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“He Believes In Nothing And Everything”: If This Was Trump At His ‘Presidential’ Best, He’s In Big Trouble

After Donald Trump’s big speech yesterday on foreign policy, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Twitter, “Washington elites mock Trump for mispronouncing Tanzania. They don’t get it. He said the most important word correctly: America. He gets it.”

I suppose this is true in a literal sense. It is “important” for an American presidential candidate to pronounce the name of their own country correctly, and if this is the new standard for success, I’m pleased to report that Gingrich is correct: Trump cleared this absurdly low bar.

But aside from pronouncing “America” correctly, the rest of Trump’s remarks were an unnerving mess. MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin reported:

Looking to soothe fears that he lacked the experience and gravitas necessary to manage the most powerful military in the world, Donald Trump delivered a rare pre-written speech Wednesday in Washington outlining his foreign policy vision.

In many ways it raised more questions than it answered, bouncing between typical anti-Obama talking points, jarring threats to America’s friends and rivals, and soothing talk of peaceful global cooperation.

“Jarring” is the ideal adjective in this case. At one point, Trump said the United States must be prepared to tell our old allies that they should “defend themselves” and not look to us for support. In the next breath, Trump expressed dismay that so many U.S. allies feel abandoned by President Obama.

How did the Republican frontrunner reconcile the contradiction? He didn’t – Trump simply transitioned to new contradictions before anyone could fully come to terms with the last one.

Americans were told, for example, that a Trump administration would replace “randomness with purpose” through “a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy.” He then insisted, “We must as, a nation, be more unpredictable.”

Trump opposes the idea of a foreign policy based on “ideology,” rejecting the idea of exporting Western-style democracy abroad. He then emphasized the importance of “promoting Western civilization” around the globe.

Trump lamented the way in which our “resources are overextended.” He also believes the United States must “continually play the role of peacemaker” and “help to save lives and, indeed, humanity itself.”

Trump boasted about all of the leverage we have over China, around the same time as he complained about how we no longer have leverage over China.

And don’t get me started about Trump’s ridiculous factual errors.

So, what does Donald Trump believe about foreign policy? He believes in nothing and everything, all at once. As president, he would do more and less, wage war and peace, reach out and push away, all while being unflinchingly consistent and wildly unpredictable.

In other words, Trump doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about – and unfortunately for him, quite a few folks noticed. Politico reported:

[A]cross the ideological spectrum, and even among natural allies, Trump’s speech received a failing grade for coherence and drew snickering and scorn from foreign policy insiders who remain unconvinced that Trump is up to the job.

“It struck me as a very odd mishmash,” said Doug Bandow, a foreign policy scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, who shares many of Trump’s beliefs about scaling back America’s role abroad. “He called for a new foreign policy strategy, but you don’t really get the sense he gave one.”

Trump’s speech was “lacking in policy prescriptions,” and its “strident rhetoric masked a lack of depth,” said Robert “Bud” McFarlane, a former national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan who attended the speech.

If Trump had merely presented a blueprint for a bad foreign policy, that would at least be the basis for a credible debate. Plenty of candidates offer misguided ideas and dangerous solutions, and if nothing else, they serve as the foundation for something that can be critiqued.

But dealing with an incoherent, contradictory mess is far more difficult.

The irony is, yesterday’s speech, coming on the heels of his five landslide primary victories the day before, was supposed to help Trump appear more presidential. Speaking from a teleprompter, the Republican frontrunner hoped to convey a sense of seriousness and gravitas. But for anyone who actually listened to the content of his remarks, yesterday served as a powerful reminder that the former reality-show host isn’t yet prepared for the role of Leader of the Free World.

 

By: Steve Beben, The Maddow Blog, April 28, 2016

April 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, U. S. Allies | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Simply Has No Idea What He’s Talking About”: Trump’s Newest Dubious Boast: ‘I Do Know My Subject’

Last week, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump had a fairly long conversation with the Washington Post, which tried to explore his views on foreign policy in detail. The discussion made it abundantly clear that the GOP candidate simply has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s not just that Trump’s arguments are wrong; it’s also that he seems lost when it comes to basic details.

