Archive for the ‘Republican establishment’ category

Trump’s ‘America First’ vs. McCain’s ‘America Last’

July 29, 2017

Trump’s ‘America First’ vs. McCain’s ‘America Last’, PJ MediaDavid P. Goldman, July 28, 2017

Europeans suspect that the U.S. wants to sabotage Russian natural gas deliveries to Europe and replace them with LNG exports from the United States. Neither the Trump administration nor its opponents in Congress entertain such a Machiavellian agenda. On the contrary, the Trump administration initially supported sanctions against Russia as a bargaining chip, to be played to extract concessions from Moscow over the Ukraine, Iran and other matters of contention. The House and Senate bills in their present form effectively tie the president’s hands, turning what was a bargaining chip into a declaration of trade war. This would not be the first war to begin when what was intended as a feint was interpreted after the fact as a threat.

America won the Cold War by driving a wedge between Russia and China, and by persuading a frightened Western Europe to point medium-range missiles at the Russian heartland. Russia sought to compensate for its economic inefficiency by turning Europe into an economic colony, and the most dangerous operations of the Cold War were undertaken to prevent this. Now, for narrow political reasons, Trump’s enemies propose to undo the whole structure of relationships that won the Cold War and drive Europe into the arms of the Russians and Chinese. I do not believe for a moment that McCain and Schumer have a clue about this—they are like the “sleepwalkers” in Christopher Clark’s brilliant history of the outbreak of the First World War—but if I were a Russian operative, I would try to invent someone like John McCain, if McCain did not already exist.

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Not the supposed protectionist Donald Trump, but the “free trade” wing of the Republican Party has taken the United States into a trade war that it can only lose. New sanctions against Russia passed by the House and Senate last week force Europe into a de facto alliance with Russia against the United States, and by extension with China as well. It is the dumbest and most self-destructive act of economic self-harm since the United States de-linked the dollar from gold on August 15, 1971, and it will have devastating consequences. The charade in the House and Senate may embarrass Trump, but it also poses a threat to European energy supplies as well as an extraterritorial intrusion into European governance. Berlin, Paris and Rome will conspire with Moscow to circumvent the sanctions while attacking the United States at the World Trade Organization and other international fora.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), and their counterparts in the House of Representatives allowed their dudgeon against a sometimes provocative president to overwhelm their sense of self-preservation. The sanctions will hurt Russia, but not nearly as much as they will hurt the United States over the long term. The White House envisioned sanctions as a bargaining chip, to be used to persuade Moscow to behave in the Ukraine and to limit the ambitions of its Iranian ally of convenience. In their present form, however, the president will have no authority to remove sanctions imposed by Congress. That turns a feint into a threat. Wars have been started over less.

The Democrats along with the McCain Republicans, it will be remembered, accused Trump of undermining the Atlantic Alliance, of isolating the United States, and of handing a diplomatic victory to Russia. Not Trump, but his detractors have given Moscow a degree of leverage over Western Europe to which it has not aspired since the height of the Cold War in 1983, when Soviet premier Yuri Andropov considered a pre-emptive Russian attack in response to Western plans to deploy medium-range missiles in Germany.

Supposedly it was Trump who ignored the exigencies of international relations in favor of domestic political theater. Yet it is the Establishment wing of the Republican Party and its Democratic allies who combined to embarrass the president, without a moment’s consideration of the consequences of their actions. Among Washington’s elite, Trump Derangement Syndrome has nothing to do with ideology. It is about jobs and patronage. This is not hypocrisy. It is chutzpah.

Trump humiliated the Democrats and the Establishment rump of the Republican Party last November. The losers now face the prospect of permanent exile from political life. Writing in the Times Literary Supplement July 25, historian Edward Luttwak predicted a Trump dynasty lasting sixteen years, in which Ivanka Trump Kushner would succeed her father. “No wonder that leading Democrats and non-Trumpers continue to act hysterically even eight months after the election. President Trump’s plan threatens to exclude them all from office until long past their retirement age,” Luttwak wrote. The hopes of high office of the defeated Establishment can be realized only by stifling the Trump administration in its cradle.

