RUSSIA’S PUTIN AND AMERICA’S TRUMP: A DISASTER TRAJECTORY FOR OUR NATION?

By

Harry C. Blaney III

We are coming closer and closer to some kind of determining of the trajectory of both the Trump regime at home and the direction and risks of the inherent divide between Putin’s Russia and its goals and Trump’s own goals or perhaps just incoherent daily utterances and thoughtless unknown schemes. For America this landscape is filled with unknowns and ever growing risks. If we continue as we have with Trump, the ending will likely be danger of more conflicts and with more calamities for both sides and the rest of the world.

For Trump, the world is closing in and his walls of defense are increasingly more desperate and self-contradictory. His efforts to change the direction of attention away from the Trump-Russian contacts and towards diversionary issues confirm his sense of vulnerability. This includes the intensity of his incoherent tweets and acts that indicate at least that he senses serious risk for him, his family and administration. He perhaps sees a point of final dangerous conclusion by the Special Counsel investigation and Congressional inquires.

To put the situation simply, the Trump “walls” are starting to crack (and we do not mean the non existent one on the Mexican border). All of this is solely due to Trump’s own nefarious behavior, his conflicting lies and those of his family and staff. Now we have proof of real collusion between Russian agents and the Trump family and staff according recent reported news on the now infamous Trump Tower meeting. This meeting was held clearly to work with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.

The meeting was with a total of eight persons, some with questionable backgrounds. It was focused much more on helping Trump’s election than Trump Jr. reported to the public or US officials originally. The fundamental question that must be in the minds of those alert to the legal and national security implications is that of collusion. The recent revelation of this meeting and that lies were told about it includes the fact that Trump’s son and people were offered Russian government information as a key inducement. And Trump Jr., in response to the offer said that he would “love it.”  Trump Jr. did not put down initially all the people in the room for his security clearance. That in normal times would bar him from access to high level classified information.

The recent revelation of Trump’s “private” and unannounced meeting at the G-20 dinner for about an hour with Putin with only a Russia interpreter present and no American interpreter, has raised many serious questions, not least about Trump’s primary loyalty and judgement. This is, even more so, as it may have been planned earlier with Putin to assure no Americans would know what was agreed.  And we note that Putin had a briefing paper and pen at hand and Trump had nothing!

We have had no real readout of what was discussed at this lone bilateral. Further we initially had strained obstruction regarding getting information on the heart of this meeting by the White House staff.

I can assure all readers, as a former White House staffer and Member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, this was not normal if substance and deals were discussed and there was no planning or debate by officials on what Trump proposed. Efforts to make little of it only reinforce doubt. This was likely a very BIG DEAL! That there was no serious readout of the meeting only intensifies the feeling America may be sold out by our incompetent and unstable president. Does anyone who should be brief on this discussion really know what was agreed? Perhaps his family knows, or others in the White House or the Secretaries of State or Defense??? Or just the Russians?

One further question: is there other material, likely in the hands of the intelligence community or FBI, which should be shared with Special Counsel Robert Muller? If there is full sharing, we may see the start of far more serious inquires by the Special Counsel who already has asked to interview at least one member of that Trump Tower meeting and reportedly more.

At this time — with the President at the lowest point in public opinion polls and with a history of vitriol and lies in almost all that he does — the question is being asked if this nation can stand and be secure for the next three years with this individual and his “disruptive” family and staff. Not least in this regard Stephen Bannon with his Alt-Right views, seems increasingly to be behind some of the more cruel and hateful policies of this administration.

Some say impeachment is not possible with this GOP dominated Congress which itself says a lot about how our democracy has declined and the integrity of our elected GOP officials  as well. Think what the GOP would do if all this was done by a Democratic president? So many have been bought (literally in many cases), by dark wealthy forces wanting to undermine our democracy’s efforts towards fairness, equality, and justice for all. How many disasters will the GOP accept before acting?

Thus the issue is likely in the brave hands of the Special Counsel, the FBI and our overall justice system.  As Robert Mueller and staff examine the case for civil and criminal action against some in the highest levels in our land we many be able to discern who may have desecrated and shown they are disloyal to our constitution. We also need to thank some in the media who have exposed with courage much of the nefarious dealings of this administration.

We welcome your comments! (Click on title and comment section will be at end of post.)

DONALD TRUMP ABROAD: MORE DANGEROUS AND AN UNGUIDED MISSILE ABROAD AS AT HOME

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Donald Trump is soon again going abroad and if this trip is like that of his earlier Europe trip this Spring with considerable maladroit and indeed dangerous statements and behavior with our allies not least at NATO, then the coming journey seems to be not much better. As others have commented, Trump seems increasingly detached from reality and rationality and taken a turn towards irrational bullying and acting beyond normal. The leaders abroad have taken note!

