Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.
Did the Freedom Caucus just pull the Republican Party back off the ledge, before it jumped to its death? A case can be made for that.
Before the American Health Care Act, aka “Ryancare,” was pulled off the House floor Friday, it enjoyed the support—of 17 percent of Americans. Had it passed, it faced an Antietam in the GOP Senate, and probable defeat.
Had it survived there, to be signed by President Trump, it would have meant 14 million Americans losing their health insurance in 2018.
First among the losers would have been white working-class folks who delivered the Rust Belt states to President Trump.
“Victory has a thousand fathers; defeat is an orphan,” said JFK.
So, who are the losers here?
First and foremost, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans who, having voted 50 times over seven years to repeal Obamacare, we learned, had no consensus plan ready to replace it.
Moreover, they put a bill on the floor many had not read, and for which they did not have the votes.
More than a defeat, this was a humiliation. For the foreseeable future, a Republican Congress and president will coexist with a health-care regime that both loathe but cannot together repeal and replace.
Moreover, this defeat suggests that, given the ideological divide in the GOP, and the unanimous opposition of congressional Democrats, the most impressive GOP majorities since the 1920s may be impotent to enact any major complicated or complex legislation.
Friday’s failure appears to be another milestone in the decline and fall of Congress, which the Constitution, in Article I, fairly anoints as our first branch of government.
Through the last century, Congress has steadily surrendered its powers, with feeble resistance, to presidents, the Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, the regulatory agencies, even the bureaucracy.
The long retreat goes on.
Another truth was reconfirmed Friday. Once an entitlement program has been created with millions of beneficiaries, it becomes almost impossible to repeal. As Ronald Reagan said, “A government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”
Nor did President Trump escape unscathed.
Among the reasons he was elected was the popular belief, which carried him through scrapes that would have sunk other candidates, that, whatever his faults or failings, he was a doer, a man of action—“He gets things done!”
To have failed on his first big presidential project has thus been an occasion of merriment for the boo-birds in the Beltway bleachers.
Yet, still, Trump’s Saturday tweet—“Obamacare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan … Do not worry!”—may prove prophetic.
Now that “Trumpcare” or “Ryancare” is gone, the nation must live with Obamacare. A Democratic program from birth, it is visibly failing. And Democrats now own it again, as not one Democrat was there to help reform it. In the off-year election of 2018, they may be begging for Republican help in reforming the health-care system.
After what he sees as a wonderful win, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer now intends to block a Senate vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, and thus force Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to muster 60 votes to halt a Democratic filibuster.
Should Schumer persist, Senate Republicans will exercise the “nuclear option,” i.e., change the rules to allow debate to be cut off with 51 votes, and then elevate Gorsuch with their own slim majority.
Why would Schumer squander his political capital by denying a quality candidate like Judge Gorsuch a vote? Does he also think that a collapsing Obamacare—even its backers believe is in need of corrective surgery—will be an asset for his imperiled colleagues in 2018? The last time Democrats headed down that Radical Road and nominated George McGovern, they lost 49 states.
While the Republicans have sustained a defeat, this is not the end of the world. And there was an implied warning in the president’s Sunday tweet:
“Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare.”
What Trump is explaining here is that, if Republican majorities in the House and Senate cannot or will not unite with his White House behind solutions on health care, taxes, infrastructure, border security, he will seek out moderate Democrats to get the work done.
This humiliation of Obamacare reform may prove a watershed for the Trump presidency. What he is saying is simple and direct:
I am a Republican president who wants to work with Republicans. But if they cannot or will not work with me, I will find another partner with whom to form coalitions to write the laws and enact the reforms America needs, because, in the last analysis, while party unity is desirable, the agenda I was elected to enact is critical.
The health-care defeat yet may prove to be another example of winning by losing.
Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.
Devin Nunes just set the cat down among the pigeons.
Two days after FBI Director James Comey assured us there was no truth to President Trump’s tweet about being wiretapped by Barack Obama, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Trump may have had more than just a small point.
The U.S. intelligence community, says Nunes, during surveillance of legitimate targets, picked up the names of Trump transition officials during surveillance of targets, “unmasked” their identity, and spread their names around, virtually assuring they would be leaked.
If true, this has the look and smell of a conspiracy to sabotage the Trump presidency, before it began.
Comey readily confirmed there was no evidence to back up the Trump tweet. But when it came to electronic surveillance of Trump and his campaign, Comey, somehow, could not comment on that.
Which raises the question: what is the real scandal here?
Is it that Russians hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s emails and handed them off to WikiLeaks? We have heard that since June.
Is it that Trump officials may have colluded with the Russians?
But former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and ex-CIA Director Mike Morrell have both said they saw no evidence of this.
This March, Sen. Chris Coons walked back his stunning declaration about transcripts showing a Russia-Trump collusion, confessing, “I have no hard evidence of collusion.”
But if Clapper and Morrell saw no Russia-Trump collusion, what were they looking at during all those months to make them so conclude?
Was it “FBI transcripts,” as Senator Coons blurted out?
If so, who intercepted and transcribed the conversations? If it was intel agencies engaged in surveillance, who authorized that? How extensive was it? Against whom? Is it still going on?
And if today, after eight months, the intel agencies cannot tell us whether or not any member of the Trump team colluded with the Russians, what does that say of their competence?
The real scandal, which the media regard as a diversion from the primary target, Trump, is that a Deep State conspiracy to bring down his presidency seems to have been put in place by Obamaites, and perhaps approved by Obama himself.
Consider. On January 12, David Ignatius of the Washington Post wrote,
“According to a senior U.S. government official, (Gen. Michael) Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials … What did Flynn say?”
Now, on December 29, Flynn, national security adviser-designate, was not only doing his job calling the ambassador, he was a private citizen.
Why was he unmasked by U.S. intelligence?
Who is this “senior official” who dropped the dime on him? Could this official have known how many times Flynn spoke to Kislyak, yet not known what was said on the calls?
That is hard to believe. This looks like a contract hit by an anti-Trump agent in the intel community, using Ignatius to do the wet work.
Flynn was taken down. Did Comey turn his FBI loose to ferret out the felon who had unmasked Flynn and done him in? If not, why not?
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Dan Henninger points anew to a story in the New York Times of March 1 that began:
“In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Trump and Russians — across the government.”
“This is what they did,” wrote Henninger, quoting the Times:
“At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies.”
For what benign purpose would U.S. intelligence agents spread secrets damaging to their own president—to foreign regimes? Is this not disloyalty? Is this not sedition?
On January 12, writes Henninger, the Times “reported that Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed rules that let the National Security Agency disseminate ‘raw signals intelligence information’ to 16 other intelligence agencies.”
Astounding. The Obamaites seeded the U.S. and allied intel communities with IEDs to be detonated on Trump’s arrival. This is the scandal, not Trump telling Vlad to go find Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails.
We need to know who colluded with the Russians, if anyone did. But more critically, we need to unearth the deep state conspiracy to sabotage a presidency.
So far, the Russia-connection investigation has proven a dry hole. But an investigation into who in the FBI, CIA, or NSA is unmasking U.S. citizens and criminally leaking information to a Trump-hating press to destroy a president they are sworn to serve could prove to be a gusher.
As for the reports of Lynch-White House involvement in this unfolding plot to damage and destroy Trump the real question is: What did Barack Obama know, and when did he know it?
Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.
The big losers of the Russian hacking scandal may yet be those who invested all their capital in a script that turned out to based on a fairy tale.
In Monday’s Intelligence Committee hearings, James Comey did confirm that his FBI has found nothing to support President Trump’s tweet that President Obama ordered him wiretapped. Not unexpected, but undeniably an embarrassment for the tweeter-in-chief.
Yet longer-term damage may have been done to the left. For Monday’s hearing showed that its rendering of the campaign of 2016 may be a product of fiction and a fevered imagination.
After eight months investigating the hacking and leaking of the emails of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta and the DNC, there is apparently no evidence yet of Trump collusion with Russia.
Former Director of National Intelligence Gen. James Clapper has said that, as of his departure day, January 20, he had seen no evidence of a Russia-Trump collusion.
Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell also made that clear this month: “On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all. … There’s no little campfire, there’s no little candle, there’s no spark. And there’s a lot of people looking for it.” Morell was a surrogate for the Hillary Clinton campaign.
But while the FBI is still searching for a Trump connection, real crimes have been unearthed—committed by anti-Trump bureaucrats colluding with mainstream media—to damage Trump’s presidency.
There is hard evidence of collusion between the intel community and the New York Times and the Washington Post, both beneficiaries of illegal leaks—felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
While the howls have been endless that Trump accused Obama of a “felony,” the one provable felony here was the leak of a transcript of an intercepted conversation between Gen. Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
That leak ended Flynn’s career as national-security adviser. And Director Comey would neither confirm nor deny that President Obama was aware of the existence of the Flynn transcript.
So where do we stand after yesterday’s hearing and eight-month FBI investigation? The Russians did hack Podesta’s email account and the DNC, and while the FBI has found no evidence of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians, it is still looking.
However, the known unknowns seem more significant.
How could DNI Director Clapper and CIA Director Morell say that no connection had been established between Trump’s campaign and the Russians, without there having been an investigation? And how could such an investigation be conclusive in exonerating Trump’s associates—without some use of electronic surveillance?
Did the FBI fly to Moscow and question Putin’s cyberwarfare team?
