Category Archives: International 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?

Miracle on Aeromexico flight

So often — too often, it seems — the world goes into mourning when we hear of a fiery jetliner crash. Not so with an Aeromexico flight that crashed and burned in Mexico.

All the passengers and crew survived the crash in Durango, Mexico. That’s 103 people. Thus, we have a reason to smile and to thank the Almighty for this miraculous event.

That said, it sort of reminds me of an event I covered years ago while working as a reporter in Oregon. A DC-8 jetliner crashed into a heavily wooded east Portland neighborhood in the winter of 1978. Ten people died in the crash; many times more than that survived. CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite called it the “miracle on Burnside Street.” Yes, my heart broke at the sight of the deceased victims who were laid out on the ground at the crash site.

A reporter asked one of the survivors a few days later if she was more fearful of flying. Her response was classic. She wondered, are you kidding? She then said the chances of her being involved in a single jetliner crash were astronomical. That she ever would be involved in two of them were even greater than that!

That passenger, I submit, embodied eternal optimism.

Now he’ll meet with Iranians … after issuing dire threat

This is how Donald J. Trump rolls.

He threatens a world leader with annihilation, then tosses out a suggestion that he might be willing to meet with him.

Trump threatened North Korean dictator Kim “Little Rocket Man” Jong Un with “total destruction,” then met with him in Singapore ostensibly to persuade the North Koreans to get rid of their nukes.

They didn’t agree to it. The meeting hasn’t been nearly as fruitful as Trump describes it.

Now it’s Iran’s turn. Trump fired off an all-cap tweet threatening to blow Iran to bits. Now he wants to talk to them.

Hey, let’s talk.

I happen to support any discussion that pre-empts military conflict with Iran. The president wants to talk about a new nuclear deal that Trump tossed aside, calling it a terrible deal.

Trump’s track record on negotiating anything at any level is quite suspect. Still, if he’s willing to talk directly to the Iranians, then he ought to proceed.

I believe it was Winston Churchill who once said it is better to “jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war.”

Keep jawing, Mr. President.

Promise, promises … oh, wait! The wall?

Political campaign promises quite are often made to be broken and not kept.

The nation’s Novice Politician in Chief, Donald J. Trump, made a whole lot of promises while winning the 2016 presidential election. He kept some of them: tax cuts, pulling out of the Iran nuke deal and the Paris climate accords and … some other things.

A big one, though, remains unfulfilled. That wall along our southern border. Oh, and remember what he said about paying for it? He said Mexico was going to foot the bill, to which the Mexican government said categorically, “No way!”

The wall debate has entered a new phase. It has become a political football on this side of the border.

Donald Trump now declares his willingness to shut down the federal government if the next congressional budget doesn’t contain money to initiate serious construction of that wall.

There you have it.

A promise to make Mexico pay for a wall now has been turned on American taxpayers. You and I are going to pay for the damn thing!

That is, if it ever gets built.

I just want to stipulate once again that walling off our southern border is an un-American principle. It won’t keep illegal immigrants from coming in. They have been entering this country for the entire history of the republic. To throw terror into the hearts of Americans by suggesting that illegal immigrants are “pouring through open borders” and “wreaking havoc” on innocent victims is the height — or the depth — of demagoguery.

And, no, I do not favor open borders. I want stronger security. I want stricter enforcement of immigration laws. I also want there to be reforms enacted that speed up legalization proceedings for those who want to become legal residents — perhaps even citizens — of the United States of America.

The wall? It’s been a hideous idea since Trump first pitched it on the day he became a politician.

I damn sure don’t want to pay for a wall any more than Mexico wants to pay for it. What’s more, to hold the federal government hostage over this absurd notion is an exercise in stupidity.

Trump takes ‘unconventional’ to a stunning new level

Donald John Trump pledged to become an “unconventional” president after he was elected to the office.

Of the promises he has kept, this is the one he has upheld in spades.

The president has just “blindsided” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to cite just the latest example of his unconventional approach to international diplomacy. He uses Twitter to make statements on his own. Trump believes the presidency entitles him to do so. I guess it does, but there’s considerable peril in this practice.

Trump tweeted a message threatening punishment for Turkey if that nation doesn’t release an American who has been held captive for several years. Pompeo has been negotiating for this American’s release and — surprise! — he had no idea the tweet from Trump was coming.

This is how Trump governs. He surrounds himself with “the best people” and then stiffs them whenever he fires off a Twitter message without their knowledge.

