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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The Vice Presidential Debate : The Good, The Bad, And The Very Bad

By Harry C. Blaney III

This debate was in some ways a shame for the commentator who permitted again over talking of the VP candidates especially Pence, and she largely did not question lies and false assertions. The greatest fault of the media has been lack of focus before and after these debates on the substance and meaning of the policies that have a real impact on people’s lives and security. The post debate commentary was strictly the “horse race” rather than on what the policies and statements will mean for the future of our nation. It was a sad example of the lack of  honest oversight by the media.

The good part of this debate is that they did cover international issues. The bad part is they left out climate change, global inequality, and other issues. The really bad was the absence of truth and lack of deep analysis of cost, risks and benefits of proposed policies.

The quotes however provide some insight on how each party and the candidates themselves view the role of America in the world, how exactly they see that world, and finally how they would act if they got in power. The VP debate, while not the main event, still indicates the direction each party would take if they won in November.

It seems clear that like the first debate between Clinton and Trump their divide on realistic assessment, means of solving or not solving problems and challenges is as wide as ever. It also reveals from this perspective how little the Republican candidates know or really understand how to act in the complex, often dangerous and fast moving world we live in.

On the specific foreign affairs and national security issues some short takes:

Nuclear Weapons

Governor Pence: “We need to modernize our nuclear forces and we need an effective American diplomacy that will marshal the resources of nations in the Asian-Pacific rim to put pressure on North Korea, to abandon the nuclear ambitions. It has to remain the policy of the United States of America, the demilitarization of the Korean peninsula… We will go back to the days of peace through strength.”

Senator Kaine: “On the foreign relations committee we just did an extensive sanctions package against North Korea and interestingly enough, the UN did virtually the same package. Often China will use their veto on the security council for that. They are starting to get worried about North Korea as well. So, they supported the sanctions’ passage, even when many of the sanctions are against Chinese financial institutions. So, we are working together with China and we need to. It is competitive and also challenging and we have to be able to cooperate against North Korea. Hillary understands that. She went famously to China and stood up at a human rights meeting and said, against North Korea. “Women’s rights are human rights.” She worked on many important diplomatic deals with China and that is what it will take.”

Clearly once again on the topic of nuclear weapons and associated issues like North Korea and the placement of such weapons in our strategic plans, Gov. Pence seems deeply in the dark. This despite having served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He had a hard time defending past irresponsible quotes on this issue from Trump.  The key issue here is which set of candidates will act in the most careful and responsible way and this debate did not change the view that we have in the GOP team — very dangerous people with little understanding of key security issues.

Illegal Immigration

Pence: “Donald Trump has made a plan to end illegal immigration once and for all in this country. We have been talking it to death for 20 years. Hillary Clinton wants to continue the policy of open borders, amnesty, catch and release, sanctuary cities, all of the things driving wages down in this country, senator, and also too often, with criminal aliens in the country, it is bringing heartbreak.

It begins with border security. After we secure the border, not only build a wall, but beneath the ground and in the air, we do internal enforcement. The focus has to be on criminal aliens. We just had a conversation about law enforcement, a conversation about the violence that is the setting our cities. The reality is, there is heartbreaking tragedy that has struck American families because people who came into this country illegally are now involved in criminal and reprise and activity, and we do not have the resources or the will to deport them systematically.

Donald Trump said we are going to move those people out. People have overstayed their visas. We are going to enforce the law of this country and strengthen immigration and customs enforcement with more resources and personnel to be able to do that, and then Donald Trump has made it clear. Once we have done all of those things, then we are going to reform the immigration system that we have in this country.”

Kaine: “Donald Trump believes in deportation nation. You have got to pick your choice. Hillary and I want a bipartisan reform that will keep families together, second, that will help focus enforcement efforts on those were violent, third, that will do more border control, and third, write a path to citizenship for those who play by the rules and take criminal background checks. That is our proposal.”

While Pence had a hard time defending the indefeasible lies and policies of Trump he stood clearly on the side of building the “Wall” which would be as an act of total madness and hurt our relations with every Latin American government let alone many of our citizens and undocumented residents. Senator Kaine gave the right answers about how impossible the Trump stance was and how self-defeating.

On Immigration and Refugees:

Pence: “It really does begin with us reforming our immigration system and putting the interest, particularly in the safety and security of the American people, first. Donald Trump wants extreme vetting for people coming in. Donald Trump and I are committed to suspending the Syrian refugee program and programs in immigration around the world that have been compromised by terrorism. Hillary Clinton wants to increase it.

