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  1. #1


    Lets get this thread started with this one, from Huffington, just because it looks like it will set the tone for the rest of this administration:

    Trump Blames Obamacare Defeat On Democrats Whom He Never Asked For Help

    The president believes the opposition party should have given him votes to dismantle their legacy.

    By Sam Stein

    In the moments after it was announced that his health care bill was dead and pulled from consideration, President Donald Trump had pinpointed the culprit. Democrats, he explained, were to blame for the failure because they refused to provide him with any of their votes.

    "We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats," Trump explained. "With no Democrats on board, we couldn?t quite get there.?

    "When you get no votes from the other side ― meaning the Democrats ― it is a very difficult situation," he said elsewhere.

    Trump is right in noting that there was no bipartisan appetite for his health care proposal. And certainly, when you start without any support from the other side of the aisle, it is hard to pass much of anything.

    But if the lack of Democratic support was to blame for this governing debacle, Trump has no one to blame but himself.

    During the course of putting together the repeal-and-replace process for Obamacare, Trump never once reached out to a member of the Democratic leadership to discuss policy matters or vote counts. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi?s office confirmed as much. So too did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer?s office.

    Ben Marter, a spokesman for Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), noted that Trump had "called the Post and the Times today" to discuss health care reform defeats, ?but not us.?

    Even the likely targets of bipartisan outreach said that during the course of the entire process they never heard from Trump. A spokesman for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said a call never came.

    Why Trump would expect to get Democratic votes when he was gunning to gut their primary domestic policy achievement and refusing to talk to them about doing so is not clear. But he clearly felt that it was in their self-interest to have worked with him even though he never asked. Speaking to reporters, the president said he expected Democrats to now be supportive of reform because they?d have no one else to blame when or if Obamacare collapsed.

    "The losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare," he explained. "This is not our bill. This is their bill."

  2. #2
    The incredible, shrinking Trump

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:28 AM March 29, 2017

    Donald Trump?s health care debacle is a political train wreck that could not have been avoided, in large part because a clueless, couldn?t-care-less engineer was at the controls: Trump himself. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the main cause of the extraordinary defeat was Trump?s own leadership, or lack of it. His humiliation is an object lesson in what happens to lying, blustering, post-factual presidents: They lose the credibility they need to get things done.

    To be sure, the entire attempt to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, as the landmark program known as the Affordable Care Act was better known, was a foolhardy undertaking from the start; once 20 million more Americans had enjoyed the benefits of the hard-fought law, it was politically difficult to reverse course. The repeal part was driven mainly by the politics of resentment?the same politics which fueled Trump?s unlikely presidential run. In previous terms, even when they did not have the right conditions for a repeal, Republicans sought repeatedly to undo one of Barack Obama's chief legacies. They kept voting symbolically to repeal it.

    What makes the decision to pull the American Health Care Act, as Trumpcare was formally known, from consideration on the floor of the House of Representatives last Friday even more striking, then, was that all the political branches of the US federal government were in Republican hands. But many Republican senators went on record to say they could not support the measure, and both conservative and moderate Republican wings in the House opposed it. The new president of the United States, of course, is Republican.

    It is true that the seven-year-long Republican dream to undo Obamacare proved to be an intraparty nightmare in real life. The House Freedom Caucus did not support the bill because it was not conservative enough and did not do enough damage to the Affordable Care Act. The moderates heeded the Congressional Budget Office?s warnings about leaving millions of people without insurance. The job was thus cut out for Trump: Balance his party's competing interests. Like never before, the spotlight focused on Trump's leadership style?and he wilted.

    The self-proclaimed artful negotiator could not bring his own party to the table. Again, the internal divisions were serious and real. But Trump's approach to negotiation all but assured that the divisions remained in place. In lieu of detail, he offered bluster. Instead of compromise, he set take-it-or-leave-it deadlines. The candidate who promised that Americans would be "so tired of winning" under his presidency did not know how to win.

    In the end, his own party failed to come together because Trump was a divisive figure rather an uniting one. His two attempts to impose a discriminatory anti-Muslim travel ban were stopped by the courts. His entirely unnecessary alienation of his country?s traditional allies has continued and now includes Germany. His campaign's unusual closeness to the Russian government is under investigation. He continues to tweet unpresidential tweets at odd hours. And his ratings keep plumbing historic new lows.

    When political careers are at stake, who would rely on someone unreliable in the clutch like Trump? The lies, bluster, and post-factual assertions of the new president finally caught up with him.

    Even after the stinging defeat, Trump could not manage to find his way to speak the truth. "The best thing that could happen is exactly what happened?watch," he said. His presidency invested a massive amount of political goodwill and government resources in the last few weeks to try to kill Obamacare; now he expects his country and the rest of the world to forget all of that happened. Trump needs some serious health care of his own.

