Tag Archives: Donald Trump

So. Much. Winning.

My column for the Washington County Daily News is out today. It’s also in the Waukesha Freeman, from what I hear. Here’s a taste.

If there is one thing that could disrupt the positive direction that America is moving, it would be for the Democrats to gain control of the U.S. Senate. We have all come to understand over the past few weeks that the Democratic Party is untethered from any traditional norms of civility, honesty and even decency. They will stop at nothing to oppose President Trump even if it means burning down the country in the process.

We saw this behavior from Wisconsin’s own Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Less than 48 hours after Trump announced the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Baldwin announced that she would not vote for his confirmation. This was a radical break from traditional senatorial behavior to reject a nominee without researching him, learning about him, or even speaking to him. And although Baldwin admitted her opposition, almost all of the Democrats in the Senate had made the same decision. The brouhaha that Democrats manufactured over the last few weeks was not designed to change any minds. It was designed to attempt to rationalize the Democrats’ predetermined opposition to the American people.

Baldwin’s behavior reveals the larger psychosis currently infecting the Democratic Party. Their single- minded effort to #resist President Trump has become the only real plank in their platform.

Trump Asserts America at U.N.

Don’t read the news reports of Trump’s speech at the U.N. today. It was a long speech that covered a lot of topics. The media will only cover small parts and will focus on the parts they didn’t like. Instead, go read the whole thing. It was an impressive speech for its clarity of vision and robust assertion of American values.

For example, here’s one part:

Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.

That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination.

I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.

Amen. And this:

I spoke before this body last year and warned that the U.N. Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.

Our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, laid out a clear agenda for reform, but despite reported and repeated warnings, no action at all was taken. So the United States took the only responsible course: We withdrew from the Human Rights Council, and we will not return until real reform is enacted.

For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support in recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority. The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.

This:

I spoke before this body last year and warned that the U.N. Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.

Our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, laid out a clear agenda for reform, but despite reported and repeated warnings, no action at all was taken. So the United States took the only responsible course: We withdrew from the Human Rights Council, and we will not return until real reform is enacted.

For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support in recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority. The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.

And:

In America, we believe in the majesty of freedom and the dignity of the individual. We believe in self-government and the rule of law. And we prize the culture that sustains our liberty -– a culture built on strong families, deep faith, and fierce independence. We celebrate our heroes, we treasure our traditions, and above all, we love our country.

One might not agree with all of it (I disagree with him regarding trade policies), but he has articulated a clear vision for his administration. Go read it.

Trump Orders Document Dump

Good.

President Donald Trump directed the Department of Justice to release a host of documents related to the Russia probe on Monday, including texts between two former FBI officials who talked about stopping his rise to power.

Trump also directed DOJ to declassify pages from a warrant from a secret court that allowed the feds to spy on former campaign adviser Carter Page and all of the interview reports the bureau prepared to go along with it.

The president told Justice to publish reports tied to its interview with DOJ official Bruce Ohr, whose wife Nellie worked at the firm that put together the unverified dossier of dirt on the president, in the sweeping declassification of documents associated with the special counsel investigation.

Ohr is known to have been in contact with the dossier’s author, ex-British spy Christopher Steele.

And in a further request, Trump called for the release of text messages relating to the probe that were sent or received by ex-FBI director James Comey, whom the president last year fired.

Democrats’ Behavior is Solidifying Support for Trump

Interesting analysis.

The 2016 exit poll showed that Trump won because he decisively beat Clinton among the 18% of Americans who did not like either candidate. These voters tended to be suburban, college-educated, Republican-leaning men. These “reluctant Trump voters” were undecided until the very end of the race, but ultimately decided that the devil whose policies they liked was better than the devil whose policies they didn’t.

Democrats have done nothing since Trump’s election to reduce these feelings. On issue after issue the Democratic party has moved to the left, catering to a progressive base outraged at Trump’s election and seething at how the Democratic establishment foisted a fatally flawed candidate upon them. The latest progressive cause célèbre is for eliminating America’s border enforcement agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice). One can be outraged at how Trump is enforcing America’s immigration laws without thinking that eliminating all border enforcement is a good idea. An idea like this keeps Republicans united in their support for Trump as it clearly shows how unacceptable the alternative is.

The news media’s behavior also keeps Republicans in line. It is impossible to overstate the degree of daily vituperation visited upon the president in the media. Comics and actors use their non-political programs to attack him, often to the implicit applause of the press. Virtually all coverage outside the conservative Fox News and isolated conservative outlets is negative, often couched in highly hostile terms. Virtually all of the columnists at the New York Times and the Washington Post, America’s two most respected dailies, despise Trump – and that includes nearly all of the conservative, libertarian and Republican columnists too. Trump supporters who follow news at all cannot escape the daily blast of negativity.

