Friday, August 11, 2017

Will Draining The Swamp Prove Impossible? Kissinger's N Korean Solution .

Draining the swamp is proving to be virtually impossible for several reasons.

First, The Justice Department is fighting revealing what actually took place at The IRS and many of the Obama IRS appointees remain in their positions.

Second, the government is more interested in preventing than accommodating those suing The IRS from obtaining information they are seeking and access to witnesses.

Third, Apparently it is one thing to want to drain the swamp and it requires  an entirely different effort to accomplish the goal because the government has unlimited resources to slow walk and create hurdles.

4) Government is big , resistance to finding truth is crushing and overcoming inertia is overwhelming.  Swamps have a way of sucking you down and seeking facts is anything but an uplifting experience.

If anyone believes government exists to serve the people who pay the salaries of the bureaucrats who are engaged in obstruction they are blind.  Government has become the true enemy of the people.

Anarchists understand and this is why they seek to grow government not reduce it because the more cumbersome the more difficult it is to penetrate government, to uncover skulduggery. Also, the more distant the government the less able are the citizens to penetrate the various layers of bureaucracy.

Trump, for all his effort and sincere desire to get his arms around government, will end as just another Gulliver tied in knots by government servants. (See 1 below.)

To make matters even worse, Trump's most significant enemies reside within the ranks of his own party.  One specifically in the name of Sen. Graham, another in the name of Sen. McCain and  the third, in the name of Sen. McConnell.(See 1a, 1b and 1c below.)
Kissinger has a brilliant mind but I do not believe he has ever understood what it means to be an American.  I am not challenging his loyalty to America but I just have never been able to picture him at a baseball game with a hot dog in his hand and mustard stains on his white shirt.

His solution to the N Korean issue is sensible but can it be enacted?  Time will tell but I have my doubts. (See 2 below.)
1) Trump’s IRS Swamp

Obama-era lawyers are still obstructing lawsuits to hold the agency accountable.

By Kim Strassel

Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, and here’s a seven-month progress report: The Washington bog is still as wide and fetid as ever. Consider that Mr. Trump’s Justice Department has inexplicably continued to defend the IRS’s misdeeds under President Obama.

Voters put a Republican in the White House in part to impose some belated accountability on the scandal-laden Obama administration. And the supreme scandal was the IRS’s assault on tea-party groups—a campaign inspired by congressional Democrats, perpetrated by partisan bureaucrats like Lois Lerner, and covered up by Mr. Obama’s political appointees. This abuse stripped the right to political speech from thousands of Americans over two election cycles. To this day, no one has answered for it.
The groups targeted are still doggedly trying to obtain justice through lawsuits that have dragged on for years. They believed Mr. Trump’s election would bring an end to the government obstruction. It hasn’t. “The posture of the DOJ and the IRS under the Trump administration is identical to the posture under the Obama administration,” Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self-Governance, tells me. “Nothing has changed.”

Mr. Meckler was one of the founders of Tea Party Patriots. His current organization is funding a class-action suit in Ohio federal court on behalf of groups targeted by the IRS. So far the effort has cost $3 million.

That money is now going to fight Mr. Trump’s administration. In recent months the Justice Department has continued refusing to hand over documents or make witnesses available for depositions. The plaintiffs finally managed to depose Ms. Lerner and another key IRS player, Holly Paz, earlier this summer. But their counsels successfully demanded that the transcripts be kept secret from the public. As former federal employees, Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz are presumably getting backup from government lawyers.
The suit has slowly ground through discovery and is teed up for trial early next year. Yet in its latest stunt, the Justice Department has asked for summary judgment—arguing that the facts are so far beyond dispute that the judge should dispense with the trial and simply rule now. This is laughable. The judge is unlikely to even consider it, meaning the motion is nothing more than a way to waste further time and sap the plaintiffs’ resources.
To this day, conservative nonprofits are being toyed with by the IRS. The Texas Patriots Tea Party has waited five years for tax-exempt status and has continued to receive round after round of intrusive agency questions, long after the scandal was exposed and the IRS promised reform.