This has already alarmed many Americans according to a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll and another by Pew. One shows alarming lack of trust in Trump by Americans and another show decrease of respect by people abroad for America likely due to Trump’s behavior.

These polls are confirmed by a recent Quinnipiac University poll, where respondents were asked what word immediately came to mind when they thought of Donald Trump: The No. 1 response was “idiot.” This was followed by “incompetent,” “liar,” “leader,” “unqualified,” and finally, in sixth place was “president.” In addition, superlatives like “great” and a few unprintable names came down on the list.

Looking at his behavior and his words and impulses and the mean spirit that is behind his actions, raises questions of Trump’s stability which in turn diminishes America’s leverage abroad and respect.

Looking at the forth coming trip to Europe there are many pit falls and areas of sensitive issues and concerns in Europe. To say that Europeans are looking at this visit with some disturbing thoughts is an understatement. The key problem is some think Trump’s efforts will be to divide Europe and thereby strengthen Putin and Russian power in the region.

The first reason for this concern is that the initial meeting in Europe, little recognized by much of the media, is to an Easter European bloc of nations under the invitation largely of the far right wing and authoritarian and anti-EU government of Poland rule by the infamous Law and Justice (PiS) party.

In this First part of Trump’s trip is a meeting with a gathering of political leaders from Central Europe, Baltic states and the Balkans that has been called the “Three Seas Summit” which indicates the geographical range of its participating nations. While billed as an event convened by Poland to bolster regional trade and infrastructure within the group, others see it as a mechanism by Poland to create an Eastern Europe bloc against the Western European EU leadership and to weaken EU ties and unity and gain support against EU efforts to signal out Poland for its anti-democratic and human rights violations.

Brussels leaders view the July 6 meeting as a Polish bid to increase its influence vis-a-vis the European Union. The nationalist government has repeatedly clashed with the EU and Germany.. One report has a quote from a Brussels diplomat saying “One cannot but feel a bit suspicious if it isn’t an attempt to break up European unity”

 

So the Poland visit is filled with traps for long held American interests in keeping Europe united and committed to the EU, NATO and democracy and human rights. If Trump take this meeting as another opportunity to criticize the EU or NATO members over added payments for defense, it could end up being, as the earlier trip to Europe, becoming a new Trump debacle. His support for right wing racist and Fascists parties that oppose the EU is part of that concern.

The meeting in Hamburg Germany of the G-20 group of major nations this coming week is another opportunity for Trump ideally to unite the G-20 nations towards cooperation on trade and international financial issues and affirm American engagement towards co-operation. But much of the focus on the Hamburg visit is the side-bar meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin which as both American officials and the public are much concerned that Trump will act irrationally and with views against American security interests.

A face to face meeting could amount to nothing and be just pro-forma, but it could also be historic if dangerous “deals” are made without consulting his expert officials and without consultations with our allies. The background of this meeting is the investigation of Trump’s campaign associates in what may be collusion with Russia on sanctions over Ukraine or even the hacking of American election documents and efforts to push Trump for president and against Hillary Clinton as found by our intelligence agencies. In any case the meet is filled with foreboding.

One of the problems will be how the leaders of the Group of 20 will be looking for leadership from America and Trump. Will it be a stable leader with intent to share efforts that are beneficial for all sides or a confronting “America First” tawdry president who will only further the de-stabilization of our globe by his challenging sands and rejection of decades of coordination and shared interests with our friends or strange actions that further hurt American leadership?

Some have suggested that this trip is an effort to create a distraction (as some think is the case with the Trump effort against MSNBC’s Morning Jo affair), from the congressional and inquires into Trump and his associates dubious connections with Russian agents, lying under oath, and possible obstruction of justice. All of this seems to have unhinged Trump and made him vulnerable in the planned meeting with a more knowledgeable and experienced Putin. At this moment we do not know exactly the context or the issues they will discuss, but likely Syria, Iran, disengagement, North Korea, Ukraine, sanctions and efforts at disruptions of our elections and democracy.

Keep tuned and pray!

We welcome 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.

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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!

Trump Considers Meeting with Putin as President-Elect; Obama Criticizes Trump’s Closeness to Russia

By, Harry C. Blaney III & John Gall

 

Donald Trump lobbed critiques at President Obama and Hillary Clinton on Monday over repeated insults creating an antagonistic US-Russia relationship. During this interview, Trump claimed he would possibly meet with Putin as President-Elect to repair the bilateral relationship:

“If I win on Nov. 8 … I could see myself meeting with Putin and meeting with Russia prior to the start of the administration. I think it would be wonderful.”