That is the motivation behind the Black Legend of Russian collusion that continues to occupy the waking hours of the American media while putting most Americans to sleep. As Sen. McCain said after the Senate vote July 27, the sanctions “respond to Russia’s attack on American democracy….We will not tolerate attacks on our democracy. That’s what this bill is all about. We must take our own side in this fight, not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans.”

The notion that Russian machinations explain Trump’s electoral victory is fanciful, although Russia’s intelligence services no doubt sought targets of opportunity in the American electoral scramble. McCain’s outrage over the violation of America’s political virginity, though, rings rather hollow. Some of his friends, for example National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, publicly advocate regime change in Moscow, a topic that has been a matter of on-and-off public debate in Washington for years. A 2016 Defense Intelligence Agency document reported that Russia believes that the United States favors regime change. The U.S. supported the 2014 Maidan coup in Ukraine, which threatened Russia’s access to its Crimean warm-water port. America’s capacity to influence political events in and around Russia is vastly greater than Russia’s.

After the fall of Communism, the dominant strain of American thinking held that the march of liberal democracy was unstoppable, and that it would transform the Muslim world as well as Moscow. I played a bit part in this project; in 1992, then Ambassador to Moscow Robert Strauss arranged for me to advise President Boris Yeltsin’s finance minister, Yegor Gaidar. Strauss did so at the behest of private equity investor Theodore Forstmann, who had funded a proposed study of the Russian economy. As it turned out I had little advice to give to the Yeltsin government, which was acting as a family office for various Russian oligarchs who divided up the Russian economy. The free-for-all of theft left the economy in ruins. One needed a large shopping bag full of currency to do ordinary shopping. A few hundred meters from the Kremlin, old people sold used clothing to buy food, and World War II veterans wore their medals to beg in the streets. No-one who had first-hand experience with Russia’s brief experience with democracy was surprised at Vladimir Putin’s subsequent popularity. The oligarchs continued to steal, but in a measured and organized fashion that allows ordinary life to proceed without catastrophic disruption. Putin rules Russia by means I sometimes find abhorrent, but his is a land where people don’t talk of Ivan the Reasonable.

An ideological residue of the utopian attitudes of the 1990s colors the Republican Establishment’s attitude towards Trump, but it does not really inform them. This is not about the U.S. elections, or Putin’s nastiness, or freedom and democracy. It’s about privilege and the pecking order in the Washington swamp. McCain and Schumer want to destroy Trump because a successful Trump administration would destroy them, and destroy the reputation of an entire generation of diplomats, intelligence officers, academics and military officers who achieved rank by promoting the export of democracy, nation building, counterinsurgency, and so forth.

The trouble is that the Schumer-McCain combination has taken aim at Russia but inflicted collateral damage on the Europeans. The sanctions legislation in its present form allows the United States to impose heavy fines on European companies involved in energy infrastructure with Russia, and threatens several major projects now in progress, including the Nord Stream II natural gas pipeline, the Baltic Liquefied Natural Gas Project, and the Russia-Turkey Blue Stream pipeline, among others. EC Commission chief Klaus Juncker warned July 27, “The U.S. bill could have unintended unilateral effects that impact the EU’s energy security interests. If our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days. ‘America First’ cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last.”

The Trump administration has annoyed America’s trading partners previously by complaining about the exchange rate of the euro and about Germany’s trade surplus with the U.S. But those were cosmetic issues compared to sanctions which the Europeans see as a threat to essential economic interests. The French and German foreign ministries denounced the sanctions as a “violation of international law” and national governments as well as the European Commission are preparing as yet unspecified countermeasures.