If you’re going to be critical of me, that is fair game. After two Syrian refugees were involved in the attack in Paris that is called “Paris’ 9/11,” you bet I suspended that program. I stand by that decision. If I am vice president, we’re going to put the safety of the American people first.

The director of the FBI said we cannot know for certain who these people coming are.”

Kaine: “As opposed to violating the constitution by blocking people from coming in based on their nationality, we have different views on refugee issues and immigration. Hillary and I want to do enforcement based on “Our people dangerous?” These guys say “All Mexicans are bad.” With regard to refugees, we want to keep people out of they are dangerous. Donald Trump said “Keep them out if they are Muslim.” An appellate court with three public and judges struck down a pence plan and said it was this majority. It was discriminatory.”

Pence stuck to the Republican platform that opposes admitting refugees from Syria. By echoing Trump’s call for ‘extreme vetting,’ the Governor of Indiana demonstrated a shared ignorance in the robust vetting process already in place. Refugees are screened over a period of two years before they’re admitted into the United States. Kaine used the topic as an opportunity to highlight this week’s court ruling against Pence’s proposal to block refugees settling in his home state of Indiana. Overall, this topic is a choice between base fear, a lack of understanding of current refugee vetting, and xenophobia or accepting our share of the burden in assisting the world’s most helpless victims.

Iran, Iraq, and ISIS

Pence: “Other goal was always that we would only lift the sanctions if Iran terminally renounced their nuclear ambitions. They have not done so. And when the deal’s period runs out, there is no limitation on weapons. $1.7 billion was used in a ransom payment.

Iraq has been overrun by ISIS. They failed to negotiate. Hillary Clinton has failed to renegotiate the status of forces agreement.

The primary threat today is ISIS. Because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate a forces agreement that would have allowed some American combat troops to remain in Iraq and secure the hard-fought gains that the American soldier has won, ISIS was able to be literally conjured up out of the desert and it has overrun vast areas.”

Kaine: “Let me come back to talk about — he does not want to acknowledge that we stopped the Iranian nuclear weapons program. He does not want to acknowledge that Taylor was part of the team that got Osama bin Laden… She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.

I would like to correct — President Bush said we would leave Iraq at the end of 2011. Iraq did not want our troops to stay. They would not give us the [directive] of our troops. If a nation where our troops are serving does not want us to stay, we are not going to stay —

Here is her plan to defeat ISIL. They have to take out their leaders on the battlefield. She will lead the team that will get the head of ISIS. We have got to disrupt the financing networks.

Third, disrupt their ability to recruit on the internet, in their state havens. Fourth, we also have to work with allies to share intelligence. That is the Hillary Clinton plan.”

On these issues Pence was either badly informed or downright lied, following the tradition of his leader. Sen. Kaine corrected these mistruths. But a campaign based on security issues and especially the Iran one on nuclear issues provided such prevarications beyond acceptable. Most well-read people know that it was President Bush who decided to take our troops out when he could not get immunity for our troops.

Russia and Putin

Pence: “Hillary Clinton’s top priority when she became secretary of state was the Russian reset. After the Russian reset, the Russians invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea. The small and bullying the leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the United States to the point where all the United States of America, the greatest nation on Earth, just withdraws from talk about a cease-fire while that Vladimir Putin puts a missile defense in Syria while he marshaled the forces and begins — look, we have got to lean into this with strong, broad-shouldered American leadership that begins by rebuilding our military… The provocations by Russia need to be met by American strength. If Russia continues to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the US needs to be prepared to strike military targets of the Assad regime, to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis taking place in Aleppo.”

“There is a broad range of other things we ought to do as well. We should deploy a missile defense shield to the Czech Republic and Poland, which had Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pulled back on. We have to have American strength on the world stage. When Donald Trump becomes president, the Russians and other countries in the world will know they are dealing with a strong American president.”

“What we are dealing with is — there is an old proverb that says the Russian bear never dies, but hibernates. This foreign policy from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has awakened a Russian aggression that first appeared a few years ago with their move into Georgia and Crimea and into the wider Middle East. All we do now is pull out our arms and say, “We are not having talks anymore.” We need to marshal the resources of our allies in the region and end the immediate — we need to act and act now to get people out of harm’s way.”

“Strength. We are going to rebuild our military. This whole Putin thing, look, America is stronger than Russia. Our economy is 16 times larger than the Russian economy. Our political system is superior to the corrupt capital system in Russia it every way.”

“When Donald Trump and I observed in Syria and Iran and Ukraine that the bullying leader of Russia has been stronger on the world stage than this administration is stating facts. That is not an endorsement of Putin.”

