Category Archives: #donaldtrump

The Deal

Donald Trump, Kim Jong UnThe Spectator speculates that The Donald a) might be in line for a Nobel Peace Prize over North Korea (never happen, look at the Committee), b) might be willing to follow Bannon’s advice and pull US troops out of South Korea in exchange for denuclearization.

I suspect “b” will be on the table if only because, after 60 years, it is sort of pointless to keep troops in South Korea. The South Koreans have a perfectly good army and really, seriously, advanced weapons. The US can pull out, save money and reassure the NORKs.

But my bet is that Trump, like the Sham Wow guy before him, will say, “Wait, there’s more.”

Trump sold condos for years and part of the condo sale was the “amenities” package. The pool, the gym, the roof top party room. In North Korea’s case the amenities package is investment, economic growth and trade. Getting rid of the sanctions pulls them up to a few points below zero. But, say, 5 billion from South Korea into factories and another 5 billion from China into infrastructure begins to look like a real deal.

For sixty years the whole American approach has been about a lot of stick and very little carrot. This has not worked.

Trump sitting in a room with Kim Jong Un is making a sale. “We’ll stop kicking you if you drop the nukes.” is an opening, but it is not a close. Dropping sanctions makes the pain go away, but it is not an enticement. Trump has done a lot of deals and part of deals is giving people more than they expect.

Something Trump knows.

Trump does not need this deal. He can rachet up the sanctions and, at any moment, vaporize North Korea. To say he has bargaining power is to entirely understate the case. But Trump would benefit from a real, enforceable, deal on the nukes. So would China, so would South Korea, so would Japan.

So, instead of playing “hardball” Trump has the luxury of closing the sale. Tossing in the Wolf Stove and the marble foyer. And he won’t even have to pay for it. In fact, by pulling the US troops, he is saving billions a year.

Should be fun to watch.



Donald Trump, US politicsAt the beginning of last week, before the State of the Union and before the release of the Nunes memo, the Democrats could still hold out hope that, somehow the not very Presidential Trump would be taken out either by a rather vigorous reading of the 25th Amendment or by Special Counsel Mueller finally finding proof of Russian collusion and then proof that President Trump covered up that collusion in a manner which would attract an indictment for obstruction of justice. These were pretty implausible to begin with, but after a brilliant performance at the SOTU and the confirmation that the FBI/DOJ played silly buggers with the FISA process I think it is safe to say Trump will be serving out his term.

Which is not to say that the FBI/DOJ follies will now be buried. Quite the opposite. The Nunes memo raises more questions than it answers. And other Committees of both the House and the Senate are investigating the FBI/DOJ as well as the State Department. The behaviour of the top echelons of the FBI/DOJ revealed in the Nunes memo and factually uncontradicted suggests that there was a pattern of partisan behaviour which should never exist in a police force or a Department of State responsible for prosecuting the law. And that pattern of behaviour goes well beyond the (Trump) Russian collusion fable. In the first instance, it raises the question of the Clinton Russian collusion. After all, the DNC and the Clinton campaign financed the efforts of a foreign national to obtain information from, well, Russians to compromise an American Presidential candidate. Those Russian individuals were closely tied to the Russian state. And the Clinton campaign and DNC made it their business to push the dossier into the hands of the FBI/DOJ. How all that happened and how to prevent it from happening again is an obvious matter of national interest.

Then we have the emerging, and very queer tale, of the Clinton emails on the Weiner computer and the bizarre spectacle of FBI Director Comey announcing, ten days before the election, that the Clinton email investigation was being re-opened. It appears that now “retired” Assistant FBI Director McCabe had known about the Clinton emails for a month before it occurred to him to tell the Director that there might be a tiny problem. Comey must have been furious but realized that he had no choice but to re-open the investigation. Particularly as FBI agents in New York, as well as NYPD personnel, were aware of the emails. This might appear to be small potatoes however many political observers suggest that the re-opening of the investigation re-enforced the doubts many people had about Clinton and caused more than a few to stay home rather than vote for the likely criminal Clinton. It may not have added any votes to the Trump tally, but Comey’s announcement certainly took a few away from Mrs. Clinton. Figuring out how that happened and trying to make sure it does not happen again is another, obvious matter of national interest.

