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“None Of Them Have Any Idea Of What’s Going On”: The GOP’s Foreign-Policy Dunces Must Think We’re Stupid

In a rare moment of lucidity, Ben Carson recently confessed that “there’s nobody running [for president] who has a great deal of international experience, except for Hillary Clinton.” This was, he stressed, meant as a knock against the former Secretary of State, whose tenure as America’s top diplomat included cascading foreign policy disasters in the Middle East, a disastrous attempt at rapprochement with Russia, and the bloody chaos of post-Gaddafi Libya.

But like many of his fellow Republican presidential candidates, Carson believes the catastrophic failures of an experienced politician require the fresh thinking of an inexperienced civilian with a “logical” foreign policy. And besides, as a doctor he has “the most experience making life or death decisions.”

It’s not just a deficit of foreign policy experience amongst Republicans that should worry voters, but the stunning deficit of foreign policy knowledge. Just two days before his comments about Clinton, Carson stood before the Republican Jewish Coalition fumbling with a prepared script, correctly identifying the confessional allegiance of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas without having been briefed on how to pronounce Hamas.

One would like to take comfort that Carson’s plummeting popularity is attributable to the comic incoherence of his foreign policy platform. But the continued rise of Donald Trump, whose ideas are dumber (but louder) than Carson’s, neatly disproves this theory.

Since the latest ISIS-affiliated and inspired mass murders in Paris and San Bernardino, Trump has busied himself with solving the problem of violent Islamism. Battling against the scourge of facts, he angrily recalled the 2001 northern New Jersey intifada, in which “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered the attacks of 9/11 from across the Hudson River. He demonstrated his conservative bona fides when agreeing that the federal government might maintain a database of “all Muslims” in America. When his supporters cheered that idea, Trump turned the crassness up a few notches and suggested that the United States might block entry of every Muslim on Earth.

And what does one do with all of those Syrian war refugees? Trump, the right-wing Walter Ulbricht, believes in the power of walls to contain most every problem facing America, from trade to immigration to radical Islam. His solution is risible but simple: build a “big, beautiful safe zone” within Syria “so people can live and they’ll be happier.” (Incidentally, his anti-immigration wall in the United States would be “tall” but, as a sop to aesthetes on the southern border, he promises to “make it very good looking.”)

And that’s just on the home front.

According to Trump, the nettlesome problem of the genocidal, imperialist “Islamic State” isn’t so nettlesome after all. In a recent radio ad, he offered a glimpse of his new counterterrorism strategy: President Trump would “quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS.” (This is a slight modification of his previously enumerated plan to “bomb the shit out of ISIS”). Not to be outdone, Sen. Ted Cruz has consistently reimagined Raqqa as a desert Dresden, promising to “carpet-bomb [the Islamic State] into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”

Cruz later enlarged on his anti-ISIS policies, revealing on Twitter that “if I’m elected president, I will direct the Department of Defense to destroy ISIS.”

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

But can we achieve victory through airpower alone? Having previously knocked Marco Rubio as a “neocon” whose hobbies include “military adventurism,” Cruz dismissed the idea of using ground troops in Syria. But with polls suggesting that Americans are spoiling for a fight with Islamism, the Texas senator now says that he would consider “using whatever ground troops are necessary” to defeat ISIS.

Donald Trump too scorns Republicans who supported the Iraq War. But our post-Paris world demands a little more ideological sinew, so he too has vacillated on American ground troops engaging in the fight against ISIS “if need be.” Marco Rubio has been consistent on this point, but adds that we should videotape our raids on “Sunni leadership nodes” and post to YouTube footage of “ISIS leaders cry[ing] like babies when they’re captured.”

All of this would require significant expenditure, and with the exception of Rand Paul, every conservative on stage tonight desires more government spending on the military. While acknowledging that America’s military is the world’s strongest, Trump believes that fattening the Pentagon’s already bloated budget would provoke the ISIS leadership into retreat. He’ll make “the military so strong no one—and I mean no one—will mess with us.” (Yesterday, Jeb Bush tweeted that “the day that I’m elected president is the day we begin rebuilding the Armed Forces of America,” which suggests that we won’t be rebuilding the armed forces anytime soon.)

