Trump dumps on France

Just after returning from a visit to France where Donald Trump had looked uncomfortable amid tensions between he ande Emmanuel Macron, and where macron had a dig at him over nationalism, Trump has let rip via Twitter in attacks described as lacking in common decency.

Four days ago Trump and Macron try to defuse tension: ‘We want a strong Europe’ – video (Guardian))

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron sought to defuse tensions on Saturday after comments made by both leaders threatened to cast a shadow over a weekend celebration marking 100 years since the end of the first world war.

Three days ago: Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism: Macron lectures Trump (Stuff):

By the grave of an unknown soldier, under Napoleon’s grand arch, at the centenary of the end of a great, terrible war, France’s president lectured the powerful.

His audience, metres away, included presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and Recep Erdogan.

Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism, Emmanuel Macron declared. A withdrawal into isolationism would be “a grave error that future generations would very rightly make us responsible for”.

In France Trump looked uncomfortable a lot of the time – except he lit up when Putin arrived at one event.

Trump likes being the big man, the US leader, the world leader, the big ego.

But he seems to treat ‘lesser’ leaders, and those who don’t stoke his ego, with disdain. He dislikes doing many of the the sort of things that any significant and effective leader has to do – deal with other people who may have different views and goals.

On Trump’s return to the US:  Days after visit, Trump blasts France’s Macron as relations sour

U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his French counterpart on Tuesday in a series of tweets that underscored how much the once-friendly ties between the two leaders have soured, just two days after returning from Paris.

In five posts sent on the same day that French officials marked the anniversary of the 2015 terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, Trump blasted the key U.S. ally over its near defeat to Germany in two world wars, its wine industry and Macron’s approval ratings.

White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp, meanwhile, cast Trump’s Paris trip in a positive light.

“It was clearly a successful trip,” Schlapp told Fox News on Tuesday, saying Trump and Macron “had a productive meeting” on trade and NATO.

“He has sent a strong message to our European allies. And we have seen some changes and some positive shifts coming from our allies to pay more to NATO. We need their support,” she said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday that Trump had isolated himself at one of the weekend events by deciding not to attend the Paris Peace Forum, which Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin attended.

Before his arrival, Trump had blasted comments that Macron made in a radio interview in which he appeared to cast the United States as a threat.

Both French officials and the White House said any misunderstandings had been cleared up after Macron and Trump held talks on Saturday.

It doesn’t look like things have been cleared up – it looks more like they have turned to mud.

That in particular is likely to fray raw nerves.

I guess Trump never claimed to be a diplomat, but this will be creating difficulties or US and French diplomats.

Guardian: He came, he sulked, he tweeted: preening Trump on parade in Paris

In political science classes in the decades to come, Veterans Day Weekend 2018 is bound to be popular essay topic in the course on the Narcissist Presidency.

It has all the hallmarks of the Trump era: a fabricated story that congeals as fact in the president’s brain and moments later is broadcast on Twitter. Countless diplomats and officials are sent scurrying to limit the damage, as the chief executive doubles down, refusing to admit a mistake.

On this occasion, after being generally complimentary to Macron during the trip, Trump woke up furious with the French president on Tuesday morning. He repeated the false claim about Macron’s intentions for a European army, and followed it up with the well-worn jingoistic claim that France would be speaking German if it had not been for US intervention in two world wars.

The president then pivoted, as he often does against domestic opponents, to deride the French president’s unpopularity and then signaled he would express his irritation through trade policy, claiming France imposed “big tariffs” on US wine and threatening retaliation. The tariffs on US wine are higher, but they are set by the EU, after trade negotiations with the US, not by France.

Over the first two years of his presidency, the point has been explained to Trump repeatedly. But in his outbursts against Germany, France and others, he ignores the distinction between the EU and its member states.

Whether Trump acts out of ignorance and deafness to expertise, or sheer political expediency has been much debated, but the distinction may not matter much. Raw attacks on other countries and talk of tariffs plays well with his base. Whether they are well founded or not does not matter.