Kaine: “Consistent with the UN Security Council resolution passed would be a good idea. Hillary Clinton has the way to stand up to Russia. Donald Trump again and again has praised Vladimir Putin.”

“It is clear she has business dealings with Russia and is very connected to Putin. The trump campaign management team had to be fired a month or so ago because of those shadowy connections.”

“Governor Pence made the odd claim, he said, and arguably, Vladimir Putin is a better leader than president Obama. Vladimir Putin has run his economy into the ground and he persecutes LGBT folks. If you don’t know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, then you got to go back to a fifth grade civics class. That offends me.”

“Vladimir Putin is a dictator. He is not a leader.”

“Anyone who thinks otherwise does not know Russian history and they doesn’t know Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton knows exactly who this guy is. John McCain, I look at that guy and I see KGB. So, how do you deal with him? We do have to deal with Russia in many different ways. There are areas where we can cooperate.”

Here Kaine held clearly the edge and noted the many weakness of Trump’s and Pence’s understanding and indeed especially of Trump’s admiration for Putin. He weakly defended that position at the same time Putin’s forces were bombing and killing hundreds of innocent civilian including woman and children and hospitals in Syria. This was also not addressed or noted by our clueless moderator. Pence had no decent ground on this issue. Kaine seemed to repeat the argument that are going on within the administration but sadly few on any side have any easy answers.

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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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VOICES BEYOND OUR BORDERS: WHAT DOES THE WORLD THINK OF OUR PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN?

Image result for US Presidential Election 2016

By Harry C. Blaney III

We have focused rightly on the positions and statements of the key presidential candidates and American opinion as reflected by our media and our citizens, including experts in foreign and national security issues. But voices abroad do matter in an ever more connected world.

Here are some of the voices we have found which reflect on what leaders and others abroad think of our election debates, candidates, and the implication for their own lives and security.

SELECTED QUOTES ABROAD

EUROPE:

Great Britain:

Donald Trump is “no longer fit to be a business ambassador for Scotland”, his views on Muslims “do not represent the mainstream views of people across America.” – First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon  – Independent.co.UK

“I want Donald Trump to come to London so I can introduce myself to him as a mainstream Muslim, very, very comfortable with Western liberal values, but also introduce him to hundreds of thousands, dare I say millions of Muslims in this country, who love being British, love being Western,” – London Mayor Sadiq Khan

“I thought that was an extraordinary thing for a candidate for the office of president of the United States to say. Basically because America as I understand it is a country built on the ideal of welcoming people irrespective of their race, religion, color or creed or whatever. And I think that’s a fine thing about America…very, very disappointed” about Trump’s proposed Muslim Ban – Boris Johnson  – CNBC

Trump’s claims that pockets of London are so radicalized that the police do not enter them are “nonsense” – British PM Theresa May BBC

Donald Trump’s Muslim ban “divisive, stupid and wrong” – Former British PM David Cameron – BBC

“I cannot possibly tell you how you should vote in this election. But you know I get it, I get it. I’m hearing you. But I will say this, if I was an American citizen I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me. In fact, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if she paid me.” – UKIP Former Leader Nigel Farage, stumping for Trump in late August – Huffington Post

Germany:

“Whether Donald Trump, Marine le Pen or Geert Wilders – all these right-wing populists are not only a threat to peace and social cohesion, but also to economic development,” – German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel

“I value her long political experience, her commitment for women’s rights, family issues and health care.”I value her strategic thinking and that she is a strong supporter of the transatlantic partnership. Whenever I had the chance to work together with Hillary Clinton, it was a great pleasure.” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Reuters

France:

Donald Trump “makes you want to retch” and his election could shift world politics to the right. He makes “hurtful, humiliating comments” and politicians “should be respected when they are respectable” – French President Francois Hollande – The Guardian

Italy:

“I think it is obvious for me and for a lot of us to prefer Hillary Clinton as commander-in-chief, because with her, there is a woman able to know every dossier, able to have a history and a future with all the partners.” – Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi – CNBC 

Ireland:

“I would have no difficulty in meeting Donald Trump” “Certainly. I would be very happy to. [explain why Trump’s comments are “racist and dangerous”]” – Irish Prime Minister End Kenny – Reuters

Austria:

“There might be one more thing that we don’t agree with Mr. Prime Minister, and this issue is Donald Trump. I am sure that there is only one thing that we can learn from him: that a man should never dye his hair.”– Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern – Euronews

Norway:

“A lot of what Donald Trump says makes for a more unstable world…
I hope this is part of local election campaigning and not what he will do if he is in office. He has said on a lot of topics different things, so we will see which Donald Trump he becomes.”– Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg – Politico

Sweden:

