The Open Thread for August 22, 2017

So sometime next year, there will be a soldier going to Afghanistan that was not yet born when this war began.   That was guaranteed after President Trump’s specific-free speech at Fort Myers, Virginia last night.  President Trump said that he will not announce dates or troop levels but “from now on victory will have a clear definition.”   That “clear” definition will include “obliterating ISIS” and “preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan.” To achieve these goals, Trump said he would expand authority for the US millitary to target criminal and terrorist networks in Afghanistan.   After offering this blank check (since he refuses to talk dollar amounts and troop levels and timelines), Trump said he was not offering a blank check of US support to Afghanistan, insisting that the country will have to continue to show a serious commitment and make strides toward addressing persistent issues like corruption.   He then condemned Pakistan as a terrorist haven that needs to do more (something both Bush and Obama did as well), and then demanded do more in Afghanistan to help out (which seemed intended only to piss off Pakistan further).

So in the end, nothing changes in Afghanistan because it is impolitic for the American political class and the military to admit defeat and to let a country fall.  That was why we stayed in Vietnam and Iraq long after it was clear that we had lost.   It is why we are staying in Afghanistan now.  And thus, in the famous words of John Kerry, Donald Trump is asking more Americans in vain.   He should have followed his instincts and pulled out.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN MET WITH RUSSIAN SPY. “Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian immigrant who met last summer with senior Trump campaign officials, has often struck colleagues as a classic Washington mercenary — loyal to his wife, his daughter and his bank account. He avoided work that would antagonize Moscow, they suggested, only because he profited from his reputation as a man with valuable connections there,” the New York Times reports.

“But interviews with his associates and documents… indicate that Mr. Akhmetshin, who is under scrutiny by the special counsel Robert Mueller, has much deeper ties to the Russian government… He has an association with a former deputy head of a Russian spy service, the F.S.B., and a history of working for close allies of President Vladimir V. Putin. Twice, he has worked on legal battles for Russian tycoons whose opponents suffered sophisticated hacking attacks, arousing allegations of computer espionage.”

Jonathan Chait: “Of all the facts in the Russia scandal, this one seems the most underplayed. Email hacking is one of Akhmetshin’s basic methods of operation. The Trump campaign met with a Russian spy who is known for pulling the exact kind of crime that was committed in this case.”

COWARDLY GOP STARTING TO WAKE UP.  President Trump’s “racially fraught comments about a deadly neo-Nazi rally have thrust into the open some Republicans’ deeply held doubts about his competency and temperament, in an extraordinary public airing of worries and grievances about a sitting president by his own party,” the AP reports.

“Behind the high-profile denunciations voiced this week by GOP senators once considered Trump allies, scores of other, influential Republicans began to express grave concerns about the state of the Trump presidency. In interviews with Associated Press reporters across nine states, 25 Republican politicians, party officials, advisers and donors expressed worries about whether Trump has the self-discipline and capability to govern successfully.”

The Fix: Where Republican senators stand on Trump.

MAKING TRUMP THE FINAL DEATH RATTLE OF THE OLD RACIST ORDER.  David Remnick: “This latest outrage has disheartened Trump’s circle somewhat; business executives, generals and security officials, advisers, and even family members have semaphored their private despair. One of the more lasting images from Trump’s squalid appearance on Tuesday was that of his chief of staff, John Kelly, who stood listening to him with a hangdog look of shame. But Trump still retains the support of roughly a third of the country, and of the majority of the Republican electorate. The political figure Obama saw as a ‘logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party’ has not yet come unmoored from the Party’s base.”

“The most important resistance to Trump has to come from civil society, from institutions, and from individuals who, despite their differences, believe in constitutional norms and have a fundamental respect for the values of honesty, equality, and justice. The imperative is to find ways to counteract and diminish his malignant influence not only in the overtly political realm but also in the social and cultural one. To fail in that would allow the death rattle of an old racist order to take hold as a deafening revival.”

IMPEACHMENT MORE LIKELY THAN 25.  Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) “received an overwhelming endorsement from constituents Sunday for his decision to introduce articles of impeachment against President Trump,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Several hundred attendees of a town hall cheered Sherman’s recitation of the reasons he thinks Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment.”  Said Sherman: “Impeachment is more likely than the 25th Amendment, and it could take a few more shocking things to happen. We’re not there yet.”

BANNON V. MURDOCHS. Mike Allen: “The coming war between Steve Bannon and the ‘globalists’ inside the White House promises to be a public spectacle, and a continuing distraction for the Trump administration. But it’s Bannon vs. the Murdoch sons that could really define conservatism — or at least conservative media — far beyond the Trump era.”

“We reported this weekend that Bannon, backed by the billionaire Mercers, has dreams of the Fox rival in the video/TV space. It will be unapologetically nationalist, and unapologetically at war with the Republican establishment, globalism and anyone who sides with either.”

“Oh, and Bannon has the added incentive of knowing Rupert Murdoch — executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent of Fox News — pushed for his ouster.”

Gabriel Sherman:”Bannon also told friends that he believed Kushner encouraged Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch to lobby Trump to fire him. Last week, The New York Times reported that Murdoch told Trump over a private dinner with Kushner that Trump needed to jettison his chief strategist. The Bannon camp believes that Murdoch was especially receptive to Kushner’s lobbying because Murdoch is worried about the rise of Sinclair Broadcasting as a competitor to Fox, and blames Bannon for Trump’s decision so far not to block the Sinclair’s $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media in May.”