  3. #3
    From my "hometown" LA Times ___

    Trump's poll numbers are low. But the people who put him in office say it's not time to judge him ? yet

    Noah Bierman

    It?s been five months since the euphoria of a Donald Trump rally at the local arena brought optimism to this former Democratic stronghold. The snow from a long winter has begun melting into the rocky soil, and the digital sign in a torn-up parking lot blinks hopefully: "Warm days are coming."

    President Trump has yet to deliver jobs or the repeal of Obamacare. But here, in an area crucial to his unexpected election victory, many residents are more frustrated with what they see as obstruction and a rush to judgment than they are with Trump.

    Give him six months to prove himself, said an information technology supervisor. Give him a year, said a service manager. Give him four years, said a retired print shop owner.

    "Give the man a chance," said Crystal Matthews, a 59-year-old hospital employee. "They?re just going to fight him tooth and nail, the whole way."

    Public opinion polls show Trump at historic lows. That's largely because, unlike most presidents, he has failed to attract new support since election day. Instead, his actions have energized his opposition and turned off some who had ambivalent feelings.

    But while some supporters have abandoned the president amid an FBI investigation, a string of political defeats and diplomatic flare-ups, most of those who voted for Trump have stuck with him.

    Wilkes-Barre, in a valley along the Susquehanna River, is emblematic of the mid-sized cities in the rust belt that proved decisive to Trump's winning electoral formula and the tenacity of his support.

    The region once drew prosperity from coal and remains dependent on industry including, in recent years, warehouse distribution and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The late 19th century brick factories lend downtown a historic quality that sets it apart from the chain stores atop the hill overlooking town.

    Jim Haggerty, a 63-year old resident of nearby Forty Fort, sat in Sweet Treet diner on a recent weekday morning, reading the local newspaper and lamenting that two of his three children left the area after obtaining college degrees. His third may have no choice but to do the same when he graduates.

    "This area lacks quality jobs," said Haggerty, who retired from the printing business he owned. "We?ve got blue collar, after blue collar, after blue collar."

    Luzerne County, which includes Wilkes-Barre, gave nearly 60% of its vote to Trump, four years after supporting Obama. Among the three Pennsylvania counties that flipped from blue to red in 2016, playing a key role in delivering the state to Trump, Luzerne had the largest Republican uptick ? nearly 12 percentage points.

    Trump built loyalty here. He held two rallies in Wilkes-Barre; the second came during the lowest point in his campaign, after a recording emerged in which he bragged about grabbing women against their will.

    The crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena chanted "CNN sucks" that day in October, a sign that they were more angry with the news media than with Trump.

    Many of those who stood in the same arena this week to watch the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton Penguins face off against the Utica Comets in a minor league hockey game said they remained disgusted with the coverage of Trump. One man acidly rattled off the names of network anchors ? Lester Holt, Wolf Blitzer ? naming them as among the people conspiring to stop Trump from breaking the mold of "bought and paid for" politicians.

    "They?re going to do anything they have to do to make sure Trump doesn?t succeed," said Rich Martini, a 51-year-old book printer, sipping a beer in the hallway amid the smell of glazed nuts and mustard.

    "There?s a bias," said David Ambrulavage, a 50-year-old IT manager, wearing a white Penguins jersey in the nosebleed seats as the Zamboni cleared the floor and Aerosmith?s ?Dream On? blasted from the sound system.

    Are Trump and his family making money off the presidency? He wouldn't be the first, Ambrulavage said.

    Did the Trump campaign collaborate with Russians to influence the election? They didn?t invent the emails that embarrassed Clinton, he said. Those were drafted by Democrats.

    Ambrulavage was also annoyed by the attention paid to smaller issues, like Kellyanne Conway, the Trump advisor, casually sitting on the president?s couch with her shoes on while snapping a picture of a group of visitors to the Oval Office.

    Yet he does not leave Trump blameless. Like many here, Ambrulavage believes some of Trump?s wounds are self-inflicted, the result of tweeting unfounded claims and making provocative statements when he doesn?t have to.

    "He would be wise to cool it, stop doing it," he said. "It only adds fuel to the fire."

    To Ambrulavage, those problems do not outweigh Trump?s focus on beefing up military spending, approving a crude oil pipeline from Canada and trying to prevent companies from moving their workforces overseas.

    Ambrulavage wants to get rid of Obamacare and believes the president hurt his ability to win votes in Congress by creating a "lot of noise" with his tweets and outspoken comments.

    Trump and Republicans in Congress pledged to quickly repeal Obamacare, but last week, amid GOP infighting, pulled a bill that would have done so.

    Healthcare is no longer at the top of Trump?s agenda, but several Trump supporters here remain adamant that the Affordable Care Act has to go, suggesting they may punish Trump and Republican lawmakers if they fail to live up to their promise.

