Media frenzy that feeds and feeds off Trump attention seeking

The US media in part made it possible for Donald Trump to win an unlikely nomination and then win the US presidency. They continue to feed, and feed off the frenzy of trump coverage, something the Trump keeps stoking – he is a supreme attention seeker. This works to his advantage sometimes, but it also works against him, distracting from important issues in the US.

Howard Kurtz at Fox News – Lack of substance: Media liberals say ‘Trump Porn’ is hurting them too

In the hyperpartisan media climate surrounding President Trump, I’ve detected a rare spot of agreement.

It’s certainly not in the way the president is being covered.

But if journalists are “obsessed” with the president, as Reince Priebus told me in a “Media Buzz” interview—”Trump is money for the media,” he said—there is a fallout that affects both the right and the left.

Kellyanne Conway and other White House officials have repeatedly told me in interviews that the media focus on Russia, Stormy, Twitter feuds and the like have drained attention from the serious issues facing the country.

Trump is responsible for stoking diversions that continue to dominate the headlines and mainstream news coverage – Fox News is as obsessed as anyone in their largely pro-Trump coverage.

In this view, the news business gives short shrift to taxes, immigration, health care and other matters important to everyday Americans because it’s easier to get clicks for scandal and sensationalism.

Leaving aside the question of whether Trump in part fuels these distractions—were we supposed to ignore Rudy Giuliani’s media blitz?—similar complaints are now being heard on the left. They make the parallel argument that their causes are being overshadowed by the “all Trump all the time” culture.

Liberal New York Times columnist Nick Kristof says…

…the media are “collectively addicted” to Trump and “locked in a symbiotic relationship” because “he is part of our business model in 2018,” with the result that “other issues don’t get adequate attention …

“The nonstop scandals and outrages suck us in; they amount to Trump porn,” he writes. And while the president is “enormously important … there’s so much else happening as well.

  • Some 65,000 Americans will die this year of drug overdoses,
  • American life expectancy has fallen for two years in a row,
  • guns claim a life every 15 minutes
  • and the number of uninsured is rising again even as a child in the U.S. is 70 percent more likely to die before adulthood than one in other advanced nations.

Those issues are rather more important than the question of whether Stormy Daniels slept with Trump.”

Trump has stoked the gun controversy – he spoke to an NRA convention last week – but the other issues mentioned don’t rate much of a mention.

Kristof, who also mentions suffering in Myanmar and Syria, makes this confession:

“Progressive snobs like me bemoan Trump’s inattention to these global issues, but the truth is that we don’t pay attention, either. At cocktail parties, on cable television, at the dinner table, at the water cooler, all we talk about these days is Trump. So we complain about Trump being insular and parochial — but we’ve become insular and parochial as well. We’ve caught the contagion that we mock.”

Phenomenons like Trump don’t happen on their own. It has become a self perpetuating circus train, with both Trump and the media stoking the boiler.

Obviously, this president—any president—plays an important role in every foreign and domestic issue. But so much of today’s coverage is driven by palace intrigue and soap-opera plots. So Kristof is agreeing with many conservatives and White House aides who say the level of reporting and commentary in the Trump era is pretty bad, and the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves.

The media is certainly at fault, big time, but Trump’s behaviour can also be pretty bad, his attention seeking and his actions are a major contributor to the sideshows, as are the White House people that work with him (and against him).

Trump and the media feed and feed off each other.

It has become like surreality TV.

Obama’s statement on Iran deal withdrawal

The Iran nuclear deal was done under Barack Obama’s presidency. It was strongly criticised and opposed by Donald Trump, who has just withdrawn the US from the deal.

Obama has made a statement in response.


There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.

The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working – that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense. The JCPOA is in America’s interest – it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. And the JCPOA is a model for what diplomacy can accomplish – its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea. Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes – with Iran – the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans.

That is why today’s announcement is so misguided. Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.

Debates in our country should be informed by facts, especially debates that have proven to be divisive. So it’s important to review several facts about the JCPOA.

First, the JCPOA was not just an agreement between my Administration and the Iranian government. After years of building an international coalition that could impose crippling sanctions on Iran, we reached the JCPOA together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

Second, the JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For decades, Iran had steadily advanced its nuclear program, approaching the point where they could rapidly produce enough fissile material to build a bomb. The JCPOA put a lid on that breakout capacity. Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran has destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium – the raw materials necessary for a bomb. So by any measure, the JCPOA has imposed strict limitations on Iran’s nuclear program and achieved real results.