We are looking forward to the Inspector General’s Report on the Department of Justice which is likely to focus on the overall behaviour of the department with respect to the Clinton emails and, perhaps, with the decisions surrounding the investigation of the IRS targeting of conservative groups. While the Nunes memo has been attacked as “partisan”, the IG’s report will not be vulnerable to such attack. It should be very interesting and should open up many avenues for Congressional Investigation.

My own view is that the “original sin” of the FBI/DOJ was the decision to ignore the clear wording of the law and find that there was a requirement for “intent” in the law regarding the handling of classified materials. This novel interpretation – apparently worked out by the FBI before it had actually done interviews with the principals involved in the Clinton email disaster – of the law allowed Mrs. Clinton and her people to avoid prosecution. In hindsight that corrupted the FBI in a profound way. The FBI should not interpret the law in any case, that is the DOJ’s responsibility. (The recusal of Mrs. Lynch after her tete a tete with Hilly’s husband needs to be looked into as well.) But if the FBI is stuck interpreting the law it needs to stick to the letter of the law rather than inventing requirements which the law does not contain. While it might have been shocking to see Mrs. Clinton charged it would have been less shocking than seeing the Director of the FBI contort the plain words of a law he is pledged to uphold. (I note that had Clinton and her aides been charged the matter would likely have been pled down to a misdemeanor level and life would carry on. Even with a guilty plea to a minor charge, Hilly would have been in better shape to explain her conduct to an electorate which would likely have forgiven it.)

Digging down to that “original sin” and the circumstances which surrounded will take some time. Time which will only be available if the Republicans can manage to hold at least the Senate and, ideally, the House. In the fevered imaginations of Democratic partisans, the Democratic party will win the House in November and begin impeachment proceedings as soon as a new House of Representatives has been seated. Which is why the SOTU speech and Trump’s overall performance is so important.

To get to the bottom of the Obama administration’s corruption of the justice system in the United States there needs to be a Republican House and Senate. Otherwise, the committees will be chaired by Democrats and all this will be swept thoroughly under the carpet. And for the Republicans to win they need a leader for their party. For better or worse, Trump is that leader and how he does and how he perceived to be doing is critically important. While Trump will never be treated fairly by the American mainstream media, he seems willing to end-run that media. Events like the SOTU give Trump the opportunity to be the President for all Americans. It also gives him the opportunity to underline what a partisan, sour and rather nasty bunch the Democrats actually are. He has nine months to close the sale with the American people. The Democratic Party is broke and in a state of civil war as the “woke” shoot up the “business Democrats” and Mrs. Clinton remains like a bad smell. The Trump tax cuts are about to kick in and the Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting 5.5% growth in Q1. American companies are bringing home their offshore billions and showing willing to hire Americans. The Democrats have locked their ankle to the DACA anchor and are seen as putting America last when it comes to immigration. And so on.

To win, Trump and the Republicans do not have to be brilliant, they simply have to be less stupid than the Democrats. Fortunately for Trump this is not difficult.

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Memo II

Pretty much as expected the Nunes memo exposed the fact that the FBI/DOJ sought FISA warrants on the basis of a dossier which they knew was the product of people retained by the Clinton campaign. And, apparently, they failed to disclose the dossier’s origins to the FISA Court.

There is a lot of partisan back and forth about the appropriateness of the memo and whether it is factually correct and if it discloses all the facts; but none of that matters. The simple, non-partisan and non-disputed pith of the thing is that the FBI/DOJ used unvetted evidence from a questionable source to obtain the Court’s permission to spy on an American citizen.

