Tag Archives: Politico

That POTUS, what a card!

I can’t stop laughing out loud over the “joke” that Donald J. Trump told about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Maybe you’ve heard it.

Trump was being interviewed by Forbes magazine and he suggested that he and Tillerson take IQ tests. The president, as you might imagine, was suggesting he possessed more intellectual firepower than the secretary of state.

The statement came in response to Tillerson reportedly calling Trump a “moron” earlier this summer. The president will have none of that, as you might imagine. Thus, he told Forbes about the IQ test.

Now we hear from the White House that Trump was joking. He didn’t really mean it. He didn’t really question Tillerson’s intelligence. He didn’t really mean that he’s smarter than the average bear.

As Politico reports: Trump told Forbes in his interview that he did not believe Tillerson had called him a “moron,” which NBC News reported he had, but that if he did, “we’ll have to compare IQ tests.”

“I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump said.

There’s also this, also from Politico: President Donald Trump was making “a joke” when he challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test in an interview with Forbes, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday afternoon.

“The president certainly never implied that the secretary of state was not incredibly intelligent. He made a joke, nothing more than that,” Sanders said. “He has full confidence in the secretary of state. They had a great visit earlier today. And they are working hand in hand to move the president’s agenda forward.”

The “full confidence” and the “great visit earlier today” would seem to belie what has been reported widely throughout Washington since the “moron” comment became known. Which is that Trump and Tillerson don’t trust each other as far either of them can throw the other guy.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t believe that the president was joking. If he was, he needs to work on his comedic timing.

More bombs did not produce ‘victory’ in Vietnam

“The Vietnam War” is coming to a close this week. I refer, of course, to the landmark public television series, not the actual war.

What are the takeaways from this epic production directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and broadcast on PBS? I have so many of them, but I think I’ll focus briefly here on just one of them.

It is that the Vietnam War required us to redefine victory.

We fought the communists in Vietnam for more than a decade. We killed many more of the enemy than we lost so very tragically. We emerged victorious from many more battlefield encounters than the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese. As we have learned in the Burns-Novick epic, U.S. commanding Gen. William Westmoreland was obsessed with “body count”; he insisted that the media report that the enemy suffered far worse than our side did.

Merrill McPeak, a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War who later became Air Force chief of staff, noted correctly in the documentary that the United States dropped more ordnance on the enemy than we did in all the combat theaters of World War II. Think of that for a moment. American air power dropped more explosive tonnage on the Vietnam communists than we did against the Nazis, the Italians and the Japanese.

What we didn’t do and the reason we “lost” the war was because we lost our political will. The Vietnamese were fighting on their turf, defending their homeland, battling an enemy they considered to be “invaders.” They had more to lose — and to gain — than we ever did. Thus, it was their fight to win.

Are there lessons to carry forward as we continue to fight an even more elusive enemy, those terrorist organizations that have declared “death to America!”? Yes, certainly.

One profound lesson should be for U.S. politicians — or one in particular — to cease implying that defeating an enemy is “easy.”

We cannot just keep dropping bombs and sending young Americans into cities, killing enemy fighters and then expect the enemy simply to give up. We tried that in Vietnam. It didn’t work out well for us.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have provided a masterful piece of documentary television. Just as Vietnam was the first war to be fought “in our living rooms,” my hope is that the educational benefit that’s being delivered to us via PBS will assuage some of the pain we felt as the fighting raged.

***

Politico has provided a fascinating look at a conversation involving President Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Sen. Richard Russell. The Burns-Novick documentary doesn’t report on it.

Take a look at the story here.

Trump keeps fomenting anger

Donald Trump seems to have found his latest lodestar.

It is to pump up his base, to use a flashpoint argument that keeps ’em fired up, as angry as he is. The target now happens to be highly paid professional athletes who are demonstrating — peacefully, I should add — against law enforcement treatment of African-Americans.

The consequence of the president’s ongoing battle against the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and anyone else who sides with the protesting players is to foment more anger, more division and more rancor.

I mean, it’s not as if we don’t have enough of it already simmering out here across the land.

