Category Archives: International news

Haley is out as UN envoy; let’s wait for the rush to replace her

Nikki Haley’s resignation as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations opens up a whole new round of speculation about who should succeed her.

I want to stipulate that I am unhappy to see Haley leave this critical post. She is a pro and she comported herself well as the nation’s top UN diplomat. I like the way she stood up to White House chief of staff John Kelly after he said she had gotten “confused” in announcing White House sanctions against Russia; her response: “I don’t get confused.”

Nikki Haley is a grownup in an administration populated by too many sycophants.

But here’s what I am waiting to hear. I am waiting to hear the president tell us of the dozens, maybe hundreds, of qualified applicants pounding on his door wanting to succeed Haley as the UN envoy. You see, he has this maddening habit of embellishing the reputation he and his administration have among career government employees.

The search begins

I have no doubt that Donald Trump will seek to oversell his administration’s standing as he seeks to find someone to replace Haley, who will leave her post at the end of the year.

I am chuckling at the chatter that his son-in-law Jared Kushner is among those who might succeed Haley. Even more ridiculous is that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, might get the nod.

If the president’s need to beat back the horde of applicants is true, then he should be able to find a top-tier, high-quality nominee to succeed Haley at the UN. If he settles on yet another sycophant — say, someone like Kushner or — God forbid — Ivanka, then we’ll know he is lying about that as well.

I’ll lament the pending departure of Nikki Haley in the meantime and wish her well as she takes “time off” and considers her next calling. A former two-term South Carolina governor who stood up to the Confederate flag proponents in her state and performed well on the international stage likely has a bright future.

FLOTUS has a point, however …

First lady Melania Trump makes a lot of sense when she says critics ought to “focus on what I do, not what I wear.”

Mrs. Trump has just concluded a brief solo jaunt to Africa, where she visited four countries while highlighting her concern for children and women’s rights and well-being.

But then she got photographed wearing a pith helmet, the kind of headgear popular during the era of colonization of Africa. Twitter trolls were all over it, criticizing the first lady for her poor choice of hats.

Her response sought to remind her critics that she is trying to do noble work on behalf of children and women. That should be their focus, not the style of hats she wears, which critics said are too much of a reminder of the oppression brought to Africa during the years of European empire-building.

That brings me to an element that fills me with mixed feelings.

The first lady’s staff ought to be dialed in, focused like lasers on the image she portrays whenever she is seen in public. I am wondering why Mrs. Trump’s staff couldn’t foresee this kind of blow back. She wore that jacket that caught people’s attention. It said, “I really don’t care, do u?” while she was touring immigration camps along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Then, of course, we have the first lady’s signature issue: bullying of children, including that which occurs via the Internet. That is a noble cause to promote, but the first lady seems blind and deaf to the bullying that occurs via Twitter — from her husband, the president of the United States of America.

So, the pith helmet outcry seems on the surface to be overblown. Critics ought to concentrate on the first lady’s deeds, not her attire.

Then again, let’s take greater care, Mme. First Lady, to avoid these kinds of pitfalls.

First lady embarks on important mission in Africa

First lady Melania Trump is on a mission in Africa. Her aim is to spread her mission to help children and to protect them from various forms of exploitation.

She also can perform a public relations clean up of a mess made by her husband, Donald Trump, the president of the United States. You see, the president is still trying to live down a quote attributed to him in which he referred to African nations as “sh**hole countries.” I don’t recall him making any distinction among the nations on the continent, just that all the nations on the continent were sending unwelcome immigrants to our shores.

Well, the first lady now is embarked on a mission to promote her signature issue: child protection.

Africa is a good place to take that message.

You’ll recall the terror group Boko Haram, based in Nigeria. Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of young women, many of them children. They released some of them, but reportedly are holding others in some hiding place. No doubt they are being terrorized and intimidated by their captors.

What the first lady can do to help these young victims remains unclear, but she does occupy an important bully pulpit.  I sincerely hope she uses it to speak truth to the need to care for young people around the world.

As a guest column in the Dallas Morning News notes, Africa has the world’s largest concentration of people younger than 18. Many of them are in desperate straits. They need a powerful ally to speak to their needs. Melania Trump can offer that voice on their behalf.

Read the column by Natalie Gonella-Platts here.

Moreover, she can bring worldwide attention once again to the terrorists acts of Boko Haram and demand once more: release those young women and girls and return them to their families.

Let’s call it NAFTA 2.0

Donald Trump vowed to toss out the North American Free Trade Agreement, calling it the “worst trade deal” ever negotiated … ever!

Over the weekend, the president announced a new trade agreement — which is called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — with Canada and Mexico. It remains to be seen whether it’s better than NAFTA. I’ll say this: Trump has delivered on a key campaign pledge to get rid of one trade deal and replace it with another.

I believe in free trade. I also believe that NAFTA was good for all three nations. It stripped away tariffs, enabling the nations to ship goods among each other. Trump contended during the 2016 that NAFTA cost the United States too many jobs, more or less echoing the mantra delivered in 1992 by Texas billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot.

Let’s look at the details of this deal

Congress will have to approve NAFTA 2.0. The president wants Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, to sign it before handing his office over to his successor. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who Trump once blasted as “weak” — called the new treaty a “good day for Canada.”

Midwest farmers are happy with the new agreement. I hope that happiness makes its way to Texas, with its own huge agricultural industry.

The new deal has drawn some guarded, but optimistic, responses from key lawmakers. According to Politico: “Maintaining the trilateral North American deal is an important prerequisite to preserving and extending those gains and the Trump administration has achieved that goal,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I look forward to reviewing this deal to conform it meets the high standards of Trade Promotion Authority.”

