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“Trump Makes Neoconservatives Look Good”: Trump Has No Understanding Of The World And The Role We Play

Donald Trump’s foreign policy was poorly received by neoconservatives, as is obvious if you look at the reaction at the Washington Post. Pro-Iraq War editorial board chief Fred Hiatt said that Trump’s vision was incoherent, inconsistent, and incomprehensible. Columnist Charles Krauthammer described the speech as incoherent, inconsistent, and jumbled. While the Post’s resident columnist/blogger Jennifer Rubin expressed concern that, based on Trump’s language, he might be a malleable mouthpiece of anti-Semites.

If neoconservatives come pretty close to being always wrong, the Post’s reaction might be considered the highest form of praise. Unfortunately, most of their criticisms are accurate. This is particularly true when they go after Trump for his looseness with the facts, his contradictory and mutually exclusive messages, and his praise of unpredictability.

For example, Fred Hiatt nailed Trump for insisting that we “abandon defense commitments to allies because of the allegedly weakened state of the U.S. economy” at the same time that he criticizes President Obama for not being a steadfast friend to our allies. Krauthammer wondered how Trump could criticize Obama for letting Iran become a regional power and promise to bring stability to the Middle East without having any commitment to keep a presence there or to take any risks or to make any expenditures.

If there is any remaining doubt about how neoconservatives view Trump’s foreign policy ideas, Sen. Lindsey Graham removed them:

Sen. Lindsey Graham tore into Donald Trump’s speech on foreign policy, calling it “unnerving,” “pathetic” and “scary.”

The South Carolina Republican former presidential candidate told WABC Radio on Wednesday that the speech was “nonsensical” and showed that Trump “has no understanding of the world and the role we play.”

“This speech was unnerving. It was pathetic in its content, and it was scary in terms of its construct. If you had any doubt that Donald Trump is not fit to be commander in chief, this speech should’ve removed it,” Graham said. “It took every problem and fear I have with Donald Trump and put in on steroids.”

He added: “It was like a guy from New York reading a speech that somebody wrote for him that he edited that makes no sense.” And: “It was not a conservative speech. This was a blend of random thoughts built around Rand Paul’s view of the world.”

It’s true that Graham’s response there is a substance-free ad hominem attack, but he did get around to making specific critiques. In particular, he noted that Trump can’t keep his promises to both minimize our presence in the Middle East and destroy ISIS in short order without significant alliances with the regimes in the Middle East. But he won’t be improving our alliances by talking negatively about Islam as a religion and banning Muslims from entering the United States. Graham said that the problem with Obama is that he isn’t seen as a reliable ally by these despots, but that Trump “is worse than Obama…the entire world is going to look at Donald Trump as a guy who doesn’t understand the role of America, that doesn’t understand the benefit of these alliances.”

Graham also blasted Trump’s position on NATO and said that “the idea of dismembering NATO would be the best thing possible for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”

It’s not that Graham properly understands “the role of America” or that he gets the downsides of our alliances with foreign dictatorial regimes. But he understands that you can’t win a war against radicals in the Arab world by making enemies of every Arab (and Muslim) in the world. Graham understands that you can’t criticize the president for being a lousy friend and then rip up longstanding and uncontroversial agreements with those friends while demanding both more money and more deference.

A full treatment of Trump’s speech and foreign policy ideas is beyond the scope of this blog piece, but he’s about to become the leader of a party that is filled with neoconservatives.

They aren’t going to pretend that the emperor has clothes on.

And, for once in their lives, they’re largely right.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 29, 2016

May 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, Lindsey Graham, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tentative, Unprepared And Unaware”: Rough Interview Raises Awkward Questions For Sanders Campaign

If you talk privately to Hillary Clinton campaign aides, one of the more common complaints is that Bernie Sanders just hasn’t faced enough scrutiny. It’s ironic, in a way – Sanders supporters generally argue the Vermont senator doesn’t get enough attention from the national media, and in a way, Team Clinton agrees.

As the argument goes, much of the political world has treated Sanders as a protest candidate, who’s serious about putting his ideas in the spotlight, but less serious about actually winning the presidency – a dynamic Sanders’ own campaign has conceded was largely true at the start of the race. The result has been less scrutiny and a less robust examination.

Whether you find these concerns compelling or not, Sanders’ Democratic critics embraced this Sanders interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News with the kind of enthusiasm we haven’t seen all cycle. The Atlantic’s David Graham helped explain why.

There’s little doubting Bernie Sanders’s core political convictions – he’s been saying the same things for decades, with remarkable consistency. But turning convictions into policy is the challenge, and the Vermont senator’s interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News raises some questions about his policy chops.

Throughout his interview, Sanders seemed taken aback when he was pressed on policy – and not just on the matters that are peripheral to his approach, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or interrogation of detainees, but even on bread-and-butter matters like breaking up the big banks, the Democratic presidential hopeful came across as tentative, unprepared, or unaware.

