mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Donald Trump’s Catastrophic Ignorance”: Falling Flat On His Face Because He Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About

The general election has begun, and Donald Trump is clearly trying to pivot to the center. As my colleague Jeff Spross points out, he’s backed away from his monstrously rich-tilted tax plan, suggested more government borrowing might be in order, and raised the possibility of increasing the minimum wage.

It’s very clearly an attempt to win middle- and working-class votes for the general election. Looking past his outrageous bigotry, there’s just one problem with this strategy: Trump’s spectacular policy ignorance. It’s going to be hard to capture the center when one has only the vaguest idea of what that even means.

As the various fact-checking crews never tire of pointing out, Trump is constantly making one outrageously false statement after another. Many of them are just simple lies about how rich he is, whether or not his steaks exist, how well he’s doing in the polls, and so forth. But many other times it’s Trump genuinely trying to opine about some issue, and falling flat on his face because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

There was the time that Marco Rubio landed a rare clean hit on him during the primary debates by demonstrating clearly that Trump has no plan whatsoever to replace ObamaCare, or on another occasion when it was stone obvious that he has no idea how the old Cuba embargo worked, or what the newly opened relationship entails.

President Trump renames Obamacare to ‘Trumpcare.’ ‘it’s good now, I fixed it.’ Trump declares

— raandy (@randygdub) August 26, 2015

More recently, Trump said several times that Puerto Rico (suffering a serious debt crisis) should simply declare bankruptcy. That’s a good idea except that it’s illegal, which is actually the subject of a proposal being fiercely debated in Congress. That’s the entire problem in the first place. He’s not just ignorant, he can’t even be bothered to pay attention to the most basic content of what’s happening in Washington.

More alarmingly, he also suggested on Thursday that should the U.S. ever run into any debt problems, he would just force creditors to accept a reduction in the value of their bonds (or “haircut”). This means at least partial sovereign default. As U.S. debt is the foundation of the global financial system, this would quite literally threaten economic Armageddon — and clearly comes from a misapplication of business logic to government policy, as Matt Yglesias notes. Trump made his money by borrowing a lot, investing in rapidly appreciating real estate, cashing out the equity, then declaring bankruptcy if there was a crash later, as economist Hyman Minksy detailed at the time.

That’s a sensible if parasitic approach to business. But it’s no way to run a nation. Government policy creates the underlying economic framework that allows businessmen to take risks like Trump did building up his fortune. U.S. government debt, as the world’s safest economic asset, is a key part of that framework. Treating it like a corporate junk bond would make it massively more risky than previously thought, creating a financial shockwave that would reverberate through the entire world and cause a global economic panic.

More to the point, there’s no reason to do such a thing. Businesses borrow because it’s one way to get money. But governments can create infinite money out of thin air. With the world’s reserve currency, the U.S. government is most concerned with workers, infrastructure, raw materials, and inflation, not using bonds to make a quick buck.

There’s probably a limit to how much this sort of alarming bungling will hurt Trump. He seems to vaguely understand that people like higher wages and welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare, which will do him some good, and it must be admitted that a great many voters don’t have the slightest clue about public policy.

Still, to the small extent that anyone trusts economic journalists and pundits anymore, this sort of thing will create a deluge of coverage portraying Trump as an incompetent maniac who’s going to obliterate everyone’s job. That’s going to make running to the middle a tough sell.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, May 9, 2016

May 10, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economic Policy, Global Economy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Establishment Gets What It Deserves”: Republicans Stopped Producing Moderates And Wound Up With Trump

The Republican establishment, the one we hear so much about: That wall is crumbling in plain sight.

You may ask how I know this. Once the media and powers that be chose Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as the last best hope to slow Donald Trump’s rise to the nomination on Super Tuesday, things felt surreal. If that’s true, then the establishment deserves to lose. It is sending too few moderate Republicans to Congress.

From what I’ve seen in the Senate, Rubio does not have the chops to challenge Trump, despite their nasty verbal brawling. In his 40s, Rubio is a slight figure in the Senate, when he is actually there. A bit vacuous, he’s what they call a showhorse, not a workhorse. Few bills bear his name. He balked at his big chance to take part in actually passing legislation, a bipartisan immigration bill that failed in 2013 in a close call.