Third, the JCPOA does not rely on trust – it is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, so that we can catch them if they cheat. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away.

Fourth, Iran is complying with the JCPOA. That was not simply the view of my Administration. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal, and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Fifth, the JCPOA does not expire. The prohibition on Iran ever obtaining a nuclear weapon is permanent. Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.

Finally, the JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior – including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Every aspect of Iranian behavior that is troubling is far more dangerous if their nuclear program is unconstrained. Our ability to confront Iran’s destabilizing behavior – and to sustain a unity of purpose with our allies – is strengthened with the JCPOA, and weakened without it.

Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East. We all know the dangers of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. It could embolden an already dangerous regime; threaten our friends with destruction; pose unacceptable dangers to America’s own security; and trigger an arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it.

In a dangerous world, America must be able to rely in part on strong, principled diplomacy to secure our country. We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.

Trump dumps Iran nuclear accord

This news is just breaking – as predicted Donald Trump has announced that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord.

Trump has strongly criticised Iran at the announcement, which is likely to make any new deal somewhat challenging.

He said that it was certain what would happen if the US remained in the accord – that’s nonsense – but it is now far from certain what will happen with Iran and the Middle East.

Snippets from Twitter:

Trump announces the US will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

“The Iran deal is defective at its core.”

“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction” – calls Iran a “murderous regime”.

“The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror.”

“Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also face sanctions from the US.”

Trump says U.S. will institute the ‘highest level’ of sanctions on Iran; says other countries could also be sanctioned by U.S.

Trump calls deal a “great embarrassment to me” and to all citizens of the US. “Horrible one-sided deal that should never, ever have been made”. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will”

US will work with allies “to find comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat…in the meantime powerful sanctions will go into full effect”. Iran will have “bigger problems than it has ever had before” if it continues to develop nuclear programme.

Israeli PM Netanyahu calls Trump’s decision on Iranian nuclear deal ‘brave and correct’.

“The future of Iran belongs to its people.”

US to institute the “highest level” of sanctions against Iran

Trump says he is ready, willing and able to negotiate a new deal with Iran when it is ready.

Earlier from Stuff: Trump ‘decides to exit nuclear accord with Iran’

US President Donald Trump plans to follow through on his campaign threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, according to two people familiar with his thinking, dealing a profound blow to US allies and potentially deepening the president’s isolation on the world stage.

Administration officials began informing congressional leaders about Trump’s plans on Tuesday. One person briefed on the talks characterised the president’s position as similar to his stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership – that he would pull out but remain open to the possibility of renegotiating a better deal.

That sounds fairly typical of Trump – dumping deals he doesn’t like and trying to negotiate better ones. This is despite recommendations that he work to improve the current deal.

The agreement, struck in 2015 by the United States, other world powers and Iran, lifted most US and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear programme making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.

If the deal collapses, Iran would be free to resume prohibited enrichment activities, while businesses and banks doing business with Iran would have to scramble to extricate themselves or run afoul of the US American officials were dusting off plans for how to sell a pullout to the public and explain its complex financial ramifications, said US officials and others, who weren’t authorised to speak ahead of an announcement and requested anonymity.

Trump is following a riskier, more chaotic path. And he has played the announcement for maximum attention.

Trump has a growing record of dumping international agreements he doesn’t like.

Iranian state TV says Trump decision on nuclear deal is illegal, illegitimate and undermines international agreements.

U.S. Treasury will begin process of implementing 90- and 180-day wind-down periods for activities involving Iran, then applicable sanctions will be reinstated.

It has been pointed it on 1 News that this was always Trump’s plan A, but apart from re-imposing sanctions despite concerns of many other countries Trump has given no indication of a plan B.

Winston Peters in 1 News now saying that this is a very very concerning development.

The initial reaction of Wall Street is negative, but it will take time for the markets to settle down post withdrawal.

Radical interests in Iran also opposed the deal, so they may be strengthened by the US pull out.

The United Kingdom, France and Germany have put out a joint statement assuring a commitment to continuing negotiations with Iran.

Former NATO commander:

Reuters: Former President Obama calls Trump’s decision to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal ‘misguided’ and a ‘serious mistake’

Irony of the day

French outrage over Trump comments on Paris attack

President Trump has offended the French after making some typically bizarre comments in a speech to the National Rifle Association  in Dallas, Texas.

