Friday, August 11, 2017

Trump's Big CON: "He's So Pretty", Nuclear Weapons Edition (AKA Trump is a Psycho-Narcissistic Con Man (CONt., Part 7.5))

My Mr. President, what big nuclear weapons you have!

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s bizarre brag about the nuclear arsenal doesn’t square with reality, which noted:

"President Trump tweeted a warning to North Korea on Wednesday morning. Pointing to his executive order to 'renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal,' he said that arsenal is 'now stronger and more powerful than ever before.'

The contention in these tweets is not based in reality.

Trump, yet again, appears to be overinflating his accomplishments as president. And what's more, judging by these tweets, he doesn't seem to even understand his own nuclear arsenal or its current status.

Experts on these things make clear:

    A meaningful advance in less than seven months of the Trump administration is fantasy — there's just no way it's much different than it was when Trump took over.

    Trump doesn't appear to have done anything more than order a review of the nuclear arsenal.

    Even if we set aside the above, the arsenal simply isn't 'stronger and more powerful than ever before.'

'It’s absurd; this is like — you have to be the biggest hayseed in America to believe this,' said Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. 'There’s no point at which this statement touches reality.'"

Trump's Big CON: Staff Changes Can't Hide His Lack of Leadership, or Lies

UPDATE:  "Whit Ayres, a Republican political consultant here, likes to tell his clients that there are 'three keys to credibility.'

'One, never defend the indefensible,' he says. 'Two, never deny the undeniable. And No. 3 is: Never lie.'

Would that politicians took his advice.

Fabrications have long been a part of American politics. Politicians lie to puff themselves up, to burnish their résumés and to cover up misdeeds, including sexual affairs. (See: Bill Clinton.) Sometimes they cite false information for what they believe are justifiable policy reasons. (See: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam.)

But President Trump, historians and consultants in both political parties agree, appears to have taken what the writer Hannah Arendt once called “the conflict between truth and politics” to an entirely new level.

From his days peddling the false notion that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, to his inflated claims about how many people attended his inaugural, to his description just last week of receiving two phone calls — one from the president of Mexico and another from the head of the Boy Scouts — that never happened, Mr. Trump is trafficking in hyperbole, distortion and fabrication on practically a daily basis."

Read The New York Times,  Many Politicians Lie. But Trump Has Elevated the Art of Fabrication.

White House Chief of Staff John F. "Kelly can improve White House discipline but until he is empowered to can Bannon, prompt the president to replace incompetent secretaries and senior advisers with seasoned hands, instill an atmosphere where truth and integrity are paramount and get past the scrutiny of the special counsel, his changes will be limited and wholly insufficient."

Read the Washington Post, Kelly can’t fix Trump’s biggest problems.

In other words, Kelly can't change Trump

Trump's Big CON: He Continues Obama's "Total Failure" Foreign Policies

Remember Trump's secret plan to defeat ISIS, it was a lot like Obama's.

And with North Korea, "'the Trump administration is pursuing a five-part strategy similar to the strategy undertaken by the Obama administration.'"

Read the Washington Post, Trump finally starts winning — by copying Obama, which noted that "within the Trump administration there is at least some instinct to tone down the wild talk and, ever so quietly, to bend to reality."

Trump's Big CON: Is Trump Crazy, North Korea Edition

UPDATE VII: "Of all of President Trump’s close advisers, there is one who perhaps best typifies the worst of Trump’s combative, us-vs.-them, fact-free style: Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president who shares his views that Muslims are the enemy, bellicosity is strength and the news media are out to get the president.

For months, Gorka received heavy scrutiny over his ties to far-right, anti-Semitic groups in Hungary, leading to widespread rumors last spring that he was going to be dismissed from the White House. But not only has his White House tenure endured, he has continued to be a ubiquitous Trump surrogate in the media.

Why is Gorka still there? The best explanation is that Trump loves Gorka’s television performances, whether they are in the Trump-friendly confines of Fox News, or in the hostile territory of MSNBC or CNN, where Gorka plays the anti-'fake news' pit bull for his boss.

Gorka has been hitting the airwaves again this week, defending Trump’s unscripted 'fire and fury' bellicosity against North Korea, undercutting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s effort to scale back the president’s rhetoric, and strongly hinting Trump is ready to go to war with Pyongyang.

'You should listen to the president,' Gorka said derisively on the BBC Radio 4’s program 'Today” this morning. 'The idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical.'