All of these policies are fantastically meaningless, an inconvenience that appears to be of little concern to primary voters. But almost every Republican candidate believes in the vapidity of those voters, swapping out coherent strategy for bellicose rhetoric.

One would think that a renewed focus amongst voters on terrorism would be an opportunity for Republicans, who remain the more trusted party on national security. After all, Hillary Clinton did little to stanch the bleeding in Syria and Bernie Sanders’s most comprehensive foreign policy experience is establishing a sister city program with Nicaragua’s Marxist dictatorship in Vermont. Instead, the Republican brand is now associated with oafish suggestions that the United States Air Force flatten Syria and the Department of Homeland Security create a non-Muslim fortress state.

The hated Republican establishment, we are told, is afraid of renegade ideas. Well, no. They’re afraid of bad ideas. They are afraid of candidates who promise to learn as they lead. Indeed, Trump criticized Carson as “incapable of learning foreign policy,” adding that when the professional conspiracy theorists in his campaign tell him what to think “within about two seconds I understand it.” Because to the current Republican frontrunner, the most powerful man on Earth needn’t have knowledge of foreign policy, but the desire and aptitude for on-the-job training.

And Rasputin-like instincts.

“I predicted Osama bin Laden,” Trump said in November. “In my book, I predicted terrorism. Because I can feel it, like I feel a good location, O.K.?”

O.K. I feel safer now. So when do we commence carpet bombing?


By: Michael Moynihan, The Daily Beast, December 15, 2015

December 16, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Else Is Trump Up To?”: Trump Only Loves Rich Muslims Who Give Him Money

Donald Trump clearly has issues with Muslims. The latest example is his vow to ban all Muslim immigration to the United States, declaring he wants a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Before that Trump had called for depriving American Muslims of civil liberties simply because of their faith by way of warrantless surveillance of Muslim Americans. And he has even gone as far as to indict all Muslims by declaring recently that “worldwide the Muslims were absolutely going wild” cheering on the 9/11 attacks.

But there’s one type of Muslim Trump really loves: The ones that make him big bucks. You see, if a Muslim can show Trump the money, then all those concerns he has with Muslims go right out the window of his private jet as he jets off to the Gulf to cash in.

For example, Trump loves Hussain Sajwani, head of the Dubai luxury real estate company Damac Properties. Trump has called the Muslim Sajwani a “good friend” and a “great man,” among other accolades. And in May 2014, The Donald even flew off to Dubai to spend time with his Muslim friend as they announced the massive real estate project they were teaming up to create in the United Arab Emirates.

And when I say massive project, I mean Trump-style “yuge!”  This 42 million-square-foot development (the Pentagon is 6 million-square-feet) includes 104 villas and mansions that begin at more than $1 million U.S. dollars and climb to over $10 million a pop. The development also boasts the “Trump World Golf Club,” which Trump has described as a course that “will be bigger and better and stronger” than any other in the region. Interestingly, Trump has used almost identical words to describe how the U.S. military will look if he’s elected.

So how did Sajwani get Trump to forget that Muslims “worldwide” celebrated on 9/11? Simple, Sajwani paid Trump enough money to go from a scary Muslim to a “great guy.”

As Sajwani explained to the Dubai media, “We went to see him [Trump] and he signed with us.” While Sajwani refused to reveal the exact dollar amount Trump was paid, it must be big given that the Trump-named golf course has been dubbed the “centerpiece” of the project, complete with a luxury spa, restaurants, stores, etc. And just a few months ago, “Trump Private Mansions” went on sale starting north of $1 million each and are being touted as “the most distinguished address in Dubai,” with a view “overlooking the Trump International Championship” golf course.

While no one can find video of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering on 9/11 in New Jersey as Trump claim happened, there’s plenty of video of Trump chilling with his Muslim BFF Sajwani. You can see the two laughing it up at the 2014 press conference in Dubai, riding in Trump’s special golf cart and posing for cameras as Trump gives a big thumbs up while praising Sajwani and Dubai.