As I said in my earlier post, this memo is the beginning of a process. It opens the door for further and deeper investigation. While it should lead to the appointment of special counsel to look at actual crimes – fraud upon the Court is an actual crime – I doubt the memo, in itself, will be enough. The Democrats and the mainstream media are going to fight every step of the way because they know that once a special counsel is appointed it is only a matter of time before the misconduct of the FBI/DOJ with respect to the Clinton email server and the Clinton Foundation comes to light. And they also know that the behaviour of the Obama White House with respect to the unmasking of American persons (for no good national security reason) will be scrutinized. And the behavior of the DOJ with respect to the Clinton server and the IRS investigations. And so on. The term “can of worms” barely begins to cover what will occupy much of political Washington over the next couple of years.

It is too early to tell if the assertions in the Nunes memo as to the misconduct of the FBI/DOJ before the FISA Court will affect the Mueller investigation. I have no doubt that lawyers for Flynn, Manafort and Gates will be suggesting that the evidence against their clients is tainted by this misconduct; but that is a long bow to draw on today’s disclosures. A position which may change as more information surfaces.

As usual, the big winner in today’s revelations is Donald Trump. He said he’d been wire tapped and was laughed at. The memo does not say Trump was wiretapped, but it does suggest that the FBI/DOJ was not above using phoney documents to surveil a minor member of Trump’s campaign team. Which, in its turn, suggests that Trump claiming to have been wiretapped is not such a crazy, outlandish thing to say.

Tick tock.

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While we await the next sock to drop – and where is Sophie – the American political world is fixated on a 4 page memo which summarizes nefarious deeds by the FBI, DOJ and Lord knows who else. Who will be named? What did they do? Apparently, Trump is cool with releasing the memo with few, if any, redactions. The Democrats are calling for Chairman Nunes head because…well, stuff. The FBI is saying it leaves stuff out. The DOJ is claiming release would be reckless.

To be honest I am not expecting much. A bit of confirmation that the “dirty dossier” figured in FISA applications. Possibly a little more information on how the fix was put in to prevent Hilly from being charged. But that will be about it factually.

Which is not really the point. The point is that the Obama administration politicized the DOJ and the FBI. Once that is out with a bit of evidence to back it up, the wheels begin falling off both the Obama administration and the Hillary campaign. Which would not matter much in a normal transition; but the Trump transition was being undermined from the get go. How it was done and who did it matters a lot.

The memo is the first piece of a multi-piece operation. It will, I suspect, give grounds for the appointment of a special counsel to examine the conduct of the FBI and the DOJ vis a vis the Trump transition and the Hillary email decisions. It may not be enough. Enough will likely come with the report of the DOJ Inspector General who is looking into the behavior and the adherence to standards and norms of the DOJ and the FBI in these matters. The memo is a partisan document, the Inspector General’s report is deeply non-partisan.

My argument for voting for Trump – who I did not like going into the election and remain skeptical about now – was always that Hillary was a criminal surrounded by people who were either criminals or indifferent to the law. Trump, foolishly in my view, said he would not charge Hillary. However, as the facts emerge, I suspect it will be out of his hands.

The memo is going to bare certain facts. In themselves, they will be damning but they will also provide the base for further investigation. Those investigations will, gradually, reveal the full extent of the corruption which permeated the Obama White House and the Clintons in all their guises.

For the moment, the memo is knocking down FBI people like nine pins; but they are just the froth on the sewage. The bigger players, Lynch, Powers, Rice, Huma and a host of others need to be exposed, criminally charged and either pled out or sent to jail. The pleas will be interesting. Huma is a dead woman walking because she absolutely knew about the email traffic to Hilly’s “unauthorized” (and, hence, illegal) server. The other ladies unmasked or had quiet chats with Hilly’s husband when her plane happened to meet his.

This will all take a while but if Trump #freesthememo the first step will have been taken.


