Trump’s speech to the UN

Donald Trump has championed patriotism and slammed globalism and a number of countries in his speech to the 2019 United Nations General Assembly.

The president’s tone was was described as “steady and somber” (Fox) and “a somber monotone, rarely punctuating words or pausing for emphasis’ (WP) but “his message to world leaders was clear”.

Fox News: Trump slams open-border activists for ‘evil’ agenda, decries Iran ‘bloodlust’ in fiery UN speech

President Trump, in a fiery address Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly, tore into open-border activists for pushing what he described as an “evil” agenda under the “cloak” of social justice, while warning Iran to abandon its confrontational course and delivering arguably his most robust defense yet of his nationalist philosophy.

“Today, I have a message for those open border activists who cloak themselves in the rhetoric of social justice: Your policies are not just, your policies are cruel and evil,” he said, accusing them of promoting human smuggling and the “erasure of national borders.”

“You are empowering criminal organizations that prey on innocent men, women and children. You put your own false sense of virtue before the lives and well-being of countless innocent people. When you undermine border security, you are undermining human rights and human dignity.”

The president’s tone was steady and somber. But the message was that of a muscular nationalism that he has spent the better part of three years defining. As part of his speech, he later ripped into social media giants, media groups and academics — whom he accused of being part of a “permanent political class” that sought to undermine the will of the people.

“Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their country first. The future does not belong to globalists, the future belongs to patriots,” he said earlier in the speech. “The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.”

He advised member states, “If you want freedom, take pride in your country. If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty. If you want peace, love your nation.”

He accused Iran’s leaders of “fueling the tragic wars in both Syria and Yemen,” and of “squandering their nation’s wealth in a fanatical quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.”

Washington Post: Trump condemns globalism, touts nationalistic view of foreign affairs at U.N.

President Trump leveled one of his harshest critiques of globalism on Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly, promoting the “America First” approach that has defined his presidency on issues of defense, trade and immigration before a body built on multilateral cooperation.

Trump read the address in a somber monotone, rarely punctuating words or pausing for emphasis, but his message for the 74th session of the annual gathering of world leaders was clear.

“The future does not belong to globalists,” Trump said. “The future belongs to patriots.”

He argued that a globalist worldview had “exerted a religious pull over past leaders, causing them to ignore their own national interests,” and called on other nations to “embrace its national foundations.”

Trump also emphasized his desire to limit the United States engagement around the world militarily.

“The United States does not seek conflict with any other nation,” he said during his 37-minute address. “We desire peace, cooperation, and mutual gain with all. But I will never fail to defend America’s interests.”

He also took a hard line against Iran, arguing that the governing regime was “squandering the nation’s health” and vowed to “stop Iran’s path toward nuclear weapons.”

“All nations have a duty to act. No responsible government should subsidize Iran’s blood lust. As long as Iran’s menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened. Iran’s leaders will have turned a proud nation into just another precautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks on a crusade for personal power riches.”

Some mixed messages there, which isn’t unusual with Trump.

Trump highlighted the United States’ “ambitious campaign to reform international trade” and stressed his desire to complete separate bilateral trade agreements with the United Kingdom and Japan.

“For decades, the international trading system has been easily exploited by nations acting in bad faith. As jobs were outsourced, a small handful grew wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

Most emblematic of his approach on trade, Trump said, was with China, with which the United States has been embroiled in an escalating trade war.

China, Trump said, has “embraced an economic model dependent on massive market barriers, heavy state subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping … and a theft of intellectual property.” Trump called for an overhaul of the World Trade Organization, arguing that China should not be able to “game the system at others’ expense” through it.

Politico: Trump’s full U.N. speech at the 2019 United Nations General Assembly

 

US Democratic presidential candidacy – popularity versus electability

There is no indication yet whether there will be any serious Republican contender for the presidential nomination prepared to stand against Donald Trump. That’s if Trump stands again for a job it is claimed he never really wanted in the first place – I think it quite likely Trump will stand again, as an excuse to keep having campaign rallies where he is cheered for his crass attacks and incitement, and to try to prove he can win the popular vote in an election without the help of the Russians.