Rubio comes from the Cuban-American community in Miami and rose on the financial wings of a wealthy car dealer. His base is hard-right, especially bitter when it comes to Fidel Castro and Cuba. Rubio held up an administration diplomatic appointment because the woman had worked on normalizing relations with Cuba. The exiled generation that raised Rubio – and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, roughly the same age – vowed to never forget nor forgive the revolution. They tend to have a dark outlook on foreign policy. At home, Rubio is equally stark, all for requiring – forcing – girls and women victimized by rape or incest (or both) to carry their pregnancies to term. I don’t think he will sell well outside the South.

It’s a lot for the Republican establishment to take in a week. First there was Jeb Bush’s unimaginable fall from tall heights of family and fortune. He had to leave the party early after a fatal fourth finish in South Carolina. It was fun to watch him unwind. The pundits said the environment wasn’t right for Jeb Bush this cycle. The truth is, he was a terribly flat candidate, whatever the cycle. He could not spin anything to his advantage. And it is not as if there is anything noble about his family tree. The Bushes play rough to win, as his father and brother did in their presidential campaigns; just remember the Willie Horton ads against Gov. Michael Dukakis and the Swift Boat campaign wielded against Sen. John Kerry in 2004

So it likely comes down to Trump vs. Rubio. Let’s not forget Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are resilient, stubborn candidates. Cruz is wicked smart – both in equal measure – and Kasich comes across as the reasonable man in this field. Still, it’s a safe bet Trump will take the party on a forced march to the nomination like General Sherman to the sea in the Civil War. He’s just the bracing medicine the formerly grand old party needs to see what it has become.

And it wasn’t overnight. It just seems that way with Bush’s meteoric fall from grace. Observers say Trump will set the party back for years if he becomes the standard-bearer. Let it be. In the meantime, the Republican Party has some serious soul-searching to do.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, February 29, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Republicans Still Love Gitmo”: Don’t Want To Admit They Were Wrong To Support The Cuban Prison In The First Place

The Republicans have a strange emotional attachment to keeping the prison at Guantanamo Bay open for the foreseeable future. As an explanation, I kind of discount actual fear that the inmates might escape from a super maximum security prison in the United States. I know they fan that fear whenever the subject of closing Gitmo comes up, but I believe this is just a tactic.

Maybe they just don’t want to admit that they were wrong to support the Cuban prison in the first place. That certainly seems to animate the most vocal opponents who also are the most notorious neoconservative members of the Senate.

Take a look at how they’re responding to the administration’s just-announced plan to close the notorious facility:

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the armed services committee, all but rejected a plan he himself has urged the administration to submit. McCain has shifted his positions on Guantánamo from the Bush to the Obama administrations, but has positioned himself as the last gasp of Obama’s ambitions to win congressional support.

McCain, while pledging to look at the plan in hearings, termed it “a vague menu of options, not a credible plan for closing Guantánamo, let alone a coherent policy to deal with future terrorist detainees,” and said Obama had “missed a major chance”.

Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican on the armed services committee, preemptively rejected the final proposal in a statement.

“The president is doubling down on a dangerous plan to close Guantánamo – a move that I will continue to fight in the Senate,” Ayotte said.

Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican and war veteran, dismissed the plan as a “political exercise”. Cotton, a rising star in GOP national security circles, received significant media attention for declaring Guantánamo detainees “can rot in hell” last year.

Then there’s Marco Rubio, who is already criticizing the plan on the campaign trail, saying that not only shouldn’t the prison close, but we should never give the property at Gitmo back to a “communist dictatorship.”

I don’t expect Congress to act on the president’s plan. Maybe Obama will act after the November election when he’s truly a lame duck. What are they gonna do? Impeach him?

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | GITMO, Republicans, Terrorists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Change Takes Continuity”: Hillary Clinton Is The Change America Needs

Over the coming weeks and months, Democrats in caucuses and primaries around the country will choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to be the party’s nominee. Some are now casting the decision as one between “continuity” and “change,” with Clinton representing a continuation of President Obama’s agenda and Sanders representing a shift toward the transformational change that escaped Obama.

This binary is completely false.

Ours is a historical era in which continuity and change are one and the same. Obama ended the wars of the George W. Bush administration, normalized relations with Cuba, and prevented the ascent of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. In the last week alone, his administration declined to renew licenses to coal mining operations on federal lands, declared a ban on solitary confinement of minors in federal penitentiaries, and ordered police departments around the country to give back military surplus equipment being misused by law enforcement. And on Tuesday, news came of the White House preparing to issue an executive order that would require any firm doing business with the federal government — virtually all giant corporations — to disclose its campaign contributions.

