Quiet Day Ahead Of A Powder Keg Of A Week

One Of Two (Maybe Three If You’re Wildly Optimistic) Things Will Happen:

Either Democrats will roll over and Congress will pass another temporary extension to fund the government, or Democrats will stand firm in demanding action on an immigration bill, and the government will shut down Friday. (Also, there’s no guarantee Ultra-conservative Republicans in the House will vote in favor of another extension).

Or…a very remote possibility is that some kind of bipartisan agreement will again be reached. One that the President will also agree to. To that end, Congressional staffers will meet first thing this morning, to see if there’s any reason for their bosses to sit down and try again.

Ahead of that, this day, Martin Luther King, Junior’s birthday, was one of the quietest we remember since Trump’s inauguration nearly one year ago. And rightly so. Some people got upset Trump golfed. But what did you expect? That he was all of a sudden going to become respectful and go out and do good deeds? At least he stayed out of trouble, except for one single Tweet:

Forget about the name calling and trying to lay the groundwork for blaming Democrats for a government shutdown if it comes to that. Trump’s Tweet speaks one incontrovertible nugget of truth: “Deals can’t get made when there is no trust!If only what came out of his mouth would go back into his own ears.



Let’s Take A Quick Look At Where We’re At:

We’ve got a bipartisan funding bill (that even includes money for “the wall”) that would almost definitely pass the Senate, and would have a good chance of passing in the House, and Trump would sign, right? Because he promised he would. You remember, just last week when said of a bipartisan gathering: “If they come to me with things that I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it, because I respect them.”  Don’t remember that? We went back and found it for you. You can watch by clicking on the photo:


A more agreeable Trump last week, with “Dicky” Durbin


Except now he won’t. Wait. Aren’t you the guy who said “If they come to me with things that I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it, because I respect them.” and “Deals can’t get made when there is no trust!?

What happened in between? Two anti-immigrant crusaders in the Senate ran to the Oval Office and held  that bill hostage and still are. And Trump, who promised he was going to “do bipartisan” in 2018 is acting as a blunt instrument in service of their quest.

What’s their end game? At least in part, to make Democrats look bad, and divided. Either by making them look like immigrant-loving self-interested lunatics, or by making them look like weaklings who always cave when confronted by creatures of great confidence and resolve. 

It’s a high risk tactic for both sides, and any move made by either could backfire.

The Washington Post has a comprehensive “behind-the-scenes” report on what happened in the Oval Office to scuttle the deal at its point of peak momentum. Most notably, it confirms something we’ve been speculating must be true: that Chief of Staff John Kelly played a major role in convincing the President to oppose the bipartisan agreement.

Our point now: since Democrats are taking a huge risk either way, why not make the bolder choice? No one’s rewarding them right now for playing by the rules. In fact, quite the opposite.

We hated when Republicans shut down the government in protest of the debt ceiling. In order for Democrats to do it and not irk a lot of people means painting Republicans and Trump as just plain cruel, not tough, which should be easy since it’s true.  But why then is it Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and sometimes Presidential golfing buddy, (albeit also one of the bipartisan negotiators) the one who’s out there on this MLK Day reminding us (and Trump) that “America is an idea, not a race“?


Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) S. Carolina



We Quickly Make A Case For Why Republicans Might Do Better In This Year’s Congressional Elections Than The D.C. Pundits Think

The story yesterday from Axios about how Republicans are going to lose the House almost for sure is still really bugging us.

That’s because we think so-called “experts” and pollsters and perhaps even poll respondents are conflating chaos with policy.

Here’s what we mean by that: Trump’s sinking approval ratings are a testament to the fact that many “casual” Trump supporters are growing tired of the continual chaos that surrounds his Presidency. That doesn’t mean they don’t like the policies he and his compatriots are pushing through. (Trying to take away their health insurance was an early blunder; that may be forgiven if it isn’t returned to this year). Almost everything else is a Right-wing dream: keep people out who would threaten the American way of life, take away benefits from “takers”, take money from Coastal elites and redistribute it to Red States, hold the line against gun control, etc.

Come election time, if the economy’s booming, the stock market is still hitting records, and people are seeing more money in their paychecks as a result of tax cuts, “policy” could be the determining factor, since “chaos” isn’t on the ballot again until 2020.



Where in the World Are U.S. Soldiers?

We talked a lot yesterday about the ‘“mistake” warning in Hawaii of a missile attack. And of course one of the reasons Hawaii would be a possible target is not only its relative proximity to North Korea, but the large U.S. military presence there. As the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, about 1 out of every 10 people in Hawaii’s work force is employed by the military, or about 40,000 active duty overall (more than 100,000 people if you include families). That probably comes as no surprise.

But what if we told you the number of U.S. troops in Japan pretty much equals the number in Hawaii? Also around 40,000, dating back to the end of World War II. That might be a surprise, right?

Germany is next with 34,000 U.S. troops. Followed by South Korea: hosting 23,500 U.S. soldiers.

Trump’s been pushing for these countries to bear more of their own military burdens. Recently he’s made it clear that it’s a major component to his plan to get the U.S. economy booming by selling more of the most expensive American made products around: military equipment.

So it’s probably no surprise too that Trump seems eager to expand weapons sales to Japan and South Korea, even though it might take the first-ever amendment to Japan’s constitution to allow that to the extent Trump envisions. Under the Japanese Constitution, which was actually written by the U.S. after World War II, Japan cannot raise an army or wage war. Which is part of why American troops are still there in such great number.

Even though there are other reasons for the U.S. to be there now: monitoring China and North Korea (and also Russia which has huge military operations in its Far East), China also remembers the brutality and aggression of wartime Japan, so would also likely push back against any type of major re-militarization.

On a related note, the ambush last year of 4 U.S. soldiers in Niger raises the question of where U.S. soldiers might be stationed around the world that the general public (and even members of Congress apparently) doesn’t know about.

The answer? According to Politico, the U.S. operates 800 military bases in 70 countries (this data is from 2015.) Some are confirmed sites, others operate stealthily. Some are giant compounds with supermarkets and hospitals, others are minuscule radar stations. Politico also provides this map:


One interesting anomaly: the tiny, but strategically situated African nation of Djibouti (lower left, across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen), is home to both a major U.S. base, and starting last year, the first ever Chinese military base located on foreign soil.