“Sweden should always make an effort to have good relations with countries around the world regardless of who is in power. But it is clear to see when you watch the [party] conventions that one is based on fear and division. Hate, I would almost say, or at least antipathy. The other one is based more on faith in the future.””I want Hillary Clinton to become president. There’s no doubt about it.” – Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven – TheLocal

Denmark:

“Now your presidency is coming to an end, and I have something to admit. I’m very fond of the Donald, too. I support him as a president. He’s pretty smart, shows great leadership skills, a true visionary. And I’m, of course, talking about Donald Tusk, who is president of the European Council.”– Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen – The Hill

Czech Republic:

“If I were an American citizen, I would vote for Donald Trump.” – President Milos Zeman – Bloomberg

Hungary:

“I’m not a member of Donald Trump’s campaign, I’d never have thought that it would occur to me the idea that he would be the best choice for Europe and for Hungary.” – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – Bloomberg

Russia:

Donald Trump as a “colorful” person. Both candidates “engage in provocations”, but are also “smart, very smart people who understand which strings to pull.” – Russian President Vladimir Putin – Telegraph

The All-Russian Center for Public Opinion found 34 percent of respondents found relations would improve between the US and Russia if Trump were elected, compared to 6 percent for Clinton. The same survey found that 53 percent of polled Russians would think relations would deteriorate between the two countries if Clinton was elected, compared to 12 percent with a Trump presidency. – Washington Times

EU:

“If a man who shows off by not having a clue ends up in the White House, a critical point will have been reached. Then you will have an obviously irresponsible man sitting in a position that requires the utmost sense of responsibility. Trump is not just a problem for the EU, but for the whole world.” – European Parliament President Martin Schulz – Express

NATO:

“I don’t think we have a right to lecture…I will not interfere in the US election campaign, but what I can do is say what matters for NATO. Solidarity among allies is a key value for NATO. This is good for European security and good for US security. We defend one another.” – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in response to Trump’s comments about conditional commitment to NATO allies’ defense – CNN

 

ASIA:

China:

Experts find that China finds Hillary “is predictable, they generally know how she approaches China: There are aspects they don’t like about her, but they generally know what to expect,”

while with Trump “Donald Trump is a puzzlement… They don’t like his proclamations about what he would do in terms of tariffs on Chinese goods, and that he’d go after China on economic and trade issues. But having said that, I don’t think there are many who think he can follow through on what he’s talking about, or even if he knows what he’s talking about.”CNBC

Korea:

North Korea praised Trump’s suggestion of pulling US troops from South Korea in a commentary from the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, claiming the South Korea “attitude is best shown by the way they got scared by Trump’s comments and groveled”

Although South Korea’s elected officials have not commented on Trump’s suggestions, media commentary has opposed these ideas. Kyunghyang Shinmun wrote an editorial in May stating:

“It is scary just to imagine Trump, who often doesn’t remember what he has said, getting elected president and manipulating Korean Peninsula issues by drastically shifting his positions.”The New York Times

Japan:

In response to Trump’s suggestion about South Korea and Japan acquiring nuclear weapons of their own: “Whoever becomes president of the United States, the Japan-US alliance, based on a bilateral security agreement, will remain the core of Japan’s diplomacy” – Yoshihide Suga, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary – Stuff

 

AMERICAS:

Canada:

“Regardless of the eventual winner, from one administration to the next, there are changes, and there are shifts, but we will engage … in a positive, thoughtful collaborative way that understands the importance of the North American trilateral relationship,” – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – Reuters

Mexico:

“I invited you to come and apologize to all Mexicans. Stop lying! Mexico is not yours to play with, show some respect.”
“He has failed all along. His absolute inconsistency in his positions, this very lousy way of trying to gain votes in speaking one day badly and aggressively against African Americans and then the next day asking them for support, telling the Hispanic community you’re criminals, you’re rapists, I’m going to throw you out of this country, and now he’s trying to get through a message that he’s not that bad, that he wants to do that because he loves that community because he thinks there are great people there. He thinks that everybody is stupid, especially the U.S. voters and the Hispanics and African Americans. Who is going to believe him with these dramatic and profound changes in opinion and public policies? “ –     Vicente Fox – Time

“What is a fact is that in the face of candidate Trump’s postures and positions, which clearly represent a threat to the future of Mexico, it was necessary to talk. It was necessary to make him feel and know why Mexico does not accept his positions.”

