Category Archives: International news

Court (more or less) restores Trump’s travel ban

The notion of banning people from entering this nation because they come from places where most citizens practice a certain religion remains repugnant to me.

The United States of America is supposed to stand for a principle that welcomes all citizens of the world. That’s no longer the case.

Donald J. Trump’s ban on folks coming from six Muslim-majority nations has been kinda/sorta restored by the U.S. Supreme Court, which today issued a 6-3 ruling to back the president. Today’s ruling overturns a lower court decision that threw out the ban on the basis that it discriminates against people because of their religion.

What does it mean? I guess it bans anyone who comes here who lacks any “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Others can come in, according to the court.

My question remains the same: Will any of this make us safer against international terrorists? I do not believe that’s the case.

It’s just a partial ban

Nothing in the president’s initiative prevents U.S. citizens from committing acts of terror. The U.S. Army psychiatrist who killed those folks at Fort Hood in November 2009 is an American, to cite just one example.

I continue to cling to the notion that “extreme vetting,” which the president also has called for, isn’t a bad thing by itself. Indeed, U.S. customs and immigration officials need to do better at ensuring at points of entry that everyone coming here does not pose a threat; they’re doing that already.

Today’s ruling only settles it temporarily. The court’s next term begins in October and the justices will take it up fully then.

Score one for the president, though. He got a ruling he can live with, even though it won’t do a thing to make us safer against those who would harm us.

Trump blames Obama for the ‘Russia thing’ … imagine that

Leave it to Kellyanne “Alternative Facts” Conway to set the record (sort of) straight on the Russian interference controversy.

It’s the fault of the Obama administration, said the president’s senior counselor/policy adviser, echoing the sentiments of her boss. Donald John Trump.

President Obama could have stopped any effort by Russian government goons to interfere with the 2016 election, but he choked, she said.

Imagine that, will ya? Blame the predecessor. Who’da thunk that would happen, ever?

That all said, I just slogged through the epic Washington Post story detailing how the terrible options the Obama administration faced when it learned — through credible intelligence — about the efforts by Russian government officials to meddle in our election. The Post called it an “assault on our democracy,” which it was.

Here’s the Post story.

Indeed, the former president and his senior staff look back now and regret not taking more forceful action than it did. Obama eventually kicked out some Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds as punishment for the Russians’ meddlesome ways.

He also unloaded verbally on Russian strongman/president Vladimir Putin and the country he governs, calling Russia a “weaker” country than ours and a place with nothing to sell around the world than “oil and gas and arms.” The president said Russia was unable to intimidate the United States because of the two nations’ relative strength.

Conway went on TV this morning to say: “It’s the Obama administration that was responsible for doing absolutely nothing from August to January with the knowledge that Russia was hacking into our election. They did absolutely nothing. They’re responsible for this.”

Absolutely nothing? Is that right, young lady? Not really. The Obama administration sought to weigh its options carefully, given the enormous political consequences at stake. The nation was involved in a heated, and increasingly vitriolic presidential campaign. Trump was ratcheting up the pressure on Hillary Rodham Clinton over e-mails, Benghazi and a host of other issues.

The Obama team believed — as did virtually every political analyst on Planet Earth — that Clinton was going to win the election.

Then she lost.

How should the administration have reacted to circumstances it didn’t see coming? Were they alone in their ignorance? Hardly.

I keep coming back to this point: The president and his administration have yet to issue a full-throated condemnation of what every intelligence expert has said, which is that Russia meddled in our electoral process.

The blame game won’t get to solving the problem … and oh, brother, we have a problem!

New House chairman says ‘no’ to Russia probe

U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy isn’t going to join the hunt for the truth into the “Russia thing.”

You might not believe this, but this news doesn’t upset me.

Why, you ask? Well, Gowdy — the new chairman of the panel — says he is going to let special counsel Robert Mueller lead the probe. What’s more, Gowdy’s committee is only one of several congressional panels charged with looking at this matter. The others are the Senate Intelligence and House Intelligence committees, and Senate and House Judiciary committees. They appear to be on the hunt.