    Yet the definition of repeal, or what comes after it, demonstrates why the topic is so thorny for Republicans.

    And then there?s Mike Stewart, who voted for Trump but celebrated the president?s failure to repeal Obamacare.

    "The only thing I have from the government is Obamacare," said Stewart, a retired insurance salesman and construction worker.

    Stewart said he only learned after the election that he qualified for an Obamacare insurance subsidy, which he says saves him more than $700 a month. He added that he still would have cast a vote for Trump, who he believes will improve education and care for the homeless.

    Stewart?s approval for Trump is not unlimited. He just wants to give him time to prove he can learn politics. But he said he dared not raise any complaints about Trump with his friends, who uniformly defend the president.

    "It?s an absolute joke. He has no idea what he?s doing," said Jeanne Laktash, a 34-year-old Internet copywriter from Dickson City, a small city northeast of Wilkes-Barre. She reeled off a list of grievances against Trump, including a budget that proposed slashing Meals on Wheels.

    "It seems like he could do anything, and they wouldn?t care," she said ruefully. "I haven?t seen a lot of buyers? remorse."

  4. #4
    Spy fiction? Russia tale of election interference grips US

    01:04 AM March 30, 2017

    WASHINGTON, DC ? Secret meetings, phone taps, Russian oil money and mysterious intelligence dossiers: the swirling scandal over US President Donald Trump's ties to Moscow has all the makings of a classic spy novel?whose ending has yet to be written.

    But the maelstrom engulfing Washington over Russia?s interference in the US election last year is very real, and the political stakes have never been higher: Trump's presidency itself.

    Increasingly the story is turning to one of deliberate misinformation, leaks to the media, and worries of a high-level cover-up.

    The plot appears simple: Moscow, aiming to damage the presidential prospects of Democrat Hillary Clinton, deployed hacked documents and misinformation to boost the campaign of rival Trump.

    But underlying that is the explosive question: Did Trump's campaign collude with Moscow?

    That's where the wiretaps, a former British spy's dossier on contacts between Trump's campaign and Russian intelligence, Trump's business dealings with Russian tycoons, and cryptic statements by US spy chiefs, take hold of the plot.

    The Director of National Intelligence and the heads of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency announced on Jan. 6 that they were convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin had masterminded the effort to manipulate the November election.

    But they held back their evidence. Nor did they comment on the report by Christopher Steele, a former British MI6 agent, that details numerous alleged communications between Trump advisers and Russian officials during 2016.

    The Steele report, which has not been substantiated and has been rejected by the White House as "fake news," lies at the heart of suspicions of collusion. It also, provocatively, suggests Putin has possession of a sex video secretly filmed in 2013 while Trump was in Moscow.

    Cast of characters

    Like any good political yarn, the story has unfolded with a kaleidoscopic cast of characters.

    A key mystery man throughout is Russia's chummy ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, who appears to have met Trump and everyone around him during the campaign.

    There is Michael Flynn, a former US military intelligence chief who was generously paid to attend a gala of Russia's RT television in December 2015, where he sat together with Putin.

    It was Flynn's half-truths about his calls with Kislyak that forced him out of his new job as White House national security adviser in February.

    Another key person is Paul Manafort, who spent years working for Moscow-backed Ukraine leader Viktor Yanukovych before becoming Trump's campaign chief. Did he also have contact with Russian intelligence, as the New York Times suggests?

    Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, met with Russia?s ambassador and a top Russian banker in December.

    Jeff Sessions, Trump's attorney general, first said he never met Kislyak during the campaign and then admitted to doing so. Carter Page, a Trump adviser and former Moscow-based banker, also met the omnipresent Moscow envoy and other Russian officials.

    Stonewalled probes?

    The question now is whether various investigations will go ahead, without interference.

    The FBI is conducting a counterintelligence probe, under the lead of a director already under a cloud for his own alleged interference in the election, which hurt Clinton.

    The House and Senate intelligence committees, which are privy to classified intelligence, are also investigating.

    But the House committee probe appears under threat.

    Its chief, Republican Devin Nunes, canceled a planned open hearing this week after he "discovered" secret surveillance documents that he said showed Trump and associates were picked up in "incidental collections" by US intelligence agencies.

    Nunes later admitted having received the documents during a surreptitious visit to a White House "safe" room last week.

    Charge vindicated

    Rather than share the information with his committee, Nunes made a very visible trip to present it to Trump, who said it "somewhat" vindicated his unproven charge that then President Barack Obama had ordered the intelligence agencies to wiretap Trump Tower during the campaign.

    Since then Nunes has revealed nothing about the information he received, drawing sharp criticism and calls to step down.