More questions arise. If, in its investigation of the Russian hacking and a Trump connection, the FBI did receive the fruits of some electronic surveillance of the Trump campaign, were Attorney General Loretta Lynch, White House aides, or President Obama made aware of any such surveillance? Did any give a go-ahead to surveil the Trump associates? Comey would neither confirm nor deny that they did.
So, if Obama were aware of an investigation into the Trump campaign, using intel sources and methods, Trump would not be entirely wrong in his claims, and Obama would have some ’splainin’ to do.
Is the FBI investigating the intelligence sources who committed felonies by illegally disclosing information about the Trump campaign?
Comey would not commit to investigate these leaks, though this could involve criminal misconduct within his own FBI.
Again, the only known crimes committed by Americans during and after the campaign are the leaks of security secrets by agents of the intel community, colluding with the Fourth Estate, which uses the First Amendment to provide cover for criminal sources, whom they hail as “whistleblowers.”
Indeed, if there was no surveillance of Trump of any kind, where did all these stories come from, which their reporters attributed to “intelligence sources”?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any role in the Russian hacking scandal. But the Justice Department should demand that the FBI put the highest priority on investigating the deep state and its journalistic collaborators in the sabotage of the Trump presidency.
If Comey refuses to do it, appoint a special counsel.
In the last analysis, as Glenn Greenwald, no Trumpite, writes for The Intercept, the real loser may well be the Democratic Party.
If the investigation of Russiagate turns up no link between Trump and the pilfered emails, Democrats will have egg all over their faces. And the Democratic base will have to face a painful truth.
Vladimir Putin did not steal this election. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama lost it. Donald Trump won it fair and square. He is not an “illegitimate” president. There will be no impeachment. They were deceived and misled by their own leaders and media. They bought into a Big Lie.
“The senator from Kentucky,” said John McCain, speaking of his colleague Rand Paul, “is working for Vladimir Putin … and I do not say that lightly.”
What did Sen. Paul do to deserve being called a hireling of Vladimir Putin?
He declined to support McCain’s call for a unanimous Senate vote to bring Montenegro into NATO as the 29th member of a Cold War alliance President Trump has called “obsolete.”
Bordered by Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, tiny Montenegro has a population roughly that of DC, and sits on the western coast of the most volatile peninsula in Europe.
What strategic benefit would accrue from having Montenegro as an ally that would justify the risk of our having to go to war should some neighbor breach Montenegro’s borders?
Historically, the Balkans have been an incubator of war. In the 19th century, Otto van Bismarck predicted that when the Great War came, it would come out of “some damn fool thing in the Balkans.” And so it did when the Austrian archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo June 28, 1914 by Serbian ethnonationalist Gavrilo Princip.
Aflame with ethnic, civil and sectarian war in the 1990s, the western Balkans are again in political turmoil. Milo Djukanovic, the longtime Montenegrin prime minister who resigned on election day in October, claims that he was targeted for assassination by Russia to prevent Montenegro’s accession to NATO.
Russia denies it. But on the Senate floor, McCain raged at Rand Paul: “You are achieving the objectives of Vladimir Putin … trying to dismember this small country which has already been the subject of an attempted coup.”
But if Montenegro, awash in corruption and crime, is on the verge of an uprising or coup, why would the U.S. issue a war guarantee that could vault us into a confrontation with Russia—without a full Senate debate?
The vote that needs explaining here is not Rand Paul’s.
It is the votes of those senators who are handing out U.S.-NATO war guarantees to countries most Americans could not find on a map.
Is no one besides Sen. Paul asking the relevant questions here?
What vital U.S. interest is imperiled in who comes to power in Podgorica, Montenegro? Why cannot Europe handle this problem in its own back yard?
Has President Trump given McCain, who wanted President Bush to intervene in a Russia-Georgia war—over South Ossetia!—carte blanche to hand out war guarantees to unstable Balkan states?
Did Trump approve the expansion of NATO into all the successor states born of the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia?
Or is McCain hijacking U.S. foreign policy on NATO and Russia?
President Trump should tell the Senate: No more admissions to NATO, no more U.S. war guarantees, unless I have recommended or approved them. Foreign policy is made in the White House, not on the Senate floor.
Indeed, what happened to the foreign policy America voted for—rapprochement with Russia, an end to U.S. wars in the Middle East, and having rich allies share more of the cost of their own defense?
It is U.S., not NATO defense spending that is rising to more than $50 billion this year. And today we learn the Pentagon has drawn up plans for the insertion of 1,000 more U.S. troops into Syria. While the ISIS caliphate seems doomed, this six-year Syrian war is far from over.
An al-Qaida subsidiary, the Nusra Front, has become the most formidable rebel fighting group. Syria’s army, with the backing of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias from across the Middle East, has carved out most of the territory it needs.
The Turkish army is now in Syria, beside its rebel allies. Their main enemy: Syria’s Kurds, who are America’s allies.
From our longest war, Afghanistan, comes word from U.S. Gen. John Nicholson that we and our Afghan allies are in a “stalemate” with the Taliban, and he will need a “few thousand” more U.S. troops—to augment the 8,500 President Obama left behind when he left office.
Some 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, helping to liberate Mosul from ISIS. In Kabul, Baghdad and Damascus, terrorist bombings are a weekly, if not a daily, occurrence.
Then there is the U.S. troop buildup in Poland and the Baltic, the U.S. deployment of a missile defense to South Korea after multiple missile tests in the North, and Russia and China talking of upgrading their nuclear arsenals to counter U.S. missile defenses in Poland, Romania and South Korea.
In and around the waters of the Persian Gulf, United States warships are harassed by Iranian patrol boats, as Tehran test-fires anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to send the Americans a message: Attack us and it will not be a cakewalk war.
With the death of Communism, the end of the Cold War, and the collapse of the Bushite New World Order, America needs a new grand strategy, built upon the solid foundation of America First.
Not long ago, a democratizing Turkey, with the second-largest army in NATO, appeared on track to join the European Union.
That’s not likely now, or perhaps ever.
Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared Angela Merkel’s Germany to Hitler’s, said the Netherlands was full of “Nazi remnants” and “fascists,” and suggested the Dutch ambassador go home.
What precipitated Erdogan’s outbursts?
City officials in Germany refused to let him campaign in Turkish immigrant communities on behalf of an April 16 referendum proposal to augment his powers.
When the Netherlands denied Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu landing rights, he exploded, saying: “The Netherlands … are reminiscent of the Europe of World War II. The same racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism.”
When Turkey’s family and social policies minister, Betul Sayan Kaya, drove from Germany to Rotterdam to campaign, Dutch police blocked her from entering the Turkish consulate and escorted her back to Germany.
Liberal Europeans see Erdogan’s referendum as a power grab by an unpredictable and volatile ruler who has fired 100,000 civil servants and jailed 40,000 Turks after last summer’s attempted coup, and is converting his country into a dictatorship.
This crisis was tailor-made for Geert Wilders, the anti-EU, anti-Muslim Dutch nationalist who is on the ballot in Wednesday’s Dutch general election.
Claiming credit for the tough stance of conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Wilders tweeted: “I am telling all Turks in the Netherlands that agree with Erdogan: GO to Turkey and NEVER come back!”
“Wilders is a racist, fascist Nazi,” replied Cavusoglu.
Wilders had been fading from his front-runner position, but this episode may have brought him back. While no major Dutch party would join a government led by Wilders, if he runs first in the election March 15, the shock to Europe would be tremendous.
Rutte, however, who dominated the media through the weekend confrontation with the Turks, could be the beneficiary, as a resurgent nationalism pulls all parties toward the right.
All Europe now seems to be piling on the Turks. Danes, Swedes and Swiss are taking Europe’s side against Erdogan.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the populist National Front in France, called on the socialist regime to deny Turkish leaders permission to campaign in Turkish communities. She was echoed by conservative party candidate Francois Fillon, whose once-bright hopes for the presidency all but collapsed after it was learned his wife and children had held do-nothing jobs on the government payroll.
On April 23 comes the first round of the French elections. And one outcome appears predictable. Neither of the major parties—the socialists of President Francois Hollande or the Republicans of ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy—may make it into the May 7 finals.
Le Pen, the anti-EU populist who would lift sanctions on Putin’s Russia, is running even with 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, a socialist running as the independent leader of a new movement.
Should Le Pen run first in April, the shock to Europe would be far greater than when her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made the finals in 2002.
At the end of 2017, neither Wilders nor Le Pen is likely to be in power, but the forces driving their candidacies are growing stronger.
Foremost among these is the gnawing ethnonational fear across Europe that the migration from the South—Maghreb, the Middle East and the sub-Sahara—is unstoppable and will eventually swamp the countries, cultures and civilization of Europe and the West.
The ugly and brutal diplomatic confrontation with Turkey may make things worse, as the Turks, after generous payments from Germany, have kept Syrian civil war refugees from crossing its borders into Europe. Should Ankara open the gates, a new immigration crisis could engulf Europe this spring and summer.
Other ethnonational crises are brewing in a familiar place, the Balkans, among the successor states born of the 1990s breakup of Yugoslavia.
In Bosnia, secessionists seek to pull the Serb Republic away from Sarajevo toward Belgrade. The Albanian minority in Macedonia is denouncing political discrimination. The Serbs left behind after Kosovo broke loose in 1999, thanks to 78 days of U.S. bombing of Serbia, have never been reconciled to their fate.
Montenegro has charged Russia with backing an attempted coup late last year to prevent the tiny nation from joining NATO.
The Financial Times sees Vladimir Putin’s hand in what is going on in the Western Balkans, where World War I was ignited with the June 1914 assassination of the Austrian archduke in Sarajevo.