At best, days of governmental effort will now be wasted, but no new tariffs will be imposed simply out of presidential ire. The outcomes could be far worse when it is not Emmanuel Macron on the receiving end of Trump’s petulance but say, Kim Jong-un after the honeymoon with the North Korean regime goes sour, and there are nuclear missiles rather than cabernet sauvignon at stake.

Who knows what trump may provoke internationally. He is very different to any world leader, past or present. His brashness, petulance and ego may shake some things up and do some good, but he is also high risk.

Trump looks to be a provoked disaster waiting to happen.

Macron and Merkel – emotion and unity on Armistice Day centenary

Angela Merkel, the first German leader since World War 2 to visit the site where the World War 1 armistice site, has joined with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron in an emotional show of unity in events marking the centenary of Armistice Day.

BBC: Macron and Merkel mark end of World War One

French President c and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have left their own mark of reconciliation at the start of events to mark the centenary of the end of World War One.

They signed a book of remembrance in a railway carriage identical to the one in which the 1918 Armistice was sealed.

Mrs Merkel became the first German leader since World War Two to visit the forest near the town of Compiègne in northern France where the Armistice was signed.

She and Mr Macron unveiled a plaque to Franco-German reconciliation, laid a wreath and signed a book of remembrance in a replica railway carriage.

The original wagon, on which it was modelled, was used by Adolf Hitler to accept France’s capitulation to Nazi Germany in June 1940.

Mr Macron will lead the main event of the centenary – a sombre commemoration on Sunday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial to France’s fallen under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Sunday afternoon will see Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel attend a peace conference – the Paris Peace Forum – with leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Macron initiated the peace conference. As here in New Zealand commemorations of World War 1 have highlighted the horrors of war and as well as remembrance of the huge number who died in the conflict have had significant promotions of alternatives to war – that is, peace.

But where Donald Trump goes, controversy is certain to follow. He did not take part in the peace conference.

And Trump was widely criticised for not attending a remembrance event at an American cemetery.

After an hour of talks with Mr Macron and lunch with their wives Melania and Brigitte, Mr Trump had been due to visit one of two American cemeteries on his schedule.

But he cancelled his trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial due to “scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather”.

White House officials later explained that low cloud would have prevented his helicopter from landing, and cited security concerns about arranging a motorcade to the site.

Gen. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, attended on the president’s behalf.

Kelly managed to handle the “scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather”.

David Frum (President George W Bush’s speechwriter):

Nicholas Soames, UK Conservative MP and grandson of British wartime leader Winston Churchill:

Trump was grouchy before he got to France, taking a swipe at Macron via Twitter.

The row began when Mr Macron told French radio station Europe 1 radio on Tuesday “we must have a Europe that can defend itself on its own without relying only on the United States”.

Mr Macron went on to mention threats to Europe, including “re-emerging authoritarian powers” that were well-armed on Europe’s borders, and attempts to launch cyber-attacks, before concluding: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”

Mr Trump responded angrily in a Friday night tweet, writing: “President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the US, China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly!”

Mr Macron has already raised spending considerably to meet a Nato target of 2% of the GDP going to defence.

He is also overseeing the formation of a European Intervention Initiative, a 10-nation endeavour backed by Germany and the UK.

(me controversy also from German far right Alternative for Germany AfD party co-leader Alexander Gauland – Germany has no place in WW1 ceremony for ‘winners’- far-right leader

German Chancellor Angela Merkel should not have taken part in a ceremony in France on Sunday marking the centenary of the Armistice as it is an event for the “winners” of World War One, said the leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Germany lost the war and Merkel’s participation in a ceremony for the former allies amounted to an attempt to rewrite history, AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland said.

“We can’t put ourselves in a historical situation that clearly favours the winner and walk alongside Mr. Macron through the Arc de Triomphe,” he said, referring to the famous Paris monument.