    Jackie Speier, a Democratic member of the committee, said the moves smacked of an effort by the White House and Nunes to shut down the House investigation.

    "I don?t think the president wants this investigation to go forward," she told MSNBC on Tuesday.

    At the center, of course, is Trump, who has animated the story with his off-the-cuff tweets. But he perpetuates suspicions by criticizing US intelligence bodies, the media and Democrats, while praising the Russians.

    His focus has been to defend his election victory as legitimate while changing the subject. ?AFP

  5. #5
    Trump, Xi in Florida for high-stakes summit

    Agence France-Presse / 06:44 AM April 07, 2017

    PALM BEACH, United States ? Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping arrived in Florida Thursday for a first face-to-face summit, eying a basket full of "tweetable" deals to help avoid a public clash.

    Xi touched down at Palm Beach airport, where he received red carpet treatment and a military honor guard that offered no hint of the tensions that permeate this high-stakes superpower pow-wow.

    Trump arrived a little later and headed to his Mar-a-Lago resort - dubbed the "Winter White House" - where he will host Xi for what promises to be a masterclass in studied informality.

    The agenda for the 24 hour summit has purposely been left open, allowing the leaders to freewheel and build a rapport. Thursday's main event is a joint dinner.

    Matt Pottinger, a top White House Asia expert who was tasked with planning the summit, promised a "relaxed interaction" despite a backdrop of tensions over trade and North Korea.

    "Spouses will be there" said Pottinger, indicating the leaders will be joined Thursday evening by US first lady and former model Melania Trump and Peng Liyuan - a celebrated folk singer who was once more famous than her husband.

    The group will "have an opportunity to have tea together, meet some of their senior cabinet officials, so to speak, on both sides, and have a dinner," Pottinger added.

    Talks will continue up to a working lunch on Friday.

    Amid concerns about security and public perceptions, officials said Xi and his wife will not be staying at Mar-a-Lago, but at a resort and spa a short drive down the palm-fringed coast that is, for now, watched by snipers, tactical units and a coastguard cutter.

    The carefully choreographed dinners and displays of bonhomie mask an almost palpable anxiety about how the meeting will go.

    Peace offerings

    No one - neither diplomats nor aides - can be sure what will happen when the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation meets a mercurial American president who has been in office less than 100 days and is capable of unraveling the most carefully-laid plans with a single 140-character tweet.

    For that reason Xi is arriving with a gift-basket of "tweetable deliverables", sources say, peace offerings on Trump's signature issues - trade and jobs - that he hopes will smooth over a relationship that began on shaky ground following disagreements over Taiwan.

    Top of the list, according to a source briefed on Xi's plans, will be a package of Chinese investments aimed at creating more than 700,000 American jobs - the number pledged to Trump by China's regional rival Japan, during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's February Mar-a-Lago visit.

    There may also be offers to further open China's auto and agricultural markets, insiders say, and even some concessions on Chinese banks' transactions with North Korea, a vital financial lifeline for the country.

    In return, Xi hopes to get assurances from Trump on punitive tariffs and that an American arms sale to Taiwan will be delayed, at least until after a major Communist Party meeting later this year.

    Trump?s position on the democratically-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, has been a major irritant since the billionaire politician accepted a protocol-breaking phone call from the Taiwanese president after his election victory.

    All politics is loca
    The summit stakes, both domestic and international, are high.

    Disagreements over approaches to North Korea or bilateral trade could, if mishandled, destabilize North East Asia or tank the global economy.

    On the domestic political front, Xi is heading into a critical year. Ahead of a party congress that could cement his grip on power for years to come, he needs to show that he can deal with the US leader as an equal.

    He "cannot afford to lose face while China aspires to be the new center of gravity for the world order," China political analyst Willy Lam told AFP.

    Meanwhile, Trump - who is reeling from legislative defeats, low approval ratings and unrelenting scandals - desperately needs a win.

    He may not have much room to maneuver, however, with a country he has castigated for "stealing" American jobs and doing "little" to rein in North Korea's nuclear program.

    Even though the two leaders "want to project themselves as very forceful, very decisive and also getting the best for the benefit of their own countries, they are also anxious not to get into difficult negotiating positions," according to Lam.

    On the US side, however, North Korea will likely top the agenda following a provocative missile launch Wednesday - barely 48 hours before the summit.

    Different interests

    The Trump White House worries Pyongyang is just months away from marrying nuclear and long-range missile technology and putting the west coast of the United States within striking distance.

    The tough-talking new president has repeatedly and very publicly indicated his openness to military action.

    While Beijing has condemned the missile tests, it has hesitated to take dramatic action against Pyongyang, fearing that the country's collapse would generate a flood of refugees across its borders and leave the US military on its doorstep.