NFL players are kneeling at the start of their games when the band strikes up “The Star Spangled Banner.” Trump calls them SOBs. He is getting lots of cheers from many Americans. He is getting consternation and condemnation from many other Americans. He is listening only to the cheering squads and is ignoring the rest of the country.

As Politico reports: Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend, said on Monday that the president is focused on the patriotism angle of the debate and is brushing off the charges of racism.

“He’s in a bubble here because he knows he’s not a racist. His friends know he isn’t,” Ruddy said in an interview. “He sees himself standing on the high ground of the truth. But the media are telling the rest of the country a different story about him.”

I get that the president sees himself as standing on moral high ground. Except that it’s not realistic for him to keep believing it.

Trump must see what is happening out here. As for the “media telling … a different story about him,” the media merely are reporting the fiery rhetoric that keeps pouring out of the president’s mouth.

The consequence is continued division — and rancor that seems to be quickly approaching hatred.

That’s not how you “unify” the country, Mr. President.

Ricks on McMaster: Quit and save your reputation

Thomas E. Ricks has written one of the more astonishing political columns I’ve seen in a good while.

The Pulitzer Prize winner, writing in Politico, says that national security adviser H.R. McMaster should resign his post to salvage his stellar reputation as a military thinker and strategist.
McMaster is on active duty in the U.S. Army. He’s a lieutenant general known for his intellect, integrity and courage. He wrote a book, “Dereliction of Duty,” that provides a scathing critique of how the chain of command prosecuted the Vietnam War.

Here is a snippet from Ricks’ essay in Politico: “McMaster probably thinks that by staying at his post, rather than resigning in disgust, he is doing his duty. Specifically, he may think that if stepped down, he might well be succeeded by an alt-right ally of White House adviser Steve Bannon. As I said, I used to believe that too.

“But I have watched and waited, and I don’t see McMaster improving Trump. Rather, what I have seen so far is Trump degrading McMaster. In fact, nothing seems to change Trump. He continues to stumble through his foreign policy—embracing autocrats, alienating allies and embarrassing Americans who understand that NATO has helped keep peace in Europe for more than 65 years.”

Ricks’ concern about an Army officer he has known for 20 years is that he now works for someone who knows nothing about government and seems to have no interest in learning the ins and outs of governing the greatest nation on Earth.

Yet the general has to provide political cover for a president who, in Ricks’ view, doesn’t deserve to hold the office he now occupies.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/28/general-mcmaster-step-downand-let-trump-be-trump-215199

As Ricks writes: “The saving grace of Donald Trump as president is his incompetence. He knows almost nothing of how the federal government works. He seems to have been repeatedly surprised by the checks and balances written into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers. And he seems uninterested in learning.”

Ricks’ essay is a beaut. I am quite sure that Gen. McMaster has read it. Whether he takes it to heart — and acts on it — of course only he can answer.

What about our allies, Mr. Secretary?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has put Iran “on notice” yet again.

He also put several of our nation’s key allies on notice, too, by suggesting that the United States’ commitment to negotiated agreements isn’t as rock-solid as it must be.

Tillerson put the world on notice this week that the United States no longer thinks much of a deal meant to deny Iran the ability to develop a nuclear weapon. It’s part of Donald John Trump’s vow to renegotiate agreements that he says are worst in the history of humankind.

The Iran nuke deal falls into that category, according to the president.

The deal was brokered by former Secretary of State John Kerry in conjunction with foreign ministers from Great Britain, China, France, Germany and, oh yes, Russia. What would a U.S. withdrawal from the agreement mean to our partners?

This is just me, but perhaps it would mean that the United States isn’t a trustworthy partner. It well could fracture our international alliances, particularly as it regards the Brits, French and the Germans, who are critical players in our nation’s ongoing geopolitical struggle with forces that seek to undermine us at every turn.

I’m not going to assert that the Iran nuke deal is perfect in every single way. But it does allow for careful monitoring of the Islamic Republic’s intentions and it gives the United States plenty of room to re-impose economic sanctions if it’s determined that Iran isn’t complying with the terms of the agreement.

