Sunday, February 28, 2016

Finishing Dennis Ross' "Doomed To Succeed." The Unbridled Party!

U.S and Islamic Extremism. (See 1 below.)

===
The final four presidents and their attitude and relationship with Israel  - 
review of  Dennis Ross' " Doomed to Succeed."
(See 2 and 2a below.)
====
If you helped create it you may have some ownership. (See 3 below.)

and  

Can we survive? Should we ignore the meaning of the new political 
phenomenon? (See 3a below.)
===
Just as I thought. Shutting down the government is doable and probably 
worth a try because we would learn how we could do without so much
that is counterproductive. (See 4 below.)
===
It is becoming increasingly evident that when a party is not in power and becomes leaderless anything can happen.  When Romney lost, perhaps it was impossible for him to make claim to the reigns of the Republican Party. Consequently, The Party split internally between what is called The Establishment, and those who call themselves, True Conservatives. 

The current crop of candidates, by their actions, simply caused the split to widen as they pursued the winnowing process of going from 17 to six with only three currently having credible prospects.

By the time they finish verbally raping each other, the prize they seek not only will have been tarnished but also they will have given the opposition an increased storehouse of ammunition. Gingrich did the same thing against Romney and it approved an effective weapon and no doubt will again.

If Republicans are intent on killing themselves so be it.  They deserve what they have allowed themselves to reap.

 Lamentably, if imposing Bernie or Hillarious on America is the outcome,  we all lose.

Once again, the enemy is us!
===
Dick
========================================================


1)  U.S. losing ground against Islamic extremism, says former 

CENTCOM commander

GeneralAbizaid
Despite the insistence of President Obama and his senior advisors that the Islamic State and the violent jihadist movement worldwide is losing ground, the former head of U.S. Central Commander says the exact opposite is true.
"The U.S. has lost ground in the fight against Islamic extremism, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said in a recent interview," according to an article inThe Hill, a Washington based newspaper that covers Congressional affairs.
·         "Unfortunately, we have lost ground over time," said retired Gen. John P. Abizaid, former commander of U.S. Central Command in an interview published in this month's West Point's Combating Terrorism Center's magazine.
·         "The scope of the ideological movement, the geographic dispersion of Islamic extremism, the number of terror attacks, the number of people swearing allegiance, and the ground they hold have all increased," said Abizaid.
·         "Groups like the Islamic State have now taken on state-like forms and features that are unlike anything we’ve seen in the past. So on balance we are in a worse position strategically with regard to the growth of international terrorism, Islamic terrorism in particular, than we were after September 2001," he said.
·         The dire assessment highlights the difficulty the Obama administration faces as it tries to accelerate the campaign against ISIS in its remaining 10 months in office....
·         The administration says the primary focus will remain on Iraq and Syria, but that it will also strike ISIS in other places, such as Afghanistan and Libya, if an opportunity arises.
·         However, with only 10 months remaining in the administration, there is little time for doing significantly more, and the administration has sidestepped questions into whether there will be a more robust effort to go after ISIS in Libya.
·         "I'm not going to look ahead into the future. We're going to continue to respond to the ISIL threat as it develops. We are carrying out a significant campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and we are prepared — as we have demonstrated in the last 24 hours — to strike ISIL in other parts of the world, as they pose a threat," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Friday, using another acronym for ISIS.
·         Abizaid also said the U.S. was making a mistake by not acknowledging that modern-day borders of the Middle East are falling apart.
·         The U.S. is aiming for political solutions in Iraq and Syria that would keep the countries together, instead of broken up along sectarian lines.
·         "I do not think you solve the problem by trying to reinforce the status quo that existed before September 11, 2001," he said.
·         "I think the international community and the leaders in the region have got to decide how best to reshape the Middle East and redraw the boundaries to establish stability and a more peaceful structure," he said.
·         "Nations that are trying to put the status quo back on the map are only going to prolong the conflict and stoke greater violence," he added. "I do not believe we are capable of putting this all back together again. That strategy is bound to fail."
·         One thing the U.S. can do, he recommended, is to put more effort into organizing and leading the international community to do more to take on ISIS.
·         "I’m talking about a raiding strategy where we destroy capability over time in a joint force, which is an integrated international air, ground, and naval effort," he said.
·         "Without American leadership, we’re not going to move in a direction that’s going to produce effective results," he said.
·         "That doesn’t mean we only employ American assets, but it does mean there has to be American commitment to lead the effort and guarantee our partners that there will be some long lasting measures that take place," he said.
================================================================
2) George Walker Bush  was the opposite of Reagan when it came to America's relationship with Israel.  He was from Texas, and an oilman, was surrounded by those with a similar mind set and he saw Israel as simply another state and Israel impeded our need to reach out to Arab States and thus we needed to maintain a position of greater balance.

I was somewhat connected to his administration and can attest, first hand, Bush did not like or trust Prime Minister Shamir of Israel, because Bush believed your word was your bond.  He was of the opinion Shamir had lied to him and used American funds in an unintended manner and I suspect Bush was right  in his beliefs.

Notwithstanding this, Bush also kept his word when it came to military and security co-operation between our nations.  He also  supported Jewish immigration to Israel and forced the U.N to repeal its resolution equating Zionism with racism.

By the end of his term , once again, the fears of our close relationship with Israel impacting those with Arab States proved overblown.

Clinton was of a different emotional mind set.  He felt very supportive of Israel and developed a very strong personal attachment to Rabin. Rabin's death deeply touched Clinton.

Also, Clinton came to office totally committed to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Issue and devoted far too much time and effort to this losing battle.

Furthermore, Clinton saw the pressures on the various Israeli leaders he dealt with through the eyes of a consummate politician and there was little dissonance among Clinton and his advisers, whereas, in virtually every previous administration there was duality of attitudes. Consequently, Clinton never felt comfortable putting pressure on Israel when the inclination involved politics.  Clinton was one of Israel's greatest friends.

Clinton came to have and utter distrust of Arafat and told  those in the Bush 43 Administration, in unmistakable terms, how he felt and why.

Bush  43, was totally conflicted and ill prepared when he became president in regard to The Middle East. In the early years of his administration he tilted towards his concern the Saudis must be deferred to for fear of our energy dependence. and the advice he received from his appointees to The State Department and  NSC. He even called upon is father to intercede in one instance.

G.W also came into the office determined to be "Anything but Clinton."

Then 9/11 came along and everything changed in terms of his focus and his attitude about Israel.

Bush replaced Powell who was decidedly concerned about the effect of our relationship with Israel, how it impacted ours with Arab States and the War In Iraq.  Sec. Rice and Gates came to believe diplomacy was the route and basically embraced Powell's approach though Gates , after leaving office, admitted his fears never came to fruition and even were over blown.

Because Bush 43, had deep connections with Evangelicals and was a Born Again Christian, he tended to emphasize with Israel and the various unwarranted terror attacks orchestrated by Arafat helped temper GW"s attitude..

Sec. Rice's experience with segregation caused her to have a greater sense of empathy with the Palestinian's plight .

I believe equating the problem Black Citizens endured, because of segregation, led her in the wrong direction.  Blacks never attacked whites. Arafat was engaged in unbridled attacks against Israel and instigated a number of Intifadas which Israel was totally in its right to defend against.  Consequently, Arafat brought about conditions that harmed his own people because he believed he was relevant only when he was inciting.

After 9/11,Bush believed Israel faced the same common terrorist threat America and though Israel was accused of using excessive force in the eyes of those who were constantly seeking a reason to be critical, from its very beginning Israel has faced serious and difficult challenges which America is now experiencing in its wars against ISIS etc., , ie. civilian casualties because terrorists use civilians as shields, purposely place them in hospitals etc. and bombs can and do go astray, etc.