This has, predictably, hardened the attitudes of many Trump supporters. As minor issues are blown up into major catastrophes, it’s not surprising that potentially major issues like Trump’s embarrassing and obsequious behavior towards Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki get overlooked. It’s “boy who cried wolf” syndrome writ large; when the media cries “wolf” at every passing shadow, many Trump backers simply don’t believe them when they say that a wolf might actually be coming.

Trump to Provide Farm Aid

Hmmm

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it would provide up to $12 billion in emergency relief for farmers hurt by the president’s trade war, moving to blunt the financial damage to American agriculture and the political fallout for Republicans as the consequences of President Trump’s protectionist policies roll through the economy.

Unveiled two days before the president is scheduled to visit Iowa, a politically important state that is the nation’s top soybean producer, the farm aid appeared calculated to show that Mr. Trump cares about farmers and is working to protect them from the worst consequences of his trade war.

But the relief money, announced by the Department of Agriculture, was also an indication that Mr. Trump — ignoring the concerns of farmers, their representatives in Congress and even some of his own aides — plans to extend his tit-for-tat tariff wars.

So Trump creates an economic hardship through his tariff policy and then uses taxpayer money to selectively bail out some of those businesses that are negatively impacted by that policy. No thanks. Just end the policy.

Furthermore, I don’t like the notion of the President pulling $12 billion out of the taxpayers’ couch without any legislative process or appropriation. $12 billion is still a LOT of our money for a single man to throw around.

Trump Swings and Misses

This was not a good day for American foreign policy.

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

In a strongly-worded statement, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Mr Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”.

Of course, we don’t know what was accomplished in private yet, but the public outcome of Trump’s meeting with Putin left a lot to be desired.

Trump to Nominate SCOTUS Pick on July 9th

Push forward!

President Donald Trump told reporters on Friday that he would announce his choice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on July 9 – a choice that he will likely make from a previously released list of 25 potential nominees.

Trump made the comments aboard Air Force One and added that may meet with two contenders in Bedminster, New Jersey this weekend. He said he will meet with six or seven candidates but has narrowed his list down to five people, including two women, before announcing his nominee. He said it was a group of “highly talented, very brilliant, mostly conservative judges.”

“Well we have great people, you know, we have 25 pretty outstanding people. I like them all but I’ve got it down to about five,” Trump told reporters on Friday.

When asked if he was looking for someone who would overturn Roe v. Wade, Trump said he wouldn’t be asking the candidates about the landmark abortion case.

The reporters are going to have a one track mind about Roe, aren’t they? Did they forget that Trump is pro abortion?

Public Credits Trump for Good Economy

This, if anything, will blunt the Blue Wave.

More than two-thirds of Americans credit President Donald Trump for the country’s healthy economy, a new poll has revealed.

The CBS News poll, which was released on Sunday, shows a sharp partisan divide, with Republicans more likely to give the president positive reviews while Democrats and Independents are not as complimentary.

According to the survey, 35 per cent of Americans say Trump’s policies are ‘a great deal’ responsible for the economy.

Around the same number – 33 per cent – say the president’s policies are ‘somewhat’ responsible.

Trump Promises to Help ZTE

Wha?

US President Donald Trump has said he wants to help save ZTE, one of China’s biggest telecoms companies.

The firm has suspended operations after the commerce department last month banned US companies from selling it components for seven years.

[…]

ZTE pleaded guilty to making illegal shipments to Iran and North Korea.

US commentators say the tone of the tweet is a dramatic shift for Mr Trump, who has consistently accused China of stealing US jobs.

The concession to Beijing comes ahead of high-level trade talks later this week in Washington aimed at resolving an escalating trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

[…]

In March 2017 ZTE admitted to violating US sanctions by illegally shipping American technology to Iran and Korea and was fined $1.1bn (£800m).

The current export ban was imposed last month after the company allegedly failed to comply with its agreement, lying about the punishment of employees involved in skirting the sanctions.

While the story cites the upcoming trade talks as a possible explanation for Trump’s actions, I have to think that the upcoming summit with North Korea is also in play. While ZTE is clearly breaking the rules, there are bigger issues at play.

Trump is one of the few presidents we have seen who works with everything on the table all the time. He’s willing to move things around that are seemingly unrelated in order to find a way to move his agenda forward.

Trump Pulls Out of Iran Deal

Excellent!

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump plans to follow through on his campaign threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, according to two people familiar with his thinking, dealing a profound blow to U.S. allies and potentially deepening the president’s isolation on the world stage.

It wasn’t immediately clear which sanctions that were lifted under the deal might be quickly reimposed, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Trump has several options, and a limited move could leave him more room to potentially stay in the deal after all if other members agree to toughen it.

Take notice of the incredible bias in the AP story. Trump is following through on a campaign “threat” instead of a “promise.” He is dealing a “profound blow to U.S. allies” but no mention of our enemies. That’s just the first paragraph!