We need more of the same. We need the unbroken continuation of Obama’s domestic and foreign policies to bring about the laws, rules, and regulations that advance progress. It may not be “transformational,” but real change is rarely that sexy. It may not feel all kumbaya, but politics almost never does.

Let’s remember the Democrats saved the economy, passed the Affordable Care Act, and reformed Wall Street — with nearly unanimous opposition from Congressional Republicans. Since 2010, we have seen more job growth since no one remembers. More Americans have health insurance. And, while it took a while, the Dodd-Frank financial reforms are now being felt.

That’s real change.

Yes, wages are not what they used to be, health care is still run by private insurance companies, and Wall Street still rakes in more money than God. But those are not reasons to break the chain of real progress. Change takes continuity.

Consider Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all.”

In the hours before the final Democratic debate, Sanders released a plan for creating a single-payer health care system of the kind found in rich European countries that have managed to keep costs down while ensuring the right of all citizens to access to quality health care. Ever since Obama proposed health care reform that kept intact the role of private health insurance companies, the Democratic Party’s left wing has demanded nothing short of “Medicare for all.”

That’s fine. Most left-liberals would prefer that. But it doesn’t represent change so much as wishful thinking.

Hillary Clinton was not, during the debate, just wrapping herself in Obama. She was speaking the truth: Democrats can’t go back and restart the fight over universal health care because they have no hope of winning. Now is the time, however, for policy reforms addressing rising costs, insurance exchanges, and private profit. Yes, this is change by a thousand tweaks, but it is still change.

Is there a risk in voting for Clinton? Yes, of course. You don’t really know what kind of president you’re getting until she’s elected. But Hillary Clinton may be the exception. She’s long been in the public eye. We know her strengths as well as her weaknesses. Most important, we know she can be forced to listen to progressive demands. That cannot be said of Republicans.

I like Bernie Sanders and would support him in another context, and I don’t personally like Hillary Clinton. But my dislike isn’t as important as my country transcending the long conservative malaise that began before I was born.

 

By: John Stoehr, The Week, January 29, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Inconvenient Truth For The GOP”: How Will 2016 Republicans Lead A World That Largely Agrees With Obama?

The 14 Republicans running for president can’t decide if Russian President Vladimir Putin is a great leader or a dangerous and despicable “gangster” and “KGB thug,” but they all agree on one thing: President Obama couldn’t lead his way out of a paper bag.

When discussing Obama’s foreign policy, they routinely rely on words like “feckless” and “weak” and “indecisive,” arguing that this alleged lack of spine has left the U.S. where “our friends no longer trust us, and our enemies no longer fear us.” They all say that any of them — Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, Ben Carson — would be better able to lead the world than Obama or any of the Democrats running to replace him. Even Jeb Bush, who appears to despise Trump, said Sunday he would support him in the general election “because anybody is better than Hillary Clinton. Let me just be clear about that.”

Here’s the thing: On just about every major topic in world affairs, Obama is more closely aligned with America’s major allies than any of the Republican candidates. Either the Republicans are in denial about this inconvenient truth or they have a plan to work around it. If they do, I for one would love to hear it.

Let’s start with climate change, since all major world leaders — America’s friends, foes, and those the U.S. has a complicated relationship with — gathered in Paris last week to discuss not whether climate change is real but what hard decisions need to be made to address it. Obama worked toward this summit, which ends later this week, for years, talking with world leaders one-on-one and setting up the U.S. emissions cuts. It’s frankly hard to imagine any of the Republican presidential candidates even attending COP21.

Frontrunner Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), rapidly rising to runner-up status, accuses U.S. climate scientists of “cooking the books” and espousing “pseudoscientific” theories on human-influenced global warming. Even the GOP candidates who do believe that humanity is adversely affecting the climate say they don’t think that’s a big deal or don’t believe the government can or should do much about it. And even if one of those candidate open to the idea of addressing climate change is elected, he will still lead a party that is opposed to any such action.

There are different ideas on how to best reduce carbon emissions, but the GOP’s indifference to or denial of climate change would put it on the lunatic fringe in America’s closest allied nations. In a recent study, Sondre Båtstrand at Norway’s University of Bergen examined the policy platforms of the main conservative party in nine countries — the U.S., U.K., Norway, Sweden, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Germany — and found that “the U.S. Republican Party is an anomaly in denying anthropogenic climate change.” (The article is behind a paywall, but you can read a summary at The Guardian, or Jonathan Chait’s more opinionated synopsis at New York.)