All the action is in with Democrat candidates, where there are now eleven at least semi-serious contenders with ex-vice president Joe Biden now officially in the contest – Former VP Biden’s 2020 bid reshapes White House race

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden entered the 2020 Democratic presidential field on Thursday as an instant front-runner, drawing momentum away from other leading candidates and putting new pressure on underperformers to find ways to stay relevant.

Biden, 76, a longtime U.S. senator who served two terms as former President Barack Obama’s No.2, announced his bid in a video describing the high stakes of the race to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s election.

“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said. “I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and let that happen.”

Trump responded with typical name calling and irony:

Trump responded in a post on Twitter, saying “welcome to the race Sleepy Joe” and slamming Biden’s intelligence.

Someone of Biden’s political stature was bound to impact on the field of candidates.

Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, says it remains unclear if Biden can build on his loyal base of support. If that happens, it could come at Sanders’ expense.

Given his longstanding support from African-Americans and his partnership with Obama, Biden could also affect the candidacy of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who is widely regarded as a serious contender for the nomination.

Polls have already installed Biden as favourite. He is reasonably popular, but does that men he is electable?

Five Thirty Eight: Democrats Think Biden Is Electable, But He’s Not Everyone’s First Choice

Beating President Trump in November 2020 is really important to Democrats. Sizable shares of Democrats tell pollsters that a candidate’s “electability” will be a very important factor in their primary vote — even more than the candidate’s policy positions. The problem is that we don’t know for sure what makes a candidate electable.

But we can get an idea of what Democratic voters think an electable candidate looks like by finding polls that ask voters which 2020 presidential hopeful they think has the best chance of winning the general election, in addition to asking who they would support independent of electability concerns.

At least two recent polls have asked both questions: a Quinnipiac poll of registered Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters in California and a Granite State Poll of likely New Hampshire primary voters (conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center). Perhaps unsurprisingly, in both cases, the percentage of voters who say each candidate is the most electable is very similar to the percentage of voters who support each candidate.

But there are some telling divergences: Some candidates widely seen as electable don’t have as much support from voters, while others who have generated a lot of voter enthusiasm aren’t seen as particularly strong general-election candidates.

The table below looks at the difference in each poll between the share of voters who support each candidate and the share who think he or she is the strongest general-election candidate, then averages those differences.

There is quite a difference between those two polls so I don’t think too much can be taken from it, but it shows that Biden and Bernie Sanders are the obvious front runners.

By election time next November Sanders will be 79 years old, while Biden will be nearly 78. If either won they would be presidents while in their eighties.

Trump is just a little younger – he will be 74 next election. I don’t think there’s much chance of him growing up by then.

If those three turn out to remain the leading contenders then health will be a wild card – health of the old men candidates.

There is a lot of campaigning to go just to get nominated, and there could be other candidates yet to declare their intentions, so it’s difficult to judge how it could go for the  Democrats.

Meanwhile if Trump puts himself forward again and doesn’t get beaten for the candidacy – it’s difficult to know what the Republicans would prefer, to stick with a badly flawed incumbent president, or to try someone else if anyone is prepared to stand against Trump – much will probably depend on what happens over the next 18 months with the economy, with trade deficits, with the huge and growing deficit, with international relations, and with sideshows like the US-Mexico wall.

And whether Trump can pull back support, especially in crucial states, or whether he keeps disappointing and pissing off more and more people.  His core support is at least 10% too light – but any Democratic opponent would also have to appeal to the moveable vote in the middle, and it’s far too soon to know if any of them look capable of that.

Trump – pathological liar, cheat, abuser, unhinging

The Donald Trump problem has been excused by many, but it is getting worse and he should be called for what he is:

  • a pathological liar who continues to lie about things when clearly incorrect or shown to be incorrect
  • a cheat in marriage, a cheat in golf, someone who tries to cheat the legal system, democracy
  • an abuser of anyone who challenges his position, his lies, his cheating, his integrity (there is little of that)
  • he thinks he is above the law and can subvert justice

He can’t be believed, and he can’t be trusted. He is a disgrace and a danger to the presidency of the United States.

He thinks he is above the law and can subvert justice.