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Won’t take “Yes” for an answer

Last week we had the hilariously abortive two and a half day government shut down when the Democrats refused to fund the government unless their immigration demands were met. That went well. The Democrats caved in record time and, in the process, pretty much destroyed the “shutdown” as leverage.

Then Trump floats a comprehensive immigration/Dreamer/wall/visa lottery/chain migration package.

The nationalist right went crazy. 1.8 million Dreamers, 15 million related family, villagers…Froth, foam…Betrayal. Never going to vote for Trump again and so on.

But the reaction of the Democrats, particularly their base, was brilliant. “The burning cross,” was mild. Faucahantus is livid tweeting “By ending DACA, @realdonaldtrump subjected 800k Dreamers to deportation. Now he wants to hold them hostage to Steven Miller’s anti-immigrant wish list. It’s insulting.” And so on.

Both reactions were entirely predictable.

From the Democratic side of the table, the deal Trump offered is never going to be acceptable because the Democratic base sees immigration as a must “win” piece of the “resistance”. Winning on the Dreamers while conceding on the wall, etc. is essentially out of the question because it would give the hated Trump something he might want. So long as wall/chain/visa lottery we included the Democrats will support no Trump proposal.

Which Trump knew going in.

What Trump also knows, but which the Democratic base has not taken on, is that the Dreamers turn to pumpkins when the Obama executive program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) expires in early March. Trump didn’t renew the program so, as it required an Executive Order to be renewed, it is dead. Deportations will not follow immediately, but they will most certainly be on the horizon unless Congress can enact some sort of legislation. (Which, Trump says, is exactly what Congress should do rather than relying on a continuing, likely unconstitutional,  bit of Presidential legislation by pen.)

If DACA ends there is very little downside for Trump and minimal downside for the majority of GOP Representatives and Senators. Illegal immigration is not particularly popular in the US. But if DACA ends and is not replaced with legislation the Democratic base will go nuts. Unfortunately for the base, the legislative proposal floated by Trump is far and away the best offer he is going to make. His base is already furious that he has gone this far and while Chamber of Commerce Republicans and GOPe types are in favour of more permissive immigration solutions, Trump Nation is not.

DACA supporters are very likely to go over the top in the next few weeks bringing home the idea that these are not the sort of people America wants to bend over backward to accommodate.  The Kamala Harris/Elizabeth Warren wing of the party will grow shriller and loonier as the days pass. Chuck Schumer might try for another government shutdown but the politics of that are unattractive after the previous failure.

All of which Trump and his people know.

So what happens? Schumer has no choice but to turn down a very generous deal. Then, “tick tock”. The deadline approaches. Mitch McConnell makes good his pledge to let a bill “legalizing” the current DACA regime reach the floor of the Senate for a vote. That bill, I suspect, will be much less generous than the current offer and it will certainly have the wall/visa lottery/chain migration provisions baked in. And then? Well then the genius Democrats will vote against it and, with no time left on the legislative clock, the Dreamers will lose their, always provisional, status.

Trump will have maneuvered the Democrats into voting against legislation which their core constituency desperately wants. DACA will die, but it will die at the hands of the Democratic Party.

At that point, Trump can dictate his terms. He does not have to deport every dreamer the day after DACA dies; in fact, there is pending litigation which will prevent deportation for months if not years. But now Trump can cheese slice immigration reform. He can work with the Republican majority to create legislation which will provide routes to citizenship and he can work with that majority to fund the wall, eliminate chain migration and kill the visa lottery. There is no legislative necessity for more than a simple majority on any of these measures except and unless the Dems decide to filibuster. Tough to filibuster a bill that lets, say, 400,000 or so of the registered Dreamers in provided that they meet fairly strict criteria.

It has taken Trump a while to figure out the game in Washington. Lots of errors and missteps along the way. But The Donald seems to be a quick study and he certainly knows how to drive wedges between Democrats. As the economy continues to improve and as the Mueller investigation descends into farce for want of any actual evidence of any actual crime, Trump is building political capital. He is beginning to understand how to deploy that capital. As he gets better at the job my bet is that his approval ratings will rise. If he breaches 50%, because the media have created such low expectations, he is going to be seen as a serious and effective President.

