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“The Weakness Of President Trump”: Trump Would Be Beyond Embarrassing For The United States On The World Stage

This is happening, America.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump—a man who has never held elected office—swept the Super Tuesday primaries last night, dominating seven of eleven contests. His authoritarian-enamored supporters remain inexorably drawn more than anything else to the candidate’s presumed strength.

That strength is supposedly a massive correction to the perceived weakness and fecklessness of President Obama on the world stage. The globe may be on fire, but it will fall in line—if only the American president would be more pugnacious and demanding towards allies and adversaries alike. In this view, Trump’s force of personality is a panacea; his self-fulfilling assurances about his own intelligence, likability, and winning record cease to be a means to policy and become the policies in and of themselves.

But what if Trump’s supporters aren’t just wrong (they are), but catastrophically so? What if that so-called strength—the forwardness, unapologetic aggression, and of course the distaste for “political correctness”—that they so love about candidate Trump turns out to be a debilitating weakness for President Trump and, by extension, our country?

Imagine, for a moment, how President Trump would actually function on the world stage.

Imagine President Trump listening to speeches at the United Nations General Assembly. Say another foreign leader bruises his ego, perhaps with a well-intentioned joke or a purposefully mocking barb. President Trump will not be able to sue, so where will he turn next? From denouncing the leader with juvenile insults to espousing racist sentiments on the world stage, the consequences are sure to be embarrassing.

Imagine President Trump’s childish demands falling on deaf ears in the international community. Suppose Mexico refuses to pay for his luxurious wall, or that allies like Japan and Germany decline to pay tribute for hosting U.S. military bases on their soil. President Trump will not be able to bend them to his will through endless bloviating, so what will become of American credibility? From the alienation of longtime U.S. allies to a full-scale evaporation of U.S. soft power, the consequences are sure to be crippling.

Imagine President Trump in top national security briefings, surrounded by patriotic men and women trying desperately to educate and advise him on the nuances of U.S. foreign policy. If he makes good on his campaign promises, he’ll be ordering them to pursue catastrophic escalations with rival states or execute war crimes against civilians and combatants alike. President Trump will not be able to force them to abide by his un-American dictates, so what will happen to our nation’s civil workforce? Whether we see mass resignations or a full-scale revolt by the people who spend their professional lives working to keep us safe, the consequences are sure to be disastrous.

There are plenty of policy-oriented reasons to decry the prospect of Trump as commander-in-chief—he has a childlike understanding of the world around him, including an astounding ignorance of the details about our enemies, the value of our allies, and the capabilities of our own country. There are obviously moral arguments against him too, among them his unabashed support of torture and his coziness towards any dictator that bats his eyes in Trump’s direction. But perhaps more than anything else, it is Trump’s temperament that disqualifies him from leadership: The “strength” he loves to flex to raucous applause would leave the United States weaker, isolated, and sapped of all credibility.

Trump would be beyond embarrassing for the United States on the world stage. His gaffes, infantilism, and self-assured ignorance would, intentionally or not, systematically destroy our reputation as a world leader, taking down the international order that the greatest generation raised from the ashes of World War II along the way. Trump’s unpredictable and fragile ego — the ego of a man who sends rebuttals to his “losers and haters” signed, literally, in gold sharpie—would become the proxy for how the United States is perceived in the world.

Since 1990, Trump has bemoaned that America is “laughed at” around the world. It is an emotional sentiment that resonates well with his base, but the joke is on them. Should President Trump make his way to the Oval Office, there is little doubt the world will be laughing even harder.

 

By: Graham F. West, The National Memo, March 3, 2016

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rubio Recycles Romney’s Risible Rubbish”: Shockingly “Uninformed” About International Affairs And Security Issues

Marco Rubio used to consider immigration his signature issue. When that didn’t turn out well, the Florida senator decided national security would be his new area of expertise.

Maybe he should keep looking. Consider this line from last night’s debate.

“Today, we are on pace to have the smallest Army since the end of World War II, the smallest Navy in 100 years, the smallest Air Force in our history. You cannot destroy ISIS with a military that’s being diminished.”

It’s amazing to me that Rubio, for all of his purported interest in the subject, still doesn’t understand the basics.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said his party’s national candidates “don’t know what they’re talking about” and maintain a “level of dialogue on national security issues would embarrass a middle schooler.” Why Rubio is so eager to prove Gates right is a mystery.