The upshot of all this: Turkey, a powerful and reliable ally of the U.S. through the Cold War, appears to be coming unmoored from Europe and the West, and is becoming increasingly sectarian, autocratic and nationalistic.
While anti-immigrant and anti-EU parties across Europe may not take power anywhere in 2017, theirs is now a permanent and growing presence, leeching away support from centrist parties left and right.
With Russia’s deepening ties to populist and nationalist parties across Europe, from Paris to Istanbul, Vlad is back in the game.
To back up Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” Mattis’ warning last month, that the U.S. “remains steadfast in its commitment” to its allies, President Donald Trump is sending B-1 and B-52 bombers to Korea.
Some 300,000 South Korean and 15,000 U.S. troops have begun their annual Foal Eagle joint war exercises that run through April.
“The two sides are like two accelerating trains coming toward each other with neither side willing to give way,” says Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, “Are (they) really ready for a head-on collision?”
So it would seem.
It is Kim Jong Un, 33-year-old grandson of that Stalinist state’s founding father, who launched the first Korean War, who brought on this confrontation.
In February, Kim’s half-brother was assassinated in Malaysia in a VX nerve agent attack and five of Kim’s security officials were executed with anti-aircraft guns. Monday, Kim launched four missiles toward U.S. bases, with three landing in the Sea of Japan.
U.S. response: Begin immediate deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield in Korea.
This set off alarms in China. For while THAAD cannot shoot down Scuds on the DMZ, its radar can detect missile launches inside China, thereby, says Beijing, imperiling her deterrent.
For accepting THAAD, China has imposed sanctions on Seoul, and promised the U.S. a commensurate strategic response.
Minister Wang’s proposal for resolving the crisis: The U.S. and Seoul cancel the exercises and North Korea suspends the nuclear and missile tests.
How did we reach this crisis point?
In his 2002 “axis of evil” address, George W. Bush declared, “The United States … will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”
He then launched a war on Iraq, which had no such weapons. But North Korea, hearing Bush’s threat, built and tested five atom bombs and scores of missiles, a few of intercontinental range.
Pyongyang has tested new presidents before.
In April 1969, North Korea shot down a U.S. EC-121 over the Sea of Japan, killing its entire crew. President Nixon, a war in Vietnam on his hands, let it pass, which he regretted ever after.
But this crisis raises larger questions about U.S. foreign policy.
Why, a quarter of a century after the Cold War, do we still have 28,000 troops in Korea? Not only does South Korea have twice the population of the North, but an economy 40 times as large, and access to U.S. weapons far superior to any in the North.
Why should Americans on the DMZ be among the first to die in a second Korean War? Should the North attack the South, could we not honor our treaty obligations with air and naval power offshore?
Gen. James Mattis’ warning last month was unambiguous:
“Any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”
JFK’s phrase in the Cuban crisis, “full retaliatory response,” comes to mind.
Hence the next move is up to Kim.
New tests by North Korea of missiles or atom bombs for an ICBM could bring U.S. strikes on its nuclear facilities and missile sites, igniting an attack on the South.
For China, this crisis, whether it leads to war, a U.S. buildup in the South, or a U.S. withdrawal from Korea, is problematic.
Beijing cannot sit by and let her North Korean ally be bombed, nor can it allow U.S. and South Korean forces to defeat the North, bring down the regime, and unite the peninsula, with U.S. and South Korean soldiers sitting on the Yalu, as they did in 1950 before Mao ordered his Chinese army into Korea.
However, should U.S. forces withdraw from the South, Seoul might build her own nuclear arsenal, followed by Japan. For Tokyo could not live with two Koreas possessing nukes, while she had none.
This could leave China contained by nuclear neighbors: to the north, Russia, to the south, India, to the east, South Korea and Japan. And America offshore.
What this crisis reveals is that China has as great an interest in restraining North Korea as do we.
While the United States cannot back down, it is difficult to reconcile a second Korean war with our America first policy. Which is why some of us have argued for decades that the United States should moves its forces out of South Korea and off the Asian continent.
Events in Asia — Chinese claims to reefs and rocks in the South and East China Seas and North Korea’s menacing her neighbors — are pushing us toward a version of the Nixon Doctrine declared in Guam in 1969 that is consistent with America first.
While we will provide the arms for friends and allies to fight in their own defense in any future wars, henceforth, they will provide the troops.
Early Saturday the fuming president exploded with this tweet: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
The president has reason to be enraged. For what is afoot is a loose but broad conspiracy to break and bring him down, abort his populist agenda, and overturn the results of the 2016 election.
At its heart is the “deep state” — agents of the intel community, their media collaborators, and their amen corner in a Democratic party whose control of our permanent government is all but total.
At the heart of the case against Trump is what appears to be a Big Lie.
It is that Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s email account, then colluded with Trump’s friends or associates to systematically sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Therefore, Trump stole the election and is an illegitimate president. In this city, Trump is looked upon as a border-jumper, an illegal alien.
Yet let us consider the constituent components of the charge.
For months, we have heard that U.S. intel agencies agree that the Russians hacked the DNC and Clinton campaign, and gave the fruits of their cybertheft to WikiLeaks, because Putin wanted Trump to win.
For months, this storyline has been investigated by the FBI and the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress.
Yet where is the body of evidence that the Russians did this?
More critically, where is the evidence Trump’s people played an active role in the operation? Why is it taking the FBI the better part of a year to come up with a single indictment in this Trump-Putin plot?
Is this all smoke and mirrors?
In late February, The New York Times reported that Trump officials had been in regular touch with Russian intelligence officers.
The smoking gun had been found!
Yet, almost immediately after that report, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told Fox News “the top levels of the intelligence community” had assured him that the allegations of campaign contacts with Russia were “not only grossly overstated, but also wrong.”
If what Reince says is true, the real crime here is U.S. security officials enlisting their Fourth Estate collaborators, who enjoy First Amendment privileges against having to testify under oath or being prosecuted, to undermine the elected commander in chief.
Now we expect Russia to seek to steal our secrets as we steal theirs. After all, our NSA wiretapped Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Our National Endowment for Democracy pushes “color revolutions” to bring about regime change in the near abroad of Putin’s Russian Federation.
Our NGOs are being restricted, shut down, expelled from Russia, China, Israel and Egypt, because they have been caught interfering in the internal affairs of those countries.
There is talk that Putin used the pilfered emails as payback for Clinton’s urging demonstrators to take to the streets of Moscow to protest a narrow victory by his United Russia party in 2011.
As for the alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower, President Obama has denied ordering any such thing and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assures us nothing of the sort was ever done.
Yet, there are other reports that intelligence officials got a warrant to surveil Trump campaign officials or the Trump Tower, and, though failing to succeed in the FISA court that authorizes such surveillance in June, they did succeed in October.
If true, this is a far more explosive matter than whether a Trump aide may have told the Russians, “You’re doing a great job!” when WikiLeaks blew DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz out of her job for tilting the playing field against Bernie Sanders in the primaries.
What needs to be done now?
The White House should tell the Justice Department to tell the FBI to expedite its investigation and file a report on what was done by the Russians. And if any Trump campaign official criminally colluded with the Russians, send the recommendation to indict to Justice.
The acting attorney general should instruct Director James Comey to run down, remove and recommend for prosecution any FBI or intel agent who has leaked the fruits of their investigation, or fake news, to the media. If Comey cannot find the source of the leaks, or lies, coming out of this investigation, a housecleaning may be needed at the bureau.
While President Obama may not have ordered any surveillance of Trump or his advisors, the real question is whether he or Attorney General Loretta Lynch were aware of or approved of any surveillance of Trump and his staff during the campaign.
Russian hacking of the DNC is a problem, not a scandal. The scandal is this: Who inside the government of the United States is trying to discredit, damage or destroy the President of the United States?
For these are the real subversives.
Before the largest audience of his political career, save perhaps his inaugural, Donald Trump delivered the speech of his life.
And though Tuesday’s address may be called moderate, even inclusive, Trump’s total mastery of his party was on full display.
Congressional Republicans who once professed “free trade” as dogmatic truth rose again and again to cheer economic nationalism.
“We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved,” thundered Trump, “and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.”
Yet a Republican party that embraced NAFTA and voted MFN for China every time it came up gave Trump standing ovations.
“[W]e have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters,” said Trump, “America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East—all the while our infrastructure at home is crumbling.”
And from congressional Republicans who backed every Bush-Obama war—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen—not a peep of protest, as their foreign-policy legacy was being consigned to the dumpster.
Watching Republicans rise again and again to hail Trump called to mind the Frankish King Clovis who, believing his wife’s Christian God had interceded to give him victory over the Alemanni, saw his army converted by the battalions and baptized by the platoons.
One had thought the free-trade beliefs of Republicans were more deeply rooted than this.
“We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Trump exulted, having just tossed into the trash that mammoth trade deal beloved of Bush Republicans.
GOP champions of the TPP, if there are any left, sat mute.
Trump cited the first Republican president, Lincoln, as having got it right when he warned, “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”
Celebrating protectionism, hailing “America First!” in a virtual State of the Union address—it doesn’t get any better than this.
To open-borders Republicans who backed amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants, Trump had this message: “We will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border.”
And the cheering did not stop.
The president invoked Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, the greatest public-works project of the 20th century, as a model.
Yet Ike was opposed by the Taft wing of his party and Ike’s republicanism gave birth to the modern conservative movement.