In Gorka’s world, only he truly understands not just what the president wants, but also that the president is right about everything. Gorka has been widely mocked by national security experts as a fringe player with scant credentials for his purported counterterrorism post. But he has a single piece of expertise that has turned him into a favorite Trump surrogate: a willingness to defend Trump against any perceived enemy, and to project Trump’s us-vs.-them mentality to the world — regardless of what more senior administration officials or anyone with actual expertise thinks. . .

West Wing aides consider Gorka’s media appearances 'an embarrassment,' his No. 1 fan is none other than Trump himself. Trump’s admiration seems to stem largely from Gorka’s eagerness to jettison any semblance of custom or charm when appearing on networks Trump considers hostile to his interests. 'Gorka’s stock has soared as President Trump has watched him on various cable channels fighting with the hosts and accusing them of being part of the 'fake news industrial complex,' ' Swan reported.

Indeed, Gorka’s willingness to disparage any media that dare question Trump is what helped make him a regular presence on Fox, where he is frequently called upon to do just that, including by Trump friend Sean Hannity. Not even the Soviet Union’s media was that bad, Gorka once told Hannity, speaking about CNN, which has become a regular target of the president himself."

Read the Washington Post, Why is Sebastian Gorka still in the White House? Because Trump loves his TV performances.

UPDATE VI:  "For those worried that President Trump might get into nuclear war with North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson provided some solace Wednesday. 'Americans should sleep well at night,' Tillerson said, tempering Trump's promise to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if it continued to threaten the United States. Tillerson emphasized that no conflict was imminent.

But now another Trump administration voice is suggesting that we shouldn't pay Tillerson much mind.

Sebastian Gorka appeared on BBC radio Thursday and delivered one of the most aggressive takes to date on what Trump might do — even allowing that a mere threat from North Korea could be construed as an act of war, as Trump seemed to do earlier this week. In doing so, Gorka played down Tillerson's role in all of this. . .

[W]e may be witnessing a little “Good Cop, Bad Cop” here, with the administration providing different signals to keep North Korea guessing. It's the “Madman theory” that says you want your enemies to think you're capable of anything.

But this also seems to fit into a pattern of the White House not really having its story straight and figuring things out on the fly — which would be a perilous strategy given the stakes of the North Korea situation. And it also fits into a long-running pattern of White House officials undermining one another, both privately and publicly. Having members of your staff undercut your own secretary of state doesn't seem like a great way to do business.

Read the Washington Post, More drama in Trumpland: Gorka publicly shuns Tillerson’s effort to scale back North Korea red line.

UPDATE V:  How are The Donald's entourage of sycophants defending him?

"[I]f people are reading Trump’s words in their most horrifying light, that’s only because they have come to see him as an 'unhinged madman,' but don’t worry, he really isn’t an unhinged madman. This is their defense!"

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s ‘unhinged’ presidency, perfectly captured in two sentences.

One of those sentences is:

The new White House chief of staff John F. "'Kelly is clear-eyed about the mission: it is not so much about “fixing” Trump as it is earning the President’s trust so that he can make repairs to White House operations quickly, before an international incident tests the team.'" [Emphasis in article.]

Is he too late?

UPDATE IV:  "It is humiliating for the world’s greatest superpower to disregard its president as a weird old man who wanders in front of microphones spouting off unpredictably and without consequence. But at this point, respect for Trump’s capabilities is a horse that’s already fled the barn. New chief of staff John Kelly has supposedly instilled military-style order and message discipline into the administration, but Trump is unteachable. Minimizing the havoc means getting everybody to pretend Trump isn’t really president."

Read New York Magazine, Ignore Our Crazy President, U.S. Government Tells North Korea.

UPDATE III:  So, trying to start a war isn't enough.

The Donald wants to fight

"Well, no one ever accused Trump of stopping while he was behind. His 'gobsmackingly stupid' indictment of the majority leader continued Thursday morning. He tweeted, 'Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!' . .

[I]n a week in which much of the country is disturbed that the president lacks the gravitas, discipline and judgment to be commander in chief, Trump’s attack reinforces the idea that he is motivated by personal pique and is incapable of dispassionate strategizing. . .

[I]n Trump’s mind, the categorization of someone as friend or foe depends almost entirely on whether they support and lavishly praise him. . . In Trump’s mind, there are no excuses for defying or criticizing him."

Read the Washington Post, Trump couldn’t have picked a dumber fight.

UPDATE II:  Is The Donald's approach crazy, or crazy like a fox?

"In their first and only meeting, President Obama explicitly warned Donald Trump days after the election about the urgency of North Korea’s nuclear weapons threat.