    But coming to an agreement on the issue will not be easy, according to Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

    "I don?t think they?re talking about solutions? at the end of the day, their interests are not really the same as the United States.'" CBB

  6. #6
    Trump's loss, China's gain?

    By: Bobby M. Tuazon - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:20 AM November 23, 2017

    Is superpower America losing its grip on Asia?

    US President Donald Trump's presence at the Asean Summit was ponderous compared to the demeanor of other delegates. He also missed the East Asian Summit on Nov. 14, leaving many Asean leaders clueless on whether the region was in his interest radar. Outside the summit, Filipino and American activists burned his effigy. At the Nov. 11 Apec Summit in Da Nang, his unsolicited offer to mediate maritime feuds was nixed by President Duterte and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

    Trump's 11-day swing through Asia showed signs of an America way off the changes sweeping the region. In the Korean nuke crisis, China's diplomacy is gaining traction over Trump's tough approach. Japan's Shinzo Abe and South Korea's Moon Jae-in fly to Beijing early in 2018 for talks on the Korean crisis. Aware of Beijing's key role in defusing the crisis, Japan has downplayed its dispute with China over islands, as well as on the South China Sea (SCS). At the Apec Summit, Abe and China's Xi Jinping shook hands to jump-start their trade ties. This came on the heels of America's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership - a move that did not sap Tokyo's resolve to push the agreement along with 10 other countries.

    Asean and China will begin talks in 2018 on the Code of Conduct based on the framework agreement signed last August. But amid the momentum in forging a final Code, the SCS maritime issue was not raised at the summit. Reason: Some claimant countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines are now in bilateral talks with Beijing to resolve the disputes and explore cooperation for energy development in the disputed waters. All these fit into Beijing's "dual track" route on the SCS: Maritime rifts should be settled bilaterally among claimants, and China and Asean should work together to ensure peace and stability.

    During his tour, Trump brandished the triumphalist "America First" and threatened to rework "unfair" trade deals with Asian countries. Typical of China's soft power, Xi Jinping spoke on multilateralism, "international cooperation" and "economic openness," which appealed to Asian countries. Trump's "trade barbs" are pushing Asians "closer to China's orbit," says Bloomberg. Today, Asean is China's leading trade partner, accounting for 15 percent of its total trade. China is also the Philippines' No. 1 trade partner this year. Welded by trade integration, China and its neighbors are a major driver of global GDP growth.

    Asean countries look to China for economic growth and to America to counterbalance China's power. This is the conventional theory. US strategists are aware of America's receding economic influence in Asia, but US military supremacy will stay indefinitely. Without any coherent Asian policy, Trump will continue his predecessor's rebalance strategy which aims to preposition 60 percent of US forces in the Asia-Pacific by 2020. He has also affirmed a US defense alliance with Japan and South Korea. Joint war exercises with the Philippines will be enhanced in 2018 and US facilities will rise inside five Philippine military camps.

    But what is new is China and Asean will hold joint naval drills next year. Does this signal that China is no longer a security threat in the region? (In 2015, Asean refused the US 7th Fleet's plan for a regional maritime force to patrol the SCS.) Mr. Duterte has dropped joint US-PH patrols in the SCS so as not to anger China. Countries that have military ties with America avoid being dragged in a war with China at the risk of losing their dynamic economic ties with Beijing.

    Growing perceptions in Asia of waning US economic and even security clout in the region are sound. US economic hegemony under neoliberal globalization has been hurt by the 2008 financial crisis, leading to sluggish growth and large-scale underemployment. US armed intervention in many countries has spawned extremism and ruined economies in fragile states. Today, US global credibility is at its lowest point.

    But far from diminishing strategic interests, America remains the world's No. 1 economic and military power. In due time, Asia's evolving role as the world's growth center will make US power here irrelevant.

    * * *

    Bobby Tuazon, is director for policy studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, a book author, and UP professor.

  7. #7
    Profiles in discouragement

    By: Bernard-Henri Levy - @inquirerdotnet 05:14 AM November 24, 2017

    New York - Some specialists in the life sciences say that no one is ever fully cured of any injury or disease, because our cells forever retain traces, memories, of even the slightest attacks on the body?s integrity. So it will be with the United States.

    One day, America will turn the page on Donald Trump. But it will never recover completely from the wound that his presidency's baseness, bull-headed stupidity, and puzzling passivity in the face of China?s global ambitions have inflicted on its culture and international standing. Is Trump a symptom? Or a terminal disease?

    Demoralization and defeatism have not spared the Democrats, as I found in New York and on a recent visit to Chicago to address a seminar at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. At the home of the Iranian-American Nazee Moinian, whose Manhattan apartment recalls the patrician abodes of the members of the Algonquin Round Table, the assembled elites are in agreement. Trump, by not backing the Kurds in their bid for independence from Iraq, committed not just a moral error but also an irreparable political mistake. He betrayed his Kurdish ally. He strengthened his Iranian adversary.