This would be an unprecedented action by any American political leader, as direct contact between national leaders should be conducted by the current President of the United States. By dealing directly with Trump as President-Elect, he would be undermining the executive power of President Obama during the final days of his second term in office.

On Tuesday, President Obama expressed his concern for Donald Trump’s embrace of the authoritarian leader:

“Mr. Trump’s continued flattery of Mr. Putin and the degree to which he appears to model many of his policies and approaches to politics on Mr. Putin is unprecedented in American politics and is out of step with not just what Democrats think but out of step with what up until the last few months, almost every Republican thought, including some of the ones who are now endorsing Mr. Trump…”

“[Russia] has to be part of the solution on the world stage rather than part of the problem. But their behavior has undermined international norms and international rules in ways that we have to call them out on. And anybody who occupies this office should feel the same way because these are values that we fought for and we protected.”

We have previously discussed Trump’s uncomfortably warm view of Putin, expressed by his encouragement of outside forces hacking the DNC and refusing to credit Clinton campaign cyberattacks to Russia, despite confident official announcements by the US intelligence community. Trump’s employment of advisers with close connections to Putin and his allies and suspicions of potential business ties to Russia also raises concerns that a Trump Presidency would provide Moscow with a foreign policy carte blanche.

This Presidential election has been filled with many shocking firsts, including Republican party support for a candidate who seems unable to criticize an aggressive Russia that violates the sovereignty of other nations, undermines our democratic process, and indiscriminately bombs civilians in Aleppo. It’s hard to imagine the party of Reagan, who declared the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire’ and spurred a dangerous game of atomic chicken through a horrifying nuclear arms race,  would throw their endorsement behind a candidate that fondly looks up to a former KGB and current authoritarian Russian strongman.

Imagine if President-Elect Obama met with Dmitry Medvedev in December 2008 to discuss arms reduction plans. The Republican Party would have called Obama an aspiring tyrant and secret Russian apologist, undermining President Bush’s efforts to conclude his foreign policy legacy.

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We welcome your comments which can be posted here.

Visit our regularly up-dated Race to the White House section covering quotes, foreign affairs statements and policies of the presidential campaign candidates and parties.

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THE FINAL DEBATE: THE LAST DISTORTED WORDS OR MORE TO COME?

By Harry C. Blaney III

Photo Credit via ABC News


The last campaign 2016 debate was, as expected by some, was a horrific mess but it exposed again the terrible reality that Donald Trump is a dangerous man if not likely with an unbalanced and offensive mind too. And that leaves aside even much of his reprehensible words and behavior. Much of the debate was silly and often off subject and not very deep. Wallace was probably among the worst moderators I have ever seen in not pressing on the topic and keeping people talking over each other.

Once again Hillary Clinton showed her firm grasp of some of the key issues that we face in our high risk world with all its complexities. But just fifteen minutes were not enough to give time to dig deeper into so many issues that needed better time and more depth. The Fox moderator Chris Wallace did not help matters in keeping on topic and challenging both candidates to not just say what they wanted to accomplish but also just how. He also let Trump go on despite the rules and interrupt Clinton while not stopping Trump’s interference.

Defeating ISIS or Islamic State was an issue that was more assertions than strategy, limited to saying they will be defeated in battle, or asserting who is tougher or more fearsome. The reality is the President Obama strategy of providing help in terms of air strikes, intelligence, logistics, training, and other assistance without putting too many U.S. troops in to do this job and keeping them away from direct combat. With this strategy, in fact, some real progress has been made by relying on local forces who know the “terrain” better than we ever could.

The salient question is not now whether they will take Mosul but when and how and what will be left and how can we put this shattered place back together and get the people to cooperate no mater their ethnic or religious background. The aftermath is key to long term security and stability of the region. The same is true in Syria. But little time was addressed to this topic. Displaced persons and refugees are a horrendous problem and we and our allies including the Gulf states have not done enough to deal with this problem.

Nor did anyone really address the question of the role of Putin’s Russia now and later in the region. This is a major conundrum for not just for America but our allies and the Islamic states of the region. Here Wallace was weak.

Some of the key takeaway points are below in this debate on foreign and national security issues:

IMMIGRATION

Donald Trump: “I mean, these are unbelievable people that I’ve gotten to know over a period of years whose children have been killed, brutally killed by people that came into the country illegally. You have thousands of mothers and fathers and relatives all over the country. They’re coming in illegally…

One of my first acts will be to get all of the drug lords, all of the bad ones — we have some bad, bad people in this country that have to go out. We’re going to get them out; we’re going to secure the border. And once the border is secured, at a later date, we’ll make a determination as to the rest. But we have some bad hombres here, and we’re going to get them out.”