Trump is well known for making stupid and insensitive comments. This just adds to the list.

RNZ: French outrage after US President Trump mimics Paris attackers

What did Trump say exactly?

“Paris, France, has the toughest gun laws in the world…” he told the NRA.

“Nobody has guns in Paris, nobody, and we all remember more than 130 people, plus tremendous numbers of people that were horribly, horribly wounded. Did you notice that nobody ever talks about them?

“They were brutally killed by a small group of terrorists that had guns. They took their time and gunned them down one by one. Boom! Come over here. Boom! Come over here. Boom!

“But if one employee or just one patron had a gun, or if just one person in this room had been there with a gun, aimed at the opposite direction, the terrorists would have fled or been shot.”

The French foreign ministry…

…called for the victims’ memory to be respected.

“France expresses its firm disapproval of the comments by President Trump about the attacks of 13 November 2015 in Paris and asks for the memory of the victims to be respected,” the foreign ministry said.

François Hollande, who was French president at the time of the attacks…

…said Mr Trump’s remarks were “shameful”. They “said a lot about what he thinks of France and its values”, he added.

Manuel Valls, who was France’s prime minister in 2015…

…tweeted: “Indecent and incompetent. What more can I say?”

That may sum up Trump very well.

He also prompted responses from London after saying:

“I recently read a story that in London, which has unbelievably tough gun laws, a once very prestigious hospital, right in the middle, is like a warzone for horrible stabbing wounds,” he said. “Yes, that’s right, they don’t have guns, they have knives, and instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital. They say it’s as bad as a military warzone hospital.”

Trump stabbed the air several times with an imaginary knife and muttered: “Knives, knives, knives.

Guardian: Trump’s knife crime comments are ridiculous, says London surgeon

The suggestion by Donald Trump that guns are part of the solution to knife crime in London is ridiculous, a trauma surgeon in the capital has said. The US president told the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas on Friday that a “once very prestigious hospital” in London was like a “warzone”.

He appeared to be referring to reported comments by Martin Griffiths, a lead trauma surgeon at the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, who likened the spate of stabbing victims coming through the doors to scenes in a military hospital.

Prof Karim Brohi, another surgeon at the hospital and the director of London’s major trauma system, said knife violence was a serious issue for London. “We are proud of the excellent trauma care we provide and of our violence reduction programmes,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “The Royal London hospital has cut the number of our young patients returning after further knife attacks from 45% to 1%.

“London hasn’t been used to that. They’re getting used to it. Pretty tough. We’re here today because we recognise a simple fact. The one thing that has always stood between the American people and the elimination of our second amendment rights has been conservatives in Congress willing to fight for those rights. We’re fighting.”

Charlie Falconer, a former justice secretary, said:

“Trump makes Londoners dislike him more, and the US dislike London more. Mutual dislike is not good as the UK leaves the EU. Trump gives the impression he couldn’t give a fig.”

Trump’s reception when he visits England in July was always expected to be far less receptive to him than the NRA or the staged ego stroking rallies he has in the US.

Giuliani did not have “his facts straight”

In the ever changing story about the hush money payment to ‘Stormy Daniels’, one of Trump’s latest revolving door lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, appears to be in damage control after putting his foot in his mouth in an interview yesterday. He now claims he didn’t have his facts straight.

With issues involving Trump ‘facts’ seem to be fluid statements of convenience, but as they change it is difficult to differentiate mistakes and lies. A lawyer speaking on a serious legal matter involving the President should have his facts straight before going on public television.

Reuters: Trump lawyer Giuliani defends legality of porn star payment

Hours after President Donald Trump said his lawyer Rudy Giuliani did not have “his facts straight,” the former New York mayor issued a statement on Friday saying $130,000 in hush money paid to an adult-film star before the 2016 election was not an election law violation.

Giuliani late on Wednesday revealed that Trump had repaid Cohen for the $130,000 the lawyer had provided to Daniels. Trump previously had denied knowing about the payment.

The next morning, Trump said on Twitter that Cohen was paid back through a monthly retainer, not campaign funds, to stop Daniels’ “false and extortionist accusations.”

Giuliani on Thursday had connected the payment to Stormy Daniels by the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to keep quiet about a 2006 sexual encounter she said she had with Trump to the election, remarks that raised the possibility that the transaction violated federal election law.