Yet in leading Republicans away from globalism to economic nationalism, Trump is not writing a new gospel. He is leading a lost party away from a modernist heresy—back to the Old-Time Religion.
In restating his commitment to the issues that separated him from the other Republicans and won him Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, however, Trump reaffirmed aspects of conservatism dear to his audience.
He committed himself to regulatory reform, freeing up the private sector, rolling back the administrative state. The Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines are on the way to completion. And Trump is all behind school choice.
While the speech was unifying and aspirational, the president set goals and laid down markers by which his presidency will be judged.
And none will be easy of attainment.
“Dying industries will come roaring back to life. … Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways. … Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and, ultimately, stop. … Our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety and opportunity.”
As some of these domestic crises are rooted in the character, or lack of it, of people, they have proven, since Great Society days, to be beyond the capacity of government to solve.
Ronald Reagan was not wrong when he said, “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”
And while the president’s speech astonished critics as much as it reassured friends, it leaves large questions unanswered.
How does one leave Social Security and Medicare untouched, grow defense by more than $50 billion, slash taxes, launch a $1 trillion infrastructure program—and not explode the deficit and national debt?
Now that we are ensnared in wars all over the Middle East, how do we extricate ourselves and come home without our enemies filling the vacuum?
How does the GOP repeal and replace Obamacare without cutting the benefits upon which millions of Americans have come to rely?
How do you eliminate an $800 billion merchandise trade deficit without tariffs that raise the price of cheap imports from abroad—on which Trump’s working-class voters have come to depend?
The Republican establishment today bends the knee to Caesar.
But how long before K Street lobbyists for transnational cartels persuade the GOP elite, with campaign contributions, to slow-walk the president’s America First agenda?
Tuesday’s speech established Trump as the man in charge.
But how loyal to him and his program will be the “deep state,” which dominates this city that gave Trump only 4 percent of its votes and, paranoically, believes him to be an agent of Vladimir Putin?
The Trump-Beltway wars have only just begun.
The founding fathers of the Munich Security Conference, said John McCain, would be “be alarmed by the turning away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism.”
McCain was followed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who called for a “post-West world order.” Russia has “immense potential” for that, said Lavrov; “we’re open for that inasmuch as the U.S. is open.”
Now McCain is not wrong. Nationalism is an idea whose time has come again. Those “old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism” do seem everywhere ascendant. But that is a reality we must recognize and deal with. Deploring it will not make it go away.
But what are these “universal values” McCain is talking about?
Democracy? The free elections in India gave power to Hindu nationalists. In Palestine, Hamas. In Lebanon, Hezbollah. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, then overthrown in a military coup welcomed by the world’s oldest and greatest democracy. Have we forgotten it was a democratically elected government we helped to overthrow in Kiev?
Democracy is a bus you get off when it reaches your stop, says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, autocrat of Ankara, a NATO ally.
Is freedom of religion a “universal value”?
Preach or proselytize for Christianity in much of the Islamic world and you are a candidate for martyrdom. Practice freedom of speech in Xi Jinping’s China and you can wind up in a cell.
As for the Western belief in the equality of all voluntary sexual relations, in some African and Muslim countries, homosexuals are beheaded and adulterers stoned to death.
In Nuristan Province in U.S.-liberated Afghanistan this month, an armed mob of 300 besieged a jail, shot three cops, and dragged out an 18-year-old woman who had eloped with her lover to escape an arranged marriage. Beaten by relatives, the girl was shot by an older brother with a hunting rifle and by a younger brother with his AK-47.
Afghan family values.
Her lover was turned over to the husband. An “honor killing,” and, like suicide bombings, not uncommon in a world where many see such actions as commendable in the sight of Allah.
McCain calls himself an “unapologetic believer in the West” who refuses “to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries.”
Lavrov seemed to be saying this:
Reality requires us here in Munich to recognize that, in the new struggle for the world, Russia and the U.S. are natural allies not natural enemies. Though we may quarrel over Crimea and the Donbass, we are in the same boat. Either we sail together, or sink together.
Does the foreign minister not have a point?
Unlike the Cold War, Moscow does not command a world empire. Though a nuclear superpower still, she is a nation whose GDP is that of Spain and whose population of fewer than 150 million is shrinking. And Russia threatens no U.S. vital interest.
Where America is besieged by millions of illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico, Russia faces to her south 1.3 billion Chinese looking hungrily at resource-rich Siberia and Russia’s Far East.
The China that is pushing America and its allies out of the East and South China Seas is also building a new Silk Road through former Russian and Soviet provinces in Central Asia. With an estimated 16 million Muslims, Russia is threatened by the same terrorists, and is far closer to the Middle East, the source of Sunni terror.
Is Putin’s Russia an enemy, as McCain seems to believe?
Before we can answer that question, we need to know what the new world struggle is about, who the antagonists are, and what the threats are to us.
If we believe the struggle is for “global democracy” and “human rights,” then that may put Putin on the other side. But how then can we be allies of President el-Sissi of Egypt and Erdogan of Turkey, and the kings, emirs, and sultans of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman?
But if the new world struggle is about defending ourselves and our civilization, Russia would appear to be not only a natural ally, but a more critical and powerful one than that crowd in Kiev.
In August 1914, Europe plunged into a 50-month bloodbath over an assassinated archduke. In 1939, Britain and France declared war to keep Poland from having to give up a Prussian port, Danzig, taken from Germany under the duress of a starvation blockade in 1919 and in clear violation of Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the Danzigers’ right of self-determination. In the two wars, 50 million to 100 million died.
Today, the United States is confronting Russia, a huge and natural ally, over a peninsula that had belonged to her since the 18th century and is 5,000 miles from the United States.
“We have immense potential that has yet to be tapped into,” volunteered Lavrov. But to deal, we must have “mutual respect.”
Hopefully, President Trump will sound out the Russians, and tune out the Beltway hawks.
As the culture war is about irreconcilable beliefs about God and man, right and wrong, good and evil, and is at root a religious war, it will be with us so long as men are free to act on their beliefs.
Yet, given the divisions among us, deeper and wider than ever, it is an open question as to how, and how long, we will endure as one people.
After World War II, our judicial dictatorship began a purge of public manifestations of the “Christian nation” that Harry Truman said we were.
In 2009, Barack Obama retorted, “We do not consider ourselves to be a Christian nation.” Secularism had been enthroned as our established religion, with only the most feeble of protests.
One can only imagine how Iranians or Afghans would deal with unelected judges moving to de-Islamicize their nations. Heads would roll, literally.
Which bring us to the first culture-war skirmish of the Trump era.
Taking sides with Attorney General Jeff Sessions against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the president rescinded the Obama directive that gave transgender students the right to use the bathroom of their choice in public schools. President Donald Trump sent the issue back to the states and locales to decide.
While treated by the media and left as the civil-rights cause of our era, the “bathroom debate” calls to mind Marx’s observation, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”
Can anyone seriously contend that whether a 14-year-old boy who thinks he is a girl gets to use the girls’ bathroom is a civil-rights issue comparable to whether African-Americans get the right to vote?
Remarkably, there was vigorous dissent, from DeVos, to returning this issue to where it belongs, with state and local officials.
After yielding on the bathroom question, she put out a statement declaring that every school in America has a “moral obligation” to protect children from bullying, and directed her Office of Civil Rights to investigate all claims of bullying or harassment “against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.”
Now, bullying is bad behavior, and it may be horrible behavior.
But when did a Republican Party that believes in states’ rights decide this was a responsibility of a bureaucracy Ronald Reagan promised but failed to shut down? When did the GOP become nanny-staters?
Bullying is something every kid in public, parochial, or private school has witnessed by graduation. While unfortunate, it is part of growing up.
But what kind of society, what kind of people have we become when we start to rely on federal bureaucrats to stop big kids from harassing and beating up smaller or weaker kids?
While the bathroom debate is a skirmish in the culture war, Trump’s solution—send the issue back to the states and the people there to work it out—may point the way to a truce—assuming Americans still want a truce.
For Trump’s solution is rooted in the principle of subsidiarity, first advanced in the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII—that social problems are best resolved by the smallest unit of society with the ability to resolve them.
In brief, bullying is a problem for parents, teachers, and principals to deal with, and local cops and the school district if it becomes widespread.
This idea is consistent with the Republican idea of federalism—that the national government should undertake those duties—securing the borders, fighting the nation’s wars, creating a continental road and rail system—that states alone cannot do.
Indeed, the nationalization of decision-making, the imposition of one-size-fits-all solutions to social problems, the court orders emanating from the ideology of judges—to which there is no appeal—that is behind the culture wars that may yet bring an end to this experiment in democratic rule.
Those factors are also among the primary causes of the fever of secessionism that is spreading all across Europe, and is now visible here.
Consider California. Democrats hold every state office, both Senate seats, two-thirds of both houses of the state legislature, three in four of the congressional seats. Hillary Clinton beat Trump two-to-one in California, with her margin in excess of four million votes.
Suddenly, California knows exactly how Marine Le Pen feels.
And as she wants to “Let France Be France,” and leave the EU, as Brits did with Brexit, a movement is afoot in California to secede from the United States and form a separate nation.
California seceding sounds like a cause that could bring San Francisco Democrats into a grand alliance with Breitbart.
A new federalism—a devolution of power and resources away from Washington and back to states, cities, towns and citizens, to let them resolve their problems their own way and according to their own principles—may be the price of retention of the American Union.
Let California be California; let red state America be red state America.
Among the reasons Donald Trump is president is that he read the nation and the world better than his rivals.