On Friday afternoon, it was the New York Times’ turn. Alas, it appears efforts to teach Trump about international affairs aren’t going well.

In criticizing the Iran nuclear deal, he expressed particular outrage at how the roughly $150 billion released to Iran (by his estimate; the number is in dispute) was being spent. “Did you notice they’re buying from everybody but the United States?” he said.

Told that sanctions under United States law still bar most American companies from doing business with Iran, he said: “So, how stupid is that? We give them the money and we now say, ‘Go buy Airbus instead of Boeing,’ right?”

But Mr. Trump, who has been pushed to demonstrate a basic command of international affairs, insisted that voters should not doubt his foreign policy fluency. “I do know my subject,” he said.

It’s quite clear, of course, that he doesn’t know his subject. The full transcript has been posted online, and honestly, it’s hard to even know which parts to highlight – because so much of the interview is incoherent. Andrea Mitchell noted on “Meet the Press” yesterday that Trump “is completely uneducated about any part of the world.” The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg added on “Face the Nation” that it’s “remarkable to imagine that someone who shows so little interest in understanding why the world is organized the way it is organized is this close to the presidency of the world’s only superpower.”

Trump noted, for example, that countries with “nuclear capability” represent the “biggest problem the world has.” Soon after, however, the candidate argued that the United States has to “talk about” allowing Japan and South Korea to have a nuclear arsenal of their own. He also referred to his fear of “nuclear global warming,” whatever that is.

Asked about U.S. policy towards China, Trump added this gem: “Would I go to war? Look, let me just tell you. There’s a question I wouldn’t want to answer. Because I don’t want to say I won’t or I will…. That’s the problem with our country. A politician would say, ‘Oh I would never go to war,’ or they’d say, ‘Oh I would go to war.’ I don’t want to say what I’d do because, again, we need unpredictability.”

In other words, just take a guess, American voters, before casting a ballot about the possible intentions of the country’s next Commander in Chief. Trump won’t tell you before the election, but don’t worry, he promises to be “unpredictable” – in a “winning” way.

Trump spoke with pride about his “take the oil” posture related to Iraq, but he conceded that would require deploying considerable U.S. ground troops, which he’s not prepared to do. “Now we have to destroy the oil,” he said articulating a new position.

I saw some comparisons over the weekend between these Trump interviews and the infamous Sarah Palin interview with Katie Couric in 2008. The parallels matter: both made clear that the Republican seeking national office was manifestly unprepared to lead.

But there are differences. First, Palin’s difficulties were televised, which tends to produce a different public reaction – along with excerpts that can be re-aired, over and over again, by a variety of networks – as compared to long print interviews.

And second, in 2016, it appears Trump’s ignorance, no matter how brazen, just isn’t seen as a problem among his Republican supporters.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 28, 2016

March 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, International Affairs | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump Is Dead Wrong”: America Is A Fabulously Rich And Great Nation

America isn’t broke. Nor is it on the verge of a government debt crisis (whatever “crisis” even means for a nation whose debt is printed in a currency that is both its own and the world’s reserve). America is not in decay, and the last thing the U.S. should do is rashly withdraw from a dangerous world because of those mistaken beliefs.

This should be especially clear after the Belgium terror attacks.

Yet retreat is just what Donald Trump seems to be proposing. In an interview with The Washington Post editorial board Monday, Trump questioned the U.S. role in NATO and presence in Asia due to the financial burden they require:

I mean, we pay billions — hundreds of billions of dollars to supporting other countries that are in theory wealthier than we are. … When you look at the kind of money that our country is losing, we can’t afford to do this. Certainly we can’t afford to do it anymore…. I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country. And we’re a poor country now. [Trump]

Looks like we finally found something Trump is in favor of off-shoring: America’s security.

Now, it’s certainly legitimate to evaluate the mission and cost of America’s overseas military commitments and posture. But that’s a different thing than scrapping our military alliances — or threatening to do so as some ham-handed budget negotiating tactic. Leading the free world, reassuring allies, and deterring aggression have little overlap with the skills needed to drive a hard bargain with a potential tenant in Trump Tower.