(Obama has been protected by the media and print folks when our planes kill innocents because they do not have the same level of access provided them by PLO and Hamas terrorists engaged against Israel.)

Finally, Obama came into office determined to be "Anything but Bush."

Obama also was ideologically determined  to restore America's standing and leadership and he was determined to accomplish several goals:

a) Prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
b)Transform our relationship with the Muslim world,

(With respect to the latter, Obama felt compelled to undo the "damage" Bush had done and that meant a series of initiatives which, in my opinion, ultimately signified weakness and resulted in the  "Middle East Mess." we currently find ourselves in and exemplified by the decline in our relationship vis a vis Israel, Saudi Arabia and a host of other Arab Nations who question whether we are prepared to assist in their defense and security which has always been their primary concern.)

Once again, Obama tended to reject advice of those whom he thought were too pro Israel and thus,  he relied less on Tom Donilon, who was trusted by Israel and had very high level relationships and more and more on Susan Rice, Dennis McDonough and others whoshared her 'Israeli distrust" mind set.

Donilon understood the best way to keep Israelis from going their own way was to work closely with them, build their trust and confidence in our reliability etc. 

That said, Obama expanded contacts with Israel and our military and intelligence agencies, provided funding for a variety of necessary and successful weaponry some of which was jointly developed.

Dennis Ross also portrays the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu in a somewhat less antagonistic light, but matters changed in Obama's second term.

By March, 2014, Kerry had become Sec. of State and had crafted a plan which was submitted to Netanyahu and Abbas.  Kerry's plan had been massaged to incorporate Susan Rice's ideas which always leaned towards and were sympathetic to Palestinian "needs."  Kerry's plan even comprised  five proposals regarding Jerusalem.  Abbas never responded and matters deteriorated after that culminating with Netanyahu accepting an invitation to address Congress and Obama reacting in a highly negative and public manner. Relations sank to a low akin to the lowest points in previous administration when the U.S and Israel were at loggerheads.

To his credit, Ross maintains, Obama consistently had problems when it came to Israel and matters of peace but he never used his pique to diminish support of Israel security so it could maintain its military edge.

Obama came into office, as did many of his predecessors, believing we needed to distance ourselves from Israel but , over time, he softened.  He came to understand distancing ourselves from Israel was not the answer but he did believe Netanyahu was in a stronger position than Abbas and therefore, needed to make more concessions. Obama also believes delay does not work in Israel's direction because eventually the Palestinian population will swamp Israel's and this will create conditions which will further distance Israel from its founding principles and diminish international support even further.

Obama simply cannot shake his belief Palestinians are victims and Israel must be on the giving end accordingly.

Ross summarizes by continuing to point out our mistaken belief our relationship with Israel makes more difficult the relationship we wish to maintain with Arab States, yet, it continues to shape our policy. In truth, Arab priorities revolve around survival, security and domestic stability . These facts take precedent over their concern for the Palestinians. Yes, their leaders do not like to be seen as publicly disregarding the demands of Palestinians. Yes, Palestinians matter and Arab leaders often use the plight of Palestinians as leverage to obtain concessions when negotiating with America but it is not the key determinant driving their relationship.  Arab priorities not ours drive their relationship with America.

Israeli leaders, on the other hand, constantly ask what happens when pressing Israel to make more concessions is interpreted by Palestinians that they can dig their heels in and thus, ask for more concessions. Ross suggests history has shown we have received few concessions from Palestinians as a consequence of all the pressure we have applied to Israel.

There has always been a basic distrust of Israel within the State Department which has colored their advice and thus our relationship with Israel. Moreover, Israeli leaders are concerned about letting us know just how far they are willing to go in making concessions because they fear America does not understand the security dangers they face with those who remain committed to their annihilation and what happens if they make concessions and, as has proven to be the case more times than not, Palestinians do not respond in kind. When negotiations resume the Palestinians renew their demand for more concessions..
 
On the other hand, Israel has not always taken into consideration the impact of their actions on America's needs. This is why close co-operation and frequent meetings, at the highest level, is important so distinctions between important versus existential issues be understood.

Ross also argues Israel needs to be more forthcoming with major European nations and not assume an  "it is hopeless" attitude.

Today,  Obama's attitude towards Iran is what  drives Saudi concerns, not our relationship with Israel or our supply of arms to them.  The Saudis are concerned about the shifting  balance of power in the region as it relates to their security. The Saudis do not understand why Obama is not more concerned about The Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS , or why we withheld  weapon assistance to Egypt's military driving them into the Soviet's arms or why our outreach to Iran. They do not expect us to provide for their internal security but they question our dependability to provide a defensive shield.

Ross argues America's interests ultimately drive our relationship with Israel but because Israel is the sole Democracy in the region and we share common values they have come to be seen as  a strategic partner and all presidents understand this and act accordingly.

As America become a nation of increasing numbers of minorities that do not have links to or appreciation of our Israeli relationship the support of Israel can diminish.

Ross suggests several steps Israel and its supporters should take to head off any potential split as follows:

a) Begin outreach to minority communities to educate them about Israel and Middle East realities.

b) Counter any impression Israel is a partisan issue.

c)Israel must elevate its democratic virtues and reject restrictive legislation.

d) Israel must begin a voluntary  initiative towards Palestinians , even if rejected, because it can undercut the growing de-legitimization effort currently being waged against Israel.  Israel could do this by announcing no more settlements on land unlikely to be retained by Israel, should a two state resolution come to pass.

There is no doubt an agreement between Palestinians and Israelis would be a positive but, at the current time, is un-achievable and not likely to alter the more serious issues pertaining to ISSIS, Iran, Syria, Yemen etc.

Israel has a better handle on its identity than the various Arab nations who continue to question their own and still face unresolved issues with respect to Tribe, clan,sect, Islamist versus secular identity etc.

As for America's relationship with Israel, Ross argues it has come a long way, is far beyond where it began and notwithstanding existing fissures it is doomed to succeed.

(My thinking: I admit to being pro-Israel because;

a) I am Jewish.

b) Because my father helped arm Israel in contemplation of their becoming a nation.

c)  Because Israel and its citizens have proven, against all odds, they are survivors, have prospered and brought great benefits to the world at large and have every right to exist.

d) Finally , Israel is a Democracy in a region lacking in such and morality dictates Israel survive and prosper as it has proven it can.

Has Israel made mistakes?  Yes.  Has Israel been dealt with unfairly by the world community and most particularly by the millions of armed Arabs who surround them. Yes.

Time and again, virtually every president from Truman to Obama has concluded America's relationship with Israel was an impediment to our desire to have relationships with Arab nations in the area. This attitude has proven totally misguided.

Palestinians have blamed their self-imposed refugee status on Israel and this, too, has proven false. Why? Because every time Israel entered negotiations the PLO leadership either rejected what was offered or engaged in more terror believing Israel would cave knowing the West would press Israel to make further concessions. 

There is no doubt certain  Israeli settlements in West Jerusalem have been an irritant but the land on which Israel builds came as a result of Arabs losing their constant wars of aggression.

Furthermore, every president has learned, though perhaps have been unwilling to acknowledge, when they and Israel negotiate with The Palestinians, they always want more than that to which they just agreed and/or were never serious and have rejected every opportunity to have a lasting peace. How can Israelis rely upon a commitment from those who are unwilling to agree they have a right to exist? Would America do so?  Would any nation do so?

Today, Israel is surrounded by thousands of rockets, financed, in large part, by Iran and yet, Obama walked away from his initial goal of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons because he lacked the negotiating courage and skills to hang tough. Consequently, his perfidious "Deal" has elevated the threat Israel faces to a prospective existential level and is a serious threat to our own nation's security.