As we discussed over the summer, when the senator first started pushing this line, this was actually one of Mitt Romney’s more embarrassing talking points.

Indeed, this was the basis for arguably the biggest takedown of the 2012 presidential campaign. In the third debate between President Obama and Romney, the Republican complained, “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917…. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947.”

Romney had used the same argument many times on the stump, and the prepared president pounced. “Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama explained. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities?”

It was a rough moment for the Republican, whose canned talking points were made to look ridiculous. And yet, Rubio insists on repeating them.

Bloomberg Politics had a good piece on this a while back, noting that the GOP senator’s arguments “don’t add up.”

[T]he numbers of ships and planes don’t define U.S. military capabilities. Modern warships, notably aircraft carriers and submarines, are far more effective and lethal than their World War II predecessors.

The Air Force is preparing to field the costliest jet fighter ever built, Lockheed Martin’s F-35, and already has the second generation F-22 with stealth characteristics. Advances in precision guidance and intelligence collection make even older aircraft such as the F-15 and F-16 far more capable than the jets that preceded them.

Romney at least had a decent excuse – he had no foreign policy experience, no national security experience, no working understanding of how the military operates, and he hadn’t even held public office for the six years leading up to the 2012 campaign.

But Rubio claims to be his party’s most impressive expert on matters of national security – the Republican authority on keeping Americans safe. So why is he relying on discredited talking points from a candidate who failed four years ago?

Of course, this was just one example from last night’s debate. Slate’s Fred Kaplan described the entire Republican field as “clueless” and “shockingly uninformed” about international affairs and security issues.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 29, 2016

January 31, 2016 Posted by | Immigration Reform, International Affairs, Marco Rubio, National Security | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Knowing Who’s On Your Airplane”: Inconveniencing People Should Not Trump (Excuse The Expression) National Security

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to think that the feds have screened the other passengers sitting on my airplane. To do that, they also have to screen me. That’s the deal.

In America, any state-issued driver’s license had long been acceptable ID for passing security checks at airports. That lax attitude changed after Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists turned four commercial jetliners full of passengers into missiles, killing thousands more on the ground. All four planes took off from U.S. airports.

On the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, Congress passed the Real ID Act. It tightens standards for state driver’s licenses used to board flights. Among other information, applicants must provide their Social Security number and immigration status. The licenses must also contain a chip or other technology that can be read by a computer. The deadline for compliance is approaching.

Some states have done their duty and issued secure driver’s licenses. Others have made enough progress that their licenses are acceptable for the time being. And a few states — Washington, Minnesota and New Mexico, for example — have largely not complied. Barring another extension of the deadline, their driver’s licenses will soon be inadmissible as proof of identity at airport security.

Consider the stakes.

When Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed last year, killing all 239 aboard, the world shuddered to learn that two of the passengers had carried fake passports. The two, it turned out, were not terrorists but ordinary Iranians trying to move to Germany.

Everyone, Americans included, noted that known terrorists bent on destruction could probably have secured similar phony ID. But there’s a tendency, especially among Americans, to rapidly forget what obsessed them the year before.

With the deadline for Real ID drawing near, hostility has again flared toward letting the federal government do what it must to ensure that passengers flashing driver’s licenses at airport security are who they say they are.

To me, the main difference between a secure driver’s license and an insecure one is that the insecure one can be used for committing crimes, among them identity theft and fraud. But to many foes of Real ID, secure ones’ threat to privacy is a more serious matter.

The foes argue that requiring enhanced licenses is tantamount to creating a national identity card. That presupposes that a national identity card would be a terrible thing. Actually, the gentlest of European democracies have national identity cards, and they haven’t turned into police states.

Besides, Americans already have a national ID number, courtesy of Social Security. When the Social Security program was established in 1935, its enemies fulminated against the issuance of numbers, with some of the arguments now being hurled at Real ID.

As historian Douglas Brinkley writes, “Critics likened the process to the social engineering used in fascist nations, notably Nazi Germany, predicting that American workers would be forced to wear metal tags on chains around their necks and charging that ‘surveillance is a part of the plans of the (Franklin D.) Roosevelt administration.’”

It was inevitable that an ID requiring proof of immigration status would rankle defenders of undocumented workers. One wishes for a solution to the immigration problem that is humane to both those settled here illegally and American workers competing with them for jobs. (Such a plan would legalize the status of most of the undocumented while cutting off future illegal entry.)

