Monday, April 2, 2018

Blowback

Or how President Trump Learned to  Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb




Maybe we can take Trump's decision to abandon DACA as an April Fool's joke, or any one of his recent irrational decisions.  This is a guy who in the past month has gutted his cabinet and top advisers, proposing John Bolton of all people as his new National Security adviser, who seemed just as shocked to hear the news as we all were.

With Tillerson and McMaster now gone, the only voice of reason left in the Trump administration is General Jim Mattis, and you have to wonder how much longer he has in Trump's cabinet, given the President appears to have revived his Celebrity Apprentice in the White House, offering as a rag tag bunch of advisers who have no more idea what their cabinet post entails than does Trump.  We can call it Secretary Apprentice.

Ben Carson was literally called on the carpet by Elizabeth Warren for his abysmal job as Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs.  It wasn't just his questionable purchase of a $31,000 dining room set, which he blamed on his wife, but the plain and simple fact he has no idea what he is doing, and has made HUD into a disaster over the last 14 months.   In his defense, he gave the same sleepy-eyed responses we would expect from someone totally out of his realm.  This so shortly after the debacle with Betsy DeVos.

These are not isolated cases.  Questions of incompetence, malfeasance and just plain ignorance dog Trump's cabinet members and inner circle of White House advisers.  Sec. of Interior Zinke has been questioned in regard to similar dubious purchases as Carson.  Wilbur Ross tried to explain away newly proposed steel tariffs as having minimal impact on our economy, using a can of Budweiser and Campbell's soup as analogies.  Rick Perry made the outlandish statement last month that moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy is "immoral," stating that it will place an undue burden on poor nations.

As bad as all these secretaries are, none can match the shear mean-spirited nature of John Bolton, a man most assumed would never see public office again, which is why he turned up on Fox.  The guy never had a prominent role in government.  His most high-profile position was as US Ambassador to the UN from 2005-06, during which he belched a number of bellicose statements in the General Assembly and was subsequently relieved of his duties by George W. Bush when he pressed the reset button on foreign policy.  But, here is Bolton being proposed to lead the NSC!

Unlike cabinet secretaries, Bolton doesn't need Senate confirmation, making it all the more scary.  He is probably the only person more "temperamentally unfit" to be in government than Donald Trump, yet has received kudos from Lindsey Graham, Orin Hatch, Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, among other Republican senators.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Tillerson has been replaced with Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director who has no diplomatic experience whatever.  One could argue the same for Tillerson, but at least he brought a measure of temperance to an administration that seemed much too anxious to go to war with North Korea.  Pompeo appears to have no such restraint.

The idea of Pompeo and Bolton leading the State and National Security at such a pivotal point in our foreign affairs should send shudders down every Congressional spine, assuming our Senators have ones.  Nevertheless, Pompeo will most likely be approved, having been a former Congressman himself and praised for his leadership of the CIA.  It is as one Democratic Senator noted, Trump is lining up his "war cabinet."

So much for those efforts by South Korea, the International Olympic Committee, China and other interested parties to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula, as it seems the Trump administration has little interest in forging a nuclear weapons deal like the one Obama did with Iran.  It is highly doubtful this May meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump will take place, even as both the Chinese and South Korean presidents meet with Kim.  Whatever "deal" emerges will most likely not include the US, which will reserve the right for military action despite the dire consequences in the region.

This is what happens when you turn the White House into a reality show.  Our Republican-led Congress has either been oblivious to the movements taking place, or worse are part of what could be a total usurpation of the democratic process by allowing Trump the war powers to essentially create an autocratic state.

Given the Republican prospects of holding onto Congress in the midterms look very bleak, is war the only way to retain control of government?  This is the question we should be asking ourselves right now, as Republicans appear to be bracing for a major electoral defeat in November.  Their tax cuts made no impact.  Their attempt to make Nancy Pelosi into the Hillary Clinton of the midterms has failed.  Their attempt to at first ignore and now demonize the Parkland students has blown up in their face.  All the issues that so successfully came together in 2016 in what could be described as a "perfect political storm," in which they gained absolute control of Washington, have now come back to haunt them in 2018.  With this in mind, turning over the reins of power to the White House through a broad war powers act doesn't seem so far-fetched, otherwise Republicans stand to lose everything they gained in 2016.

So, is it buffoonery, or have we ignored this possibility because we consider it unthinkable in our society.  The idea of President Donald J. Trump was once considered unthinkable, even among Republicans.  Our Reality Show President has been a great diversion.  CNN literally counts the days, and no news segment is complete without some reference to the chaos in the Oval Office.  It has become a 24/7 obsession.  Yet, there seems something far more insidious at work here.

Democratic leaders need to reach out to their Republican colleagues that still are willing to listen to reason and stop this before it is too late.  Trump is not so much being controlled by Russia, as he is being effectively manipulated by rich conservative interests determined to impose their control on our society at both a national and international level.  They assume Trump is pliable, and given his recent actions it appears that he is.  But, there are rivals among these interests and they will battle for control over his administration.  Congress will become just some quaint idea at that point, reduced to a shadow of itself if the President is able to have full war powers.

After all this is how we ended up with a National Security Council in the aftermath of World War II, and subsequently strengthened during the Vietnam War and Iraq War, with even broader authority into "homeland security."  We have become a country too easily manipulated by existential threats, whether that be Stalin, Mao or Kim Jong Un.  Of course, North Korea may itself be a diversion, as the US military would probably feel much more comfortable going to war with Iran, knowing it has far less weapons of mass destruction than does Kim, and can therefore keep the blowback localized.

For Bolton and Pompeo and the conservative hawks in Congress, it doesn't matter.  Iran is as convenient a foil as North Korea.  Of course, they run the risk of alienating Russia and China either way, but as long as they are able to convince our global rivals this "war" is for domestic purposes, Putin and Xi might be convinced to look the other way.


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