Other litigants are experiencing the same treatment. The IRS is fighting Judicial Watch in a suit over document requests. Government lawyers are hamstringing a suit against the IRS brought by Z Street, a pro-Israel nonprofit—as described last month in an op-ed on these pages.
The problem is that the same old Obama-era lawyers have been left to run these cases in the same old hostile ways. Who are these people? Laura Beckerman, one of the lead lawyers defending the IRS in the Ohio class action, left government only this month. Her LinkedIn profile says she is now pro bono coordinating counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. CREW is among the most liberal outfits in the capital, fanatically devoted to taking down conservatives. That’s the type still calling the shots in Mr. Trump’s bureaucracy.
The Justice Department’s job is to defend the government, but it is also supposed to pursue justice. And there is no question the IRS did wrong. It has been documented by the Treasury Department’s inspector general and admitted by the IRS itself. It’d be one thing if the plaintiffs were demanding a billion-dollar payout, but they aren’t. Their main request is that the IRS come clean on what happened, and the government is resisting with all its power. The real question is why the Justice Department is even fighting this suit, when it ought to be leading a renewed investigation into what happened and how it got covered up.
This stonewalling cannot be laid solely at the feet of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, another Obama appointee who bizarrely remains in his post. The IRS, as the client, no doubt is calling many of the legal shots. But the Justice Department has the authority in important cases to make the ultimate judgment call on how the government will handle the litigation.
It’s time for some judgment. Senior leaders in the Justice Department may be wary of replacing or redirecting attorneys on the IRS cases, fearing it might provoke another round of media caterwauling. The White House may be wary of canning Mr. Koskinen, thinking it would be cast as another high-profile firing. But Mr. Trump was hired to impose exactly that sort of accountability. If he’s going to get rapped for dramatic moves, it might as well be for doing something that serves justice.

1a)Republicans for Richard Cordray

Trump will pay a price for not firing the Obama holdover.

By The Editorial Board
Mr. Cordray is expected to step down after Labor Day, though not before finalizing a new punitive regulation on payday lenders. The CFPB also recently completed a rule essentially banning mandatory arbitration in financial contracts, which allow parties to settle disputes without the time and expense of heading to court. The point is to steer business toward Mr. Cordray’s friends in the plaintiffs bar. Lawyers grab about $1 million on average from class-action lawsuits—which are the main alternative to arbitration—while the actual litigants take home about $30.
The House last month voted 231-190 to reject the arbitration rule under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress 60 legislative days to repeal a regulation with a majority of both chambers. The White House has relied on Congress to kill pernicious parts of Mr. Cordray’s agenda but that soaks up scarce floor time.
Yet the repeal resolution has hit a snafu in the Senate, where Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) is opposed, no doubt as repayment to lawyers who have donated millions to support his long career blocking tort reform. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) and Susan Collins (R., Maine), who recently voted to preserve Obama Care, are undecided. Their opposition means the arbitration repeal wouldn’t pass the upper chamber, and Mr. Cordray could begin his nationwide trial-bar fund-raising tour as a conquering hero.
All of this was predictable, which is why the main failure here is President Trump’s. For months the Administration has declined to fire Mr. Cordray for cause, despite a litany of reasons and even an appellate-court ruling saying that under the Constitution he can be fired at the President’s pleasure. Mr. Trump rages against Obama-era holdovers in the executive branch, and not without cause, but in this case the damage to his deregulatory agenda, to the economy, and perhaps to the state of Ohio is made in the Oval Office.

1b) The Trump-McConnell Spat

If the GOP Congress fails, so does the Trump Presidency.

By The Editorial Board
Mr. McConnell has been getting the Kim Jong Un treatment this week, as Mr. Trump has pounded away for the Senate’s recent failure to reform ObamaCare. “Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!,” the President tweeted Thursday morning from his vacation redoubt in Bedminster, N.J.
Mr. Trump was slightly more gentle six hours later, but he laid down the Senate’s challenge for September: “Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!”
The President was angered by Mr. McConnell’s remarks earlier in the week in Kentucky that perhaps Mr. Trump expected too much too soon from Congress. “Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before,” Mr. McConnell said, according to a local CNN affiliate that covered the event. “I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”
They both have a point. The ObamaCare collapse was ugly, and Mr. Trump is right to hold Senators accountable for their votes. We certainly don’t plan to forget the many contributors to defeat; see an example nearby.
But Mr. Trump didn’t help the Senate by failing to make a public case for the GOP reforms. Not once did he explain, for example, that paring back ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion for able-bodied adults would protect health care for the truly needy. His failure to master even basic policy details made him useless as a public advocate.
The question is what they do now. Mr. Trump and the GOP are to some extent a shotgun marriage, and a major political risk from the health-care defeat is that Mr. Trump concludes he should start running against the GOP majority. The Steve Bannon wing of the White House would welcome a blowup as they try to rebrand the GOP as a nativist, protectionist movement. They might prefer to run in 2020 against Mr. Schumer than with Mr. McConnell.
But that advice is deadly for Mr. Trump too. He still needs a GOP majority to pass his agenda as much as Republicans need him to sign it. They need each other in particular this autumn to raise the debt ceiling, press deregulation, and pass a budget and tax reform. Failure on that agenda after the health-care fiasco will open the door to a Democratic House—which means nonstop anti-Trump investigations and perhaps impeachment. The best defense against mutual assured political destruction is legislative success in the fall.

1c) John McCain’s Defense Cut

His vote to kill health reform will inevitably squeeze the military.