The GOP is so out-of-step with the rest of the world on climate change that one of the big hurdles to a global climate agreement is the expectation that the Republican-controlled Congress won’t ratify a legally binding treaty. Obama insists that parts of the deal will be binding under international law, but proponents of an effective climate pact are concerned that GOP opposition will leave it toothless. Other countries, The Associated Press reports, are annoyed that the world is “expected to adjust the agreement to the political situation in one country.”

Let’s turn to Syria, a country where the world only really agrees on one thing: The Islamic State must be defeated. This is one area, broadly, where Obama and the GOP candidates agree, though they differ on the best way to defeat ISIS. Jeb Bush, like Turkey, wants a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, and Trump wants Russia to wipe out ISIS for everyone else. But most countries, and certainly most U.S. allies, favor bombing ISIS in Syria and helping local militias fight them on the ground, something Obama was the first to initiate.

Russia has committed ground troops (as has the U.S., to a very limited degree, just recently), but Russian forces are mainly propping up the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A few of the Republicans, like Cruz, support leaving Assad in power, a position held mostly by Russia and Iran. European allies, Israel, the Gulf Arab states, and Turkey agree with Obama that Assad must go.

When it comes to refugees from the Syrian mess, the GOP field is unified against accepting any in the U.S. Among U.S. allies, Obama is on the stingy side, but his pledge to take in 10,000 refugees in 2016 still puts him closer to Canada, taking in 10,000 this month alone; France — the site of the terrorist attack that prompted the Republican refugee retreat — which has vowed to take in 30,000 over the next two years; and Germany, signed on to accept 500,000 asylum-seekers.

On Cuba, the U.S. diplomatic freeze and economic embargo has put the U.S. at odds with Europe and the overwhelming majority of Latin America for years. All but two Republican candidates — Trump and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) — oppose Obama’s Cuba thaw. Only three of the 14 candidates — Bush, Paul, and Gov. John Kasich (Ohio) — aren’t totally against the Iran nuclear deal Obama’s team negotiated with not just U.S. allies Britain, France, and Germany, but also China, Russia, and Iran.

For what its worth, the world thinks highly of Obama’s leadership, according to a Gallup poll of 134 countries — the U.S. got top leadership marks in 2014, as it has every year since a low point in 2008. Still, the Iran deal is a good prompt to note that not every U.S. ally hews closer to Obama than the GOP on foreign policy.

Israel and Saudi Arabia, for example, oppose the Iran accord, and Israel’s conservative government neither likes nor trusts Obama. But here again, Obama’s hard line against new Israeli settlements is closer to the world consensus than the GOP’s unwavering allegiance — as is evident from every United Nations vote in favor of the Palestinians and every lone U.S. veto in U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning some Israeli military action in the Palestinian territories.

And Obama has certainly made mistakes, which Republicans are right to call him out on. Drawing a figurative “red line” in Syria and then failing to enforce it, even when it became clear Congress wouldn’t support him? Obama would probably take that back if he could. Libya? The U.S. followed France, Britain, and the Arab League into that intervention, but it was Obama’s decision to commit U.S. air and sea assets to the fight and wrangle U.N. approval. “Leading from behind” — the most enduring phrase (coined by an anonymous Obama adviser) from the Libya campaign — is a questionable idea of leadership.

The Republican presidential candidates may talk about the U.S. leading with its freedom beacon, or its values, or the example of its raw exceptionalism, but when they get down to specifics, they really only talk about raw power, usually of the military or theatrical variety. A president has to make tough calls, and when you’re the leader of the world’s sole superpower, those decisions have very real, potentially catastrophic consequences.

Most of Obama’s big foreign policy victories — the Russian nuke-reduction treaty, the Iran nuclear deal, the Cuba thaw, perhaps a COP21 accord — have been off the battlefield, and he’s probably not unhappy about it. All of those have involved finding common ground with at least one hostile country, and Obama has been the driving force behind all of them. “Your credibility and America’s ability to influence events depends on taking seriously what other countries care about,” Obama told reporters in Paris on Tuesday. He was talking about climate change, but it could just as well be a guiding policy.

That may not be the kind of global stewardship Republicans are talking about when they talk about leadership. But if they want to win the right to lead the United States, they should explain how their White House would lead a world in which, on just about every major issue, the U.S. president is the odd man out.

 

By: Peter Weber, The Week, December 7, 2015

December 8, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, GOP Presidential Candidates, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: