement by the NSA head, at the congressional committee, is that they could not find any evidence that Obama or his administration called for a wiretap on Trump Tower and affirmed that such a request would be illegal by Obama or any president. This severely undercut the Trump White House assertion that such wiretapping was ordered. They are looking at whether there was any collusion between Trump’s team and Russia to influence the election.

Russian Interference in the 2016 election is the other key issue and the need to look more at this seem on the agenda and will have still public profile until more if revealed and this is also a finding which Trump fears.

Here in London this Russian connection story was given wide coverage especially on BBC News and in the quality newspapers. The question was also raised here whether the Trump unproved accusations that the UK GCHQ, the counterpart of the American NSA, had spied on the Trump camp. This only added to the unease about American leadership. The GCHQ stated that any idea of their spying was nonsense. In fact, at the US House Intelligence hearings on these issues, the NSA head confirmed that such an order was expressly counter to the so-call “5 eyes” of nations with special access to and sharing of intelligence information, and was contrary to its firm rules and no such order was ever given.

With all of that, the White House totally denied any reality of collusion with Russia and stood on their untenable positions, with no indication of any apology or refutation of the now totally denied chargers.

With the affirmation of the FBI Trump-Russian connection inquiry, the possibility of some connection between the Trump people and Russian, before the election and before taking office grows more worrisome. It is clear that something odd was at work in that Trump’s staff. The Trump associates did approach the Russians before the election and that the former NSC head Flynn felt he had to lie to the American Vice president about his talk to the Russian Ambassador. Also US intelligence did report that at least 3 or possibly more members of the Trump team also had contacts with Russians. There were also hints that some of these Russians were from Russian intelligence agencies.

Another disheartening news for Europe is that Secretary of State will not be coming to the forthcoming NATO Council meeting of Foreign Ministers and news reports confirm that he supports the drastic cutting of the State Department and USAID budget which will cost million of vulnerable lives. This only adds to the unease here in Europe and brightens Putin’s efforts to divide the West.

One other element is that UK Prime Minister May has set Wednesday March 27th as the date she will invoke Article 50 to leave the EU. This plays into also Putin’s goals and it seems, that the British right-wing is in its ascendancy and the Labour Party here is in even more disarray than earlier which is saying a great deal given its critical internal turmoil. There seems, as noted before, a rush of the lemmings over the clef.

Finally, the combination of Trump fighting with our allies and pushing, it seems, for their disunity, along with the UK Prime Minister May also on board with the Brexit plunge into even greater isolationism and nationalism, add also lurking economic crisis upon actual breakup. One then must mix in the ascendancy in Europe of the Alt-Right-neo-Fascist parties and groups, despite the Dutch vote, along with the factor of Putin’s Russia playing a not so secret effort to weaken and divide Europe and undermine democracy, result: we have a very dangerous landscape.

All this exacerbated by a very foolish, uninformed, and clearly malevolent man. Not a very good picture for those that prize peace, democracy and security. The costs here are too great to imagine.

More in the coming days from Europe and it’s “discontents” and America’s role in all this.

We welcome your comments! See box below.

THE UNWINDING OF AMERICAN SECURITY: WHITE HOUSE CREATED CHAOS ON DISPLAY AT THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE

THE UNWINDING OF AMERICAN SECURITY:

WHITE HOUSE CREATED CHAOS ON DISPLAY AT THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE

By

Harry C. Blaney III

The Trump press conference on Thursday was one of the most surreal experience I have ever had in Washington for 45 plus years. But it was emblematic of the whole Trump world. It was filled with lies and exaggerations. It was aimed at attacking his critics and trying to undermined especially the press and news outlets and not least also the intelligence community. But its strategic aim was to deflect attention from his most recent serious debacle namely the relationship of him and his people to Russian intelligence and officials and the failure of himself to run an effective logical and constrictive White House let alone the government that remains in disarray.