Now while this may not trouble Trump, Sajwani was convicted in 2011 in an Egyptian court for getting an illegal sweetheart deal from an Egyptian government minster to buy government land he wanted to develop. Sajwani, who was tried in absentia, was sentenced to five years in prison, and the government minister who sold him the land was imprisoned for the crime of “squandering public funds.” Ultimately, however, the criminal conviction was “settled” in 2013 after a more receptive Egyptian government came to power.

But putting aside the criminal issue of Trump’s business partner, there are still questions about the working conditions for the migrant workers building these Trump homes. As most know, the working conditions for the migrant construction employees in Dubai can be horrific. Workers have been requited to work 14-plus-hour days in over 100 degree weather and live in barely habitable conditions.

In fact, at the 2014 press conference in Dubai announcing this project, a reporter from Vice asked about this issue point blank: “Mr. Trump, the workers who build your villas make less than $200 a month. Are you satisfied?” People in the room reportedly gasped at the question. Trump refused to answer, instead remaining stone-faced. The project’s publicist then told the reporter, “That’s not an appropriate question.”

But wealthy people in Dubai aren’t the only Muslims Trump adores. His company is looking at “multiple opportunities in Abu Dhabi, in Qatar, in Saudi Arabia.

Trump teaming up with Saudi Arabia and Qatar is especially surprising given Trump’s purported concerns about Muslim terrorists. After all, 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked America on 9/11 and killed nearly 3,000 Americans came from Saudi Arabia. Plus we all know about Saudi Arabia’s policies of oppression of women, even banning them from driving.

And the government in Qatar has in the past publicly funded the terrorist group Hamas and even allowed Hamas leader Khaled Meshal to live in the small Gulf country. But when big money is in play, Trump seems to ignore these issues.

I wonder how Trump palling around with Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Qatar will play with the GOP base? Will some Republicans and the media want more details about Trump’s Middle East deals and assurance that none of his business partners have made contributions directly, or indirectly, to terrorist groups? (Hamas is not even labeled a terrorist group in Dubai, so his partners could have legally supported the group.) Will they at least want to know if any of Trump’s Muslim business partners were cheering after the 9/11 attacks? And does Trump’s avowed ban on Muslims entering the United States also apply to his wealthy business partners?

Maybe they won’t care. Trump is the consummate salesman so maybe they understand that Trump would say one thing to Muslims he’s courting for their money and another to American voters he’s courting for their votes. After all, telling potential buyers what they want to hear is just good business.

Regardless of their reaction, the lesson for Muslim Americans is simple. If we want Trump to like us, we simply need to make it worth his while financially. Anyone want to join me in starting a “huge” Kickstarter campaign to raise the money we need to get Trump to call us “good friends”?


By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, December 8, 2015

December 9, 2015 Posted by | 9-11, Donald Trump, Hassan Sajwani, Muslims | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Trouble Is With The Messenger”: Rubio Targets Trump, But Leads With His Chin

Donald Trump’s first real interview on matters of foreign policy and national security clearly didn’t go well. Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt pressed the Republican frontrunner on a variety of key issues – the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, for example – and the GOP presidential candidate not only struggled, Trump dismissed the questions themselves as “ridiculous.”

The second-day question, of course, is whether a candidate’s ignorance has any effect on his or her standing. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), talking earlier to CNN, clearly hopes to make Trump’s difficulties as consequential as possible.

“If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you are not going to be able to serve as commander and chief,” Rubio told CNN in an interview here.

 “This should be part of the reason why you are running because you understand the threats that the world is facing, you have deep understanding and you understand what to do about it,” Rubio added. “And if someone doesn’t, I think it is very concerning.”

At face value, there’s probably something to this. Even if someone were to give Trump the benefit of the doubt – maybe he confused the Quds Forces and the Kurds because it was a phone interview and he misheard the host – major-party presidential candidates should know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah. Heck, anyone who reads news articles once in a while about the Middle East should know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah.