By The Editorial Board
There is no more passionate and principled advocate for greater military spending than Senator John McCain, so we wonder if the Arizona Republican appreciates that he recently voted to guarantee weaker U.S. defenses. To wit, his vote to kill health reform means that entitlements like Medicaid will continue to squeeze the Pentagon like an ever-tightening vise long after he has retired.
Many in Congress have lamented that President Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal 2018 is more modest than the military buildup he promised during the campaign. He has requested $65 billion in the overseas contingency fund, and overall only 3% more than President Obama’s 2018 budget. This is a far cry from the Reagan defense buildup that helped win the Cold War.
This crowding out has become more pronounced as President Obama sought to protect entitlements from any cuts while pitting defense against discretionary domestic accounts like education and transportation. This was his explicit strategy in signing the Budget Control Act of 2011 that included annual budget caps for defense but not for entitlements.The main reason is that the structure of federal spending has changed dramatically from the 1980s. More than 60% of the federal budget is now swallowed up by mandatory spending on Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, up from about 25% in the 1960s and 42% in the mid-1980s. Interest on the debt absorbs another 6%. That leaves much less for the military, which has dropped to about 15% of the federal fisc from more than 25% in the 1980s.
As ObamaCare came on stream in 2014, spending on Medicaid in particular exploded. The Affordable Care Act dumped federal money on states that add working-age adults above the poverty line to government health-care rolls, and to no great surprise many have signed up. The feds reimburse up to 95% for every addition, whereas the rate is below 60% on average for the disabled, children and other vulnerable populations under original Medicaid.
As the nearby chart shows, annual federal Medicaid outlays rose from $265 billion in 2013 to an estimated $378 billion this year, and they are expected to keep climbing to $439 billion on current trend by 2020. It’s no coincidence that defense spending has fallen and then stayed flat over the same period.
By blocking the Senate bill that could have gone to a House-Senate conference, Mr. McCain blocked the chance to put Medicaid on a long road to sustainability and save as much as $772 billion over 10 years. Moderates helped kill reform with mendacious claims that the legislation would hurt the poor. Mr. McCain justified his killer vote because the Senate lacked an open process, though Senators had been discussing the details for months. Now the Medicaid blowout will accelerate, as states that have so far refused the federal bribe accept that the expansion is here to stay and sign on.
Mr. McCain has surely watched how entitlements have contributed to Western Europe’s shrinking military. As welfare, health-care and retirement subsidies soak up ever more of national economies, Germany and all but four NATO states lack the money or will to spend even 2% of GDP on defense. The U.S. was at 3.6% in 2015, according to NATO, and Republicans may boost that for a while, but watch that shrink toward 2% in the U.S. too as the Baby Boomers retire and ObamaCare goes unreformed.
When Mr. McCain cast his vote on the Senate floor, he was greeted by hugs and huzzahs from Democrats, and no wonder. They understood that the Senator had preserved their entitlement-state priorities at the expense of Senator McCain’s military buildup. We doubt this is the result and legacy that the patriot and former Navy pilot intended, but we regret to say there it is.
2) How to Resolve the North Korea Crisis

An understanding between the U.S. and Beijing is the essential prerequisite. Tokyo and Seoul also have key roles to play.

By Henry A. Kissinger
The Aug. 5 sanctions resolution passed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council marked a major step forward. Still, an agreed objective remains to be established. But the North Korean success in testing a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile eliminates the scope for further equivocation. If Kim Jong Un maintains a nuclear program against the opposition of China and the U.S. and a unanimous Security Council resolution, it will alter the geostrategic relationship among the principal players. If Pyongyang develops a full-scale nuclear capacity while the world dithers, it will seriously diminish the credibility of the American nuclear umbrella in Asia, especially for our allies in Tokyo and Seoul.
The long-term challenge reaches beyond the threat to American territory to the prospect of nuclear chaos. An operational North Korean ICBM arsenal is still some time away given the need to miniaturize warheads, attach them to missiles, and produce them in numbers. But Asia’s nations are already under threat from North Korea’s existing short- and intermediate-range missiles. As this threat compounds, the incentive for countries like Vietnam, South Korea and Japan to defend themselves with their own nuclear weapons will grow dramatically—an ominous turn for the region and the world. Reversing the progress Pyongyang has already made is as crucial as preventing its further advancement.