“There is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not,” Giuliani said in a brief statement “intended to clarify the views I expressed over the past few days.”

Giuliani in a TV interview on Thursday wondered what would have happened if the Daniels’ claim of an affair had come up in a debate between Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, adding, “Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”

“Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago. But he really has his heart into it. He’s working hard. He’s learning the subject matter,” Trump said.

“He’ll get his facts straight,” Trump added, though he did not specify the statements by Giuliani to which he was referring.

If Giuliani did not have ‘his facts straight’ that is appalling incompetence for a lawyer dealing with something like this.

Even Fox News raises questions in Giuliani clarifies statements on Stormy payment

Rudy Giuliani put out a three-point clarification Friday regarding comments he made in bombshell interviews this week about the hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels and more, just hours after President Trump said the latest addition to his legal team would “get his facts straight.”

Notably, Giuliani did not walk back the statement that Trump reimbursed Cohen, in his clarification on Friday. But he tried to clear the air on several other potentially problematic statements.

Earlier Friday, Trump defended Giuliani as a “great guy” who “just started days ago” and said “he’ll get his facts straight.”

“When Rudy made the statements—Rudy is great, but Rudy has just started and he wasn’t familiar with everything,” Trump said Friday in a press gaggle at Joint Base Andrews. “He’s a special guy and he understands that this is a witch hunt.”

Also from Fox – Judge Nap: Giuliani’s Claim That Trump Didn’t Know About Stormy Daniels Payment Is ‘Unworthy of Belief’

On “Fox & Friends,” Napolitano said that Giuliani’s claim that Trump gave Cohen $130,000 and didn’t know where it was going is “unworthy of belief.”

He said it’s up to the American public to decide if they believe Trump is the kind of person who would “pour money down a hole” without asking to whom the money was going and for what purpose.

“How would Michael Cohen know that Stormy Daniels needed to be silenced?” he added.

Napolitano said the good news is that if the money came from Trump’s personal funds, then Giuliani is correct that there was no campaign finance violation.

“But it does create a problem because the president has said that he knows nothing about this. This is a problem between the president, his personal morality, his wife and his base on one side, and the president and the law on the other side,” Napolitano explained.

Whatever the facts, and Trump is known to often not care about facts and to bareface lie, this just makes aspects of his presidency more of a farce – a dangerous farce given what can be at stake.

 

Trump claims ‘absolute immunity’, lawyer admits Cohen repayment

A couple of stories on the continuing Trump legal challenges – Trump has claimed absolute immunity on beneficial use of assets owned by his family while he is president, and one of his lawyers contradicts Trump on a ‘hush money’ payment made by another of his lawyers.

Reuters: Trump claims immunity, asks court to toss foreign payments suit

President Donald Trump has again asked a U.S. court to dismiss a suit accusing him of flouting constitutional safeguards against corruption by refusing to separate himself from his business empire while in office, claiming “absolute immunity.”

The lawsuit, filed by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, accused Trump of violating the U.S. Constitution’s “emoluments” clause that bars U.S. officials from accepting gifts or other payments from foreign governments without congressional approval. The same clause also bars the president from receiving gifts and payments from individual states.

“If Plaintiffs want to sue the President for acts taken while in office, they must sue him in official capacity. But he is absolutely immune from any suit, including this one, seeking to impose individual liability premised on his assumption of the Presidency itself,” Trump’s lawyer William Consovoy wrote in a court filing on Tuesday.

“The Supreme Court has concluded that the costs to the Nation of allowing such suits to distract the President from his official duties outweigh any countervailing interests. That choice must be respected,” Consovoy added.

Trump, whose businesses include a host of real estate properties as well as golf courses and a Virginia winery, handed day-to-day management to two of his sons. But the plaintiffs said Trump has not disentangled himself and is vulnerable to inducements by people, including foreign officials, seeking to curry favor.

Trump is reported to frequently use resorts and hotels owned by him or his family for presidential purposes. I don’t know if he can successfully claim absolute immunity.

Meanwhile, a twist in the Stormy Daniels story: Giuliani Says Trump Paid Back His Lawyer for Daniels Payment

President Donald Trump reimbursed his personal lawyer for $130,000 in hush money paid to a porn actress days before the 2016 presidential election, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s attorneys, said Wednesday, appearing to contradict the president’s past claims that he didn’t know the source of the money.

