Is Trump More Embarrassing or Dangerous?

by Alex Knepper

I fell in love with presidential politics during the 2004 race and have been writing about it ever since. I love the presidency. I love presidential campaigns. I think the president is always a vital player in corralling his party behind a coherent, purposeful agenda.

Since the inauguration, I been caught in a lull as a political writer, largely because, as I suggested in previous articles, President Donald Trump makes me less angry than depressed. Unlike all but a couple of past presidents, Trump is anything but a vital player, and is incapable of becoming one. He is worse than useless; he entered office as a lame duck and still has nothing to brag about but his victory over Hillary Clinton, whom Republicans quite obviously miss very much. Trump has spent the entirety of the last six months wielding his unique reverse-Hand-of-Midas ability to turn everything into shit — which he then proceeds to fling at everyone. It’s “damn good for CBS“! But I didn’t get into politics to cover it like a paparazzo.

Trump Embarrassing

A president who maxes out at a 45% approval rating and is stuck mostly in the 38-42% range is incapable of wielding leverage. He is neither feared nor loved. Leaders of Trump’s own party casually dismiss his proposals, and he has so alienated the other party that he cannot possibly form viable non-traditional coalitions, despite running last year, in a sense, against both parties. For the last half-year it has been almost like America doesn’t have a president. At best, Trump can hope to become a bill-signing machine for the Congressional GOP. But with nearly every plank of the Republican agenda stalled despite the party controlling nearly every conceivable part of government — the presidency, the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, governorships, state legislatures — there is in a sense little to write about. Each time I try to write something about an event like Trump’s classless, clownish speech to the Boy Scouts, I am stopped by the sentiment I expressed at the end of last year that I refuse to spend the next four years in perpetual anger and irritation. The healthiest way I can react to Trump’s hijinx is to ignore them. Continue reading

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Four “Easy” Steps to End the Russia Investigation

by Cinzia Croce

Whenever speculation mounts that Donald Trump is about to deliver his famous line “You’re Fired!” to special counsel Bob Mueller, the NeverTrumpers begin circling the wagons by offering their unsolicited and disingenuous advice to the president. The best scenario for Trump, they say, is to let Mueller do his job and exonerate him. It is important for the American people – they always add this, cloaking their political maneuvering in the noblest terms – to find out the truth about Russian meddling in our elections.

That would be sound advice if the investigation was about finding the truth. However, even the most naïve soul in America by now has realized that the special counsel was not appointed to “find the truth” about Russia or anything else. His task is to rid the DC swamp of the intruder the American people dared to elect in November.

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Mueller wasted no time in revealing his hand. He packed his team not with experts in counter-intelligence or cyber-security, but with individuals well versed in white-collar crimes. In just two months, he has moved away from the original mandate and is now reportedly looking into the private financial dealings of Trump and his campaign associates. It will not be much longer before Mueller will issue a subpoena for the president’s tax returns – the Holy Grail that both Democrats and NeverTrumpers sought during the campaign. Their hope has been, and still is, to either force the president to resign by threatening to destroy his financial empire or, better yet in their eyes, to completely discredit and destroy him so that no other outsider will ever dare to challenge the status quo again. The stakes in this fight are very high, and if the government of, by, and for the people is to survive, the president needs to immediately take bold and decisive actions to end the Russia investigation.   Continue reading

The Trump Train Enters Rocky Terrain

by Cinzia Croce

The Trump Train charged out of the station in January with vigor and determination — and for about three weeks, it was barreling down the tracks at an impressive pace. Between a flurry of executive orders and a Supreme Court nomination applauded by all factions of the Republican Party, Trump delighted both his supporters and those who had been very skeptical of him during the campaign.

And then the train began to slow down.

The first victory Trump’s opponents scored was halting his temporary travel ban. It was a setback in terms of implementing his agenda but, politically speaking, Trump came out in a very strong position. He delivered on his promise to halt immigration from countries that are havens for Islamists, his opponents were shown to put the interests of foreign nationals above the security concerns of Americans, and if — God forbid — another terrorist attack were to take place, Trump could credibly claim that he tried to protect Americans but the Democrats and their simpatico judges stopped him. Continue reading

Hillary Clinton for President: There is No Alternative

by Alex Knepper

Although Hillary Clinton’s historic primary victory has turned out to be decisive, there is undoubtedly a streak of joylessness to it. Her major victories were concentrated in the three ‘Super Tuesdays’ of the calendar, while losing constantly in the caucus-heavy lull periods, making the path to the nomination feel like a bit of a long slog at times. Between this, her seeming inability to escape the constant drip-drip-drip of harmful new information about her use of a private server while Secretary of State, and an unusually ideological and tenacious opponent, being a Clinton supporter has often felt like — how to put this? — less a reason to be excited than a responsibility.

Before we proceed, let us not forget that the final outcome of this race has been clear for some time; at least since the first Super Tuesday, in which Clinton swept the South — and that any candidate but Bernie, who, unusually, owes nothing to the Democratic Party and has hated it for decades, would be out by now. Ultimately, Clinton will have won over 55% of the popular vote, command a pledged-delegate lead in the 300-400 range, and hold the near-entirety of the Mid-Atlantic, Southwest, and Deep South, as well as most of the country’s major states, including NY, FL, TX, IL, PA, VA, and even MA. Her victory would have been even more decisive had it not been for Bernie’s string of non-representative caucus victories. Consider that Bernie won Washington state by 50 points but that Clinton actually won the state’s non-binding primary. Hillary also won Nebraska’s non-binding primary, despite losing the caucus and hence losing in the state’s delegate count. Who is really the candidate with the silent majority?