That totally misses the point of the Armistice Day commemoration. It isn’t about winners, it is about remembering the huge losses suffered by many countries, and trying to avoid any sort of repeat of the stupidity of the war.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has been representing New Zealand in France – Foreign Minister attends Armistice Day and Paris Peace Forum

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters will represent New Zealand at Armistice commemorations in France and attended the inaugural Paris Peace Forum later today.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls for ‘peace and inclusion’ on Remembrance Day

Ardern’s Speech to Armistice Day National Ceremony 2018

I don’t know why Ardern didn’t go to France, but that was signalled in July when New Zealand plans were announced – Government releases details of Armistice Day centenary plans

Points of note from US midterm elections

Now the dust has settled and most of the results have been confirmed it’s worth looking at what the US midterm elections mean 9for the US) in the short term and for the 2020 election.

RealClear Politics:  Six Takeaways From the Midterms

Democrats accomplished something that seemed impossible in early 2017: They took control of the House of Representatives; they picked up multiple governorships.

Overall, Republicans had a tough night Tuesday. When all is said and done, Democrats look to have gained around 35 seats in the House, seven governorships and over 330 state legislators. Yet as rough as it was, it could have been much worse for Republicans.

In the Senate, Republicans actually expanded their majority — as it appears they will pick up 3 seats.

Some factors to consider:

  1. The GOP got killed in the suburbs. This is a significant long-term problem for the party if it continues.
  2. This probably doesn’t count as a wave. Our preliminary results suggest that things have moved about 23 points toward Democrats.  That’s a substantial shift, but it falls short of even “semi-wave elections” such as 2014 (a shift of 26 points toward Republicans) and 2006 (a movement of 30 points toward Democrats).
  3. Money. Democrats had a massive fundraising advantage in the lower chamber. This allowed them to catch a number of incumbent Republicans napping, and to spread the playing field out such that the GOP just had too many brush fires to put out.
    To the extent we wish to deduce anything about 2020 from these midterms, we should bear in mind that the next election will probably be fought on a more even financial playing field.
  4. The maps moved out from under Republicans. Many of these districts that swung against the GOP were suburban districts that included urban areas…when there was a suburban swing, the Republicans were spread too thin to survive.
  5. The red state/blue state divide is getting deeper…generally speaking, Republicans won red states and Democrats won blue states, with proper allowance for incumbency.  This is yet another example of how polarized we are becoming.
  6. This all takes place against the backdrop of a booming economy. Finally, it is important to note that Republicans should not have found themselves in this position amid a vibrant economy.  It is quite unusual to have a result this bad in a time of peace and prosperity. Some of this is the suburban realignment, but some is driven by Donald Trump’s more extreme actions, which alienate suburban moderates.

It’s very difficult to predict two years ahead, especially with the division and upheaval going on in US politics, and the unpredictability of Trump.

…if Trump can smooth out the rougher edges that turn suburbanites off, he could prove to be a formidable candidate in 2020.  Most of his states from 2016 continued to support Republicans this cycle.  But, on the other hand, he hasn’t shown much interest in smoothing out those edges.  And if the economy slides into recession, all bets are off.

The Senate will be a tougher battle for the Republicans next time.The House could swing either way.

As for the presidency, it looks likely that Trump will stand again, and much will depend on how he handles the second half of his term as president. And the economy.

And a big unknown is who the Democrats will put up against Trump. They stuffed up last time with Hillary Clinton. If she gets another shot then I think Trump will be favoured, to have lost once to him was a remarkable defeat, and on top of that she has too many negatives.

Both the Senate and the House could easily go either way, depending on what happens over the next two years.

And I think it is impossible to predict Trump, and also impossible to predict whether he can hold sufficient support to win again. It looks like he has a substantial base of support that will keep ignoring his fallibilities. But he needs more than that. If he keeps attacking different groups and demographics he will make things difficult for himself.

 

US midterm election results

Largely as predicted by polls and pundits, the Republicans have held the Senate with an slightly increased majority, and the House has moved the other way with Democrats taking control there – with some results (about 20) yet to be confirmed it looks like about a twenty seat margin. This is a flip from the last result (Republicans 235, Democrats 193).