Europeans suspect that the U.S. wants to sabotage Russian natural gas deliveries to Europe and replace them with LNG exports from the United States. Neither the Trump administration nor its opponents in Congress entertain such a Machiavellian agenda. On the contrary, the Trump administration initially supported sanctions against Russia as a bargaining chip, to be played to extract concessions from Moscow over the Ukraine, Iran and other matters of contention. The House and Senate bills in their present form effectively tie the president’s hands, turning what was a bargaining chip into a declaration of trade war. This would not be the first war to begin when what was intended as a feint was interpreted after the fact as a threat.

Not Trump, but his domestic opponents have set in motion an unprecedented disturbance in Atlantic relations, and effectively put Berlin, Paris and Rome in the same camp with Moscow in opposing American policy. European governments are already consulting with Moscow about mechanisms to get around the sanctions. Russia has responded by expelling a large number of diplomats from the embassy in Moscow, but that is merely a symbolic gesture. There are more disagreeable measures that Moscow might take, such as providing advanced weapons to Iran, giving close air support to Iranian-controlled militias in Syria, and increasing military cooperation with China. Russia and China, as I have reported elsewhere, already back Iran’s international brigades of Shi’ites as a counter-toxin to Sunni jihadists shaken loose by America’s blunders in Iraq.

America won the Cold War by driving a wedge between Russia and China, and by persuading a frightened Western Europe to point medium-range missiles at the Russian heartland. Russia sought to compensate for its economic inefficiency by turning Europe into an economic colony, and the most dangerous operations of the Cold War were undertaken to prevent this. Now, for narrow political reasons, Trump’s enemies propose to undo the whole structure of relationships that won the Cold War and drive Europe into the arms of the Russians and Chinese. I do not believe for a moment that McCain and Schumer have a clue about this—they are like the “sleepwalkers” in Christopher Clark’s brilliant history of the outbreak of the First World War—but if I were a Russian operative, I would try to invent someone like John McCain, if McCain did not already exist.

Trump vs. the Deep State

June 19, 2017

Trump vs. the Deep State, PJ MediaRoger Kimball, June 18, 2017

President Donald Trump speaks in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida, on June 15, 2017, about re-instituting some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba and U.S. business dealings with entities tied to the Cuban military and intelligence services. (Photo by JL) (Sipa via AP Images)

The sociology of the Trump presidency—and the anti-Trump “resistance”—is an unwritten chapter in recent American history.  As I say, I suspect it will have to be filed chiefly under “Snobbery, examples of,” but that’s as may be.  This much I am convinced of: 1. Those who identify the “administrative state” (the “deep state,” etc.) as our chief political problem today are correct; 2. Donald Trump really is trying to unravel (“deconstruct,” “drain”)  Leviathan; 3. The right-leaning anti-Trump campaign is so virulent because, even if unwittingly, it is itself part of the overweening bureaucrat dispensation that is the enemy of freedom; 4. Trump will survive to the extent that he is able to follow the example of his hero Andrew Jackson and challenge his challengers by pushing through his agenda undistracted from the yapping of the PC chihuahuas.

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With his typical panache, Frank Buckley asks the central political question of our time and hints at an answer with an original suggestion for remediation. The question is what to do about the “administrative state,” a.k.a., the regulatory state, the “deep state,” that Leviathan that Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, has said he came to Washington to “deconstruct.”

As Buckley points out, that laudable goal is hedged around with difficulties, partly because the meddling class has built up such a formidably complex hive of extra-constitutional rules and regulations, partly because the populace has been supine for so long that strategies for effective rejoinder seem utopian at best.  What, really, can one do about the proliferation of “guidance,” of the statute-like interference in the conduct of business or, indeed, of everyday life?

The Kafkaesque bureaucracy stymies ordinary people at every turn as it pursues its two overriding goals: the perfection of a “progressive,” i.e., socialist agenda and—just as important—the consolidation of its own power and perquisites.