Progress In North Korea

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. You have to give props when props are due. Here you go:

In West Bend last weekend, there was a brat fry for the benefit of veterans of the Korean War. More than 5.7 million Americans served in the Korean War — 33,739 were killed in battle. Another 20,507 died in service during the war and 103,284 were wounded. Today, less than half of the Americans who served in the Korean War are still alive.

Given that it has been almost 65 years since that bloody war ground to a halt in a cease fire agreement, many of those Korean War veterans had likely given up hope of ever seeing the war actually end. Last week, Kim Jong Un, the grandson of North Korean tyrant Kim Il Sung, who launched the bloody war in 1950, shook hands with South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, and then stepped into South Korea to begin a historic summit that may lead to a lasting peace between the sibling nations.

That handshake did not come about by accident. It was the result of a multifaceted foreign policy effort by President Donald Trump. For all of his faults, Trump’s foreign policy has proven to be sophisticated and effective. He has advanced the interests of peace on the Korean peninsula further than any of his predecessors.

The likelihood of a lasting peace, much less the complete denuclearization of North Korea, is still slim. Kim Jong Un is a third generation dictator who is equal parts evil and crazy. His interests are rooted in his own power — not the welfare of the North Korean people or the world. In order for peace to be sustainable, Kim’s self-interest will have to be appeased and Trump will have to twist Ronald Reagan’s famous maxim to, “don’t trust and verify.”

Still, we are closer to peace than we have been for three generations and the world has Trump to thank for that. The secret to Trump’s foreign policy is no secret at all. He has returned to the more muscular foreign policy of “peace through strength” that underpinned the foreign policy of many previous administrations.

The first thing Trump did when entering office was make it clear that the days of American appeasement of North Korea were over. Strong, occasionally reckless, rhetoric sent the message that Trump was not of the same mold as his most recent predecessors.

Then Trump backed up his rhetoric with very stiff sanctions against North Korea. While North Korea is no stranger to sanctions, this time it was different. Through a combination of threats and praise, Trump convinced China to get on board with the sanctions. China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, by far, and ally in the Korean War.

Once the sanctions were in place, Trump extended his potent mix of threats and complimentary gestures to Kim. Trump began working toward high level negotiations and backed it up by sending the soon-tobe Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to meet Kim. In the bast couple of weeks, Kim has committed to cease nuclear tests, dismantle a nuclear facility, met with South Korean President Moon, and indicated that he wants a permanent peace. Trump is tentatively scheduled to meet with Kim next month.

Incidentally, while Pompeo was furthering the peace process in North Korea through diplomacy as the secretary of state nominee, Wisconsin’s Sen. Tammy Baldwin voted against his confirmation saying that she feared Pompeo would not be diplomatic enough.

Underlying the entire process is the fact that nobody doubts that Trump is willing to back up his threats. No doubt the strikes by the United States against chemical weapons facilities in Syria, despite the admonitions of the Russians and Assad, got Kim’s attention. If Trump is willing and able to act with such precision against Syria, there is no doubt that he would be able to strike North Korea. And with China softening its defense of Kim in order to protect its economic interests, Kim is more isolated than ever.

The North Korean problem has been the world’s Gordian Knot for more than half a century. Trump might be about to cut it.

Mueller Raids Trump’s Lawyer’s Office

This is outrageous.

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz warned Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to raid President Trump’s personal lawyer’s office is an assault on the privileged lawyer-client relationship.

Dershowitz said on Fox News that he believes the decision to raid Michael Cohen’s office would be a sign that Mueller is trying to turn Cohen against Trump.

“This may be an attempt to squeeze Cohen,” he said. “He’s the lawyer, he’s the guy who knows all the facts about Donald Trump, and to get him to turn against his client.”

 “This is a very dangerous day today for lawyer-client relations,” he added.

Dershowitz, who has drawn the ire of Democrats for defending Trump, said Mueller’s move is also dangerous because it gives the FBI the option of deciding what information seized from Cohen to pursue.

“I tell [clients] on my word of honor that what you tell me is sacrosanct,” he said. “And now they say, just based on probable cause … they can burst into the office, grab all the computers, and then give it to another FBI agent and say, ‘You’re the firewall. We want you now to read all these confidential communications, tell us which ones we can get and which ones we can’t get.'”

Trump Ratchets Up Trade War

STOP IT!

“In light of China’s unfair retaliation, I have instructed the [United States Trade Representative] to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate,” the president said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the United States announced new tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, claiming that China is stealing US intellectual property. China responded within hours by announcing $50 billion worth of tariffs on US goods.

The moves follow US tariffs that were imposed earlier this year on Chinese steel and aluminum, which also prompted retaliatory measures from China.

Trump’s announcement late Thursday that his administration could target another $100 billion of Chinese goods rattled markets and drew criticism from businesses and from within his own party.