It’s easy to overstate these things. A Washington Post piece called the interview, conducted on Monday and published yesterday, a “disaster.” A writer at Politico argued that when Sanders was pressed for specifics on trade and jobs, the senator was “not much better than Trump in his cluelessness.”

I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s not unfair to note that the Daily News interview raised concerns about Sanders that the Vermonter has largely avoided after nearly a year on the campaign trail.

If the senator had flubbed a question or two, struggling with details on obscure areas outside his wheelhouse, it wouldn’t have made much of a ripple. But as Jonathan Capehart noted, this happened more than once or twice in this interview. Asked about breaking up the big banks, Sanders wasn’t sure about the Fed’s authority, or the administration’s. Asked about court fights over too-big-to-fail measures, Sanders conceded, “It’s something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that.”

There were a few too many similar answers. On negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Sanders said, “You’re asking me a very fair question, and if I had some paper in front of me, I would give you a better answer.” Asked whether the Obama administration is pursuing the right policy towards ISIS, he responded, “I don’t know the answer to that.” Asked about interrogations of ISIS leaders, Sanders said, “Actually I haven’t thought about it a whole lot.”

This is a sampling. There were other related exchanges. They were not encouraging.

For Sanders’ supporters, I suspect the response is that the senator is leading a revolution by emphasizing broad themes and identifying systemic crises. Presidents don’t need to know a lot of specific details, the argument goes, so much as they need to establish clear goals.

For Sanders’ detractors, meanwhile, it’s likely this interview was evidence that Sanders’ understanding of major issues is, at best, superficial. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are technocratic wonks, fluent in granular policy details on a wide range of issues, and Sanders just isn’t in their league when it comes to knowledge, preparation, and breadth of expertise.

Obviously, observers will make up their own minds about the significance of the interview. But as an objective matter, Sanders is just now facing the kind of questions he’s avoided for months: there’s no doubt the senator has a clear vision and the ability to inspire his supporters to follow his lead, but how much does he know about implementing his goals? Sanders can paint beautifully with a broad brush, but how prepared is he when it comes to the unglamorous work of governing?

If the senator and his campaign have good answers to these questions, now would be an excellent time to offer them.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 6, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, National Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Sobriety Has Gone Out The Window”: The Brussels Attacks Brought Out The Worst In Cruz And Trump

Sudden, horrific events in the middle of a presidential campaign provide an X-ray of the instincts and thinking of the candidates. We can see what their priorities are and pick up clues about their character.

The terrorist attacks in Belgium brought out the worst in Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Cruz demonstrated that his only focus right now is to find ways of out-Trumping Trump. He seeks words that sound at least as intolerant and as dangerous to civil liberties as the formulations that regularly burst forth from the Republican front-runner.

Thus did Cruz declare: “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” He happily intruded on Trump’s trademark issues by emphasizing the need to seal the nation’s southern border against “terrorist infiltration,” and by declaring that “for years, the West has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear.”

Cruz touched so many hot buttons that it’s a wonder he did not have to wrap his hands in heavy gauze. And it tells us something about how far the Republican Party has veered to the right that its more moderate conservatives, including now Jeb Bush, have decided that Cruz is their best hope to stop Trump. It is hard to imagine Bush offering sentiments about Belgium remotely similar to Cruz’s.

But being more out there on these matters than Trump is, as the man might say, a huge reach. The big winner of Tuesday’s Arizona primary actually complained that the United States is a land where the rule of law prevails.

“They don’t work within laws. They have no laws,” he said of the Islamic State on NBC’s “Today” show. “We work within laws.” He said we should change our statutes to permit waterboarding.

Not content to imply that he’s for torture, he embraced it outright. He insisted that it could have helped prevent the attacks in Belgium. Speaking of Salah Abdeslam, the terror suspect captured last week, Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “Well, you know, he may be talking, but he’ll talk a lot faster with the torture.”

But a new terrorist episode was not enough to induce Trump to back away from his statements to The Post editorial board on Monday denigrating the United States’ commitment to NATO. At a moment when we should be declaring solidarity with our European allies, Trump seems ready to do the opposite.

You don’t have to be a socialist to share Bernie Sanders’s view that Cruz’s proposal to single out a religious group for special police treatment is “unconstitutional” and “wrong.” Hillary Clinton responded characteristically on Wednesday with a policy-heavy speech. She upbraided Cruz, saying that he was “treating American Muslims like criminals,” which was both “wrong” and “counterproductive.” She also condemned torture “anywhere in the world.”

Before the age of Trump, we valued sobriety in leaders when the country faced severe challenge. Clinton and Sanders apparently still think we do. But in the Republican primaries, sobriety has gone out the window.

The one Republican hopeful who hasn’t gotten that message yet is John Kasich. True, he did some partisan pandering, saying President Obama should not have gone to a baseball game in Cuba after the attacks. If he were president, Kasich added, he would have canceled the rest of the trip and returned to the White House to organize new anti-terrorism efforts.