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, defending Trump’s visit to Mexico – NY Daily News

 

AFRICA:

Egypt:

“No doubt [that Donald Trump would make a strong leader]” – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – CNN

 

SUMMARY COMMENTARY:

Many may ask whether the views of leaders abroad or the global media and foreign citizens even matter. My answer is yes, they do if Trump or anyone like him were to ever become president.  Entire decades of good will, acceptance of our leadership on key issues like climate change and support we have obtained by our many act of humanitarian assistance, of security given to many nations and not least our allies, will largely disappear. We will be standing alone, just 4% of the world’s population, with a globe wondering what happened to our democracy and inducing insecurity and fear for global order, economic growth for all, and mutual security.

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75 Former Senior Diplomats Sign a Letter Formally Opposing Trump’s Presidential Campaign

By Harry C. Blaney III & John Gall

Photo Credit via The Washington Post

A statement was released on Wednesday, signed by 75 former ambassadors and senior state department officials expressing their opposition to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. To view the entire letter, please check our document page on it.

The letter began with declarative statements of their diplomatic expertise and outlook on this November’s presidential election.

  • Together, we have represented the United States as ambassadors in 52 countries or international organizations. We have hundreds of years of combined service.
  • As career officers, we have served every President since Harry Truman, and have proudly represented every President since Richard Nixon as ambassadors or senior State Department officials in Senate-confirmed positions. We have served Republican and Democratic Presidents with pride and enthusiasm.
  • None of us will vote for Donald J. Trump.
  • Each of us endorses Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Because the stakes in this election are so high, this is the first time many of us have publicly endorsed a candidate for President.

Typically, career civil servants take pride in both gaining valuable experience and displaying impartiality by serving for decades-long careers in the State Department, faithfully aiding the nation, regardless of which political party is in power. Although this impartiality normally carries over for many diplomatic officials by not endorsing political candidates for office, the letter explains the extraordinary circumstance under which this letter is written.

Very simply, this election is different from any election we can recall. One of the candidates — Donald J. Trump — is entirely unqualified to serve as President and Commander-in-Chief. He is ignorant of the complex nature of the challenges facing our country, from Russia to China to ISIS to nuclear proliferation to refugees to drugs, but he has expressed no interest in being educated.

Citing Trump’s frequent ignorant and offensive remarks he makes on the campaign trail and display of zero interest in learning from professional diplomats, these retired civil servants worry about the disastrous consequences a Trump presidency would have on the United States’ standing in the global community. The letter also points to the Republican nominee’s uncomfortably supportive comments on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

We fear the damage that such ineptitude could cause in our closest relationships as well as the succor it might offer our enemies.

The document then reviews the qualifications of Hillary Clinton, and although these diplomats include the caveat that they don’t all always agree with the decisions she has made as Secretary of State, they “have profound respect for her skills, dedication, intelligence, and diplomacy.” Considering the two choices for Commander-in-Chief, the letter reaches a succinct conclusion:

In this election there is only one team to represent our nation and lead our career foreign policy and security professionals in a manner befitting our role as the world’s sole superpower. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are the candidates we support.

The letter ends with the list of 75 signatories and their credentials while serving at the US Department of State.

This presidential election cycle has been unique in the number of the number of public servants speaking out in support or opposition of the two candidates. Earlier this month, the Trump campaign trotted out the endorsement of 88 retired military figures, to which the Clinton campaign responded with a list of her own 110 endorsements from retired military leaders. Although Trump’s military support could be attributed to his confusing interest in ending the sequester defense spending caps (as covered in this previous post), he’ll be hard-pressed to find as much support from former diplomats.

This letter represents a grave concern felt by many American diplomacy experts about a potential Trump presidency and the irreversible damage that could be caused to American international standing by a candidate whose ignorant of world affairs, thin-skinned, shameless, and prone to reckless actions.

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The Audacity Of Stupidity And Historical Lies By Donald Trump — The Cuba Case

By Harry C. Blaney III


Photo Credit via The Wall Street Journal


There have been many strange and horrific strands to Donald Trump’s campaign both in domestic and in foreign affairs during this long and caustic campaign. In some ways there are still many dark murky elements of the pitch that Trump has been putting forth in almost all of his statements, policy papers, and not least in his Tweets. Confusion is a very polite word to characterize his utterances.

More recently as an example is Trump’s speech in Florida, where among various crazy ideas and efforts to deceive many sectors of voters with unspecified “help”, Trump importantly shows a deep disregard for trust and truth. But it lacks a realistic and sane view of American relations with Cuba.

This is not surprising given that in almost ever sector of critical foreign and national security policy Trump has put forth ideas and policies that would without question make America weaker and less secure and throw the world in even more disarray. Some well known examples include building a wall on the Mexican border, the disavowal of Climate change and to address this existential danger, dealing with Europe, and not least his relations with a brutal Putin.