He saw the surging power of American nationalism at home, and of ethnonationalism in Europe. And he embraced Brexit.
While our bipartisan establishment worships diversity, Trump saw Middle America recoiling from the demographic change brought about by Third World invasions. And he promised to curb them.
While our corporatists burn incense at the shrine of the global economy, Trump went to visit the working-class casualties. And those forgotten Americans in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin responded.
And while Bush II and President Obama plunged us into Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Trump saw that his countrymen wanted to be rid of the endless wars, and start putting America first.
He offered a new foreign policy. Mitt Romney notwithstanding, said Trump, Putin’s Russia is not “our number one geopolitical foe.”
Moreover, that 67-year-old NATO alliance that commits us to go to war to defend two dozen nations, not one of whom contributes the same share of GDP as do we to national defense, is “obsolete.”
Many of these folks are freeloaders, said Trump. He hopes to work with Russia against our real enemies, al-Qaeda and ISIS.
This was the agenda Americans voted for. But what raises doubt about whether Trump can follow through on his commitments is the size and virulence of the anti-Trump forces in this city.
Consider his plan to pursue a rapprochement with Russia such as Ike, JFK at American University, Nixon, and Reagan all pursued in a Cold War with a far more menacing Soviet Empire.
America’s elites still praise FDR for partnering with one of the great mass murderers of human history, Stalin, to defeat Hitler. They still applaud Nixon for going to China to achieve a rapprochement with the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century, Mao Zedong.
Yet Trump is not to be allowed to achieve a partnership with Putin, whose great crime was a bloodless retrieval of a Crimea that had belonged to Russia since the 18th century.
The anti-Putin paranoia here is astonishing.
That he is a killer, a KGB thug, a murderer, is part of the daily rant of John McCain. At the Munich Security Conference this last weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham promised, “2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress.” How’s that for statesmanship.
But how does a president negotiate a modus vivendi with a rival great power when the leaders of his own party are sabotaging him and his efforts?
As for the mainstream media, they appear bent upon the ruin of Trump, and the stick with which they mean to beat him to death is this narrative:
Trump is the Siberian Candidate, the creature of Putin and the Kremlin. His ties to the Russians are old and deep. It was to help Trump that Russia hacked the DNC and the computer of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, and saw to it WikiLeaks got the emails out to the American people during the campaign. Trump’s people secretly collaborated with Russian agents.
Believing Putin robbed Hillary Clinton of the presidency, Democrats are bent on revenge—on Putin and Trump.
And the epidemic of Russophobia makes it almost impossible to pursue normal relations. Indeed, in reaction to the constant attacks on them as poodles of Putin, the White House seems to be toughening up toward Russia.
Thus we see U.S. troops headed for Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania, NATO troops being sent into the Baltic States, and new tough rhetoric from the White House about Russia having to restore Crimea to Ukraine. We read of Russian spy ships off the coast, Russian planes buzzing U.S. warships in the Black Sea, Russians deploying missiles outlawed by the arms-control agreement of 1987.
An Ohio-class U.S. sub just test-fired four Trident missiles, which carry thermonuclear warheads, off the Pacific coast.
Any hope of cutting a deal for a truce in east Ukraine, a lifting of sanctions, and bringing Russia back into Europe seems to be fading.
Where Russians saw hope with Trump’s election, they are now apparently yielding to disillusionment and despair.
The question arises: if not toward better relations with Russia, where are we going with this bellicosity?
Russia is not going to give up Crimea. Not only would Putin not do it, the Russian people would abandon him if he did.
What then is the end goal of this bristling Beltway hostility to Putin and Russia, and the U.S.-NATO buildup in the Baltic and Black Sea regions? Is a Cold War II with Russia now an accepted and acceptable reality?
Where are the voices among Trump’s advisers who will tell him to hold firm against the Russophobic tide and work out a deal with the Russian president?
For a second cold war with Russia, its back up against a wall, may not end quite so happily as the first.
When Gen. Michael Flynn was forced to resign as national-security advisor, Bill Kristol purred his satisfaction, “If it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”
To Kristol, the permanent regime, not the elected president and his government, is the real defender and rightful repository of our liberties.
Yet it was this regime, the deep state, that carried out what Eli Lake of Bloomberg calls “The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn.”
And what were Flynn’s offenses?
In December, when Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador. He apparently counseled the envoy not to overreact, saying a new team would be in place in a few weeks and would review U.S.-Russian relations.
“That’s neither illegal nor improper,” writes Lake.
Vladimir Putin swiftly declared that there would be no reciprocal expulsions and U.S. diplomats and their families would be welcome at the Kremlin’s Christmas and New Year’s parties.
Diplomatic crisis averted. “Great move … (by V. Putin),” tweeted Trump, “I always knew he was very smart.”
But apparently, this did not sit well with the deep state.
For when Vice President Pence told a TV show that Flynn told him that sanctions did not come up in conversation with the Russian ambassador, a transcript of Flynn’s call was produced from recordings by intelligence agencies, and its contents leaked to the Washington Post.
After seeing the transcript, the White House concluded that Flynn had misled Pence, mutual trust was gone, and Flynn must go.
Like a good soldier, Flynn took the bullet.
The real crime here, however, is not that the incoming national-security advisor spoke with a Russian diplomat seeking guidance on the future president’s thinking. The real crime is the criminal conspiracy inside the deep state to transcribe the private conversation of a U.S. citizen and leak it to press collaborators to destroy a political career.
“This is what police states do,” writes Lake.
But the deep state is after larger game than General Flynn. It is out to bring down President Trump and abort any move to effect the sort of rapprochement with Russia that Ronald Reagan achieved.
For the deep state is deeply committed to Cold War II.
Hence, suddenly, we read reports of a Russian spy ship off the Connecticut, Delaware, and Virginia coasts, of Russian jets buzzing a U.S. warship in the Black Sea, and Russian violations of Reagan’s INF treaty outlawing intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
Purpose: stampede the White House into abandoning any idea of a detente with Russia. And it appears to be working. At a White House briefing Tuesday, Sean Spicer said, “President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to … return Crimea.”
Is the White House serious?
Putin could no more survive returning Crimea to Ukraine than Bibi Netanyahu could survive giving East Jerusalem back to Jordan.
How does the deep state go about its work? We have seen a classic example with Flynn. The intelligence and investigative arms of the regime dig up dirt, and then move it to their Fourth Estate collaborators, who enjoy First Amendment immunity to get it out.
For violating their oaths and breaking the law, bureaucratic saboteurs are hailed as “whistleblowers” while the journalists who receive the fruits of their felonies put in for Pulitzers.
Now if Russians hacked into the DNC and John Podesta’s computer during the campaign, and, more seriously, if Trump aides colluded in any such scheme, it should be investigated.
But we should not stop there. Those in the FBI, Justice Department, and intelligence agencies who were complicit in a conspiracy to leak the contents of Flynn’s private conversations in order to bring down the national-security advisor should be exposed and prosecuted.
An independent counsel should be appointed by the attorney general and a grand jury impaneled to investigate what Trump himself rightly calls “criminal” misconduct in the security agencies.
As for interfering in elections, how clean are our hands?
Our own CIA has a storied history of interfering in elections. In the late ’40s, we shoveled cash into France and Italy after World War II to defeat the communists who had been part of the wartime resistance to the Nazis and fascists.
And we succeeded. But we continued these practices after the Cold War ended. In this century, our National Endowment for Democracy, which dates to the Reagan era, has backed “color revolutions” and “regime change” in nations across what Russia regards as her “near abroad.”
NED’s continued existence appears a contradiction of Trump’s inaugural declaration: “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.”
The president and GOP should get out front here. Let Congress investigate Russia meddling in our election. And let a special prosecutor run down, root out, expose, and indict those in the investigative and intel agencies who used their custody of America’s secrets, in collusion with press collaborators, to take down Trump appointees who are on their enemies lists.
Then put NED down.
To those who lived through that era that tore us apart in the ’60s and ’70s, it is starting to look like “déjà vu all over again.”
And as Adlai Stevenson, Bobby Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey did then, Democrats today like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are pandering to the hell-raisers, hoping to ride their energy to victory.
Democrats would do well to recall what happened the last time they rode the tiger of social revolution.
As the riots began in Harlem in 1964 and Watts in 1965, liberals rushed to render moral sanction and to identify with the rioters.
“In the great struggle to advance civil and human rights,” said Adlai at Colby College, “even a jail sentence is no longer a dishonor but a proud achievement. … Perhaps we are destined to see in this law-loving land people running for office … on their prison records.”
“There is no point in telling Negroes to obey the law,” said Bobby; to the Negro, “the law is the enemy.” Hubert assured us that if he had to live in a slum, “I could lead a mighty good revolt myself.”
Thus did liberals tie themselves and their party to what was coming. By 1967, Malcolm X had been assassinated, Stokely Carmichael with his call to “Black Power” had replaced John Lewis at SNCC, and H. Rap Brown had a new slogan: “By any means necessary.”
Came then the days-long riots of Newark and Detroit in 1967 where the 82nd Airborne was sent in. A hundred cities were burned and pillaged following the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968.
And what happened in our politics?
The Democratic coalition of FDR was shattered. Gov. George Wallace rampaged through the Democratic primaries of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland in 1964, then ran third party and carried five Southern states in 1968.
His presidency broken by Vietnam and the riots, LBJ decided not to run again. Vice President Humphrey’s chances were ruined by the violent protests at his Chicago convention, which were broken up by the club-wielding cops of Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley.