The embarrassments of his key NSC head Mike Flynn who made a surreptitious contact that likely was illegal with the Russian Ambassador showed an out of control dysfunctional staff. And we still do not know if Trump knew of or order that meeting, as Trump at the press conference avoided a direct answer. One key question is whether US sanctions on Russia were discussed. At the likely urging of Bannon Flynn was picked but Trump should have known Flynn was a total flake. It seems Trump had no intention of running a true professional NSC. This was proved by appointing Bannon to an official NSC seat and initially taking his intelligence chief and Military Chief of Staff off of the NSC Principles Group all indicating his aim was to conduct a secretive truly only personally directed “disruptive” foreign and security policy.

An example of how chaotic is Trump’s White house his next pick for head of the NSC was retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward who declined the offer. It was reported that he was not promised the ability to pick his own staff as he saw the need for staff that actually know what they were doing given what was at stake. It was said theat there were three persons on a new list and they seem all to have problems. One John Bolton is an extreme war hawk and disliked for his rough personality, in the end the head of the NSC turned out to be Lt. General H.R. McMaster, an active duty officer without any high policy coordinating experience. Trump has almost entirely picked active or former military flag officers in un-presidented numbers for national security and diplomatic positions that normally are largely filled by high ranking civilian officials and experts. At the recent Munich strategy conference Senator John McCann decimated the Trump security and foreign affairs record of Trump in front of the European defense community but later praised the selection of McMaster and the revised NSC team.

Trump a made no attempt at the conference to discuss in a serious way key challenges like climate change, what to do about North Korea, the issues of Iran, nuclear weapons, poverty, not least his failure to maintain American respect or how exactly to deal with Russia and Putin and a host of domestic issues including immigration and refugees.

He avoided serious questions from the press. Probably he has no clue on how to seriously deal with the issues that are on his desk. He has not advance a rational or even creditable national strategy or program. This was proven by choosing many individuals who’s main aim is to destroy the agencies that they head or to put forth policies that are clearly destructive of our nation’s moral, economic, and security fabric and interests. It almost seems that he wanted to choose people who were even less experienced but as destructive as he was.

My main view is again that Trump’s aim was to attack the media and their coverage and thus deflect from the chaos that he himself has caused. Phrases like “dishonest media” and ‘fake news” were designed to fend off criticism or public understanding of accurate facts and objective news analysis of his incompetence which has taken on a crescendo recently given the massive dysfunction and stench emanating from Trump and his people. Trump’s attacks oddly are to attack others for the same characteristics and flaws he has himself!

During the conference Trump tired to depict himself as popular with our citizens and quoted one Republican orientated poll of 56% support when in reality it is closer to 40% in recent polls. He said he inherited “a mess” at home and abroad but the reality is that he inherited fewer large wars, normal global challenges and a growing economy. His acts are undermining of American respect. He has made enemies of our friends and brought joy to our opponents. He and Bannon support far right parties in Europe whose main aims are to destroy both the EU and the unity of the Atlantic community. He argues the moral equivalence of Russia and America. He even took credit for pre-Trump growth of our economy.

Russia may turn out as his most vulnerable arena and challenge. Trump denied that his people had contact with Russians during the campaign and transition while the intelligence agencies has clear evidence that in fact there was contact with Russians during the campaign by his associates which some of these associates deny. Reports in the news seem to indicate that the professionals in the intelligence community do not fully trust him and his staff with the most sensitive data, while still providing him with the main intelligence and assessments to make key decisions. Frighteningly, Trump seems bent on destroying the objectivity and competence of the intelligence community which, if carried out in a political “house cleaning.” could endanger the security of our nation.

The simple fact is the White House under Trump is a disaster zone without rational leadership and the people that Trump has surround are, and there is no other way to put it, a bunch of the most ignorant, bigoted, and incompetent people every to have inhabited the White House in its history. I simply cite Stephen Bannon a White nationalist supremacist and formally key founder and manager of the fascist Alt-Right news outlet Beritbart and follower, like Trump, of Ayn Rand’s version of brutal extreme right ideas and avaricious destructive capitalism. But look at the likes Kellyanne Conway who also lies and violates civil service rules, disgraced Mike Flynn who we have already described, a press assistant that also lies, and a host of others without any government experience and with far right ideology that drives bad decisions and reinforces prejudices.
Trump’s excuse for his actions is that there was a “mess” before he arrived, and he alone with unlimited powers can fix it. But he has deliberately made our nation and whole globe a real “mess” with his twisted madness and made us all more insecure.