Current House result (412 of 435 seats decided):

  • Democratic Party 220 (50.6%)
  • Republican Party 193 (44.4%)
  • Other parties 0 (0%)

It is remarkable that in a country as large and diverse as the USA only two parties contested the House elections.

Current Senate results (96 or 100 seats declared):

  • Republican Party 51 (51%%)
  • Democratic Party 43 (43%)
  • Other parties 2 (2%)

That is just about an exact reversal of party support, although only 35 of the Senate seats were contested, and these generally favoured the Republicans.

There was an unusually high turnout for midterm elections, despite the usual claims of difficulties and deterrences in voting. For Kiwis who are used to just wandering into a polling booth and voting, it seems odd to see such long queues in the US.

What this election has accentuated is the increasing division in the US between pro and anti  Trump, urban and rural, highly educated versus less educated.

Trump has achieved some things, like a booming economy and increased employment, but he has also polarised the country, and has created greater risks with a huge deficit and disruption to trade.

FiveThirtyEight summarise the election result so far:

The big questions have been answered. Democrats have taken the House. Republicans will keep the Senate. Exactly how many seats will change hands, however, is still up in the air:

  • There are currently just over 30 House seats yet to be projected; if the current leader in all of them ends up winning, the House will be 227 Democrats, 208 Republicans.

Unsurprisingly Trump claimed a ‘very Big Win’:

A different slant from Reuters: Trump faces restraints after Democrats seize House

Democrats rode a wave of dissatisfaction with President Trump to win control of the House of Representatives, giving them the opportunity to block Trump’s agenda and open his administration to intense scrutiny.

Reuters: Seven takeaways from the U.S. congressional elections

  1. The urban-rural divide is as pervasive as ever.
  2. President Donald Trump remains an inescapable political force. Democrats credit Trump’s unpopularity among women, minorities, young people and suburban voters with college degrees for their House wins. Republicans said his late-stage campaign efforts helped them pick up seats in the Senate.
  3. Progressive stars had a tough night.
  4. Republicans held off a blue wave in governor’s races.
  5. The Republican Party is more Trumpian than ever.
  6. Wedge issues raised late in the campaign helped Republicans.
  7. Democrats had big success in the Great Lakes. The party held onto Senate seats in states in the industrial Midwest that Trump won in 2016.

 

Trump tweet “is a sickening ad”

Donald Trump has been outrageously lying and inflaming on Twitter or years, but he may have not just jumped the shark, he has also kicked the shark’s teeth in.

On top of ordering thousands of troops to the US-Mexico border as an apparent election ploy, he has gone over the top playing the immigration card via Twitter:

This attack may rark up Trump’s base but it will make a few Republican candidates for seats in Senate and Congress nervous about the reaction of decent voters.

Trump Claims He Can Overrule Constitution With Executive Order…

A report from the US:

Saying his latest executive order was legal due to an “underutilized but totally feasible workaround,” President Trump claimed Tuesday that he could overrule the U.S. Constitution by means of the relatively obscure “no one will stop me” loophole.

“My critics say a constitutional amendment or at least an act of Congress is necessary to end birthright citizenship, but what they don’t realize is that a seldom-evoked administrative guideline ensures I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, because zero people will stand in my way,” said Trump, adding that the largely unheard-of clause allows him to circumvent normal legal proceedings because it’s not like anyone in any branch of government remains effective enough to prevent him from doing so.

“Though few modern presidents have made use of it, this loophole has always given the nation’s chief executive unilateral power over the Constitution. Its provisions dictate that the president can sidestep any checks and balances on his power once he has abused his authority so many times that no one can keep track anymore.”

Trump added that while his opponents may try to challenge his executive order in court, the loophole also states that by then he will have achieved his immediate political aims.

Trump Claims He Can Overrule Constitution With Executive Order Because Of Little-Known ‘No One Will Stop Me’ Loophole is from Onion, but this isn’t:

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to citizenship to everyone born in the country, an assertion that runs counter to the long-established legal interpretation of the document.