He is obsessed with being seen to ‘win’ and attacks anyone he thinks might prevent him from winning.

And this is all out in the open and obvious. It’s fair to presume he has done more and worse that we don’t know about.

What got him into the presidency and what keeps him there are the excuses and inaction of supporters, and of politicians and officials and staff who pander to his narcissism.

The just released Mueller report has revealed that some officials have ignored his orders to subvert justice and to do other crazy things – it is just at well that he haasn’t been able to find enough family and sycophants to fill all the positions in the White House.

And if anything Trump is getting worse, going by the tantrum he has thrown over the Mueller report. And this shows how widely and wildly he can swing.

When the mildly worded Barr summary was released Trump praised it and praised Mueller and claimed (falsely) complete exoneration.

Now the full Mueller report has been released, which hasn’t painted him in a good light but came short of recommending prosecution for  his attempts to obstruct justice, Trump is praying at the report and everyone involved in it.

It is common for him to condemn critics, or in this case people who are required to comply with the law in an inquiry, as Democrats (often falsely) and haters. He has an army of supporters who repeat his ‘hater’ accusations to try to attack the messenger and divert from his faults.

More tweets in reaction to the report:

“Donald Trump was being framed, he fought back. That is not Obstruction.” I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted. I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn’t!

The framing and witch hunt claims are nonsense. There are ways of ‘fighting back’ (dealing with judicial inquiries) without trying to sack those officials working on behalf of the US government.

Anything the Russians did concerning the 2016 Election was done while Obama was President. He was told about it and did nothing! Most importantly, the vote was not affected.

A common tactic of trump is to blame others, in this case Obama. And he’s wrong about the vote not being affected. It must have been affected by Russian actions.

When there is not an underlying crime with regard to Collusion (in fact, the whole thing was a made up fraud), it is difficult to say that someone is obstructing something. There was no underlying crime.”

“If dozens of Federal prosecutors spent two years trying to charge you with a crime, and found they couldn’t, it would mean there wasn’t any evidence you did it – and that’s what happened here – that’s what we just learned from the Mueller Report.”

It doesn’t mean there “wasn’t any evidence”. There was evidence cited in the report. It’s just that officials chose not to prosecute the President.

“The Mueller Report is perhaps the single most humiliating thing that has ever happened to the White House Press in the history of this Country. They know they lied…Many reporters lied about Russia Collusion and so much more. Clapper & Brennan, all lies”

The accusations of lies are common – while ignoring the biggest liar of all, Trump.  It’s a common tactic of his (and his friends and excusers in media) to accuse others of what he does.

So he has gone round media cherry picking people defending him, and ignoring everything else.

The game is obviously not over. Trump is playing it as hard as ever. The more he protests the more it loks like he is trying to hide something or divert from something.

Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called “notes,” when the notes never existed until needed.

Because I never agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the “Report” about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad).

If it wasn’t necessary for him to respond, why is he trying to respond now via Twitter?

This was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened, a…

He appears to have not finished that sentence. Maybe someone finally disabled his Twitter account.

The inquiry wasn’t illegally started. And it wasn’t a hoax.

The patently untrustworthy abusive Trump is a disgrace to the presidency. But so far he has managed to keep a mass of supporters and apologists on his side. And there isn’t much that can be done but wait out his four year term, leaving him to rant and rave on Twitter and at political rallies, leaving those in key positions at the White House and in Government positions to ignore his worst commands, and otherwise scramble in the chaos that Trump perpetuates.

Every time Trump tweets he panders to a crowd, but he also keeps putting on record his incompetence and unsuitability for the job.

Trump will no doubt achieve some positives, all presidents do. But he is also clocking up some major negatives, like a growing trade deficit despite heavy handed tariffs. Like US debt, now over $20 trillion. Like the ongoing problems on the US-Mexico border.

Every president keeps accumulating criticisms – Trump more so than most, for good reason. The more he is challenged and exposed (with a lot of self exposure) the more unhinged he appears to get.

That’s dangerous for someone in his position. It is potentially dangerous for the world.

