Trump Once Again Throws Europe Under the Bus

Donald Trump Vladimir Putin
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia deliver a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

There have been some constants in Donald Trump’s otherwise haphazard foreign policy. He will invariably side with Russia and against America’s allies in Europe. He sympathizes more with authoritarian regimes than democracies. He doesn’t believe in multilateralism or free trade.

Anything the president’s advisors or allies can portray as a show of “strength” Trump will support.

Anything his supporters in the Republican Party or the conservative media portray as “weakness”, whether it is consultations, compromises or concessions, Trump will resist.

The latest casualty of this simplistic, zero-sum worldview is the Open Skies Treaty, which includes most countries in the Northern Hemisphere and allows reciprocal flights over military facilities. Read more “Trump Once Again Throws Europe Under the Bus”

Trump: Absolute Power, Absolutely No Responsibility

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, February 1, 2018 (USAF/Robert Cloys)

The outbreak of coronavirus disease in the United States has, if little else, given us an encapsulation of Trumpism.

As Patrick Chovanec of Columbia University puts it on Twitter:

According to the president, he has absolute power but absolutely no responsibility.

On Monday, Donald Trump falsely claimed he, not governors, have the power to impose and lift restrictions to contain the spread of the virus:

When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.

Yet when he was asked earlier this month why he hadn’t issued a nationwide stay-at-home order, Trump did remember, “We have a thing called the Constitution,” and said, “I want the governors to be running things.”

Which was accurate, but also an abdication of duty. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez regularly consult with the leaders of German and Spanish states to coordinate the closing and reopening of businesses and schools, even though that is not strictly their responsibility. Trump could have done the same.

Now some neighboring states opposite policies in place and they are bidding against each other, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for medical devices and gear. Trump could have federalized the procurement of medical equipment, but didn’t. He could have distributed medical equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile to the states that need it most, but didn’t.

He has found time to criticize Democratic governors, including Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Andrew Cuomo of New York, from their handling of the crisis.

The president’s attitude is best summed up by the answer he gave in March, when a reporter asked him about the shortage of testing kits in the United States: “I don’t take responsibility at all.” Read more “Trump: Absolute Power, Absolutely No Responsibility”

Trump Attacks the Rule of Law

Caudillo Donald Trump
The “Yankee caudillo” Donald Trump (The Washington Post)

When Donald Trump pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2017 — before the court even had a chance to sentence him for contempt — it reminded me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”

Now we know just how far Trump is willing to take America down the path of a banana republic. Read more “Trump Attacks the Rule of Law”

Republicans Are Now the Cult of Trump

Donald Trump
Voters wait outside a convention center in Rochester, Minnesota, where American president Donald Trump is giving a speech, October 5, 2018 (Lorie Shaul)

Donald Trump tried to extort Ukraine into announcing an investigation that would hurt his Democratic rival, Joe Biden. He broke the law by withholding congressionally mandated aid from the country, which is fighting a Russian-backed insurgency in its east, and put his personal interests above the country’s.

These facts are not in dispute. Some of Trump’s Republican allies in the United States Senate have gone so far as to argue that, because they knew exactly what the president had done wrong, they didn’t need to hear from witnesses in what they called a trial.

Yet, with the honorable exception of Mitt Romney, they all voted to acquit the president of abuse on power on Wednesday. Read more “Republicans Are Now the Cult of Trump”

Trump’s Middle East Plan Is Not About Peace

Benjamin Netanyahu Donald Trump
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American president Donald Trump step down from the podium in the East Room of the White House in Washington DC, January 28 (GPO/Kobi Gideon)

Donald Trump has finally unveiled his “deal of the century” for peace and prosperity in the Middle East — and set the region ablaze with criticism.

The president’s plan recognizes Israeli control over most, if not all, of the settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), excludes most of Jerusalem from a future Palestinian state and accepts Israel’s position that “refugees” (the descendants of Palestinians who were displaced in the 1948 war) will be resettled outside Israel.

In return for accepting these conditions and renouncing terrorism and incitement, the Palestinians would receive a municipality-sized, demilitarized and completely dependent “state.” Read more “Trump’s Middle East Plan Is Not About Peace”

Why Trumpists Demand Complete Loyalty

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump attends a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

Jonah Goldberg wonders in his newsletter why it’s not enough for conservatives like him to accept Donald Trump’s impeachment is an overreach while recognizing that the president did something wrong.

Trump’s supporters demand complete loyalty to an ever-shifting party line — or they’ll accuse you of suffering from “Trump derangement syndrome”.

I suspect the answer depends on whether you’re talking to cowards or fanatics. Read more “Why Trumpists Demand Complete Loyalty”

Don’t Pull NATO into the Middle East

Jens Stoltenberg Donald Trump
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and American president Donald Trump answer questions from reporters at the White House in Washington DC, April 12, 2017 (NATO)

American president Donald Trump has called on NATO to get more involved in the Middle East.

Speaking a day after Iran retaliated for the assassination of its top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq by attacking American military bases in the country, Trump pointed out that the United States are no longer dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

He didn’t elaborate, but I can think of at least four problems with the idea. Read more “Don’t Pull NATO into the Middle East”

Why Republicans Still Support Trump

American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12, 2017
American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12, 2017 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

Donald Trump has been an electoral disaster for America’s Republican Party.

  • Republicans had a comfortable majority of 241 seats in the House of Representatives in 2016 against 194 for Democrats. Now they are in the minority with 197 to 233 seats.
  • Republicans held 33 of the nation’s governorships against sixteen for Democrats. Now they have 26 against 24 for Democrats.
  • Republicans held 57 percent of seats in state legislatures against 42 percent for Democrats. Now it’s 52-47 percent.
  • Republicans had a majority in 32 state legislatures against fourteen for Democrats. Now it’s thirty against nineteen.
  • Republicans had total control in 24 states against seven for Democrats. Now it’s 22 against fourteen.
  • Trump trails his Democratic rivals Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in nearly all presidential election polls. (Trump does best against Pete Buttigieg.)
  • Trump’s approval rating has never been above 50 percent. Read more “Why Republicans Still Support Trump”

Republicans Are Destroying Institutions to Save Their Party

The United States Capitol in Washington DC at night, September 18, 2014
The United States Capitol in Washington DC at night, September 18, 2014 (Thomas Hawk)

Republicans in the United States are ramping up their attacks on norms and institutions in pursuit of partisan interest. That is a danger to the whole country.

Journalists and universities have for decades been disparaged by the right as hopelessly biased to the point where only 15 percent of Republicans trust the mass media anymore, down from 46 percent two decades ago, and 73 percent believe higher education is going in the wrong direction.

The party now has the Justice Department, the FBI, the courts and arguably the Constitution in its sights. Read more “Republicans Are Destroying Institutions to Save Their Party”

Republicans Run Out of Excuses to Defend Trump

American president Donald Trump attends a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018
American president Donald Trump attends a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

There is no doubt American president Donald Trump tried to extort Ukraine into launching an investigation of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, did work for an Ukrainian company. The impeachment inquiry conducted by the House Intelligence Committee has established the facts in under two months.

Trump held up congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine (which is fighting a Russian-backed insurgency in its east), asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to do him a “favor” by investigating the Bidens, and aid was restored after news of the attempted blackmail broke.

It’s a straightforward abuse of power.

So Trump’s Republican allies are doing all they can to complicate the story. Read more “Republicans Run Out of Excuses to Defend Trump”