SARAH POSNER IN WASHPOST: Trump, Base, White Nationalist Agenda Virtually Grarantee Kelly’s Failure, Demise!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/08/07/john-kelly-is-doomed-to-fail-the-reason-why-isnt-what-you-think/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-d:homepage/story&utm_term=.ed3335ab0013

Posner writes:

“But that’s not the real reason he cannot succeed. Rather, it’s because Trump’s base, and in particular, his media and social media base, thrives on West Wing dysfunction that is rooted in what is portrayed as an existential battle between Trump’s “nationalist” staff and advisers, and the dreaded “globalists” in his midst. Because Trump has displayed no real interest in taming that beast, and in fact seems to relish feeding it, any effort by Kelly to slap Trump’s hand away from Twitter will have little impact on the persistent unrest roiling the White House.”

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Read the complete op-ed at the link. I have been predicting for some time now that Kelly’s association with the congenital liar and bully Trump and his gonzo White Nationalist agenda will lead to a badly tarnished reputation.

We’ll see. But seems to me that Posner has it pegged about right (or, perhaps, “alt right”).

PWS

08-08-17

Continue reading SARAH POSNER IN WASHPOST: Trump, Base, White Nationalist Agenda Virtually Grarantee Kelly’s Failure, Demise!

NADA BAKOS IN WASHPOST OUTLOOK: Trump Tweets Threaten Our National Security!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/president-trumps-twitter-feed-is-a-gold-mine-for-foreign-spies/2017/06/23/e3e3b0b0-5764-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.f1a2ff55b798

Bakos writes:

“Every time President Trump tweets, journalists and Twitter followers attempt to analyze what he means. Intelligence agencies around the world do, too: They’re trying to determine what vulnerabilities the president of the United States may have. And he’s giving them a lot to work with.

Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency. Usually, intelligence officers’ efforts to collect information on world leaders are methodical, painstaking and often covert. CIA operatives have risked their lives to learn about foreign leaders so the United States could devise strategies to counter our adversaries. With Trump, though, secret operations are not necessary to understand what’s on his mind: The president’s unfiltered thoughts are available night and day, broadcast to his 32.7 million Twitter followers immediately and without much obvious mediation by diplomats, strategists or handlers.

Intelligence agencies try to answer these main questions when looking at a rival head of state: Who is he as a person? What type of leader is he? How does that compare to what he strives to be or presents himself as? What can we expect from him? And how can we use this insight to our advantage?

 

At the CIA, I tracked and analyzed terrorists and other U.S. enemies, including North Korea. But we never had such a rich source of raw intelligence about a world leader, and we certainly never had the opportunity that our adversaries (and our allies) have now — to get a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind. If we had, it would have given us significant advantages in our dealings with them.

. . . .

Analysts would also be likely to use technology to perform content analysis on the president’s tweets in the aggregate. Intelligence agencies can employ a more robust version than the open-source projects that news organizations have used, because they can marry Trump’s tweets with information they collect through intercepts and other means. Software could look for patterns in speech or word categories representing confidence related to policy, whether Trump is considering opposing points of view and if he harbors uncertainty toward any subject. Computers can perform metadata analysis to build timelines and compare Trump’s Twitter feed with his known public schedule, creating a database of when and where he tweets and what else he’s doing at the time. Anything that provides a digital footprint adds context to the analysis.

Trump says it’s the press’s fault that he uses Twitter as much as he does. His aides clearly want him to stop, but the president just as clearly wants and needs to be heard unfiltered. Fortunately for him, the platform lets him speak directly to his supporters whenever he chooses. Unfortunately for the rest of us, they aren’t the only ones listening.”

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Read the entire article about how our President’s reckless behavior and childish lack of self-restraint endangers America. And, this doesn’t even get into his inviting Russian diplomats into the White House, handing over classified information, or ignoring the seriousness of the Russian’s attempts to interfere with our last election.

Yeah, I know that according to recent reports, the Obama Administration badly flubbed the Russian election investigation. Big time! But, Trump is President now, and he seems determined to sweep the Kremlin’s attack on our fundamental institutions under the rug rather than getting to the bottom of it and taking effective steps to prevent its repetition.

PWS

06-25-48

Sessions’s Conduct Draws Ethics Complaint!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/watchdog-group-alleges-sessions-violated-recusal-rule-in-firing-of-comey/2017/05/12/f30370da-374d-11e7-b412-62beef8121f7_story.html?utm_term=.e71c778780c7

Tom Hamburger reports in the Washington Post:

“An ethics watchdog group filed a complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday alleging that his participation in the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey violated Justice Department rules and Sessions’s promise to recuse himself from matters involving Russia.