And yet, Republicans might give Trump’s defense policy ideas more of a hearing than they deserve because of their persistent debt fears. After all, it’s mainstream GOP economic thought that U.S. finances are precarious. How could they not be given the $19 trillion federal debt — $22 trillion if you include state and local government? These are figures Trump always mentions, as do many Republican politicians. They provide handy justification for arguing we can’t afford to invest in science, repair and upgrade our infrastructure, or bolster wages for low-income workers.

But here’s the thing: The U.S. is far from a poor nation. American households entered 2016 with a net worth of nearly $87 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. To put that ginormous number in some context, China’s private wealth has been estimated at $23 trillion. Even if you factor in America’s debt-laden public sector and China’s large state-owned companies, the U.S. still has a $45 trillion wealth edge.

There are other ways of looking at national wealth that also show America’s riches. The value of U.S. intellectual capital has been estimated at around $9 trillion, with the value of the intangible assets — such as patents, copyrights, and general business methods — at nearly $15 trillion. And given Trump’s appreciation of brands — he generously values his own at $3 billion — you would think the businessman would appreciate America’s, which has been valued at close to $20 trillion.

Maybe all this wealth is one reason global financial markets don’t seem so worried about the U.S. debt. Well, that and the U.S. tax burden being one of the lowest in the developed world. The dollar is strong, and interest rates are low, as are inflation expectations. None of this is to say the U.S. should be a spendthrift in either defense or social spending. Without entitlement reform, Medicare and Social Security will require massive tax increases to keep their promises. Yet Trump would leave them untouched, vowing implausibly to fix their fiscal problems through higher economic growth alone.

The U.S. isn’t bankrupt. Our pockets aren’t empty. We aren’t a pauper nation.

But, of course, you can’t promise to make America great again without arguing that it currently isn’t.

 

By: James Pethokoukis, The Week, March 23, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economic Policy, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Fear Of Being A Sucker”: How One Word Explains Donald Trump’s Entire Worldview

When the story of Trump University came out, some of Donald Trump’s critics began referring to him as a con artist. Trump is extraordinarily thin-skinned; he can’t seem to let any attack roll off him. So last Tuesday he spent lots of time explaining why his various branding ventures — not just Trump U but also Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, and many others — were not cons, but the most premium-quality experiences its customers ever had. But I suspect Trump wasn’t all that insulted by being called a con artist; his business is about branding and myth-making, and he knows that there’s a fine line between a con man and a great salesman. What Trump really couldn’t tolerate is being the guy on the other end of the con: a sucker.

The fear of being a sucker seems to be one of the prime motivating forces in Trump’s entire life, one that shapes not only his business career, but how he views the country. In the recent biography Never Enough, author Michael D’Antonio singles out an event that occurred when Trump was a freshman in college as a seminal moment. Attending the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge with his father, Trump saw how the elderly architect who designed the bridge, Othmar Ammann, was ignored by developer Robert Moses during the ceremony, not listed among the people Moses thanked. “The lesson Trump took away was that somehow Ammann was to blame for being overlooked,” D’Antonio writes. “Trump decided he would remember the incident because ‘I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.'” And suckers are worthy of nothing but contempt.

That’s what animates Trump’s deal-making as he sees it — is he the sucker, or is the other guy? A sucker is someone who doesn’t understand the balance of power, who gets taken advantage of by someone smarter, who’s humiliated, emasculated, and ridiculed. It isn’t a surprise that Trump was drawn to the casino business, where every day millions of dollars are made by casino owners taking money from suckers who don’t understand that the game is rigged against them.

With that in mind, listen to how Trump talks about America and how it relates to other countries. For Trump, relations between countries, particularly when it comes to trade, are really just a question of who’s the sucker. And as he sees it, it’s us.