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Intervening in Libya Was the Right Thing to Do

By Alex Knepper

It is ironic that foreign policy interventionists are so frequently accused by our critics of overestimating the reach of American power. Since the disappointments of the ‘Arab Spring,’ it has become commonplace to lay the blame for the ongoing chaos in Libya at the feet of President Obama — and especially then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was decisive in pushing the president to intervene — as well as those who have generally pushed for greater American intervention since 9/11. Non-interventionists are sure that Libya is their ace in the hole: how can anyone defend Clinton’s urging to force out Qaddafi, given that ISIS has found a foothold in Libya and there is no resolution in sight? Haven’t we learned our lesson by now?

Despite non-interventionists’ foolish overestimation of the reach of American power, is not always simply up to the United States whether a tyrant stays or goes, and it is seldom within our power to prevent a badly deteriorating political situation from collapsing into chaos. Often we are given the choice between — to paraphrase Lindsey Graham on Ted Cruz — being shot or being poisoned. Of course, it is easy for pundits to declare that we should seek health — but if a nation’s political culture is sick to the core, then recovery will take decades — not years, and certainly not months — and pretending we can avoid the problem simply by keeping our hands from getting dirty is nothing but kicking the can down the road.

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From North Africa to Syria, the ‘Arab Spring’ was first and foremost a revolt against secular authoritarianism. We have learned that the removal of tyrants in the Arab world is likely to open a path for Islamists. This was relatively predictable, and many did predict it at the time. But when the will of the people is overwhelming, there is little the United States can do to contain the situation in a way that is tantamount to anything but a short-term fix. Looking at Egypt, for instance: if we actually had successfully propped up Hosni Mubarak — who, unlike Qaddafi, actually was ‘our bastard’ — we would have necessarily given Islamists many more years to spread their ideology, giving them a fresh chance to appeal to festering resentments and new fuel for anti-Americanism in response to our meddling in propping up Mubarak. Instead, we accepted the inevitable and watched his regime collapse. Islamists have since had to attempt to turn their preaching into policy. Today, we see the many failures of Islamists in Egypt — and so do Egyptians. In the short-term, America is put into a more difficult situation in the Middle East for what has happened in Egypt — but in the long-term, we may have avoided something far worse, and helped to open up the path to new alternatives for the Middle East by allowing Islamists to put their limitations as rulers on display for all to see. The alternative — Mubarak-style secular tyranny in perpetuity — is inconceivable. Something had to give, and it’s better to deal with it upfront than to let the situation fester.

Unlike Mubarak, of course, Qaddafi was a sworn enemy of the United States and its allies. In 2011, the situation in Libya was not radically different from the one in Syria today. There are no obviously ‘good’ actors involved, the few ‘moderates’ involved are moderate only in a relative sense — and hence there is no easy choice for America, especially in the short-term. But as with Assad in Syria, it had become blindingly evident in 2011 that Gaddafi had become intolerable to a large enough segment of the population that to assist in propping him up would be nothing but a short-term fix. Let’s consider the alternatives: if we had not intervened and Qaddafi mercilessly slaughtered his people, Assad-style, Obama and Clinton would be blamed for that mess, too. If we had not intervened and Islamists were successful in ousting Qaddafi, Obama and Clinton would be blamed for that mess, too. The USA didn’t ‘break’ Libya; Libya was bound for chaos, and the only question was how we were going to respond to it.

There is no excuse — on the part of the Obama Administration or our NATO allies — for not attempting to do more to follow up on its actions not only in Libya, but also in Syria and Iraq. ISIS will eventually have to be wiped out, which means there will need to be not only boots on the ground but a long-term commitment from a grand coalition of NATO allies, led by the United States, to oversee the maintenance of a new provisional government. But the need to destroy ISIS was going to materialize regardless of whether we intervened to take out Qaddafi — and Libya would still be chaotic, too. It is convenient for non-interventionists — and for opportunists like Donald Trump — to blame the the United States for every mess in the world — but sometimes all we can do is swallow the poison instead of taking the bullet.

Ted Cruz’s Foreign Policy Amateur Hour

By Josh Jacobs

Not too long ago, Ted Cruz became enamored with quipping something like “We will carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out!” Unsurprisingly, this sparked a firestorm of criticism, since the comments appeared to indicate an enthusiasm for either the use of either nuclear weapons or the area bombing of Syrian cities. In the last few months, Cruz has responded to his critics with a more measured definition of what exactly he means:

“You want to know what carpet bombing is? It’s what we did in the first Persian Gulf war; 1,100 air attacks a day, saturation bombing that utterly destroyed the enemy. Right now, Barack Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day.”

Taken at face value, this appears to be a valid criticism of our coalition strategy in Syria. After all, if the United States could bring so much power to bear against Saddam Hussein, why preclude using even a fraction of that against ISIS? As appealing as this reasoning seems, however, it just does not hold up to scrutiny. The military situation the US is facing in Syria could not be more different from that which it faced in Iraq in 1990.

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In 1991, the United States shouldered the task of nearly completely dismantling and destroying — in the most humane possible way — a modern, gigantic, and conventionally deployed military force. Iraq had assembled more than 700,000 troops in an arc stretching from Kuwait to the Jordanian border. These were not haphazardly deployed militia, but corps-sized military formations accompanied by gigantic logistics trains, support infrastructure, and a complex system of entrenchments. Furthermore, this military machine was augmented by a sophisticated air defense grid, which encompassed some 16,000 surface-to-air missiles (SAM) spread across hundreds of batteries and 7,500 anti-aircraft-artillery (AAA) emplacements.

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