That said, it is politically unwise to let concerns about inconveniencing people here illegally trump (excuse the expression) concern over national security.

An air disaster set off by passengers getting on board with fake ID would move many fence-sitters to the side of Real ID. But let’s not wait for it.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, December 31, 2015

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Air Travel, National ID Card, National Security | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dr. Ben Carson Is On Life Support”: Slowly Fading, Just One Step Away From Hospice

Moments before Tuesday night’s fear-mongering GOP debate, Ben Carson gave a preview of the utter strangeness that was to emerge from his mouth during the night’s proceedings.

During a visit to the media spin room, Carson was asked if he would need to ramp up his rhetoric in the ensuing debate. His response was nothing short of bewildering.

“Um, well maybe I’ll bring some weapons with me, spice it up a little bit,” he told ABC News, chortling at his own odd suggestion. This off-hand remark was strangely prescient, characterizing the night was to come.

Instead of the foreign policy “slam dunk” he promised in a campaign video, Carson sunk into the background as the top-tier candidates—Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and to some degree Christie—duked it out in varying dour and vicious tones.

What little stage time Carson got (some 10 minutes and 27 seconds approximately) was consumed by a highlight reel of ill-fated remarks about bombing children and disruptive coughing, and, of course, a complaint about not getting enough time.

Hugh Hewitt asked a question about the former neurosurgeon’s ability to declare war where children would inevitably end up as casualties. The response could have served as a demonstration of strength, a label which often evades Carson next to the bombastic yelling of Trump, but ended up as an ill-fated comparison to his medical experience.

“Well, interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them ‘We’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor,’” Carson tangentially responded. “They’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me.”

“And by the same token,” he went on, “you have to be able to look at the big picture, and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by a thousand pricks.”

Hewitt pressed him by bluntly asking if Carson would be OK with the deaths of thousands of civilians and children in an effort to fight terrorism. Amidst the boos that erupted in the Venetian Casino, Carson awkwardly replied, “You got it,” seemingly not believing the words he himself was actually saying. Even when Carson leaned on what little applicable experience he has, referencing the scholars fund he created to demonstrate leadership abilities, he misfired.

“One of the things that you’ll notice if you look through my life is that I don’t do a lot of talking,” Carson said. “I do a lot of doing.” But Carson gave more than 141 paid speeches between the start of 2014 and the beginning of his campaign, not to mention an extensive, quasi-illegal book tour wedged in the middle of this campaign cycle.

His floundering in the debate may not have been so noticeable if there weren’t as much at stake for Carson. It wasn’t that long ago that Carson bolted to the front of the GOP pack, drawing the attention of Trump’s oxygen-extinguishing ire (remember when he analogized him to a child molester?).

But November’s terrorist attacks in Paris pivoted the conversation to national security and foreign policy, causing Carson, who was woefully unprepared for any in-depth conversation on either topic, to plummet in the polls.

His campaign tried to make adjustments to mold the quiet doctor into an overnight foreign policy wonk, including a trip to Syrian refugee camps, which resulted in the badly worded summarization: They were not that bad. Carson is scheduled to take another trip, this time to Africa, this month.

Carson’s campaign even released a seven-step plan to “protect America” ahead of the debate, that includes a call for a declaration of war against ISIS. Only special ops forces would be needed on the ground for the time being, his communications manager Doug Watts told The Daily Beast yesterday.

Yet in the debate, Carson seemed to be all but certain that there would be ground troops in this war.

“If our military experts say we need boots on the ground, we should put boots on the ground and recognize that there will be boots on the ground and they’ll be over here, and they’ll be their boots if we don’t get out of there now,” he said during a particularly meandering answer.

But the seventh step of the procedural is the one that probably gives the most pause. The final proposal of the Carson Doctrine to make America safe again calls for an investigation of “the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and a supporter of terrorism.”

“Given the precarious situation America is in with sleeper cells and jihadists making threats from within, and CAIR’s background, publicly stated affinity with Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, we believe further investigation is in order,” Watts elaborated.

The United Arab Emirates did in fact put CAIR on its own version of a terrorist watch list in 2014, but experts balked at the suggestion that the organization poses a viable threat in the United States.

“Carson’s remarks are typically silly,” Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institutes in Washington, told The Daily Beast. “He pontificates a great deal about Muslim and Islamic matters, and every time he opens his mouth, he reveals himself to be exceptionally ignorant and informed entirely by bigots and a hateful rhetoric.”