    The German legal and political theorist Carl Schmitt might say that Trump had confused his friend and his enemy, dealing with the former as he should have dealt with the latter. Inexplicably, Trump sacrificed (once again) a crucial US national interest, this time by abandoning the sole force in the Middle East (outside of Israel) on which America could safely and seriously rely.

    How does one respond to such a forfeiture? With what resources? Was there really no way to counter the club of bad neighbors who refuse to countenance any discussion of Kurdish sovereignty?

    Some Democrats swallow their national pride and say that France's young president, Emmanuel Macron, newly crowned by Time magazine as king of Europe, is in a better position to step in and stay the hand of Iraq and Iran. Older Democrats express not the slightest reservation about the use of US power during the Cold War. But here they are, paralyzed, disarmed, when the time comes to raise their voice - merely their voice! - against the sinister but motley gang of four (Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria) blocking Kurdish independence.

    At Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue, the most beautiful synagogue in New York and one of the largest in the world, I was recently interviewed by Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review. The conversation again turned to Macron. I tried to explain that his trademark phrase, en m?me temps (at the same time), which tends to be heard here as an expression of American-style pragmatism, may instead be one of the most visible traces of his doctrinal proximity to the French Protestant philosopher Paul Ric?ur. Far from reflecting careful deliberation over an ambiguous choice, "at the same time" is the credo of someone suspended in fear and trembling before the unsolvable and terrifying mystery of the double nature - physical and spiritual, mortal and resurrected - of the tormented body of Christ.

    But very soon we arrive at the question of anti-Semitism in America. On one hand, it is to be found in that horde of nativists, white supremacists, and neoconfederates who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, in August to break some black and Jewish heads. On the other hand, it is seen among leftists on US campuses who have caught the fever of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), the global campaign against Israeli products that is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate from a quasi-overt campaign against products and businesses that are just plain Jewish.

    In this sense, are we living in the ?poque of Trump, in which his revival of the "America First" slogan of the American Nazis in the 1930s has encouraged a loosening of bigoted tongues? Could it be that Trump himself, despite his officially pro-Israel positions, is a closeted anti-Semite?

    The truth is that the question of Trump - the enigma of the man and even his very name - takes up much too much space in public debate. The truth is that in spending time wondering whether he is insane, or, like an overstuffed and obscene Hamlet, he feigns madness to confuse his adversaries, we are all falling into the trap of a narcissism that, here in the United States, is the new face of nihilism. Project Syndicate

    Bernard-Henri Levy is one of the founders of the "Nouveaux Philosophes" (New Philosophers) movement. His books include "Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism," "American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville," and most recently, "The Genius of Judaism."
    Last edited by Joescoundrel; 11-24-2017 at 11:27 AM.

  8. #8
    I knew everything in Wolff's 'Fire and Fury' even before it was published. Here's how

    Michael Hiltzik

    The publishing sensation of this young year is Michael Wolff's inside-the-West-Wing tell-all, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."

    Within days of its publication date, which was moved up by several days to meet frenzied demand, the book was sold out at stores; it dominated the Sunday cable talk shows; provoked President Trump and his minions to a string of furious attacks; and has the official chroniclers of White House dysfunction at big East Coast newspapers crabbing about trivial inaccuracies (a sure sign that it has struck a nerve).

    "Fire and Fury" was destined for success for several reasons. It fits the prevailing narrative about the Trump administration as perfectly as the last piece fits a jigsaw puzzle. It goes down easy, slathered over with the moist lubricant of gossip. It's not too heavily freighted with serious stuff like policy, and what's there is given a once-over-lightly treatment that affords readers the sensation of knowing just enough about that stuff for dinner-party conversation.

    But having spent hours this weekend absorbing the book cover-to-over (figuratively speaking - my version was on a Kindle), I can tell you that there's absolutely nothing new of any importance in "Fire and Fury." If you've been following the Trump administration over the last 12 months, you already know everything in it.

    Oh, sure, there are a few fresh nuggets here or there, sprinkled about like the hard bits in the Christmas fruitcake you cracked a tooth on over the holidays, but most are scarcely more interesting than the one about the internal architecture of Trump's hairdo (page 79 on Kindle).

    None of that may be important, however, because the proper way to think about "Fire and Fury" is not as a book, but as an event. The vast majority of people discussing it over the next few weeks - assuming the furor lasts that long - will not have read it. When the Sunday cable talk shows went into full cry over it, they focused largely on the West Wing's reaction to it.