If Rubio wants to make the case that interviews like the Trump-Hewitt exchange point to a candidate who’s probably unprepared for national office, it’s a credible message.

The trouble, however, is with the messenger.

Rubio, a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, is basing much of his campaign on his alleged expertise on international affairs. The far-right Floridian would love nothing more than to be seen as the candidate who has a “deep understanding” of “the threats that the world is facing.”

But Rubio has run into Trump-like problems of his own. Just last week, in a big speech on foreign policy, the GOP senator told an embarrassing whopper about military preparedness, touching on an issue Rubio should have understood far better.

In June, Rubio was asked about his approach towards Iraq. Told that his policy sounds like nation-building, the senator responded, “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

Just this year, Rubio has flubbed the details of Iran’s Green Revolution. His criticisms on the Obama administration’s approach towards Israel were quickly discredited as nonsense. His statements of nuclear diplomacy were practically gibberish.

In the spring, Rubio had a memorable confrontation with Secretary of State John Kerry, which was a debacle – the senator stumbled badly on several key details, and Kerry made him look pretty foolish.

Soon after, Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that the Republican senator “should be embarrassed.” Swan added, “By his own standard that the next president have a ‘clear view of what’s happening in the world’ and a ‘practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs,’ Rubio fails the test.”

What’s more, as readers may recall, when Rubio has tried to articulate a substantive vision, he’s relied a little too heavily on shallow, bumper-sticker-style sloganeering, rather than actual policy measures. Rubio declared “our strategy” on national security should mirror Liam Neeson’s catchphrase in the film “Taken”: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Soon after, the candidate’s team unveiled the “Rubio Doctrine,” described by Charles Pierce as “three banalities strung together in such a way as to sound profound and to say nothing.”

Rubio said this morning, “If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you are not going to be able to serve as commander and chief.” That may be true. But is there any reason to believe the Florida Republican knows the answer to these questions?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 4, 2015

September 6, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, Marco Rubio, National Security | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Far Exceeding Necessity, Formal Budgets And Good Taste”: Report Blasts Israel’s Netanyahu For Lavish Personal Spending

In a scathing report with potential political and criminal repercussions, Israel’s state comptroller sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday for excessive spending of public funds in his official and private residences.

The highly anticipated report, which came just four weeks before Israeli elections, faulted Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, for using public funds to spend lavishly on a variety of personal goods and services, including cleaning, clothing, water and grooming, between 2009 and 2012. The spending dropped after that.

Netanyahu defended his behavior, but political opponents seized on the report. Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog said he found the findings infuriating.

“But it is not because of how you conduct yourself in your homes that the public wants to replace you, but because you have destroyed our home,” Herzog wrote on Facebook. “We will replace you because on your shift, Hamas grows stronger … young couples cannot buy a house … because you eat a $5,000 breakfast when every third child in Israel goes to bed hungry.”

The Netanyahus live and work in the official prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and keep a private home in Caesarea, one of the country’s priciest spots. According to the report by Comptroller Joseph Shapira, spending on both often far exceeded necessity, formal budgets and good taste. In addition, the report pointed to improprieties in management of finances, human resources and external contractors.

When Netanyahu took office in 2009, expenses at both residences totaled roughly a half-million dollars a year. By 2011, that had roughly doubled before dropping to about $600,000 in 2013. Food and hosting expenses alone started out at about $55,000 and more than doubled to about $125,000 in 2011. After a modest cut in expenses the following year, expenses for 2013 dropped to near the 2009 level.

Cleaning both residences came with a particularly high price tag: a monthly average of about $20,000 between 2009 and 2013, including more than $2,000 a month for the Caesarea house, which was usually empty. Shapira found this spending “significantly exaggerated.”

About $20,000 a year was spent to order meal deliveries, despite employing an in-house cook. These and other expenses, Shapira wrote, were “not compatible with the basic principles of proportionality, reasonability, economy and efficiency.”

Personal grooming expenses for the prime minister and his wife totaled well over $100 a day, which Shapira found to be more than double the budgeted amount.