What to do? The courts can only do so much without themselves falling prey to the molasses-like blandishments of the administrative state. Effective responses seem to be few and far between.

One model, Buckley notes, was provided by Andrew Jackson who, disgusted by the encroaching sclerosis and corruption of the bureaucracy he inherited, instituted a “spoils system.” He fired 10 percent of the federal workforce and replaced it with people of his own choosing. “Was that so bad?” Buckley asks, indulging in what Latinists refer to as a “Num” question: one expecting the answer no.  As Buckley notes, even so partisan a liberal as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., lulled perhaps by the historical distance of Jackson from our own time, thought that it was a positive development that  helped to restore the people’s faith in government.

Donald Trump has himself said that he would like to cut the federal workforce by 10 percent and has outlined many other cost-saving and, more to the point, bureaucracy-cutting measures. Why are these efforts, many of which have already begun to bear fruit, not universally applauded, at least among conservatives?

I do not know the answer to that question.  But it is certainly the case that Trump’s efforts are not universally applauded among conservatives.  Buckley quotes a curious tweet emitted by my friend Bill Kristol, former editor of The Weekly Standard and a paid-up member of the ever Never Trump brigade: “obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

What I find so curious about this tweet is the phrase “Trump state.”  What is it?  What horror does Bill envision that would lead him to prefer what Donald Trump has on offer to the “deep state”?

Ever since Trump was nominated, I suspected that he was going to govern as a far more conventional figure than some of his campaign rhetoric might have suggested. And so it has turned out to be. Sure, he continues to broadcast eyebrow-raising tweets and make provocative statements, but look at what he has actually done:

  • Nominated, and had confirmed, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme court.
  • Nominated a score of federal judges whose impeccable conservative credentials should be balm to conservatives like Bill Kristol.
  • Issued many executive orders and other initiatives to pare back onerous and counterproductive regulations.
  • Changed the rules of engagement in hot spots like Syria and Afghanistan so that commanders on the ground, not Washington weenies, make decisions about appropriate military responses.
  • Outlined an ambitious tax plan that would slash taxes across the board.
  • Worked diligently to unravel the monstrosity of Obamacare.
  • Undertaken on his first foreign trip a robust articulation of his “America First,” anti-terrorist policy, all while demonstrating what progress in the Middle East might look like by flying, for the first time, directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel.
  • Made it possible for entrepreneurs to exploit America’s enormous energy-producing potential by scraping the prohibitions on coal mining, opening up the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, etc. etc.
  • Reduced illegal immigration by more than 70 percent just by being president.
  • Released a budget that makes meaningful cuts in federal programs.
  • Etc., etc., etc.,

Now, Bill Kristol knows all of this.  So why does he speak of the “Trump state”? How does it differ from the “normal democratic and constitutional politics” he says he prefers?

I suspect, but do know know for sure, that the issue is largely aesthetic—what in an earlier time might have been called “snobbery.”  Bill does not like where Donald Trump hails from. I don’t means Queens, NY, but rather the unschooled precincts of the spirit that people without the right credentials inhabit by definition.  There are objective correlatives—a certain taste in ties, in victuals, even in feminine pulchritude—but it all boils down to a matter of style in the most comprehensive sense.  Bill Kristol, scion of one of the most accomplished conservative intellectual couples of the last century, has it. Donald Trump does not. Bill is Harvard, not just because he went there, but because of the intellectual manners, the habitus, he internalized.

The sociology of the Trump presidency—and the anti-Trump “resistance”—is an unwritten chapter in recent American  history.  As I say, I suspect it will have to be filed chiefly under “Snobbery, examples of,” but that’s as may be.  This much I am convinced of: 1. Those who identify the “administrative state” (the “deep state,” etc.) as our chief political problem today are correct; 2. Donald Trump really is trying to unravel (“deconstruct,” “drain”)  Leviathan; 3. The right-leaning anti-Trump campaign is so virulent because, even if unwittingly, it is itself part of the overweening bureaucrat dispensation that is the enemy of freedom; 4. Trump will survive to the extent that he is able to follow the example of his hero Andrew Jackson and challenge his challengers by pushing through his agenda undistracted from the yapping of the PC chihuahuas.

