President Deserves Some Credit For Sudden, Unexpected Cooperation On North Korea
This morning at an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in the Philippines, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he’d be willing to sit down and talk with North Korea, if they’d stop doing missile launches for a while. He wouldn’t put a time-frame on it, just “[we’ll] know it when we see it.” That’s a slight softening of conditions he’d set for talks with the North previously. However, for the time being he went out of his way to avoid any contact with North Korea’s Foreign Minister, skipping a dinner he planned to attend after learning his North Korean counterpart would be there. China has been actively talking with the North Korean rep at that same meeting.
South Korea’s foreign minister also met for a few minutes with the North Korean rep, but was rebuffed for “lacking sincerity” according to the South Korean new agency, Yonhap.
All this follows a big diplomatic win for the U.S. this weekend at the U.N. After weeks of playing games, China (and Russia) stopped blocking new sanctions against North Korea, and voted in favor. No explanation as to what caused this change of heart. (Was it Trump’s angry Tweets? Was it good old-fashioned diplomacy and behind-the-scenes deal-making by Tillerson? by U.N. Ambassador Haley? by Trump? Or something else entirely?) All we know is the U.S. all of a sudden got the diplomatic outcome it desired, and had been denied. China had been arguing it could not support sanctions as long as the U.S. continued installing an anti-missile system in South Korea, (that could also mean increased surveillance of China’s military), but it doesn’t seem like the U.S. budged on that. (If it did, we’ll see soon enough.)
Trump Moves Full Steam Ahead On Coal
The New York Times has a very interesting article about Trump’s coal policy, including some things we didn’t know before.
• First of all, far more coal comes from Western states like Wyoming and Montana than Appalachia.
• Secondly, that Trump is so gung-ho about getting things going, he is reopening a loophole that essentially allows mining companies to cheat on the royalties they pay to the government when they dig for coal on federal land. As is the case with so many of these kinds of things these days, before Ryan Zinke became Trump’s Interior Secretary, he repeatedly fought the Obama administration to keep the loophole open. (And failed. Until now.)
VP Pence Says He’s Not Prepping For Trump Ouster
Pence did not offer an alternate explanation of why he’s spending so much time on the road, and doing fund raisers. But we can, because it’s one we’ve mentioned many times before: Trump doesn’t like to travel anywhere he can’t get home the same night and sleep in his own bed. With Mar-a-Lago closed for the summer, that’s limited the President’s range even further. So he sends Pence.
Everybody’s On Vacation…Well, Almost Everybody
Senators took off a couple of weeks later than planned, but are now away until after Labor Day. As are members of Congress. The President is also away from the White House for 17 days at his country club in New Jersey, although he’s insisting “This is not a vacation – meetings and calls!“
Why is this important? Because by the time everybody gets back, there will be only 12 working days to reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling. Failure to do so would result in the federal government defaulting on its bills, something that’s never happened before. Even though a debt ceiling increase only covers money the government has already spent, it’s become more and more of a political football since the rise of the Tea Party. And some Republicans and Democrats are pushing individual demands as conditions for approval. So far, there’s no agreement in sight. In light of that, they’re cutting it pretty close.
We Read And Watch Right-Wing Media So You Don’t Have To
We scanned a lot of Right-wing media over the weekend, and something very interesting is happening: they’ve moved on. They’re way past Trump’s involvement with Russia. They’re willing to stipulate that he probably was involved with Russia, that Russia probably did influence the election, that something is probably going to come out. Their line of argument no longer has to do with any of that. Good, right?
No. Instead, what they’re arguing now is it doesn’t matter. This is epitomized in a Fox News piece appropriately entitled: “Would you even care if he was guilty?“
So now we’re way past Stage One in what we’ve previously described as the “5 Stages of Trump”: “Deny”. And well into Stage Two: “Blame”. In this case a familiar and favorite target: Hillary. The argument goes: So probably Trump did do something, but it’s so small compared to what Hillary did!
Evidence of this? Look no further than this Lou Dobbs Tonight “poll”:
Of course, there’s a real simple counter argument: Hillary’s not President. You can be damn sure if she was, there’d be tons of investigations going on right now. (Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz bet his career on it, and when Hillary wasn’t elected, he promptly resigned from congress!)
But Trump’s true believers never hear this argument, or don’t care.
One other thing: for this to really stick, congress has got to seen as part of the problem. Because there are plenty of old school Republicans who seriously seem to want to get to the bottom of Trump/Russia and aren’t treating it like a trifle.
So failure to pass Obamacare and then completely ignoring Trump’s orders to take it right back up (even after he called them “fools” and “quitters”!) is kind of a gift. The recent passage of a Russia sanctions bill which handcuffs Trump’s ability to take sanctions off, and was endorsed by every single Senator but two, is also kind of a gift. Because now congress is firmly on the wrong side of the “witch hunt” too. Breitbart’s been hammering this with warnings about “Fake Conservatives“.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…