There is in short, dysfunction but more than that it is, in my view, in key part deliberate misleading and manipulation of our citizens and the media (which they have too often acted as accomplices), accompanied by a destructive world view. He acts so as to run, in time, an authoritarian state based on one man and his family’s interests. A kind of conspiracy to up-end our best values, decency within our diverse society, to rip out the effort of government to help our most disadvantage citizens, and to create a world of even more conflict and chaos. This all to justify such rule. Already, he has undermined the institutions that have held this nation together protected our citizens and surely take from us all a nation truly great and doing good.

We welcome your comments. See box below for your comments.

MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr.: A GLOBAL LESSEN FOR OUR VITRIOLIC AND BIGOTED TIMES

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MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr.: A GLOBAL LESSEN FOR OUR VITRIOLIC AND BIGOTED TIMES

“For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

By

Harry C. Blaney III (A Personal Note)

There is a lessen to all of us who worry about the direction that humanity is moving and not less what direction America will go in the future. This day we honored a man that indeed did “make America graet” in the yes of all at home and abroad.  America has been the acknowledged leader of Western and other democracies but that is now threaten by the irresponsibility and venomous statements and threats made already by Donald Trump.

Not least on this day we honored an extraordinary man filled with a commitment to equal justice for all, the elimination of racial and economic exploitation and prejudice, and especially committed to democracy and peace. But Trump, with malice afore thought, once again spudded disparaging remarks to a person with a morality that Trump it seems will never understand. Lewis said he did not consider, what many others believe, that Trump is “a legitimate president” and he gave as the reason Russian operatives interfered in the election on Trump’s behalf. Given that and the action of the FBI, Trump won with a profusion of outright lies, and that Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes, seems to not be a very strange conclusion among a large segment of Americans.

john_lewis-2006

Trump we all know in this context, is the man who disparaged Sen. McCain as a prisoner of war, a Gold Star family, a disabled reporter, and a host of just good people beyond numbers to count. So his nasty words directed at a good man with great courage who marched with MLKJr into dangers for the sake of justice and racial equality seems sadly no surprise.

I feel this insult and nasty disparagement especially strongly because, in the smallest possible way, I also participated in our civil rights era by going South on Spring break conducting sits-in with fellow students, my Chaplain, and above all bravely by local African-Americans all under the banner of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) led by Rev. King. It was not much but I was beaten with cattle prods by the St. Johns County police trying to sit-in, held in jail with my fellow peaceful protestors and threaten with death by the head of the local KKK inside the jail, the leaders of which were in cohorts with the police. Much worse I add was mete out to the local Blacks over the years.

All the while Trump made sure to discriminate against African- Americans in his New York housing operations. Now we see the same mind set of hate for “the other” coming back and extending to just about any who dare to criticize him or have a different viewpoint.

More on this element when we examine soon Trump’s MLKJr day attacks on our allies and praise and irresponsible national security giveaways to our adversary Vladimir Putin, the brutal killer of innocent babies, woman, and men in Syria and military aggressor in Ukraine on which he offers to lift sanctions. All in a typical day for a unsound Donald Trump.

We welcome your comments!

TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY AN UNCLASSIFIED REPORT BY OBAMA. SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR
DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY UNCLASSIFIED REPORT  BY OBAMA WITH SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

By Harry C. Blaney III

Today President Obama was briefed on and received the intelligence community’s CLASSIFIED report of Russia’s hacking of Democratic officials and likely other US hacking activities especially aimed to influence the 2016 presidential elections. It is reported that the unclassified version will be released possibly Monday and Obama will brief our citizens on its content and its import and possibly US actions.