“Firing the lead investigator is the most extreme form of interfering with an investigation,” wrote Fred Wertheimer, who signed the six-page complaint on behalf of his organization, Democracy 21.

The filing asked the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate the matter and issue a public report — and to take additional action.

“Immediately, we call on OPR to take all necessary steps to ensure that the Attorney General withdraws from any participation in the selection of an interim or permanent Director of the FBI,” the complaint said.

When President Trump fired Comey on Tuesday, he announced that he had consulted with Sessions and the department’s No. 2 official, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

Wertheimer, who has worked on ethics issues since the Watergate scandal, said the attorney general’s participation in the Comey firing violated Justice Department rules requiring staffers to recuse themselves from any criminal inquiry in which they have a “personal or political relationship.”

He pointed out that Sessions is a potential subject of a Russia inquiry since he met with the Russian ambassador in 2016. In addition, the complaint notes that during his Senate confirmation hearings Sessions agreed to recuse himself from “any investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails.”

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Read the entire article at the above link.

By the time he’s done, there might be a whole division of the DOJ busy investigating complaints against Sessions.

PWS

05-13-17

SYRIAN REFUGEE HYPOCRISY: I’m Not The Only One To Notice The Moral Disconnect In Shooting Missiles While Ignoring The Plight Of Millions Of Vulnerable Syrian Civilian Refugees, Many Children!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-syria-humanitarian-refugees_us_58e6fd6ee4b051b9a9da3d6e

Akbar Shahid Ahmed writes in HuffPost:

“WASHINGTON ― As President Donald Trump on Thursday night announced a military strike on Syria because of his deep concern for “beautiful babies” and other civilians killed in a chemical weapons attack this week, two legal battles continued over his efforts to keep Syrian children and their families out of the United States.

The president’s first ban on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries is being litigated in a federal court in Seattle. His second attempted Muslim ban remains blocked by a federal judge in Hawaii, with an appeals court scheduled to hear the case in May.

Both executive orders halted the entry of refugees, and targeted Syrians in particular. The language of the orders echoed Trump’s campaign talk about the humanitarian crisis facing more than 20 million people from that country. In September, the then-candidate said denying U.S. entry to Syrian refugees is “a matter of terrorism” and “a matter of quality of life.”

Since his inauguration, Trump has repeatedly spread lies about refugee-related problems in Sweden. And his administration has tried to mislead the public on the number of refugees being investigated on terror charges. The Washington Post rated Trump’s talking point on the issue “highly misleading” last month.

After a U.S. intelligence analysis suggested that Syrian President Bashar Assad used the banned chemical weapon sarin in an attack on an opposition-held village on Tuesday, Trump spoke multiple times about children and other civilians who were affected.

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack,” Trump said after launching the strike Thursday night. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

The White House confirmed after the attack that Trump has not altered his position on refugees. National Security Adviser James McMaster said the refugee issue “wasn’t discussed as any part of the deliberations” for the strikes, according to a White House pool report.

The hypocrisy did not go unnoticed.

. . . .

“More than 11 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, when Assad attacked peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule.

“In many cases, children caught up in this crisis have fared the worst, losing family members or friends to the violence, suffering physical and psychological trauma, or falling behind in school,” the nonprofit World Vision wrote in a post on March 15, the sixth anniversary of the civil war. “Children affected by the Syrian refugee crisis are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited.”

Trump’s strike in itself is unlikely to have any serious impact on civilian suffering. A one-off U.S. show of force may help the president and his team feel they’re taken action. But the Assad regime’s assault on Syria’s people will likely continue, perhaps after some small break.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested this would be the case Thursday night, telling reporters not to expect a change in U.S. policy toward directly trying to force Assad out.

“If Trump just wants Assad to stop using [chemical weapons] but does nothing about sieges, torture & mass executions, then Assad will likely say ‘deal,’” Kristyan Benedict, campaigns manager for Amnesty International UK, tweeted. “Stopping Assad’s chemical attacks has value for sure but [chemical weapons] are just one tool the regime use to terrorize civilians & maintain their power.”

The hypocrisy also was noted in  a NY Times Op-Ed by Anthony J. Blinken on the need for an effective diplomatic follow-up to the military response:

“Here at home, Mr. Trump must speak directly to the American people about the country’s mission and its objectives, thoroughly brief Congress and seek its support, and make clear the legal basis for United States actions. And while he’s at it, he should reopen the door he has tried to slam shut on Syrian refugees. The president’s human reaction to the suffering of those gassed by the Assad regime should extend to all the victims of Syria’s civil war, including those fleeing its violence.”

