Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Andrew Napolitano on DC Swamp Culture

Judge Andrew Napolitano Exposes DC Swamp Culture regarding Clinton Lynch Tarmac Meeting

In reaction to revelations that the FBI withheld 30 documents about the July 2016 tarmac meeting between former President Bill Clinton and Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch (when Hillary Clinton was still under investigation for the Hillary Email security violations), Judge Andrew Napolitano revealed an ugly truth about Beltway ethics. 

Napolitano's exhortation for government officials to follow the rule of law and not protect other "members of the club", explains why Values Voters Summit participants repeatedly rallied at allusions to "Drain the Swamp".

John McCain on Spurious Half Baked Nationalism

Senator John McCain refutes Steve Bannon's Half Baked Spurious Nationalism

Senator McCain's remarks as he received the National Constitution Center's Liberty award seems to be aimed at the populist politics championed by erstwhile Trump Senior Advisor Stephen Bannon. 

Mitch McConnell Verbally Battles Bannon Fodder

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Verbally Battles Bannon Fodder

At the Value Voters Summit, ex Trump Administration strategist Stephen Bannon declared war against the Republican Establishment who will not support President Trump's agenda.  Bannon specifically targeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). According to Bannon, he will not raise funds for any candidates who would vote for McConnell as the GOP Leader in the 116th Congress. 

After a working lunch between President Trump and the Senate Majority Leader, the two Republican leaders had a Rose Garden press conference which sought to mollify Bannon's calls for internecine revolt. President Trump claimed to understand why Bannon was agitated but suggested that not everyone in the Senate should be thrown out, as some members are good for the Trump agenda.

Majority Leader McConnell battled the Bannon fodder by suggesting that the way to win in Washington is to choose the right candidates, rather than achieve legislative accomplishments for a President in the same party.  McConnell called to mind the Tea Party boomlet in 2010, in which insurgents like Sharron Angle (R-NV) and Christine O'Donnell (R-DE), who upset GOP establishment candidates but who lost in the end.  Of course, these Tea Party insurgents did not get strong assistance from the national Republican Party and faced hostility from prospective colleagues like Senator John McCain.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Stephen Bannon Declares War Against Republican Establishment

Ex Trump White House Advisor Stephen Bannon Declares War on Republican Establishment

Although he opened his 2017 Value Voters Summit speech by echoing Ecclesiastes about the time of the season, former Trump Senior Adviser Stephen K. Bannon kept true to his street fighting instincts by declaring political war in a bombastic address to Evangelical voters in Washington DC.

Bannon voiced frustration that many Republicans in the Senate were either Janus faced or openly hostile to their President Donald Trump.  Bannon particularly took aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Foreign Policy Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN).

To wit, Bannon declared war on the GOP Establishment.  As Bannon is no longer shackled as a White House West Wing advisor, Bannon is free to support the Trump nationalist populist agenda from the outside.  Bannon intimated that he is working hard to primary many RINOs who do not support the Trump agenda.

Bannon claimed that there is time for Establishment sinners to repent, but otherwise he insisted that Deplorables will come after those not supporting Trump during the 2018 primaries.  

FRC President Tony Perkins at VVS17
This message was well received by the Values Voters Summit crowd.  A constant theme during the three day conference of politically active Evangelicals was "Drain to Swamp."  To underline that sentiment, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins honored his Louisiana roots and jocularly dressed in muck wear to open the Value Voters Summit. 

Sebastian Gorka on Donald Trump

Sebastian Gorka says Donald Trump is Kryptonite to political correctness

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trump Gunning to Increase America's Nuclear Stockpile

NBC News is reporting about a July 20th meeting between President Trump and Pentagon officials in which he  expressed an interest in greatly increasing America's nuclear stockpile.  This exhortation was prompted by a slide which showed that America's nuclear arsenal was at its peak in the late 1960s, which Mr. Trump approved.  

Rather than interpret this approval as a desire for a ten fold increase from today's nuclear levels, military officials appreciated it as the Commander-in-Chief wanting to increase America's military strength. This is consistent with Mr. Trump's pre-inaugural predilection to increase and expand America's nuclear capabilities. 

But the episode revived questions about President Trump's familiarity with America's nuclear triad

At one of the early Republican primary debates in late 2015, Hugh Hewitt questioned Mr. Trump's knowledge about the nuclear triad. Candidate Trump fumbled through the answer but insisted that while it is key to be careful about nukes, he would be well informed once in office and would concentrate on American strength not climate change and global warming.

This impetus to increase America's nuclear arsenal comes in the midst of a prospective conflict with a nascent rogue nuclear North Korea as well as the prospect of finding Iran being declared out of compliance with the Obama Iran Nuclear Deal. 

Several concerns come from this National Security leak.  Allegedly, after this July meeting, Secretary of State Tillerson was heard to call President Trump a "moron".  Aside from the insult, this episode illustrates how far Rex Tillerson is out of step with the West Wing.  It is reasonable to believe that once the crisis with North Korea cools down, Tillerson will no longer be at Foggy Bottom. There has been serious talk of a Trump Cabinet shuffle which CIA Director Mike Pompeo would move over to the State Department

Some arms control experts vex that increasing America's nuclear stockpile would spur an arms race with the Russia Federation as well as the Peoples' Republic of China.   Moreover, increases would challenge America's international treaty obligations.