Note: this post is not about squirrels or the media or Obama or the Clintons, all flawed, but all different stories. It is about Trump’s his lying, his abusiveness, his behaviour unbecoming of a president (or any politician). Critique or try to defend that and don’t try to divert.

Victim-in-chief has some worthwhile achievements

President Donald Trump is claiming to be the victim in advance of the Democrats taking control of the US Congress.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Democratic attempts at oversight in the coming Congress could amount to “presidential harassment.”

Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump again denied any collusion between his team and Russia when he was questioned about the investigative powers Democrats will assume come January.

“It’s probably presidential harassment and we know how to handle that. I know how to handle that better than anybody,” Trump said.

“You’re talking about millions and millions and millions of dollars of wasted money,” Trump said. “There’s been absolutely no collusion. But there has been a lot of collusion by the Democrats, with Russia and a lot of other people that maybe they shouldn’t have been dealing with, including very dishonest people.”

He has a record of blaming others for what he has done.

It’s a bit ironic Trump accusing others of harassment – or in this case possible harassment in the future. This could be seen as him harassing the Democrats to try to avoid being held to account.

“It’s a disgrace, what’s happening in our country,” Trump fumed, seated behind the Resolute Desk. “But other than that, I wish everybody a very merry Christmas.”

I just can’t help laughing at that. Time and again he comes across as a fool out of his depth.

But there has been some achievements in the two years he has been President (Barack Obama achieved some things too, al presidents do).

CNN: Five things even Trump critics can give him credit for this Christmas

President Donald Trump ends his second year in office isolated and under siege. A self-inflicted government shutdown is happening over Christmas, the stock market is suffering its worst month in a decade (compounded by his talk of sacking the Fed chair) and the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis is sending shudders through America’s military and allies.

But these criticisms are for another day — pretty much any other day.

Today is Christmas. And in a spirit of finding the best in people, I promised myself I’d look for a few areas of agreement with a President with whom I disagree quite a lot.

After all, if you view politics through a historical lens, you’ll see that even our worst Presidents have some redeeming qualities. And if those can’t be found personally, they can be found in policy.

Criminal justice reform

President Trump got it done after decades of talk. He cobbled together a bipartisan coalition to pass the First Step Act and used his bully pulpit to push past a reluctant Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had pronounced the legislation “divisive” just weeks before. As a measure of that alleged divisiveness, the legislation passed by an overwhelming 87-12 margin.

The law blends common sense and compassion, redeeming reformed lives while saving money in the process. It promises to lessen the sentences of nonviolent criminals and reduce frankly racist sentencing disparities. And it’s the kind of bill that could only command Republican support if it were backed by a law-and-order candidate, which itself speaks to the stupid partisanship that usually outweighs policy.

Getting tough on China

…he’s been clear-eyed and mostly consistent when it comes to standing up to China’s exploitation of international systems to fuel its expansion while creating a technological surveillance state.

Team Trump has realized that time is running out to have any leverage on China in the effort to get it to act like a responsible global power. And while I don’t support Trump’s trade war tactics — mostly because they have lumped in allies like Canada with China — the President has been right to call out abuse of trade treaties by China that have created an unequal playing field on issues from manufacturing to intellectual property to massive state sponsored cyber theft.

Economic opportunity zones

The tax cut bill most often trumpeted as the prime achievement of the Trump era was actually a disaster. It stimulated an economy that was already overheated, promises to exacerbate the growing gap between the rich and poor (as well as the super-rich and middle class) and its failure to close corporate loopholes is already exploding our deficit and debt, reducing tax receipts in a booming economy.

That said, there is an excellent and overdue provision in the otherwise lousy tax bill — economic opportunity zones. Consider this the belated love child of Jack Kemp’s dwindling influence in the Republican Party, incentivizing investment in poverty-stricken neighborhoods through tax breaks on capital gains. It’s exactly the sort of smart, targeted government action that may finally spur development in our atrophied regional economies.

‘Right-to-try’ legislation

This is a comparatively small step, but it radiates common sense and actually shows a rare libertarian streak. The “right-to-try” legislation had been embraced by a number of states, but the federal government had been opposed until Trump pushed the bill into enactment.