Read Blinken’s entire op-ed here: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/opinion/after-the-missiles-we-need-smart-diplomacy.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170407&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=0&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0&referer=

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Sorry, but I wouldn’t expect any real humanitarian or moral leadership out of this Administration. It’s really all about muscle, authority, acting tough, showing up the Obama Administration, throwing bones to the military, and shoring up shaky support among GOP hawks in Congress who have been itching to start another un-winnable war in the Middle East for years. Oh yeah, and it changed the subject from the Russia investigation, internal war in the West Wing, failed health care, and more attacks by this Administration on America’s environment, health, safety, privacy, and civil rights.

I also wouldn’t let new NSC head Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster off the hook here. Yes, he did America and the world a huge service by getting alt-right nationalist Steve Bannon off the NSC and perhaps shaking his standing in the West Wing. And, he undoubtedly brings a much needed voice of military and national security expertise to the table. The idea of Gen. Mike Flynn, a proven liar and flake, and Bannon being given any part in America’s national security apparatus is scary beyond belief.

But, McMaster’s failure to “connect the dots” between military policy and the intertwined ongoing civilian humanitarian refugee crisis in Syria is simply inexcusable. And, by publicly turning our back on Syrian refugees we actually signal that our talk of humanitarian concerns in Syria is merely a “smokescreen.”

We have, and will continue to, show little concern for the real human victims of the Syrian war. This signals to both Assad and Russia that our only real interest is maintaining politically visible “red lines.” As long as Assad sticks to “conventional means” of murdering, maiming, terrorizing and displacing Syrian civilians we will continue to turn our back on the suffering of refugees.

Both knowledge of and actual hands on field work in the area of refugees and humanitarian relief should be a job requirement for any military officer promoted to the rank of General or its equivalent in other branches of service. War, at the end of the day, is about only one thing: people. And, there is no such thing as a war that doesn’t produce both civilian deaths and refugees.

PWS

04-07-17

 

 

 

LA TIMES EDITORIAL #5: “Conspiracy Theorist In Chief”

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-ed-conspiracy-theorist-in-chief/

“It was bad enough back in 2011 when Donald Trump began peddling the crackpot conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not a native-born American. But at least Trump was just a private citizen then.

By the time he tweeted last month that Obama had sunk so low as to “tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” Trump was a sitting president accusing a predecessor of what would have been an impeachable offense.

Trump went public with this absurd accusation without consulting the law enforcement and intelligence officials who would have disabused him of a conspiracy theory he apparently imbibed from right-wing media. After the FBI director debunked it, Trump held fast, claiming he hadn’t meant that he had been literally wiretapped.

Most people know by now that the new president of the United States trafficks in untruths and half-truths, and that his word cannot be taken at face value.

Even more troubling, though, is that much of his misinformation is of the creepiest kind. Implausible conspiracy theories from fly-by-night websites; unsubstantiated speculations from supermarket tabloids. Bigoted stories he may have simply made up; stuff he heard on TV talk shows.

. . . .
This is pathetic, but it’s also alarming. If Trump feels free to take to Twitter to make wild, paranoid, unsubstantiated accusations against his predecessor, why should the nation believe what he says about a North Korean missile test, Russian troop movements in Europe or a natural disaster in the United States?

Trump’s willingness to embrace unproven, conspiratorial and even racist theories became clear during the campaign, when he repeatedly told tall tales that seemed to reinforce ugly stereotypes about minorities. Take his now famous assertion that he watched thousands of people in “a heavy Arab population” in New Jersey cheer the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11, an astonishing account that no one has been able to verify. PolitiFact rated that as “Pants on Fire.”

Or his retweeting of a bogus crime statistic purporting to show that 81% of white homicide victims are killed by blacks. (The correct figure was 15%.)

On several occasions he retweeted white nationalists. (Remember the image of Hillary Clinton and the star of David, for instance?)

His engagement with, to put it politely, out-of-the-mainstream ideas has attracted some strange bedfellows. It may not be fair to attribute to his senior aide, Steve Bannon, all the views that were published on the controversial alt-right site Breitbart.com, of which Bannon was the executive chairman. But it is certainly fair to wonder why Trump has elevated to a senior West Wing position a man who has trafficked in nonsense, bigotry and rank speculation.”

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Read the entire editorial, part of a series that has been posted on this blog, at the above link.

For me, the key quote: “But it is certainly fair to wonder why Trump has elevated to a senior West Wing position a man who has trafficked in nonsense, bigotry and rank speculation.”

Apparently, Bannon and his crowd are now locked in a “death struggle” with the “Trump-Kushner Family” over who gets the President’s ear. Consider Bannon’s ouster from the NSC, where he had absolutely no business being in the first place (does this guy really have a security clearance?), as a victory for Kushner and Gen. McMaster. That’s notwithstanding planted “fake news” from the Bannon faction downplaying the move and absurdly attempting to pass it off as “normal evolution.”

