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“In The Land Of His Imagination”: Even Donald Trump’s Most Presidential Speech Was A Bizarre, Lie-Riddled Fantasy

On Wednesday, Donald Trump gave one of the most presidential speeches he’s ever delivered — which is to say, a speech that was written out beforehand and which he read off a teleprompter, without his usual digressions into his spectacular performance in the polls and the scum-sucking lowlifes who have filed lawsuits against him (or are judges in those lawsuits). But just when you think Trump is going to put together a logical and persuasive case on something — in this speech, the all-encompassing villainy of Hillary Clinton was the topic — he dashes off into the land of his imagination, spinning out a weird series of easily debunked lies and bizarre fantasies.

This pattern repeated itself over and over in Trump’s speech (you can read the prepared text here; there were some off-the-cuff embellishments, but not too many). He would start with a reasonable critique: for instance, that Clinton supported NAFTA, which cost Americans jobs. But then he would take that critique to an absurd place: “Hillary Clinton gave China millions of our best jobs, and effectively let China completely rebuild itself. In return, Hillary Clinton got rich!”

After trade, Trump moved on to Benghazi, of course. Setting a serious tone, Trump said, “She started the war that put [Ambassador Chris Stevens] in Libya, denied him the security he asked for, then left him there to die.” Trump continued with this fanciful exploration of the full breadth and depth of Clinton’s power, which apparently existed on a scale that would make kings and presidents seem like tiny bugs the titanic Hillary could brush off her shoulder:

In just four years, Secretary Clinton managed to almost single-handedly destabilize the entire Middle East.

Her invasion of Libya handed the country over to the ISIS barbarians.

Thanks to Hillary Clinton, Iran is now the dominant Islamic power in the Middle East, and on the road to nuclear weapons.

Hillary Clinton’s support for violent regime change in Syria has thrown the country into one of the bloodiest civil wars anyone has ever seen — while giving ISIS a launching pad for terrorism against the West.

She helped force out a friendly regime in Egypt and replace it with the radical Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian military has retaken control, but Clinton has opened the Pandora’s box of radical Islam. [Donald Trump]

Let’s recap. You may have thought there was a revolution in Libya to overthrow longtime despot Moammar Gadhafi, a revolution that accomplished its initial goal with some help from the United States. This apparently is not correct; it turns out that what actually happened was that Hillary Clinton invaded Libya. Iran’s influence in the region? All because Hillary Clinton wanted it that way. Syria’s civil war? Started by Hillary Clinton. All those people you saw protesting Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Cairo’s Tahrir Square? Sent there by Hillary Clinton, I suppose, who then engineered the ensuing election to make sure the Muslim Brotherhood won. Radical Islam? Non-existent before Hillary Clinton came along (but don’t tell al Qaeda).

I won’t bother to go through the long list of lies Trump told through the rest of his speech (that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, that there’s no system to vet refugees, etc.) But whenever Trump began a legitimate critique of Clinton, it would inevitably go off the rails. It’s fine to criticize her use of private email at the State Department, which was a mistake. But Trump says that in the personal emails her attorneys segregated from those to be sent to the State Department and which were then deleted, there were terrifying secrets. “While we may not know what is in those deleted emails, our enemies probably do. So they probably now have a blackmail file over someone who wants to be president of the United States. This fact alone disqualifies her from the presidency. We can’t hand over our government to someone whose deepest, darkest secrets may be in the hands of our enemies.”

I suppose if you use “probably” as a modifier you can say whatever you want, like “Donald Trump probably keeps his hair soft and manageable by shampooing in the blood of kittens.” Do we know that, or have any concrete evidence that it might be true? No. But it probably is, right?

I have no doubt that Trump’s most ardent fans eat stuff like this up. When he calls Clinton “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency,” they cheer in agreement. But Trump’s task isn’t to delight his supporters, it’s to win over people who aren’t already in his camp. But only someone who is already a Trump voter could be persuaded by that kind of ridiculous hyperbole.

And that’s what Trump is like when he’s being presidential.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, June 23, 2016

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Middle East | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Critical Role Of Diplomacy”: The GOP Presidential Candidates Really Embarrassed Themselves During The Iran Navy Incident

It was a foreign policy crisis: After an equipment failure rendered their vehicle inoperative, a group of American military personnel had fallen into the hands of an adversarial state far away. How would the president get them back? A daring rescue mission? Threats of military action? Diplomacy? Outright groveling? In the end, he felt he had no choice but to submit to the hostage-takers’ demands, and the government wrote a letter filled with apologetic language (“We are very sorry” for the incident, and “We appreciate” our adversary’s “efforts to see to the well-being of our crew” they held prisoner for 10 days).

