Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trump's Big CON: "Just Whistling Dixie"

UPDATE:  Another MUST READ: the Washington Post, Republicans and conservatives defending Trump on Charlottesville are morally bankrupt, which states in full:

The affront that is the Trump presidency is a violation of everything I learned about morality and reverence for the Constitution and the presidency — from Republicans. The party that spent my entire life lecturing liberals and Democrats on the finer points of being an upstanding American and upholding the honor and dignity of the presidency can’t speak with a clear, unified voice when it comes to President Trump.

Democrats were soft on crime. Democrats weren’t serious about that 'bear in the woods,' otherwise known as Russia. The late Jerry Falwell thundered about moral decline from his perches at the Moral Majority and Liberty University (nee Lynchburg Baptist College), helping Republicans win elective office all the way up to the Oval. And President Bill Clinton was impeached nearly 20 years ago for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Because of Clinton’s reprehensible conduct, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush rallied Republicans by promising to restore “honor and dignity to the White House.”

Trump has used every minute of his 213 days in the White House (as of this writing) to upend all of those Republican lessons I learned. After running an overtly racist and xenophobic campaign for the presidency, Trump squandered its moral authority with a 20-minute celebration of white supremacy that gave aid and comfort to bigots, Nazis and white supremacists everywhere. He didn’t even give a full-throated condemnation of the hate in Charlottesville that led to the death of Heather Heyer. Talk about being soft on crime. And as shameful and un-American as that is, there’s Falwell’s namesake on TV on Sunday, uttering nonsense like this in support of the president:

ABC News Politics

.@JerryFalwellJr: Pres. Trump "doesn't say what's politically correct, he says what's in his heart...and sometimes that gets him in trouble"
8:18 AM - Aug 20, 2017

    One of the reasons I support him is because he doesn’t say what’s politically correct, he says what’s in his heart. What he believes. And sometimes that gets him in trouble. But he does not have a racist bone in his body. I know him well.

If Trump 'does not have a racist bone in his body,' then my eyes and ears have been lying to me all these years.

Listen, I’ve already had my say about Trump and Charlottesville. How his coddling of the Confederacy and those who revere its treason make him unfit to be president. That many Republicans, including our 41st and 43rd presidents, have stepped forward to condemn what the 45th would not doesn’t leave me entirely despairing of the sorry state of the GOP and our national psyche.

So, my message is for all those Republicans and conservatives rallying around Trump and his offensive “both sides” idiocy and the racism it supports: You’re morally bankrupt. Your lectures and righteous indignation are meaningless in the age of Trump. And you have harangued me and other liberals on our morality and patriotism for the last time."

MUST READ: the Washington Post, Why Stephen K. Bannon was such a failure, which states in full:

"Stephen K. Bannon, the recently deposed architect of President Trump’s nonexistent populist agenda, wishes it was the 1930s.

That, of course, is what he promised to do: to make things as 'exciting' now as they were back then. Now, he might not have been talking about the war or the depression or the fascists in other countries, but what he did mean was a politics where racial resentment and economic populism could once again exist side-by-side. Where Republicans could target Muslims for special restrictions and raise the top marginal tax rate to 44 percent; could cut legal immigration in half and undo free trade deals; could stick up for white supremacists and spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. In other words, where the ideological heirs of the Dixiecrats were the ones calling the shots.

They haven’t been for a long time now.

Why not? Well, because our parties have sorted themselves based on race first and economics second. The political history of the past 100 years, you see, has really been the story of the rise and fall of the New Deal coalition. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to the Great Depression brought blacks, liberals, Northern ethnics and Southern whites all together until the civil rights movement drove them apart. It’s true that the Dixiecrats — the Jim Crow-supporting Southerners who left the Democratic Party to form their own, before eventually migrating over to the Republican one — weren’t all in favor of big government, but a lot of them were. Forced to choose between that and racial backlash, however, they chose racial backlash, whether that was calls for 'law and order' or denunciations of 'welfare queens' or, in the past few years, chants of 'build the wall.'