Race riots in the cities, student riots on campus, and that riot of radicals in Chicago helped deliver America to Richard Nixon.
Came then the huge anti-Nixon, anti-war demonstrations of the fall of 1969, the protests in the spring of 1970 after the Cambodian invasion and the Kent State killings, and the Mayday siege by thousands of anarchists to shut down D.C. in 1971.
Again and again, Nixon rallied the Silent Majority to stand with him—and against them. Middle America did.
Hence, what did its association with protesters, radicals, and Black Power militants do for the Democratic Party?
Where LBJ swept 44 states in 1964 and 61 percent of the vote, in 1968 Humphrey won 13 states and 43 percent.
In 1972, Nixon and Spiro Agnew swept 49 states, routing the champion of the countercultural left, George McGovern.
And the table had been set for California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who defied campus rioters threatening him with violence thusly: “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with.”
Without the riots and bombings of the ’60s and ’70s, there might have been no Nixonian New Majority and no Reagan Revolution.
Today, with the raucous protests against President Trump and his travel ban, the disruption of congressional town meetings, the blocking of streets every time a cop is involved in a shooting with a black suspect, and the rising vitriol in our politics, it is beginning to look like the 1960s again.
There are differences. In bombings, killings, beatings, arrests, arson, injuries,and destruction of property, we are nowhere near 1968.
Still, the intolerant left seems to have melded more broadly and tightly with the Democratic Party of today than half a century ago.
Where Barry Goldwater joked about sawing off the East Coast and “letting it drift out into the Atlantic,” Californians today talk of secession. And much of Middle America would be happy to see them gone.
Where Nixon was credited with the “cooling of America” in 1972, and Reagan could credibly celebrate “Morning in America” in 1984, any such “return to normalcy” appears the remotest possibility now.
As with the EU, the cracks in the USA seem far beyond hairline fractures. Many sense the country could come apart. It did once before. And could Southerners and Northerners have detested each other much more than Americans do today?
Fifty years ago, the anti-Nixon demonstrators wanted out of Vietnam and an end to the draft. By 1972, they had gotten both. The long hot summers were over. The riots stopped.
But other than despising Trump and his “deplorables,” what great cause unites the left today? Even Democrats confess to not knowing Hillary Clinton’s presidential agenda.
From those days long ago, there returns to mind the couplet from James Baldwin’s famous book, from which he took his title:
“God gave Noah the rainbow sign/ No more water, the fire next time.”
“Disheartening and demoralizing,” wailed Judge Neil Gorsuch of President Trump’s comments about the judges seeking to overturn his 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. from the Greater Middle East war zones.
What a wimp. Did our future justice break down crying like Sen. Chuck Schumer? Sorry, this is not Antonin Scalia. And just what horrible thing had our president said?
A “so-called judge” blocked the travel ban, said Trump. And the arguments in court, where 9th Circuit appellate judges were hearing the government’s appeal, were “disgraceful.” “A bad student in high school would have understood the arguments better.”
Did the president disparage a couple of judges? Yep.
Yet compare his remarks to the tweeted screeds of Elizabeth Warren after her Senate colleague, Jeff Sessions, was confirmed as attorney general.
Sessions, said Warren, represents “radical hatred.” And if he makes “the tiniest attempt to bring his racism, sexism & bigotry” into the Department of Justice, “all of us” will pile on.
Now this is hate speech. And it validates Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to use Senate rules to shut her down.
These episodes reveal much about America 2017.
They reflect, first, the poisoned character of our politics. The language of Warren — that Sessions is stepped in “racism, sexism & bigotry” echoes the ugliest slander of the Hillary Clinton campaign, where she used similar words to describe Trump’s “deplorables.”
Such language, reflecting as it does the beliefs of one-half of America about the other, rules out any rapprochement in America’s social or political life. This is pre-civil war language.
For how do you sit down and work alongside people you believe to be crypto-Nazis, Klansmen and fascists? Apparently, you don’t. Rather, you vilify them, riot against them, deny them the right to speak or to be heard.
And such conduct is becoming common on campuses today.
As for Trump’s disparagement of the judges, only someone ignorant of history can view that as frightening.
Thomas Jefferson not only refused to enforce the Alien & Sedition Acts of President John Adams, his party impeached Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase who had presided over one of the trials.
Jackson defied Chief Justice John Marshall’s prohibition against moving the Cherokees out of Georgia to west of the Mississippi, where, according to the Harvard resume of Sen. Warren, one of them bundled fruitfully with one of her ancestors, making her part Cherokee.
When Chief Justice Roger Taney declared that President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus violated the Constitution, Lincoln considered sending U.S. troops to arrest the chief justice.
FDR proposed adding six justices to emasculate a Supreme Court of the “nine old men” he reviled for having declared some New Deal schemes unconstitutional.
President Eisenhower called his Supreme Court choices Earl Warren and William Brennan two of the “worst mistakes” he made as president. History bears Ike out. And here we come to the heart of the matter.
Whether the rollout of the president’s temporary travel ban was ill-prepared or not, and whether one agrees or not about which nations or people should be subjected to extreme vetting, the president’s authority in the matter of protecting the borders and keeping out those he sees as potentially dangerous is universally conceded.
That a district judge would overrule the president of the United States on a matter of border security in wartime is absurd.
When politicians don black robes and seize powers they do not have, they should be called out for what they are — usurpers and petty tyrants. And if there is a cause upon which the populist right should unite, it is that elected representatives and executives make the laws and rule the nation. Not judges, and not justices.
Indeed, one of the mightiest forces that has birthed the new populism that imperils the establishment is that unelected justices like Warren and Brennan, and their progeny on the bench, have remade our country without the consent of the governed — and with never having been smacked down by Congress or the president.
Consider. Secularist justices de-Christianized our country. They invented new rights for vicious criminals as though criminal justice were a game. They tore our country apart with idiotic busing orders to achieve racial balance in public schools. They turned over centuries of tradition and hundreds of state, local and federal laws to discover that the rights to an abortion and same-sex marriage were there in Madison’s Constitution all along. We just couldn’t see them.
Trump has warned the judges that if they block his travel ban, and this results in preventable acts of terror on American soil, they will be held accountable. As rightly they should.
Meanwhile, Trump’s White House should use the arrogant and incompetent conduct of these federal judges to make the case not only for creating a new Supreme Court, but for Congress to start using Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution—to restrict the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, and to reclaim its stolen powers.
A clipping of the court’s wings is long overdue.
Is Donald Trump to be allowed to craft a foreign policy based on the ideas on which he ran and won the presidency in 2016?
Our foreign-policy elite’s answer appears to be a thunderous no.
Case in point: U.S. relations with Russia.
During the campaign Trump was clear. He would seek closer ties with Russia and cooperate with Vladimir Putin in smashing al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorists in Syria, and leave Putin’s ally Bashar Assad alone.
With this diplomatic deal in mind, President Trump has resisted efforts to get him to call Putin a “thug” or a “murderer.”
Asked during his taped Super Bowl interview with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly whether he respected Putin, Trump said that, as a leader, yes.
O’Reilly pressed, “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.”
To which Trump replied, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”
While his reply was clumsy, Trump’s intent was commendable.
If he is to negotiate a modus vivendi with a nation with an arsenal of nuclear weapons sufficient to end life as we know it in the USA, probably not a good idea to start off by calling its leader a “killer.”
Mitch McConnell rushed to assure America he believes Putin is a “thug” and any suggestion of a moral equivalence between America and Russia is outrageous.
Apparently referring to a polonium poisoning of KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko, Marco Rubio tweeted, “When has a Democratic political activist ever been poisoned by the GOP? Or vice versa?”
Yet, as we beat our chests in celebration of our own moral superiority over other nations and peoples, consider what Trump is trying to do here, and who is really behaving as a statesmen, and who is acting like an infantile and self-righteous prig.
When President Eisenhower invited Nikita Khrushchev to the United States, did Ike denounce him as the “Butcher of Budapest” for his massacre of the Hungarian patriots in 1956?
Did President Nixon, while negotiating his trip to Peking to end decades of hostility, speak the unvarnished truth about Mao Zedong—that he was a greater mass murderer than Stalin?
While Nixon was in Peking, Mao was conducting his infamous Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that resulted in millions of deaths, a years-long pogrom that dwarfed the two-day Kristallnacht. Yet Mao’s crimes went unmentioned in Nixon’s toast to America and China starting a “long march” together.
John McCain calls Putin a KGB thug, “a murderer, and a killer.”
Yet, Yuri Andropov, the Soviet ambassador in Budapest who engineered the slaughter of the Hungarian rebels with Russian tanks, became head of the KGB. And when he rose to general secretary of the Communist Party, Ronald Reagan wanted to talk to him, as he had wanted to talk to every Soviet leader.
Why? Because Reagan believed the truly moral thing he could do was negotiate to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
He finally met Gorbachev in 1985, when the USSR was occupying Afghanistan and slaughtering Afghan patriots.
The problem with some of our noisier exponents of “American exceptionalism” is that they lack Reagan’s moral maturity.
Undeniably, we were on God’s side in World War II and the Cold War. But were we ourselves without sin in those just struggles?
Was it not at least morally problematic what we did to Cologne, Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki where hundreds of thousands of women and children were blasted and burned to death?
How many innocent Iraqis have perished in the 13 years of war we began, based on falsified or fake evidence of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction?
In Russia, there have been murders of journalists and dissidents. Yes, and President Rodrigo Duterte, our Philippine ally, has apparently condoned the deaths of thousands of drug dealers and users since last summer.