Already on Capital Hill hearings are taking place on this subject with the Republican Senate leadership adamantly opposing a separate investigation and bipartisan committee to look into the issue. In the hearings the intelligence heads today have made clear, on an unclassified basis, that Russia did the hacking and it was aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election outcome and it was ordered by the highest levels of the Russian government.

The witnesses included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence,  testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Russian cyberattacks or hacking during the 2016 election as well addressing the greater cyber threat Russia poses to the U.S.

There was concern about this action by both Republican and Democratic members. Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, brought up the Watergate scandal and cited the congressional investigation that followed. “It is my hope that this Congress is willing to stand in a bipartisan way…as the Congress did in 1974.” Kaine talked about how he was a victim of fake news during the election and criticized Mr. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has promoted some of those stories.

On the Republican side Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, asked Clapper if there’s a difference between espionage and Russian hacking. Clapper said that espionage “implies passive collection,” but the hacking is “activist.” Sen Graham said. “If we don’t throw rocks, we’re going to make a huge mistake.” “It’s time now not to throw pebbles, but to throw rocks,” ….. “Putin’s up to no good; he’s got to be stopped. Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people you can be skeptical, but you have to understand they’re the best among us.” When asked later, why we did not retaliate for espionage fully Clapper said “If we’re going to punish each other for acts of espionage, that’s a different policy issue.”

When Clapper talked about Russia’s “multifaceted campaign” against the U.S. He said, for example that RT, funded by the Russian government, was “very, vert active in promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, etc.” Further, Clapper added that Russia used RT, social media, fake news. “They exercised all of those capabilities in addition to the hacking. The totality of that effort, not only as DNI, but as a citizen, is a grave concern.”

The exchange in the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing was clear as to who did the hacking and beyond with Director Clapper noting that “Hacking was only part of it,” he added told the panel that “It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation and fake news.”

The question before both Obama, and now soon, Donald Trump is what will be done about the action or any repeat of such activities? So far Trump and his team seem to throw doubt and disparagement upon the entire Russia hacking effort against the Democrats.

The question that needs to be asked and will be taken up next week by this blog, is what President Obama will say about what needs to be done and the import of these actions for American democracy, and not least, shortly a statement by Trump “after briefing on this issue by our intelligence people, our thoughts whether if Trump is protecting himself or our nation as president!

So far my judgement, contrary to some commentators like in the Washington Post today (“Could Trump be playing Russia?” by the conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt), that it is Trump playing a game on Putin. My bet is the other way around by far, as the evidence shows Trump is ignorant of Russian realities, ignores facts, and seems to put “relations with Putin” and his own ego ahead of national interests and use of smart diplomacy including understanding the U.S. intelligence findings and its consequences.

We welcome your comments!

Guest Post: An Open Letter to My Friends in France by A. Belden Fields

This is a guest post from an old Yale graduate school colleague now a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and author of Rethinking Human Rights for the New Millennium (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003) and a distinguished expert on French politics. He  sent a copy of his insightful open letter addressed to his friends in France which I thought was worth sharing with our readers as it reflects wider concerns for all on both sides of the Atlantic. Harry Blaney .

Photo Credit via BBC

An Open Letter to My Friends in France

By A. Belden Fields

Last May, when we were sitting at my dinner table in Urbana, Illinois, my Parisian friend, Dr. Marie-Blandine Basalo, asked me if I thought that Trump had a chance of winning the election. I responded that I thought that Marine Le Pen stood a better chance of winning there than Trump had here. She gave me a look of horror. And I have said to others among you that I thought that Trump had a zero chance of winning.

I offer my apologies both because I was so wrong about Trump’s chances, and because Trump’s victory here has given the National Front and other ultranationalist and racist parties in Europe a boost–if not in their chances of winning, at least in their morale.  “If the US does it, hey why not here!”

How could this have happened in the U.S.?