Bannon didn’t want them to choose anymore. He understood that a lot of Republicans don’t care about Ayn Rand-inspired odes to heroic entrepreneurs, or paeans to the Schumpeterian beauty of creative destruction, or how much capital gains are taxed. They want their Social Security and their Medicare. They’re called Trump voters, and they aren’t really represented in Washington. That’s because the money men and interest groups that members of Congress rely on ensure complete ideological conformity on the issue nearest and dearest to the hearts — or rather the wallets — of the donor class: how much they’re taxed. Bannon wanted to change that so people could get Democratic economic policies together with a Republican brand of racial pandering.

The only problem is you can’t. Just look at Bannon’s proposal to increase the top tax rate to 44 percent. Who was ever going to vote for that? Republicans never would when their party’s entire raison d’etre for the past 40 years has been keeping taxes as low as possible on the rich. And neither would Democrats when Bannon had alienated them about as much as possible with his barely disguised attempt to ban Muslims. The same was true of infrastructure. Republicans didn’t really want to do it, and Democrats didn’t want to with Trump. It reduced Bannon to being able to do little more than alternately insist that he wanted to build a rainbow coalition of populists — 'we'll get 60 percent of the white vote and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote, and we’ll govern for 50 years,' he rather modestly claimed — and cheer, for example, when Trump said last Friday’s neo-Nazi rally was full of 'very fine people.' Bannon never understood that one made the other impossible.

Bannon thought he was a revolutionary, but he was just whistling Dixie."

Trump's Big CON: It's All About the Show, Afghanistan Edition

UPDATE VII"  "To some of the Marines, though, optimism, no matter how cautious, rings hollow after nearly 16 years of war and new approaches that sound a lot like the old ones."

Read the Washington Post, ‘It’s like everyone forgot’: On a familiar battlefield, Marines prepare for their next chapter in the Forever War.

UPDATE VI:  "President Trump proved one thing beyond the shadow of a doubt in his Afghanistan strategy speech Monday night: After nearly 16 years of fighting America’s longest war, there are no new ideas.

He called his plan 'dramatically different.'

It wasn’t. The only thing that seemed a striking change from his two presidential predecessors’ approach to the war launched after the attacks of September 11, 2001, was Trump’s escalatory rhetoric. He repeatedly vowed to 'win' a conflict that his Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress recently 'we are not winning' and sharply criticized Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan, a troublesome ally Trump excoriated for offering 'safe haven' to terrorists. . .

In many ways, the target of much of his speech was neither al Qaeda nor the Taliban but Barack Obama. Trump went out of his way, for example, to criticize his successor for “hastily and mistakenly” withdrawing from Iraq in 2011—without mentioning that he supported that move at the time. In his speech on Monday, he claimed that he now viewed it as a mistake so consequential it had shaped his own determination to fight on in Afghanistan.

Read Politico, America Is Out of Ideas in Afghanistan.

In blaming Obama, there was "one layer of dishonesty piled on top of another."

UPDATE V:  "The president has escalated fights in six countries. Now his supporters are wondering what happened to ‘America First.’"

Read the Daily Beast, Trump’s Base Goes Ballistic Over His ‘Unlimited War’.

UPDATE IV:  "At a low ebb in his presidency, amidst questions about his judgment and mental stability, President Trump on Monday night asked the country to trust him in sending more troops into the nation’s longest war. Coming after his panned tweet to throw transgender people out of the military and his incendiary remarks about Charlottesville, his paean to military cohesion and diversity rang hollow. ('The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose,' he said. 'They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion. That is because all service members are brothers and sisters. They are all part of the same family. It’s called the American family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag, and live according to the same law.') At times he seemed to be defensively rewriting his remarks on Charlottesville. ('Love for America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate.')

What we did learn was the 'America First' has no meaning (other than to deceive gullible isolationists). Aside from that and a general disposition toward 'winning,' we did not hear with any specificity how he intends to achieve victory or even how he defines 'victory.' . .

Unfortunately, the means to achieve victory seemed both vague and insufficient. 'We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on,' he said. (That’s fine, but could we get a ballpark figure to assess whether the commitment is sufficient to obtain the desired result?) One platitude followed another. '“Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power, diplomatic, economic, and military, toward a successful outcome.' But have we not been doing that for almost 16 years? The result hardly sounded like a definitive victory. . .