Tillerson’s comments centered on Iran’s continued support of international terrorism. OK, then. Deal with that separately, Mr. Secretary.

Although the secretary didn’t say directly that the Trump administration would back out of the nuke deal, he did sound a dire warning. According to Politico: “Apparently referencing a failed 1994 nuclear deal with North Korea, which now has nuclear weapons, Tillerson said Wednesday that the Iran agreement is ‘another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions. We just don’t see that that’s a prudent way to be dealing with Iran.’”

Our partners are watching with great interest. I believe it would foolish to renege on a deal that took a long time to craft. After all, the United States isn’t the only actor in this drama.

Waiting for an apology that’ll never arrive

I am going to give tons of credit to an Oklahoma congressman.

Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican, wants Donald J. Trump to say he’s sorry for defaming President Barack H. Obama. He says the current president should apologize to his immediate predecessor for leveling a charge that he hasn’t proved — and will never be able to prove.

Wait for it, Rep. Cole. Wait a long, long time. It won’t arrive.

The president doesn’t apologize for anything.

Not even when he’s dead wrong. Or when he defames someone, as he has done with President Obama. Or when — in the minds of some constitutional scholars — he could face a potentially impeachable offense.

Not this guy. Not Trump.

The president has yet to say anything resembling contrition for suggesting the former president ordered a wiretap of the Trump campaign’s offices in Trump Tower. Never mind the laughable and ludicrous assertion from White House spokesmen that the president didn’t mean actual wiretapping, even though he said it in a series of tweets. Trump put the words  in quote marks, the argument goes, suggesting that he didn’t mean it, um, literally.

Of course he did!

What the president hasn’t done is tap into the vast intelligence network at his disposal to back up what he has alleged.

Why is that? Because he made it up. All of it. Every single word of it.

As Politico reports: “Obama and his former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, both publicly denied the claim quickly after Trump raised it, while FBI Director James Comey, also saying it was not true, privately urged Trump’s Justice Department to refute it.

“This week, the leaders of both the House and Senate intelligence committees have also come out and said they have found no evidence to suggest that the allegation is true.”

Should the president apologize, as Rep. Cole has suggested? Yes. Will he do so? I am not going to keep the light on waiting for it.

Congressman makes breathtaking statement

Steve King is a conservative’s conservative, I reckon.

That’s how he might describe himself. The Iowa Republican congressman also tends to say things that flutter dangerously close to idiocy.

Does this clown not understand the very nature of the nation he purports to govern as a member of Congress?

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” King said. Do you know what he means? I believe he means that immigrants — particularly those from, say, Africa, Asia and Latin America — aren’t welcome in the United States of America.

I believe this country is supposed to stand as a beacon for the rest of the world. It is supposed to be where others come to improve their lives, to seek opportunity, to embrace freedom and liberty. I do not believe the United States restricts entry to those of certain skin tone, or religion, or ethnic background.

King has fired off yet another outrageous remark that belies the very foundation of this great country.

Here is what Politico reports: “King told CNN that ‘there’s been far too much focus on race, especially in the last eight years.’ He accused liberals of ‘looking for hatred’ and being uninterested in unifying the nation’s racial divides.

“’Actually, if you go down the road a few generations or maybe centuries with the intermarriage, I’d like to see an America that’s just so homogenous that we look a lot the same, from that perspective,’ King said.”

We look a lot the same? Utterly breathtaking.

Hillary won’t run for anything ever again

Matt Latimer is sniffing something weird.

I don’t know the fellow. He’s written an essay for Politico that posits a preposterous notion: Hillary Rodham Clinton is going to run for president of the United States in 2020.

Let’s me be among the many who will say this: No way, no how is Hillary going to run for anything ever again, let alone for president.

Hillary took her best shot and blew it. She was the odd-on favorite to be elected president in 2016. You remember all that, don’t you? A lot of folks — yours truly included — just knew it would be a lead-pipe cinch that she’d win. Not only that, I actually wondered out loud on this blog whether she’d win in historic fashion; I actually suggested we might be looking at a 50-state shutout.