During an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” Giuliani said the money to repay Michael Cohen had been “funneled … through the law firm and the president repaid it.”

Asked if Trump knew about the arrangement, Giuliani said: “He didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”

The comments appeared to contradict statements made by Trump several weeks ago, when he said he didn’t know about the payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the presidential election. Giuliani later suggested to The Wall Street Journal that while Trump had repaid the $130,000, Cohen had settled the payment to Daniels without Trump’s knowledge at the time.

Guiliani’s revelation seemed aimed at reducing the president’s legal exposure. But outside experts said it raised a number of questions, including whether the money represented repayment of an undisclosed loan or could be seen as reimbursement for a campaign expenditure.

So Giuliani seems to be claiming that Trump paid back Cohen from his own money but had no idea what it was for.

But this may have made things murkier given Trump’s confusing claims.

Asked aboard Air Force One last month whether he knew about the payment, Trump said flatly: “No.” Trump also said he didn’t know why Cohen had made the payment or where he got the money.

In a phone interview with “Fox and Friends” last week, however, Trump appeared to muddy the waters, saying that Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”

This is one storm in a presidency that doesn’t look like fizzling out any time soon.

Trump runs his legal defences like his presidency, at times making strong claims (like of absolute immunity), but often all over the place.

Also:

In the meantime, with the North Korea and Iran issues remaining prominent, Trump’s approval rating has spiked a bit in the polls.

Trump’s ‘tough’ talk raises risks with Iran

Donald Trump, no doubt with confidence after believing his tough talk on North Korea has achieved amazing results, is trying tough talk against Iran as well. But as with North Korea it is a high risk approach, with a real risk of war if things go wrong.

USA Today – Trump: Killing Iran nuclear deal will send ‘right message’ to North Korea ahead of talks

President Trump linked his threats to kill the Iran nuclear agreement with his hopes to strike a deal with North Korea deal on Monday, saying Kim Jong Un should know that the U.S. will walk away if it doesn’t think its partners are committed to compliance.

 “I think it sends the right message,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Again attacking the “horrible” deal with the Obama administration struck with Iran, Trump said that “in seven years that deal will have expired, and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons. That’s not acceptable.”

Trump, who faces a May 12 deadline on whether or not to certify the Iran deal, said he is still open to negotiating a new agreement. He also cited claims by the Israeli government that Iran is cheating on the agreement by pursuing nuclear weapons in spite of their pledge not to do so.

“I’m not telling you what I’m doing, but a lot of people think they know,” Trump said. “And, on or before the 12th, we’ll make a decision.”

Trump spoke about Iran and North Korea on the same day he said he may be willing to meet with Kim at the demilitarized zone on the North-South Korea border, with a date to be determined.

In past weeks, Trump and aides have said that both Iran and North Korea should know that they are willing to walk away from any high-level agreement if they do not believe the other side is acting in good faith.

If either Iran or North Korea don’t think Trump is acting in good faith things could work out badly too.

Reuters Commentary: How bullying Iran could backfire for Trump

Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of lying “big time” about its nuclear program. In a theatrical announcement Monday, the Israeli prime minister presented files and CDs that he claimed show Tehran hid secret nuclear plans after signing the multinational 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement.

In response to Netanyahu, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif declared in a tweet: “The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again.” As I carefully documented in my book, Israeli officials have since 1992 continuously attempted to convince the international community that Iran is developing nuclear weapons – all while refusing to discuss its own nuclear capabilities.

The Israeli leader’s PowerPoint presentation has – in a remarkable coincidence – come just ahead of a key deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide on whether to withdraw from the agreement.

Coincidence? I thought it looked like being very deliberately timed.

Past and present Israeli allegations aside, Netanyahu offered no substantive evidence that Iran is violating the JCPOA. Much of his presentation focused on Iran’s nuclear program in the years before it signed the deal; Iranian compliance with the accord has been repeatedly confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and U.S. security and intelligence officials. Regardless, Netanyahu has probably given Trump more impetus to do what he’s wanted to do since his campaign undo the Iran nuclear deal.

While Netanyahu’s play may give Trump encouragement to scrap the Iran deal it is likely to also influence the approach from Iran.

Over the past 15 months, Tehran has accused Trump of failing to live up to U.S. commitments on sanctions relief under the deal by encouraging other countries not to do business with Iran.