Some of the findings could lead to criminal proceedings. According to the report, Sara Netanyahu finagled employing an electrician who was barred by protocol because he was a personal friend and a member of the prime minister’s political party, Likud.

Justice authorities will have to decide how to address other breaches, including money kept temporarily from recycling bottles from the official residence several years ago and a set of patio furniture bought for the official residence but transferred to the private one. While these were noted in the report, they were not officially investigated.

“Public trust in government institutions is a cornerstone of every democracy,” Shapira wrote, adding that such institutions must gain this trust by adhering to both law and “moral norms.” While he welcomed the apparent cost-cutting after 2012, the comptroller said “one would expect an elected public official to demonstrate extra sensitivity … and serve as an exemplary model of saving public funds.”

Netanyahu was well-prepared for the report, as his attorneys and aides responded swiftly with a press conference, stressing there were no grounds for criminal concerns. The prime minister, said his spokesman, Nir Hefetz, respects the report and has instructed his staff to act on its recommendations.

A statement from Netanyahu’s Likud party accused the news media of pushing the issue for weeks in a “clear effort to remove the prime minister from office … through a focus on irrelevant minutia.”

The statement added that the uproar was distracting from “the real issue at hand,” which is “who will defend Israel in the face of the real security threats and pressure from the international community” — Netanyahu or rivals Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

But for others, money matters are a real issue, and the prime minister’s spending has struck a nerve with some voters who are concerned about the high cost of living and are demanding what they consider a more just distribution of resources.

Housing prices have soared since Netanyahu took office, and with 1.6 million people below the poverty line, Israel has the third highest poverty rate in the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.


By: Batsheva Sobelman, Special Correspondent, Los Angeles Times (TNS); The National Memo, February 17, 2015


February 18, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Poverty | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Quite The Candidate”: Ben Carson Stands By U.S., Nazi Comparisons

Remember neurosurgeon-turned-conservative-activist Ben Carson? He’s apparently still around, still making needlessly provocative remarks, and still moving forward with his presidential plans.

In fact, Ben Terris reported from Iowa yesterday on a Carson event in Des Moines.

He’s inside this meeting hall, before a sellout crowd of nearly 400 people at the Polk County Republicans’ end-of-summer fundraiser, to discuss bullies of a different order. He wants to talk about the “secular progressives” in the news media, politics and academia who will stop at nothing to change the nation as we know it. He also wants to do this in Iowa, while raising money for local Republicans, coinciding with the start of his new PAC, which will “lay the groundwork” should he decide to run for president. […]

He speaks softly, almost as though he’s reading a child to sleep. But this is a scary story. If Republicans don’t win back the Senate in November, he says, he can’t be sure “there will even be an election in 2016.” Later, his wife, Candy, tells a supporter that they are holding on to their son’s Australian passport just in case the election doesn’t go their way.

Just so we’re clear, the implication here is that Carson believes President Obama, tyrant that he is, may not allow elections in 2016. It’s why Carson’s family is preparing to flee the United States, just in case.

As for Carson arguing earlier this year that contemporary American life as “very much like Nazi Germany,” the right-wing doctor told Terris, “You can’t dance around it…. If people look at what I said and were not political about it, they’d have to agree. Most people in Germany didn’t agree with what Hitler was doing…. Exactly the same thing can happen in this country if we are not willing to stand up for what we believe in.”

I guess that means he’s not sorry?

Fox News’ Chris Wallace said yesterday that Carson, himself a Fox contributor, probably doesn’t have a “serious chance” to actually be elected president, but Wallace added he’d “love” to see Carson run anyway.

It’s not clear why.

For those who’ve forgotten Carson’s rise to Tea Party notoriety, Carson last year equated homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality. He soon after started comparing the Affordable Care Act to slavery, before comparing Americans to Nazis.

I swung by the page Right Wing Watch set up to document Carson’s more notable remarks and I was amazed at some of the recent entries. Carson said political correctness contributed to Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, and those who protested the shooting reminded him of Hamas.

Last month, Carson characterized the debate over marijuana legalization as a distraction from Benghazi. Seriously.

He’ll be quite a candidate.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 29, 2014

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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