Not least also among his irresponsibilities is his vague call for someone to kill Hillary Clinton and for the disarming of her Secrete Service team. But the repeated lies and distortions continue in Florida. He accused Senator Clinton for creating ISIS as he has done before asking “why she won’t take responsibility for her central role in unleashing ISIS.” Fact checkers have call this a lie and fabrication. Yet much of the media does not call him on this especially in interviews.

His MO is to try to ingratiate some fragment of the voting public no matter the saneness of his proposals or their basic practicality or their massive cost to American goals, security and values.

The crude Cuban gambit is just on example of this insanity and disregard of serious thinking and long-term strategy. This tactics is called in politics “slice and dice”: tell each segment of the population you are for them and the opponent is not. Even in the same speech he sets forth policies that will harm most Americans but not in the 1%, and moments later Trump talks about the rich and the establishment that supports Clinton. Or making racist statements about minorities and saying how he will help them…but without specifics. This stance, despite its contradictions, can often be a winning strategy sadly.

It is in this dark context of repeated idiocies, that policy toward Cuba arises in a state with a high percentage of Cuban-American voters.

In this speech he said:

“We are also going to stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression.

The President’s one-sided deal for Cuba benefits only the Castro Regime. But all of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro Regime were done through executive order, which means the next President can reverse them – and that is what I will do, unless the Castro Regime meets our demands. Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people.”

In another speech last month, Trump also told the Miami Herald that he would keep open the infamous Guantanamo detention center, stating that:

“I want to make sure that if we have radical Islamic terrorists, we have a very safe place to keep them…I know that they want to try them in our regular court systems, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like that at all”

Guantanamo has been a source of great harm to US interests due to its harsh conditions, almost no transparency, and lack of any real fair judicial process. It has been an item of shame for America around the world. It has only helped the recruitment of more terrorists each day that it stays open with prisoners.

 

The opening to Cuba by the Obama administration in fact as been one of the truly great acts of long-term strategy and enlightened vision for dealing wisely, at last, with a misguided policy of isolation and confrontation which has gained nothing. Now there is new light and dialogue and contact that, over the long run (and it will take time), promises to improve our contacts and cooperation on many issues, promote a better life for the Cuban people, and enhance the growth of civil liberties and democracy.

Trump’s approach is again even more confrontation, and his harsh actions would bring us back to the bad times of frozen conflict. This means less hope for democracy and would gain the opposition of much of Latin America, let alone the hopes of many Cuban-Americans that increasingly want the new open relationship that Obama and Hillary Clinton started.

The sad part, if one reads the many quotes of Trump on foreign affairs contained in this web site, Cuban policy is just one example of a Trump led path that leads towards unbelievable global disaster for America at home and abroad. Trump will not “make America great” but diminish our global leadership and cause added new conflicts and chaos in every corner of the world.


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THE TRUMP – PUTIN CONNECTION : AMERICAN SECURITY ALREADY AT STAKE

By Harry C. Blaney III


Via NBC News

We have two worries on the Trump-Putin connection, one is Trump himself and his nearness to dangerous power and his absurdity as Commander-in-Chief. And the other is Putin and his desire to undermine American power, influence, and democracy and his desire to divide Europe from America. I’ll leave our well informed readers to figure out who is the more cunning, experienced and shrewd strategist.

Much has been written about the Trump-Putin relationship already but some areas have not been fully commentated to the general public by the media. Indeed the subject has not even been asked often by the media or the public when they have had the chance. Yet the very heart of American security and our relations with the rest of the world including our allies has not been deeply covered on TV or in much of the conservative papers around the country. That itself is shameful, but it applies not just to the Putin connection but also to most substantive issues – we hear a lot about the horse-race and not much else except effort to keep Trump on the airwaves and getting his voice to citizens for free and without any pointed questions or commentary.

America has never had to face such a clear real threat to America from within, but we never had a Republican candidate for the President being so close to having not only his finger on the atomic button, but the power and motivation to undermine our entire alliance structure, to make a shambles of American influence in the world and within our economy, and to create chaos and even more of a divide among Americans with his crazy policies. And according to the polls, this candidate is now just three percentage points away, in the right states, to making that nightmare a reality.

This would not make America “great again” but make America impotent and vulnerable to some of the worst dangers of an already high risk world which has existed for several decades. What is needed is not “Trumpism,” as in very high risk global poker – in effect a stratagem of dangerous bullying.  But rather we need the Obama strategy of not taking “stupid” high risks when the odds are greatly against you, the field murky, or when the field of conflict is overly dangerous and we clearly face greater costs than any gain. But look for more effective if deliberate options.  In short, the correct approach of giving serious analysis and careful thought to the consequences of military action and, when necessary, acting with allies and with caution.