Implicit in Trump’s approach is that he can bully and pressure Iran into meeting his demands. However, the track record of U.S.-Iran relations since the 1979 Iranian revolution leaves little room to believe that Iran concedes to pressure.

If Trump withdraws from the JCPOA, he should not do so thinking Iran is vulnerable and in dire straits. Contrary to the perception of some in Washington, Iran’s key economic indicators are strong and growing. Its GDP grew 11 percent last year, average real per capita income is on the rise, and the price per barrel of oil is hovering around $70 and on an upward trajectory. Politically, President Hassan Rouhani seems secure after being re-elected with a significant margin over his nearest rival last May.

Trump would be committing a major strategic miscalculation if he believes that withdrawing from the nuclear deal leaves Iran with no options but to continue abiding by the agreement. Rather, Tehran’s adherence reflects the strength of its commitment to its international commitments and eagerness to build confidence with Europe and other international partners.

If Trump withdraws, Iran could use the deal’s main dispute mechanism to refer U.S. non-compliance to the UN Security Council. That would isolate Washington and needlessly set it on a path of dangerous escalation with Iran. Abrogation of the agreement could also allow Iran to justify ramping up its nuclear program.

Which would be a backfire for Trump.

The end state to Trump’s approach on Iran could very well be war. Such a conflict will not only portend devastating consequences for the United States and Iran, but further destabilize the Middle East as it tries to move on from the scourge of Islamic State.

The staged chanting of ‘Nobel, Nobel’ at a recent ego-stroking public rally in Michigan may have been a bit premature (and bullying the Nobel panel may also backfire).

 If Trump really wants “bigger deals” with Iran, he should build trust by properly implementing the JCPOA, and then engage Iran with respect and not insults.

But Trump thinks that insulting Kim Yong-un has achieved results there – also a premature judgement – so may think it will work everywhere in the world.

It’s a high risk approach that could as easily make things worse rather than better – and it may only need one insult too many against Iran or North Korea or Russia to precipitate something much worse.

Trump seems to think that playing world politics (it can hardly be called diplomacy) is like playing a game show. But it is a lot more complicated than ratings driven win-lose theatrics. It may not be Trump who starts the firing.

 

Michelle Wolf versus US media

A speech by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has caused a stir.

It’s same old for the White House to complain about being the target of criticism and a lampooning, but what was different about Wolf’s speech was her targeting of the media being too cosy with the White House – media that criticised her for poor taste humour and being too personal.

CNN: Michelle Wolf was the big winner of the WHCD, not Trump

Despite what Donald Trump and some others on the right may think, the big winner from Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner was comedian Michelle Wolf. Her performance was not just funny — it’s still grabbing headlines and will make this comedian, who is on the verge of stardom, even better known.

True, not every joke she told got big laughs in the room. I was there and some of her material did make people uncomfortable. But political comedy, at its best, shouldn’t always be comfortable. It should make you laugh while also challenging your views. And Wolf did just that in strong moments like this quip: “I’m 32, which is a weird age — 10 years too young to host this event, and 20 years too old for Roy Moore.”

She did it again with this joke: “[Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend.’ Or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man.'”

Did you cringe a bit when you read those jokes? Good. That’s what political comedy needs to do, especially in the time of Trump.

…what’s most telling is what Trump left out of his tweet about the WHCD. Since Saturday night, there’s been a backlash against Wolf for her jokes about Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, who was sitting on the same dais where Wolf was performing. Here’s an example of one of Wolf’s barbs about Sanders: “I actually really like Sarah.

I think she’s very resourceful.” Wolf then joked: “She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.” (Keep in mind, Sanders was sent by Trump to represent his administration, which has been plagued by serving up lie after lie to the American people.)

That’s not a joke I would tell, nor do I think any male comedian could get away with it. But Wolf did.

Team Trump was outraged that Wolf dared to mock the person sent to represent the most powerful man in our nation. On Sunday morning, Mercedes Schlapp, a White House senior communications adviser who had stormed out of the WHCD with her husband in protest, commented on “Fox & Friends” that Wolf’s jokes were “so incredibly disrespectful.”

The way I see it, a person in the Trump administration saying something was “disrespectful” while defending a man who bragged on the “Access Hollywood” tape about grabbing women by the pu**y, has demonized Muslims and Mexicans and mocked a disabled reporter is truly hilarious.

Claiming that Wolf’s jokes were disrespectful is more than a little hypocritical when trump has made a political career out of being disrespectful.