Trump was the real target

June 15, 2017

Trump was the real target, Israel National News, Jack Engelhard, June 15, 2017

I say Republican lawmakers owe us an explanation. Explain, please, why you allow yourselves to be led by the nose by the party that lost?

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So it has come to this —

No Republican is safe, whether it’s Jeff Sessions in the Senate on Tuesday, or Congressional Republicans at a baseball practice in Virginia on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s shooting, from a gunman identified as a Bernie Sanders supporter, hit and wounded House (GOP) Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others.

They were sent to the hospital. Scalise’s condition is apparently most serious, but all are hopefully expected to recover. But will the republic, seeing how the Democrats are on a tear; them and all leftists who call themselves the Resistance. That means resistance to President Trump.

The gunman (now dead from the heroic actions of the police) wanted to know whose team were playing ball there in Alexandria.

Told they were Republicans, he opened fire. 

Trump is the real target.

That’s who they’re really trying to bag, if by Red Scare innuendos in Congress or by mockery that plainly hints at the wishful thinking of a Trump assassination.

From Stephen Colbert’s rant, to Kathy Griffin’s head-on-a stick, to Shakespeare in the Park substituting Trump for the bludgeoning of Caesar, we know what they’re thinking…and we can only guess who they may be influencing.

There are any number of nut cases out there who get the general idea.

Those of us who watched Tuesday’s Senate hearing that featured Attorney General Jeff Sessions could only wonder when this will stop – this fixation on Russia.

Apparently it won’t stop any time soon. Sen. Mark Warner (D. Virginia) opened by demanding that Sessions make himself available for many more investigations still to come – as if Sessions has no day job, and as if branding Trump and all of Trump’s people no better than Russian spies will preoccupy Democrats from now until forever.

Have they no other business?

Do they ever listen to themselves talk, these Democrats, their desperation through nitpicking, to find something, anything that will stick?

Are they aware of their hysteria?

Who won this election anyway? Why are the Republicans, who did win, on the hot heat? You’d think it would be the other way round.

As for me, I thought a GOP sweep of the White House and Congress would send Hillary Clinton running for the hills.

She, not Sessions, would be begging for mercy. Or was it Sessions who was guilty of “extreme carelessness with classified material?’

Was it Sessions who destroyed evidence, even using a hammer to beat to death 30,000 e-mails?

No, all that was Hillary Clinton, aided by Huma Abedin and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Why are they sleeping safe and snug while Sessions sweats his way through another day at the Inquisition, pleading for his job and his reputation, already in tatters as Democrats thrill to their success at character assassination en route to Trump.

People say Sessions was “feisty” at Tuesday’s Senate witch-hunt. I say he was lame.

I say he was lame from the moment he recused himself from the Russia probe…and still lame for not bringing charges against Hillary et al.

I say Republican lawmakers owe us an explanation. Explain, please, why you allow yourselves to be led by the nose by the party that lost?

Newt Gingrich Full One-on-One Explosive Interview on Fox & Friends | Video | Fox News (5/31/2017)

May 31, 2017

Newt Gingrich Full One-on-One Explosive Interview on Fox & Friends | Video | Fox News (5/31/2017)Republican News Watch via YouTube, May 31, 2017

(Another “explosive” interview. Did someone ignite a  firecracker? — DM)

 

 

Whose Side are You on?

May 31, 2017

Whose Side are You on? Front PageMagazine, Daniel Greenfield, May 31, 2017

(What would Bill Buckley say? — DM)

 “The only time Republicans show an appetite for blood is when they are fighting each other,” David Horowitz has said.

And that is exactly what is happening here. Republicans are more eager to investigate each other than Hillary Clinton’s crimes or Barack Obama’s shocking spying on his conservative political opponents.