For instance, you could view China or Mexico as nations that have pursued a growth model based on low-wage manufacturing, utilizing the comparative advantage they enjoy at this point (lots of people eager to work for not much money). But Trump sees only a con game, one where not only are we the marks, but — and this is critical — they’re laughing at us. “If you don’t tax certain products coming into this country from certain countries that are taking advantage of the United States and laughing at our stupidity,” he said at Thursday’s debate, “we’re going to continue to lose businesses and we’re going to continue to lose jobs.”

The idea that trade is not exactly a zero-sum game — for instance, that American consumers benefit from being able to buy imported goods at low cost — is not part of his calculation. Trump brings up the idea of other countries laughing at us so often that in January, The Washington Post charted over 100 instances of Trump asserting that others are laughing at America, from China (the biggest laugher, apparently) to OPEC to Mexico to Iran. Often he’ll just say that “the whole world” is laughing at us, which is the sucker’s ultimate fear: not just that you got scammed, but that everyone knows it, and points their fingers at you in mockery.

When Mitt Romney gave a speech earlier this month attempting to dissuade Republicans from voting for Trump, he said, “He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.” Romney may be closer to Trump in this way than you’d think; in 2012, when he got asked about his low tax rate, he would say, “I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.” In other words, only a sucker wouldn’t hire a team of accountants to find every last loophole in the tax code, and how could someone like that be president?

I can’t help but think that there’s a part of Donald Trump that doesn’t really mind when someone like Romney calls him a con man, so long as nobody takes it too seriously. Sure, he doesn’t want Americans to think that he’s just running a scam on them. But there’s one thing a lot worse than being the one pulling the con, and that’s being the one who got conned. Because then people might laugh at you.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, March 14, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“America Is Not A Planet, It’s A Country”: Rubio Is Asked About Climate Change: Ignorance Ensues

I have a hard time imagining a scenario in which Marco Rubio becomes the Republican nominee. That is likely to be completely obvious if he fails to win his home-state primary in Florida on Tuesday. That’s why I’m reluctant to even talk about him. But his performance in last night’s debate has me scratching my head at his ignorance and/or deceit.

Since the beginning, Rubio has been assumed to represent “moderate” Republicans and people have posited that he has a chance of appealing to young people – perhaps simply because of his age. But at last night’s debate, he was finally asked to talk about climate change, something that is of great importance to young people. And it’s hard to overstate how ignorant his response was. For example, how about this whopper:

But as far as a law that we can pass in Washington to change the weather, there’s no such thing.

That misses on so many levels for such a short sentence! Of course there’s “no such thing.” That is why no one is proposing any laws that would attempt to change the weather. Rubio leaves us with a familiar conundrum: is he really stupid enough to think that anyone is actually suggesting that a law can change the weather, or is he merely lying as a way to distract us from the issue at hand? In the end, does it really matter?

Then, in talking about President Obama’s actions to address climate change, Rubio made this statement that might have been relevant several years ago.

You know what impact it would have on the environment? Zero. Because China and India will still be polluting at historic levels.

That Paris climate accord folks like Rubio have been trashing since it was reached…does he even know what is in it? Does he have no idea that China and India have committed to reducing their carbon emissions and will not – in fact – be polluting at historic levels? Again – ignorance or lie? You tell me.

Rubio went on to make the usual Republican claim that Americans have to chose between a habitable planet and a healthy economy – something that is being proven false on a daily basis. But when Jake Tapper asked him to comment directly on whether humans are contributing to climate change, he laid out another whopper.

I would say there’s no law we could pass that would have an impact on that.

I don’t really think that Rubio wants to suggest that laws can’t be passed to affect human behavior. And yet that’s what he just implied.

How about this for a closer:

America is not a planet. It’s a country.

I have no idea what he means by that. Of course, it’s true. It’s like saying, “the sky is blue.” But what does that have to do with what we’re talking about? Nothing.

Watching this exchange I came to one conclusion: if Rubio is any indication, Republicans REALLY don’t want to talk about climate change during this election season. Obfuscate, distract, make meaningless assertions – that is what we’ll see. In the process, they’ll just look ignorant.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 11, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Climate Change, Marco Rubio, Paris Climate Accord | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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