Trump does not think of cost, of human lives lost needlessly. (Note his statements on the first use of nuclear weapons, building a wall on the Mexican border, or illegal use of water boarding and torture.)  These statements have already caused serious doubts about American leadership with our allies and joy from our adversaries.

Not least does trump’s vision of the world encompass the same destructive action as we are seeing from Putin his vision of a “strong leader.” His admiration for authoritarian Putin could possibly be his own view of what he wants to become. Is his vision of a “strong leader” the model like Putin, Stalin, Assad, Napoleon, Hitler and if so what does it mean for the future of a democratic just nation or of the US presidency? And  American civil society?  That outcome is the last thing we need in a high risk world.

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TRUMP’S WEEK OF PERPLEXING OFF-THE-CUFF AND SCRIPTED REMARKS

By Harry C. Blaney III and John Gall


Via The New York Times

After spending the last two weeks hemming and hawing on immigration policy, Donald Trump shifted his campaign’s focus to a variety of foreign policy issues. From a townhall-style speech in Virginia Beach with retired general and supporter Mike Flynn and a proposal to buildup the military to his participation in NBC News’ Commander-in-Chief Forum on Wednesday night, Trump’s lack of substance rhetoric was on full display. His dialogue was a combination of bypassing tough questions with lobbed criticisms, unrealistic policy proposals, and inane ramblings about Putin, ISIS, and high quality oil. Taken together, Trump’s statements half reveal and half conceal the soul within to badly quote a great poet. But if Americans really thought about all these rumblings and had any inkling of their import they would have cause for real fear for our country and the world.

However, when sifting through Trump’s comments, its easy to tell when the Republican presidential nominee is sticking to his scripted and evasive talking points and when the conversation goes off the rails. Its during these latter moments when a glimpse into Trump’s misinformed and flawed world view is revealed. Yet even his “scripted” utterances show a lack of understanding of how complex the international landscape is and that even his “experts” who wrote the texts, seem out of their depth and badly ruled by ideology and politics rather than sound judgement.

CONFUSING POLICY PROPOSALS

“I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point that’s embarrassing for our country,” (NBC Commander-in-Chief Forum, September 7, 2016)

In an address in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Trump proposed a military build-up, set forth a new plan to deal with ISIS, and suggested he would avoid the previous administrations’ pitfalls of walking into armed conflicts in the Middle East. Trump’s proposed buildup would include raising US troop levels from 470,000 to 540,000 and modernizing 22 Navy Cruisers. Trump’s proposal painted a picture of America’s waning military might and the nominee referred to the philosophy “peace through strength” that late President Reagan embraced. In order to pay for this military expansion, Trump suggested that he would lift the ‘sequester’ defense spending caps made in 2011, while trimming the budget outside of the military through federal work force attrition, correcting government spending inefficiencies, and collecting billions of unpaid tax dollars.

Although this proposal was made to bolster Trump’s credentials with veteran voters, it has drawn fiscal concerns raised by independent budget estimators. The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budgets estimates that even with Trump’s proposed offsetting budget cuts, his military build-up would cost $150 billion over ten years. Dov Zakheim, a Pentagon top financial officer in the Bush 43 administration, states that “the whole thing is unrealistic … it’s a soundbite.”

Trump’s proposed increase in defense spending is a headscratcher when viewing his previous stances. He frequently takes potshots at military engagements supported by Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Trump also cites the growing federal debt as a reason to withdraw military and financial support from our NATO and East Asian allies. If Trump has been running on a platform of reduced military presence abroad, shrewd negotiations, and a focus on domestic issues, this proposed defense build-up is an example of paying lip service to conservative military philosophy and an attempt to secure enlisted votes.

But it is more than even that, it is an irresponsible debt burden with no end and aimed at weakening our domestic security and risking massive confrontation abroad. Trump’s approach is at the expense of programs that would truly “Make America Great” like better education of our children, better affordable universal health care, solving our deteriorating infrastructure, funding higher education in State Schools of students that will contribute greatly to American progress, security, and productivity, and not least investment in preventive diplomacy and international institutions including strengthening peace making and keeping. These measures are the ones which truly address global challenges that are putting America and the world at risk like climate change, and spread of diseases, massive poverty, inequality, ethnic upheavals, and the many causes of the breeding ground for conflict and terrorism.