But it’s safer to fight other Republicans. No one will call you a racist. The media might even praise you.

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Here’s the good news.

It’s 2017 and Republicans control the White House, the Senate, the House and more statewide offices than you can shake a big bundle of fake news papers at. And, potentially soon, a Supreme Court that takes its guidelines from the Constitution not Das Kapital and the National Social Justice Party.

Here’s the bad news, Republicans are still Republicans.

Whether it’s Flynn, Bannon, Gorka, Kushner, Clarke, they are all too eager to fall for the latest left-wing scandal. The media throws some chum in the water and watches the bloody fun as Republicans go after Republicans. Scandals are manufactured and strategically aimed to divide and conquer Republicans.

But the real target is the conservative agenda.  Bogging down the White House in scandals keeps it from dismantling more of Obama’s regulations and orders. Every milligram of oxygen that foolish conservatives give the left’s narratives is a milligram taken from the lungs of the conservative agenda.

At the National Review, Jim Geraghty, who has loathed Trump since Day 1, seizes on the latest scandal targeting Jared Kushner. In recent days, the National Review has run four pieces on the fake scandal.

That’s an odd preoccupation for a conservative publication that ought to be more concerned with conservative policy priorities than parsing the shibboleths that the left is firing at President Trump.

But the National Review occupies a peculiar space between the Never Trumpers who have found cushy jobs on MSNBC and at the New York Times and mainstream conservative support for President Trump. It isn’t ready to leave the movement, but instead it insists on echoing media criticisms in a softer tone.

The Review takes the tone that it’s just asking questions. Those questions just happen to be the same ones that the media keeps on asking. If the mainstream media reads like an angry partisan blog, then the National Review sounds the way that the media used to when it was just biased instead of fake.

It just so happens that the Review is full of innumerable stories and posts about every media scandal. And its preferred pose is innocence. Like the rest of the media, it’s just asking questions.

What’s the big deal?

“What I don’t get is any reflexive defense of . . . Jared Kushner. Trump earned your vote, and presumably, some amount of trust. What did Kushner ever do for you?” Geraghty protests.

Presumably. In Geraghty’s world, winning the votes of conservatives, shouldn’t necessarily earn trust.

Conservatives though understand it’s not about “loyalty” to Kushner, Flynn, Gorka, Flynn, Clarke or even Trump. Instead it’s about loyalty to a conservative agenda. All politicians and political appointees are flawed. The left wins by using Alinsky’s Rule 4. Conservatives lose by falling into the trap of Rule 4.

“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

The left doesn’t care about any supposed back channel to Russia. This is the radical movement whose great leader was caught on the microphone assuring Putin’s bag man that he would have more “flexibility” after the election. Obama didn’t just have back channels to Russia, he had back channels to Iran and Hamas.

It’s about destroying the conservative agenda.

Anyone who thinks that the left has problems with them because of anything they did or said has forgotten that NKVD boss Beria’s “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime” is the premise of his fellow leftists’ “resistance” to democracy.

And that, as no less a lawyer than Alan Dershowitz has said, is the kind of case we’re dealing with here.

It’s a swamp of innuendo based on anonymous sources, investigations fed by illegal eavesdropping, scandals in which the outrage comes before the evidence whose purpose is to overturn an election.

Passing the conservative agenda requires that most elusive of qualities, conservative solidarity. That means realizing that it’s not about loyalty to Kushner or even Trump. It’s about not letting the left drag the conservative agenda off the road and into its putrid swamp of lies and manufactured scandals.

Lately the National Review seems far more interested in conservative scandals than left-wing ones. There are few mentions of what Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Tom Perez and the likely 2020 contenders are up to. There has been nothing this month at the Review on Cory Booker, nothing direct on Biden and glancing passes at Elizabeth Warren. But Republicans are more fun to attack.