The bigots to whom Ibish is referring include Islamophobe and recent GOP darling Frank Gaffney Jr., who has suggested that CAIR is waging a “stealthy, pre-violent” jihad against the United States. (Gaffney also insists American Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist is secretly working to help Muslim Brotherhood moles infiltrate the U.S. government.)

Ibish explained that while CAIR may have had “origins in Brotherhood-supporting or sympathetic causes,” the organization is by no means “connected to terrorism or in any practical, material sense supportive of terrorism.”

“If Dr. Carson doesn’t realize that CAIR has been ‘investigated’ since 9/11 as thoroughly as any American organizational entity has ever been investigated by the government, he hasn’t got a clue,” Ibish added. “But then again, he is a fool.”

For their part, CAIR condemned Carson a long time ago when he said that he was against a Muslim being president.

“Ben Carson is a failing candidate grasping at straws and seeking payback for CAIR’s previous criticism of his anti-Muslim bigotry,” Corey Saylor, the national legislative director for the organization, told The Daily Beast. “He found that Islamophobia gave him a boost in the past, so he is using it again.”

But there are no obvious signs that it will give him a boost now.

Carson fell from 22 percent to 11 percent in two Washington Post-ABC News polls taken less than a month apart. And even as the campaign attempts to right the sinking ship, private tensions between business manager Armstrong Williams and other staffers are getting played out in public.

And if last night’s debate was any indication, all Carson can do is smile and feign toughness on a stage with loudmouth bigots and opportunistic politicians simply out-muscling him.

It doesn’t work to play nice anymore.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, December 16, 2015

December 18, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Islamophobia, National Security, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shorter GOP Debate: What Domestic Terrorism?”: Terrorism To Republicans Looks Like Someone Else

About two-thirds of the way through the GOP Debate/Goat Rodeo last night, in the midst of yet another Syrian refugee pile-on, I tweeted, “How about vetting the multiple white guys who committed domestic terrorism in Colorado?”

My friend Tom Sullivan retweeted it with a note, “White college students from CA caused more terror in CO than any refugee ever will.”

Tom, tragically, would know. His son Alex was murdered in the Aurora theater gun massacre.

The debate was billed to focus on national security. You heard lots about Paris and San Bernardino and the threat that shut down the Los Angeles school system Tuesday. Not a word about Charleston. Or Aurora. Or Colorado Springs. Or Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Or Sandy Hook, just a day after the anniversary of what was a most horrific day among so many in the American timeline of mass shootings. A distinction shared by no other developed country, many of whom have seen homeland violence but none with the numbing regularity of ours.

Ben Carson did a moment of silence for San Bernardino – which is appropriate. But nobody said a word about a school full of dead teachers and 6- and 7-year-olds, almost three years to the day since they died.

Terrorism to Republicans looks like someone else. Terrorism to many other Americans looks like someone they know and we know, someone who takes cues from Internet mutterings about baby parts, or a deranged and feeble young man with available mass-killing weapons at home or a white supremacist acting on ramblings from the darkest corners of a disturbed mind.

We actually have met the enemy, which is why there are reproductive health care doctors who go to work wearing bulletproof vests. But Republicans don’t want to talk about it. And frankly, CNN whiffed on bringing it up.

As the scorecard goes, Jeb Bush finally woke up the fact that yes, he is losing to That Guy, the Short Fingered Vulgarian Donald Trump, about four debates too late. As my friend Mike Gehrke put it, Rand Paul actually sounded sane to drunk Democrats. I don’t understand Ted Cruz’s base, but he appeared to speak to it effectively while attacking Rubio for being soft on immigration. Trump blustered his way through as usual, and his supporters don’t care. Chris Christie seems to have adopted Rudy Giuliani’s “noun, verb, 9/11” approach. The air has gone out of the Carly Fiorina balloon to the point she made multiple “pay attention to me” pleas to the moderators.

The penultimate moment of the whole thing may have been when Ben Carson, having sufficiently malapropped “Hamas” into “hummus” last week, dubbed the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Pubis. Who knew he had a porn name?

Along with domestic terrorism, the other thing notably absent from the campaign was much mention of Hillary Clinton, which suits her just fine. The longer Republicans stay divided, keep bloviating among themselves and persist in throwing duck-face shade on the split screen, the better for Democrats in what will be a hard-fought 2016 election.

 

By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, December 16, 2015

December 17, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Mass Shootings, National Security | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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