Hillary Clinton: “I don’t want to rip families apart. I don’t want to be sending parents away from children. I don’t want to see the deportation force that Donald has talked about in action in our country…

I think that is an idea that is not in keeping with who we are as a nation. I think it’s an idea that would rip our country apart.

I have been for border security for years. I voted for border security in the United States Senate. And my comprehensive immigration reform plan of course includes border security. But I want to put our resources where I think they’re most needed: Getting rid of any violent person. Anybody who should be deported, we should deport them….

And Donald knows a lot about this. He used undocumented labor to build the Trump Tower. He underpaid undocumented workers, and when they complained, he basically said what a lot of employers do: “You complain, I’ll get you deported.”

I want to get everybody out of the shadows, get the economy working, and not let employers like Donald exploit undocumented workers, which hurts them, but also hurts American workers.”

RUSSIA

Clinton: “It’s pretty clear you won’t admit…that the Russians have engaged in cyberattacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race.

We have 17 — 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.” 

Trump: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else.
Clinton: I am not quoting myself.
Trump: She has no idea.
Clinton: I am quoting 17…
Trump: Hillary, you have no idea.
Clinton: … 17 intelligence — do you doubt 17 military and civilian…
Trump: And our country has no idea.
Clinton: … agencies.
Trump: Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it.
Clinton: Well, he’d rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us. I find that just absolutely…
Trump: She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way.

Wallace: You condemn their interference?
Trump: Of course I condemn. Of course I — I don’t know Putin. I have no idea.
Wallace: I’m not asking — I’m asking do you condemn?
Trump: I never met Putin. This is not my best friend. But if the United States got along with Russia, wouldn’t be so bad.

ALLIANCES AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS:

Trump: “We’re in very serious trouble, because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads — 1,800, by the way — where they expanded and we didn’t, 1,800 nuclear warheads. And she’s playing chicken.”

Clinton: “I — I find it ironic that he’s raising nuclear weapons. This is a person who has been very cavalier, even casual about the use of nuclear weapons. He’s…advocated more countries getting them, Japan, Korea, even Saudi Arabia. He said, well, if we have them, why don’t we use them, which I think is terrifying.”

Trump: “As far as Japan and other countries, we are being ripped off by everybody in the — we’re defending other countries. We are spending a fortune doing it. They have the bargain of the century.

All I said is, we have to renegotiate these agreements, because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and many other places. We cannot continue to afford — she took that as saying nuclear weapons.”

Clinton: “The United States has kept the peace — the United States has kept the peace through our alliances. Donald wants to tear up our alliances. I think it makes the world safer and, frankly, it makes the United States safer. I would work with our allies in Asia, in Europe, in the Middle East, and elsewhere. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to keep the peace.”

Trump: “They have to pay up. We’re protecting people, they have to pay up. And I’m a big fan of NATO. But they have to pay up.

She comes out and said, we love our allies, we think our allies are great. Well, it’s awfully hard to get them to pay up when you have somebody saying we think how great they are.

We have to tell Japan in a very nice way, we have to tell Germany, all of these countries, South Korea, we have to say, you have to help us out.”

TRADE DEALS:

Trump: “So my plan — we’re going to renegotiate trade deals. We’re going to have a lot of free trade. We’re going to have free trade, more free trade than we have right now. But we have horrible deals. Our jobs are being taken out by the deal that her husband signed, NAFTA, one of the worst deals ever.

I am going to renegotiate NAFTA. And if I can’t make a great deal — then we’re going to terminate NAFTA and we’re going to create new deals. We’re going to have trade, but we’re going — we’re going to terminate it, we’re going to make a great trade deal…

Now she wants to sign Trans-Pacific Partnership. And she wants it. She lied when she said she didn’t call it the gold standard in one of the debates. She totally lied. She did call it the gold standard.”

Clinton: “Well, first, let me say, number one, when I saw the final agreement for TPP, I said I was against it. It didn’t meet my test. I’ve had the same test. Does it create jobs, raise incomes, and further our national security? I’m against it now. I’ll be against it after the election. I’ll be against it when I’m president.

There’s only one of us on this stage who’s actually shipped jobs to Mexico, because that’s Donald. He’s shipped jobs to 12 countries, including Mexico…

In fact, the Trump Hotel right here in Las Vegas was made with Chinese steel. So he goes around with crocodile tears about how terrible it is, but he has given jobs to Chinese steelworkers, not American steelworkers….

We’re going to have trade agreements that we enforce. That’s why I’m going to have a trade prosecutor for the first time in history. And we’re going to enforce those agreements, and we’re going to look for businesses to help us by buying American products.”