“The only time Republicans show an appetite for blood is when they are fighting each other,” David Horowitz has said.

And that is exactly what is happening here. Republicans are more eager to investigate each other than Hillary Clinton’s crimes or Barack Obama’s shocking spying on his conservative political opponents.

But it’s safer to fight other Republicans. No one will call you a racist. The media might even praise you.

Never Trump Republicans think that the media hates Trump. It doesn’t hate Trump. It hates them. Republicans have varied reactions to Trump. Leftists have only one reaction to anyone to the right of them. It’s the same reaction you get if you send an ISIS member into Temple Beth Shalom.

The leftist faction lecturing Republicans about decency, national security and the rule of laws punches political opponents in the face, creates back channels to Islamic terrorists in Iran, smuggles billions to fund their terror, and sends the IRS after political opponents. Is their moral authority worth anything?

No conservative agenda will ever be passed without conservative solidarity. Until the left gets the message that it will never overturn the results of this last election, it will keep trying. Conservatives can squash this fascist fantasy only by making it clear that there will never be an impeachment and that they will respond to investigations the way that Rep. Elijah Cummings did to the investigation of Benghazi.

The left can’t stop a conservative agenda. Only the lack of conservative solidarity can do that.

As David Horowitz pointed out in Big Agenda: President Trump’s Plan to Save America, Republicans lack the will to fight the left on its own terms, because they fail to understand what drives the left.

The media drives the left’s narratives in the name of fulfilling its agenda. A conservative media ought to drive conservative narratives instead of regurgitating the agendas and ambitions of the mainstream media.

When the National Review echoes the left’s political narratives, it achieves the left’s political agendas.

A Coup Attempt, Not a Constitutional Crisis

May 19, 2017

A Coup Attempt, Not a Constitutional Crisis, PJ MediaDavid P. Goldman, May 18, 2017

Trump won by calling attention to the errors of his opponents and by dominating the news cycle. He played continuous offense. At the White House, by contrast, Trump has appeared cautious in stating his foreign policy goals, and defensive in responding to attacks on his performance and propriety. The policy issues that stood out clear during the campaign and helped Trump outflank the Republican Establishment have become fuzzy, especially after the firing of Gen. Flynn.

With the policy issues out of focus, Trump has lost control of the news cycle, and risks letting the news cycle control him. His opponents won’t succeed in dislodging him. But they have succeeded in distracting Trump from his policy agenda.

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A ranking Republican statesman this week told an off-the-record gathering that a “coup” attempt was in progress against President Donald Trump, with collusion between the largely Democratic media and Trump’s numerous enemies in the Republican Party. The object of the coup, the Republican leader added, was not impeachment, but the recruitment of a critical mass of Republican senators and congressmen to the claim that Trump was “unfit” for office and to force his resignation.

It’s helpful to fan away the psychedelic fumes of allegation and innuendo and clarify just what Trump might have done wrong. Trump will not be impeached, and he will not be harried out of office. But he faces a formidable combination of media hostility—what the president today denounced as a “witch hunt”—and a divided White House staff prone to press leaks. The likely outcome will be a prolonged dirty war of words that will delay Trump’s domestic agenda and tie down his loyalists with the chores of fire-fighting.

One thinks of Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians. Trump was elected by campaigning against the Republican Establishment as well as Obama, ridiculing their policy blunders in Iraq and Afghanistan and questioning their credibility. In the flurry of personal attacks, the underlying policy issues have faded into the background, and that gives the initiative to Trump’s enemies.

Nothing that has been alleged, much less proven, about President Trump comes close to the threshold for impeachment, as Prof. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University’s law school explained in a May 17 comment in The Hill. Even if Trump asked then FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Gen. Michael Flynn, Prof. Turley notes, “Encouraging leniency or advocating for an associate is improper but not necessarily” illegal. The charge of obstruction of justice presumes that there is an issue before the bar of justice, but as Turley adds, “There is no indication of a grand jury proceeding at the time of the Valentine’s Day meeting between Trump and Comey. Obstruction cases generally are built around judicial proceedings — not Oval Office meetings.”