Obama drew a red line in Syria, then walked away. This elevated the belief, not only among Arab nations dependent upon us for their security, but convinced our adversaries, we were both untrustworthy and weak.  And what of the multitudes who have been dislodged and killed because of Obama's misguided and feckless policies because they were based on his contempt for G.W and his own arrogance and ideological stubbornness?

The kindest conclusion I can embrace is Obama is out of his league and, in truth, came into office with a pre-conceived ideology based on a distorted antipathy towards America's history and our dealing with Arabs and Muslims. Consequently, Obama's policies have been misguided. Add to this his confused and narcissistic personality and you have a recipe for disaster with which future presidents will have to deal.

And do not forget the vacuum Obama's failed leadership has created leading to a sense of desperation and anger which has attracted the likes of a Bernie, a Trump and an Hillarious to believe they can lead us because they have answers.

When all else fails lower your standards and boy have we! ) 

2a)

Leading Democrats are taking aim at the Obama administration for its opposition to newly passed legislation that aims to bolster the U.S.-Israel economic relationship and combat boycotts of Israel, according to a statement issued this week.
The Obama administration announced that it opposes portions of a bipartisan trade bill that would strengthen economic ties between the U.S. and Israel and force trade partners to sever ties with backers of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an anti-Israel movement that seeks to economically isolate the Jewish state
President Barack Obama issued a rare statement opposing the bill’s pro-Israel language this week, claiming that it sought to legitimize Israeli settlements. Obama stated that he would not enforce the pro-Israel provisions as a result of his personal disagreement with the policies.
The statement prompted top Democrats to break with the president.
The fracture between these Democrats and the administration comes amid White House support for efforts to label Jewish-made goods produced in disputed areas of Israel. These efforts have been described as anti-Semitic by Israel’s government.
“While the Obama Administration has reiterated its opposition to boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting the State of Israel, it has mischaracterized the TPA and Customs bill provisions as making a U.S. policy statement about Israeli settlements,” Sens. Harry Reid (D., Nev.), Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), Ben Cardin (D., Md.), Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) said in a joint statement released Thursday.
The senators accused the Obama administration of lying about the pro-Israel bill and pushing a false narrative in efforts to oppose it.
“This simply is not the case,” they said. “These provisions are not about Israeli settlements.”
“Rather, consistent with U.S. policy, they are about discouraging politically-motivated commercial actions aimed at delegitimizing Israel and pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions outside the bounds of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” the senators said. “We urge the Administration to implement these provisions as enacted and intended.”
Republicans who cosponsored the bill along with Democratic allies also took aim at the administration.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), who authored the pro-Israel language along with Rep. Juan Vargas (D., Calif.), criticized the a
“We did not provide a statutory menu from which President Obama can pick and choose provisions to enforce,” the lawmaker added. “The president has signed this bill into law—it is now his responsibility to fully and faithfully execute it in its entirety.”
Roskam expressed dismay that “fighting efforts to delegitimize Israel interferes with his diplomacy, but rest assured that I intend to use my authority as chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee.”
dministration for not upholding the will of Congress and the American people.
“This law—including the anti-BDS provisions I was proud to author—passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate,” Roskam said in a statement. “Incredibly, President Obama has already announced his intention to prioritize his misguided notions of legacy over the law of the land.”
==============================================================
3)

Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected

Why political professionals are struggling to make sense of the world they created.

By Peggy Noonan

We’re in a funny moment. Those who do politics for a living, some of them quite brilliant, are struggling to comprehend the central fact of the Republican primary race, while regular people have already absorbed what has happened and is happening. Journalists and politicos have been sharing schemes for how Marco parlays a victory out of winning nowhere, or Ted roars back, or Kasich has to finish second in Ohio. But in my experience any nonpolitical person on the street, when asked who will win, not only knows but gets a look as if you’re teasing him. Trump, they say.
I had such a conversation again Tuesday with a friend who repairs shoes in a shop on Lexington Avenue. Jimmy asked me, conversationally, what was going to happen. I deflected and asked who he thinks is going to win. “Troomp!” He’s a very nice man, an elderly, old-school Italian-American, but I saw impatience flick across his face: Aren’t you supposed to know these things?
In America now only normal people are capable of seeing the obvious.
But actually that’s been true for a while, and is how we got in the position we’re in.
Last October I wrote of the five stages of Trump, based on the K├╝bler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the professionals I know are stuck somewhere between four and five.
But I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection. It is a theme that has been something of a preoccupation in this space over the years, but I think I am seeing it now grow into an overall political dynamic throughout the West.
There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.
The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.
I want to call them the elite to load the rhetorical dice, but let’s stick with the protected.
They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.
Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.
One issue obviously roiling the U.S. and Western Europe is immigration. It is the issue of the moment, a real and concrete one but also a symbolic one: It stands for all the distance between governments and their citizens.
It is of course the issue that made Donald Trump.
Britain will probably leave the European Union over it. In truth immigration is one front in that battle, but it is the most salient because of the European refugee crisis and the failure of the protected class to address it realistically and in a way that offers safety to the unprotected.
If you are an unprotected American—one with limited resources and negligible access to power—you have absorbed some lessons from the past 20 years’ experience of illegal immigration. You know the Democrats won’t protect you and the Republicans won’t help you. Both parties refused to control the border. The Republicans were afraid of being called illiberal, racist, of losing a demographic for a generation. The Democrats wanted to keep the issue alive to use it as a wedge against the Republicans and to establish themselves as owners of the Hispanic vote.
Many Americans suffered from illegal immigration—its impact on labor markets, financial costs, crime, the sense that the rule of law was collapsing. But the protected did fine—more workers at lower wages. No effect of illegal immigration was likely to hurt them personally.
It was good for the protected. But the unprotected watched and saw. They realized the protected were not looking out for them, and they inferred that they were not looking out for the country, either.
The unprotected came to think they owed the establishment—another word for the protected—nothing, no particular loyalty, no old allegiance.
Mr. Trump came from that.
Similarly in Europe, citizens on the ground in member nations came to see the EU apparatus as a racket—an elite that operated in splendid isolation, looking after its own while looking down on the people.
In Germany the incident that tipped public opinion against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal refugee policy happened on New Year’s Eve in the public square of Cologne. Packs of men said to be recent migrants groped and molested groups of young women. It was called a clash of cultures, and it was that, but it was also wholly predictable if any policy maker had cared to think about it. And it was not the protected who were the victims—not a daughter of EU officials or members of the Bundestag. It was middle- and working-class girls—the unprotected, who didn’t even immediately protest what had happened to them. They must have understood that in the general scheme of things they’re nobodies.
What marks this political moment, in Europe and the U.S., is the rise of the unprotected. It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they’re fortunate but because they’re better.
You see the dynamic in many spheres. In Hollywood, as we still call it, where they make our rough culture, they are careful to protect their own children from its ill effects. In places with failing schools, they choose not to help them through the school liberation movement—charter schools, choice, etc.—because they fear to go up against the most reactionary professional group in America, the teachers unions. They let the public schools flounder. But their children go to the best private schools.
This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens.
And a country really can’t continue this way.
In wise governments the top is attentive to the realities of the lives of normal people, and careful about their anxieties. That’s more or less how America used to be. There didn’t seem to be so much distance between the top and the bottom.
Now is seems the attitude of the top half is: You’re on your own. Get with the program, little racist.
Social philosophers are always saying the underclass must re-moralize. Maybe it is the over class that must re-moralize.
I don’t know if the protected see how serious this moment is, or their role in it.