And then the indictment of Clinton cronies will begin. Do you think Huma will sing? I do.

Can’t wait.

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Bannon Eruption

The internet is going a bit nuts today over purported quotes from Steve Bannon vis a vis Trump and Trump’s reaction to them. (“lost his job and lost his mind”)

A few points. The author of the book from which the quotes are taken, Michael Wolff, is a fairly notorious inventor of quotes and takes which bear only a glancing contact with reality. (See here for example.) And the quote from Bannon which is making the most waves is as follows (Guardian version):

“The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.””

I fear that Steve Bannon thought that Don Jr. and the other people involved were dummies. Which, frankly, they were.

If there were some political professionals in the White House the response to all of this would be a) Steve is entitled to his opinion, b) looks like the book has more than a few errors, c) the President has more important things to do than respond to six-month-old gossip.

As there are no political professionals in the White House – generals and ex-Ralph Lauren models are not political pros by definition – Trump took it upon himself to respond early.

The term clusterfuck does not even begin to describe Trump’s statement:

Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.

Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans.

Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself….”

And so on.

There are many things wrong with Trump and one of the biggest is his inability to simply absorb a few shots while getting on with the job. The Wolff book is no threat to the Trump Presidency and would have been discredited in due course. It would have been in the rearview mirror in a matter of days as more and more of its assertions were proven incorrect or exaggerations. However, by jumping on it before it was even published, Trump has ensured that it will sell, be discussed and, potentially, be damaging.

By doing that Trump is confirming the kernel of Bannon’s thesis, Trump and his White House are not very smart.

When Bannon left the White House my interest in defending Trump dropped to nearly zero.

I still want to see the US do well. I still think that Trump is making many of the right moves – largely by instinct – both domestically and internationally. And I still think it is vitally important to the interests of the United States that the corruption of the Obama Justice Department, FBI and White House be exposed and that the gunsels of Clinton Inc. face their day in Court. But that does not mean I don’t think that Trump is a vindictive, short sighted little man whose only claim to fame was the sheer good luck of being nominated to run against the worst Presidential candidate since WWII. Just when he seemed to be getting a handle on the job along comes a minor issue and he loses sight of the job he was elected to do.


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“No nation has friends only interests.” (Charles de Gaulle)

As I write the estimable Nikki Haley (2024…you go girl) tweeted to the assorted thugs who are ambassadors to the UN,

“At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.”

Oh my…

Here’s a suggestion to the ethically challenged (and frankly, what a crock) Prime Minister of all the Canadas…Pay attention.

Canada has no skin in the game as to the location of the US Embassy to Israel. And we have no reason to believe that the capital of Israel is anywhere other than Jerusalem. While we are certainly “Yah, Peace.”, recognizing reality is a very important step to that peace.

But we have all manner of issues on the table with our American cousins. NAFTA, F-35s, border security, softwood lumber, pipelines.

From a Canada First perspective, who matters more? The US or a rag tag bunch of intransigent Palis and their European enablers?

Justin has the opportunity to end Trump’s isolation on the Jerusalem issue. We can vote with our American friends. We can announce that we are seriously looking at moving our Embassy.

The fact is that The Donald wants to be liked. He wants friends. He wants “respect”. We can take an issue which is literally of no consequence to Canada’s interests and run up points in Trumpland.

The Donald is a guy who remembers his friends.

Canada needs to be a friend.

It is in our interest.


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No there there

The mighty Mueller and his gunsels have rooted and dug and investigated and produced indictments: for doubtful business dealings predating Manafort’s involvement with the Trump campaign.

The dummy brigade is going nuts with our own Warren “Lying Jackal” Kinsella announcing, “And there can be no doubt, now, that Trump’s campaign was effectively run out of the Kremlin.”