American as well as multilateral diplomacy on North Korea has been unsuccessful, owing to an inability to merge the key players’ objectives—especially those of China and the U.S.—into an operational consensus. American demands for an end to the North Korean nuclear program have proved unavailing. U.S. leaders, including in the military, have been reluctant to use force; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has described the prospect of a war over Korea as “catastrophic.” Thousands of artillery tubes entrenched within range of the South Korean capital demonstrate Pyongyang’s strategy of holding hostage greater Seoul’s population of 30 million.
Unilateral pre-emptive military action by the U.S. would involve a risk of conflict with China. Beijing, even if it temporarily acquiesced, would not long abide an American strategy of determining by itself outcomes at the very edge of China’s heartland, as its intervention in the Korean War of the 1950s demonstrated. The use of military force must be carefully analyzed, and its vocabulary must be restrained. But it cannot be precluded.
Considerations such as these have caused the administration’s attempt to enlist China in a diplomatic effort to press Korea toward denuclearization. These efforts so far have had only partial success. China shares the American concern regarding nuclear proliferation; it is in fact the country most immediately affected by it. But while America has been explicit about the goal, it has been less willing to confront its political consequences. Given North Korea’s enormous and disproportionate allocation of national resources to its nuclear-weapons program, abandoning or substantially curtailing it would produce a political upheaval, perhaps even regime change.
China surely understands this. Therefore one of the most conspicuous events of current diplomacy is Beijing’s support in principle of North Korean denuclearization. At the same time, the prospect of disintegration or chaos in North Korea evokes at least two major concerns in China. The first is the political and social effects of a North Korean internal crisis on China itself, re-enacting events familiar from millennia of Chinese history. The second involves security in Northeast Asia. China’s incentive to help implement denuclearization will be to impose comparable restraints on all of Korea. To be sure, South Korea has no visible nuclear program or announced plans for it, but an international proscription is another matter.
China would also have a stake in the political evolution of North Korea following denuclearization, whether it be a two-state solution or unification, and in restrictions on military deployment placed on North Korea. Heretofore, the administration has urged China to press North Korea as a kind of subcontractor to achieve American objectives. The better—probably only feasible—approach is to merge the two efforts and develop a common position jointly pursued with the other countries involved.
So which parties should negotiate, and over what? An understanding between Washington and Beijing is the essential prerequisite for the denuclearization of Korea. By an ironic evolution, China at this point may have an even greater interest than the U.S. in forestalling the nuclearization of Asia. Beijing runs the risk of deteriorating relations with America if it gets blamed for insufficient pressure on Pyongyang. Since denuclearization requires sustained cooperation, it cannot be achieved by economic pressure. It requires a corollary U.S.-Chinese understanding on the aftermath, specifically about North Korea’s political evolution and deployment restraints on its territory. Such an understanding should not alter existing alliance relationships.
Paradoxical as it may seem in light of a half-century of history, such an understanding is probably the best way to break the Korean deadlock. A joint statement of objectives and implicit actions would bring home to Pyongyang its isolation and provide a basis for the international guarantee essential to safeguard its outcome.
Seoul and Tokyo must play a key role in this process. No country is more organically involved than South Korea. It must have, by geography and alliance relationship, a crucial voice in the political outcome. It would be the most directly affected by a diplomatic solution and the most menaced by military contingencies. It is one thing for American and other leaders to proclaim that they would not take advantage of North Korea’s denuclearization. Seoul is certain to insist on a more embracing and formal concept.
Similarly, Japan’s history has been linked with Korea’s for millennia. Tokyo’s concept of security will not tolerate indefinitely a nuclear Korea without a nuclear capability of its own. Its evaluation of the American alliance will be importantly influenced by the degree to which the U.S. management of the crisis takes Japanese concerns into account.
The alternative route of a direct U.S. negotiation with Pyongyang tempts some. But it would leave us a partner that can have only a minimum interest in implementation and a maximum interest in playing China and the U.S. off against each other. An understanding with China is needed for maximum pressure and workable guarantees. Instead, Pyongyang could best be represented at a culminating international conference.
There have been suggestions that a freeze of testing could provide an interim solution leading to eventual denuclearization. This would repeat the mistake of the Iranian agreement: seeking to solve a geostrategic problem by constraining the technical side alone. It would provide infinite pretexts for procrastination while “freeze” is defined and inspection mechanisms are developed.
Pyongyang must not be left with the impression that it can trade time for procedure and envelop purpose in tactics as a way to stall and thus fulfill its long-held aspirations. A staged process may be worth considering, but only if it substantially reduces the Korean nuclear capacity and research program in the short term.
A North Korea retaining an interim weapons capability would institutionalize permanent risks:
• that a penurious Pyongyang might sell nuclear technology;
• that American efforts may be perceived as concentrating on protecting its own territory, while leaving the rest of Asia exposed to nuclear blackmail;
• that other countries may pursue nuclear deterrent against Pyongyang, one another or, in time, the U.S.;
• that frustration with the outcome will take the form of mounting conflict with China;
• that proliferation may accelerate in other regions;
• that the American domestic debate may become more divisive.
Substantial progress toward denuclearization—and its attainment in a brief period—is the most prudent course.
Mr. Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

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