ISIS:

Trump: “Take a look at Syria. Take a look at the migration. Take a look at Libya. Take a look at Iraq. She gave us ISIS, because her and Obama created this huge vacuum, and a small group came out of that huge vacuum because when — we should never have been in Iraq, but once we were there, we should have never got out the way they wanted to get out. She gave us ISIS as sure as you are sitting there. And what happened is now ISIS is in 32 countries. And now I listen how she’s going to get rid of ISIS. She’s going to get rid of nobody.”

Clinton: “Well, I am encouraged that there is an effort led by the Iraqi army, supported by Kurdish forces, and also given the help and advice from the number of special forces and other Americans on the ground.But I will not support putting American soldiers into Iraq as an occupying force…

The goal here is to take back Mosul. It’s going to be a hard fight. I’ve got no illusions about that. And then continue to press into Syria to begin to take back and move on Raqqa, which is the ISIS headquarters.

And I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees, but to, frankly, gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians so that perhaps we can have the kind of serious negotiation necessary to bring the conflict to an end and go forward on a political track.

Trump: “I have been reading about going after Mosul now for about — how long is it, Hillary, three months? These people have all left. They’ve all left.

The element of surprise. Douglas MacArthur, George Patton spinning in their graves when they see the stupidity of our country….

Iran should write us yet another letter saying thank you very much, because Iran, as I said many years ago, Iran is taking over Iraq, something they’ve wanted to do forever, but we’ve made it so easy for them.”

Clinton: “But what’s really important here is to understand all the interplay. Mosul is a Sunni city. Mosul is on the border of Syria. And, yes, we do need to go after Baghdadi, and — just like we went after bin Laden, while you were doing “Celebrity Apprentice,” and we brought him to justice. We need to go after the leadership.”

Trump: “We don’t know who the rebels are. And when and if — and it’s not going to happen, because you have Russia and you have Iran now. But if they ever did overthrow Assad, you might end up with — as bad as Assad is, and he’s a bad guy, but you may very well end up with worse than Assad.”

ACCEPTANCE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC PROCESS

Wallace: “Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?”
Trump: “I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now. I’ll look at it at the time….What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?”

Clinton: “So that is not the way our democracy works. We’ve been around for 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election. You know, President Obama said the other day when you’re whining before the game is even finished…”

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Visit our regularly up-dated Race to the White House section covering quotes, foreign affairs statements and policies of the presidential campaign candidates and parties.

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PRESIDENTIAL SECOND DEBATE: RISING BEYOND THE SORDID AND INTO SUBSTANCE?


By Harry C. Blaney III

The debate on Sunday night October 9th was one of the most depressing debates on record. The personal invective and behavior of Trump and avoidance of any positive elements or real substance made for an ugly debate and loss of time to address many foreign affairs key issues. This debate only confirmed that this format is a disaster and did not permit the candidates to fully address most of the key issues America and our allies face in a landscape filled with complex choices, instability, nuclear weapons and many high risks.

This debate started focusing on Trump’s previous behavior, but the debate made a new low in American politics. Trump brought up sordid elements that debased himself and dominated much of the debate. What it also clearly demonstrated was that Trump is unfit even as a decent human being, let alone fit to be Commander-in-Chief with his finger on the nuclear button.

Moderators permitted Trump especially to use his time and interfered with Clinton’s time to let him do inflammatory and off subject general personal attack statements. These included: Trump threatened to jail Clinton…….he said about e-mails: “You’d be in jail.” About Clinton and Obama, Trump said “Never been so many lies, so much deception….never been anything like this.”

He added “She has tremendous hate in her heart.” He said he would instruct “a Special Prosecutor to look into [her] situation” against Hillary. Trump also invoked extreme religious reference when expressing his shock of Bernie’s support for Clinton as “I was so surprised to see him sign on with the devil.” How does any of this help American understanding of key issues like nuclear weapons or climate change?

The thought that he might gain the power to send US forces mindlessly into harm’s way and alienating ourselves permanently through reckless actions, which he has already done from the statements of many key leaders around the world (as seen in our post on Voices Beyond Our Borders), is very disturbing. But his behavior in his personal life has already proved that he has no internal moral core, which should be a vital precondition for anyone to head the American government domestically or globally. His actions as well as his words all indicate that the man is either very stupid or mentally unbalanced. The debate only reinforced this judgement.

As for Clinton, on foreign and national security issues, she showed again a command of the issues and the problems the US faces abroad. But there was little time to get into details.