The Philippine Catholic Church calls it “a reign of terror.”
Should we sever our treaty ties to the Duterte regime?
Have there been any extrajudicial killings in the Egypt of our ally Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi since he overthrew the elected government?
Has our Turkish ally, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, killed no innocents in his sweeping repression since last summer’s attempted coup?
Some of us remember a Cold War in which Gen. Augusto Pinochet dealt summarily with our common enemies in Chile, and when the Savak of our ally the Shah of Iran was not a 501(c)(3) organization.
Sen. Rubio notwithstanding, the CIA has not been a complete stranger to “wet” operations or “terminating with extreme prejudice.”
Was it not LBJ who said of the Kennedys, who had arranged multiple assassination attempts of Fidel Castro, that they had been “operating a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean”?
If Trump’s talking to Putin can help end the bloodshed in Ukraine or Syria, it would appear to be at least as ethical an act as pulpiteering about our moral superiority on the Sunday talk shows.
When Gen. Michael Flynn marched into the White House Briefing Room to declare that “we are officially putting Iran on notice,” he drew a red line for President Trump. In tweeting the threat, Trump agreed.
His credibility is now on the line.
And what triggered this virtual ultimatum?
Iran-backed Houthi rebels, said Flynn, attacked a Saudi warship and Tehran tested a missile, undermining “security, prosperity, and stability throughout the Middle East,” placing “American lives at risk.”
But how so?
The Saudis have been bombing the Houthi rebels and ravaging their country, Yemen, for two years. Are the Saudis entitled to immunity from retaliation in wars that they start?
Where is the evidence Iran had a role in the Red Sea attack on the Saudi ship? And why would President Trump make this war his war?
As for the Iranian missile test, a 2015 U.N. resolution “called upon” Iran not to test nuclear-capable missiles. It did not forbid Iran from testing conventional missiles, which Tehran insists this was.
Is the United States making new demands on Iran not written into the nuclear treaty or international law—to provoke a confrontation?
Did Flynn coordinate with our allies about this warning of possible military action against Iran? Is NATO obligated to join any action we might take?
Or are we going to carry out any retaliation alone, as our NATO allies observe, while the Israelis, Gulf Arabs, Saudis and the Beltway War Party, which wishes to be rid of Trump, cheer him on?
Bibi Netanyahu hailed Flynn’s statement, calling Iran’s missile test a flagrant violation of the U.N. resolution and declaring, “Iranian aggression must not go unanswered.” By whom, besides us?
The Saudi king spoke with Trump Sunday. Did he persuade the president to get America more engaged against Iran?
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is among those delighted with the White House warning:
“No longer will Iran be given a pass for its repeated ballistic missile violations, continued support of terrorism, human rights abuses and other hostile activities that threaten international peace and security.”
The problem with making a threat public—Iran is “on notice”—is that it makes it almost impossible for Iran, or Trump, to back away.
Tehran seems almost obliged to defy it, especially the demand that it cease testing conventional missiles for its own defense.
This U.S. threat will surely strengthen those Iranians opposed to the nuclear deal and who wish to see its architects, President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, thrown out in this year’s elections.
If Rex Tillerson is not to become a wartime secretary of state like Colin Powell or Dean Rusk, he is going to have to speak to the Iranians, not with defiant declarations, but in a diplomatic dialogue.
Tillerson, of course, is on record as saying the Chinese should be blocked from visiting the half-dozen fortified islets they have built on rocks and reefs in the South China Sea.
A prediction: The Chinese will not be departing from their islands, and the Iranians will defy the U.S. threat against testing their missiles.
Wednesday’s White House statement makes a collision with Iran almost unavoidable, and a war with Iran quite possible.
Why did Trump and Flynn feel the need to do this now?
There is an awful lot already on the foreign policy plate of the new president after only two weeks, as pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine are firing artillery again, and North Korea’s nuclear missile threat, which, unlike Iran’s, is real, has yet to be addressed.
High among the reasons that many supported Trump was his understanding that George W. Bush blundered horribly in launching an unprovoked and unnecessary war on Iraq.
Along with the 15-year war in Afghanistan and our wars in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, our 21st-century U.S. Mideast wars have cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of dead. And they have produced a harvest of hatred of America that was exploited by al-Qaida and ISIS to recruit jihadists to murder and massacre Westerners.
Osama’s bin Laden’s greatest achievement was not to bring down the twin towers and kill 3,000 Americans, but to goad America into plunging headlong into the Middle East, a reckless and ruinous adventure that ended her post-Cold War global primacy.
Unlike the other candidates, Trump seemed to recognize this.
It was thought he would disengage us from these wars, not rattle a saber at an Iran that is three times the size of Iraq and has as its primary weapons supplier and partner Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
When Barack Obama drew his red line against Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war, and Assad appeared to cross it, Obama discovered that his countrymen wanted no part of the war that his military action might bring on.
President Obama backed down—in humiliation.
Neither the Ayatollah Khamenei nor Trump appears to be in a mood to back away, especially now that the president has made the threat public.
That hysterical reaction to the travel ban announced Friday is a portent of what is to come if President Donald Trump carries out the mandate given to him by those who elected him.
The travel ban bars refugees for 120 days. From Syria, refugees are banned indefinitely. And a 90-day ban has been imposed on travel here from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.
Was that weekend-long primal scream really justified?
As of Monday, no one was being detained at a U.S. airport.
Yet the shrieking had not stopped. All five stories on page one of Monday’s Washington Post were about the abomination. The New York Times‘ editorial, “Trashing American Ideals and Security,” called it bigoted, cowardly, xenophobic, Islamophobic, un-American, unrighteous.
This ban, went the weekend wail, is the “Muslim ban” of the Trump campaign. But how so, when not one of the six largest Muslim countries—Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey—was on the list? Missing also were three dozen other Muslim countries.
Of the seven countries facing a 90-day ban, three are U.S.-designated state sponsors of terror, and the other four are war zones. Clearly, this is about homeland security, not religious discrimination.
The criterion for being included in the travel ban appears to be that these places are the more likely breeding grounds for terrorists.
Yet there are lessons for the Trump White House in the media-stoked panic and outrage at the end of his first week in office.
First, Steve Bannon’s observation that the media are “the opposition party” is obviously on target. While Sen. Chuck Schumer was crying on camera that the ban was “un-American,” the media were into the more serious business of stampeding and driving the protesters.
A second lesson is one every White House learns. Before a major decision is announced, if possible, get everyone’s input and everyone on board to provide what Pat Moynihan called the “second and third echelons of advocacy.” Those left out tend to leak.
A third lesson Trump should learn is that the establishment he routed and the city he humiliated are out to break him as they broke LBJ on Vietnam, Nixon on Watergate, and almost broke Reagan on the Iran-Contra affair.
While the establishment may no longer be capable of inspiring and leading the nation, so detested is it, it has not lost its appetite or its ability to break and bring down presidents.
And Trump is vulnerable, not only because he is an envied outsider who seized the highest prize politics has on offer, but because his agenda would cancel out that of the elites.
They believe in open borders, free trade, globalization. Trump believes in securing the Southern border, bringing U.S. industry home, economic nationalism, “America First.”
They want endless immigration from the Third World to remake America into the polyglot “universal nation” of Ben Wattenberg’s utopian vision. Trump’s followers want back the America they knew.
Our foreign-policy elites see democratization as a vocation and an autocratic Russia as an implacable enemy. Trump instead sees Moscow as a potential ally against real enemies like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
There is another reason for the reflexive howl at Trump’s travel ban. The establishment views it, probably correctly, as the first move toward a new immigration policy, built on pre-1965 foundations and rooted in a preference for Western-Christian immigrants first.
When the Times rages that “American ideals” or “traditional American values” are under attack by Trump, what they really mean is that their ideology and agenda are threatened by Trump.
We are headed for a series of collisions and crises, and what has happened in Europe will likely happen here. As the Third World invasion and growing Islamization of the Old Continent—which the EU has proven unable to stop—has discredited centrist parties and continuously fed a populist-nationalist uprising there, so may it here also.
And Trump not only appears to have no desire to yield to his enemies in politics and the media, he has no choice, as he is now the personification of a surging Middle American counterrevolution.
Undeniably, there are great numbers of Americans who agree with the libels the Times showered on Trump and, by extension, his backers whom Hillary Clinton designated “the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic … deplorables.”
But by whatever slurs they are called, Middle Americans seem prepared to fight. And history shows that such people do not calmly accept the loss of what is most precious to them—the country they grew up in, the country they love.
They have turned to Trump to lead them. Why should he not, having been raised up by them, and knowing in his own heart what the establishment and the media think of him and would do to him?
Ten days in, and already it is “Game On!”
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” wrote poet Robert Frost in the opening line of “Mending Walls.”
And on the American left there is something like revulsion at the idea of the “beautiful wall” President Trump intends to build along the 1,900-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico.
The opposition’s arguments are usually rooted in economics or practicality. The wall is unnecessary. It will not stop people from coming illegally. It costs too much.
Yet something deeper is afoot here. The idea of a permanent barrier between our countries goes to the heart of the divide between our two Americas on the most fundamental of questions.
Who are we? What is a nation? What does America stand for?
Those desperate to see the wall built, illegal immigration halted, and those here illegally deported, see the country they grew up in as dying, disappearing, with something strange and foreign taking its place.
It is not only that illegal migrants take jobs from Americans, that they commit crimes, or that so many require subsidized food, welfare, housing, education, and health care. It is that they are changing our country. They are changing who we are.