“So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th Amendment because of the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof.’ Many legal scholars agree…..” Trump wrote in a Twitter post six days before U.S. congressional elections.

The Constitution’s 14th Amendment, added after the Civil War, grants citizenship to anyone born on American soil and was intended to give constitutional protections to former slaves. But some Republicans, including Trump, say it creates an incentive for people to enter the country illegally to have children.

It can be hard to differentiate between satire and what Trump actually says.

Rising signs of hate in the US

Three alarming incidents in the past week in the US – the pipe bombs sent to a number of individuals and companies, two black people shot in a grocery store, and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting – have raised concerns that hate crime is on the rise.

President Donald Trump has inevitably been included in discussions in reaction to these incidents. It is difficult to judge how much Trump may have encouraged this sort of hate violence, but how he responds may make a difference – and while he has played lip service to outrage and condemnation, his actions continue to be troubling.

This apparent rise in hate crimes, the tip of a large iceberg of online intolerance and hate, is happening on Trump’s watch.

NY Times editorial: The Hate Poisoning America

What is going on in this country? Can’t we be safe in our homes, in our schools, in our most sacred places? Once again, Americans are left to ask each other these sorts of questions, after a gunman burst into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on the Jewish Sabbath and opened fire on families in the contemplation of their faith.

The attack came a day after a man was arrested in Florida for mailing pipe bombs to politicians and journalists across the country. In both cases, the suspects had nourished their animus online, on social media platforms where they could easily connect with people who shared their hatreds.

After the attack on Tree of Life, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Times, “I’m afraid to say that we may be at the beginning of what has happened to Europe, the consistent anti-Semitic attacks.”

Alongside anti-Semitism, anti-black hatred appears to be rising. It has been expressed recently not only in incidents in which white Americans have harassed black Americans for gardening, coming home, swimming, working or campaigning for public office, but in deadly attacks like the one by a bigot who shot two black people at a Kentucky grocery last week, after he tried but failed to enter a black church.

At least some of the hate behind attacks like this is fomented online.

The suspect in the Pittsburgh killings, Robert Bowers, had found a home for his hate on Gab, a new social network that bills itself as a guardian of free speech, unlike somewhat less permissive platforms like Twitter. There his online biography read, “Jews are the children of Satan,” a statement of personal values that he evidently expected to earn him not opprobrium but followers.

Mr. Bowers’s hatred of American Jews was apparently motivated in part by the generosity and empathy many of them have shown for non-Jewish refugees of conflicts worldwide. In their humanity, he found cause to dehumanize them. “It’s the filthy EVIL jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!” he wrote online.

Gun laws come up again after mass shootings, but little ever seems to change. And guns are just tools of extreme merchants of hate, many of whom build their bravado online.

What can be done? Certainly, common-sense gun safety regulation might make attacks like the one on Tree of Life synagogue less deadly— universal background checks, red-flag laws that take guns away from the mentally unstable, bans on high-capacity weapons like the AR-15 rifle that the alleged killer wielded.

Measures like these would help contend with the hardware of hate. It is far harder to disable the software, the ideas that now spread so readily.

It is difficult to confront online hate. Some of it ferments in protected bubbles.

Leadership that is unequivocal about condemning intolerance and hate would help.

Good speech may not be enough in itself, but that doesn’t mean that American society couldn’t benefit from much more of it today, particularly from its leaders.

So it was reassuring to hear President Trump condemn the attack in Pittsburgh, as he did the pipe bombs. And it was disappointing to see him immediately head back out on the campaign trail, as he did on Saturday, to disparage his opponents and critics all over again.

Until next week’s mid-term elections it seems that hate and division as tools of politics will continue.

It isn’t simply a Trump issue, but as the leader and commander-in-chief of the country he must take some responsibility for the escalations and do more than speak out of both sides of his mouth.