You would think that Republicans, who are so committed to the singular importance of “strength” in foreign affairs, would have been outraged and appalled at the weakness shown by the president in this incident. But they weren’t. That’s because the president was George W. Bush, and this was April 2001, when an American spy plane had to make an emergency landing on a Chinese island after a mid-air collision with a Chinese fighter jet. Here’s the letter of apology.

It was hard not to be reminded of that incident 15 years ago when this week two small American naval boats apparently drifted into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf after engines failed, and the Iranian navy detained them. As soon as the capture of the vessels was reported, Republican politicians stiffened their spines, flexed their pecs, and condemned the wimpy and feckless Obama administration that was obviously going to grovel before the ayatollah, leaving our brave sailors at the mercy of the Iranians for who knows how many days, weeks, or months. “The fact that [the capture] happened is a direct consequence of the weakness of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy,” said Ted Cruz, no doubt thinking wistfully about how if he were in charge, once the boats came up on radar the Iranians would have said, “Let them go where they want — we don’t want to anger President Cruz, who is so strong and resolute.” Joe Scarborough, perhaps caught in the middle of a Charles Atlas workout, tweeted, “Hey Iran, you have exactly 300 days left to push a U.S. president around. Enjoy it while you can. After that, there will be hell to pay.” Jeb Bush, testosterone practically dripping off his iPhone, tweeted, “If our sailors aren’t coming home yet, they need to now. No more bargaining. Obama’s humiliatingly weak Iran policy is exposed again.”

But then something strange happened. Wednesday morning, after only 16 hours, Iran released the sailors back to the United States, along with their boats. And we didn’t even have to bomb anybody.

A few conservatives are currently expressing faux-outrage over photos taken by the Iranians showing the sailors with their hands on their heads during the capture, as though that were some epic humiliation. But what’s important is that the whole matter was settled through a series of phone calls between American and Iranian officials, in which they apparently agreed that nobody was trying to be provocative and it would be best not to blow this out of proportion. Secretary of State John Kerry explicitly made the case that the administration was able to resolve this incident the way it did because of the diplomatic contacts that had been built up during negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. “We can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago,” he said. “Today, this kind of issue was able to be peacefully resolved and efficiently resolved, and that is a testament to the critical role that diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure and strong.”

So what do we learn from this? First, diplomacy does work. It’s possible that even if we hadn’t spent a couple of years negotiating with Iran, we would have arrived at the same outcome, but it probably didn’t hurt that our officials and their officials have a better relationship today. And it’s hard to imagine that even the most bellicose of Republican candidates wouldn’t have done the same thing the Obama administration did.

Maybe we’re supposed to believe that if someone like Ted Cruz was president and a couple of small boats got captured, when his secretary of state said, “Mr. President, I’ll call their foreign minister and see if we can’t get this taken care of,” he’ll say, “No, Bob — I’m going to go on TV and tell those jerks that if they don’t release our sailors in 10 minutes, we’re letting the bombs fall!” But I doubt it. In the real world, Republicans do diplomacy when the situation demands it too, and I have trouble believing that any politician would be so reckless as to cause a confrontation when it would have been so unnecessary.

Second, it’s a reminder that reducing every foreign policy question to “strength” is idiotic. There are times when strength matters a lot, and times when you have to be smart and restrained. Complaining about the “weakness” of the Obama administration may play well during primary season, but in real foreign policy a nation doesn’t demonstrate strength by going around provoking everything it sees.

That’s how you act when you’re gripped by insecurity and you need to overcompensate. Candidates can live in their fantasy world, where they’re constantly causing dramatic showdowns they always win because of their steely glare. But fortunately for us (and for those 10 sailors), none of them had the chance to test their theory. At least not this time.

 

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

January 15, 2016 Posted by | Diplomacy, GOP Presidential Candidates, Iran Navy Incident | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rubio’s ‘Pioneer’ Boasts Crumble Under Scrutiny”: In Living Up To His Own Hype, Rubio Has A Lot Of Work To Do

When Marco Rubio recently spoke to the Jewish Republican Coalition’s presidential forum, he joined all of his GOP rivals in saying nice things about Israel. But the Florida Republican went a little further than most, making a specific claim about his state legislative record. The Tampa Bay Times took a closer look.

“As Speaker of the Florida House,” he said, “I pioneered what became a national effort by requiring the Florida pension program to divest from companies linked to Iran’s terrorist regime.”

It was groundbreaking, but Rubio had nothing to do with creation of the legislation.

There was, in fact, a divestment bill that passed Florida’s legislature, but it was written by a Democrat before passing unanimously. Rubio, as the Republican leader in the House, allowed the bill to come to the floor, but he didn’t “pioneer” the policy. He doesn’t appear to have had anything to do with its creation at all.