3a)

The Governing Cancer of Our Time

                         By David Brooks

We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics.

Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.

The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.

But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.

As Bernard Crick wrote in his book, “In Defence of Politics,” “Politics is a way of ruling divided societies without undue violence.”

Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

This antipolitics tendency has had a wretched effect on our democracy. It has led to a series of overlapping downward spirals:

The antipolitics people elect legislators who have no political skills or experience. That incompetence leads to dysfunctional government, which leads to more disgust with government, which leads to a demand for even more outsiders.
The antipolitics people don’t accept that politics is a limited activity. They make soaring promises and raise ridiculous expectations. When those expectations are not met, voters grow cynical and, disgusted, turn even further in the direction of antipolitics.

The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process. The absence of accomplishment destroys public trust. The decline in trust makes deal-making harder.
We’re now at a point where the Senate says it won’t even hold hearings on a presidential Supreme Court nominee, in clear defiance of custom and the Constitution. We’re now at a point in which politicians live in fear if they try to compromise and legislate. We’re now at a point in which normal political conversation has broken down. People feel unheard, which makes them shout even louder, which further destroys conversation.

And in walks Donald Trump. People say that Trump is an unconventional candidate and that he represents a break from politics as usual. That’s not true. Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.

Trump represents the path the founders rejected. There is a hint of violence undergirding his campaign. There is always a whiff, and sometimes more than a whiff, of “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

I printed out a Times list of the insults Trump has hurled on Twitter. The list took up 33 pages. Trump’s style is bashing and pummeling. Everyone who opposes or disagrees with him is an idiot, a moron or a loser. The implied promise of his campaign is that he will come to Washington and bully his way through.

Trump’s supporters aren’t looking for a political process to address their needs. They are looking for a superhero. As the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams found, the one trait that best predicts whether you’re a Trump supporter is how high you score on tests that measure authoritarianism.
This isn’t just an American phenomenon. Politics is in retreat and authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. The answer to Trump is politics. It’s acknowledging other people exist. It’s taking pleasure in that difference and hammering out workable arrangements. As Harold Laski put it, “We shall make the basis of our state consent to disagreement. Therein shall we ensure its deepest harmony.”
==============================================================4)Subpoenaed Records Contradict Treasury on Debt Ceiling 
Federal Reserve Officials Described Obama Administration Efforts to Conceal Plans as “Crazy” 


WASHINGTON -- Documents subpoenaed by the House Financial Services Committee reveal the Obama Administration is not only capable of prioritizing payments in case the nation’s borrowing authority is not raised, it has run “tabletop exercises” to prepare for such a contingency – contradicting earlier public statements from Treasury officials.
Made public for the first time, records turned over to the Committee in response to the subpoena show the Federal Reserve Bank of New York previously made plans to prioritize Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and principal and interest payments on the debt over other government obligations.
The Administration, however, directed the New York Fed to withhold this information from the Committee because “Treasury wants to maximize pressure on Congress by limiting communications about contingency planning,” according to a previously undisclosed internal email of the New York Fed.
“Crazy, Counter-Productive”
Efforts by the Obama Administration to keep its contingency planning a secret were met with objections from officials at the Federal Reserve and the New York Fed, who described the approach in an email as “crazy, counter-productive, and add[ing] risk to an already risky situation.”
The Committee began its investigation of the Obama Administration’s contingency planning in late 2013. The Treasury Department and New York Fed failed to comply with requests for information and stonewalled the investigation, forcing the Committee to issue a subpoena in May 2015. The Committee will discuss the nation’s unsustainable federal spending and the debt limit, in addition to the findings of the report, at an Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Feb. 2.
“In light of what the internal New York Fed documents indicate, it is now obvious why Treasury fought so hard to prevent their production to the Committee: Treasury knew that the documents would expose the disingenuousness of its public statements and the political gamesmanship at the heart” of the Administration’s “no-negotiation” strategy on the debt ceiling, the Committee report states.
Documents Reveal Administration’s “Cynical Attempt to Create a Crisis”
“These internal documents show the Obama Administration took the nation’s creditworthiness and economy hostage in a cynical attempt to create a crisis so the President could get what he wanted during negotiations over the debt ceiling,” said Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). “The Administration owes it to the American people to be honest and transparent about its debt ceiling contingency plans.”
Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Sean Duffy (R-WI) added: "This report shows President Obama manufactured a crisis to put politics ahead of economic stability. Shame on him. Rather than being honest, the Administration deliberately misled Congress and the American people about their ability to honor our commitments to our nation’s veterans and seniors."
Specifically, documents uncovered by the Committee reveal that:
  • Treasury is capable of prioritizing principal and interest payments on the debt and the New York Fed has been running “tabletop” debt ceiling exercises regarding these sorts of contingencies since at least March 2011.
  • Treasury has sought to withhold from Congress and the American people information about the Administration’s contingency plans, for the purpose of pressuring Congress to acquiesce to the Administration’s position that any increase in the debt ceiling not be accompanied by spending constraints.
  • Contrary to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s testimony to Congress that the Administration has never made any decision to prioritize debt payments, internal New York Fed documents reveal that Treasury was in fact planning to prioritize payments during the debt limit impasses of 2013.
  • Internal New York Fed records reveal that both New York Fed and Federal Reserve Board employees objected to Treasury’s efforts to conceal the Administration’s contingency plans because concealing this vital information added unnecessary risk to an already volatile situation.
  • Treasury appears to have actively obstructed the Committee’s investigation of this matter by directing the New York Fed to withhold information from the Committee for approximately two years
  • ======================================================================







Friday, February 26, 2016

Turned It on Then It Turned Me Off! LTE and Glick Clicks.


===
I typed this  Friday before I left for Orlando.
===
I listened to a little of the Thursday night debate then it turned  me off.  We have really sunk to a new low when it comes to having adults engage in a debate that resembles a playground argument we would expect among 3 year olds.

I know many Americans are angry and since we have no tea to throw into the river we have substituted politicians but if we step back and observe we are really throwing away our Republic.

And believe me the Democrats are no better.

Obama has decimated the coal industry, wasted billions on premature alternate fuel boondoggles and dis-employed tens of thousands of hard working Americans all because of his ideological war against the greatest threat America faces - fossil fuels. This from the head of a party that professes to be for the little person.

Hillary gets more money from speaking, while saying nothing worth hearing, than mining families formerly earned in their lifetime but she cares for all the little people. Yeah, she is going to fight for the little people and don't you think otherwise because she claims to have come from an Arkansas Hillbilly family just like all the  little people.

As for Bernie, he too cares for the little people.  He cares for them so much he wants to have the government take over everything they use to do for themselves so they can turn to "Uncle Sam," quit being independent and just live off the rich 1%.  If the little people need anything just come to Uncle Bernie's store.  He knows the needs of the working class because he never worked an honest day in his socialist life.

These are the two leaders of the new Democrat Party and if you will just allow them to help  get us out of the mess they put us in all will be "right" - with what is "left" of our Republic.

And,

 This from a fellow memo reader whom I have never met. (See 1a below.)

Finally,

Who cares who won the debate,.  One thing is for sure.  The nation and CNN lost. (See 1b and 1c below.)
===
Obama never told us he was an accomplished violinist! (See 2 below.)
===
If the nail fits wear it: http://safeshare.tv/v/ss565a4cef31318

and

Son of a gun:

and finally:

It was a man’s world, but along came HillaryIn this video covering the “bestest book ever written,” you’ll spend story time with your Afterburner host as he takes you through her college and law school life, her work “fighting for justice” and her marriage to former President Bill Clinton. There’s also, of course, her life of public service to her country — from the Clinton Foundation, to the Middle East and much, much more.