Tariffs do nothing by wreck parts of the economy and retard the invisible hand of capitalism.

Trump Threatens to Veto Omnibus Spending Bill

Good.

(CNN)President Donald Trump threatened Friday to veto the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress, citing concerns that the legislation does not include a solution for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or sufficient funding for a border wall.

“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,”
Trump is doing a huge favor to Congressional Republicans here by attempting to take the DACA issue away from the Democrats before November while also reinvigorating support for borer security. I don’t have any grand illusions that the final product won’t be as heavy with spending and pork as this bill, but that’s what happens when the Senate has stupid filibuster rules.

Trump Imposes Tariffs on China

I don’t like this move.

The US plans to impose tariffs on up to $60bn (£42.5bn) in Chinese imports and limit the country’s investment in the US in retaliation for years of alleged intellectual property theft.

The White House said the actions were necessary to counter unfair competition from China’s state-led economy.

It said years of talks had failed to produce change. China said it was ready to retaliate with “necessary measures”.

Beijing also said it would “fight to the end” in any trade war with the US.

Tillerson Sacked

Ouch. Sacked by a tweet.

US President Donald Trump has sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, replacing him with the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo.

Thanking Mr Tillerson for his service on Twitter, Mr Trump said the new state secretary would do “a fantastic job”.

Mr Tillerson, a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, was only appointed to the job just over a year ago.

The president also nominated Gina Haspel to become the first woman director of the CIA.

In general, this is a positive move. Tillerson was ineffective as SOS. But it isn’t too much to ask that the President pick up the phone and do it in person.

Trump Floats Tariffs

Bad idea.

Mr Trump tweeted that the US had been “decimated by unfair trade and bad policy”. He said steel imports would face a 25% tariff, and aluminium 10%.

However, critics argue that the tariffs would fail to protect American jobs and would ultimately put up prices for consumers.

Mr Trump’s announcement hit US markets, with the Dow Jones index closing down 1.7%.

Allow Mr. Friedman to explain:

Sasse Responds to President’s Anti-2nd Amendment Blatherings

Boom.

“Strong leaders don’t automatically agree with the last thing that was said to them. We have the Second Amendment and due process of law for a reason,” Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, said in a statement. “We’re not ditching any Constitutional protections simply because the last person the President talked to today doesn’t like them.”

Trump’s Middle East Policy

Since we were remembering Obama’s Middle East Policy, what about Trump’s?

Such absurd New York real estate boasting aside, in his first year in office, Trump has taken a number of truly radical steps. In December, he promised to meet a longstanding Israel wish: moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He has also challenged the Palestinians frontally, closing the spigot of funds the U.S. provides to the UN under the rubric of refugee assistance.

Neither move is likely to advance a “peace process” that has been moribund almost from birth. Both have spurred condemnation worldwide. But neither move has sparked the kind of conflagration on the Arab street that was predicted by so many experts.

Indeed, both moves might even be called Reaganesque. By staking out firm positions, stating obvious truths and aligning the U.S. more closely with the only democracy in the region, the Trump administration is forcing all the players in the region to reconsider stale positions that have brought them nothing but sporadic violent collisions with Israel for half a century.

[…]

If Reagan-like boldness can be detected in some of Trump’s statecraft, so can Obama-like fecklessness, or worse. In dealing with Iranian imperial ambitions, Trump has been talking loudly and carrying the smallest of sticks.

Trump came into office pledging to tear up the Iranian nuclear deal and set new “red lines” on Iranian behavior. But when push came to shove, he has let the Iranians do the shoving while allies of the U.S. have been pushed around.

The most dramatic case in point concerns treatment of our longstanding ally, the Kurds. This past October, less than two days after Trump blasted the Iranian revolutionary guard’s Quds Force as the “corrupt personal terror” militia of Iran’s supreme leader, and then promised to “work with our allies to counter the (Iranian) regime’s destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region,” the United States did precisely the opposite of what he pledged.

The U.S. stood by as Iraqi troops, aided by the very same Quds Force Trump had just promised to resist, conquered the Kurdish-held oil-rich city of Kirkuk, the nucleus of a future independent Kurdistan. This betrayal of an ally was not preordained. It was also not an irony but the opposite of irony if one considers that during the presidential campaign Trump jumbled the Quds with Kurds and was unable to say which was which.

Of a piece with this passivity is Trump’s response to the Syrian use of chemical weapons. Readers will recall that while serving Chinese President Xi Jinping “the most beautiful chocolate cake” in Mar-a-Lago back in April, Trump informed his guest that a fusillade of 59 American cruise missiles had just been launched toward a Syrian airbase in retaliation for a poison gas attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib province.

SOTU Reaction

What did you think (if you watched it)?

Overall, I thought it was good. Positive, while digging into some critical issues. Big on ideas. Small on specifics. Too long.