But there are alternate views, like this opinion from Steve Hilton from Fox News who blames it on Barack Obama: Trump and his supporters are being blamed for a climate of rage and hate – but here’s the truth

Predictably, the establishment is blaming President Trump and his supporters for a climate of rage and hate.

But let’s be honest, a lot of Americans have had a lot to be angry about for an awful long time.

This anger we’re seeing, it didn’t start with Donald Trump. I think it goes back at least a decade.

In 2008 you saw the elite bail themselves out while working people paid the price for their recklessness and incompetence.

And you saw a new tone enter our politics.

Reagan, the Bushes, Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton perhaps a bit too much – they weren’t haters. You got the sense they loved everybody.

But then we saw something new. A cultural elitism came in. Condescension. Even contempt.

Remember when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said on April 6, 2008, “They get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion.”

How about when his wife Michelle said this on February 18, 2008; “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.”

We saw hate and divisiveness — from the top. And remember, from the left, not the right. From the elitists, not the populists.

What he claims is debatable (very much so) but there is one truth that can’t be denied – the current levels of division and hate are happening on Trump’s watch.

Arrest after pipe bomb mail campaign in US

A man has been arrested in Florida and is reported as beinng a suspect in this week’s pipe bomb campaign where twelve ‘bomb-like’ packages were mailed to various politicians and media organisations.

It sounds like it may not have been particularly sophisticated  bomb operation.

Miami Herald:  South Florida man arrested in connection with suspected explosive packages

A Florida man has been arrested in connection to the string of suspected explosive packages sent to prominent Democrats this week, law enforcement sources tell the Miami Herald and other outlets.

Law enforcement sources tell the Miami Herald a trail of DNA evidence on either the packages or the devices quickly led investigators to a suspect identified as Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old man from Aventura. He is being questioned by FBI agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force since his arrest this morning at about 10 a.m.

Federal investigators quickly centered the investigation on the dozen crudely fashioned “pipe bombs” sent to top Trump critics, including Hillary Clinton and Cory Booker, on a mail sorting facility in Opa-locka. The devices have been recovered in New York, Washington D.C., California and South Florida, all with the return address of Debbie Wassermann-Schultz’s office. Several words, including her name, were misspelled on the packages.

Images posted on social media show federal agents examining a white van with windows covered in pro-Donald Trump and right wing stickers. Closeup photos of the van, posted by a Twitter user who said he saw the car at a stoplight in April, show rifle scope images over the faces of Hilary Clinton, left wing filmmaker Michael Moore and President Barack Obama. Another said “CNN Sucks,” along with an image of Trump standing on a tank in front of fireworks and an American flag.

This is likely to raise the rhetoric as the US heads into their mid-term elections.

Trump tried to use the bomb campaign to get out the republican vote.

There have been accusations flying in all directions.

It’s a very divided and toxic political situation in the US. Perhaps the President will show leadership and calm things down, but that seems unlikely this side of the election.

Trump is talking about it right now.

Trump:

These terrorising events are despicable and have no place in our country.

We must never allow political violence to take root in America. We cannot let it happen, and I’m committed to doing everything in my power as president to stop it, and to stop it now, to stop it now.

But the bottom line is that Americans must unify, and we must show the world that we are united together in peace and love and harmony as fellow American citizens. There is no country like our country, and every day we are showing the world just how truly great we are.

What Trump needs to do now is show that, over time, he can put his words into practice. He has been much the opposite of a unifying president so far. He won the election by attacking and dividing, and that’s how he has been running the current campaign.

Can he change?

Trump in hypocritical overdrive blaming others for anger and division

It’s hardly news that Donald Trump is being hypocritical in blaming the media and others for being divisive, but in his latest claim of the moral ground proves his own divisiveness.

Trump repeatedly encouraged anger against others at his political rallies in the 2016 presidential campaign, and until very recently he continued to do this. And in his rant against ‘Anger’ he does much the same.

Aaron Blake (Washington Post): Trump is unwittingly blaming himself for postal bombs

At a rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday, Trump made a show of supposedly being civil but also cast blame on others who employed harsh rhetoric. He criticized those who “carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains.” He added that people need to “stop treating their opponents as morally defective.”