So, it’s fair to suggest: Who needs the House Oversight and Government Reform panel to do the same job?

The “Russia thing” deals with the Trump presidential campaign’s alleged relationship with the Russian government. Russian goons hacked into the 2016 presidential election and they have generated considerable congressional interest.

Gowdy will have a role to play anyway. He serves on the House Intelligence and Judiciary panels. He won’t remain silent.

Still, his decision to forgo any hearings is at odds with what his predecessor as chairman, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, wanted to do. Chaffetz wanted the panel to be more active in the probe.

I am not discouraged that we’re going to root out the issues related to this matter.

You go, special counsel Robert Mueller!

Who in the world can trust POTUS?

Donald J. Trump’s obsession with Twitter is diminishing his standing around the world, or so it would appear.

I keep circling back to a question: How do world leaders trust anything the president of the United States tells them when he continues to tweet ridiculous messages?

Take these instances involving Trump and his tweets:

* He said former President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of his campaign office. That was false.

* The president said Hillary Rodham Clinton’s popular vote margin “victory” in the 2016 election was because of “millions” of illegal immigrants voting for her. Another falsehood.

* He says Germany is making “too many cars” and selling them to Americans.

* Trump ripped into London’s mayor after the Manchester shooting by misquoting what the mayor said about the threat of international terrorists.

I am missing many more examples just since Trump became president, but you get the idea.

The man cannot control his impulses. He fires off these tweets and then changes the subject. He meets in private with world leaders and then blabs his brains out about them.

The president’s Republican allies in Congress, though, give him a pass. House Speaker Paul Ryan blithely states that Trump is “new at this,” meaning he’s “new” at governing, new at understanding the limits of presidential power.

The world is a volatile place, which I am sure the president understands. What I do not get is why he cannot control himself. I’m pretty sure we’ve got leaders all around the planet who are wondering the same thing.

When does the clock start on ISIS destruction?

Is it fair to wonder if the time is approaching to start holding Donald Trump accountable for his boasts about getting rid of the Islamic State?

The president told us during the 2016 campaign that he knows “more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.” He vowed to destroy the hideous terrorist organization. He has declared the end of an era in which the United States is “losing” in the fight against its worldwide enemies.

So I’m wondering when we might start some sort of countdown clock. When does the president become fully responsible for any failure to make good on the bold boasts he made while seeking the office he now occupies?

If we are not going to formulate a countdown clock, then it well might be time to start pressing the commander in chief about whether he intends to make good on his campaign promise.

I was struck during the campaign by the ease with which these boasts poured forth. He made it sound as if all he had to do to rid the world of the Islamic State was to bomb the terrorists into oblivion. Didn’t he once say he’d “bomb the s***” out of them? Hey, we’ve got the ordnance. Let’s use it, he said.

They’re still out there, Mr. President. ISIS is still fomenting terror. It’s still taking responsibility for terrorist activities. It’s still causing American service personnel considerable grief.

It’s time to get busy, Mr. President.

Where is the outrage?

Back in 1996, when he was running for president of the United States, Republican nominee Bob Dole shouted at campaign rallies “Where’s the outrage!” over alleged indiscretions about President Clinton.

He would go on to lose the election bigly, but the question persists to this day.

Where is the outrage — from the current president of the United States — over allegations that Russian government officials sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election?

Donald John Trump has said nary a disparaging word about Russia’s efforts to cast Hillary Rodham Clinton in a negative light and whether those efforts played a role in the election outcome.

Oh, no. The president has instead lashed out at special counsel Robert Mueller, calling his investigation the “biggest political witch hunt” in American political history. He has ripped into what he calls “fake news” media outlets. He has dismissed openly the analysis of several U.S. intelligence agencies’ view that, yes, the Russians did hack into our electoral system.

Rather than expressing anger, fear and outrage that the Russians meddled in our electoral system, the president instead has questioned the need to determine the truth and the motives of those who are seeking to find it.