I remain committed to free trade among the three friendly giant nations. I hope the new deal, once we dive deeply into the details, is the result of the guy who has boasted of his ability to cut the best deals in the history of Planet Earth.

Trump, Kim ‘fell in love’? Weird, man!

I know he was uttering a figure of speech.

I know he didn’t mean it literally as he spoke those words.

I know this isn’t even anything approaching a real “romance,” let alone a “bromance.”

Still, for the president of the United States to say that he and North Korea’s ruthless, murderous, ham-fisted dictator “fell in love” after a series of angry tweets, public statements and threats sounds, well, more than a bit bizarre.

Donald Trump fired up a West Virginia campaign rally crowd with this riff: “He wrote me beautiful letters and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

He referred, of course, to North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, with whom he has had — shall we say — a most unusual man-to-man relationship.

Trump has referred to Kim as “Little Rocket Man,” but also has called him a “smart cookie.” I don’t know precisely what Kim has said about Trump, but I guess he has written some kind and likely quite flattering words to him in those “beautiful” and “great letters.”

I believe I am now officially creeped out.

They were laughing at you, Mr. President

They weren’t exactly rolling in the aisles at the United Nations General Assembly Hall this morning.

However, they were giggling at the president of the United States of America. Imagine that happening at remarks from, say, Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or, oh, any of Donald John Trump’s recent predecessors.

There he was, standing in the U.N. podium, offering the boast heard so often at campaign rallies around the country.

He sought to brag about how his administration has done more in less than two years than any other presidential administration in U.S. history.

Hey, many millions of Americans have been laughing at the president’s brainless boast for as long as he’s been in office. That he would dare brag so openly in front of other heads of state and government reminds us of the man’s delusional narcissism.

I didn’t see who was laughing at Donald Trump, but my hunch is that some of the giggles came from the leaders of assorted sh**hole countries.

ISIS is still out there … somewhere

The Islamic State has faded in recent weeks from the front end of Americans’ consciousness, or so it seems.

There was a time when terror attacks throughout the Middle East were occurring and ISIS was claiming responsibility for its latest heinous act. It seems that the terrorists have gone a bit quieter of late. I know it’s foolish to presume they aren’t plotting and conniving ways to inflict damage to innocent people.

Do you remember during Barack Obama’s second presidential term how it became somewhat fashionable to refer to ISIS by a name deemed to be detrimental? Secretary of State John Kerry often would refer to the terrorists as Daesch, which reportedly is deemed in the world of Islamic terrorists as a derogatory reference.

Kerry would use the term to get under Daesch’s skin, rankle them, get ’em to make a foolish mistake.

Then we might hear about a drone strike, or some military action that wiped out an ISIS leader, or a Daesch leader, if you prefer.

I wrote about the terrorist group while I was blogging for Panhandle PBS.

ISIS kicks up recruitment activities

Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency by proclaiming that “I know more about ISIS than the generals. Believe me.” Well, he really doesn’t.

However, for the time being, ISIS — or Daesch — continues to feel the heat of the world’s greatest military machine. As we mark the 17th year since the 9/11 assault on this country, let’s keep these monsters at the top of our minds, even if they aren’t making news.

This is a ‘disaster,’ Mr. President?

Take a good look at the graphic just below these few words. They tell me a fascinating story about the “disaster” Donald Trump says he inherited when he was sworn in as president of the United States.

It’s a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. I get that some of Donald J. Trump’s “base” will dismiss the poll because of some phony “liberal bias” issue folks will say skew these numbers. In reality, Pew is a legitimate polling outfit and first-class think tank that offers analysis across the political spectrum.

Confidence among these five key allied nations of the United States has plummeted since Trump became president. The biggest decline in confidence comes from Germany, which registered an 86 percent approval rating during the Barack Obama years, but has fallen to just 11 percent during the Trump era. Might there be some German anger over the way Trump has treated Chancellor Angela Merkel?

It does seem a bit weird that Trump kept yapping about inheriting a “disaster” when took office. The polling here among these five key allied nations suggest something quite different. Make no mistake: It does matter what other nations think of this country and its leadership.

I’m led to conclude that Donald Trump brought the “disaster” with him into the White House.

Just how can they tolerate being undermined?

This is as baffling and confusing a circumstance as any I can find within the Donald Trump administration.

Several key intelligence and national security officials — including at least two Cabinet-level authorities — declare for all the world to hear that the Russians attacked our electoral system in 2016; they all say the same thing, that the Russians acted alone and that they are in the process of doing the same thing to our 2018 midterm election. They enter the White House press room, listen to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders say a few words, then they all speak in unison.

Then the president of the United States, Donald John Trump, flies to a campaign rally and declares the Russian attack a “hoax.” He blames Democrats and the so-called “fake and disgusting news” for fomenting the notion that the Russians interfered in our election, that they sought to manipulate the outcome.

The baffling and confusing part?

How do these individuals charged with administering our intelligence and national security agencies tolerate being undermine, undercut and undone by the commander in chief?

How in the name of their sacred oaths do they stay on their jobs while the president continues to disparage and disrespect them? He undermines their work, insults their intelligence and does damage to our national security.

Surely they cannot all be without principles. Surely they must understand what Donald Trump is doing to their credibility and that his insistence that the Russia attack is a “hoax” gives aid and comfort to a hostile foreign power.

I won’t call it “treason,” at least not yet … but damn!

It is inching very close to it.

Trump and Kim: a new ‘bromance’?

Donald J. Trump sent this message out via Twitter …

Thank you to Chairman Kim Jong Un for keeping your word & starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen! I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action. Also, thank you for your nice letter – l look forward to seeing you soon!

Nice note, Mr. President.

Any chance you could challenge Kim about reports that he’s accelerating his nuclear weapon development, rather than scaling it down — as he promised?