Whether the Florida Republican was trying to deceive his audience or whether Rubio simply exaggerated the story in his mind is unclear. But errors like these are emblematic of two problems that represent a distraction for the senator’s presidential campaign.

The first is that Rubio, despite his background as a career politician – he won his sixth election the year he turned 40 – has no real accomplishments to his name. This creates an awkward dynamic in which the GOP lawmaker struggles to brag about his own record, and in the case of the Jewish Republican Coalition’s event, it apparently led him to embellish that record with an accomplishment that was not his own.

The second problem is that this is not the first time Rubio delivered a speech in which he flubbed substantive details in a brazenly misleading way. The week before his “pioneering” fib, for example, Rubio misled an audience about the scope of U.S. surveillance powers.

Around the same time, he misstated his record on “killing Obamacare” and misstated some key details about national security. A month prior, Rubio was caught making claims about his economic plan that were simply untrue.

I don’t know whether this is the result of sloppiness, laziness, or a deliberate attempt to mislead, but Rubio wants to be perceived as some kind of wonky expert who not only speaks the truth, but also understands policy matters in great detail.

If he’s going to start living up to his own hype, Rubio has a lot of work to do.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 14, 2015

December 15, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Jewish Republicans Coalition, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Marco Rubio Has No Clue How To Defeat ISIS”: A Collection Of Ideas Ranging From The Irrelevant To The Ridiculous

We ask an awful lot of our presidential candidates. In addition to being forced to shake a million hands, beg for money, and cram any fried foodstuff right into their mouths, they’re supposed to have opinions and ideas about everything. As soon as something important happens in the United States or anywhere else, in short order we expect them to have a “plan” to deal with it, to assure us that once they take office, the problem will be solved forthwith.

A couple of weeks ago, ISIS was a serious challenge the next president will have to deal with, but in the wake of the attacks in Paris, candidates are now expected to have an ISIS plan, a specific set of actions they’ll take that will eliminate the terrorist group once and for all. Not everyone has come up with one yet, but what we’ve seen so far is not going to inspire a whole lot of faith that ISIS’s days are numbered come January 2017.

Consider, for example, Marco Rubio, the establishment’s golden boy and one of the “serious” GOP candidates. When it comes to foreign policy in particular, people will look to Rubio, since by virtue of his seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he’s better informed than most of his primary competitors. Rubio delivered his plan to defeat ISIS last week, and it’s a remarkable document. Let’s walk through its main points.

Rubio begins with the requisite statement of steely resolve: “When I am president, what I will do to defeat ISIL is very simple: whatever it takes.” Inspiring! Then he dives into the details. “First, I would protect the homeland by immediately stopping the flow of Syrian refugees into the United States,” he says. I won’t bother going over again how wrong it is to think that stopping Syrian refugees will protect us from an attack, but we can at least all agree that doing so certainly won’t help “defeat” ISIS.

“Next, I would reverse defense sequestration so we have the capabilities to go on the offense against ISIL,” Rubio says. This is equally silly. You can argue that the budget cuts forced by sequestration are a bad thing, but the reason we haven’t yet banished ISIS from the earth isn’t that our defense budget is too skimpy. It’s not like the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is saying, “Mr. President, we could take ISIS out and bring a peaceful, democratic government to that area, but we can’t do it without more tanks and helicopters — and I just don’t have the money.” Our resources are more than ample for whatever military action we might want to take.

Next, Rubio says “I would build a multinational coalition of countries willing to send troops into Iraq and Syria to aid local forces on the ground.” Also, “I would demand that Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government grant greater autonomy to Sunnis, and would provide direct military support to Sunnis and the Kurds if Baghdad fails to support them. I would back those demands with intense diplomatic pressure and the leverage of greater American military assistance to Iraq.” So that’s a mix of things the Obama administration is trying to do (though somehow Rubio would manage to convince other countries to put in troops where Obama hasn’t been able to; maybe Obama’s diplomatic pressure hasn’t been “intense” enough), plus something that sounds like he wants to set up an independent Sunni quasi-state within Iraq, like what the Kurds have. That’s…interesting. Shouldn’t be any complications there.

And finally, “Cutting off oxygen to ISIL also requires defeating Assad in Syria. I would declare no-fly zones to ground Assad’s air force and coalition-controlled ‘safe zones’ in the country to stop his military.” If you read that without knowing anything, you might think Rubio believes that Assad is supporting ISIS and not fighting it. But anyhow, he’ll just “defeat Assad,” whom we’re not actually fighting at the moment. Does that mean an invasion? If not, what? And “safe zones” sound nice, but how many tens of thousands of American troops would be required to create and maintain them?

Now keep in mind: This collection of ideas ranging from the irrelevant to the ridiculous is the best plan the GOP’s best foreign policy candidate can devise.