A few weeks later, it was clear that Obama had made an impression: Trump raised the matter out of the blue in a telephone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, according to an Asia expert at the State Department who reviewed a transcript.

'What Tsai Ing-wen knows about North Korea could fill a thimble. It’s not the focus of her world,' said the official, who spoke Wednesday on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private call. 'But that brought home to me that it really got through to Trump that this was a real problem.' . .

Yet it is the increasingly bellicose, often contradictory, rhetoric from Trump himself that has marked the sharpest shift in U.S. policy toward North Korea from previous administrations. Having declared an end to the Obama era of 'strategic patience' that focused on isolating Pyongyang, Trump has failed to articulate a clear alternative. He has vacillated between courting China’s help and giving up on Beijing — and between suggesting he is opening to meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and threatening to obliterate his regime.

On Tuesday, Trump vowed in spontaneous remarks not vetted by aides that Pyongyang would be met with unprecedented 'fire and fury' if it did not stop its threats — a pledge that some outside the White House interpreted as an allusion to nuclear war.

'That wasn’t what we had in mind,' Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser for Obama, said in an interview. 'It’s clear that they got the message that this was the principal challenge for them, but they keep making statements that don’t feel like they have been informed by some deliberative process.' . .

White House aides said Trump’s focus on the issue has already paid dividends, pointing out that China, contrary to its past opposition to broad economic sanctions, voted in support of last week’s U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

But Jim Walsh, a nuclear and Asia security expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, [is] skeptical about Trump’s strategy.

'It seems to me that an impromptu nuclear doctrine without having consulted staff or allies is not really a great idea,' he said."

Read the Washington Post, Obama warned Trump on North Korea. But Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ strategy wasn’t what Obama aides expected.

UPDATE:  "I had dreams of fire and fury like the world has never seen. But now I will sleep well, because Rex Tillerson told me I should.

There is no 'imminent threat' from North Korea, the secretary of state said Wednesday. “The American people should sleep well at night.”

It was the latest and largest cleanup effort undertaken by President Trump’s aides since this administration took power. Their unorthodox message to an anxious nation and a panicky world: Don’t take seriously what the president of the United States says. . .

There have been other such cleanup actions, and there will inevitably be many more, as Trump’s advisers try to convey to the world a perverse message: Rest assured, sleep well — and pay no attention to the president’s yammering.

Read the Washington Post, The Trump cleanup patrol just had its biggest job yet.

"Hearing President Trump threatening to bring 'fire and fury' down on North Korea because of its nuclear defiance reminded me of an incident during the Cuban missile crisis. The State Department had gotten slightly ahead of the White House by mentioning the possibility of “further action” by Washington — and President John F. Kennedy was irate.

He called State Department spokesman Lincoln White to reprimand him personally and to stress the need to coordinate and calibrate all public statements. Otherwise, an already dangerous crisis could escalate uncontrollably. 'We got to get this under control, Linc,' he fumed. 'You have to be goddamn careful!'

Studying the 1962 nuclear showdown for my book “One Minute to Midnight,” I concluded that the real risk of war arose not from the conscious designs of Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev or even Fidel Castro. It stemmed from the possibility that the opposing sides could trigger a nuclear conflict that nobody wanted through miscommunication and freak accidents, which became increasingly likely at higher levels of military alert. The same is almost certainly true of the present crisis with North Korea. . .

Given the explosive rhetoric of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it is understandable that President Trump should be tempted to respond in kind. Classic game theory teaches us that you can gain an advantage over your opponent if you can convince him that you are madder than he is. In the game of chicken, with two cars heading for a frontal collision, the driver who swerves out of the way first loses.

During the Cuban missile crisis, the 'crazy man' role was played to perfection by Castro, the only leading actor who was seriously prepared to risk a nuclear war. Patria o muerte — “fatherland or death” — was, after all, the slogan of the Cuban revolution. Assuming the role of madman has always been part of the arsenal of the weak against the strong, whether in the case of Cuba or North Korea or the Islamic State. It gives the weaker player an advantage it would not otherwise have.

Playing chicken is, however, a dangerous indulgence for the leader of a nuclear superpower. During the 1962 crisis, the two 'rational' players — Kennedy and Khrushchev — ended up making common cause against the “madman” Castro. . .

As President Trump girds for a possible nuclear confrontation with North Korea, we can only hope that he will prove to be a big man rather than a little one. Out-crazying Kim Jong Un is a scary proposition. Game theory also teaches us that, if neither driver swerves, everybody goes up in flames."

Read the Washington Post, What Trump should know about the Cuban Missile Crisis.