The reasons are complex, some peculiar to the U.S. and some that are common to both the U.S. and Europe. The most significant that applies as well to Europe as here is the economic situation. There is very high unemployment, especially among younger people and the marginalized. In France, overall unemployment is higher than in the U.S.. That being said, the true unemployment rate in the U.S. is much higher than the official figures. In both the U.S. and France, there is a tendency among many to blame immigrants and minorities for it. They are also often seen as sapping the country in terms of social services that particularly strain local units of government. External entities are also held responsible. In the U.S. it is trade pacts like NAFTA that encourage employers to chase after low wage industrial workers abroad (even though there are plenty of low wage service workers in the U.S.). In Europe, it is the European Union which is seen as an unaccountable, undemocratic arrangement that forces austerity policies upon the individual countries to the detriment of the general population, and to the advantage of the upper, capitalist classes.

All of these factors produce high emotions of fear and anger, of ultranationalism and the attribution of otherness to minorities and immigrants, and to despair with the status quo and the hope that Far Right parties, usually with charismatic leaders, can save them from the calamity that they feel they are living.
Another interesting dimension to this is religion. In Poland and in the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches respectively are playing a major role in supporting right-wing politics. In France, a conservative Catholic bloc has been manifesting itself in the conservative Republican Party and can be seen in the programs of former President Nicolas Sarkosy and in the present Republican presidential candidacy of Francois Fillon. Gay marriage, abortion, and even secularism in public institutions, especially the schools, which has been a mainstay of French Republicanism, have newly become major issues in the mainstream of French politics.

This resembles, on a smaller scale, Trump’s appeal to the white evangelical voters in the American South and Mid-West. The big issue for them is who will be appointed to the Supreme Court and be voting on civil rights issues for women, minorities, and the LGBT population. The European Right, in both Western and Eastern Europe, has taken up the battle over cultural and social issues (the culture wars) that the American Right has engaged in for along time and that Trump has been playing so effectively.

But there are other variables that accounted for Trunp’s victory that are not so easily comparable to what is happening in Europe recently. The first is the Electoral College. If Trump and Clinton had been French, Clinton would have won because she had a sizeable lead in the popular vote, over two million more votes than Trump.

Aside from this, there was the difference between the two candidates themselves. Clinton was clearly the more politically experienced and qualified. She discussed policy issues in a serious way. And she would have been the first woman president, following the first African American president. That was both a plus and a minus. A plus for those who valued diversity in political life, a negative to those who despised “identity politics.”

Even some on the Left felt that she should have devoted more time to addressing the serious economic plight of many Americans than in stressing the breaking of the glass ceiling imposed by males. While this is not necessarily an either/or, many Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary felt that Clinton did not come across as sincerely attentive to the economic plight of so many people where industry had disappeared. Fairly or not, the association that was made between her and her husband’s support of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), and her hesitation in coming out against Obama’s Trans Pacific trade agreement, made her unpopular both on the Left and on the populist Right. Her vote for the Iraq War and other more hawkish positions also alienated progressives on the Left and noninterventionists on the Right. Her use of a personal server for public business when she was Secretary of State came back to haunt her. And her closeness to Wall Street when she was the Senator from New York, and refusal to release the content of speeches she gave to investment bankers for large fees, did not help her on either wing of the political spectrum.

Trump, on the other hand has had no political experience which could be held against him. His business dealings were marred by frequent bankruptcies, by refusal to pay for services provided by contractors, by a constant stream of threats and lawsuits against people and institutions. He broke tradition by being the first presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. Instead of seriously discussing policy issues, he offered a series of ad libs to please his crowd. He vilified all of his opponents in both the primary and the general elections. He referred to Clinton as “crooked Hillary” who should be criminally prosecuted. He refused to say that he would accept the result of the election. He degraded women, Mexicans and Moslems. He even ridiculed the physical gestures of a paralyzed reporter who asked a question at a press conference. He has bragged about molesting women and been accused by a number of women of doing so. He has encouraged violence against protestors at his rallies. He has defended the use of torture.