“And no matter what Hillary does next, if she wants to change the world, she will find a way. She will do anything…anything…

Gather around, boys and girls.

Watch the video here.
====
Glick clicks! See 3 below.)
===
Dick
=======================================================================
1) Rubio Blisters Trump Over Immigration, Hiring Foreign Workers
By Greg Richter
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio launched a blistering attack against front-runner Donald Trump over his position on illegal immigration on Thursday, quickly accusing Trump of switching positions on illegal immigration for political gain.

The senator said that the New York billionaire talks tough on the issue now, but previously said 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney lost his race against President Barack Obama for saying illegal immigration could be solved by self-deportation.
"A lot of these positions that he's taken now are new to him," Rubio said during the debate in Houston.
He said Romney lost in 2012 because he was a terrible candidate.
"Excuse me, he ran one terrible campaign," Trump said.

Rubio attacked Trump over a New York Times report that he hired people on HB-1 visas to work at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort when 300 Americans had applied for the jobs.

Trump took credit for introducing illegal immigration into the debate, but Rubio challenged that, saying if he wants to make that claim he must also "acknowledge that, for example, you're only person on this stage that's ever been find for hiring people to work on your projects illegally."

"No, no, I'm the only one at this stage that's hired people," Trump shot back. "You haven't hired anybody. … You've had nothing but problems with your credit cards, etc."

"He hired workers from Poland," Rubio said, referring to the Times story.

Trump said that was "totally wrong," but Rubio urged people to look it up online.

"Fined $1 million for hiring Polish workers on one of his projects. He did it. That happened," Rubio said.

"I've hired tens of thousands of people over my lifetime. Tens of thousands," Trump said.

"Many from other countries instead of hiring Americans," Rubio said.

"Just be quiet. Let me talk," Trump said. "I've hired tens of thousands of people. He brings up something from 30 years ago, it worked out very well."

"Yeah, you paid $1 million," Rubio said.

"By the way, the laws were totally different," Trump said. "That was a whole different world."

"If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Tower, he'll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it," Rubio said.

The two then traded barbs, with Trump mentioning Rubio's past finances and Rubio bringing up the Trump University lawsuit.

"The second thing about the trade war, I don't understand," Rubio said, "because your clothes and the tie you wear are made in Mexico and in China. You'll be starting a trade war against your own clothes and suits."

1a)Are you supporting Trump, or do you know someone who is? Please tell me why (and/or please share this with Trump supporters you know). The reasons I have identified so far are:

1) You're fed up with politicians and you want something totally different.
2) You feel like our nation has become weak, and we need to be strong again. You want someone with a real backbone who is going to stand up to China, Isis, and all of the other threats to our country.
3) You like the fact that he can't be bought.
4) You believe he can “make this country great again.”
5) You think his business acumen will help stabilize and restart the economy.
6) You're tired of all the PC bs.
7) You feel like he's the only one who can beat Hilary.
8) You don't love him, but you feel like he's going to win, so if you can't beat him, join him.

I am not going to demonize Trump or those who are supporting him. I don’t think he’s evil, and I don’t think you have to be crazy or stupid to vote for him. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and obviously we all see things differently.

That said, I do feel that Trump is not the right man for the job of president, and I feel that it could be very detrimental to our country if we put him in office. So I’d like to address the reasons that people are backing him which I’ve listed above, and I’d be very happy to discuss this with anyone in a civilized, rational way.

1) Fed up with politicians – The vast majority of Americans (if not people worldwide) seem to feel this way, and understandably so. Politics is a dirty sport. Even good people who get involved in politics can be corrupted either by the power itself, or by the system which directly links their job to the approval of a wide array of constituents. The best politicians are those who are clear and honest about their values and stick to them regardless of the way the wind blows. But admittedly, these types of politicians are hard to find. That said, is it really a good idea to put someone in the office of president who has no prior experience with politics? Would you hire someone to run your company who has no previous practice in your industry? Even if the person has proven him or herself talented and successful in other industries, wouldn't it be better to groom him/her first in a junior level position before giving over the reins completely? While I understand and sympathize with the antipathy toward politicians, I find it really hard to understand the willingness to take such a chance on someone just because he's very different from those who have come before him. Consider the stakes here - we're giving the person the keys to the kingdom, the most powerful position in the entire world! What would lead us to think that Trump is ready or worthy of that consummate power? Just because he’s not a politician? That's quite a gamble! I would refer to that as irresponsible reactivism. It’s fine to want something different, but we need to be responsible and not just reactive.

2) The need for strength – Most Americans would wholeheartedly agree that our country has forfeited the position of strength and authority that it once held. The current administration’s desire for a more equitable international playing field has left a power vacuum that has been filled by a variety of unsavory forces. But there are other candidates – namely all of the other Republican candidates – who believe, as Trump does, that we need to refocus on American strength. Wouldn’t it be better to have a strong president who also has strong diplomatic skills and a strong understanding of global geopolitics? I am not bashing Trump by pointing out that he is woefully uneducated on international relations – that has never been his field. We would be much better served, and much more secure, if we have a commander in chief who knows what the Nuclear Triad is and who has been a longtime student of governance, military history, and diplomacy.

3) Can’t be bought – Wouldn’t it be great to have a president who is consistent in his positions and his policy decisions regardless of the pressures of lobbyists and special interest groups? It’s definitely true that Trump is unabashed in his opinions and more than willing to say things that are offensive and outrageous. But while that can be a good thing in many ways, it seems to me that a president is the representative of the entire country, and that it is incumbent upon him to consider opinions that are contrary to his own. The country’s increasing polarization and uber-partisanship has benefited no one. Both republicans and democrats will admit that there is a chasm in congress that inhibits progress and threatens to tear the system apart. What we need now is a president who is clear in his convictions, but is simultaneously ready to reach across the aisle and unite the country. While Trump has been vague and evasive about his positions on a variety of issues, one thing his campaign has established decisively is that he is a polarizing and divisive figure, which is certainly not in keeping with the values of equality and brotherhood on which the country was established.

4) Making the country great again – What a noble ambition! And what a terrific slogan. It was first used by Ronald Reagan in 1979. More recently, Trump applied to trademark it for his campaign. But how exactly does he plan to do so? It’s one thing to have lofty goals – it’s another to implement a series of policies that will effectuate those goals. Trump is an accomplished marketeer and entertainer, but when he is asked for specific policies or specific advisers, he weaves and dodges like a prizefighter and retreats behind generalities and catchphrases that attempt to obfuscate his inexperience. (For a great article on the glaring differences between Reagan and Trump, go here:http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/08/23/trump_is_no_reagan_127851.html)

5) Business Acumen – No one can deny Trump’s financial success or his many entrepreneurial triumphs. But it is also on the public record that he has controlled several companies that have declared bankruptcy on multiple occasions. Of course it is true that every success story has moments of failure interspersed. But Trump’s bankruptcies have adversely affected many others who were counting on him and his word. While Trump has weathered his financial crises, many of those who were employed or hired by him did not. The contractors and tradesmen on the Taj Mahal casino, for example, were left destitute when they were unpaid for the work they had done. Concern for the average worker does not seem to have been as much of a priority for Trump as his own profit and advancement. Additionally, the correlation between Trump’s financial successes in real estate and entertainment and the economic recovery of the country is sketchy at best. Every enterprise has its particulars, and there is no telling that success in one will translate to another. The notion that Trump’s riches will lead to riches for all is hopeful and without foundation.