The problem with both the questions and the moderators, Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz from ABC, were that once again they did not get into or demand any real depth on most of these issues. Rather they permitted repeated statements by Trump to avoid any questions of his behavior and his substantive policies. They let Trump ramble on off topic statements while cutting off Clinton. This made the debate a bit more one sided than it would be with some real, fair discipline. They let Trump repeatedly interrupt Clinton even as she talked on serious issues. In sum, the candidates were not challenged or forced to reply to the questions asked except in one case, so we lost much insight about topics of great significance.

Perhaps the greatest cost of this display of utter coarseness and continued show of hate for much the world’s people especially women, Muslims, Latin Americans and beyond has threatened respect for and willingness to follow our leadership. How can anyone who is a true decent leader look to this brute of a man ever and give any respect or believe in his word? That does not and will not happen with Obama and nor for Clinton. Trump’s  dark and brutish gutter talk only deepens fear abroad.  His behavior along with his attacks and false accusations only contributed  to the sense around the world that America itself has lost its way. People of substance abroad are asking how American politics could produce such a man of such abhorrent quality.

Looking at a Few  Key Subjects That Were Raised or Not Raised with Commentary :

General Foreign Policy and Security:

This needs little commentary:

Trump cited “stupidity” of our foreign policy, but refused to give much specifics of how or what he would do.

Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control:

There was almost nothing said on nuclear weapons or arms control. The blame lies with the commentators and the networks that ran this debate that avoided real strategic issues and what direction they would take.

Trump – “But our nuclear program has fallen way behind, and they’ve gone wild with their nuclear program. Not good. Our government shouldn’t have allowed that to happen. Russia is new in terms of nuclear. We are old. We’re tired. We’re exhausted in terms of nuclear.”

Clinton – “I think wherever we can cooperate with Russia, that’s fine. And I did as secretary of state. That’s how we got a treaty reducing nuclear weapons [referencing coarsest New START treaty]. It’s how we got the sanctions on Iran that put a lid on the Iranian nuclear program without firing a single shot.”

Terrorism, Syria and Domestic Security Policy:

Trump once again took up terrorism as an attack in response to a question about hate statements about Muslims. Trump brought up again “extreme vetting” again citing the example of the refugees from Syria.

Clinton on the other hand made a strong case of accepting Muslims and not discriminating while saying that ISIS would be defeated and Trump played into the hands of terrorists. Clinton defended Syrian refugees while bringing them under tougher vetting.

On the question of Syria, Clinton said the situation was catastrophic and noted in the Aleppo bombing there is Russian determination to destroy Aleppo. She reaffirmed the need for a safe zone, that we need leverage over Russia, and to work with partners on the ground. Regarding the aggressiveness of Russia, she said that she stood up to Putin. She added that we should continue diplomacy and would hold Russia accountable for humanitarian crimes.

Trump did take up ISIS in the context of Syria and other nations like Libya but did little to enlighten onlookers with specifics of how he would address the multiplicity of terrorism threats. He gave the impression that he would be more aggressive without much specifics on how and at what risk or costs.  Clinton did outline how she would deal with ISIS in Syria. She also noted that progress against ISIS was being made in both Syria and Iraq without putting our troops into danger.

Key quotes are:

Donald Trump – “I think Aleppo is a disaster, humanitarian-wise…I think that it basically has fallen”

Hillary Clinton – “I do think that there is a good chance that we can take Mosul….I would go after Baghdadi. I would specifically target Baghdadi, because I think our targeting of Al Qaeda leaders – and I was involved in a lot of those operations, highly classified ones – made a difference… I would also consider arming the Kurds. The Kurds have been our best partner in Syria, as well as Iraq.”

Building The Wall on Mexico’s Border and Relations with Latin America and US Latinos:

The coverage of this topic was, except for building “a strong border,” not deeply addressed and neither were the means and costs addressed except Trump said, as he has in the past, keep illegal immigrants out and send them back.

Donald Trump – “We’re going to have borders in our country, which we don’t have now…We have many criminal illegal aliens. When we want to send them back to their country, their country says we don’t want them. In some cases, they’re murderers, drug lords, drug problems. And they don’t want them. And Hillary Clinton, when she was secretary of state, said that’s OK, we can’t force it into their country. Let me tell you, I’m going to force them right back into their country. They’re murders and some very bad people.”

The Russia-Putin Challenge: NATO, Ukraine, Syria and Defense of Europe and EU Unity:

There was only very short mentions about Russia and Putin. There was no policy or specific approaches discussed or really asked by the unenlightened and unbalanced moderators. Clinton noted broadly she would be tough on Putin’s aggression. Trump, against reports to the contrary, said he had no interests in Russia. Other documents show Russian investors and his staff included a key advisor who helped the Russian-backed Ukrainian President as a political advisor. When Clinton said he could prove this by releasing his taxes, Trump went on an attack against Clinton not related to Russian influence.