Basically, it allows terminally ill patients to have access to experimental drugs. The logic is simple: what do they have to lose? Why not give patients and their families access to whatever experimental drug they want if it might be able to save or prolong their life?

The Music Modernization Act

… Orrin Hatch sponsored, and Trump signed, a worthwhile and overdue piece of legislation that stops musicians from getting screwed by streaming services and cuts down on the power of predatory middle men.

There will always be positives if you look for them. The hope has to be that they are not overwhelmed by negatives – and that the President is not overly distracted or even overwhelmed by negatives.

Oversight of the president, especially this president, is as important as ever, no matter how much Trump complains about it.

 

 

 

Trump improved in polls, a bit

Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been better for most of the last two months (February, March) than they have been over the last twelve months, but they are still negative:

It’s difficult to know why there has been an improvement this year – it will be a combination of factors. Getting tough on trade may be having an effect, and recent recovery may have been influenced by Trump joining the international condemnation of Russia. There is no obvious sign of the Stormy Daniels affair affecting support.

RCP Poll Average trends:

Interestingly the latest poll result is from Rasmussen which has Trump on -8% overall approval (45-53). In late February they had his approval slightly ahead of disapproval (50-48) but his approval has slipped gradually since then.

Despite the improvement Trump is still well below the approval of Obama and GW Bush at the same time into their eight year terms, as shown by FiveThirtyEight:
It’s difficult to predict how things will go from here.

The tax cuts will have pleased many. Time will tell how they work out – Trump has just agreed to a huge spending bill and the US is significantly increasing deficits and debt levels, and that will impact over time.

Much may depend on Trump’s trade ‘wars’ and the economy – the US sharemarket had improved significantly right through last year but ironically dropped steeply at about the same time Trump’s approval ratings improved at the start of February.

Jobs were a big deal in the 2016 election campaign. Success or failure there can only be judged over time.

Trump seems to have had some success in his confrontation with North Korea, and has agreed to meet with Kim Yong Un, but that has not been organised yet – the north Korean leader has just visited China and has said he will denuclearize.

The Middle East could go any way – if Trump can move the region towards peace he will win a lot of credit, but Syria and Afghanistan are still looking very dicey.

Trump’s White House administration has always struggled to get staff and has turned over a lot of high level staff – this could reflect the rush to fill positions when unexpectedly winning the presidency, with a gradual sorting out of who fits his leadership style and policy preferences – or it could be rats jumping ship. Trump’s manner or firing and humiliating people who fall out of favour may discourage potential replacements.

And the Russian election interference issue is still simmering away without a clear idea whether that will damage Trump or his family, but he must have concerns given his attacks on the inquiry and the FBI. This could all fizzle out at the Trump level, or it could blow up big time. The jury is still out on that, with a lot of the investigation details still under wraps.

Idiocracy, celebritoxicity, president

Actors have become successful politicians in the Unites States before – for example Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – but Donald Trump has taken US democracy to a new level, where reality TV has become a continuous real life drama being acted out in the White House.

And now either Oprah Winfrey or some of the media seem to have launched a presidential campaign based on another commercial television success taking advantage of a public obsession with ‘celebrities’.

‘The media’ has been complicit in Trump’s rise to the presidency, and collectively seem unable to see where they are taking democracy. It could be a death spiral.

Idiocracy is a 2006 movie, described in Wikipedia:

The film tells the story of two people who take part in a top-secret military human hibernation experiment, only to awaken 500 years later in a dystopian society where advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism have run rampant, and which is devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights.

Aspects of advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism that were depicted are already recognisable in today’s society.

During the 2016 presidential primaries, writer Etan Cohen and others expressed opinions that the film’s predictions were converging on accuracy, which, during the general election, director Mike Judge also said.

Judge also compared Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to the movie’s dim-witted wrestler-turned-president, Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho.

When asked about predicting the future, he remarked, “I’m no prophet, I was off by 490 years.”

Trump has been called an idiot, promotes policies favouring corporations, and has just described himself as a genius. However this is confused by a 2013 tweet:

Trump also claims to be a super successful star of reality TV.