The problem isn’t that Marco Rubio is some kind of idiot, even if you’d be tempted to conclude that upon reading his “plan.” The problem is that ISIS presents an unusually difficult challenge, where every possible course of action is either foreclosed before it begins or brings huge complications along with it. That’s why when Hillary Clinton — who has more foreign policy experience than all the Republican candidates put together — gave a speech last week outlining the course she’d like to follow on ISIS, it was terribly frustrating, in many ways more hope than plan. Clinton at least acknowledges the complexity of the situation — for instance, our ally Saudi Arabia isn’t helping us fight ISIS, while our adversary Iran is, all while the two countries wage proxy battles against each other. If the next president can untie that knot, it would be a wonder.

Presidential candidates never acknowledge that some challenges are so difficult that success is uncertain at most. They don’t say, “Boy, this one’s a doozy, but I’ll do my best.” They say that if they’re elected, all our problems foreign and domestic will be swept away. It’s when they try to explain exactly how they’re going to get there that the future doesn’t look so bright.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, November 23, 2015

November 25, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, ISIS, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Chief Mess-Maker As A Consultant”: Can Jeb Bush Ever Escape His Brother’s Shadow?

Jeb Bush has firmly established himself as the Republican to vote for if you wish his brother were still president. Best of luck with that.

In what was billed as a major foreign policy speech Tuesday, Bush proposed inching back into Iraq, wading into the Syrian civil war and engaging in much the same kind of geopolitical engineering and nation-building that George W. Bush attempted. So much for the whole “I am my own man” routine.

He finally understands that to have any credibility, even amid a field of uber-hawks (minus Rand Paul), he has to say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. But judging from his actions, that’s not what he seems to believe. Why would someone who thinks the war was wrong include Paul Wolfowitz, one of its architects, among his top foreign policy advisers? Why would someone who sees the Middle East as an unholy mess reveal that he consults his brother, the chief mess-maker, on what to do next?

Bush says “we do not need . . . a major commitment” of American ground troops in Iraq or Syria to fight against the Islamic State — at least for now. But he proposes embedding U.S. soldiers and Marines with Iraqi units, which basically means leading them into battle. He proposes much greater support for Kurdish forces, which are loath to fight in the Sunni heartlands where the Islamic State holds sway. And he wants the establishment of no-fly zones and safe havens in Syria, as a way to battle both the Islamic State and dictator Bashar al-Assad.

That all sounds like a “major commitment” of something . And none of it addresses the fundamental problem in Iraq, which George W. Bush also failed to grasp: the lack of political reconciliation among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Bush 43’s vaunted “surge” was a Band-Aid that masked, but did not heal, this underlying wound.

Like the other Republican contenders, Jeb Bush opposes the Iran nuclear deal and promises to undo it — although he is equally silent about how the “better deal” that critics say they want could be achieved.

In general, as one might expect, Bush blames President Obama and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for basically all that is wrong with the world. Voters may have short memories, but I think they’ll remember it was Bush’s brother who shattered the Iraqi state and created the vacuum that the Islamic State came to fill. Voters might also recall that when Bush’s brother took office, Iran had no operational uranium enrichment centrifuges; when he left, Iran had about 4,000.

Jeb Bush tends to rush through his foreign policy speeches as if he’s checking boxes on a job application form. He becomes much more animated, and seems on more solid ground, when he’s talking about domestic issues. But remember that George W. Bush intended to have a domestic focus, too, before history decided otherwise.

Can Bush ever escape his brother’s shadow — or, for that matter, his father’s? I have serious doubts. For now, however, he’s busy enough trying to get out of Donald Trump’s wake.

Jeb! might think about adding more exclamation points to his logo. He’s running an utterly conventional campaign in an unconventional year, and frankly he seems to be putting a lot of Republican voters to sleep.

While other contenders for the nomination compete with front-runner Trump to say the most outrageous things and draw attention to themselves — a battle they’re not likely to win — Bush plods along. He made it to center stage at the first debate, right alongside Trump, but his performance was unexciting. If Bush declines to throw red meat to the activist Republican base, he’ll be better positioned to win the general election. But he’ll have a worse chance of making it through the primaries.

Recent state-level polls might not be enough to send Bush and his advisers into panic mode but definitely should make them pay attention. In Iowa, the Real Clear Politics polling average puts Bush at 7 percent — behind Trump, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz, and tied for sixth place with Marco Rubio. For a candidate with Bush’s thoroughbred pedigree and overstuffed bank account, that’s embarrassing.

And in New Hampshire, the Real Clear Politics average has Bush in second place behind Trump but just one point ahead of John Kasich, who suddenly seems to be challenging Bush for the “reasonable conservative” vote.

His brother’s name is already hurting Jeb Bush. His brother’s policies will hurt him more.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 14, 2014

August 15, 2015 Posted by | George W Bush, GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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