6) Tired of PC – Trump says it as he sees it. There’s definitely something refreshing about that in a time when people are forced to weigh out every word. But there is also something to be said for being courteous and sensitive and maintaining a certain dignity in public discourse. Isn’t there a difference between the way you talk with your buddy and the way you’d speak to a client or to someone who didn’t know you well? Isn’t there a certain propriety and decorum which we expect from, and admire in, our leaders and role models? Perhaps the dumbing down of culture is inevitable, but do we really want to cheapen the institution of the presidency with the type of vulgar and demeaning discourse that has characterized Trump’s campaign?

7) Beating Hillary – If you’re a member of the GOP, or an independent or democrat who is disturbed by the increasingly frequent revelations of Clinton’s improprieties, obviously beating Hilary in the general election has to be the primary factor in your choice of a republican nominee. According to the polls, Trump would lose to Clinton by a wide margin. Trump currently has roughly a third of the GOP vote, which may get him the nomination, but he will get very few if any percent of the Democratic vote. Hillary, if she is not indicted, would get the vast majority of the Democratic vote - even those who don't like or trust her will vote for her just to keep Trump out of office - and most centrists who could be swayed either way will either vote Hillary or abstain. According to the current polls (http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/its-rubio-or-bust-for-republicans-who-want-to-win/), Rubio is the only GOP candidate who can win in a general election. He would take the centrists and those Democrats who can't stand Hillary but could tolerate a Republican who has proven himself willing to reach across the aisle.

8) If you can’t beat him, join him – It seems to be a foregone conclusion for many that Trump is going to win the republican nomination. They say they’re not fans of Trump, but they find him much preferable to Hillary. For some reason, they’ve already bypassed the primaries and have moved onto the general election. It’s true that Trump is far ahead in the delegate count, but it is not true that he has clinched the nomination. There is still time to consolidate energies around one of the other candidates in order to put forward a nominee that can unite the party and the country. But that time is quickly slipping away. Those who are firmly entrenched in the Trump camp will continue to back him in spite of his liabilities and lack of experience – but those who believe that the country deserves a more polished, seasoned, and professional leader should seize the moment to make their feelings known and challenge those who are boarding the Trump bandwagon because they erroneously believe the race is over.


1b)Who Won Tonight's Debate?
By Kevin Boyd

The 10th presidential debate definitely had plenty of fireworks. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio brought the kitchen sink against Donald Trump. Well, that’s not true. Cruz and Rubio brought the stove, the toilets, the dressers, and the locomotive. They hit Trump with everything they got.  

However, the question is will this have an impact? Here’s what I think. 

1)Ted Cruz: Cruz is my winner tonight. He landed blows against Trump and most importantly his blows on Trump were substantive. Cruz made a very good point pointing out that Trump has supported liberals in the past. However, I’m not sure that line will stuck on Trump. But Cruz’s attacks on Trump as a “Washington deal maker” may work. Cruz also landed a couple of blows on Marco Rubio. Cruz was tough but substantive.  

2) Marco Rubio: Rubio was finally aggressive against Donald Trump. The question is why did it take so long? Rubio hit Trump on hiring illegal Polish workers, allegations of fraud over Trump University, and the use of H1B visa workers. This is a line of attack that may have some effect. However, Trump did nail him as a liar when he tried to walk back his DACA position. Rubio also may have come off too petty at times. 

3) John Kasich: Kasich did well. He came off as the adult in the room. He may actually get some support tonight from those sick of Cruz/Rubio/Trump. 

4) Ben Carson: Had the line of the night when he said “Why doesn’t anyone attack me?” to protest his lack of talk time. Other than that, irrelevant. 

5) Donald Trump: This was Trump’s worst debate. He didn’t get a knockout blow on either Cruz or Rubio. However, Trump wasn’t knocked out either. He hit Rubio with a line “You haven’t hired anyone” in response to Rubio’s attacks on his hiring practices. 

However, Cruz and Rubio got some lines in that could be used in future attacks against him. Trump’s claim in the post-debate spin that he’s being audited because he’s a “strong Christian” is odd to say the least. I do think Cruz and Rubio did damage tonight. However, I’m not sure it was enough to move the dials in Super Tuesday states. Neither one scored the knockout blow they needed.  

The clear losers were CNN who lost control of the debate on numerous occasions. Wolf Blitzer spent most of his time breaking up fights between the top 3. I wonder how many voters were turned off by it. - 


1c) At stake is something far more precious than the future of the Republican Party.

By ELIOT A. COHEN

 Eliot Asher Cohen is the Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and the Carey Business School, both at the Johns   Hopkins University.

How on earth did this happen?  Some, like Robert Kagan, think it is solely the result of a prolonged self-poisoning of the Republican Party. A number of shrewd writers—David Frum, Tucker Carlson, Ben Domenech, Charles Murray, and Joel Kotkin being among the best—have probed deeper. Not surprisingly, they are all some flavor of conservative. On the liberal (or, as they say now, progressive) end of the spectrum the reaction has been chiefly one of smugness (“well, that’s what the Republicans are, we knew it all along”), schadenfreude (“pass the popcorn”), and chicken-counting (“now we can get a head start on Hillary’s first Inaugural”). Their insouciance will be stripped away if Trump becomes the nominee and turns his cunning, ferocity, and charm on an inept, boring politician trailing scandals as old as dubious investments with a 1,000 percent return and as fresh as a homebrew email server. He might lose. He might, however, very well tear her to pieces. Clearly, he relishes the prospect, because he despises the politicians he has bought over the years.




The conservative analysts offer a number of arguments—a shifting class structure, liberal overreach in social policy, existential anxiety about the advent of a robot-driven economy, the stagnation since the Great Recession, and more. They note (as most liberal commentators have yet to do) Trump’s formidable political skills, including a visceral instinct for detecting and exploiting vulnerability that has been the hallmark of many an authoritarian ruler. These insights are all to the point, but they do not capture one key element.Moral rot.

Politicians have, since ancient Greece, lied, pandered, and whored. They have taken bribes, connived, and perjured themselves. But in recent times—in the United States, at any rate—there has never been any politician quite as openly debased and debauched as Donald Trump. Truman and Nixon could be vulgar, but they kept the cuss words for private use. Presidents have chewed out journalists, but which of them would have suggested that an elegant and intelligent woman asking a reasonable question was dripping menstrual blood? LBJ, Kennedy, and Clinton could all treat women as commodities to be used for their pleasure, but none went on the radio with the likes of Howard Stern to discuss the women they had bedded and the finer points of their anatomies. All politicians like the sound of their own names, but Roosevelt named the greatest dam in the United States after his defeated predecessor, Herbert Hoover. Can one doubt what Trump would have christened it?

That otherwise sober people do not find Trump’s insults and insane demands outrageous (Mexico will have to pay for a wall! Japan will have to pay for protection!) says something about a larger moral and cultural collapse. His language is the language of the comments sections of once-great newspapers. Their editors know that the online versions of their publications attract the vicious, the bigoted, and the foulmouthed. But they keep those comments sections going in the hope of getting eyeballs on the page.

Winston Churchill recalls in his memoir how as a young man he came to terms with hypocrisy, discovering the “enormous and unquestionably helpful part that humbug plays in the social life of a great people.” Inconsistency between public virtue and private vice is not altogether a bad thing. No matter how nasty the realities are, maintaining respectable appearances, minding the civilities, and adhering to the conventions is part of what keeps civilization going.

The current problem goes beyond excruciatingly bad manners. What we increasingly lack, and have lacked for some time, is a sense of the moral underpinning of republican (small r) government. Manners and morals maintain a free state as much as laws do, as Tocqueville observed long ago, and when a certain culture of virtue dies, so too does something of what makes democracy work. Old-fashioned words like integrity, selflessness, frugality, gravitas, and modesty rarely rate a mention in modern descriptions of the good life—is it surprising that they don’t come up in politics, either?