Since the election, he has appointed to be his attorney General Senator Sessions, who has spoken favorably of the Ku Klux Klan and opposed civil rights legislation. His special adviser with an office in the White House, will be Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart, a Far Right “news” outlet that has diffused racist and anti-Semitic material, and which intends to establish an office in Paris. His national security advisor is going to be former Lt. General Michael Flynn, who, along with his Trump-employed son, has spread fake stories on social media contending that Hillary Clinton was involved in criminal activity, including with child sex rings.

In Europe, you have had your Le Pens, and your Berlesconi whose sexual vulgarity equals Trumps. The former were established party leaders. Trump has captured a party. What he has behind him are largely the economically hard hit who are willing to forgive his sins in the hope that he will be their salvation, and white supremacists who see him as their vindication and leader. Trump is an actor who has created politics as a one-man spectacle, combining Mussolini’s oratorical style and facial gestures with a skilled use of Twitter, which the cable news media has retransmitted instantaneously to the public.

Indeed, the closer historical analogy to the spectacular Trump are the Nazis who used the technology of radio to mobilize the masses in their living rooms, vilified and crushed political opponents, dehumanized ethnic and religious groups, and repeated lie after lie with the assurance that their followers would believe them and that establishment politicians and business leaders would be afraid to confront them. It is precisely this complex of factors that foreshadowed the first totalitarian state in Western Europe in the late 1930s, which began with an electoral victory and which too few took seriously enough until it was too late.

I say to you, please do not be taken in the way we Americans have been.
Ici la lutte continue.

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PROSPECTS FOR A “TRUMPIAN” FOREIGN AND SECURITY AGENDA: INCOHERENCE & IGNORANCE VERSUS THE REALITY OF OUR MESSY AND DANGEROUS WORLD


By Harry C. Blaney III

Image result for President-elect Trump

THE PROBLEM OF TRUMP THE MAN AND THE DEFICIENCY OF NO CREDIBILITY

Trying to understand what a Donald Trump foreign and security policy might be is like reading tea leaves in a very dark and mushy tea. There is no consistency, little true knowledge of diplomacy and security issues, and no cohesiveness to his many pronouncements. His formal documents and off-hand remarks and his stances are, to say the least, not very enlightening and often rather simplistic, silly, and dangerous.

There will be great efforts to have him look like a “statesman,” but if his campaign is any indication he will be, as they say, out of his depth and playing it “by the seat of his pants.” You can only do so much with a Teleprompter or printed talking points when you have no depth of knowledge and not a clue to what the other side wants and dangers of misunderstanding when tens of thousands of lives are at stake for example.   In this world, those empty grey cells will likely not be enough to ensure the security of our nation nor solve the deep and complex challenges of our conflict-filled messy world.

Subtlety, attention to detail, and seeing the other side of the equation have proven not to be Trump’s strong points. However bullying and lying are. What do we do with a leader that has told so many lies that it would be hard for a leader of another country to believe any word he says?

Further, he starts his new presidency with a set of positions that the rest of the world already sees as a disaster, not in their own national interest, and indeed a danger to the entire globe. Here are a few examples which we will examine in more detail in forthcoming posts:

– CLIMATE CHANGE:  His rejection of the Paris Global Warming accord which has now come into force. Not only will he not support that agreement despite the science, he does not even believe its reality that man made global warming and ignores its impact on our earth, and has even advocated churning out CO2 with more coal-fired power stations and expanded mining.

– THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: His stated goal is to repudiate the Iran nuclear deal, which bars Iran from developing nuclear weapons for some 10-20 years and beyond. It will be a total disaster for the world’s security and that of Israel, as Iran would be within months of being able to build a nuclear bomb. Further, the alternative of a massive bombing campaign against Iranian targets would do little in the long run, exacerbate the situation, and create even more conflict in the region. Such an effort might draw us into a war we would not have to face with the agreement in place.

– NATO AND OTHER ALLIES: He said we would, in effect, not support NATO allies that do not pay fully for their defense. This is contrary to our NATO treaty obligations AND ALSO REGARDING OUR OTHER ALLIES IN Asia and elsewhere. His position undermines our defense credibility and deterrence power.