“Bannon has media ambitions to compete with Fox News from the right. Last week in New York, he huddled with his billionaire benefactor, Robert Mercer, and discussed ways to expand Breitbart into TV, sources said. ‘Television is definitely on the table,’ a Bannon adviser told me. A partnership with Sinclair remains a possibility. In recent days, Sinclair’s chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn has spoken with Breitbart editors about ways to form an alliance, one Breitbart staffer said. ‘All the Sinclair guys are super tight with Breitbart. Imagine if we got together Hannity and O’Reilly and started something?’”

SECRET SERVICE BANKRUPTED BY TRUMPS. USA Today: “The Secret Service can no longer afford to pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out an expanded protective mission – in large part due to the sheer size of President Trump’s family and efforts necessary to secure their multiple residences up and down the East Coast.”

“Secret Service Director Randolph ‘Tex’ Alles said more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year. The agency has faced a crushing workload since the height of the contentious election season, and it has not relented in the first seven months of the administration. Agents must protect Trump – who has traveled almost every weekend to his properties in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia – and his adult children whose business trips and vacations have taken them across the country and overseas.”

BANNON IS STILL TRUMP’S SOUL.  New York Times: “John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff, told Stephen Bannon in late July that he needed to go: No need for it to get messy, Mr. Kelly told Mr. Bannon, according to several people with firsthand knowledge of the exchange. The two worked out a mutually amicable departure date for mid-August, with President Trump’s blessing.”

“But as Mr. Trump struggled last week to contain a growing public furor over his response to a deadly, race-fueled melee in Virginia, Mr. Bannon clashed with Mr. Kelly over how the president should respond. Give no ground to your critics, Mr. Bannon urged the president, with characteristic truculence… By Friday, when he was forced from his job as Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Mr. Bannon had found himself wholly isolated inside a White House where he once operated with such autonomy that he reported only to the president himself.”

IT MAY GET UGLY IN ARIZONA.  New York Times: “Of particular concern for some officials is the prospect that Mr. Trump may be planning to announce a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who became an avatar for hard-line policies with his roundups of undocumented immigrants. Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers worry that a pardon could deepen the racial wounds exposed in the last week and compound the president’s political problems.”

“Reached by phone at home on Sunday, Mr. Arpaio said that he was not sure why Mr. Trump was thinking of the pardon, and that he had not talked to the president since around Thanksgiving, when Mr. Trump called to ask about the health of Mr. Arpaio’s wife. But Mr. Arpaio would not say whether he had talked to the Trump campaign or White House about the visit Tuesday, or whether he had made formal plans with them to make an appearance.”

BOOING DONALD HURTS HIS FEELINGS.  AWWW.    James Hohmann: “He has spent his entire life trying to get onto the A-list. He’s a Queens kid who has tried hard to win acceptance in Manhattan. The pomp and circumstance of the presidency were big draws when he chose to run. He was genuinely excited about the ceremonial duties of the office after he unexpectedly won the election. More than most presidents, whatever he may say to the contrary, he has shown a love for ceremonies like the one at the Kennedy Center.”

“What he does not like, and goes to great lengths to avoid, is public humiliation. After his experience at the 2011 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, when Barack Obama and Seth Meyers ridiculed him from the stage, he announced that he’d skip this year’s. He didn’t throw the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals home opener, as past presidents have, because he was afraid of getting booed.”

GOP SPENDS MILLIONS ON TRUMP PROPERTIES.  Washington Post: “At least 25 congressional campaigns, state parties and the Republican Governors Association have together spent more than $473,000 at Trump hotels or golf resorts this year… Trump’s companies collected an additional $793,000 from the RNC and the president’s campaign committee, some of which included payments for rent and legal consulting.”

“The nearly $1.3 million spent by Republican political committees at Trump entities in 2017 has helped boost his company at a time when business is falling off at some core properties.”

MCCONNELL’S NUMBERS ARE DISASTROUS IN KENTUCKY.  A new Public Policy Polling survey finds 74% of Kentuckians disapprove of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) job performance, while only 18% approve.  Furthermore, just 27% of state residents approved of the Republican health care bill which went down to defeat. He is not up for reeelection until 2020.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

5 comments on “The Open Thread for August 22, 2017

  1. Sure, Mitch McConnell’s numbers are dismal, they were dismal the last time when he beat the hapless Allison Grimes too. It’s Kentucky, think about it. I think Arizona may get ugly, but suspect it’s more hype than anything else, even if he pardons Arpaio. As for more fun in Afghanistan never have so many spent so much for so little that means nothing, nothing other than death and billions more wasted that is. On the other hand Lindsey Graham is ecstatic at the prospect of yet more war, dare say he wants “to go back to Iraq” as well.

    • “Sure, Mitch McConnell’s numbers are dismal….”

      Whenever dismal approval numbers for GOP politicians are mentioned, rarely are there approval numbers for the D-party opposition, without which makes GOP approvals numbers of little predictive value. Which explains why the D-party keeps losing special elections.

      • That’s because polling continues even when the person involved is not running for re-election until 2020. Duh.

  2. cassandram

    The whole right wing media thing gives me pause. Especially since the traditional TV media is fairly hapless. The fact that there seems to be a growing marketplace for wingnut news is crazy. And the rush of Dems to appear and legitimize this bullshit won’t help.

    • ….the rush of Dems to appear and legitimize this bullshit won’t help.” – cassandram

      That’s what Dems have been doing since (at least) the Billary presidency.

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