Silly me.

Hillary had her chance. She is now officially damaged irreparably.

The Democratic Party will need to look for someone new. It should start with anyone not named Clinton. That would eliminate Hillary right off the top.

Latimer harbors this goofy notion that Hillary cannot live with the memory of squandering her best chance at making history. She’ll want to erase that memory by being nominated once more by her party. Too old? Latimer said Clinton is the same age — give or take — as the guy who beat; Trump is certain to seek re-election in 2020 … assuming he’s still in office by the end of his first term.

He might face some serious political trouble, but that’s a subject for another blog post.

My intent here is to dispel any notion that Hillary Clinton is going to run once more.

No way, man. None. It won’t happen.

Hey, it just occurs to me that I swore off political predictions. I said Hillary Clinton wouldn’t run for the Senate in 2000 after her time as first lady had expired. I was wrong then.

Oh well. I’m going to stand by this one.

Government isn’t like a business, Mr. President

It’s become a throwaway line for politicians to toss around.

“I’m going to run this government like a business,” they tell us. Many folks buy into it. “That’s my guy!” they say. “He’s going to turn things around because that’s what he’s done before … in business.”

Donald J. Trump might be learning the hard way that the presidency of the United States is far more complicated than any business he’s ever run.

Politico is reporting that many of the new president’s aides and allies have become perplexed at Trump’s frustration with the pace of change he promised when he took office.

As Politico reports: “The administration’s rocky opening days have been a setback for a president who, as a billionaire businessman, sold himself to voters as being uniquely qualified to fix what ailed the nation. Yet it has become apparent, say those close to the president, most of whom requested anonymity to describe the inner workings of the White House, that the transition from overseeing a family business to running the country has been tough on him.”

Trump seeks simple answers to complex questions. That’s been the view of those interviewed by Politico. The president’s inability to find those simple answers has frustrated him early in his term.

My sense is that Trump needs to buck up and get ready to understand the complexities of the job he sought — and then won!

He talked tough during the campaign. He “told it like it is,” in the words of those who voted for him. He bragged about doing for the country what he did for his business empire; he didn’t mention, of course, the many failures his business interests have produced.

The point, though, is that the massive federal government is a complex machine. It’s a labyrinth of agencies — some of which compete against each other. The president is the chief executive of the government, but he cannot run it like a CEO.

He must be a team player. He must learn to cajole, not coerce.

Will this president learn the lesson? Can he overcome the obstacles he didn’t see laying before him? Can this man actually learn to govern and run a government with which he had zero prior contact?

Believe it or not, I hope he succeeds.

I just am doubting he can rid himself of the temptation to “run the government like a business.”

GOP wonders: Is the president really one of us?

Donald J. Trump’s doubling down over whether Russian strongman Vladimir Putin deserves his “respect” has drawn criticism from expected and — in the eyes of some — unexpected sources.

The surprise seems to be coming from congressional Republicans who are none too happy with the president’s equating U.S. and Russian behavior.

Some have called Trump’s seeming defense of Putin’s history of murder and mayhem an indefensible position.

According to Politico: “He’s a thug,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of Putin on Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections. No, I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does.”

There’s also that issue of alleged murder of journalists and dissidents in Russia.

Trump’s interview with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly has been broadcast tonight and it appears to illustrate quite graphically the president’s misplaced priorities in our geopolitical relationships. Putin is a bad guy, but the president wants the United States to “get along with Russia.”

Politico reported further: “I’m not going to critique the president’s every utterance,” the Senate leader said. “But I do think America is exceptional, America is different. We don’t operate in any way the way the Russians do. I think there’s a clear distinction here that all Americans understand, and I would not have characterized it that way.”

Trump doesn’t get it. He isn’t going to acknowledge the United States’ continued status as the greatest nation on Earth. He has vowed to “make America great again.” I would submit that giving the Russian thugs who run things in the Kremlin a pass on their behavior is no way to restore a level of greatness that’s not been lost.

Are the Republicans in Congress finally going to start asking themselves: Is this what we really want in a commander in chief?