Vice: How Reality TV Made Donald Trump President

Ever since Donald Trump first appeared in the 1970s, he has seemed tacky, an archetypal Ugly American in an ill-fitting suit. He was wealthy, sure, but in that Las Vegas used-car-salesman way. Queens, not Manhattan. For years, he was a footnote skulking around the edges of American culture, showing up in episodes of Sex and the City and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

He was such a cartoonish presence that when writers made jokes about someone absurd becoming president, they thought of him.

The Simpsons famously joked about a Trump presidency in 2000.

“As you know we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump”.

In Back to the Future II , Biff turns Hill Valley into a hellish version of Las Vegas, a dystopia the movie’s screenwriter recently admitted was based on what life would be like under Trump. That movie came out in 1989.

Now, Donald Trump has been elected president.

There are many reasons why Trump was elected, but none of it could have happened without the rise of reality television. The link between Trump the candidate and Trump the Apprentice star has been remarked uponbefore, but it it seems more urgent than ever now that it turns out that his unorthodox campaign actually worked. Reality television not only legitimized Trump, his campaign exploited reality TV formulas and used them to his advantage.

Time: Donald Trump Is the First True Reality TV President

It’s official. We have our first reality TV president.

The news that President-elect Donald Trump is going to remain an executive producer of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice while also running the national government from the Oval Office in the White House (first reported by Variety) should not have surprised anyone.

And yet, somehow, it still does. It’s a jarring reminder that we have entered a brand, new era of presidential politics, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

A month into the Trump era, we know enough now to see what the first year of his presidency will look like. It will be chaotic and defiant—but opportunistic and focused on a small number of exceedingly large fights that make great political theater and play well to big, populist crowds.

It will look and feel a lot like a political reality TV show played out on a grand stage, with producers scripting the biggest fights behind the scenes while leaving plenty of room for unrehearsed, populist public drama. Trump is the first truly made-for-television president. Every day will literally be a new episode shot in real-time, in front of a public and a world that simply can’t get enough of the spectacle.

Now nearly a year on the Trump residency looks to be all of that and more.

Much of the media are complicit in helping him get there and in the ongoing running of his ‘reality’ show from the White House (when he is not holidaying at one of his resorts).

But wait, there could be more celebrity politics.

This week the media has picked up on a speech made by Oprah Winfrey and has virtually launched a presidential campaign for her. See Oprah Winfrey’s “a new day is on the horizon!” speech and a lot of stuff in US media over that last few days.

In a bizarre twist, Ivanka Trump (who is also claimed to have eyes on a presidential bid in 2020) tweeted:

Perhaps Ivanka sees the political future as the celebrity president’s daughter pitted against the “Queen of All Media”.

But LA Times asks: Oprah for president? Have we learned nothing?

We don’t know whether the idea of Oprah Winfrey for president, inspired by Winfrey’s eloquent speech Sunday at the Golden Globe Awards, will prove an ephemeral excitation or a movement with staying power. But we find it depressing.

We mean no disrespect to Winfrey, who strikes us as much better informed and more intellectually curious and presumably less reckless or dishonest than the incumbent president. But it’s bizarre that Americans who are appalled by Trump’s oafish and ignorant conduct of the nation’s highest office would gravitate to another television star untested in politics.

That’s what many of them did Sunday evening. Twitter throbbed with speculation that Winfrey’s speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award was the beginning of a presidential run.

It wasn’t just Twitter. there was a lot of breathless coverage in mainstream media too.

This may just be a passing, Golden-Globes-inspired moment of Twitter hype. But it is also a reminder that when the last out-of-the-blue celebrity candidate entered a presidential race, the media shrugged him off as a joke.

As we know, the joke continues, but not everyone is laughing. The joke is on American democracy.

… as the first year of the Trump presidency demonstrated, there are colossal risks in electing a political neophyte to the most demanding public office in the world. Just because the Republicans were foolish enough to travel down this dangerous road — in the process sacrificing many of their party’s best qualities and most valuable principles in a desperate, craven hunt for votes — doesn’t mean the Democrats should follow suit.

Winfrey might possess a more stable temperament than Trump — who doesn’t? — and her political positions would undoubtedly be more in line with those of liberals, Democrats and The Times editorial page, but she would face the same steep learning curve in dealing with foreign and domestic issues.