But, Bannon is a lifetime “conspirator” and not someone who takes slights in stride (just like his boss). Probably only Kellyanne Conway had more to do with Trump being in the White House today. And, Bannon isn’t someone Trump wants on the “outside” lobbing bombs and grenades back at to Oval Office and talking trash to Trump’s Breitbart-reading base. So, I wouldn’t count him out.

PWS

04/06/17

BREAKING: U.S. Launches Missiles At Syria In Retaliation For Gas Attack!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-weighing-military-options-following-chemical-weapons-attack-in-syria/2017/04/06/0c59603a-1ae8-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_syria-315pm:homepage/story&utm_term=.2615d73f4be7

The Washington Post reports:

“The U.S. military launched approximately 50 cruise missiles at Syrian military targets late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago.

The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U.S. military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition.

The attack may put hundreds of American troops now stationed in Syria in greater danger. They are advising local forces in advance of a major assault on the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital.

The decision to strike follows 48 hours of intense deliberations by U.S. officials, and represents a significant break with the previous administration’s reluctance to wade militarily into the Syrian civil war and shift any focus from the campaign against the Islamic State.”

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PWS

04-06-17

BREAKING: Bannon Ousted From NSC In Reorg Pushed By Gen. McMaster!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/05/us/politics/national-security-council-stephen-bannon.html?ribbon-ad-idx=2&rref=homepage&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Home%20Page&pgtype=article

The NY Times reports:

“WASHINGTON — President Trump reshuffled his national security organization on Wednesday, removing his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, from a top policy-making committee and restoring senior military and intelligence officials who had been downgraded when he first came into office.

The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was tapped as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser after the resignation of Michael T. Flynn, who stepped down in February after being caught misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador.

General McMaster inherited an organizational scheme for the National Security Council that stirred protests because of Mr. Bannon’s role. The original setup made Mr. Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News, a member of the principals committee that typically includes cabinet-level officials like the vice president, secretary of state and defense secretary. The original order also made the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence only occasional participants as issues demanded.

Critics said Mr. Bannon’s presence in a national security policy-making structure risked politicizing foreign policy.
A new order issued by Mr. Trump, dated Tuesday and made public on Wednesday, removes Mr. Bannon from the principals committee, restores the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and intelligence director and also adds the energy secretary, C.I.A. director and United Nations ambassador.

A senior White House official presented the move as a logical evolution, not a setback for Mr. Bannon. He had originally been put on the principals committee to keep an eye on Mr. Flynn and to “de-operationalize” the N.S.C. after the Obama administration, this official said on condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics. This official said that process had been completed.

But the reorganization seemed a clear victory for General McMaster as he struggles to assert control over national security. In addition to the changing membership of the principals committee, the new order also puts the Homeland Security Council under General McMaster rather than making it a separate entity, as Mr. Trump’s original order had done.”

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Yeah sure, this was a “logical evolution.” Just like having Bannon on the NSC and the “chairman of the Joint Chiefs and intelligence director and also adds the energy secretary, C.I.A. director and United Nations ambassador” originally not on the NSC made any sense.  Plus, the idea that “logic” drives decisions emanating from the Trump White House is, in and of itself, “not credible.”

Still, America and the world can sleep better tonight knowing that Steve Bannon is no longer on the NSC.

PWS

04-05-17

HuffPost: U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster Is President Trump’s New National Security Adviser

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-hr-mcmaster_us_58ab49d0e4b0a855d1d8bd43?o66zx49zt759afw29\

Christina Wilkie reports:

“McMaster, an active service member, will replace retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn. Flynn resigned last week after confirmation he’d spoken about U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador ahead of Trump’s inauguration.

Trump announced McMaster’s selection at Mar-A-Lago, his Florida resort, with McMaster and Keith Kellogg, the National Security Council chief of staff.

“He’s a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience,” Trump said of McMaster. “I watched and read a lot over the last two days. He is highly respected by everybody in the military and we’re very honored to have him.”

In brief remarks to reporters, McMaster thanked Trump for the opportunity, and said he “looks forward to joining the national security team and doing everything I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people.”

Kellogg said he felt “very honored and privileged to serve along alongside H.R. McMaster. I’ve known him for years, and he’s a great statesman and a great soldier.”

“This is a great team, and we are very, very honored, and our country is lucky to have two people like this,” Trump said of Kellogg and McMaster. “And frankly, after having met so many people in the military, we are lucky to have all of them.”

As soon as they finished their remarks, Trump and the two men departed for Washington.

The appointment of McMaster ends a weeklong search for Flynn’s replacement that was complicated by reports of power struggles and staffing problems within the president’s National Security Council. At least one candidate for the job, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, reportedly declined it in part because he was concerned he would not be given full control over staffing decisions.”

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PWS

02/20/17