Two decades ago, the Old Right and the neocons engaged in a ferocious debate over what America was and is.
Were we from the beginning a new, unique, separate, and identifiable people like the British, French, and Germans?
Or was America a new kind of nation, an ideological nation, an invented nation, united by an acceptance of the ideas and ideals of Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, and Dr. King?
The Old Right contended that America existed even before the Revolution, and that this new nation, this new people, wrote its own birth certificate, the Constitution. Before Washington, Madison, and Hamilton ever went to Philadelphia, America existed.
What forced the premature birth of the nation—was the Revolution.
We did not become a new nation because we embraced Jefferson’s notion about all men being “created equal.” We became a new people from our familial break with the Mother Country, described in the declaration as a severing of ties with our “brethren” across the sea who no longer deserved our loyalty or love.
The United States came into being in 1789. The Constitution created the government, the state. But the country already existed.
When the Irish came in the mid-19th century to escape the famine and the Germans to escape Bismarck’s Prussia, and the Italians, Jews, Poles, Greeks, and Slovaks came to Ellis Island, they were foreigners who became citizens, and then, after a time, Americans.
Not until decades after the Great Migration of 1890–1920, with the common trials of the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, were we truly forged again into one united nation and people.
By 1960, almost all of us shared the same heroes and holidays, spoke the same language, and cherished the same culture.
What those with memories of that America see happening today is the disintegration of our nation of yesterday. The savagery of our politics, exemplified in the last election, testifies to how Americans are coming to detest one another as much as the Valley Forge generation came to detest the British from whom they broke free.
In 1960, we were a Western Christian country. Ninety percent of our people traced their roots to Europe. Ninety percent bore some connection to the Christian faith. To the tens of millions for whom Trump appeals, what the wall represents is our last chance to preserve that nation and people.
To many on the cosmopolitan left, ethnic or national identity is not only not worth fighting for, it is not even worth preserving. It is a form of atavistic tribalism or racism.
The Trump wall then touches on the great struggle of our age.
Given that 80 percent of all people of color vote Democratic, neither the Trump movement nor the Republican Party can survive the Third Worldization of the United States now written in the cards.
Moreover, with the disintegration of the nation we are seeing, and with talk of the breakup of states like Texas and secession of states like California, how do we survive as one nation and people?
Old Europe never knew mass immigration until the 20th century.
Now, across Europe, center-left and center-right parties are facing massive defections because they are perceived as incapable of coping with the existential threat of the age—the overrunning of the continent from Africa and the Middle East.
President Trump’s wall is a statement to the world: this is our country. We decide who comes here. And we will defend our borders.
The crisis of our time is not that some Americans are saying this, but that so many are too paralyzed to say it, or do not care, or embrace what is happening to their country.
As the patriotic pageantry of Inauguration Day gave way to the demonstrations of defiance Saturday, our new America came into view. We are two nations now, two peoples.
Though bracing, President Trump’s inaugural address was rooted in cold truths, as he dispensed with the customary idealism of inaugurals that are forgotten within a fortnight of the president being sworn in.
Trump’s inaugural was Jacksonian.
He was speaking to and for the forgotten Americans whose hopes he embodies, pledging to be their champion against those who abandon them in pursuit of higher, grander, nobler causes. Declared Trump:
For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.
Is this not true? American wages have stagnated as scores of thousands of factories were shut down or shipped abroad. Five of the six wealthiest counties in the U.S. today, measured by median household income, are the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Inaugurals should lift us up, wailed the media, this was “dark.”
And Trump did paint a grim picture—of “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash but which leaves our … students deprived of all knowledge, and the crime and the gangs and the drugs…”
But is this not also a reality of America 2017?
Indeed, it carries echoes of FDR’s second inaugural: “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. … The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
Some of the recoil to Trump’s speech is surely traceable to an awareness by those covering and commenting upon it—that this was a searing indictment of them and their own ruling class.
With America’s political elite sitting behind him, Trump accused them of enriching “foreign industry,” not ours, of subsidizing other countries’ armies but neglecting our own, of defending other nation’s borders while leaving America’s borders unprotected.
Then, in the line that will give his address its name in history, he declared: “From this day forward it’s going to be only America First.”
Prediction: Trump’s “America First” inaugural will be recalled as the most controversial, but will be among the most remembered.
What did Trump mean by “America First”?
“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
What does it mean for the world?
“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of other nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.”
Denounced as isolationism, this is in an old and great tradition.
Ronald Reagan talked of America being a “shining city on a hill” for other nations to emulate.
John Quincy Adams declared:
Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled there will America’s hearts, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher of the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
When the Hungarian patriot Louis Kossuth came to America seeking aid for the revolution of 1848, Henry Clay told him:
Far better is it for ourselves, for Hungary, and for the cause of liberty, that … avoiding the distant wars of Europe, we should keep our lamp burning brightly on the western shore, as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction among the ruins of fallen or falling republics in Europe.
The charge of “isolationist” was thrown in the face of Clay. But he prevailed, and America stayed out of Europe’s wars until 1917 when Woodrow Wilson, fatefully, plunged us in.
In 1936, FDR said, “We shun political commitments which might entangle us in foreign wars. … We are not isolationists except insofar as we seek to isolate ourselves completely from war. … I hate war.”
What Trump was saying in his inaugural is that we will offer our free and independent republic as an example to other nations, but it is not our providential mission to reshape the world in our own image.
“We will reinforce old alliances” that are in our interests, Trump declared. But we are approaching the end of an era where we fought other nations’ wars and paid other nations’ bills.
We will no longer bleed and bankrupt our country for the benefit of others. Henceforth, America will be of, by, and for Americans.
Is that not what the nation voted for?
“Don’t Make Any Sudden Moves” is the advice offered to the new president by Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations, which has not traditionally been known as a beer hall of populist beliefs.
Haass meant the president should bring his National Security Council together to anticipate the consequences before tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, or shooting down a missile being tested by Kim Jong Un.
In arguing against rash action, Haass is correct.
Where the CFR and the establishment are wrong, and Donald Trump is right, however, is in recognizing the new world we have entered.
The old order is passing away. Treaties and alliances dating from the Cold War are ceasing to be relevant and cannot long be sustained.
Economic patriotism and ethnonationalism, personified by Trump, seem everywhere ascendant. Transnationalism is yielding to tribalism.
The greater danger for President Trump is that the movement he led will be abandoned, its hopes dashed, and the agenda that Trump rejected and routed will be reimposed by a Republican Establishment and its collaborators in politics and the press.
Again, it was Trump who read the nation right, which is why he is taking the oath today.
The existential threat to the West no longer comes from the East, from a Russian army crashing through Poland and Germany and driving for the Elbe and Fulda Gap.
The existential threat to the West comes, instead, from the South.
The billion-plus peoples of the Maghreb, Middle East, and sub-Sahara, whose numbers are exploding, are moving inexorably toward the Med, coming to occupy the empty places left by an aging and dying Europe, all of whose native-born populations steadily shrink.
American’s bleeding border is what concerns Americans, not the borders of Estonia, South Korea, Kuwait, or the South China Sea.
When Trump calls NATO “obsolete,” he is saying that the great threat to the West is not Putin’s recapture of a Crimea that belonged to Russia for 150 years. And if the price of peace is getting out of Russia’s face and Russia’s space, maybe we should pay it.
George Kennan himself, the architect of Cold War containment of Stalin’s Russia, admonished us not to move NATO to Russia’s border.
Of Brexit, the British decision to leave the EU, Trump said this week, “People, countries want their own identity and the U.K. wanted its own identity … so if you ask me, I believe others will leave.”
Is he not right? Is it so shocking to hear a transparent truth?
How could Europe’s elites not see the populist forces rising? The European peoples wished to regain their lost sovereignty and national identity, and they were willing to pay a price to achieve it.
Apparently, the Davos crowd cannot comprehend people who believe there are more important things than wealth.
Yet while President Trump should avoid rash actions, if he is to become a transformational president, he will spurn an establishment desperately seeking to hold onto the world that is passing away.
Article V of the NATO treaty may require us to treat a Russian move in the Baltic as an attack on the United States. But no sane president will start a war with a nuclear-armed Russia over Estonia.
No Cold War president would have dreamed of so rash an action.
Rather than risk such a war, Ike refused to send a rifle or bullet to the heroic Hungarian rebels in 1956. Painful, but Ike put America first, just as Trump pledged to do.
And given the strength of ethnonationalism in Europe, neither the eurozone nor the EU is likely to survive the decade. We should prepare for that day, not pretend that what is taking place across Europe, and indeed worldwide, is some passing fever of nationalism.
Notwithstanding Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson’s diktat, the United States is not going to force China to vacate the fortified reefs in a South China Sea she claims as her national territory.
Stick to that demand, and we best prepare for war.
As for the Taiwan card, it was played in 1972 by Richard Nixon as the price of his opening to China. Four decades ago, Jimmy Carter cut diplomatic ties to Taiwan and terminated our security pact.
For Xi Jinping to accept that Taiwan might be negotiable would mean an end of him and the overthrow of his Communist Party of China.
The Chinese will fight to prevent a permanent loss of Taiwan.
The imperative of the new era is that the great nuclear powers—China, Russia, the United States—not do to each other what Britain, France, and Germany did to each other a century ago over a dead archduke.
President Trump should build the wall, secure the border, impose tariffs, cut taxes, free up the American economy, bring the factories home, create millions of jobs, and keep us out of any new wars.
With rare exceptions, wars tend to be fatal to presidencies.