What is there to suggest that she is any better prepared than Trump was to work productively with Congress or tackle international trade negotiations, the North Korean nuclear threat or the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

What is there to suggest that US voters care about whether someone is prepared to be president or not? Or at least sufficient voters to elect a celebrity president.

It’s a measure of the trauma inflicted on the country by Trump’s election that some people honestly believe that the way to unseat a celebrity president is to nominate another celebrity.

Back in September, John Podhoretz wrote in the New York Post: “If you need to set a thief to catch a thief, you need a star — a grand, outsized, fearless star whom Trump can neither intimidate nor outshine — to catch a star.”

Podhoretz called Winfrey the mirror image of Trump — “America’s generous aunt” to “America’s crazy uncle.”

Regardless of those descriptions, neither have backgrounds that should give anyone any confidence they could handle one of the toughest and most powerful jobs in the world.

But the United States doesn’t need another TV star running the country — even a talented and accomplished star such as Oprah Winfrey.

What it needs is someone who has prepared for the job, who has made tough decisions, who is familiar with the issues, who has a history of public service. Not all senators or governors make good presidents, to be sure, but they’re a better bet, by and large, than the typical movie star or businessman.

Trying to sell common sense and actual relevant experience to the media or the voters could be a tough task. Not all media and not all voters have become obsessed with ‘celebrity’, but enough have to make a difference.

The road to Idiocracy may be paved with Celebritoxicity.

Celebritoxicity – the degree to which an obsession with celebrities can harm humans.

 

Mugabe has resigned

What we know:

Mugabe is out: After 37 years in power Robert Mugabe has resigned. Read our full report.

Zimbabwe celebrates: People are out on the streets of Harare waving flags, holding signs, dancing, singing and celebrating the end of an era.

How it happened: The announcement came as Parliament began proceedings to impeach Mugabe, six days after the military seized control in the capital city. The Speaker of the house read a resignation letter from Mugabe prompting applause and cheers from lawmakers.

What we don’t know: The whereabouts of Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace are unclear.

 

US nuclear general discusses illegal order to strike

This seems to be hypothetical musing but it is seen as significant that a US General involved in nuclear strike decisions openly discussed what he would do if given an illegal order to launch nukes.

Reuters: U.S. nuclear general says would resist ‘illegal’ Trump strike order

The top U.S. nuclear commander said on Saturday that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an “illegal” launch of nuclear weapons.

Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada that he had given a lot of thought to what he would say if he received such an order.

“I think some people think we’re stupid,” Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. “We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?”

Hyten, who is responsible for overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, explained the process that would follow such a command.

As head of STRATCOM “I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do,” he said in his remarks, retransmitted in a video posted on the forum’s Facebook page.

“And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I‘m going to say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options, of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”

Hyten said running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order was standard practice, and added: “If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life.”

His job requires him to resist any president who might give illegal orders. This is one of the checks and balances on presidential power.

But why is the General being asked about this now?

They came after questions by U.S. senators, including Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans, about Trump’s authority to wage war, use nuclear weapons and enter into or end international agreements, amid concern that tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs could lead to hostilities.

Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and threatened in his maiden United Nations address to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people if it threatened the United States.

Some senators want legislation to alter the nuclear authority of the U.S. president and a Senate committee on Tuesday held the first congressional hearing in more than four decades on the president’s authority to launch a nuclear strike.

Trump’s unpredictability and impetuousness seems to be raising concerns, as they should.

The world has raised concerns about the nuclear risk. As long as we can be assured a nuclear strike can’t be ordered via Twitter it may not be as bad as it seems.

Trump and GOP struggling

With a GOP majority in both the House and the Senate it was expected that President Donald Trump should be able to achieve a lot, but after 6 months in power both the White House and the Republicans are struggling for traction.

Politico: Senate Republicans still at impasse after late-night health care meeting

GOP senators engaged in talks late Wednesday night to try to revive their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare after Trump told senators they shouldn’t leave town without action.

NY Times: Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions

President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

That is sure to raise a few eyebrows, if they haven’t disappeared over the back of heads already.