He’s hired a team of lawyers to represent him, which is a tacit acknowledgment that he is under investigation by Mueller over his campaign’s possible role in that election-meddling. Then one of them goes on television over the weekend and says — in the same interview — that Trump is being investigated by Mueller and that he is not being investigated.

All the while, the president remains stone-cold silent about Russian hanky-panky.

Where is the outrage, Mr. President?

Young man dies; how do we get to the truth?

Otto Warmbier went to North Korea 17 months ago and was taken captive.

The North Koreans released the young student just the other day. Warmbier, though, came home in a coma. He was non-responsive. We have no clue how he became comatose.

Then he died. It’s a tragedy of enormous proportions for the young man’s family.

Warmbier’s death also should present the rest of his countrymen and women with a terrible quandary. Just how does the United States respond to this? How do U.S. spooks get to the truth in a nation infamous for its secrecy, its cultish leadership and the kooks who call the shots?

Otto Warmbier’s death requires some answers. How we get those answers from a hyper-secretive government is going to bedevil U.S. intelligence officials for well past the immediate future.

Donald J. Trump calls the North Koreans “brutal.” No kidding, Mr. President.

The doctors who examined Warmbier after he returned home to Ohio said he suffered from significant brain damage. How in the world did that damage occur?

What about Russian prisoners, Mr. President?

Donald John Trump flew to Florida and made a big show of how upset he is with the way Cuban government officials treat their political prisoners.

He vowed to hold on to many of the sanctions against the communist government until it releases more political detainees. It needs to pay more attention to human rights.

OK, Mr. President. How about the Russian government and its treatment of those who dissent? What do you intend to do to ensure that Russian President/strongman Vladimir Putin — the former KGB boss — treats those who oppose his policies with fairness, humanity and grants them the liberty to protest?

Do we apply the same standard to all despotic governments, or don’t we?

Hoping ISIS leader is a goner … finally!

The Russian government usually isn’t to be trusted to tell the truth about anything.

The country’s foreign ministry, though, has put out a tantalizing morsel: Russian air strikes might this past month have killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Before we get all a-flutter over this possibility, it’s good to ponder some elements that ought to keep us grounded.

Is the terrorist really dead?

Al-Baghdadi’s death would not mean the end of ISIS. It opens the door for another madman to step forward to take his place.

You might recall that when U.S. special forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, there was dancing in front of the White House and chants of “USA! USA! USA!” Sure, we got the 9/11 mastermind, but the fight against al-Qaeda goes on.

There also have been earlier claims of al-Baghdadi’s death. The Russians have been hitting ISIS targets in Syria with air strikes and ground-based artillery. Are the Russians to be believed now? Do we hold out hope that they actually got this monstrous madman? Furthermore, are the Russians to be believed?

I guess I could remind all of us that terrorism doesn’t exist within the ranks of international organizations. “Lone wolf” terrorists lurk among us. They skulk out from under rocks. Latest example? The guy who shot the Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game, wounding several people, including the House GOP whip, Steve Scalise.

I am going to hope the Russian claim that they might have killed al-Baghdadi. I am going to retain the realism of the fight in which we are engaged against terror. The fight likely never will end.

Is Trump about to get disinvited?

It’s not every day that a foreign nation disinvites the president of the United States who is scheduled to pay a state visit abroad?

But get a load of this: London Mayor Sadiq Khan is asking British Prime Minister Teresa May to cancel’s Donald J. Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom.

Why? Oh, let’s see. London was hit by a terrorist attack; the U.S. president tweeted out a message that took Mayor Khan’s comments out of context and initiated an across-the-pond feud between Washington and London.

http://thehill.com/policy/international/336468-london-mayor-calls-for-cancellation-of-trump-state-visit-to-uk?rnd=1496712775

This is yet another example of the president’s awkward performance on the world stage. Tragedy strikes a nation and the president sends tweets that reflect a knee-jerk impulse. In the case of his feud with Sadiq Khan, the president assumed he said London shouldn’t be “concerned” about terrorists; the mayor said no such thing.

Now the mayor is saying that the United Kingdom needs a trustworthy ally in the president of the United States, and that it doesn’t have one in Donald J. Trump.