International Trade, Global Economic Policy and Global Poverty and Inequality:

Trump again went after TTP and demonstrated he might close much of our trade with large parts of the world. Clinton did not engage in this subject in any specific way. Global poverty and inequality were never mentioned.

Climate Change and other Environmental Issues:

This topic was never really addressed. The only mention was in relation to the issue of the energy industry. Trump said he would support clean energy but clearly was in favor of expanding coal and other fossil fuels. Clinton argued in favor of using natural gas as a transition to reliance on green energy, which would help address the serious problem of climate change.

Asia: North Korea, China, Japan, South China Sea, South-East Asia Pakistan- India Conflict and Africa:

These topics were not asked about by the moderators and the subjects never came up in substance

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CLINTON AND TRUMP ON NATIONAL SECURITY: A CONTRAST

By: Harry C. Blaney III & John Gall

Via NBC News

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took the opportunity to elaborate on national security issues at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum on Wednesday night. He also made statements recently, some off the cuff and others scripted, that we will report. Let’s review what each candidate said on a variety of topics, along with some analysis:

ON FIGHTING ISIS:

Hilary Clinton – “We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counterterrorism goal. And we’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support for the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS… We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we’re not putting ground troops into Syria. We’re going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.”

Donald Trump – ” Well, the generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful…and I can just see the great — as an example- General George Patton spinning in his grave as ISIS we can’t beat.”
” But when I do come up with a plan that I like and that perhaps agrees with mine, or maybe doesn’t — I may love what the generals come back with. I will convene…”

Commentary – Clinton outlined a foreign policy strategy similar to how the Obama administration is handling the conflict in Syria. From this plan, the key to success in military conflicts is the use of strategic air strikes, cooperation with allies, and the provision of military supplies and tactical training via support troops on the ground to aid local allied entities in achieving victory. The use of the phrase “ground troops” is a bit of a misnomer, as the United States currently has troops deployed on the ground to serve in a support and training role with allied factions in Syria and Iraq. A promise of no more US combatant troops in the conflict region was most likely Clinton’s intention, if she’s continuing to follow the strategy laid out by the current administration.

Trump’s criticism of the current administration’s efforts against ISIS was centered on an inability to win the fight in a manner similar to General Patton or MacArthur, as today’s military leadership is too politically correct to take the necessary actions for victory. Such a critique makes Trump come off as a candidate who fails to grasp the toll of American military and local civilian lives by adapting a more heavy-handed approach to Syria. Trump’s secret plan to defeat ISIS was also put into question by moderator Matt Lauer when he pointed to Trump’s thoughtless announcement on Tuesday to convene his generals and give them 30 days to submit a plan to defeat the Islamic State. The Republican nominee muddled between weighing the strengths of his supposed plan and the generals’ and stressing the importance of not divulging details lest they be used by listening ISIS members. In fact, Trump either has no plan at all or his plan is of such stupidity and recklessness that he and has staff do not want it to see the light of day before the election.

Overall, Clinton laid out a more comprehensive strategy that echoed President Obama’s current course with a minor gaffe between ground and combatant troops. Trump used the questions about the conflict in Syria and Iraq to lob criticism at his opponent and the current administration while failing to set forth any tangible alternative plans.

ON VA QUALITY, VETERAN SUICIDES, AND SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE MILITARY:

Hillary Clinton – ” I have been very clear about the necessity for doing whatever is required to move the V.A. into the 21st century, to provide the kind of treatment options that our veterans today desperately need and deserve … But I will not let the V.A. be privatized. And I do think there is an agenda out there, supported by my opponent, to do just that.”

” twenty suicides a day… And I’ve spent a lot of time with family members, survivors, who’ve lost a loved one after he or she came home, sometimes suffering from PTSD or TBI or sexual assault, being handed bags of opioids, not being given an appropriate treatment to help that particular person, which is something, to go back to the sergeant’s question, we have to change.”

Donald Trump – ” Vets are waiting six days, seven days, eight days. And by the way, Hillary Clinton six months ago said the vets are being treated essentially just fine, there’s no real problem, it’s over-exaggerated. She did say that.”

” Under a part of my plan, if they have that long wait, they walk outside, they go to the local doctor, they choose the doctor, they choose the hospital, whether it’s public or private, they get themselves better… We will pay the bill. They go outside, they get a doctor, they get a prescription, they do what they have to do, and we pay the bill.”
“And actually it’s 22. And it’s almost impossible to conceive that this is happening in our country, 20 to 22 people a day are killing themselves.”

Matt Lauer: ” In 2013, on this subject, you tweeted this, quote, “26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military, only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?””