SCRIPTED SIDESTEPS

Numerous times this week Donald Trump has been pressed to give more information on his solutions to today’s issues and as a reflex he would respond with canned soundbites and deflecting to criticisms of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. During this week’s NBC Forum, moderator Matt Lauer asked Trump if his recent intelligence briefings taught him anything to reconsider his plan to defeat ISIS. His response was a brief dismissal of doubt in his secret plans and an attack on President Obama:

“ TRUMP: No, I didn’t learn anything from that standpoint. 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. “

These incoherent and confusing statements are meant to cover his own ignorance and possibly to mislead voters as to his real intentions. He clearly does not in fact have a coherent and effective plan to stop terrorism or other crises in our world. The reality is that there is no simple, not expensive and not risky “silver bullet” which will stop the many dangers and conflicts in our work including massive and mostly useless military hardware.  This is in contrast with President Obama, Secretary John Kerry and Secretary Hillary Clinton, who time and time again have underlined the difficulty of setting right our fragile global system, its complexity, and the need for long-term perseverance, caution, wise diplomacy and strategic long-term purpose.

Earlier this week, when asked by Mike Flynn on how he intends to combat the threat of ISIS, Trump proceeded to rant about the rise of Iran as a global power and the negotiating incompetence of Secretary of State John Kerry. As his event at Virginia Beach turned to his strategy to stop North Korean nuclear ambitions, Trump’s answer pivoted from passing responsibility on to China, to Air Force One landing at the G20 Summit. The lack of a red carpet staircase for President Obama was used as a tirade of failed leadership as concerns about North Korea were left unanswered.

Trump’s evasion continued on Wednesday night when asked about his positive comments towards Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Republican nominee defended his admiration of Putin’s leadership by citing an 82 percent approval rating and that “[Putin]’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader”. When Lauer listed the many questionable recent actions conducted by Russia, Trump asked “do you want me to start naming some of the things that President Obama does at the same time?”

The inability of Trump to speak ill of the Russian President is a perplexing phenomenon to political leaders on both sides of the aisle. Mrs. Clinton mused on Thursday that “it suggests he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do and then make excuses for him,” while current Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan reasserted his critical stance of Russia by calling Putin “an aggressor who does not share our interests”.

It seems unimaginable for the Presidential nominee of one of the two major political parties would go through such mental gymnastics to avoid criticizing a former KGB agent. However, when it comes to facing any levels of skepticism, it has become second-nature for Donald Trump to deflect and riposte against his political opponents.

DETOURS INTO NONSENSE

The most bizarre moments during Trump’s speaking events this week came from a crude narrative of the Iran-Iraq War and vivid descriptions of Middle East oil reserves. On Tuesday’s speaking event, Trump’s critique on the Iranian nuclear deal devolved into an argument of emerging Iranian dominance and reminiscence of a war from thirty years ago:

“We made them a power. And we also happen to have given them Iraq. I always say Iraq and Iran were very similar militarily. They’d fight fight fight and then they’d rest. They’d fight fight fight. And then Saddam Hussein would do the gas. And somebody else would do something else. And they’d rest.”

Later on, Trump would become fixated on the quality of oil in Iraq and Libya:

“Iraq has some of the greatest oil reserves anywhere in the world, and so Iran is going to get whatever ISIS doesn’t already have.”

“It’s a total disaster, Libya, right now. You know they have among the finest quality oils anywhere in the world? Their oil is so valuable, so good.”

Although some may think these strange comments are more expected of him at informal events such as campaign rallies, Trump echoed this sentiment atWednesday’s nationally televised forum when describing the dire costs of the war in Iraq:

“I’ve always said, shouldn’t be there, but if we’re going to get out, take the oil. If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS, because ISIS formed with the power and the wealth of that oil….And we’re the only ones, we go in, we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then, Matt, what happens is, we get nothing. You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said: Take the oil.”

Donald Trump’s assertion that the United States should have seized Iraqi oil reserves to pay for its ill-advised war may seem like a smart business move by the real-estate mogul, but from a foreign policy perspective it reeks of neo-colonialism. To suggest depriving a political fragile state of one of its few sources of income wouldn’t prevent the rise of violent extremist groups like ISIS, but rather swell their ranks with local young people who would have had even less economic and educational resources to make a regular living. The use of plundering as a tool of foreign policy would only increase anti-American sentiment among our adversaries and allies.

But it’s hard to see what’s scarier about this most recent turn in Trump’s campaign: his growing ease with using off-the-cuff remarks to mask his incompetence or his willingness to repeat such absurdities until one day they could become policies. These evasive responses, his lack of knowledge, and his off the cuff inclination to do the most dangerous things that make the world clearly less safe, indicate he is a man who should never have reached the position he has, much lest being the leader of the free world and Commander-in-Chief.
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