Bloomberg: Trump’s Honeymoon With China Comes to an End

  • Economic talks end with no joint statement from two countries
  • Ross says trade imbalance not driven by market forces

Three months ago, President Donald Trump had warm words for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping after the two leaders bonded at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Within weeks, the Trump administration was touting early wins in talks with China, including more access for U.S. beef and financial services as well as help in trying to rein in North Korea.

Now, the two sides can barely agree how to describe their disagreements.

High-level economic talks in Washington broke up Wednesday with the two superpowers unable to produce a joint statement. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross scolded China over its trade imbalance with the U.S. in his opening remarks, and then both sides canceled a planned closing news conference.

It is not just the pressure on Trump to achieve results that’s growing, the pressure is also growing on him and his family.

Bloomberg: Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions

  • Special counsel examines dealings of Kushner, Manafort, Trump
  • Trump lawyer says this goes beyond Mueller’s mandate

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Reuters: Trump’s son, close associates to appear before Senate

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Wednesday that it had called Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and Manafort to testify on July 26 at a hearing.

The president’s son released emails earlier this month that showed him eagerly agreeing to meet last year with a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The meeting was also attended by Manafort and Kushner, who is now a senior adviser at the White House.

Kushner is scheduled to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday, July 24, behind closed doors.

Trump, who came into office in January, has been dogged by allegations that his campaign officials were connected to Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of interfering in last year’s election. Trump has denied any collusion.

The current list of news links at Real Clear Politics paint a fairly grim picture, as does their rolling average of disapproval for Trump, dipping again recently to 39.7% approve, 55.5% disapprove.

And it’s not just Trump’s White House  that’s struggling.

RCP: GOP Divide Threatens 2018 Budget — and Tax Overhaul

The House Budget Committee passed its fiscal blueprint for next year Wednesday evening with unanimous GOP support, but intra-party divisions threaten to derail the measure in the full House, jeopardizing plans to pass an overhaul of the tax code, a key legislative priority of President Trump and congressional Republicans.

It’s a familiar position for the party: Hard-line conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are frustrated that the conference isn’t pushing further to curb spending; moderates are wary that they’re pushing too far; and those supportive of the budget are concerned that detractors are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Signs of a lack of strong or credible leadership, and also a lack of unity.

Johnny Depp’s assassination comments

In a time of growing concerns about talk of violence and actual violence against politicians in the US Johnny Depp has added fuel to a fomenting fire with outlandish comments about president assassination.

Fox News:  Johnny Depp talks about assassinating Trump

At an appearance in England on Thursday, actor Johnny Depp joked about assassinating President Trump.

“I think he needs help and there are a lot of wonderful dark, dark places he could go,” Depp said.

Depp, noting his comments would “be in the press,” began discussing prior assassinations of presidents.

“When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” he asked, referencing John Wilkes Booth assassinating President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

“I want to clarify, I am not an actor. I lie for a living,” Depp said. “However, it has been a while and maybe it is time.”

Depp’s comments come a week after the politically-motivated shooting of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise.

Very unwise and irresponsible comments from Depp.

A White House official told Fox News, “President Trump has condemned violence in all forms and its sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead. I hope that some of Mr. Depp’s colleagues will speak out against this type of rhetoric as strongly as they would if his comments were directed to a democrat elected official.”

Fair call – comments like those Depp made should be condemned regardless of the politics involved.

People: Johnny Depp Apologizes for Joking About Trump Assassination: ‘I Intended No Malice’

“I apologize for the bad joke I attempted last night in poor taste about President Trump,” he said. “It did not come out as intended, and I intended no malice. I was only trying to amuse, not to harm anyone.”

This is a very poor apology.

“Intended no malice” is a poor excuse for making a comment that is inflammatory and provocative. “I was only trying to amuse” is a lame excuse – actually it isn’t an excuse at all.

“It did not come out as intended” doesn’t stack up – he talked about assassination and presidents, so it’s hard to see what he intended that was different.

What Depp should have done was give an unqualified apology, and he should also have  condemned all political violence and talk that could be seen by anyone as promotion of political violence.