The appointment of respected former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to look into allegations of Russian interference in the November 2016 election strongly suggests that the Trump team feels it has nothing to fear from a thorough review. In this case Trump’s detractors appear to be bluffing. Press reports of contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian diplomats and businessmen appear to reflect the sort of conversations that every presidential campaign conducts with important foreign governments. It is not clear that Russia was responsible for the delivery of embarrassing Democratic National Committee emails to Wikileaks, moreover. Pro-Trump media report that DNC staffer Seth Rich was Wikileaks’ source. Rich was murdered on a Washington street in July 2016, and a counter-conspiracy theory is circulating about his death.

Then there is the alleged leak of highly classified intelligence on the laptop bomb threat to airliners, of which Wall Street Journal editors intoned, “Loose Lips Sink Presidencies.” Exactly what the president told the Russians is under dispute, but the salient fact in the case is that presidents and cabinet members frequently leak classified information without prompting the condemnations that piled up on Trump. Obama’s then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta leaked the role of Pakistani physician Shakil Afridi in locating Osama bin Laden’s lair, and President Obama himself revealed that Seal Team 6 had killed Osama, making the unit a subsequent  target for terrorists. Apart from inadvertent leaks, the Obama administration deliberately leaked British nuclear secrets to Russia, over bitter protests from London.

Why did Obama get a pass while Trump got the bum’s rush? Apart from the antipathy of the major media to a candidate who campaigned against them, there is the hostility of the intelligence agencies. That, the Wall Street Journal editors said, is Trump’s own fault: “Mr. Trump’s strife and insults with the intelligence community were also bound to invite blowback,” their May 17 editorial scolded. “In that case the public leaks about Mr. Trump’s actions, if true, will do more damage than whatever he said in private.”

The Journal editors imply that disaffection in the intelligence community is the result of Trump’s obstreperousness, but the source of the dispute is policy and accountability. Trump’s first national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, was fired by Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for claiming that U.S. intelligence agencies bore some responsibility for the emergence of ISIS. The CIA funded Sunni rebels against the Assad regime including many from a branch of al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front, in its campaign to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Trump has shifted America’s priority to stopping the bloodshed in Syria rather than forcing out al-Assad, and is willing to work with Russia to achieve this—provided that the result doesn’t give undue influence to Iran, a senior administration official explained.

A shift to peacemaking and the limited possibility of a regional deal with Russia away from the covert war operations of the CIA under the Obama administration represents a major policy change. It threatens the credibility of Sen. McCain, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and the Republican Establishment, not to mention the CIA officials who made their careers on collaboration with Syria’s Sunni rebels.

During the campaign, candidate Trump delivered an effective message that he would abandon the costly and unpopular nation-building campaigns of his predecessors and focus instead on America’s own security. He attacked not only Obama but the George W. Bush administration and the Republican Establishment which had fostered a failing policy in the region.

Trump won by calling attention to the errors of his opponents and by dominating the news cycle. He played continuous offense. At the White House, by contrast, Trump has appeared cautious in stating his foreign policy goals, and defensive in responding to attacks on his performance and propriety. The policy issues that stood out clear during the campaign and helped Trump outflank the Republican Establishment have become fuzzy, especially after the firing of Gen. Flynn.

With the policy issues out of focus, Trump has lost control of the news cycle, and risks letting the news cycle control him. His opponents won’t succeed in dislodging him. But they have succeeded in distracting Trump from his policy agenda.

Lt. Col Tony Schaffer Revels Who Was ‘Directly Behind’ Mike Flynn Phone Call Leaks

February 15, 2017

Lt. Col Tony Schaffer Revels Who Was ‘Directly Behind’ Mike Flynn Phone Call Leaks, Fox News via YouTube, February 15, 2017