William James, a pacifist who understood this point, argued in “The Moral Equivalent War” that “intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interest, obedience to command must still remain the rock upon which states are built—unless, indeed, we wish for dangerous reactions against commonwealths fit only for contempt.” Just so. Trump might have become a less upsetting figure if he had not wriggled through the clutches of the draft in the 1960s.

Trump’s rise is only one among many signs that something has gone profoundly amiss in our popular culture.It is related to the hysteria that has swept through many campuses, as students call for the suppression of various forms of free speech and the provision of “safe spaces” where they will not be challenged by ideas with which they disagree. The rise of Trump and the fall of free speech in academia are equal signs that we are losing the intellectual sturdiness and honesty without which a republic cannot thrive.

There are other traces of rot. They can be seen in the excuses that political leaders and experts have begun to make as they cozy up to Trump. Like French bureaucrats in the age of Vichy, or Italian aristocrats in the age of Mussolini, they are already saying things like: “I can make it less bad,” “He’s different in private,” “He has his good points,” “He is evolving,” and “Someone has to do the work of government.” Of course, some politicians—Chris Christie, that would be you—simply skip the pretense and indulge in spite or opportunism as the mood takes them.

This is not the first age in which politicians have taken morally disgraceful positions, even by the standards of their time. In the 1950s and 1960s there were flagrant bigots in Congress. But many of them were in other ways public spirited­—think Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, for example, who presided with dignity over the Senate Armed Services Committee for nearly two decades. Lyndon Johnson may not have opposed the evils of his time forthrightly, but he used the full extent of his wiliness to break through the institutionalized discrimination of the South. The villainy of today takes softer forms, but it is pervasive—politicians swallow their principles (such as they are) and endorse a candidate they despise, turn on a judge they once praised, denounce the opposition for behavior identical to their own, or press their branch’s prerogatives and rules to the Constitutional limit, and beyond.


The rot is cultural. It is no coincidence that Trump was the star of a “reality” show. He is the beneficiary of an amoral celebrity culture devoid of all content save an omnipresent lubriciousness. He is a kind of male Kim Kardashian, and about as politically serious. In the context of culture, if not (yet) politics, he is unremarkable; the daily entertainments of today are both tawdry and self-consciously, corrosively ironic. Ours is an age when young people have become used to getting news, of a sort, from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, when an earlier generation watched Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley. It is the difference between giggling with young, sneering hipsters and listening to serious adults. Go to YouTube and look at old episodes of Profiles in Courage, if you can find them—a wildly successful television series based on the book nominally authored by John F. Kennedy, which celebrated an individual’s, often a politician’s, courage in standing alone against a crowd, even a crowd with whose politics the audience agreed. The show of comparable popularity today is House of Cards. Bill Clinton has said that he loves it.

American culture is, in short, nastier, more nihilistic, and far less inhibited than ever before. It breeds alternating bouts of cynicism and hysteria, and now it has given us Trump.

The Republican Party as we know it may die of Trump. If it does, it will have succumbed in part because many of its leaders chose not to fight for the Party of Lincoln, which is a set of ideas about how to govern a country, rather than an organization clawing for political and personal advantage. What is at stake, however, is something much more precious than even a great political party. To an extent unimaginable for a very long time, the moral keel of free government is showing cracks. It is not easy to discern how we shall mend them.
========================================================================
2)

World burns as Obama fiddles: Territory, power and victory are so 20th century



State of the world, Year Eight of Barack Obama:

(1) In the South China Sea, on a speck of land of disputed sovereignty far from its borders, China has just installed anti-aircraft batteries and stationed fighter jets. This after China landed planes on an artificial island it created on another disputed island chain (the Spratlys, claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam). These facilities now function as forward bases for Beijing to challenge seven decades of American naval dominance of the Pacific Rim.

“China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command told Congress on Tuesday. Its goal? “Hegemony in East Asia.”

(2) Syria. Russian intervention has turned the tide of war. Having rescued the Bashar Assad regime from collapse, relentless Russian bombing is destroying the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, creating a massive new wave of refugees and demonstrating to the entire Middle East what a Great Power can achieve when it acts seriously.

The U.S. response? Repeated pathetic attempts by Secretary of State John Kerry to propitiate Russia (and its ally, Iran) in one collapsed peace conference after another. On Sunday, he stepped out to announce yet another “provisional agreement in principle” on “a cessation of hostilities” that the CIA director, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs deem little more than a ruse.

(3) Ukraine. Having swallowed Crimea so thoroughly that no one even talks about it anymore, Russia continues to trample with impunity on the Minsk cease-fire agreements. Vladimir Putin is now again stirring the pot, intensifying the fighting, advancing his remorseless campaign to fracture and subordinate the Ukrainian state. Meanwhile, Obama still refuses to send the Ukrainians even defensive weapons.

(4) Iran. Last Thursday, Iran received its first shipment of S-300 anti-aircraft batteries from Russia, a major advance in developing immunity to any attack on its nuclear facilities. And it is negotiating an $8 billion arms deal with Russia that includes sophisticated combat aircraft. Like its ballistic missile tests, this conventional weapons shopping spree is a blatant violation of U.N. Security Council prohibitions. It was also a predictable — and predicted — consequence of the Iran nuclear deal that granted Iran $100 billion and normalized its relations with the world.

The U.S. response? Words.

Unlike gravitational waves, today’s strategic situation is not hard to discern. Three major have-not powers are seeking to overturn the post-Cold War status quo: Russia in Eastern Europe, China in East Asia, Iran in the Middle East. All are on the march.

To say nothing of the Islamic State, now extending its reach from Afghanistan to West Africa. The international order built over decades by the United States is crumbling.

In the face of which, what does Obama do? Go to Cuba.

Yes, Cuba. A supreme strategic irrelevance so dear to Obama’s anti-anti-Communist heart.

Is he at least going to celebrate progress in human rights and democracy — which Obama established last year as a precondition for any presidential visit? Of course not. When has Obama ever held to a red line? Indeed, since Obama began his “historic” normalization with Cuba, the repression has gotten worse. Last month, the regime arrested 1,414 political dissidents, the second-most ever recorded.

No matter. Amid global disarray and American decline, Obama sticks to his cherished concerns: Cuba, Guantanamo (about which he gave a rare televised address this week) and, of course, climate change.
Obama could not bestir himself to go to Paris in response to the various jihadi atrocities — sending Kerry instead “to share a big hug with Paris” (as Kerry explained) with James Taylor singing “You’ve Got a Friend” — but he did make an ostentatious three-day visit there for climate change.

So why not go to Havana? Sure, the barbarians are at the gates and pushing hard, knowing they will enjoy but 11 more months of minimal American resistance. But our passive President genuinely believes that such advances don’t really matter — that these disruptors are so on the wrong side of history, that their reaches for territory, power, victory are so 20th century.

Of course, it mattered greatly to the quarter-million slaughtered in Syria and the millions more exiled. It feels all quite real to a dissolving Europe, an expanding China, a rising Iran, a metastasizing jihadism.

Not to the visionary Obama, however. He sees far beyond such ephemera. He knows what really matters: climate change, Gitmo and Cuba.


With time running out, he wants these to be his legacy. Indeed, they will be.
===================================================================================
3)

Trump, the EU Crack-Up, and Israel

By Caroline Glick
After his smashing back-to-back victories in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries and the Nevada caucuses, going into next week’s Super Tuesday contests in 12 states, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump looks increasingly unbeatable.
What accounts for the billionaire populist’s success? And if Trump does become the next US president, what sort of leader will the former reality television star be?
Trump is popular because he has a rare ability to channel the deep-seated frustrations that much of the American public harbors toward its political and cultural elites.
Trump’s presidential bid isn’t based on specific, defined economic or foreign policy platforms or plans. Indeed, it isn’t clear that he even has any.