    The drama was all about whether Trump would throw a conniption, or did Stephen K. Bannon permanently blot his copybook by getting quoted saying stuff not too far from what he's said in public, etc., etc. It was no longer even necessary to read "Fire and Fury," because you could learn all you needed to know about its text from the bare context provided by the Sunday hosts before they brought in their "roundtables" of Washington insiders and political pundits to masticate the gristle of what it all means.

    But having done the reading homework myself, I can tell you that the first 30% of "Fire and Fury" is an engaging read, full of little frissons of revelation. It's not badly written, though portions show the effects of hasty editing to meet a deadline.

    After the first third, however, it becomes boring, repetitious and, ultimately, depressing. There just isn't much for Wolff to say about the White House after he's said it once, and the discouraging thought that his cast of characters are in place because of a quirk of the American presidential electoral system that surprised them as much as it shocked outsiders soon outweighs any pleasure one might get from watching them bite each others' heads off.

    Let's take a quick look at the basic narrative threads of "Fire and Fury." Stop me if you?ve heard these before.

    Trump didn?t want to win the election, and no one around him thought he would. Duh. If it wasn't evident from the performance-art nature of his election campaign, the notion that Trump was serious about governing couldn?t survive his immigration executive order, issued seven days after the inauguration. There was the slipshod drafting of the order, the failure to run it past the people who would be responsible for implementation, and its taking immediate effect, which created massive chaos at major airports coast-to-coast and around the world. No one who cared about governing would do anything this way.

    Then there's the ludicrous collection of numbskulls and vandals walking the hallways and heading government departments and agencies. It's one thing to put people in place with the intention of refashioning government health, environmental and educational policy; quite another to give the job to people who have absolutely no executive experience or, in fact, knowledge about their jobs, and who instantly go to war with their own staffs. Step forward, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Now please sit down again.

    In any event, Wolff isn't much more interested in government than Trump; important issues such as healthcare repeal, education policy and the environment make walk-on appearances in "Fire and Fury" mostly in the course of the book's real topic, which is the internecine squabbling over them.

    Everyone around him treats Trump like a child. Duh. One of the money quotes from the book retailed endlessly by commentators is that dealing with Trump is like "trying to figure out what a child wants." Wolff attributes it to Katie Walsh, a Republican Party functionary who spent a brief period on the White House staff before being exiled, ostensibly to her own relief, to a post at the Republican National Committee. But is this apercu supposed to be new? To my recollection, scarcely a single anonymously sourced inside-the-White-House story appearing over the last 12 months lacks a similar quote, or at least the same implication.

    Everyone around him thinks Trump is an idiot. Duh. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones had fun last week by posting a quiz in which readers were asked to match a description of Trump?s intellect ("fool," "idiot," "moron," with various profane qualifiers appended), to the person who uttered it. A few came from the book, but a few were preexisting. The sources included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, and 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch. Anyway, clearly not news.

    Trump's eruption over the weekend to the effect that he's real smart and a "stable genius" may have had the air of Fredo Corleone's equivalent pleading in "The Godfather, Part II," as numerous cinema experts pointed out, but that wasn't the first time that he's tried to establish his intellectual bona fides by assertion, rather than action. Anyway, there's been plenty of reporting over the months about the need to present information to Trump in pictorial form rather than via the written word. Nor are questions about his reading ability new; a friend of mine who brought a lawsuit against Trump over a business deal came away from a deposition convinced Trump was illiterate, and that was decades ago, when he was still swanking around as a big shot in New York real estate circles.

  9. #9
    ^ Continued from above

    The White House is rent by war among advisors. Wolff identifies the principal camps during his time as a fly on the wall as those of Bannon; first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner; and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who was replaced by John F. Kelly at the end of July. This started to be widely known even before inauguration day.

    But Wolff may actually have made a signal contribution to Trumpology here by making clear how much each gang leaked to undermine the others. Despite the obligatory paragraphs in all those inside-the-West-Wing scoops in the big papers about how many sources they were based on (how many people work in the White House, anyway?), it appears from Wolff?s book that those stories really all emanate from the power jockeying among those three groups; sometimes it's one camp leaking against the other two, sometimes two camps in temporary alliance against the third.

    This just tells you that the correct rule of thumb to apply when reading any of these yarns is the Latin term "Cui bono?" (Who gains?) The one notable aspect of all this is Wolff's obsession with Bannon, which almost approaches Bannon's obsession with himself. Bannon emerges as the hub around all the White House intrigue spins, which may or may not have been true. But it's Bannon's view, which makes it a teeny bit suspect as it comes through Wolff.

    The bottom line is that much of "Fire and Fury" reads like warmed-over gruel. Some anecdotes have been widely reported in the past - high-level disagreement over Afghanistan policy, the hash Trump made of his response to the Charlottesville racial violence, the 10 days of Anthony Scaramucci - and are repeated by Wolff with a soupcon of insider spin as though being seasoned to make them appear to be his own discoveries.