[Former ambassador Eric] Edelman observed: 'It is hard to call it an approach, it is really more of an attitude. The speech was in keeping with Trump’s approach to everything, which is to say it was more about him than anything else.' Edelman pointed out that from the effort to recover from the Charlottesville debacle to his ''I wanted to pull out' instincts to his pathetic whining about the crappy hand he was dealt — it read less like a carefully thought-out strategy and policy and more like an internal monologue.' He added, 'It was not a compelling argument to the public for continued involvement and sacrifice.'"

Read the Washington Post, A hobbled commander in chief tries to rally the country.

UPDATE III:  "In his televised speech last night, the president flip-flopped his position on the war in Afghanistan. We know this because, to his credit, Trump explicitly copped to it:

'My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you are president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my Cabinet and generals to complete our strategy.'

There’s a lot to unpack in that paragraph. Watching it live, when he said 'I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle,' I literally laughed out loud. Let’s be blunt: The only printed material that Trump has studied in great detail from every conceivable angle are periodicals that contain glossy centerfolds.

That said, I do believe Trump’s claim that he preferred to pull out and subsequently changed his mind. The question is why. For all the myriad ways the president tried to claim that his strategy of 'principled realism' was different from President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, it’s pretty much the same. The Trump administration cares a little less about democracy promotion and a lot less about civilian casualties than the Obama administration. . .

[W]hy the shift? Two big factors pushed him in the same direction. The first, obvious one is path dependence: Given the situation today, there is no magic formula to change things for the better with dramatic action. . .

The second factor is one that I have been hammering again and again, but it bears repeating: Trump is an exceptionally weak commander in chief. He lacks the gravitas and expertise to countermand his military advisers, even when his instincts push him in that direction. . .

What was unusual about this decision is that when faced with a choice between an unappetizing status quo and a future of even worse alternatives, Trump chose the status quo. He does not normally do this — except when it comes to decisions involving the military. That is consistent with what he did in Syria in the spring. . .

The U.S. military is not really all that hawkish, but the armed forces do tend to prefer more firepower to less in those conflicts where they already have a footprint. So while the military might not advocate for any new conflicts, they have and will advocate for more resources to prosecute the conflicts they are enmeshed in.

Which means that, contrary to some who believed that Trump was the less hawkish candidate in 2016, Trump will repeatedly defer to the military in his grand strategy. No matter what he claims, he has no better ideas.

This means longer and bloodier wars."

Read the Washington Post, Why did Trump flip-flop on Afghanistan?

UPDATE II: It's the status quo plus a little more in Afghanistan.

Read the Washington Post:

Trump announces new strategy for Afghanistan that calls for a troop increase,

‘It’s a hard problem’: Inside Trump’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan,

Trump’s muscular but vague Afghanistan speech, annotated,

In escalating America’s longest war, Trump acts against his ‘original instinct’,

Trump faces the grim reality of Afghanistan: No quick path to victory and no clear way out, and

Bannon’s Breitbart spins Trump’s Afghanistan speech as ‘flip-flop’, which noted:

"Trump — who has for years called for a withdrawal from the war — said during his speech that although his 'original instinct' was to pull out, 'decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.'

He provided few specifics about how much the U.S. military commitment would increase."

UPDATE:  The problem with Afghanistan, there are no good options to what is essentially a series of civil war that have been a feature of Afghanistan's history for more than 100 years.


The Washington Post, Trump’s ‘strategy’ on Afghanistan: Let the next president figure it out, and

NPR, Trump To Deliver Prime-Time Address On Afghanistan.

Trump always has a secret plan, even one to "win" in Afghanistan.

Now, approximately 9 months after the election and 7 months after taking office, he might tell us.

Read the Washington Post, The Latest: Trump to address nation Monday on Afghanistan.

Remember: it's all 'bout the show, 'bout the show, stupid people!!! (Repeat til you get it).

Read also:

Trump's Big CON: 'I Can Win in Afghanistan', and

Trump's Big CON: The Generals Decide How to Fight.