Trump’s campaign is based on his capacity to resonate two deeply felt frustrations harbored by a large cross-section of American citizens.
As The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger explained recently, a very large group of Americans is frustrated – or enraged – by the intellectual and social terror exercised upon them by the commissars of political correctness.
Trump’s support levels rise each time he says something “politically incorrect.” His candidacy took off last summer when he promised to build a wall along the Mexican border. It rose again last November when, following the Islamic massacre in Paris, he said that if elected he will ban Muslim immigration to the US.

The many millions of Americans who are sick of being called racist, chauvinist, homophobic, privileged or extremist every time they breathe feel that in Trump they have found their voice.

Then there is that gnawing sense that under Obama, America has been transformed from history’s greatest winner into history’s biggest sucker. Trump’s continuous exposition on his superhuman deal-making talents speaks to this fear.

Trump’s ability to viscerally connect to the deep-seated concerns of American voters and assuage them frees him from the normal campaign requirement of developing plans to accomplish his campaign promises.

Trump’s supporters don’t care that his economic policies contradict one another. They don’t care that his foreign policy declarations are a muddle of contradictions.

They hate the establishment and they want to believe him.

This then brings us to the question of how a president Donald Trump would govern.

Because he knows how to viscerally connect to the public, Trump will undoubtedly be a popular president. But since he has no clear philosophical or ideological underpinning, his policies will likely be inconsistent and opportunistic.

In this, a Trump presidency will be a stark contrast to Obama’s hyper-ideological tenure in office.
So, too, his presidency will be a marked contrast to a similarly ideologically driven Clinton or Sanders administration, since both will more or less continue to enact Obama’s domestic and foreign policies.

The US is far from the only country steeped in uncertainty and frustration today.

Today, the peoples of Western Europe are behaving much like the Americans in their increased rejection of the political and cultural elites. Like Trump’s growing band of supporters, Western Europeans are increasingly embracing populists.

Whether these leaders come from the Right or the Left, they all make a similar pledge to restore their nations to a previous glory.

These promises are based as well on a common rejection of the European Union. Like their voters, populist European politicians believe that the EU is a bureaucratic monstrosity that has pulverized and seeks to blot out their national characters while it seizes their national sovereignty.

Due to this growing popular opposition to the EU, establishment leaders throughout Western Europe find themselves fighting for their political survival. Whether their desire to exit the EU owes to its open borders policies in the face of massive Muslim immigration or to the euro debt crisis, with each passing month, the very concept of a unified Europe loses its appeal for more and more Europeans.

On June 23, this growing disenchantment is liable to bring about the beginning of the EU’s breakup.That day, British voters will determine whether or not the United Kingdom will remain in the EU.
Popular London Mayor and Conservative MP Boris Johnson is now leading the campaign calling for Britain to leave the EU against the will of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative party establishment.

In recent days, several commentators have claimed that Johnson is Britain’s Donald Trump.
Like Trump, Johnson is able to tap into deep-seated public dissatisfaction with the political and cultural elites and serve as a voice for the disaffected.

If Johnson is able to convince a majority of British voters to support an exit from the EU, then several other EU member states are likely to follow in Britain’s wake.

The exit of states from the EU will cause a political and economic upheaval in Europe with repercussions far beyond its borders. Just as a Trump presidency will usher in an era of high turbulence and uncertainty in US economic and foreign policies, so a post-breakup EU and Western Europe will replace Brussels’ consistent policies with policies that are more varied, and unstable.

For Israel, instability is not necessarily a bad thing. For the past several years, we have consistently suffered under the stable, unswerving anti-Israel policies of both the EU and the Obama administration.
Our inability to influence these policies was brought home last week with the government’s announcement that it is renewing Israel’s diplomatic dialogue with the EU.

Following the EU’s announcement in November that it was implementing its bigoted, arguably unlawful labeling policy against Israeli goods produced beyond the 1949 armistice lines, the government announced that Israel was suspending its diplomatic dialogue with the EU. The government hoped that by forcing Europe to pay a diplomatic price for its hostility, Brussels would back down.

But as it turned out, the ban made no impact on the EU, whose only clear, consistent foreign policy is to oppose Israel. And so, last week, the government cried uncle and announced that it is reinstituting its diplomatic dialogue with the EU.

A senior official explained that Israel chose to end the dispute because it wished to avoid having the labeling policy used as an issue in the debate about the future of the EU. EU champions made it clear to Israeli officials that if the labeling issue wasn’t swept under the rug, then Israel would be liable to be blamed if EU member states opt to exit the union.

Clearly the government is right to seek to avoid having Israel used as an issue in the debates on the future of the EU. But then again, it is also clear that Israel’s foes – led by the likes of the Belgians – don’t need an excuse to attack us.

On the other hand, by backing down, Israel signaled to its European opponents that they can escalate their war against us with impunity.

Moreover, despite the threats of EU officials, it is fairly ridiculous to think that they future of the EU has anything to do with how Israel responds to its political war against us. The Europeans who wish to exit the EU, like those who wish to remain, feel the way they do because of issues that have little to do with Israel.

Beyond the narrow question of how to respond to the labeling assault, from Israel’s perspective, the rise of Trump like the rise of Johnson and the anti-EU forces in Europe indicates that in the coming years, both the US and Europe are likely to move in one of two directions – and Israel has to be prepared for both eventualities.

If the next US president is a Democrat, and if the EU remains intact, then Israel can expect for its relations with the US and the EU to remain in crisis mode for the foreseeable future.

If Trump is elected president and if Britain leads the charge of nations out of the EU, then Israel can expect its relations with both the US and Europe to be marked by turbulence and uncertainty that can lead in a positive direction or a negative direction, or even to both directions at the same time.
Just as Trump has stated both that he will support Israel and be neutral toward Israel, so we can expect for Trump to stand by Israel one day and to rebuke it angrily, even brutally, the next day.

So, too, under Trump, the US may send forces to confront Iran one day, only to announce that Trump is embarking on negotiations to get a sweetheart deal with the ayatollahs the next.

Or perhaps all of these things will happen simultaneously.

As for Europe, whereas the EU stalwarts will likely ratchet up their hostility toward Israel, and we may even see the likes of Sweden or Belgium cut off relations with us, states that leave the EU may be willing to vastly improve their bilateral relations with Israel diplomatically, economically and militarily.

Moreover, if the EU begins to break up, it is likely that the European economy will contract.

As Israel’s largest trading partner, a European recession will hurt Israel.

Whether Trump rises or falls, is defeated by a Republican rival or by a Democratic opponent, and whether or not the EU breaks apart or remains intact, Israel’s leaders need to prepare for the plausible scenarios of either prolonged crises in relations with the US, Europe or both, or turbulent relations that are unpredictable and subject to constant change with one or both of them.

Under these circumstances, the first conclusion that needs to be drawn is that now is not the time to expand our military dependence on the US. Consequently, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon should not conclude an agreement for expanded US security assistance to Israel for the next decade.

Beyond that, Israel needs to expand on the steps that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold are already taking to expand Israel’s network of alliances to Africa and Asia. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit this week marked just the latest achievement of this vital project. Israel’s diplomatic opening to Asia and Africa needs to be matched by similar military and economic openings and expansions of ties.

In the final analysis, Trump’s rise in America and the rise of the populists in Europe is yet another indication of the West’s growing identity crisis fueled by its economic, social, military and cultural weakness. Israel needs to read the writing on the wall and act appropriately lest we become a casualty of that identity crisis.
==========================================================