    None of this makes "Fire and Fury" unimportant. For one thing, it's notable that the book has ticked off everybody in or near the White House. Trump is incensed for obvious reasons. Bannon and others directly quoted are embarrassed to the point they fear for their futures in the Trump-iverse.

    The official chroniclers of Trump dysfunction are worried about their book contracts and sales because Wolff got there first - more so because he stripped the inside story of the decorous veneer that weighs down the accounts appearing in the serious press and applied the shiv to his sources with maximal viciousness and cruelty. After "Fire and Fury," no one will need another inside-the-White-House book. Wolff collected all the stories and let it rip.

    The last thing to be said about "Fire and Fury" is the curious vacuum at its center. One character fails to emerge from its pages with any color: Donald Trump. Wolff claims to have interviewed him directly, but that doesn?t come through at all. The Trump around whom all these satellites orbit remains a black hole. No one really explains what he thinks, what he does, who he is.

    As a result, the book ends up being mostly about everyone else?s interactions with each other, and very little about their interactions with the president of the United States. Maybe Trump meant it that way, or maybe there's simply no one there. That wouldn't be news, either.

  10. #10
    Oprah for president? Have we learned nothing?

    The Times Editorial Board

    We don't know whether the idea of Oprah Winfrey for president, inspired by Winfrey's eloquent speech Sunday at the Golden Globe Awards, will prove an ephemeral excitation or a movement with staying power. But we find it depressing.

    We mean no disrespect to Winfrey, who strikes us as much better informed and more intellectually curious and presumably less reckless or dishonest than the incumbent president. But it's bizarre that Americans who are appalled by Trump's oafish and ignorant conduct of the nation's highest office would gravitate to another television star untested in politics.

    That's what many of them did Sunday evening. Twitter throbbed with speculation that Winfrey's speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award was the beginning of a presidential run. Winfrey's friends didn't discourage the idea.

    "It's up to the people," Winfrey's longtime partner, Stedman Graham, told the Los Angeles Times. "She would absolutely do it." The speculation snowballed on Monday, to the extent that a White House spokesman felt obliged to tell reporters that "we welcome the challenge, whether it be Oprah Winfrey or anybody else."

    Again, this may just be a passing, Golden-Globes-inspired moment of Twitter hype. But it is also a reminder that when the last out-of-the-blue celebrity candidate entered a presidential race, the media shrugged him off as a joke.

    Winfrey is a skilled interviewer, a talented actress, a successful businesswoman and an inspiring orator. In her speech Sunday, she compellingly wove together recognition of victims of sexual assault - not just in Hollywood - with a tribute to racial diversity and a defense of a free press that "is under siege these days." A Washington Post reporter wrote: "Close your eyes and picture this speech being delivered in Des Moines. It's not difficult."

    Maybe not, but there is more to being president than the ability to deliver a stirring speech. Also, as the first year of the Trump presidency demonstrated, there are colossal risks in electing a political neophyte to the most demanding public office in the world. Just because the Republicans were foolish enough to travel down this dangerous road - in the process sacrificing many of their party's best qualities and most valuable principles in a desperate, craven hunt for votes - doesn't mean the Democrats should follow suit.

    Winfrey might possess a more stable temperament than Trump - who doesn't? - and her political positions would undoubtedly be more in line with those of liberals, Democrats and The Times editorial page, but she would face the same steep learning curve in dealing with foreign and domestic issues. What is there to suggest that she is any better prepared than Trump was to work productively with Congress or tackle international trade negotiations, the North Korean nuclear threat or the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

    It's a measure of the trauma inflicted on the country by Trump's election that some people honestly believe that the way to unseat a celebrity president is to nominate another celebrity. Back in September, John Podhoretz wrote in the New York Post: "If you need to set a thief to catch a thief, you need a star - a grand, outsized, fearless star whom Trump can neither intimidate nor outshine - to catch a star." Podhoretz called Winfrey the mirror image of Trump - "America's generous aunt" to "America's crazy uncle."

    But the United States doesn't need another TV star running the country - even a talented and accomplished star such as Oprah Winfrey. What it needs is someone who has prepared for the job, who has made tough decisions, who is familiar with the issues, who has a history of public service. Not all senators or governors make good presidents, to be sure, but they're a better bet, by and large, than the typical movie star or businessman. Here's the kind of resume that more closely approximates what we tend to look for in a candidate (and forgive us if it sounds familiar): former U.S. senator, former secretary of state.

    It would be better for the party, and country, if voters thought they could put their trust in potential presidents who shared their views and their passions, but also had experience in government. We still cling to the hope that elections for the president haven't been permanently transformed into an episode of "Celebrity Apprentice."

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