As there is nothing at all in the indictment of Manafort and Gates which relates to the Trump campaign Warren and his ilk are forced to rely on the boiler plate “Conspiracy Against the United States of America”. As it is this “United States of America” which is proffering the charges and this same entity in its guise of the Department of Justice and Department of the Treasury whom Manafort is alleged to have defrauded, it is difficult to imagine how else Mueller would have framed the charges.

But, dummy chorus aside, is there anything in the indictment which puts the finger on Trump? On a quick reading I would say there isn’t. It may not have been the smartest thing in the world to hire a guy with Manafort’s connections to doubtful dictators and assorted oligarchs; but against that is balanced the fact that as Trump became aware of those links he first demoted and then fired Manafort.

Maybe these charges are part of a clever leverage scheme to get Manafort, facing an eternity in Federal Prison and the forfeiture of any assets the Feds can trace, to sing. Right out of G-man 101. That is, at best, a maybe. The fact the charges were brought at all suggests that whatever Manafort knew was not enough to avoid liability for his alleged sins. He has, after all, been interviewed by the Special Prosecutors’ office on several occasions and that would have been the time to cut a deal. That these charges have been proffered suggests no deal was done. Now there is, of course, still time for “all of this to go away” if Manafort has something interesting on Trump. But why would he have held it back? I doubt he thought Mueller was just joking around in those earlier meetings.

All of which leads me to suspect that Manafort does not, in fact, have “it” where “it” is the smoking gun of Trump/Russia collusion. And I also suspect that Manafort has a pretty good defence worked out. (And he may be backstopped by the promise of a pardon but I would doubt it; no reason for Trump to pardon a guy on stuff he did a decade ago unless that guy had the real, live, smoking gun.)

Trump, correctly in my view, is taking the position that nothing in the Manafort/Gates indictment has anything to do with Trump or his campaign.Which leaves the partisan ankle biters at CNN with nothing much more than the guilty plea of a campaign volunteer named Papadopoulos. What was he guilty of? Lying to the FBI regarding dates upon which he, apparently on his own initiative,  had conversations with various Russians. Not a great moment for the Trump world but also a very long way from proving collusion. And, with the guilty plea in place, assuming that Papadopoulos had anything to tell, chances are pretty good he’s told it.

Mueller has been on the job for months. He has a team of prosecutors and agents who have looked at every element of the Trump campaign. They have come up with some pretty routine alleged tax evasion and a guy lying to the FBI about the dates of meetings and conversations with Russians. Is Mueller saving “the good stuff” for Christmas? Is he hoping that Trump will suddenly begin to conspire to “cover up” and render himself vunerable? Hard to say but, at a guess, this wimpy set of charges about business activities predating Manafort’s involvement with the Trump campaign are pretty much the best Mueller has. That could change, but he will have to do much better than this to provide impeachment ammunition. Much better.

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A Plenary Power

A conversation:

Aide: They are charging Mr. X with obstruction of justice.

The President: What did he do?

Aide: He had a conversation with a Russian. Then he lied about it to a guy who turned out to be your Veep.

The President: The dirty dog. Tell him to plead guilty and I’ll pardon him that day.

Aide: But you can’t do that.

The President: Just watch me.

Aide: But that might be obstruction of justice right there.

The President: Counsel, what’s a plenary power?

White House Counsel (shaking slightly): It is an absolute, unqualified, power.

The President: And is that the Pardon Power I have per ” Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution which states that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment“. I looked it up on Wiki.

White House Counsel: Well, in a manner of speaking, Sir.

The President: Good to know. And Counsel, would you tell Mueller that any more chickenshit charges are going to be pardoned. And do that with a public letter. He’s going to have to do way better than this to get something to stick. And how are you coming on the “dirty” dossier to the FISA Court and the FBI dropping the Uranium One investigation about Bill and Hilly. I don’t want to waste my time dealing with chickenshit when there are real crimes to look into.

