Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, December 21st, 2018.


Your Move, Republicans

Trump Maladministration

The Republicans got big irresponsible tax cuts, plus Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. But how long are they going to stand aside and watch Trump flounder and bluster out of their control?

The latest on the coming shutdown: Several hours ago the House dutifully passed a bill giving Trump his $5 billion on border wall funding. It is now with the Senate. Under current Senate rules it needs 60 votes to pass, which it will not get. Trump is calling on Mitch McConnell to kill the filibuster and pass the thing with a simple majority. So far, it doesn’t appear Mitch is willing to do that, assuming he could get the 50 votes. Trump is promising a “very long” shutdown. This would be very unpopular with the public and a disaster for the Republicans.

The stock market went down again today.

Yesterday Putin released this statement:

“With regards to the victory over ISIL, on the whole I agree with the president of the United States.”

The Russian leader expressed skepticism, however, that the United States would follow through on Mr. Trump’s pronouncement, noting that the government had similarly pledged to pull out of Afghanistan by 2014 but still stations forces there.

“We don’t see any signs yet of the withdrawal of U.S. troops,” he said. “How long has the United States been in Afghanistan? Seventeen years? And almost every year they say they’re pulling out their troops.”

Right on cue, today Trump announced we were withdrawing half our troops from Afghanistan. Martin Longman pointed out that candidate Trump was calling for withdrawing from Syria at the same time he was trying to close the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Can he be more obvious? However, I also heard the theory that perhaps Trump thinks he can use the money saved by reducing deployments to build the wall.

The Associated Press is reporting that Trump decided to withdraw troops in a phone call with Turkish President Erdogan.

The Dec. 14 call came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu agreed to have the two presidents discuss Erdogan’s threats to launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish rebels in northeast Syria, where American forces are based. The NSC then set up the call.

Pompeo, Mattis and other members of the national security team prepared a list of talking points for Trump to tell Erdogan to back off, the officials said.

But the officials said Trump, who had previously accepted such advice and convinced the Turkish leader not to attack the Kurds and put U.S. troops at risk, ignored the script. Instead, the president sided with Erdogan.

Right now, Erdogan is probably kicking himself he didn’t ask if he could invade Greece.

What I think: As much as I believed the original deployments to Afghanistan and Syria were a bad idea, I also think that withdrawals need to be negotiated carefully and with the interests of many alliances in mind. Trump’s capricious acts are, I fear, doing long-term damage also.

Frank Rich:

The beginning of the end of the Trump presidency came and went a long time ago. I have never wavered from my oft-stated convictions that (a) Trump will not finish out his term, and (b), the end will be triggered by a presidential meltdown that forces the Vichy Republicans in Washington to mount an insurrection — if only to save their own asses, not the country. This week was a big step toward that endgame, and surely one of the most remarkable weeks in American history.

We have a president of the United States who is moving to shut down the government at the same moment that he is inviting America’s adversaries to breach its defenses. The withdrawals in Syria and Afghanistan, combined with the exit of the last top administration official who aspired to serve the national interest rather than Trump’s, invites hostile moves against the United States from ISIS, Russia, China, North Korea, and the Taliban. This has even grabbed the cynical Mitch McConnell’s attention: He has declared himself “distressed” by Mattis’s resignation, a major step in rhetorical escalation in a party where Susan Collins’s pathetic periodic expressions of “concern” are what pass for criticism of an outlaw president. Marco Rubio’s words were stronger, a move to protect his viability for another presidential run, but more outrage from more GOP leaders will follow. What will move them is not necessarily Trump’s hara-kiri isolationist agenda but the damage his behavior both abroad and at home is inflicting on the financial markets. The sheer uncertainty of a chaos presidency is pushing the Dow to its worst December since the Great Depression. McConnell and his humiliated departing peer Paul Ryan have tolerated Trump’s racism, misogyny, and nativism, his wreckage of American alliances, his kleptocracy, and his allegiance to Vladimir Putin. They have tolerated as well his con job on the coal miners, steelworkers, and automobile-industry workers of his base. But they’ll be damned if they will stand for a president who threatens the bottom line of the GOP donor class.

Going forward, the only power that could save Trump from the abyss are Senate Republicans, and he’s done a fine job pissing them off lately. See What should worry Trump most: Republican allies are turning on him and Trump Is Spoiling his Own Jury Pool in the Senate. And see also this:

President Trump is presently working on almost all fronts to justify his removal. For Republican senators, nothing is more damning that his foreign policy decision-making. It’s highly doubtful that this will factor into any actual articles of impeachment, but his impulsiveness and cluelessness and doubtful loyalty are going to at least privately give the senators comfort that they’re justified in pulling the plug.

But hold on — today it was announced Ruth Bader Ginsburg had cancerous growths removed from her lung. She is expected to recover, but damn, not another Trump Supreme Court pick. Please.

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