Targeting Trump and his lying cronies shouldn’t be a big deal in the current climate.

So why the fuss from the White House media?

@Mikel_Jollett tweeted: Let’s be honest, this is what they’re REALLY mad about. Michelle Wolf called out THE PRESS.

No wonder the media squirmed.

Molly Roberts: Michelle Wolf got it just right

Wolf managed Saturday night to scandalize the majority of Washington’s tuxedo-clad intelligentsia with a barrage of bon mots that, in the eyes of much of the press and political establishment, weren’t really so bon at all. The speech, these pundits have argued, wasn’t amusing; it was lewd, and worse than that, it was mean.

That Wolf’s performance was not “normal” for the correspondents’ dinner is a testament to its timeliness and necessity — nothing is “normal” right now, and pretending otherwise out of a false sense of the fourth estate’s friendship with the executive would have been the real disgrace. Wolf called the Trump administration out for tearing down democracy. Then, the people who are supposed to care most about holding autocrats to account called her out in turn for, essentially, not being chummy enough.

That persistent chumminess is why Wolf’s performance, in the end, wasn’t really for the press. It was about us. “You guys love breaking news, and you did it,” Wolf said to CNN. “You broke it.” To everyone else, she said: “You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.” Instead of listening — to that or to Wolf’s final line, “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” — we got grumpy on Twitter. Which means Wolf did a better job of defending the First Amendment than those who say that’s our business.

We have a real issue in New Zealand with how close our political media is with our politicians, not as disgraceful as in the US but still a threat to a properly functioning democracy.

Will Trump help or hinder Korean peace deal?

The North and South Korean leaders have had an historic meeting, and the prospects of an official peace agreement and de-nuclearisation looking promising.

US President Donald Trump has been typically brash and bold in public statements, ahead of a planned meeting with Kim Yong-un next month. Will he help or hinder game changing agreements in Korea? Who knows?

While the situation looks markedly improved remember that Trump played a prominent and provocative role in recent escalations, raising risks substantially. One bad decision could have had horrendous results – Trump threatened to destroy North Korea.

RNZ (ABC): Trump factor could hinder not help Korean deal

The two sides will work towards signing a peace treaty formally ending the Korean war, sixty five years after the armistice was signed.

Both Koreas will work towards the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

The tone and language spoke of, “one nation, one language, one blood”.

“We can make a better future with our hands together,” Kim Jong-un said.

This could be the turning point where North Korea sees a new future beyond just the military – a future where the shattered economy could take precedence over the production and testing of ever greater means of mass murder.

Or it could be more of the same. A shonky regime buying time to further perfect its weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The never shy Donald Trump has claimed credit for getting the North and South together, citing the pressure exerted by his sanctions, his military, and his strategic genius.

But now it’s his turn to make good his self-described talent as the greatest of dealmakers.

Now Mr Trump and Mr Kim will have to size one another up, test the handshake, rattle and roll the alpha cage and see who comes out on top – and who is the loser.

For Mr Trump the salesman’s view of winners and losers could have dangerous consequences.

Both men need to walk away from their talks due in the next six weeks or so able to claim a victory. Humiliation will not work for either party.

They have both tried reciprocal public humiliation, but the tone has changed somewhat, especially in Korea, as it must if a lasting solution is going to be agreed on.

Mr Trump has already warned he would walk out of the talks if he doesn’t like what he’s hearing – and that’s assuming we even get to a face-to-face meeting of such unlike minds.

As with anything Trump it’s bit of a lottery – and it will mostly depend on the resolve of the Korean leaders, either with Trump’s help or despite his involvement.

Will Mr Trump take an America-first view of these talks or look after the interests of South Korea, Japan and even China – and how will any agreement be enforced?

It may come down to whether Trump approaches it as a win for him, or a win for the world. If the Korean situation is successfully defused, with both North and South Korea benefiting without humiliation, then Trump will get some of the credit. There is a risk he will try to get too much for himself.

It is too soon to talk about Nobel prizes, as some have suggested – and if any are eventually dished out over Korea there would have to be joint credit.

Yes, only time will tell, and Trump’s unpredictability and narcissism means that  anything could happen. He may tone down his public bluster and help do an historic deal. The Koreas, China and Japan will be the biggest beneficiaries, and if Trump earns bragging rights then good on him.

Trump may end up hindering, or helping. or both.