– TRUMP AND INTERNATIONAL LAW: Trump has said he supports torture and water boarding, but there is the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions to which the United States is a party. He can withdraw from these conventions, but that would put our people still under danger of being found criminals if we carried out such horrific inhumane acts. Such action are in any case counterproductive and encourage terrorism. How is that for a moral American position and what it does to us as a presumptive leader of other decent countries?

– DEALING WITH ISIS AND TERRORISM: On 60 Minutes after the election, Donald Trump said he will destroy ISIS as he has said earlier, but gave little indication of how he might do this. He still maintained that he knows more than the generals.

There are facts on the ground which will not change after the election. Much has already been done by Obama’s strategy which has severely weaken ISIS without major commitment of U.S. combat forces on the ground and without huge loss of American lives. The concept behind that strategy is to let regional forces carry the fight to ISIS as they do have much to lose and they know the environment that they are fighting in. Our main contributions now are bombing, intelligence, training, and logistics.

What more can be done with an eye on also not ending up mired in a costly “endless war” with high costs of American lives and resources or unneeded and counterproductive destruction of civilian populations? The new president will have to weigh many options but also many major risks in an area he knows almost nothing about, but thinks he knows more than the generals or for that matter perhaps our diplomats and intelligence experts. Also, in the end, it will be politics and diplomacy that will be needed to create the conditions for lasting security and stability in the Middle East. Will he act before he learns and listens or will he act precipitously with high costs for all?

– TRUMP AND CHINA: It can’t help but be a clash, but the constraints on the reality of continued trade and their importance as well as cooperation on key issues like North Korea. All the constraints and realities should give some pause to hasty actions by both sides. But it may not if China is aiming for a predominant role in the Pacific and sees Trump as leading America to global weakness. Trade and economics and security are deeply intermixed and the question must be asked if both sides see the advantages of cooperation rather than confrontation. Up to now Trump seems perhaps to often favor confrontation and the American economy may suffer as well as China’s from such a strategy. But absent a creditable presence and strong economic and military ties in the Pacific region, China is likely to be even bolder to gain predominance.

– RUSSIA/PUTIN:  Trump and Russia remain a hazard zone for both sides. Things can go very badly quickly depending on the reaction of just two people: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.  Will Putin push too hard, and test the mettle of neophyte Trump? Will Trump think he can make a deal with Putin? But at what cost to American leadership and security or that of our allies? On the agenda is the question of continued sanctions on Russia for the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine, and not least how to deal with Russia’s violence to civilians and military action on behalf of Syria’s Assad, who has committed butchery of much of his own people with Russian help..

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Of high importance is trying to deal with key nuclear weapons issues. That includes the future of the Iran nuclear deal which Trump has said he will scrap. But also it must address the danger of nuclear war which is the most important issue that needs some kind of understanding between the two largest nuclear nations. Putin seems to think that the nuclear weapons and his military are his high cards which he has used to some success and a way to intimidate America and the West generally. What might Trump do to offer a counter action to obtain a mutually cooperative and fair “deal?” More belligerence from both sides and greater risk of military confrontation is one option, or some measure of cooperation and backing away from dangerous actions is another. In the end, a key question is whether Putin sees in Trump an easy pawn, a partner in his goals. or make deals that can complete his ambitions and harm the West without any cost? For Trump the question is whether he even understands the high risks for all. The whole world will be asking what kind of “deal” can come out of this mix.

There are many other questions that will need to be examined in forthcoming posts on this site, and we will examine in more detail in the coming weeks these and the cited topics here. A key will be who Trump advances as high level national security and foreign affairs officials. However, their influence might be either as bad or even if they are more reasonable, Trump might not listen or even want to learn.  We have seen that Trump seems to desire to act compulsively without thought of the long-term harm.

One thing is certain with Trump: we likely will be living in a world sliding quickly into unknown conflict and chaos.

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