Trump also pointed a finger at the media — a sentiment he expounded upon Thursday morning in a tweet.

So Trump has now cited three causes for what happened Wednesday: people who villainize their political opponents, people who cast their opponents as “morally defective” and resentment of the media. All three effectively implicate Trump himself.

Nobody in American politics in recent years has so villainized and attacked the morality of their political opponents like Trump. His attacks are routinely about people’s character, rather than allowing for honest disagreements. He has literally appended nicknames to his opponents attacking their morality: “Lyin’ Ted,” “Crooked Hillary” and “Cheatin’ Obama.” Trump at one point before he ran for president even assured us that his critics weren’t just mistaken, but were “born f—ed up.” He has called the media and his female sexual harassment accusers “liars,” repeatedly.

And just two weeks ago, while defending his Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, Trump said Kavanaugh’s opponents were not just wrong, but “evil” — repeatedly.

“You had forces saying things that were evil. They were bad people,” Trump said. When asked whether he was calling fellow Americans “evil,” Trump confirmed that he was: “I know many. I know fellow Americans that are evil. I know — are you saying we shouldn’t say that a fellow American is ‘evil?’ I’ve known some fellow Americans that are pretty evil.”

But perhaps the biggest self-incrimination here is in Trump’s decision to blame this on the media.

It bears noting that only one of the targets thus far was a media outlet; The others were Democratic and liberal figures whom Trump has verbally attacked. If this was truly about frustration with the media, sending a bomb to Joe Biden or Eric Holder doesn’t really make sense.

Setting that aside, Trump seems to be arguing that the media has created such resentment that people are liable to do things like mail bombs to people they don’t like. But here’s the thing: Trump has spent the better part of the past three years egging on suspicions of the media — and often unfairly. There are undoubtedly some fair criticisms in there — the media isn’t perfect and should never claim to be — but Trump has also gone so far as to label the media the “enemy of the American people.”

He has repeatedly denied reports that he and his administration later confirmed. He has attacked anonymous sources as nonexistent even though there was an official White House transcript to prove it. He has made repeated claims about how the media covered him that don’t comport with reality or what he said previously.

Which is what he’s doing now.

Trump accusing others of things he is guilty of is nothing new.

And his rhetoric about reducing anger and division is likely to be thrown out the window at his next rally.

Alarming claims and revelations in killing of Saudi journalist

Claims and revelations over the apparent killing of a Saudi dissident in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey are quite alarming.

New York Times: Turkish Officials Say Khashoggi Was Killed on Order of Saudi Leadership

Top Turkish security officials have concluded that the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court, a senior official said Tuesday.

The official described a quick and complex operation in which Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulateby a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose.

Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have denied the allegations, insisting that Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate freely shortly after he arrived. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has demanded that the Saudis provide evidence proving their claim.

The security establishment concluded that Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was directed from the top because only the most senior Saudi leaders could order an operation of such scale and complexity, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential briefings.

Fifteen Saudi agents had arrived on two charter flights last Tuesday, the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared, the official said.

All 15 left just a few hours later, and Turkey has now identified the roles that most or all of them held in the Saudi government or security services, the official said. One was an autopsy expert, presumably there to help dismember the body, the official said.

A publication with close ties to Mr. Erdogan’s government, the newspaper Sabah, reported Tuesday that unnamed officials had said the police were examining the possibility that Mr. Khashoggi had been abducted and not killed, possibly with the help of another country’s intelligence officers.

The official who spoke about Mr. Khashoggi’s killing said that report and other similar ones were incorrect and were probably the result of the limited information shared among different agencies within the Turkish government.

Another person briefed on the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential details, told The Times on Saturday that Turkish intelligence had obtained a video of the killing, made by the Saudis to prove that it had occurred.

A commentator close to Mr. Erdogan’s government said so publicly on Tuesday.

