Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Friday, April 07, 2017

Trump's words mean nothing

by digby

David Frum is one of Donald Trump's most vociferous critics. And he's also one of the smartest. Perhaps it's takes someone who comes from the same general ideological sector (or once came from it anyway) to see him clearly. He wrote about the Syria action for the Atlantic today outlining seven concerns and they're all worth contemplating. An excerpt:
When the Electoral College elevated Donald Trump to the presidency, it conferred on him the awesome life-and-death powers that attend the office. It was inevitable that President Trump would use those powers sooner or later. Now he has. For the effects on the region, I refer you to the powerful piece by The Atlantic’s Andrew Exum. I’m concerned here with the effects on the U.S. political system. Seven seem most immediately relevant.

Trump’s Words Mean Nothing

If there was any one foreign policy position that Donald Trump stressed above all others, it was opposition to the use of force in Syria. Time has helpfully compiledTrump’s tweets on the subject dating back to 2013. For example:

These were not the idle thoughts of a distracted mind. Promises of no war in Syria were central to Donald Trump’s anti-Hillary Clinton messaging. Take, for example, to his interview with Reuters on October 26, 2016. "What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria," said Trump, as he dined on fried eggs and sausage at his Trump National Doral golf resort. "You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton. You’re not fighting Syria any more, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right?”

That message—a vote for Clinton is a vote for World War III beginning in Syria—was pounded home by surrogates and by Trump’s social-media troll army.

Not even 100 days into his presidency, Trump has done exactly what he attacked Hillary Clinton for contemplating.

Some have described this reverse as “hypocritical.” This description is not accurate. A hypocrite says one thing while inwardly believing another. The situation with Donald Trump is much more alarming. On October 26, 2016, he surely meant what he said. It’s just that what he meant and said that day was no guide to what he would mean or say on October 27, 2016—much less April 6, 2017.

Voters and citizens can expect literally zero advance warning of what Donald Trump will do or won’t do. Campaign promises, solemn pledges—none are even slightly binding. If he can reverse himself on Syria, he can reverse himself on anything. If you feel betrayed by any of these reversals, you have no right to complain. As I wrote during the campaign:

When [Trump] issued a promise, he instantly contradicted it. If you chose to accept the promise anyway, you did so with abundant notice of its worthlessness. For all the times Trump said believe me and trust me in his salesman patter, he communicated constantly and in every medium that there was only thing you could believe and trust: If you voted for Donald Trump, you’d get Donald Trump, in all his Trumpery and Trumpiness.

The television networks that promoted Trump; the primary voters who elevated him; the politicians who eventually surrendered to him; the intellectuals who argued for him, and the donors who, however grudgingly, wrote checks to him—all of them knew, by the time they made their decisions, that Trump lied all the time, about everything.

Trump Does Not Give Reasons

From the Declaration of Independence onward, American statesmen have felt bound to offer reasons why they did things, and most especially why they resorted to force. Here’s the second paragraph of Bill Clinton’s December 1998 speech on his “Desert Fox” operation: "I want to explain why I have decided, with the unanimous recommendation of my national security team, to use force in Iraq, why we have acted now, and what we hope to accomplish.” Richard Nixon opened his speech announcing the entry of US forces into Cambodia in 1970 in a similar way: “Tonight, I shall describe the actions of the enemy, the actions I have ordered to deal with that situation, and the reasons for my decision.”

Donald Trump does not speak in that way. On the night of his Syria strike, he spoke directly to emotions. "Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” He then asserted: "It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons." The obvious question is: what’s different this time from 2013, when Bashar al-Assad previously inflicted mass casualties with chemical weapons and Donald Trump and Republicans saw no such vital interest? Trump offers not even the semblance of a response. He sees; he feels; he acts. He makes no effort to persuade doubters or skeptics.

Reasons legitimate authority. Trump does not care about legitimation. In his vision of politics, the governors are to command; the governed, to defer.

Trump Does Not Care About Legality

In August 2013, Trump insisted that President Obama needed congressional approval before striking Syria. Obama came to agree. He sought approval and was refused. No strike followed.

On what basis did Donald Trump act in 2017? President Obama rested all his many military actions throughout the greater Middle East on the September 2001 authorization by Congress:

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

That authorization has been stretched and stretched and stretched. It even supplied the legal basis for Obama’s overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya. But there’s a limit even to the most generous definition of authority, and in Syria, we reached it. To the extent al Qaida is present in Syria—it’s on the other side of the war from Bashar al-Assad. One could argue (and Trump has argued!) that by fighting Assad, the U.S. would help al-Qaida and its ideological successor, ISIS. Perhaps it is time for the U.S. to switch sides. But where’s the legal warrant? Trump disdains the very question.

Trump Disregards Government Processes

In the next hours, journalists will be told a story about the decision-making process that produced the Syria strike. The first reports are not confidence inspiring. Mike Allen in Axios:

The White House sees this as "leadership week": the decision to order a missile strike on Syria after its deadly nerve-agent attack on its own citizens, including children; a prime-time announcement to the nation from Mar-a-Lago last night, in which Trump said, "God bless America and the entire world"; his assertive stance on North Korea, with the rogue state testing him by firing a ballistic missile; and meetings with the heads of state of Egypt, Jordan and, continuing today, China.

But here’s one thing we already know: There can have been no proper interagency process before the strike, because none of the relevant agencies of government other than the Department of Defense is properly staffed to join such a process. You can’t have a deputies’ meeting without deputies.

Every decision presents risks and costs, and any responsible decision maker insists on a detailed itemization of those risks and those costs. That cannot have happened here. Trump has walked into a military confrontation that implicates regional and global security with only the haziest notion of what might go wrong. One friend of mine has warned: “If it were good foreign policy, Trump wouldn’t be doing it.” Foreign policy is hard, and even the best process does not guarantee good outcomes. Sometimes you get lucky, and can escape the consequences of a bad process. But the odds are the odds. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, bad processes lead to ugly results.

Read on for more re: Trump Has No Allies, Trump Envisions No End State, Trump Is Lucky in His Opponents.

That last is the observation that unlike Republicans who all opposed Obama's plans to do exactly what Trump did, the Democrats are all praising him. They still don't know how to deal with him. It's not going to end well...