Trump: ” Well, it is — it is — it is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that that’s absolutely correct.”

Commentary – On the topic of the Department of Veteran Affairs, both candidates expressed an urgent need to improve the quality of care given to returning soldiers, while making a political jab at their opponent. Trump pointed out Clinton’s claim earlier this year that the 2014 VA Scandal was not “as widespread as it has been made to be,” in which Clinton cited three surveys expressing general satisfaction by a majority of veterans after receiving care from the VA. However, such data only covers post-care vets and fails to take into account the major concerns raised at the Phoenix VA in excessive wait time and over-scheduling. Since then, the Clinton campaign has shifted its position in expressing an urgency to improve the quality and delivery of VA care.
Clinton’s criticism against Trump on his desire to privatize the VA reflects some Republican desire to shift much of the VA’s health service to the private for-profit sector. It does raise a valid concern of increasing the role of the private sector in Veteran Affairs benefits. Trump supports veteran access to private health care if distance from a VA medical facility or over booking makes it difficult for veterans to receive public care which is already being done in some cases. The involvement with the private sector could increase overall costs for VA services compared to an expansion of public-provided services.

Trump and Clinton both expressed concerns on the high suicide rate among US veterans. Although Clinton’s 20 suicides per day figure is more updated than Trump’s rate of 22, the two presidential candidates didn’t express contrasting positions on improving veteran suicide prevention.

On the subject of sexual assault within the military, Trump stuck to his previous comments linking the high level of unreported assaults to the mixing of men and women in the armed forces and suggested a need to establish a more effective court system within the military. Trump’s continued assertion is flawed, as it fails to take into account the under reported male-on-male sexual assaults that comprised 53 percent of cases found in a 2012 Pentagon report.

ON GOOD JUDGMENT

Hillary Clinton – “Look, I think that the decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake. And I have said that my voting to give President Bush that authority was, from my perspective, my mistake. I also believe that it is imperative that we learn from the mistakes”
” Now, my opponent was for the war in Iraq. He says he wasn’t. You can go back and look at the record. He supported it. He told Howard Stern he supported it… He refuses to take responsibility for his support. That is a judgment issue.”

” With respect to Libya, again, there’s no difference between my opponent and myself. He’s on record extensively supporting intervention in Libya, when Gadhafi was threatening to massacre his population. I put together a coalition that included NATO, included the Arab League, and we were able to save lives. We did not lose a single American in that action.”

Donald Trump – ” Well, I think the main thing is I have great judgment. I have good judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots. And I happened to hear Hillary Clinton say that I was not against the war in Iraq. I was totally against the war in Iraq. From a — you can look at Esquire magazine from ’04. You can look at before that.”

” She made a terrible mistake on Libya. And the next thing, I mean, not only did she make the mistake, but then they complicated the mistake by having no management once they bombed you know what out of Gadhafi. I mean, she made a terrible mistake on Libya. And part of it was the management aftereffect. I think that we have great management talents, great management skills.” ….” What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly — when they call it intelligence, it’s there for a reason — what our experts said to do. ”

COMMENTARY – Clinton and Trump identified a sense of good judgment as an essential skill in being an effective Commander-in-Chief. Trump cited Clinton’s support of the invasion of Iraq and military intervention in Libya as poor judgment and contrasted it to his opposition to both military actions. Although this made for a good soundbite, Trump’s argument falls apart when one actually fact-checks his opposition to both decisions. Clinton was correct in pointing out Trump’s initial support to the Iraq War with an appearance on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2002. Clinton also claimed that Trump supported intervention in Libya and in the lead-up to the first US bombings; Trump did in fact express emphatic support for military action. In another flawed example of proper judgment, Trump criticized President Obama’s decision to continue withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This remark is somewhat perplexing, considering Trump suggested a need to remove US military presence from Iraq during an interview with CNBC in 2006.

These three examples that Trump gave of having a superior sense of judgment over Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were bald-faced lies that Trump has made multiple times at other public events. Unfortunately, moderator Matt Lauer failed to follow up on Trump’s dubious claims and allowed the Republican nominee to get away with blatantly false statements in front of a national audience.

The one serious fault of the program was the lack of focus on the truly key strategic and security issues. These include Putin’s aggression and acts of war in Syria, dealing with China including the South China Sea actions, the use of nuclear weapons (which Trump said earlier he would use). Likewise the session did not address Climate change that the CIA list as a security threat, nor the problem of global poverty, and not least the criticism and ignorance about by Trump of NATO’s role, or his support of both Brexit which divides Europe, and a admiring a dictator like Putin which is a danger to our allies security. The program was an opportunity missed and badly managed.

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