“There is a video of the moment of him being killed,” Kemal Ozturk, a columnist in a pro-government newspaper and the former head of a semiofficial news agency, said in an interview on a pro-government television network, citing unnamed security officials.

So alarming multiple claims, some disputed.

Fox News: US intercepted Saudi plans to capture missing journalist, report says

U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly intercepted Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist who disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

The Washington Post is reporting that before the journalist disappeared on Oct. 2, Saudi officials discussed a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

It remains unclear if the Saudi government intended to arrest or kill the journalist known for his writings criticizing the Saudi leadership, or whether the U.S. government informed Khashoggi that he was the target of the Saudi government, the report said.

Questions about what the US did, and if they knew whether they did anything to try to prevent what seemed about to happen.

The journalist’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, wrote an op-ed on Tuesday expressing hope her man is still alive. “Although my hope slowly fades away each passing day, I remain confident that Jamal is still alive,” she wrote. “Perhaps I’m simply trying to hide from the thought that I have lost a great man whose love I had earned.”

Cengiz urged President Trump and his wife Melania Trump to help shed a light on the journalist’s disappearance. “At this time, I implore President Trump and first lady Melania Trump to help shed light on Jamal’s disappearance,” she wrote.

Washington Post: Trump wants answers about missing Saudi writer

President Donald Trump says the U.S. is “demanding” answers from Saudi Arabia about missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and wants to bring his fiancée to the White House.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that he has a call in to his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

Trump says nobody knows exactly what happened and expressed hope that Khashoggi is not dead.

He says he’s spoken with the Saudis about what he called a “bad situation,” but he did not disclose details of his conversations.

It certainly looks like a bad situation. And a tricky one for the US – they supply a lot of weaponry to Saudi Arabia: U.S. sells 6,700 missiles to Saudi Arabia as part of $1 billion deal:

“This proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East,” the State Department said, adding that the deal “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

The murder (or abduction) of Khashoggi puts the US in a difficult position.

Haaretz: Trump’s Saudi Policy Lets MBS Think He Can Get Away With Murder, ex-U.S. Officials Say

As fears grow about fate of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish authorities believe was killed in Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, experts warn that White House silence is part of the problem

 Former U.S. officials believe the Trump administration’s friendly policy toward Saudi Arabia has caused its leaders to believe they face no consequences for their actions. The fears were raised following the mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey last week, amid reports that he was murdered while visiting Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

The Trump administration has made a noticeable effort to improve America’s relations with Saudi Arabia, which became tense during President Barack Obama’s time in office. Donald Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first foreign visit as president, in May 2017, and the Saudi leadership vocally supported his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

A close relationship has also developed between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

A former Middle East adviser to both Republican and Democratic administrations:

Miller’s “just about anything” statement refers to a series of steps previously taken by the crown prince to oppress opposition to his rule. Over the past year, he has had hundreds of Saudi businessmen and former officials arrested without due process. His government has also jailed women’s rights and anti-corruption activists, accusing them of a conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Crown Prince Mohammed has also intensified Saudi Arabia’s war against Iran and its proxies in Yemen – a war that has turned into a full-blown humanitarian disaster. The Saudis also detained Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri last November, reportedly holding him against his will and forcing him to resign as Lebanese premier (Hariri walked back that decision when back in Beirut).

As far as is known, the Trump administration didn’t criticize or warn Saudi Arabia about any of these policies. In fact, it actively supported and encouraged some of them. When the Saudi leadership rounded up hundreds of political rivals and held them at a Riyadh hotel-cum-interim prison, Trump tweeted:

That message was well received in Riyadh. “The Trump administration made it clear from early on that it had little interest in protecting human rights, except when it comes to the rights of Christian minorities,” Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former State Department official who is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told Haaretz.

Trump, she added, “said very explicitly that he is not interested in telling other countries how to run [their] government. Could this be seen as a green light for oppressive actions? Certainly when compared to the previous policies of every American president since the end of World War II.”

So the actions of Saudi Arabia in relation to Khashoggi are in the spotlight, but what Trump and his administration has done and does now is also very important.