As news about President Trump gunning to increase America's nuclear stockpile leaked out, Trump National Security Adviser Lt. General H.R.  McMaster stated: 

"But in recent years, in particular, the problem with leaks has become a real challenge to national security and so I think what is very important is that everyone who is involved in these sort of policy discussions understand the sacred trust that is placed in them, and they realize that speaking to the media about government deliberations is treasonous when it involves national security." 

Those are bold words, meant to quell an alluvia of embarrassing leaks meant to damage the Trump Administration. But Lt. Gen. McMaster upped the ante by intimating treason.  The question is whether the Trump Justice Department will be all talk and no action.  Attorney General Sessions has allegedly demurred from seeking prosecutions of Democrats concerning  Hillary Clinton's repeated mishandling of classified emails. Treason is a much more serious charge and more challenging to prosecute. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Appraising the Impact of Tillerson at Foggy Bottom

Rex Tillerson on Being Trump's Secretary of State
Over the weekend, Trump Administration Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was accused of saying that the President, his boss, was a "f***ing moron". This exasperated expletive was alleged uttered after President Trump's rousing remarks before the 2017 Boy Scouts Jamboree. When these comments came to public light, Tillerson held a news conference which denied that Vice President Pence needed to convince him to stay at Foggy Bottom because he never considered resigning.  It is notable, however, that Tillerson did not back away from the original insulting allegation. This has led pundits to ponder how long Tillerson will remain as Secretary of State.

In the Politico Magazine, Rich Lowry wondered if anyone would notice whether anyone would notice if Tillerson left his position at Foggy Bottom.  In the Trump Administration, foreign policy leads seem more driven from the Oval Office (or perhaps Twitter postings) than from Cabinet officials. Secretary of State Tillerson has voiced policy positions, particularly on Climate Change and Qatar, which seem at odds with President Trump.  Moreover, @POTUS Trump has posted Twitter thoughts which undermine Tillerson attempts to achieve diplomatic solutions with North Korea.

During his nomination hearings, Tillerson was vilified for his role at Exxon and connections to Big Oil. But through these petrochemical connections, Tillerson was said to have cultivated good relations with the Russian Federation.  It does not seem that Tillerson has neither been effective in lessening tensions with Moscow nor distancing the Trump Administration from accusations of Russian collusion.

One of Tillerson's virtues was that he had more of a business background than a political resume, thus his organizational skills might be different at Foggy Bottom.  Perhaps this may be true on paper, but Secretary of State Tillerson seemed reluctant to clean house at the State Department. In April 2017, well after his confirmation, Tillerson indicated that he was in no rush to fill nearly 200 State Department posts.  In August 2017, Tillerson announced that there would be fewer promotions at State. These may have been an attempt at pruning an overstaffed State Department, but it also gave the opportunity for Obama Administration holdovers to exert undue influence in Foggy Bottom.

One of the major motivations for many loyal Trump voters is to "Clean the Swamp". In other words, to divest power from progressive elites who have burrowed their way into the bureaucracy.  This is especially true in the State Department. But this is impossible to achieve if the chief acts like a short termer.  In late July 2017, Tillerson confided with friends that he did not expect to last a year on the job.  Notwithstanding his recent denial of resigning over the moron kerfuffle, Tillerson is not taking the broad measures to clean house. The Iran Deal is an example in which the State Department has been enthusiastic in promoting and preserving, yet it is in conflict with Mr. Trump's campaign promises as well as inklings from the West Wing.  A cabinet official who is deemed a short termer will have little sway with the bureaucracy in aligning with the President's foreign policy predilections.

Secretaries of State can take different tacks to their job.  Henry Kissinger, who was Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, took a leading role in formulating the realpolitik and detente foreign policies.  George Schultz, President Reagan's long serving Secretary of State, did not seek the limelight and was able to earn the loyalty of State Department officers by staffing for professionalism rather than political concerns.  Hillary Clinton, President Obama's First Secretary of State, did her bosses bidding by racking up frequent flier miles in visiting diplomatic outposts rather than take the lead on foreign policy.

Aside from trying to shrink the size of the State Department by attrition and to stop relying on special envoys, it is unclear how Secretary of State Tillerson is making a difference at his job.  Moreover, the friction between Tillerson and Trump on personal and policy fronts, makes his position tenuous.

At a time in which Americans have been distracted by ephemeral issues like the NFL Taking the Knee during the National Anthem and dealing with disasters, such as hurricanes and the Las Vegas shooting, there are serious foreign policy concerns brewing.  North Korea continues to be belligerent.  The world will no longer buy the peace through bribes for worthless promises of non-aggression or denuclearization.  While the United Nations has applied additional sanctions, this does not seem to be achieving the objective of de-escalation of tension or DPRK regime change.

Rich Lowry on Trump Secretary of State Charles Sprugeon

Considering a prospective conflict with North Korea, it would be unwise to have Secretary Tillerson leave his Secretary of State post at this time.  However, presuming this situation with the Kim Jung Un regime comes to a head in the near future, it would be prudent to have a Secretary of State who is more in tune with the Commander-in-Chief's expectations for Foggy Bottom and who more accurately reflects (at least in public) the President's foreign policy positions.