Bannon Leaves, Trump Turns His Focus Overseas
The President will make the announcement himself this evening, in a rare address directly to the American public. And it’s widely expected he will move ahead with a vigorously debated plan to put thousands more American troops into Afghanistan, and let them get closer to the action.
According to Axios, one factor in Defense Secretary Mattis convincing the President, was explaining the lack of success in Afghanistan stems from the fact that “we haven’t fought a 16-year war so much as we have fought a one-year war, 16 times.“
The Administration’s Afghanistan policy was the source of a major divide between the several former Generals close to Trump and his now-former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon advocated essentially outsourcing Afghanistan to mercenaries, run by Erik Prince, founder of the notorious Blackwater security firm, who also happens to be Education Secretary DeVos’ brother.
We found this piece in the New York Times on Bannon’s final hours in the White House enlightening, especially the part where he praises Chief of Staff John Kelly, the man who fired him, for bringing structure to the West Wing, saying: “Those days are over when Ivanka can run in and lay her head on the desk and cry”.
The U.S. and South Korea commenced joint military exercises today, which they do from time to time, mainly to irritate North Korea. The drills involve about 17,500 U.S. and 50,000 South Korean troops.China is pushing a proposal called ‘freeze-for-freeze’, as a first step toward deescalation. That would involve the U.S. and South Korea suspending military exercises in exchange for North Korea temporarily suspending missile testing.
Meantime, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer today will launch into renegotiating the free trade agreement the U.S. has with South Korea, which Trump hates. This one is delicate, because should the U.S. really choose to play hardball, China seems very ready to come in and pick up the slack. After all, at Trump’s request, China is talking to everyone on the Korean Peninsula all the time now about a lot of things, probably more than they have in years.
NAFTA Negotiators Proceeding At Breakneck Pace: We Say “Godspeed”!
The busy U.S. Trade Rep Sunday concluded the first round of negotiations on revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump once called the “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere.” But that was during the campaign when he was trying to embarrass Hillary Clinton over something her husband did.
And the U.S., Canada, and Mexico surprised a lot of people by scheduling further discussions very, very soon, like in a little over a week. Initially, many had predicted NAFTA renegotiation could take years. We’re not surprised. Because Trump has proven himself not particularly interested in policy, and not very detail oriented. All he wants is change to happen quickly and for him to come away with a clear “win.” Heck, he was willing to accept absolutely any health care bill put before him. Same here: he will be ready, “pen in hand” for anything that allows him to crow. A representative from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association complains to the L.A. Times “You can have it quick or have it meaningful. You can’t have both.” Exactly.
Yes, the discussion would not be taking place in the first place had Trump not demanded it. But if you look at the “NAFTA Objectives” published by the US Trade Representative’s Office, there’s nothing wildly radical there. And only a few very significant areas of dispute. This article in Maclean’s deftly delves into that.
That’s not to say it’ll be a total cinch: one of the biggest disputes is over dispute resolution. It’s currently handled by bi-national panels. The U.S. does not like that. Another issue: boosting U.S. made content, seems closest to the President’s heart. Right now, a big-ticket item might cross borders several times during the manufacturing process in order to keep costs down. To us, that’s a sign the agreement is working. To the President, it takes jobs out of the U.S. and increases America’s trade deficit. Negotiators from Canada and Mexico are pushing back by arguing trade surpluses or deficits are not great indicators of economic health.
But as long as our trading partners are willing to swallow their dignity and their pride, and give Trump all the credit, things could progress much more quickly and easily and with far fewer concessions that anyone might currently envision, even with the accelerated timetable. The one thing Trump’s very good at is making very small victories (or even non-victories) seem monumental (as long as he’s not contradicted.) China has become very good at playing this game. They recently gave Trump a “win” on American beef exports to China, except if you look closely, all that occurred was a “reaffirmation” of a policy that was already long in place…
Another Thing That People Seem To Be Surprised About That’s No Surprise…
This photo, taken shortly after inauguration day, of the men who comprised President’s “A-Team” at the time:
Now all are gone save for VP Mike Pence. (And of course a lot more who aren’t pictured.) But if Trump views himself as the modern-day Andrew Jackson (who’s also in the photo), everything’s playing out according to plan. Nobody in Jackson’s first cabinet survived his first 2 years in office, save for the Postmaster General (which is no longer a cabinet position.)
Now for the reset, the instantly famous photo from this weekend where everyone looks angry:
Trump apparently likes this one so much he’s made it the main image on his Twitter page.
Boston Did Good, Even The President Says So. So did Laguna Beach. Now Let’s See How Phoenix Does
A collective sigh of relief this weekend when a so-called “free speech” event by a Right-wing group in Boston turned out to be tiny and well-controlled by police, and tens of thousands of counter protesters were by-and-large peaceful.
Even Trump Tweeted “I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate.” And “Sometimes you need protest in order to heal“. That Tweet was immediately torn apart because he misspelled the word “heal” as “heel”. But Trump would say that’s because media will never give him any credit even when he says “something very nice.” So we’re going to give him credit here: the President said something very nice. We take exception to a different part of that same Tweet, where he says “Our great country has been divided for decades.” He keeps repeating that: what we’re seeing has been going on for “a long time” indicating his hands are completely clean; he doesn’t own it.
A pro-Trump event in Laguna Beach, California was also met with a far larger number of anti-Trump protestors; lots of yelling, very few physical skirmishes or arrests.
Tomorrow, the President will head to Arizona for a campaign-style rally during which he may issue a pardon to retired Sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted of racist policies. It will also be the first time the President’s been West of the Mississippi since taking office.
Oh, and there’s this:
We Are Surprised At The Number Of People We Spoke To Over The Weekend Who Still Had Not Seen Tina Fey’s Now Infamous And/Or Iconic SNL Rant on Charlottesville And The Trump Presidency In General
Will it go down as one of the finest and most important pieces of political satire in history, or one of the most offensive and inappropriate? For sure it’s already led to a deep falling out among Liberals.
So all we ask is that you watch and judge for yourself:
We spent a lot of more of the the weekend than we should’ve arguing, and listening, and we learned a lot. For that we are grateful.
At the same time, we are sad as we write this. Because recently we’d felt for the first time, everybody anti-Trump was really coming together; lines were being erased, factions were disappearing. Not so.