But overall — and this is to his credit — Kasich’s reaction to Belgium contrasted sharply with the extremism of his competitors. “We are not at war with Islam, we are at war with radical Islam,” he said. “In our country, we don’t want to create divisions.”

In a more functional democracy, the campaign might provide the occasion for a serious debate on Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State (which, by the way, is what Clinton tried to start). Should the United States be more aggressive, or would such an approach, as the president seems to believe, lead us into unsustainable commitments? And how can we promote greater intelligence cooperation across Europe and give our allies a lot more help?

But such a discussion would not provide the incendiary sound bites that so much of our media seem to encourage and that Republican primary voters seem to reward.

With large parts of the Republican establishment giving up on Kasich and embracing Cruz as the last anti-Trump hope, we can now look forward to a GOP race to the bottom in which fear itself is the only thing its leading candidates have to offer.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 23, 2016

March 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Terrorist Attacks | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“I Have A Very Good Brain”: Trump’s Foreign Policy Sage Is Himself, Of Course

Hot off winning every state but Ohio last night, Donald Trump has taken his campaign of self-aggrandizement to the realm of international politics. According to Trump, there’s no one better suited to provide foreign policy insight than… himself.

Trump appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier today. When asked who his foreign policy advisors were, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

What any of that means to anyone is unclear. But does Trump have “a very good brain” when it comes to foreign policy? Does he have the wisdom necessary to make decisions whose consequences may take years to unfold? History says no: just look at Trump’s vacillation over the 2003 Iraq invasion.

One of the greatest foreign policy blunders ever committed by this country, the power vacuum left behind in Iraq — after George W. Bush dismantled the Iraqi army — aided in the rise of ISIS years later. Trump, who presents himself as a tough guy who would bring back torture to keep America safe, started off by claiming that he was against the invasion of Iraq. In a 2002 Howard Stern interview, he was asked directly if he supported the invasion. “Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

This was not a one-off case of supporting interventionist foreign policy. In his book The America We Deserve, he wrote, “We still don’t know what Iraq is up to or whether it has the material to build nuclear weapons. I’m no warmonger,” Trump wrote. “But the fact is, if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don’t, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.”

In fact, in parroting the provocations of the Bush administration, Trump very much was a war-monger.

Fast forward to 2016, and Trump, in an effort to display his solid foreign policy insights, said during a Republican debate in Vermont, “I’m the only one up here, when the war of Iraq — in Iraq, I was the one that said, ‘Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East.’” It was not the first time he claimed to be opposed to military intervention.

Even then, his commitment to non-intervention is political opportunism at best, given only 32 percent of registered voters still think the invasion was a good idea. He returned to espousing militaristic rhetoric during a campaign rally in which he promised to bomb ISIS — and the millions of civilians living under their rule — out of existence. “I would bomb the shit out of them,” said Trump during a rally in November. “I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up ever single inch, there would be nothing left.”

While Trump may think that he is the best at everything, from his relationship with “the blacks” to world-altering foreign policy calculations, his comfort with taking seemingly opposing positions should worry his supporters. But who are we kidding — it probably won’t.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, March 16, 2016

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, Iraq War | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Build Bridges, Not Walls”: It Has Come To This; Donald Trump Vs. The Pope

Donald Trump is aiming ever higher on his list of political enemies. The latest: Pope Francis, who has suggested that Trump is “not Christian” — to which The Donald has responded that Francis will only wish he had been president “if and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS.”

During a phone appearance last week on the Fox Business Network, Trump first responded to the various calls by the leader of Catholic Church for compassion on behalf of Latin American immigrants.

“So I think the pope is a very political person and I think that he doesn’t understand the problems our country has,” Trump said, alleging that the successor to St. Peter was being manipulated. “And I think Mexico got him to do it because Mexico wants to keep the border just the way it is because they’re making a fortune and we’re losing.”

But this Thursday morning, ABC News, a reporter asked the Holy Father if “a good Catholic vote for this man?” as the Holy Father was on a plane back to Rome after his tour of the U.S.-Mexican border.

“Thank God he said I was a politician, because Aristotle defined the human person as ‘animal politicus.’ So at least I am a human person,” responded the esteemed Bishop of Rome. “As to whether I am a pawn — well, maybe, I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people.”

He continued: “And then, a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

This got Trump pretty fired up, judging from his statement Thursday afternoon:

DONALD J. TRUMP RESPONSE TO THE POPE

If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.

The Mexican government and its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The Pope only heard one side of the story – he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation.

For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.

Donald J. Trump

Next up: Donald Trump will allege that Pope Francis has a birth certificate in Argentina — and it’s got a different name written on it!

Update:: Trump has now read the statement aloud, at a rally in South Carolina

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, February 18, 2016

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Christians, Donald Trump, Pope Francis | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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