Aide: Thank you Mr. President.



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Bannon 1, Flake 0, GOPe -5

Steve BannonJeff Flake is pretty much the poster boy for country club Republicanism. Responsible, moderate, no boat rocking, no deplorables and certainly never Trump.

“It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, devoted to free trade, pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party” Jeff Flake

It is not entirely clear when traditional conservatives became “pro-immigration” but it is clear that conservatives in general, if they favour immigration at all, are pro “legal” immigration. As to limited government and free markets, Flake has been in Washington since 2001. Has the government been limited? Have markets become freer? As to free trade, neither W nor Obama nor the Congress of the United States has been very interested in trade.

Flake’s retirement in the face of the fact he was 15 to 20 points behind in the Republican primary suggests that Steve Bannon’s strategy of playing a bit of hardball with RINOs is working. Bannon’s agenda, which interestingly includes “legal” immigration in place of illegal, a genuine reduction in the scope of government and a recognition that unlimited “free trade” with countries which pay a tenth of American wages may not be such a good deal, is resonating amongst Republican and even independent voters. A couple of decades of economic stagnation in which poor people, black and white, stayed poor and their ranks were swelled by other people falling out of the middle class, suggests the consensus elite positions on these sorts of issues may not be working so terribly well.

Bannon was smart enough to realize that an America First agenda spoke to the needs of the American people in a way the elite solutions had long since failed to do. Bannon was also smart enough to realize that the crooked timber of Trump was strong enough to push these ideas into the civic forum. MAGA is a silly slogan but it touched people who were, in fact, better off twenty years ago before they were given the blessing of GOPe and Obama.

The Bannonite insurgency in the Republican Party rests on the simple premise that if things are not working you try to change them. Obamacare was ill-conceived at the go and relied upon illegal appropriations from the President to work at all. All Trump had to do was stop making those appropriations and, Obamacare will, slowly and likely painfully, collapse. Now, I don’t think the Republicans have any particularly good replacement for Obamacare; but its collapse will at least mean that the GOPe will not be able to vote with the Democrats to keep the Rube Goldberg structure on life support. Same story with the “Dreamers”. Simply by refusing to extend Obama’s Executive Orders for non-enforcement, the problem is kicked back to Congress where it belongs.

I don’t think Trump has been a very good President but simply by refusing to extend decisions made in the Obama era, he is reducing the harm done. For fans of limited government, as Flake professes to be, reducing Executive overreach and pushing law making to the legislative branch of the government is a very good start indeed.

Bannon recognized that voters on the right were fed up with voting for Republican canidates only to have them turn into Democrats in drag when they hit Washington. The very idea of primarying fine old GOPe canidates proves pretty conclusively that Bannon is far too rude to be admitted to any decent country club. And, as he racks up the wins, he will also increase his power in the Republican Party.

If we assume, along with the increasingly deranged media, that Trump is, at best, an entirely hollow man without a policy thought to bless himself with and with no time for the Republican Party, the defenders of the GOPe status quo are people like Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. These are not popular men nor do they have much unity of purpose save staying in office or collecting fat consulting fees. These are the great minds who brought a disgusted American People “Jeb!”.

For Bannon, wind at his back, crushing this outdated, policy free, cabal is the work of a single primary season. Two down, six, well five because Cruz gets a bye, Senators to go, a number of flakey Representatives as well. Bannon is on a roll and it is not obvious what will stop him from reforming the Republican Party into an America First, populist machine.

(And I note that the Democratic party is in even worse shape with little in the way of vision or leadership and a bunch of “woke” kids convinced that what the party needs is 24/7 identity politics with a healthy dose of really incoherent socialism to reduce the bugbear of “inequality” and promote the panecea of “diversity”. That, and Hilly and Bubba are very much in the frame for accepting Uranium One payments which look, well, rather like Russian bribes.)

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