He doesn’t bother to tell his national security team when he gets a bur under his saddle and threatens to destroy regimes in, say, North Korea or Iran. He invited Russian President Vladmir Putin to Washington, had his national security adviser put the word out and he never told Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Trump flies by the seat of his pants. He keeps his own counsel. He relies on no one, yet he brings these “brilliant minds” on board ostensibly to provide him with advice.

Unconventional? Yeah, do you think?

It’s also dangerous, reckless, feckless and mindless.

This man with no public service experience is leaving wreckage all along every path he travels. He has brought some good people on board, but he ignores them repeatedly.

This “unconventional” presidency of Donald Trump’s well could get us all into a heap of trouble.

Toughest POTUS ever on Russia? Aww, c’mon!

Donald J. Trump has no shortage of hyperbole. The president trots it out whenever he damn well feels like it.

Such as this: “I have been the toughest president on Russia … ever!”

Really? Hmm. Let’s review that bit of bluster, shall we?

October 1962: President Kennedy gets intelligence that the Soviet Union was building offensive missile sites in Cuba. He consults with his national security team. They debate whether to attack the sites, invade Cuba, do nothing, or impose a blockade on the island nation. JFK chooses to blockade Cuba. He then speaks to the world on national TV and warns the communists that an attack on any nation in the Western Hemisphere would result in a “full retaliatory response” from the United States.

The Soviets backed off. They took down the missile sites. World War III was, thus, averted.

June 1987: President Reagan ventures to West Germany. He already has described the communist regime in Moscow as the Evil Empire. The president goes to the Brandenburg Gate separating East and West Berlin and bellows, “Mr. (Mikhail) Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

There have been other instances of U.S. presidents acting sternly in response to Russian (or Soviet) aggression. President Carter ordered a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow after the USSR invaded Afghanistan in the previous year. President Bush 41 oversaw the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama all had their instances of spine-stiffening resolve as they involve the Russians. I include the Soviet Union era in this discussion because, well, the Soviets were Russians, too.

And yet the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, keeps insisting — without any demonstrable evidence — that he’s the toughest president of all time against the Russians.

Give me a break.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of history knows better.

Trump-Putin II postponed, to what end?

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are going to meet a second time — but not until after the first of the year.

The announcement came from national security adviser John Bolton, who — borrowing the president’s favorite epithet describing the examination of the “Russia thing” — said the meeting would occur after the “witch hunt” has concluded.

C’mon, Mr. National Security Adviser. There ain’t a “witch hunt” taking place.

Robert Mueller is proceeding with his probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded in 2016 with the Russians operatives who attacked our electoral system. The special counsel is not the partisan hack he has been accused of being by, um, actual partisan hacks.

The next summit between the U.S. and Russian presidents should proceed. I support the idea of the two leaders talking to each other. They should face each other and they should talk openly and candidly about the issues they have in common and those that separate them. They also should do so publicly to the extent they can.

The problem, though, still rests with that first summit in Helsinki. They went into a closed-door meeting and the world doesn’t yet know what they discussed, where they agreed and what they decided. Then the two leaders had that press conference in which Trump rolled over in front of Putin in that ghastly show of weakness by the so-called “leader of the free world.”

As for the juxtaposition with special counsel Mueller’s investigation, let’s just wait to see what conclusions are drawn once the probe is finished.

We have an extremely fluid situation in front of us. The Mueller probe can end in any number of ways, some of which might bode poorly for the president.

And, oh yes, we have that midterm election coming up.

If at least one congressional chamber flips from Republican to Democratic control, well … let’s just wait to see how that plays out.

Mamma Mia! Take me back … to Greece!

It’s not often that I get moved by a film to visit a place where the film was shot. Such a feeling overwhelmed me today as my wife and I sat through a delightful musical, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.”

The music is fabulous. The cast is stellar, containing many of my favorite actors. But the setting! Oh, my goodness.

It was set in Greece, although the principal filming was done in nearby Croatia. My wife and I have been to Greece twice. My wife and I have been blessed over the years with the opportunity to travel around the world. She once told me after our first visit in 2000 that Greece is “the one country I’ve seen where I could go back again and again.”

Me, too, sweetie.

Greece is recovering from the financial calamity that befell the country. It’s trying to repay its enormous debt owed to the European Union; make no mistake, a payment in full is highly unlikely. The country, though, is in nowhere near the dire straits it found itself not long after playing host to the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Well, that’s another story.

I just watched a beautifully filmed movie that was set in a country in which I have a keen and lifelong interest. It’s my ancestral homeland.

I long have wanted to return. A musical film today added a lot of fuel to that burning desire.

I know. It’s weird. It’s my story and I’m sticking with it.